Sunday, 26 March 2017

Anglo-Saxons

The Anglo-Saxons are a people who have inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest.

Saxon Art


The Roman armies withdrew from Britain early in the fifth century because they were needed back home to defend the crumbling centre of the Empire. Britain was considered a far-flung outpost of little value. They replaced the Roman stone buildings with their own wooden ones, and spoke their own language, which gave rise to the English spoken today. The Anglo-Saxons also brought their own religious beliefs, but the arrival of Saint Augustine in 597 converted most of the country to Christianity. He is considered one of the founders of Christian Church.

Augustine of Canterbury

By the end of the sixth century, larger kingdoms had become established on the south or east coasts. They include the provinces of the Jutes of Hampshire and Wight, the South Saxons, Kent, the East Saxons, East Angles, Lindsey and (north of the Humber) Deira and Bernicia. By the end of the sixth century, the leaders of these communities were styling themselves kings, though it should not be assumed that all of them were Germanic in origin.



In 597, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet and proceeded to King Æthelberht's main town of Canterbury. He had been the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead the Gregorian mission to Britain to Christianise the Kingdom of Kent from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism. Kent was probably chosen because Æthelberht had married a Christian princess, Bertha, daughter of Charibert I the King of Paris, who was expected to exert some influence over her husband.

Æthelberht of Kent 

In 635 Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona chose the Isle of Lindisfarne to establish a monastery and close to King Oswald's main fortress of Bamburgh. He had been at the monastery in Iona when Oswald asked to be sent a mission to Christianise the Kingdom of Northumbria from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism.

Bamburgh Castle

Middle-lowland Britain was known as the place of the Mierce, the border or frontier folk, in Latin Mercia. Mercia was a diverse area of tribal groups. Mercian military success was the basis of their power; it succeeded not only 106 kings and kingdoms by winning set-piece battles. By the middle of the 8th century, other kingdoms of southern Britain were also affected by Mercian expansionism. The East Saxons seem to have lost control of London, Middlesex and Hertfordshire to Æthelbald, although the East Saxon homelands do not seem to have been affected, and the East Saxon dynasty continued into the ninth century.

Æthelbald

The Mercian influence and reputation reached its peak when, in the late 8th century, the most powerful European ruler of the age, the Frankish king Charlemagne, recognised the Mercian King Offa's power and accordingly treated him with respect, even if this could have been just flattery.

Offa of Mercia

The 9th century saw the rise of Wessex, from the foundations laid by King Egbert in the first quarter of the century to the achievements of King Alfred the Great in its closing decades.


Egbert was crowned in 802 CE as king of Wessex.  In the 780s Egbert was forced into exile by Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, but on Beorhtric's death in 802 Egbert returned and took the throne. In 829 Egbert defeated Wiglaf of Mercia and drove him out of his kingdom, temporarily ruling Mercia directly. Later that year Egbert received the submission of the Northumbrian king at Dore.

Egbert of Wessex

The wealth of the monasteries and the success of Anglo-Saxon society attracted Vikings. In 793, Lindisfarne was raided and while this was not the first raid of its type it was the most prominent.



When Egbert died in 839, Æthelwulf succeeded him. The Vikings were not a major threat to Wessex during Æthelwulf's reign. In 843, he was defeated in a battle against the Vikings at Carhampton in Somerset, but he achieved a major victory at the Battle of Aclea in 851. In 853 he joined a successful Mercian expedition to Wales to restore the traditional Mercian hegemony, and in the same year his daughter Æthelswith married King Burgred of Mercia.

Æthelwulf  of Wessex

Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He is one of only two English monarchs to be given the epithet "the Great", the other being the Scandinavian Cnut the Great. He was also the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons".

Alfred the Great

Edward the Elder was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death in 924. He became king in 899 upon the death of his father, Alfred the Great. He captured the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes in 917 and became ruler of Mercia in 918 upon the death of Æthelflæd, his sister.

Edward the Elder

The reign of King Æthelred the Unready witnessed the resumption of Viking raids on England, putting the country and its leadership under strains as severe as they were long sustained. Raids began on a relatively small scale in the 980s, but became far more serious in the 990s, and brought the people to their knees in 1009–12, when a large part of the country was devastated by the army of Thorkell the Tall. It remained for Swein Forkbeard, king of Denmark, to conquer the kingdom of England in 1013–14, and (after Æthelred's restoration) for his son Cnut to achieve the same in 1015–16.
King Æthelred the Unready

In the 11th century, there were three conquests and some Anglo-Saxon people would live through it: one in the aftermath of the conquest of Cnut in 1016; the second after the unsuccessful attempt of battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066; the third after that of William of Normandy in 1066. 


Edward became king in 1042. The son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, Edward succeeded Cnut the Great's son – and his own half brother – Harthacnut, restoring the rule of the House of Wessex after the period of Danish rule since Cnut conquered England in 1016.

Edward the Confessor


When Edward died in 1066, he was succeeded by Harold Godwinson, who was defeated and killed in the same year by the Normans under William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Edgar the Ætheling, who was of the House of Wessex, was proclaimed king after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but never ruled and was deposed after about eight weeks. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Harold Godwinson

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Rashidun Caliphate

The Rashidun Caliphate was the Islamic caliphate in the earliest period of Islam, comprising the first five caliphs—the "Rightly Guided" or Rashidun caliphs. It was founded after Muhammad's death in 632 CE. At its height, the Caliphate controlled an empire from the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, to the Caucasus in the north, North Africa from Egypt to present-day Tunisia in the west, and the Iranian plateau to Central Asia in the east.

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem 

After Muhammad's death in 632 CE, Abu Bakr thus became the first caliph. As a caliph, Abu Bakr was not a monarch and never claimed such a title; nor did any of his three successors. Rather, their election and leadership were based upon merit. He was caliph for only 2 years before he died.

Abu Bakr mosque, Medina

Abu Bakr began his conquest with Iraq, the richest province of the Sasanian Empire. He sent general Khalid ibn Walid to invade the Sasanianan Empire in 633. He thereafter also sent four armies to invade the Roman province of Syria, but the decisive operation was only undertaken when Khalid, after completing the conquest of Iraq, was transferred to the Syrian front in 634.

Roman Theater in Syria

On the death of Abu Bakr in 634, Umar was made the caliph. The new caliph continued the war of conquests begun by his predecessor, pushing further into the Sasanian Persian Empire, north into Byzantine territory, and west into Egypt. By 640, he had brought all of Mesopotamia and Ash-Sham (the region of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine) under the control of the Rashidun Caliphate; Egypt was conquered by 642, and the entire Persian Empire by 643.

The name of Umar with Islamic calligraphy

Umar created the Diwan, a bureau for transacting government affairs. The military was brought directly under state control and into its pay. In conquered lands, Umar did not require that non-Muslim populations convert to Islam, nor did he try to centralize government. Instead, he allowed subject populations to retain their religion, language and customs, and he left their government relatively untouched, imposing only a governor (amir) and a financial officer called an amil. These new posts were integral to the efficient network of taxation that financed the empire.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina

Umar was killed in an assassination by the Persian slave Piruz Nahavandi during morning prayers in 644 in response to Muslim conquest of Persia. Before Umar died, he appointed a committee of six men to decide on the next caliph, and charged them with choosing one of their own number. And the decision was made that Uthman be the next Caliph.


Uthman continued the wars of conquest started by Umar. The Rashidun army conquered North Africa from the Byzantines and even raided Spain, conquering the coastal areas of the Iberian peninsula, as well as the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus. Also coastal Sicily was raided in 652. The Rashidun army fully conquered the Sasanian Empire, and its eastern frontiers extended up to the lower Indus River. Caliph Uthman was assassinated in 656 CE.

Tomb of Caliph Uthman

After the assassination of the third Caliph, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, the Companions of Muhammad in Medina selected ‘Ali to be the new Caliph who had been passed over for the leadership three times since the death of Muhammad

The Investiture of Ali, at Ghadir Khumm

In 661 ACE, ‘Ali was assassinated by Ibn Muljam, as part of a Kharijite plot to assassinate all the different Islamic leaders meaning to end the civil war, though they failed to assassinate Mu‘awiyah(kinsman of ‘Uthman and governor of the province of Ash-Sham) Mu‘awiyah thus gained control of the Caliphate, and founded the Umayyad Dynasty, marking the end of the Rashidun Caliphate.

Ash-Sham

As most of the administrative structure of the Rashidun Empire was set up by Umar, the judicial administration was also established by him and the other Caliphs followed the same system without any type of basic amendment in it. In order to provide adequate and speedy justice for the people, an effective system of judicial administration was set up, hereunder justice was administered according to the principles of Islam.

A Muslim elite soldier equipped for infantry warfare. 

The Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Islamic armed forces of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun navy. The Rashidun army maintained a very high level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization, along with motivation and self initiative of the officer corps. For much of its history this army was one of the most powerful and effective military forces in all of the region. At the height of the Rashidun Caliphate the maximum size of the army was around 100,000 troops.


The cavalry had both horses and camels. The cavalry was the army’s main striking force and also served as a strategic mobile reserve. The common tactic used was to use the infantry and archers to engage and maintain contact with the enemy forces while the cavalry was held back till the enemy was fully engaged.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Viking Age

The Viking Age is the period from the late 8th century to the mid-11th century in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, following the Germanic Iron Age. It is the period of history when Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids, colonisation and conquest.


In this period, the Norsemen settled in Norse Greenland, Newfoundland, and present-day Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey.


Viking Expansion

The earliest date given for a Viking raid is 789 when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a group of men from Norway sailed to the Isle of Portland in Dorset. The beginning of the Viking Age in the British Isles is, however, often given as 793. In 794, according to the Annals of Ulster, there was a serious attack on Lindisfarne's mother-house of Iona, which was followed in 795 by raids upon the northern coast of Ireland. From bases there, the Norsemen attacked Iona again in 802, causing great slaughter amongst the Céli Dé Brethren, and burning the abbey to the ground.

Lindisfarne

The Kingdom of the Franks under Charlemagne was particularly hard-hit by these raiders, who could sail up the Seine with near impunity. Near the end of Charlemagne's reign (and throughout the reigns of his sons and grandsons), a string of Norse raids began, culminating in a gradual Scandinavian conquest and settlement of the region now known as Normandy.

Charlemagne

The clinker-built longships used by the Scandinavians were uniquely suited to both deep and shallow waters. They extended the reach of Norse raiders, traders and settlers along coastlines and along the major river valleys of north-western Europe.

Viking Longship

Rurik also expanded to the east and in 859 became ruler either by conquest or invitation by local people of the city of Novgorod (which means "new city") on the Volkhov River. His successors moved further, founding the early East Slavic state of Kievan Rus' with the capital in Kiev. This persisted until 1240, when the Mongols invaded Russia.

Monument celebrating the millennial of Rurik's arrival at Novgorod

Other Norse people, particularly those from the area that is now modern-day Sweden and Norway, continued south to the Black Sea and then on to Constantinople. Whenever these Viking ships ran aground in shallow waters, the Vikings would reportedly turn them on their sides and drag them across the shallows into deeper waters. The Eastern connections of them brought Byzantine silk, coins from Samarkand, even a cowrie shell from the Red Sea, to Viking York.

Black Sea

In 884, an army of Danish Vikings were defeated at the Battle of Norditi (also called the Battle of Hilgenried Bay) on the Germanic North Sea coast by a Frisian army under Archbishop Rimbert of Bremen-Hamburg, which precipitated the complete and permanently withdrawal of the Vikings from East Frisia.


In 911, French King Charles the Simple was able to make an agreement with the Viking warleader Rollo, a chieftain of disputed Norwegian or Danish origins. Charles gave Rollo the title of duke and granted him and his followers possession of Normandy. In return, Rollo swore fealty to Charles, converted to Christianity, and undertook to defend the northern region of France against the incursions of other Viking groups.

Rollo

Several generations later, the Norman descendants of these Viking settlers not only identified themselves as Norman but carried the Norman language (a Romance language with Germanic influence), and their Norman culture, into England in 1066. With the Norman Conquest, they became the ruling aristocracy of Anglo-Saxon England.


In Scandinavia the Viking age is considered to have ended with the establishment of royal authority in the Scandinavian countries and the establishment of Christianity as the dominant religion. The date is usually put somewhere in the early 11th century in all three Scandinavian countries. The end of the Viking-era in Norway is marked by the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030.

Battle of Stiklestad

In Sweden, the reign of king Olov Skötkonung (c. 995–1020) is considered to be the transition from the Viking age to the Middle Ages, because he was the first Christian king of the Swedes and he is associated with a growing influence of the church in what is today southwestern and central Sweden.


The end of the Viking Age is traditionally marked in England by the failed invasion attempted by the Norwegian king Harald III (Haraldr Harðráði), who was defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge; in Ireland, the capture of Dublin by Strongbow and his Hiberno-Norman forces in 1171; and 1263 in Scotland by the defeat of King Hákon Hákonarson at the Battle of Largs by troops loyal to Alexander III.

Harold Goodwinson

Saxon King Harold Godwinson was subsequently defeated within a month by another Viking descendant, William, Duke of Normandy (Normandy had been conquered by Vikings (Normans) in 911) in the Battle of Hastings.

Battle of Hastings

Scotland took its present form when it regained territory from the Norse between the 13th and the 15th centuries; the Western Isles and the Isle of Man remained under Scandinavian authority until 1266. Orkney and Shetland belonged to the king of Norway as late as 1469.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Asuka Period Of Japan

Classical Period of Japan was a period in History of Japan lasting from 538 to 1185 CE(from end of Kofun Period to the beginning of Shogunate). The period is divided into three sub-periods the Asuka Period(538 -710 CE), the Nara Period(710 - 794 CE) and the Heian Period(794 - 1185 CE).


The Yamato polity evolved greatly during the Asuka period, which is named after the Asuka region, about 25 km south of the modern city of Nara. The Asuka period is known for its significant artistic, social, and political transformations, having their origins in the late Kofun period but largely affected by the arrival of Buddhism from China. The introduction of Buddhism marked a change in Japanese society.  

The Daibutsu at the Asuka-dera in Asuka, the oldest known sculpture of Buddha in Japan with an exact known date of manufacture, 609 AD

The Asuka period, as a sub-division of the Yamato period(250 - 710 CE), is the first time in Japanese history when the Emperor of Japan ruled relatively uncontested from modern-day Nara Prefecture, then known as Yamato Province. 

Emperor Kinmei(first Asuka Emperor(29th Emperor of Japan))

The Soga clan intermarried with the imperial family, and by 587 Soga no Umako, the Soga chieftain, was powerful enough to install his nephew as emperor and later to assassinate him and replace him with the Empress Suiko (r. 593–628). Suiko, the first of eight sovereign empresses, was merely a figurehead for Umako and Prince Regent Shōtoku Taishi (574–622).

Empress Suiko(33rd Emperor of Japan)

About twenty years after the deaths of Soga no Umako (in 626), and Empress Suiko (in 628), court intrigues over succession led to a palace coup in 645 against the Soga clan's monopolized control of the government. The revolt was led by Prince Naka no Ōe and Nakatomi no Kamatari, who seized control of the court from the Soga family and introduced the Taika Reform.

Prince Naka no Oe(later Emperor Tenji(38th Emperor of Japan))

The Taika Reform, influenced by Chinese practices, started with land redistribution aimed at ending the existing landholding system of the great clans and their control over domains and occupational groups. The court now sought to assert its control over all of Japan and t.o make the people direct subjects of the throne. Land was no longer hereditary but reverted to the state at the death of the owner. Taxes were levied on harvests and on silk, cotton, cloth, thread, and other products.

pagoda of Hokki-ji temple, built in 706

Chinese culture had been introduced to Japan by the Three Kingdoms of Korea before the imperial Japanese embassies to China were established. Although the missions continued, the transformation of Japan through Chinese influences declined, despite the close connections that had existed during the early Kofun period. 

Wall mural, late 7th century

From 600 to 659, Japan sent seven emissaries to Tang China. But for the next 32 years, during a period when Japan was formulating its laws based on Chinese texts, none were sent. Though Japan cut off diplomatic relations with China, Japan sent 11 emissaries to Silla, and Silla is also recorded in Nihon Shoki as sending embassies to Japan 17 times during the reigns of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō.

Emperor Tenmu(40th emperor of Japan)

Taoism was also introduced during the Asuka period. In the mid-7th century, Empress Saimei built Danzan Shrine, a Taoist temple, at Mt. Tōnomine. The octagonal shape of monarchs' tombs of this age and the celestial maps drawn in the Kitora and Takamatsuzuka kofun also reflect the Taoist cosmology. Tennō, the new title of the Japanese monarch in this period, could also be argued to derive from the name of the supreme God of Taoism, the God of Polaris.

Danzan Shrine

Some architectural structures built in the period still remain today. Wooden buildings at Hōryū-ji, built in the seventh century, show some influence from Chinese and west Asian countries. For instance, the pillars at Hōryū-ji are similar to the pillars of the Parthenon of ancient Greece, as seen in their entasis. The five-storied pagoda is a transformation from the Indian mound-like reliquary structure called a stupa.

Five storied pagoda of Hōryū-ji

The second stage of Buddhist art, coming after the Asuka (cultural) period, is known as the Hakuhō culture, and is generally dated from the Taika Reform (646) until the moving of the capital to Nara in 710. During the latter half of the 8th century, a large number of songs and poems were composed and performed by various ranked people from warriors to the Emperor. The earliest collection of these poems is known as the Man'yōshū ("collection of 10,000 leaves"). This includes works by several remarkable poets such as Princess Nukata and Kakinomoto no Hitomaro.

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro

The shift of the state capital from Asuka region to the Nara region marked the end of the Asuka period and beginning of the Nara period of History of Japan.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Chola Dynasty Of India

The Chola dynasty was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India. The earliest references to this Tamil dynasty are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BCE left by Ashoka, of the Maurya Empire. As one of the Three Crowned Kings(Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas) of Tamilakam, the dynasty continued to govern over varying territory until the 13th century CE.

The Airavateswarar Temple, build by Rajaraja Chola II in 12th century

Under Rajaraja Chola I and his successors Rajendra Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola, Virarajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-East Asia in 12th and 13th century. 

Brihadeeswarar Temple, built by Rajaraja Chola I in 11th century

The power of the empire was proclaimed to the eastern world by the expedition to the Ganges which Rajendra Chola I undertook and by the naval raids on cities of the maritime empire of Srivijaya, as well as by the repeated embassies to China. The Chola fleet represented the zenith of ancient Indian sea power.

Model of a Chola's ship's hull (200—848 CE)

During the period 1010–1200, the Chola territories stretched from the islands of the Maldives in the south to as far north as the banks of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh. Rajaraja Chola conquered peninsular South India, annexed parts of which is now Sri Lanka and occupied the islands of the Maldives.

Rajaraja Chola I

Rajendra Chola sent a victorious expedition to North India that touched the river Ganga and defeated the Pala ruler of Pataliputra, Mahipala. He also successfully invaded cities of Srivijaya of Malaysia and Indonesia. The Chola dynasty went into decline at the beginning of the 13th century with the rise of the Pandyan Dynasty, which ultimately caused their downfall.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram built by Rajendra Chola

The Cholas left a lasting legacy. Their patronage of Tamil literature and their zeal in the building of temples has resulted in some great works of Tamil literature and architecture. The Chola kings were avid builders and envisioned the temples in their kingdoms not only as places of worship but also as centres of economic activity. They pioneered a centralised form of government and established a disciplined bureaucracy. The Chola school of art spread to Southeast Asia and influenced the architecture and art of Southeast Asia.

Sri Rajarajeshwari Temple, Bangalore 

The Cholas' system of government was monarchical, as in the Sangam age. However, there was little in common between the local chiefdoms of the earlier period and the imperial-like states of Rajaraja Chola and his successors. Aside from the early capital at Thanjavur and the later on at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Kanchipuram and Madurai were considered to be regional capitals in which occasional courts were held. 

Portrait of Rajaraja Chola and his guru Karuvurar

The king was the supreme leader and a benevolent authoritarian. His administrative role consisted of issuing oral commands to responsible officers when representations were made to him. Due to the lack of a legislature or a legislative system in the modern sense, the fairness of king's orders dependent on his morality and belief in Dharma. The Chola kings built temples and endowed them with great wealth. The temples acted not only as places of worship but also as centres of economic activity, benefiting the community as a whole.

Stone sculpture at Gangaikonda Cholapuram

Temple building received great impetus from the conquests and the genius of Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola I.The maturity and grandeur to which the Chola architecture had evolved found expression in the two temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. The magnificent Shiva temple of Thanjavur, completed around 1009, is a fitting memorial to the material achievements of the time of Rajaraja.

Detail of the main Vimanam (Tower) of the Great Temple at Thanjavur

Chola rulers took an active interest in the development of temple centres and used the temples to widen the sphere of their royal authority. They established educational institutions and hospitals around the temple, enhanced the beneficial aspects of the role of the temple, and projected the royalty as a very powerful and genial presence.
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