Archive for the ‘500s’ Category


teotihuacan1pTeotihuacan (fl. 300 to 700) was the ancient and holy city of Mexico, “the city where the gods were created”. At its height it had 160,000 people, making it the sixth largest city in the world at the time. In the centre of the city was the third largest pyramid of the world, the Pyramid of the Sun. Teotihuacan is about 40 km north-east of Mexico City.

We do not know what the city called itself. All we have is the Aztec name: Teotihuacan, “the city of the gods”. It was the seed of a civilization that had lasted more than a thousand years by the time the Spanish appeared. Only the Mayans were able to pass Teotihuacan in science and the arts.

The city fell in 700, destroyed by fire. Mexico fell into a dark age that lasted until the time of the Toltecs 250 years later.

In its day the city was the centre of religion and trade. It seemed to have been the centre of an empire too: it was rich yet had no walls and its gods demanded regular human sacrifice which meant fighting and ruling foreigners. Under one of their temples are 130 bodies.

We do not know what language the city spoke. It may have been Nahuatl, what the Aztecs spoke. None of its books have come down to our time.

Teotihuacan started out as a place where people journeyed to in order to worship the gods. In time it built huge pyramids to the gods and grew into a big city. It was ruled by priests who lived in palaces. On holidays the priests walked up the steps to the top of the pyramids and sacrificed humans to the gods.

The priests lived in the centre of the city. Further out were craftsmen and businessmen, who came from all over Mexico. About two-thirds of the people who lived in the city were farmers. They went out to work their fields in the morning and came back at night. Despite that the city did not grow enough food to feed itself but also needed trade and tribute to live.

The Street of the Dead is the main street. It is very wide and runs north to the holy mountain of Cerro Gordo. Along the street were the main temples, palaces and squares.  The two main temples were:

  • The Pyramid of the Sun at the centre of the city, the largest pyramid in Mexico and the third largest in the world. It is now 63 metres tall but once it was 73. The base 225 by 222 metres – about two Manhattan city blocks on a side.
  • The Pyramid of the Moon is to the north along the Street of the Dead. It is smaller, only 43 metres tall.

There is also the temple of Quetzalcoatl, a snake god with feathers seen in the sky as the morning star. The square in front of the temple can hold 100,000, more than half the city.

Under the city are caves and tunnels.

– Abagond, 2009.

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articleAn article (500- ) is a form of prose writing found in newspapers, magazines and encyclopedias. Each of these are made up of articles. Each article is about just one subject and can be read independently of the others.

Origin: The science books by Aristotle and Pliny are almost written in articles. But the form did not make sense till the 300s when the codex (a book of leaves) took the place of scrolls. The first real articles began to appear in the 500s. See, for example, the Institutions of Cassiodorus.

Length: An article is hundreds to thousands of words long. For example, most articles in The Economist are between 450 and 1500 words long, though some run as long as 4000 words.

Magazine and encyclopedia articles are meant to be read from start to finish. Newspaper articles are not.

An article is meant to be read in one sitting, so it is not divided into chapters, though it might be broken into parts with headings.

Title: An article has a title. The title is there to get your attention and draw you into the article. In a magazine or the back pages of a newspaper, titles are written with some wit, sometimes making reference to film and song titles.

In newspapers the title is called a headline. It can also be a play on word, but most often it is much more matter of fact, telling you in the shortest possible way the news that the article reports.

Newspaper articles are written in an inverse pyramid style. The most important facts are given first, less important ones later. You stop reading when you lose interest.

The inverse pyramid style is the opposite of how you would tell a story: it gives away the ending in the title and the very first lines.

For example:

  • “World floods, Noah saves animals”
  • “Prince finds Cinderella, marries tomorrow.”

Then the details are filled in, the more important or newsworthy ones first.

Web articles: An article is a natural form for the Web. But what works in print does not always work on the Web. And the Web can do things print cannot.

Some pointers on writing articles for the Web:

  • Make the title searchable. Put the subject in plain view.
  • Do not divide it into pages. This is a holdover from print. On the Web it makes your article much harder to read, print, copy or search.
  • Use an inverse pyramid style. Most come to your page looking for something. Make it easy.
  • Make the paragraphs short – about four sentences long. Each should stand on its own as much as possible because most will read it that way.
  • Make the article short, about 500 to 1000 words long. It is better to write ten short articles of 500 words each than one long article of 5000 words It will make your articles more useful and more people will read it.

The Web allows you to link articles together in ways you never could in print.

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AD (Anno Domini)

Anno Domini (525- ), or AD for short, is Latin for “in the year of the Lord”, meaning since the birth of Jesus Christ. It is how years are numbered in the Gregorian calendar, the main calendar used in the West. AD is also known as CE for the Christian or Common Era.

BC: Years before Christ are marked “BC” for “Before Christ” or BCE for Before the Common Era. BC counts down the years to the birth of Christ, so 13 BC comes after 14 BC. Some use a negative number instead, as in “Aristotle was born in -384.”

There is no year zero. The year before AD 1 is 1 BC.

When a year is given by itself in Englishas in “Shakespeare was born in 1564”, the Christian Era is assumed.

To name a range of years, add an “s”: The 1960s means from AD 1960 to 1969. The 1900s, since it has two zeros, means from 1900 to 1999 – unless it is otherwise clear that only the ten years from 1900 to 1909 are meant.

Sample dates:

  • -1323 death of King Tut
  • -480 Battle of Thermopylae
  • -384 birth of Aristotle
  • -31 Battle of Actium
  • 622 Hegira
  • 1054 Crab Nebula supernova
  • 1492 Columbus arrives in the Americas
  • 1564 birth of Shakespeare
  • 1969 Neil Armstrong lands on the Moon
  • 2006 now

The starting year of other eras:

  • -5509: anno mundi – Byzantine – creation of the world
  • -5493: anno mundiAlexandrian
  • -3761: anno mundi – Jewish
  • -3114 Mayan Long Count begins
  • -2016: anno Abrahami – birth of Abraham
  • -776; Olympiads (periods of four years) – from the first Olympics
  • -753: AUC – anno urbis conditae – the founding of Rome
  • -312: Seleucid – start of the empire
  • +622: AH – anno Hegirae – After the Hegira – Muslim (the years are 354 to 355 days long)

Greek historians used Olympiads from -250 to +450. In 813, Theophanes used the Alexandrian Era, in use since 412. A corrected version of that, the Byzantine Era, was used by the Orthodox Church from 691 to 1728.

Josephus in the 90s used Seleucid years.

Eusebius and Jerome in the 300s used anno Abrahami.

Dionysius Exiguus in Rome invented AD in AD 525 – not to name years but to work out the date of Easter, which is different every year.

Isidore of Seville in Spain in the 600s numbered years from the conquest of Spain by Augustus in -38.

Bede in 731 was the first to use AD and BC in writing about history. AD did not start catching on till Alcuin and Charlemagne pushed it in the 800s; BC not till the 1600s!

Kepler in 1615 called the Christian era vulgaris aerae, meaning the vulgar or common era, as opposed to one that used the reigns of kings to date years, which the Bible uses.

When the abbreviations first appeared in English:

  • 1570s: A.D.
  • 1823: B.C.
  • 1838: C.E.
  • 1881: B.C.E.

A.C., for Anno Christi, was common in the 1600s.

Before the 1800s, no one in English said, “Aristotle was born in 384 B.C.” That is how new it is.

CE was first used to write Jewish history. It started to catch on among US scholars in the 1980s. It is now used about a fifth of the time in English-language books.

So was Jesus born in AD 1? No. He was born under King Herod, who died in -4. Most likely he was born in -6 or -7.

– Abagond, 2006, 2016.

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Byzantine empire


The Byzantine Empire (476-1453) never called itself that. That is a name made up by the French 400 years later. The Byzantines called themselves Romans: when Rome fell, in 476, the richer, eastern, Greek part of the Roman empire still stood. It did not fall for good till nearly a thousand years later in 1453. Its glory days were from 500 to 1000.

There is no real break between the Roman and Byzantine empires – they are just names. But because the Byzantine empire was Greek and Christian it is hard to see it as the same empire that Augustus had founded. And yet even Justinian, its most famous ruler, spoke mostly Latin and, unlike us, considered the loss of the west as only a passing thing.

At the heart of the empire stood the city of Constantinople. It was one of the largest cities in the world at the time. Constantine I had founded it in 330 as the “New Rome”. It became the seat of Roman power in the east.

Just as the law, religion and ways of Rome form the foundation of the West, so the Byzantine empire forms the foundation of eastern Europe and especially Russia. Russia is the daughter of the Byzantine empire and Moscow the third Rome.

The Western system of laws (except for the English-speaking world, which follows common law) is Byzantine. Justinian made Roman law into something that can apply to Christian society in his Corpus juris civilis.

The Byzantine empire was the universal state of the Christian world until two things happened:

  1. Charlemagne was made the ruler of the west in 800 by the pope.
  2. The Christian church broke in two in 1054 into Catholic and Orthodox churches.

From this point on the Byzantine empire was simply a Greek empire. Even its religion was no longer a universal faith.

In the 500s Justinian sent Belasarius to take back the west. He conquered quite a bit of it, but he left the cities of Italy in ruins. Most of what he conquered was soon lost.

The First Crusade was called in 1095 to save the empire: Romanus IV lost the battle of Manzikert to the Turks and was in danger of losing all of Anatolia and Constantinople itself. The Crusaders drove back the Turks before going on to the Holy Land to conquer kingdoms of their own.

The Fourth Crusade broke the empire’s back. The Crusaders took over Constantinople in 1204 and set up the Latin empire. It was short-lived – the Byzantines took back Constantinople in 1261. But from 1261 till 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks, the empire was no longer an empire – just a kingdom centred on Constantinople.

The Fourth Crusade also destroyed a great deal of Greek learning and literature.

Better dates for the Byzantine Empire would be from 395 to 1204. That is when it was an empire and when it had its own emperors. As late as 395 the western and eastern Roman Empire still had a common emperor.

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