Category Archives: History

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest: A Movie?

Some time ago I wrote about the battle of Teutoburg Forest, a disastrous loss of several Roman legions in Germania in A.D. 9.

Now a Dutch filmmaker is considering making a movie based on the battle. It’s not a done deal yet, but the concept trailer looks pretty good. I’ll have to keep an eye on this one. (You can read more about the project here — but only if you can read Dutch).


An Astronomical Linguistics Lesson

Randy Alfred relates the fascinating history of Halley’s Comet, including why Edmond Halley’s name came to be attached to it.

But the best part of the story is how to pronounce the guy’s name. It’s not Hailey, nor does it rhyme with valley. Rather, it’s pronounced Hawley, which rhymes with folly.

Now you know!

Iceman Was an Alien?

Well, sort of.

The 5,000-year-old corpse that was discovered high in the Alps a few years ago apparently is not related to modern Europeans, according to DNA tests.

The scientists found that the mummy’s DNA doesn’t match the DNA of modern Europeans. This suggests that while men and women shared the Iceman’s genetic heritage at some point in the past, they don’t have descendants in Europe now.

“Apparently, this genetic group is no longer present,” study co-author Franco Rollo, a researcher at Italy’s University of Camerino, said in a university news release. “We don’t know whether it is extinct or it has become extremely rare.”

The scientists were also able to determine that he was a murder victim, shot in the back with an arrow and struck in the face with a spiked club. Hmmm. Maybe this was a mob hit.

We’ve Been Here Before

The current financial crisis, fueled by out-of-control real estate speculation, is not new. America has experienced something like it before. The great crash of 1836 has elements that are eerily similar.

Wall Street forgot that the laws of economics are as ineluctable as Newton’s law of universal gravity. (It seems politicians will never learn this.) Prices do not rise forever, risk must always equal reward, and supply and demand must balance each other over the long term.

The chief difference is that the crash of 1836 led to a full-blown depression. The current crisis is unlikely to reach that end.

Palin’s Predecessors

What does Sarah Palin have in common with Calvin Coolidge, Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry Truman?

A lot more than you think. Bret Stephens compares the “experience” factor of all four vice presidential candidates. Conclusion:

The media meltdown over Sarah Palin’s candidacy for the vice presidency has exposed the not-unsuspected truth that, when it comes to historical ignorance and political amnesia, our cultural panjandrums are in a class by themselves.

Where Was God?

(photo by James Nachtwey)

On this seventh anniversary of the most horrible day in America’s history, the usual memorials will be posted to remember those we lost on that day. It’s fitting that we should do so.

But there is a deeper issue this event should force us to grapple with, one that is rarely addressed. The depth and intensity of the raw evil that was displayed that day raises the disturbing question, Where was God? If God exists, and if He is so kind and good and compassionate, how could He possibly have allowed such a demonic crime to be committed?

The answer is really quite simple: He was where He’s always been — on His throne in heaven, grieving over the fallen state of His creatures.

God did not create robots. He created free moral agents who have the capacity for great evil as well as great good. What we do with that freedom is our choice. And some people, as we witness all too often, choose to use their freedom in nefarious ways. That’s not God’s fault.

As a believer, 9/11 did not shake my confidence in God. On the contrary, it further strengthens my conviction that there is a God who will someday sit in final judgment on the entire human race. On that day, the villians of 9/11 — and of every other despicable act of evil throughout history — will receive their just reward.

In the meantime, it remains our duty to do what is right, no matter the cost.

“Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

China and Kaiser Germany

Robert Haddick sees some startling parallels between the rapid expansion of modern China’s economic and military power, and the unification of the German states under Otto von Bismarck in the late 1800s. Germany’s European neighbors failed to adapt to Germany’s growth, and the result was World War I.

Before World War I, Europe’s great powers clashed over the allegiance of small neighboring states, engaged in a naval arms race, and squabbled over access to overseas raw materials. As a consequence of China’s growth, we are witnessing modern versions of these same conflicts. The question for today’s statesmen is whether they will do a better job adjusting to China’s rise.

Haddick lists several possible flash points that could trigger a confrontation. But the single biggest factor influencing the outcome of this growing unease is the unknown quality of China’s own intentions.

The fateful day may arrive when the United States and China’s neighbors find themselves compelled to explicitly align against China, just as France, Russia, and eventually Great Britain did when they chose to align against Germany. The U.S. government has rejected a confrontational approach to China, with apparent benefit to all. But how long can this policy last? And what will cause U.S. statesmen to change their minds?