20th Century History Quiz

Let’s see if you know some of these questions about the 20th Century, the most momentous century in human history (until this century…)

  1. What country did the Soviet Union invade in 1979?
  2. What were the years of the Korean Conflict?
  3. Who was president at the beginning of WWII? Who was president at the end of WWII?
  4. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill was a proponent of what type of fuel for the Royal Navy Fleet?
  5. What president was impeached during the 20th century?
  6. What president was neither elected as vice president or as president?
  7. The 17th parallel divided what two entities (now a single country)?
  8. The 38th parallel generally divides what two countries still?
  9. What was the full name for the “Nazi” party in Germany (English translation)?
  10. In what year did the U.S. become officially involved in WWI?
  11. In what year did the U.S. become officially involved in WWII?
  12. What is the name for the largest amphibious invasion in world history? Where did it occur?
  13. Saddam Hussein invaded what country in 1990?
  14. Berlin, Germany was divided into east and west after WWII.  What major country backed Eastern Germany?
  15. What country’s government did the C.I.A. now famously overthrow in 1953, leading to U.S. control of their government, via the Shah, until 1979?
  16. In what year did the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) officially become a country?
  17. What Japanese cities were the targets of two nuclear bombs dropped by the United States?
  18. In what country was Adolph Hitler born? (name the country then, name the country today)
  19. The Suez crises of 1956 was a major international issue.  In what country is the Suez (canal) located?
  20. Former military officer Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play for a modern professional sports team beginning in 1947.  What MLB team did he play for? (City / Team)
  21. In what city was Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated in 1968?
  22. In what city was President Kennedy assassinated in 1963?
  23. How many states have come into the Union during the 20th century? (Hint – OK was the first, HI was the last.)
  24. Apartheid was a policy made famous in what African country?
  25. President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a portion of the U.S. Navy to go on a world tour showing American military might.  What was the name given to this fleet?
  26. What was the name of the Serbian nationalist who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the city of Sarajevo in 1914?
  27. Who was the leader of the Communist Chinese in their civil war? Who was the leader of the Chinese nationalists?
  28. Who was the leader of the North Vietnamese communists? What is the former name of the city that now bears his name?
  29. Who was the leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia?
  30. What was the name of the first Soviet satellite sent into orbit?



1. Afghanistan, 2. 1950–53, 3. President Franklin Roosevelt; President Truman 4. Oil,       5. President Clinton (Nixon was not impeached, he resigned), 6. President Gerald Ford,   7. North and South Vietnam, 8. North and South Korea, 9. National Socialist German Worker’s Party, 10. 1917, 11. 1941, 12. D-Day or “Operation Overlord” – in Normandy France, 13. Kuwait, 14. Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), 15. Iran, 16. 1917, 17. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, 18. Austro-Hungarian Empire, today Austria, 19. Egypt, 20. The Brooklyn (Trolley) Dodgers, 21. Memphis, TN, 22. Dallas, TX, 23. Five states OK, NM, AZ, AK, HI,                      24. South Africa, 25. “The Great White Fleet”, 26. Gavrilo Princip, 27. Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai Shek, 28. Ho Chi Minh; Saigon, 29. Pol Pot, 30. “Sputnik”

RISE OF NAZI GERMANY, The Basics – Also “Dunkirk” movie review

It has been along time coming since my last post.  Sorry about that.  I have been busy in my job lately.  That doesn’t mean that I have been slacking on my studying.  On the contrary, I have been watching a really great documentary and reading a really incredible book, both of which I will write about shortly.

I want to focus on NAZI Germany since the whole country is going nuts about the events in Charlottesville NC.

I was going to write a movie review of “DUNKIRK.”  The review is shortened…. Here is is…

Dunkirk” is freaking awesome, go and see it!  It is an incredible piece of film.  The three different points of view – escaping Allied soldiers – RAF pilots – private boat captains – make this a masterpiece.  It is not a “shoot-em-up” war movie.  It is a thoughtful film on the realities of what these people went through.  A+, go see it!

Long story short, Dunkirk is a city in northern France.  The Nazi war machine was kicking serious butt against the English and French.  The Nazis pushed the Allied forces all the way up to northern France, which is separated from the UK by the fairly narrow English Channel (one side can see the other on a clear day).  What makes Dunkirk so famous is the evacuation of Allied troops from France to England, allowing the Allied forces to fight another day.

This incredible evacuation, by the Royal Navy and by British private citizens, was simply incredible.  It happened at the end of May / beginning of June in 1940, a full year and half before the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies.  Dunkirk was amazing, but as Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in regards to “Operation Dynamo” (the codename for the evacuation) that a war is not won by evacuation.

I will say that “Dunkirk” would have ended better with the ACTUAL speech by Winston Churchill.  It is my favorite political speech of all time.  You can see it here on YouTube… The famous part of the speech is when Churchill speaks about the fact that the UK “will fight on the beaches….”


Now, on to discussion on NAZIs.

I am not going to go nuts on the Nazi subject.  I will just try to introduce it to you.  The events in Charlottesville have brought the subject to the forefront.

In my opinion it would be nice if people didn’t spout off about things that they have no clue about.  If you don’t even know the relative dates of the Civil War you should probably not be speaking with assurance about the causes of the war or the motives of the sides involved.  The same goes with the Nazi movement, most people don’t know about it outside of Hitler was bad, really racist, killed millions of Jews and others, and started a war in Europe that reached the nearly the entire continent and into Northern Africa. (The alliance with Japan and the alliance of the US and Australia and New Zealand made it a truly “World War.”)

Here is a quick education about Nazi Germany. –

After WWI, in which Germany was defeated, the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on them. This treaty basically said that Germany was the cause for the War (“War Guilt Clause”) and that Germany should pay reparations and not be allowed to arm themselves.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, king of Germany, was deposed.  A new republic was declared, called the Weimar (VY-MAR) Republic.  This unstable republic lasted only until Hitler came to power.  Hitler’s reign is called the “3rd Reich.”  – The 1st Reich was generally the German portion of the Holy Roman Empire, Otto I being the first emperor.  The 2nd Reich is the time of the beginning of the country of Germany, from 1871 until the end of WWI and the formation of the Weimar Republic.

HITLER – Adolph Hitler was born in Austria.  He was relatively uneducated, and he was unable to attend art school in Vienna nor architecture school. He eventually became a tramp. While in Vienna Hitler read voraciously, mostly extreme literature that would be wound up in the Nazi “ideology.”

When WWI came, Hitler left Austria in order to fight in the war for Germany.  Yes, Germany and Austria-Hungary were allies with each other, but Hitler detested the Austro-Hungarian empire because it was a multi-national empire consisting not only of German Austrians, but of Hungarians, Czechs, and other Slavic peoples.  Hitler dreamed of a state consisting of pure Germans.

Hitler apparently served bravely in the German military as a runner – a very dangerous job – earning an Iron Cross and a top rank of Corporal.  Hitler heard about the end of the war in a hospital, recovering his eyes from being gassed on the front lines.  Hitler was angry and devastated.  He turned this anger into a search for power.

Hitler went from a Corporal in the German Army to the dictator of Germany in less than 15 years.  This is an incredible rise to power, unseen in the history of the world.  It is nothing less than amazing.  Hitler may have been uneducated, but he was incredibly capable in the areas of political organizing and political public speaking.  He used his abilities to spread his ideology and raise his party to prominence and finally dominant rule.


Nationalsozialistische Deutche Arbeiterpartei, (say that 3 times fast) or NSDAP, translated into National Socialist German Worker’s Party or “Nazi Party” in English. It was not necessarily “socialist” although there was a serious socialist element within the party that Hitler did not really embrace.  – Note – our political history and beliefs in the United States is so different from other places that it doesn’t really make sense to place Nazi ideology, or much ideology in Europe in general, on our political scale.  For instance, Nazis are not “left” because of their socialist elements, they are not “right” because of their nationalism.  Nazi is more totalitarian, like the Soviet communists, in my opinion.

Hitler had many setbacks, most notably his “Beer Hall Putsch” in which Hitler naively tried to take control of the government with force in November of 1923 (not to be confused with the forming of the NAZI party at the Hofbrauhaus, a different beer hall, in 1920.)  Hitler was arrested after the Beer Hall Putsch and given a light sentence for what was really treason against the Weimar Republic. (Right-leaning trouble makers were given lesser sentences than left-leaning troublemakers at the time.)

Hitler dictated the first volume of his famous and rambling work “Mein Kampf” translated to “My Struggle” in English.  In this book Hitler lays out exactly what he wanted to do if he came to power.  Reminiscent of Osama bin Laden giving away his playbook in his fatwa against the US and nobody paying any attention, Hitler did basically the same thing.  Aside from putting “Ayrans” at the top of the human race and writing about race extermination (Holocaust anyone….?), Hitler outlined how he would fight the war if he were in charge.  He talks about “lebensraum” or “living space” that Germany would need.  This living spacehe land would come in the east at the expense of Russia (Hitler famously invaded Russia in 1941 with “Operation Barbarossa.”)

SUMMARY OF “MEIN KAMPF” – Hey, I am Hitler.  Germany got screwed by the Allies and stabbed in the back by traitors after World War I. I really, really, really hate Jews and other races that are inferior to Germans.  Here is my plan to make Germany the dominant country in Europe……

After Hitler’s release from prison the Nazi Party rose and fell and rose again in the complicated political scene in Weimar Germany – many parties vied for power, the U.S. would change reparations policies regarding Germany, the Great Depression was going on, different factions in different parties would stop party progress, etc.

Hitler’s party was seen as immature and very violent. It seems that not enough people took the Nazi party seriously enough until Hitler was in control of his own destiny and eventually in control of the entire government.

Eventually Hitler would become Chancellor of Germany in January 1933 and be both Chancellor and President in 1934.


There are people in several different related movements that adhere to something related to Nazi-ism, namely “White Nationalists” and “White Supremacist” movements such as the KKK and some extremists on the Alt-Right.  Ironically many of these people are from other races than that of pure Germans (if there is such a thing, which there is not.)  Also, many of Hitler’s thugs were homosexuals, something that these self-styled white supremacists abhor.

This movement takes a rough summary of beliefs of the Nazi Party.  White people are supreme, Jews and other races are inferior.  Some of these specific groups are violent, some are just talk.  All have a warped idea of Nazi-ism, which in itself had a warped idea of history and of race.


I hope that this really fast summary of a complicated topic will push you to do some research.  Before you call someone a Nazi, know what “Nazi” really means.  Before you fight “Fascism,” make sure you are not doing the same kind of violent actions that Hitler’s fascist thugs did.  And if you are a white supremacist, watch an episode of “Cops” or look up “Insane Clown Posse” and the idea of all whites being supreme should fall on its face.

If you are a big reader, take a look at “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – A History of Nazi Germany” by William L. Shirer.  It is a 1200 page book.

Also, take a look at “The Civil War” by Ken Burns.  This documentary is currently on Netflix.  It was created in 1990 but it is an incredible piece of work.  This topic obviously relates to the incident at Charlottesville as much as the topic of Nazis, but I don’t have all day to write about the Nazis AND the Civil War.  Ken Burns’ “Baseball” is also an incredible documentary.


U.S. Expansion – How the country became so large.

How did the United States grow from 13 separate British colonies along the Atlantic coast into one country that touches the Pacific Ocean?

The politics can be complicated but the general idea is relatively easy.  There were a few incidents that expanded U.S. lands in sizeable ways and two huge expansions.  We will cover the two large expansions.


The 13 colonies became states of a united country in 1776.  The current form of government was implemented in 1789.  Soon after that the country began to expand. The expansion of land was so large in the two major incidents to be discussed that the acquisition of Florida is considered small!  That may give you an idea of how much land the United States gained in these agreements.  (You probably know at least one of them.)  Some smaller land acquisitions:

Acquisition of Florida from Spain 1819.

Inclusion of Texas as a state 1845.

Gadsden Purchase from Mexico 1853.

Purchase of Alaska from Russia, 1867. (“Seward’s Folly”) – It should be noted that Alaska is absolutely huge, but it is not as politically important as what will be discussed below.


The two major incidents of expansion are the Louisiana Purchase and the land resulting from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the US – Mexican War.


The city of St. Louis and the area of Louisiana was named after Saint Louis, or Louis IX, king of France, who lived from 1214 to 1270.  He really was a “Saint” as he was canonized (made into a Saint by the Catholic Church) in 1297.  “Louis” is pronounced “Louey.”

In regards to the area of Louisiana, it was owned by France, obviously.  It was a massive area consisting of a large number of today’s states in the Midwest and West.  This land was acquired under Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.  At this time France was headed by the famous Napoleon, a leader not shy on expansion himself.

At this time, the western border of the U.S. was at the Mississippi River.  Due to its strategic and economic location on the Mississippi River, the United States attempted to get the city of New Orleans from France.  Instead, the United States was able to buy the whole Louisiana Territory.  Napoleon knew he needed to focus on Europe and that he couldn’t really control this territory.  What really showed him this was the slave rebellion in France-controlled Haiti, which is located in the Caribbean.  The French could not control the situation.  Haiti soon became independent, and the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The opportunity to buy the Louisiana Territory came as a surprise to many, especially Jefferson.  The president did not really find anything in the Constitution enabling him to purchase the territory but that did not stop him. The huge area was purchased in 1803.


The next large expansion didn’t occur until over 40 years later.  The country of Mexico, newly independent from Spain in 1810, Mexico claimed all the land in North America formerly claimed by Spain.  Soon, the U.S. would claim much of the same territory. The acquisition of the Mexican Territory was accomplished by way of war.

The war with Mexico remains controversial.  California was a very large jewel that the United States wanted. The United States was expanding in population and power.  The Mexican territory was sparsely populated in relation to the eastern portion of the continent.  There was also a border dispute with Texas – Mexico claimed the Nueces River to the north, the U.S. claimed the Rio Grande to the south.

War erupted in 1846 with the U.S. claiming violence was committed against U.S. troops by Mexican troops in the disputed area between the two rivers.  Future president Abraham Lincoln made his famous “Spot Resolution” in Congress, urging President Polk to show the “spot” on which American blood was spilled.  (This was an anti-war speech.)

The war was generally popular.  The idea of “Manifest Destiny,” the idea that the U.S. was destined by God to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, was put into the national mind by newspaper editor John O’ Sullivan in 1945.  Mexico was standing in the way of Manifest Destiny.

The U.S. military soundly defeated the Mexican army.  Many Civil War generals from the North and South fought together as lower ranking officers in this conflict.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848.


The map below shows in detail the areas of United States expansion with dates.  The map was taken from thomaslegion.net.







What Is Government, Really?

Government.  That is a word that encompasses a whole lot.  There are so many different kinds of government around the world.  The United Kingdom has a constitutional monarchy.  Iran has a Shia Islamic theocracy.  The United States has a republic or constitutional republic, or democratic republic, or ….

Even within the United States there are different kinds of government.  While the states have similar governments to each other there are large differences.  Counties within the states have governments.  Finally cities have their own level of government.

There have been brilliant writers discussing and debating the topic of government; Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Montesquieu, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, Lincoln, and hundreds more.  There are almost as many ideas about what a government should be (or if there should be one at all) as there are people in the world.

The topic of government can really be confusing.  It can also be divisive, especially when ideologies and politics are involved in the discussion.  “Trump is better than Clinton.””  “Clinton or Sanders would have been better than Trump.” “I voted for Trump but I liked Ted Cruz better…”  This can go on and on.  It really solves nothing.  Groups can talk in circles about this but nothing is really said to the “other side.”

While we may not agree on what government should do to us, for us, or agree upon who should run it, there is one thing that all sides can agree on.  That is the definition of government.

My description of government is going to be a bit weird to you at first.  It is not a “partisan” idea, but I admit that I took it from a libertarian (small “L” as in libertarian ideas, not the Libertarian Party.)  It is quite brilliant.  I have tried to think of another description but I can come up with nothing better.  This description should be agreed upon by everyone, from the most ardent anarchist to the person who wants government to control every aspect of our lives.

Here it is….

“Government is an entity that has a monopoly on the legal use of violence.”

“Wow,” you say.  “Violence?  What do you mean?”

Government, all governments, have a monopoly on legalized violence, meaning that the government can and will coerce people to act within a certain set of laws that have been previously defined.  This coercion, if taken to its ultimate conclusion, will result in physical violence.  By “violence” the government controls the actions of the citizens of the defined boundaries of the government.  For this article, the boundaries will be those set forth in the United States.

The obvious example of legal government violence is police action.  If someone murders one you love you can’t legally go and kill them or use force to imprison them in your house or some prison you built.  The government can use force to apprehend a murder suspect and if that person is convicted in a government court that person can be put in a government prison or killed by the government if the death penalty is legal in the area that the murder was committed in.  The police, court system, and prison system must coerce the suspect / convict with force but these state actors are all acting within the bounds of the law.  Simple enough?

Another obvious example is military force.  The military is obviously controlled by the government.  The military can be ordered to use violence to defend the United States, but more often than not, the violence projected by the military is used in a foreign land.  The U.S. government used violence to change the government in Iraq.  This military violence is not something that U.S. citizens could have done legally or at all.

A less obvious example is taxes – which partly pay for the people who can use legal violence like the police, military, FBI, and other government agencies.  Nobody literally puts a gun to your head and physically takes money away from you in the form of taxes but see what happens when you don’t pay your taxes.  You may be subject to penalties.  If the penalties are high enough the government may use physical force to arrest you or to take away your property or your freedom.

What about government roads?  That seems pretty non-violent.  Well, if you own a house or land within a proposed route for a government road you will be offered money to pay for your inconvenience and for your property (whether the amount is fair is another topic.)  If you refuse to move the government can take your property by force and possibly use force to charge you with crimes.

Any law, if really broken down, involves the threat of force by the government against the individual.

This is not a critique of government, per se.  Understanding that government is the entity that has a monopoly on the legal use of force is vital to really understanding what government really is. When implementing a government or new laws under a government, people must be cognizant of the fact that there is an addition of the threat of force in their lives.

If you understand the basic idea of government you will be able to argue your points about government in a better and stronger manner.

I am not saying that the government is a violent entity.  I am simply pointing out the now obvious fact that a government cannot exist without having the option to legally use violence when it is in the best interest of the government to do so.  I would think that this is something that we can all agree on.  I bet that your teacher didn’t teach this to you in your civics class.government

More Than Just The Big Wars – U.S. Intervention Around The World

The subject of U.S. military and political intervention around the world is a very controversial subject.  Some say that the United States has a responsibility to keep the world stable by using military force to quell incidents in far off lands.  Others say that the United States should not be the policeman of the world and that it costs too much money.

The focus of this post is not to take one side or another on this issue.  This post is only serving to show the reader a few of the many events that have taken place throughout the history of the U.S. Most people in the U.S. have not heard of these events and how they relate to the modern geopolitical climate.

U.S. military policy is really more than just the “big wars” like WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc.  There are dozens and dozens of times the U.S. has intervened around the world.  Sometimes the consequences of intervention were only local, other times this intervention had global implications.  The topics covered today are of the latter.

Today, I will focus on two countries, Iran and Afghanistan.  These countries are in the news a lot today.  The origins of U.S. intervention in these countries occurred during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which will be covered in a later post.  These events also began in the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) and ended in the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).  The ramifications would affect presidents H.W. Bush, Clinton, W. Bush, Obama, Trump, and, most likely, many presidents to follow.

So, without further ado, here are some short summaries of the major events of U.S. intervention in Iran and Afghanistan…


Today Iran is hostile to the United States and its interests.  This has been the case since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.  This event marked a change in government from rule by a secular Shah to rule that amounts to a theocracy, or religion and government intertwined.  The religion of the ruling government in Iran is Shia Islam and the religious rulers are known as Ayatollahs.

In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A) of the United States conducted a coup in order to place Reza Shah Pahlavi in control of the government at the expense of then-Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq.  Mossadeq worried the C.I.A. as he was claimed to have socialist and communist ties.  The wild C.I.A. program known as “Operation Ajax” was largely conducted by Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Operation Ajax was very successful and the Shah was firmly in power until his health faded at the end of the 1970’s.  The Shah’s decline led to a power grab by radical Shia Islamists who have controlled the government ever since.  The anti-U.S. sentiment of the revolution led to the infamous “Hostage Crisis” in which 52 American diplomats were held for 444 days from November 4, 1979 until January 20, 1981 when President Reagan was sworn into office.


In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan in order to prop up the communist regime in power.  The Soviets brutally took hold of Afghanistan, fighting a menagerie of fighters who were often, in other times, hostile to each other.  Some of these fighters were moderate in their belief in Islam, many were quite radical.  In a very complicated situation some in the United States government saw a way to take a shot at the Soviet Union.

The mortal enemy of the United States, the Soviet Union supported communist troops in the Vietnam war.  Supporting the rebels in Afghanistan seemed to be a way to get some revenge against the USSR.  The C.I.A. began to give money and weapons different groups of the rebels.  The most important weapon was the Stinger Missile, which helped the rebels shoot down the lethal Soviet attack helicopters.

The support of the rebels did worsen the situation in Afghanistan for the Soviet Union.  Internal politics and economic woes had a lot to do with it as well.  The Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed not long after that.

This was in a time before Islamic terrorism was a huge deal in the world.  It was known that these radical Islamic elements could pose a future problem, but the USSR was a much bigger problem for the U.S. government so some in the government hedged their bets and went with the radicals.

Fast forward a decade and a half later, and you have these elements in Afghanistan that are causing huge problems for the United States.  Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born son of a wealthy construction magnate, was well known to United States officials by the 1990s. He, and others from traditional Islamic regions went to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.  More than a few of these “Afghan-Arabs” would turn their fight towards the United States.

Afghanistan was generally ignored by the United States after the Soviet Union withdrew in 1989.  The Taliban, strict radical Islamists, took over the country and offered safe haven to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network after bin Laden was forced to leave Khartoum, Sudan due to pressure by the United States government.

The Islamic terror network al Qaeda is responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.  The United States military has been fighting in Afghanistan ever since.



These summaries on U.S. intervention in Iran and Afghanistan are the very basics that you should know.  You need to understand that these events happened and U.S. intervention was a major player in them.  You can interpret these events in different ways. These books are all great reads and are very informative. I highly recommend at least one of them.  Overthrow is the best overview of U.S. intervention if you don’t know what the heck I was talking about at all.  Kinzer does write in an anti-interventionist fashion but regardless of your politics, it is a vital book to own.

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile

All The Shah’s Men and Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer

C.I.A.- Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

Soviet Withdraw


Anachronisms in History – say what?

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word anachronism as an error in chronology especially :  a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other.

In the subject of history it is important to understand that the names of places weren’t always what they are.  When we look at a map today we see names of countries and cities that are familiar to us.  The cities of London, Vienna, Tunis, and Marseilles…the countries of France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, etc.

The names of all of the above, plus many, many more, have all changed throughout history.  While being totally specific when discussing general history may be a bit overboard, it is important to understand what places were called in the time period one is discussing.  We want to avoid anachronisms when discussing history.

Below I will discuss a few anachronistic mistakes that I have encountered:

TURKEY – Turkey is a country that is a “bridge” from Europe to the Middle East (another misunderstood term btw…)  This area has been occupied and or governed by many different cultures over thousands of years, including Hittites, Lydians, Greeks, Romans, and eventually Turks.

The Turks come from the Asian steppe.  Original “Turks” probably came from the area of modern-day Turkmenistan.  The Turks were only one of numerous tribes to come from the Asian steppe. The problem stems from calling the place Turkey when speaking about cultures prior to the invasion of the Turks, who came in large numbers in the 11th century, famously establishing themselves in the west by beating a Byzantine force at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

There were no Turks in what we call Turkey prior to the invasion of the Turks. And speaking of Turkey…..

ISTANBULIf you have a date in Constantinople she’ll be waiting in Istanbul…. So goes the song.  Modern-day Istanbul has had a name change or two.  It was originally a Greek city named Byzantium, which is where the word Byzantine, as in Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) comes from.  Byzantium was later renamed Constantinople by the Roman Emperor and huge figure in Christianity Constantine in the 4th Century A.D.  Over 1000 years later Constantinople was sacked by the spreading Muslim Ottoman Empire under Mehmet II (the Conqueror) in 1453 who officially named the city Istanbul.  These three names are only the most well-known of the several others that this city has ben known as.

NEW YORKEven old New York, was once New Amsterdam, why they changed it I can’t say – people must like it better that way….  OK, I promise, nor more of that song.

Yes, New York used to be named New Amsterdam.  The Dutch and English were rivals on the seas during the 17th Century.  The English eventually took control of the entire eastern portion of the modern-day USA and kicked the Dutch out during one of the Anglo-Dutch wars.  The Dutch basically held the area along the Hudson River, which flows south to NYC.  The name “New York” comes from York in England.  The Duke of York at the time of the naming was the future King James II.

As far as “Dutch ” culture goes, Harlem, in northern NYC, is a Dutch name, just add another “a” as in Haarlem.  The “Pennsylvania Dutch” are not Dutch at all.  They are German.  “Dutch” was just a mispronunciation of “Deutsch” (doy-ch), which simply means “German” in the German language.

LONDON – London is somewhat simple.  It was called “Londinium” by the Romans who founded it.  If you remember, the Romans took control of the British Isles in the mid-first century A.D.

ENGLAND – SCOTLAND – WHALES – UNITED KINGDOM – These names often are synonymous with each other.  This post would be incredibly long if I went into all of this.  Just remember that the different areas in the modern-day United Kingdom all have their own separate histories.  The United Kingdom, or UK, is a relatively modern term encompassing England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.  This stems from the Acts of Union in 1707 (which did not include N. Ireland at the time.)  This is where we get the “British flag” as many call it, or the “Union Jack.”  Refer to my previous post “The Layers of British History to 1066” if none of this rings a bell.


I could go on all day.  Hundreds of places have changed.  I didn’t even mention hundreds of Greek cities in Europe.  I didn’t even mention that “Greek” comes form a Latin term or that “Latin” comes from Latium, which was where Rome was founded.  “Rome” comes from Romulus, one of the legendary founders of Rome……  It really never ends, trust me….

When you read about history you will notice the names of places change.  It is really fun to understand the ancient and modern connections. The point is, if you understand what some major places used to be called, you will understand history much better.  The best way to explain something is to use the term “modern-day.”  For instance, you can say that the Greek culture spread all along the western coast of modern-day Turkey.

The map below is of Roman Britain, or the modern-day United Kingdom and northwest continental Europe.




Histories By Herodotus – A Movie Script Disguised as a History Book

Histories by Herodotus is considered the first true history in Western Civilization.  It was written over 2400 years ago by a man named Herodotus.  He was from a city called Halicarnassus which was located on the western coast of modern-day Turkey.  This was WAY back before any Turks inhabited the area (which would happen around 1000 A.D.)Halicarnassus was part of the larger Hellenistic world, or as you know it, the Greek world.

Herodotus is one of the famous three Greek “H” authors.  In chronological order you have Homer, who is credited with the “Illiad” and the “Odyssey.”  You have Hesiod, who wrote “Works and Days” and his more famous “Theogony.”  Finally you have Herodotus and his “Histories.” Western culture would be different without these three important and wonderful authors.

Herodotus is called the “father of history.”  He is also called “the father of lies.”  There is not doubt that Herodotus embellished parts of his work.  There were simply some things he didn’t understand, such as full knowledge of various cultures and a full knowledge of geography.  For writing over 2400 years ago, Herodotus, in my humble opinion, wrote on of the greatest books of all time.  I absolutely LOVE “Histories.” It is anything but a boring read.  It is not the easiest read, but there is help with that.  I read “Histories” through the Landmark series of classics.  There are maps, footnotes with explanations and corrections, and really awesome appendices that are essentially essays by experts explaining certain aspects of Greek and other cultures encountered in “Histories.”

If you read only ONE classic in your life, “Histories” by Herodotus would be one of the best choices.  Originally written in ancient Greek, “Histories” is divided into nine books. The Landmark translation mentioned above is 722 pages (including all maps) and about 850 pages with all of the must read appendices.  It is well worth it.

Below is a summation of my favorite part of the whole work, the end of Book 1…

It is about a great King, a strong defiant Queen, and a moral lesson in pushing one’s luck.

————————————————————————————————————————————– The great Persian King Cyrus (the Great), in his quest to conquer as much as he could, decided to make war with the Massagetai, a people living amongst the plains to the east of the Caspian sea, to the north of the realm of King Cyrus. King Cyrus has had nothing but success so far in his life, beating the Massagetai was simply a foregone conclusion to him.

The Massagetai were ruled by a woman named Tomyris.  Cyrus sent queen Tomyris a proposal of marriage, but Tomyris saw this proposal was simply a ruse to gain her kingdom by deception and she refused his proposal. Thus rebuked, King Cyrus led his army to the Araxes river and his engineers began construction of a bridge of boats in order to cross the river.  As his army was building the bridge Queen Tomyris sent a message to Cyrus:

“King of the Medes (Persians), cease your labors; you cannot know whether this project will prive to be advantageous to you.  So stop; be satisfied with reigning over your own people and endure the sight of me ruling over the subjects that I have now. However, I assume that you will not follow my advice, as you would find anything preferable to living in peace.  Well, if you heart is so strongly set on a trial of strength with the Massagetai, come on then and we shall oblige you; but you need not labor more to build a bridge. Give us three days to retreat from the river, and then you may proceed to invade my territory.  Or, if you would prefer to admit us into your territory, you do the same.”

When Cyrus received this message he summoned the top Persians to meet with him and discuss the situation.  They almost unanimously agreed that Cyrus should admit Tomyris and the army of the Massagetai into his territory. The only contrary opinion was that of the former king and now advisor to Cyrus, Croesus.  Croesus says to Cyrus:

“Sire, you know, as I told you earlier, that since Zeus gave me to you (Croesus was defeated by Cyrus and lost his kingdom to him), I would always strive, to the best of my ability, to avert any harm to you and your house that I could envision.  My suffering, though joyless for me, has taught me many lessons. If you think yourself an immortal an that you command an immortal army, no opinion of mine will mean anything to you. But if you realize that you are human and command an army of human beings, consider first that there is a cycle in human affairs, and as it goes around it does not permit the same person to enjoy good fortune forever. Therefore, I have an opinion opposite to that of these men concerning this matter. For if you permit the enemy to enter your territory and are defeated, you will risk losing your whole empire. For if the Massgetai should win, it is quite obvious that they will not retreat but will march on your other provinces. And even if you defeat them there, you will not gain as much from the victory as you could have gained had you crossed the river and defeated the Masssagetai on their own territory, and pursued them as they fled. Just as they might have done great harm to you had they defeated you here, your victory there will permit you to advance directly into the empire of Tomyris. And apart from all that, it would be an intolerable disgrace for Cyrus son of Cambyses to concede the initiative to a woman and to retreat before her. For these reasons, I think you should cross the river, advance as far as they make way for you, and then endeavor to gain the advantage over them by means of the following scheme… I hear that the Massagetai have had no experience of all the amenities and the finer things in life which the Persians enjoy. So I propose that you shold deal with these men in the following way: slaughter many cattle – and be generous about it. Have the cattle prepared to serve as a feast in our camp, along with generous provisions of undiluted wine and foo of every sort. When everything is prepared, leave behind the worst part of your army and retreat at once with the rest to the river. For in my judgement, the Massagetai, when they see the any good things to eat and drink there, will turn their attention to these delights and thereby create an opportunity for us to perform great deeds of valor.”

(Croesus advises Cyrus to leave a trap for the Massagetai soldiers, to lure them into getting drunk and feasting in order that they would be easy prey for the Persian army.)

Cyrus chooses to follow the plan of Croesus. He then told Tomyris to withdraw so he could cross the river into her territory.  Cyrus sent his son Cambyses (II) with Croesus to Persia for safety in case anything should happen to the king in battle and then he crossed the river with his army. That night, Cyrus had a dream that young Darius, son of Hystaspes, had wings on his shoulders, one wing cast a shadow over Asia, the other over Europe. Cyrus interpreted the dream viewing Darius as plotting against his kingdom when in reality, the gods were trying to warn Cyrus that he would die in battle and that Darius would eventually succeed to this throne.

After a day of marching past the river for a day, Cyrus set up a banquet as Croesus advised. Cyrus took his best troops and marched back, leaving the weaker part of his army with the wine and food.  These troops were slaughtered by the Massagetai soldiers who were surprised to see a feast simply waiting for them.  The Massagetai began to eat and drink.  Cyrus’ army then attacked the unaware Massegatie, killed many, and captured more alive, including a general named Spargapises, the son of Tomyris.

When Tomyris learned what had happened, she sent Cyrus another message:

“Bloodthirsty Cyrus, do not gloat over what has happened here. You Persians indulge yourselves with the fruit of the vine (wine) to the point of madness, so that as the wine descends into your bodies, ugly words flow up and out of you. By such means you have tricked me and have taken my son prisoner, but not by supremacy in battle. Well, then, I urge you to follow this advice: return my son to me and, despite the damage you have cunningly wreaked upon a third part of the army of the Massagetai, you may leave this land unharmed. If you do not do this, I swear by the Sun, the Lord of the Massagetai, that I will satisfy your thirst for blood, insatiable as you are.”

Cyrus ignored this message when reported to him. Soon, Sparagapises became sober only to discover that he was captured by Cyrus.  He begged Cyrus to set him free of his chains, which Cyrus did. Sparagapises immediately killed himself.

Tomyris saw that Cyrus did not heed her warning.  She gathered here army and attacked the Persians.

Herodotus writes of the battle:

What happened then was, in my judgement, the most violent of all battles ever fought by barbarians; (meaning non-Greeks) this is what I heard about how it was waged. It is said that the battle began with each side shooting arrows at each other while still far apart. Then, when their supply of arrows was exhausted, they fell upon each other at close quarters with spears and daggers. For a long time they fought fiercely and neither side was willing to flee. But at last the Massagetai prevailed. A large part of the Persian army perished in this battle, and in particular, Cyrus himself met his end. He had reigned for twenty-nine years.

Tomyris then filled a wineskin with human blood and searched for the corpse of Cyrus among the Persians’ dead. When she found him she thrust his head into the wineskin, and as she thus abused the corpse, she declared to it:

“I am alive and have conquered you in battle, but you have ruined me by taking my son through guile. Well, then, just as I threatened, I will slake your thirst for blood.”

Of the many stories told about the death of Cyrus, this account seems to me to be the most credible version.


Oh yeah, the story of the fall of Cambyses II, the rise of Darius, Xerxes invading Greece, and the story of the 300 Spartans are all to come….. no big deal!

I must again recommend HARDCORE HISTORY – KING OF KINGS I, II, and III

It is simply amazing.  Check it out for free at http://www.dancarlin.com

Credit for the material in the summary and picture go to the Landmark crew published by Anchor books.