Archive for the ‘Famous people’ Category

Cleopatra

Posted: 17/07/2013 in Famous people

Whether Helen of Troy, whose beauty launched a thousand ships ” and burned the topless towers of Ilium ” really existed, is still a matter of some conjecture, but her rival in beauty, fame and influence, was a very real figure in the world’s history.

Cleopatra fascinated the great Julius Ceaser and after his death, Mark Anthony, who held in turn the world in their hands. But she conquered the conquerors, and it was she who led Anthony to ruin, a ruin that left Octavian in a position to become the first emporer of Rome. Yet the oft-quoted remark about the length of Cleopatra’s nose does her an injustice, for although she attracted man by her beauty and presence,she held them by her charm,her wit, and her learning.

When Alexander the Great had died, his empire has been dismembered and Egypt had fallen into Ptolemy Lagos, who founded the Ptolemy dynasty, and thus Greeks ruled over Egypt for nearly 300 years, their capital was Alexandria,

In the palace of Pharaohs, at Alexandria, sat Julius Ceasar, surrounded by his generals. The problem facing him was how best to serve the interest of Rome in the crisis that had then arisen: a bitter quarrel had broken out between the 21 year old Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIV, a child of 13, who shared between them the throne of Egypt.

Cleopatra gathered army in Syria, and was marching on the Egyptian frontier to reconquer her kingdom.At this time Julius Ceasar returning from his victorious war on Pompey the Great,arrived in Alexandria, and Ptolemy’s faction asked him for the Roman army’s support in the civil war.The council of Roman generals was about to break up.The decision in favour of Ptolemy’s cause was all but taken,went into Julius Ceasar presence was ushered a Greek merchant with a present of rugs. A silence of astonishment filled the great hall as the bundle was unrolled, there emerged a small laughing, dishevelled young woman Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, Daughter of the Sun, sister of the moon. She was the woman whose charms and beauty, almost 2000 after her death,are still fresh in the minds of men.

Julius Ceasar fell at once under the spell of this beautiful woman,who had cared in such fashion to enter her hostile capital and plead her cause in person; and that night the most beautiful voice that had ever charmed men’s ears set so well before Julius Ceasar the cause of Cleopatra that at dawn Ptolemy had lost his prospective ally.From that night dates the great partnership and romantic attachment between the queen of one of the wealthiest and most cultural countries of those times, and the leading citizen of invisible Rome.Cleopatra was courageous, intelligent; a woman who,when he had secured her throne for her, would have all the resources of the east at her command. We are told that she spoke 10 languages, including Latin, Hebrew and Syriac.

To Cleopatra, Julius Ceasar was not only the means by which she would ultimately substantiate their shared ambitions; she instinctively gave him a heart-whole affection.This woman, whom legends has taught us to think of as an immoral voluptuary, seemed according to the known facts, to have regarded Julius Ceasar as her husband, and she appears to have acted in all ways as an exemplary wife.Yound Ptolemy was defeated and Cleopatra became the absolute sovereign of Egypt by the help of Julius Ceasar.During these months of civil war, Cleopatra and Julius Ceasar found time for feasting and love-making.In the joy of happiness the son of Cleopatra and  Julius Ceasar was born.They named him Ceasarion Ptolemy, as became the heir of two great houses.A few hours after his child’s birth,Julius Ceasar sailed away from Alexandria.

For a year Cleopatra waited, while Julius Ceasar made victorious warfare in Asia and North Africa.Then, in answer to his summons, she sat sail for Rome.They went as guest of honour to participate with Julius Ceasar in applause of the people. According to the Roman custom, Cleopatra’s rebel sister Arsinoe,came in chains to be exibited to the Roman mob.

Cleopatra lived openly as mistress of Julius Ceasar but taking no part in political life.She remained in Rome for several years,in the period where honours were showering upon Ceasar. But Julius Ceasar, if had many friends he also had many enemies and one day, in 44 B.C came a tragic news of his assassination.Cleopatra knew she was unpopular in Rome, and lost no time returning to her native land. her brother was dead, poisoned at her behest, and she proclaimed her son, Cesarion as joint ruler with herself of  Egypt.

For three years Cleopatra watched from afar the civil war in Rome.Then one day there came a summons for her to meet Mark Anthony,the leading Triumvir of Rome, at Tarsus, and explain why as an ally, she had on certain occasions withheld her help. Cleopatra had been waiting before giving her support,to find her likeliest Roman to embrace her cause. The long-awaited moment had come, and with her smile on her lips and hope reborn from her heart, prepared to answer the summons of the most powerful Roman. She had heard much of Anthony’s character, and she brought her limitless personal resources to the task of charming this giant with the heart of a child, this soldier from whom men died without asking question.

Anthony sat on the dais in the deserted market-place awaiting Cleopatra.The multitude which half and hour ago had surrounded him had headed towards the shore where her ship was anchored, and from the quay great cries of adulation reached his ears. On a ship with a golden prow, with sails of purple and oars of silver, lay Cleopatra, apparelled as Venus. The feast prepared for Anthony was the most magnificent he had ever known. Costly gifts were presented to all the guest. And Cleopatra’s magnificence always outshone Anthony’s.

It is told that one night, to win a wager, Cleopatra dropped a pearl worth 150000 pounds into vinegar; the pearl dissolved and she drained the goblet. This incidence is quoted to prove her extravagance, but it is more likely that, needing Anthony’s alliance, she hoped by such action to impress upon his mind the immensity of the wealth he would have at his disposal should he throw in his lot with hers.

Day by day Anthony fell more and more under the spell of Cleopatra. Her powers of conversation, wit and charm, together with the childish gaiety which was so much a part of her, enthralled Anthony.It was at this period that Cleopatra enlisted Anthony’s help in the deed that has so blackened their story. Her sister Arsinoe was again in Egypt, plotting against Cleopatra. With Anthony’s help, Cleopatra planned the assassination of these menaces to her throne, and the fratricidal policy was duly carried out.Anthony had followed Cleopatra to Alexandria after the meeting at Tarsus,and they spent the winter there together.Anthony gave himself whole-heartedly until at last the affairs of Rome would wait no longer.Anthony met his fellow triumvir, Octavian, at Brundisium, and once again they made a compact and divided the world between them.Octavian remained at Rome and ruled the west and Anthony’s task was to subdue the east. To seal the bargain, Anthony married Octavian sister Octavia.

Then in 37 B.C, he returned to Syria and to the arms of Cleopatra.Love and luxury was again the order of the day and night. And Anthony set out campaigns against the Parthians.They both hoped to find a new empire but disappointment was in store for the queen.A fourth child had been born to her but a few weeks, when news came that disaster had overtaken the expedition. Cleopatra, the steadfast ally, set off at once with help for Anthony. Meanwhile Anthony by his attitude to his wife Octavia, had long insulted Octavian, her brother, and relations between the triumvir’s were strained.War between the Anthonian and Octavian factions was inevitable; Thus stood when Octavian’s fleet and those of Anthony and Cleopatra’s met, and the great battle of Actium was fought in 31 B.C.

This battle has remain a mystery to historians.The fighting had raged six hours, neither side having gained the advantage, when Anthony saw the ship carrying Cleopatra, hoist sail and leave the fight, followed by her sixty ships, he followed in quick pursuit, flying from the yet undecided battle, leaving Octavian a vanquisher without a victory. It has been suggested that Cleopatra thought the battle lost and dreaded falling alive into Octavian’s hands, or that a sudden attack of cowardice in this bravest of woman compelled her to retreat. However it was, owing to this never explained conduct, the Egypto-Roman empire was lost, and Octavian became Augustus Ceaser, first Emporer of Rome.

Cleopatra had fled to Alexandria, where she made preparations for a defence. Anthony went to Libya to find troops support.Both know that they had been doomed. Near the temple of Isis, Cleopatra built her mausoleum, a splendid palace for the dead, in the true fashions of Pharaohs. To this buildings all her treasure and jewels were  carried. Then from the prison those condemn to die were brought to the palace and poisoned by snake bites. Cleopatra was searching for the easiest way out of a world too strong even for her indomitable spirit.

Octavian was at the gate of Alexandria and Anthony attacked him with success. Octavian’s horsemen fled. Encouraged by this return of fortune, Anthony determined to find death or victory in one last battle, but his allies deserted him at the last moment, and he found himself alone, save for a handful of faithful men. He returned to the palace. Here the news came to him that Cleopatra had killed herself. With Cleopatra dead, the world and all that it meant was lost to him and “in the high Roman fashion” Anthony fell upon his sword, “a Roman vanquished by a  Roman“. The wound did not kill him, and though he implored those around him to finish his work, none dared. A second messenger arrived contradicting the news of the first; Cleopatra was alive, and waited for him in the mausoleum.

Anthony dying of his wound, bade his weeping soldiers carry him to the great tomb where Cleopatra and her two faithful women, Charmian and Iras had barred themselves in. Anthony died, clasped in Cleopatra’s arms, all their hatred forgotten, and only the love of their early days in their hearts.Anthony died, their kingdom lost, herself doomed, if she lived to follow the triumphant chariot wheels in chains,Cleopatra made one last effort to charm yet another Roman, the cold Octavian and he fearing that she might take her life, and so rob his triumph the spectacle of the humiliation of Rome’s great enemy, made overtures and lying promises to her, offering her kingdom and safety for herself and children.

But news of Octavian’s real intentions reaches Cleopatra, so she and her two faithful women escaped to pour the last libations on Anthony’s tomb.With the slow tears that come when only grief remains and hope is dead, Cleopatra placed crowns of flowers on her lover’s coffin, whispering tender words. Then having bathed in costly perfumes, she was adorned in her regal splendour, and feasted for the last time – alone

At the end, a slave carrying a figs approached her and smiling, she took it from him saying : ” So it has to come ” Her devoted slave had not forsaken her; for she knew that at her request, they had hidden an asp beneath the fig leaves. There would be no jeering Roman crowds, no ignominious death; Cleopatra would die as the goddess she was, in her own way, at her own hour, And that hour had come. She pressed the lithe,small reptile to her breast almost lovingly, And the last Ptolemy slowly fell asleep.

After death, this great woman’s ambition was ironically fulfilled for Rome adopted Alexandrian civilization and culture, and formed in truth and Egypto-Roman empire. But Octavian, and not Cesarion, sat on the throne.Cesarion had died by the assassin’s knife; there was no room in the empire for two Cesars.

~The End~

You may view the video of Cleopatra Mini Biography for further reference.

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Asoka

Posted: 16/07/2013 in Famous people

Asoka,

first of the great ruler of India to emerge, as a historical figure, from the mists of antiquity and legend, pillars and rocks throughout the length and breadth of India. They disclose a lover of justice and piety, of gentleness and humanitarianism,of charity and generosity. Asoka stands alone in history as having ruled a great empire successfully with scarcely a resort to force and with an unwavering respect for the sanctity of human life. The first Buddhist ruler, he impregnated his empire with all that is best in that faith and in doing so assured the spread thereof throughout the Eastern world.A man of deep wisdom, comparison and strength of character, he ranks among the great men of the world,not only by reason of what he did but of what he was.

Indian history in ancient and medieval times moved in a series of startling ups and downs. Great dynasties arose,held away over great parts of India, then rapidly collapsed, to be followed by long periods of uncertain anarchy, of which today we  know little or nothing. The first of these dynasties was the Maurya, the kings of which ruled from their capital, Pataliputra, in the third and part of the second centuries, and the most remarkable of these kings was Asoka.

Alexander the Great conquered North-Western India in 327 B.C and on his death in 323 B.C, that portion of his vast domination was taken over by one of his generals, Seleucus Nicator. His hold was effective, however only in the western fringe of what Alexander had conquered, the rest had reverted to the leading Indian kingdom of Magadha, now ruled by Chandragupta, the first of Mauryas.The origin of Asoka’s grandfather are obscure, but it is likely that he was the natural son of King Magadha by a low caste woman. It is certain anyway that soon after Alexander’s departure, Chandragupta overthrew the reigning dynasty and became himself King of Magadha and equally certain that within twenty years he had made himself master.He was suceeded by his son Bindhusara, who in a reign of about twenty-five years, held all that his father had left to him.

The prabable date of Asoka’s accession is 273 B.C and that of his ceremonial coronation is four years later.From the accounts of Megasthenes, Greek envoy at the court of Chandragupta, we know that Asoka inherited a highly centralized form of government at Pataliputra and an empire divided into the viceroyalties of Taxila in the north and Ujjain in central india.

In the first years of his reign, Asoka behaved much as he was expected of a ruler in those days.He kept splendid court and ruled as an autocrat, untrammelled by advice or probably scruples. His favourite pastimes were hunting, feasting and war. In warfare there was less opportunity, since little of India had been left unconquered by his grandfather, but about the nineth year of his reign he determined to conquer the kingdom of Kalingas, the centre of which the modern province of Orissa.He was successful, but the struggle was fierce, and the slaughter that accompanied it and the desease that followed it were appalling.Asoka records in one of the rock edicts that 100000 were slain and 150000 taken prisoners.

The effect of his slaughter on Asoka’s mind was profound, causing a change of heart only comparable in its suddenness and completeness to that caused in Saul by his vision on the road to Damascus. In the thriteenth Rock Edict he records that : ” His majesty on remorse on account of the conquest of the Kalingas, because during the subjection of a previously unconquered country, slaughter, death and taking of captive people necessarily occur, whereat his majesty feels profound sorrow and regret.”Asokavardhana was probably his full name, though in most of the inscriptions he called Priyadarsin ir the thoroughness with which he acted upon his newly found convictions.

Almost immedietely after the Kalingas was he joined the Buddhist community. For two years he was only a lay brother, and at first it seems that he was not over impressed by what he was taught, but early doubts were rapidly dispelled and around 260 B.C he became a monk, subscribing in full to the vowa of the order, not only that but he went further to impose them also upon the whole of his vast empire.

Buddhism since the days of its founder Gauthama Budha, had existed as branch of Hinduism but at the time of Maurya it rivalled neither Brahminism nor Jainism in the extent to which it was practised.From the rock edicts we can learn what to him dharma meant:

The law of piety  (You may view the Law of Piety that has been linked to Google; finding from another unknown author) to wit obedience to father and mother is good liberality to friends, acquaintance,relatives,and ascetics is good;respect for the sacredness of life is good;avoidance of violence and extravagance and violence of language is good”

Noticeable in this summary are the reference to the sacredness of life and to brahmins and ascetics. In place of the enormous provisions of anumal flesh allowed to the royal kitchens before the Kalinga War, there was now to be permitted only two peacocks and one deer each day. The rock edict dealing with the sacredness of life states:-

“Formaly in the kitchen of his majesty King Priyadarsin,each day many thousands of living creatures were slain to make curries.At the present moment when this pious edict is being written, only these three living creatures,namely two peacocks and one deer, are killed daily, and the deer not invariably.Even these creatures shall not be slaughtered in future”

Later he prohibited not only to himself but all his subjects, the killing of all quadrupeds neither useful nor edible;in fact there was to be no killing that was not purely for sport. In addition, no fish were to be caught on fifty-six special days in each year.This act has caused him to be hailed as a champion of religious tolerance. Perhaps he was, but it should be remembered that in Asoka’s day every sect subscribed fundamentally to the same philosophy of life;there was no such cleavage as later there was to be between Mohammedan and Hindu or even between Protestant and Catholics.

Asoka took practical steps to see that Dharma was inculcated into the minds of all his people, his most important innovations being the creation of Censors of Piety who should see that everywhere dharma was observed.Some little time earlier in his reign,governors of local districts had been ordered to hold assemblies every five or in some cases three years, in which dharma should be discussed and explained.Asoka himself set example by his charitable gifts,and a special royal almoner’s department was set up at Pataliputra to organize their distribution.Asoka was not content that Buddist principles should triumph in his dominions alone;he sent forth missionaries far and wide. They went to the independant Cholas and Pandyas in the far south of India and to Ceylon, Nepal, and Kashmir, whether or not they are part of Asoka’s empire, adopted the  Buddhist faith and Asoka’s emissaries preached dharma as far afield as Syria,Egypt and probably Macedonia and Epirus.

Where Alexander send generals to conquer men’s bodies, Asoka sent monks to conquer men’s mind.Having as his aim conversion rather than repression, he realized the importance of a high standard of behaviour among his provincial officers.He expected his subordinates to act upon the same principles as he laid down for himself.

Asoka reigned for about forty years, the probable date of his death being 232 B.C. Apart from Kalinga War they were years of internal and external peace. There is no record of any attempt at civil war, no hint of trouble with neighbouring states.Neither to the east nor west was there a ruler who could compare in power with the Maurya emporer.Conditions thus favoured Asoka’s great experiment the rule of the Law of Piety. It is unlikely that it would have stood the test of a war, but in peacetime, backed by the personality and the power of the emporer, it took deep hole on large sectionsof the races of the great Indian peninsula.

Asoka we have seen is no more theorist. Not only he appointed censors of Piety, he took practical steps to put into practice the rule that he laid down for himself :

“Work i must for the publict benefit”

He established a wide system of road communications throughout his empire, planting the sides of the roads with shady banyan trees,and establishing free rest houses at frequent intervals; and it seems likely that he instituted hospitals in many district.

Little is known of the emperor’s family life,though there is mention in the edicts of a wife Karuvaki, who is referred to as ‘the second queen’ a son Tivara,and a grandson,Dasaratha.

Wikipedia states :

 M.N. Das, Kaurwaki was a fisherman’s daughter who converted to Buddhism and became a sanyasini. Following Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism, he married her and made her his queen.She had guided her husband, Ashoka, towards his religious leanings.Along with being religious, she took active part in philanthropy and was famous for her charity, and for her interest in Buddhist teachings.Kaurwaki’s religious and charitable donations were greatly admired by her husband, who commanded the Mahamatras (senior officials) that her donations should be regarded by all officials concerned as her act and deed, redounding to her accumulation of merit.Kaurwaki was immortalized in the Queen Edict (one of Ashoka’s many edicts carved on pillars throughout his empire), wherein the Mauryan emperor states that he was changing his lifestyle “on the advise of my queen Kaurwaki.”Ashoka further states that on her advise, he was embarking on a series of welfare measures for the people.The edict also identifies her as mother to their son, Prince Tivala (also referred to as Tivara). The inference being that, Kaurwaki, was the favourite and the mother of the prince who would’ve succeeded his father but who probably predeceased him.She is thus, the only queen of Ashoka, who holds the distinction of being mentioned in his inscriptions and edicts.

Within sixty years of the death of Asoka,the Maurya dynasty had crumbled,the empire has split up and India had re-entered a period of chaotic uncertainty. It was alleged that this was largely due to Asoka’s policy that though himself was great enough to carry it out, his successors were not,and that he had blunted for them the only weapon- autocrat force – that would enable them to hold the empire together.There is probably some truth in this assertion, but on the other hand the rapid fall of an empire in India has always been the rule rather than the exception.In any event it is hard to blame Asoka for having successors less great than himself.

Rather should we remember the extent of his achievement. The sites of the various pillars and rock inscriptions make it certain that he ruled over all the lands from the Hindu Kush mountains in the west to the Bramaputra river in the east, from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to the line drawn west from  Madras in the south; and he certainly excercise some sort of control over Kashmir and Tibet. Throughout this vast empire (the size of Europe exclude Russia), there was peace and it is safe to say, since no single legend or tradition suggest otherwise, prosperity and contentment.Not even Akhbar or Aurangzeb controlled so much in India, and it is doubtfull whether,800 hundred years later,conditions of life was as good as Asoka’s day. Such was his acheivement in non-religious sphere.

But it is as the establisher of Buddhism that he will remain important for all time; in Buddhist eye he must rank next to Gauthama. Buddhism today is one of the world’s chief faiths. The precepts and commands that Asoka had inscribed on rocks and pillars were as vital to the acheivement of this position as was the pen of St. Paul to Christianity.

~ The End ~

Various sources searched from Wikipedia, Library of Odhams, other usefull resources.