Puritans, Constantinople, and Oak Apple Day

My close friend Chalcedon has a post up at All along the Watchtower on Oak Apple day. Before we get to that, I must say how much it pleases me to see posts there again. Last winter in his absence it became unmanageable, without administration and with an influx of that mostly British phenomenon of hatefully aggressive atheists. Many here will know that for years, AATW was my second internet home, where I am a contributor and both Jessica who founded it and Chalcedon himself are contributors here, as well. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah. In any case here is part of what he says about Oak Apple Day, which I suspect many Americans have never heard of.

Until 1859, the Church of England marked 29 May as “Oak Apple Day,” marking the day that the Monarchy, and with it, the Church of England, was restored after the interlude of the Commonwealth under Cromwell. As Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary:

Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he returning to London that day.

The “oak tree” commemorated the fact that after the Royalist defeat at Worcester in 1651, the young Prince of Wales (later Charles II) had hidden in one whilst the Rounheads sought him. The English like a good story, and a good party, and Restoration Day provided both.

The Church of England had good reason to commemorate the day, and the decision to abolish its official memorial in 1859 was, along with the decision to drop the service for Guy Fawkes’ day, a sign that parliament wanted to take a less censorious line towards Nonconformists and Catholics, which whilst welcome in itself, should not lead us not to celebrate the day on which the Monarchy was restored.

History and identity are important to a nation, and as one commentator has shrewdly suggested:

“Against a joyless Puritan commerical republic, the Restoration symbolised the renewal of convivality, balance, memory, locality, a deeper, more joyful vision of communal flourishing than the Puritan republic could envisage or allow.”

That’s something we see with our new puritans too, isn’t it? A reduction of people to politically correct economic unit automatons. Well, Americans love a party perhaps even more than the English, and a good story always works as well, so I think we need a similar story and reason for a party.

But yesterday is also the anniversary of a calamity of the first order for Christianity, for as Raymond Ibrahim tells us in American Thinker, in 1453 Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet. And thus the last living link with the Roman Empire itself was sundered. Here’s some of what he writes.

Today in history, on May 29, 1453, the sword of Islam conquered Constantinople.  Of all Islam’s conquests of Christian territory, this was by far the most symbolically significant.  Not only was Constantinople a living and direct extension of the old Roman Empire and contemporary capital of the Christian Roman Empire (or Byzantium), but its cyclopean walls had prevented Islam from entering Europe through its eastern doorway for the previous seven centuries, beginning with the First Arab Siege of Constantinople (674–678).  Indeed, as Byzantine historian John Julius Norwich puts it, “[h]ad the Saracens captured Constantinople in the seventh century rather than the fifteenth, all Europe — and America — might be Muslim today.”

When Muslim forces failed again in the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople (717–718), conquering the ancient Christian capital became something of an obsession for a succession of caliphates and sultanates.  However, it was only with the rise of the Ottoman sultanate — so named after its eponymous Turkic founder, Osman (b. 1258) — that conquering the city, which was arguably better fortified than any other in the world, became a possibility, not least thanks to the concomitant spread of gunpowder and cannons from China to Eurasia.  By 1400, his descendants had managed to invade and conquer a significant portion of the southern Balkans — thereby isolating and essentially turning Constantinople into a Christian island in an Islamic sea.

Thus an end to a 2000 year history, since Romulus and Remus burst forth onto the stage of history. And so soon came King John  Sobieski and the siege of Vienna and the naval battle of Lepanto, as Christendom again stopped the advance of Islam for another 500 years. But now I’m reminded as the psalmist had it:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

It’s also my oldest nieces birthday, and I can remember when she got a birthday card from the President of the United States, John Kennedy, who shared it.


In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue

Arms of the Portuguese Prince Henry, the Navig...

Image via Wikipedia

Another Columbus Day has come. And again we celebrate the (re)discovery of the New World. And look what has been erected on that discovery! If you didn’t know; Columbus was a student of Prince Henry the Navigator’s school.

Those students made almost all of the voyages of discovery from the Iberian Peninsula. By the way, Prince Henry of  Portugal was the Grandson of John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster. The English always make it into these stories of the sea, don’t they?

So we know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But why? His crews were afraid of starving or falling off the edge of the world. His ships were ridiculously small. What exactly was the point? Nobody in Portugal had even heard of Brazil, nor were they all that enthused about an overseas empire. So, why?

Trade, that’s why. Everybody knew where India and China were (at least all the cool cats that knew the world was round). They had since Marco Polo made that remarkable trip, if not before. They liked the silk and other good things that came from China. But there was a problem.

You see there were pirates in the Mediterranean, then one had to get through the totalitarian Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Persians, and various and sundry other Islamic States. If you remember Spain had just managed to reconquer Spain from the Moslems and just plain didn’t want anything to do with them. So they decided to take a shortcut and sail west to go east. Yeah, their calculations were off a bit about the size of the world, but that’s why.

Now let’s think about this a little, Spain went way out of its way to avoid the clowns and founded both the New World and New Spain in the process: and got themselves into a shooting war with England that would eventually cost them their world power status. See A Cloud Smaller Than a Fist.

A few hundred years later, the United States won its Independence from Great Britain. The United States’ very first war was a regime change in Tripoli. There are still Islamic pirates, they still hold slaves and all in all they are still living in the 7th Century. And still today, Iran threatens war on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Some things never change.

Only now with their oil wealth, instead of modernizing and improving their people’s lives and such, they seem intent on conquering the world and seem to believe the world will use its modernity to help

They have found some fellow travelers, who had best hope they lose because they aren’t going to enjoy winning for long. Ask the survivors of the Kingdom of the Visigoths in about 1000 AD.

So there you have it. The cause of Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue.

In Other News:

  • General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.

Lee was born to Henry Lee (Light Horse Harry) and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point.

  • On the morning of October 12, 1915, the 49-year-old British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad in Brussels, Belgium.

Before World War I began in 1914, Cavell served for a number of years as the matron of a nurse’s training school in Brussels. After the city was captured and occupied by the Germans in the first month of the war, Cavell chose to remain at her post, tending to German soldiers and Belgians alike. In August 1915, German authorities arrested her and accused her of helping British and French prisoners-of-war, as well as Belgians hoping to serve with the Allied armies, to escape Belgium for neutral Holland. As I wrote on the centenary of her execution, here, there was no doubt at all of her guilt. And you can watch (no sound BTW) the procession for her state funeral at Norwich Cathedral in 1919 here.

  • On this day in 1776, British Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe lead a force of 4,000 troops aboard some 90 flat-boats up New York’s East River toward Throg’s Neck, a peninsula in Westchester County, in an effort to encircle General George Washington and the Patriot force stationed at Harlem Heights.

This was the largest British amphibious attack before Normandy.

After hearing of the British landing at Throg’s Neck, Washington ordered a contingent of troops from the Pennsylvania regiment to destroy the bridge leading from the peninsula to the Westchester mainland. The destruction of the bridge stranded Clinton and his men at Throg’s Neck for six days before they were loaded back onto their vessels and continued up the East River toward Pell Point.

  • On this day in 1946, Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the man who commanded the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist resistance to Japanese incursions into China and Burma, dies today at age 63.

All courtesy of This Day In History.


Ataturk vs Erdogan

Seen this?

The following is from 3 June Daily Mail (UK)

The unrest initially erupted on Friday when trees were torn down at a park in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square under government plans to redevelop the area. But they have widened into a broad show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the main secular opposition party for inciting the crowds, and said the protests were aimed at depriving his ruling AK Party of votes as elections begin next year.

Erdogan said the plans to remake the square, long an iconic rallying point for mass demonstrations, would go ahead, including the construction of a new mosque and the rebuilding of a replica Ottoman-era barracks.

TURKEY: Mangled vehicles on the streets following two nights of…

 And he said the protests – which were started by a small group of environmental campaigners but mushroomed when police used force to eject them from the park on Taksim Square – had nothing to do with the plans.

‘It’s entirely ideological,’ he told Turkish television. The demonstrations have since drawn in a wide range of people of all ages from across the political and social spectrum.

Protests yesterday were not as violent as the previous two days but police used tear gas to try to disperse hundreds of people in Ankara’s main Kizilay Square. There were similar clashes in Izmir and Adana, Turkey’s third and fourth-biggest cities.

In Taksim Square, the atmosphere was more festive with some chanting for Erdogan to resign and others singing and dancing. There were later clashes between police and protesters near Erdogan’s office in a former Ottoman palace in the city.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) denied orchestrating the unrest.

‘Today the people on the street across Turkey are not exclusively from the CHP, but from all ideologies and from all parties,’ senior party member Mehmet Akif Hamzacebi said.

Culture Clash (Ataturk vs Erdogan) – Britons warned to steer clear of Turkey – Daily Mail Re-Blog.

And this is from the Telegraph UK last night

The governor of Istanbul went on television to declare that police operations would continue day and night until the square, focus of demonstrations against Prime Minister Erdogan, was cleared.

Police fired volleys of tear gas canisters into a crowd of thousands – people in office clothes as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day – scattering them into side streets and nearby hotels. Water cannon swept across the square targeting stone-throwers in masks.

The protesters, who accuse Mr Erdogan of overreaching his authority after 10 years in power and three election victories, thronged the steep narrow lanes that lead down to the Bosporus waterway. Gradually, many began drifting back into the square as police withdrew, and gathered around a bonfire of rubbish.

Mr Erdogan had earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, the centre of demonstrations triggered by a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of the small Gezi Park abutting the square.

Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of overbearing government.

It looks like there are several things going on here. I think the most interesting is that the young people thing that Erdogan is becoming increasingly Islamist, and they are not interested in going there. Turkey since the days of Ataturk in the early twentieth century has been a secular society, and has integrated quite well into Europe. In fact, it is a provisional member of the European Community and has been a member of NATO more or less forever. As usual, the unrest is led by the young people, it always is, but in this case you are seeing a fair number of people in business clothing and a lot of women. Who have a lot to lose if Turkey goes Islamist, if you don’t believe that find some pictures of Afghanistan in the 1960s.

Some people are starting to think that Obama and company are midwifing the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire. I think that might be giving them more credit (or blame) than is their due, but intentions don’t count, and that is sort of what is happening.

NEW YORK – Is Obama helping advance a grand plan by Turkey, with the support of Germany, to restore the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic caliphate that controlled much of southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa for more than six centuries?

That is a question posed by historian Robert E. Kaplan in an article titled “The U.S. Helps Reconstruct the Ottoman Empire,” published this week by the international policy council and think tank Gatestone Institute.

Kaplan, a historian with a doctorate from Cornell University, specializing in modern Europe, says history suggests a possible partnership between Turkey and Germany, which has seen influence over Turkey as a means of influencing Muslims worldwide for its own interests.

He asks why the U.S. government “would actively promote German aims,” including the destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the re-creation of the Ottoman Empire through the “Arab Spring.”

Kaplan points to Obama’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ultimate victor in the “Arab Spring”; the U.S. backing of radical Islamic “rebel” groups in Libya with ties to al-Qaida; and current support for similarly constituted radical Islamic “rebel” groups in Syria aligned with al-Qaida.

Each of these U.S. military interventions occurred in areas that were under the Ottoman Empire.

Bring back the Ottoman Empire?

Kaplan sees a similarity between the Clinton-era attacks against the Serbs and the Obama administration hostility to well-established regimes in Libya and Syria.

He writes:

Since the mid-1990s the United States has intervened militarily in several internal armed conflicts in Europe and the Middle East: bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of Izetbegovic’s Moslem Regime in Bosnia in 1995, bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of KLA Moslems of Kosovo in 1999, bombing Libya’s Gaddafi regime in support of rebels in 2010. Each intervention was justified to Americans as motivated by humanitarian concerns: to protect Bosnian Moslems from genocidal Serbs, to protect Kosovo Moslems from genocidal Serbs, and to protect Libyans from their murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Kaplan observes that neither President Clinton nor President Obama ever mentioned the reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire as a justification for U.S. military intervention.

The U.S. offered other reasons for intervening in Serbia, including a desire to gain a strategic foothold in the Balkans, to defeat communism in Yugoslavia, to demonstrate to the world’s Muslims that the U.S. is not anti-Muslim, and to redefine the role of NATO in the post-Cold War era.

Recurring pattern

At its height in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottoman Empire stretched from its capital in Turkey, through the Muslim-populated areas of North Africa, Iraq, the costal regions of the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Balkans.

Kaplan points out that since the 1990s, “each European and Middle Eastern country that experienced American military intervention in an internal military conflict or an ‘Arab Spring’ has ended up with a government dominated by Islamists of the Moslem Brotherhood or al-Qaida variety fits nicely with the idea that these events represent a return to Ottoman rule.”

In these conflicts, Kaplan sees recurring patterns employed by Clinton and Obama to justify U.S. military intervention:

Each U. S. military action in Europe and the Middle East since 1990, however, with the exception of Iraq, has followed an overt pattern: First there is an armed conflict within the country where the intervention will take place. American news media heavily report this conflict. The “good guys” in the story are the rebels. The “bad guys,” to be attacked by American military force, are brutally anti-democratic, and committers of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Prestigious public figures, NGOs, judicial and quasi-judicial bodies and international organizations call for supporting the rebels and attacking the regime. Next, the American president orders American logistical support and arms supplies for the rebels. Finally the American president orders military attack under the auspices of NATO in support of the rebels. The attack usually consists of aerial bombing, today’s equivalent of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ gunboat which could attack coastal cities of militarily weak countries without fear of retaliation. The ultimate outcome of each American intervention is the replacement of a secular government with an Islamist regime in an area that had been part of the Ottoman Empire.

Kaplan cites a recent report published by John Rosenthal in the online Asian Times that discloses reports prepared by the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, attributing the massacre in the Syrian town of Houla on May 25, 2012, to the Syrian government.


Frankly I don’t know enough about this area to even have a valid opinion. But like I said intentions don’t really matter, and this (at least broadly) is about what appears to be happening. I think it

Bad for America and Western Civilization


“Arab Spring” in Central Asia?

English: Ertugrul Gazi Mosque in Ashgabat, Tur...

English: Ertugrul Gazi Mosque in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Türkçe: Aşkabat’taki Ertuğrul Gazi Camii, Türkmenistan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week we’ve been having a crash course on the Ottoman Empire courtesy of Jessica’s co-author Chalcedon, who is a professional historian. Today we start moving into the hear and now with an article Enza Ferreri that draws the parallel of the the so-called Arab Spring for us in the Central Asian republics of the old Soviet Union.

Of course we have to remember that these folks aren’t Arab, per se, they are Caucasian and Mongoloid, and not Semitic like the Arabs. But in essence of phsychology, there is little difference

Mirroring what is happening in the world, there is an Islamic revival in the Caucasus and Central Asia, with all that it means for local Christians.

The predominantly Muslim Central Asian Republics, after the collapse of the Soviet Union of which they were part, have seen an increase in the persecution of Christians. The fall of dictatorship, in a pattern similar to that of post-war Iraq and the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, seems to have “liberated” the radical elements within the Muslim communities.

Caucasus and Central Asia

The now independent countries of Central Asia are the following five, in order of population size: Uzbekistan (just under 30 million people), Kazakhstan (16-17 million), Tajikistan (7-8 million), Kyrgyzstan (5-6 million), which is particularly topical now because it is where the family of the Boston bombings suspects lived for a time, and Turkmenistan (just over 5 million), for a total population of 64.7 million in 2012, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. Another Muslim-majority country that was part of the Soviet Union is the Republic of Azerbaijan, the largest in the Caucasus, at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, with a population of over 9 million, 95 percent of whom are Muslim.

What is paradoxical is that, while during the Soviet era the ruling Communist Party, through the education system and official propaganda, imposed so-called “scientific atheism” (a name reminiscent of so many Western atheists who, à la Richard Dawkins, fallaciously declare the denial of God to derive from science), for Christians in Central Asia and the Caucasus the end of the Communist regime, which was supposed to bring freedom of religion among other freedoms, brought instead another form of religious oppression.

It may have freed Christianity but, by freeing Islam as well, it unleashed hostility against Christianity, from governments as well. Churches are raided, closed and torched, crosses are burnt, fathers are arrested and fined for holding a prayer meeting and religious leaders for not registering the church (while at the same time the strict legislation makes it impossible for churches to register), believers are beaten up during raids on their homes, Christian literature is destroyed, and families are restricted to owning only one Bible. There is growing intolerance, and the media target organizations and beliefs.

The organization Russian Ministries’ Facebook page says: “However due to the strictness of the laws in these countries, it is practically impossible for churches to register and practically all religious materials are illegal, meaning that it is becoming more or less de facto illegal to practice Christianity”.

It does not end there. In Azerbaijan “The government is also intent on vilifying Christians to the public. Government-controlled mass media accuses believers of occult practices, hypnosis, and extremism, while newspaper articles encourage discrimination and physical abuse of Christians and other minorities”.

Read more: http://enzaferreri.blogspot.com/2013/04/arab-spring-in-central-asia.html#ixzz2RLOgS2RD
Follow us: @EnzaFerreri on Twitter | enza.ferreri on Facebook

Note also that while the atheist Soviet Union did of course suppress both Christianity and Islam, the predominately Muslim populatioons and successor governments in most of these countries are far more violently  anti-Christian than the Soviet government was.

This is why the Russian government pays so much attention to these countries and why they flagged the older Boston bomber to our FBI. Why they accomplished so little is anybody’s guess but, I will be talking about it some very soon.

Now that we are starting to have an idea of what we are talking about we can start formulating a plan that will hopefully help us to

Advance American interests.

Ferdinand the Saint Prince of Portugal | The Freelance History Writer

Coat of arms of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lan...

I’ve mentioned a few times that Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal was John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster‘s grandson. Recently one of my British friends [Hi Jess :-)] told me she didn’t know that little fact. In truth, I don’t remember where I picked it up, either but it is true. I knew it was through Lancaster’s daughter but misremembered the name, it was Phillipa of Lancaster.

Happens, in this country they don’t teach American history effectively so that my education in English medieval history is defective is probably not to be wondered at. Still, it’s rather interesting.

This article from The Freelance History Writer is about Prince Henry’s little brother, Prince Saint Ferdinand, and it too is a very fascinating story..

Portrait believed to be of Infante Ferdinand the Saint, Master of the Order of Aviz.

Portrait believed to be of Infante Ferdinand the Saint, Master of the Order of Aviz.

Infante Ferdinand was the youngest of the family known in Portuguese history as the “illustrious generation”. Ferdinand and his brothers and sister were raised by their parents to be educated and to lead in various ways, all for the glory of Portugal. But Ferdinand was doomed to have a very sad story.

Ferdinand was born on September 29, 1402 at Santarém, Portugal. He was the sixth and youngest son of King Joao I and Philippa of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt. The chronicler Fonseca Benevides states that soon after Philippa became pregnant with Ferdinand, she became very ill. She struggled but did deliver a boy after a difficult childbirth. Perhaps because of this, Ferdinand was sickly and weak as a child.

Continue reading Ferdinand the Saint Prince of Portugal | The Freelance History Writer.

In other news, starting tomorrow, we are going to start building on the foundation that Chalcedon has provided us on the Ottoman Empire and it’s neighbors and successors, so if you didn’t get the players onto you’re scorecard you might want to. Those articles are here, here, and here, and taken together constitute as good a short history of the are as you’ll find in the blogosphere. I note that this is one of the areas of Chalcedon’s professional interest, he is a historian, and he writes from a deep well of knowledge, which we are quite lucky he is willing to share with us. So stay tuned, class will resume soon. 🙂

The White Sheep and the Black: Nomad Empires of Anatolia

We’ve been talking some about the Turkic peoples that lived, and fought, in the interstices between the Byzantine and Persian empires. Marissa over at Midiaeval Musings wrote the other day about two of them, namely the White Sheep and the Black Sheep (no I’m not kidding) It’s pretty interesting information about some history that few of us know much about. Here’s Marissa.

For most of us, life is sedentary. We may commute between work and home, but that home is fixed firmly to the ground, giving us shelter. Instead of travelling between areas of natural abundance, too, we take advantage of a global supply chain which brings products from every season and climate straight to our doorstep. At the same time, though, the ease and comfort of our sedentary lives comes with risks–as the latest round of storms on the eastern seaboard of the United States chillingly demonstrates.

The wide spaces of central and eastern Anatolia facilitated the movement from winter to summer pasture.

The wide spaces of central and eastern Anatolia facilitated the movement from winter to summer pasture.

It is because of this fragility in settled life that many people have, throughout human history, chosen to become nomads–migrating between seasonal pastures, keeping their wealth in herds, and trading for the settled goods unavailable on the steppe. These ways of life have been practiced across the breadth of Eurasia, but became increasingly influential in Anatolia (a traditional cross-roads of civilisations) from the 11th century to the 16th.

This was an era when nomads didn’t simply arrive on the scene of Byzantine decline; first as tribes, and then as confederations, these Turkic-speaking nomads aspired to create their own empires. And in some cases, they succeeded.

Byzantine experience with nomads was long-standing. During the war with Persia around the turn of the 7th century, they had relied upon the Gok Turk empire and its nomadic warriors to swing the balance of power in their favour. Later, they also experienced the penetrating raids of Arab forces into the Anatolian heartland.

Religious monument in Konya, the Seljuk capital.

Religious monument in Konya, the Seljuk capital.

In 1071, however, a new phase in the relationship between the Byzantines and the Turkic nomads opened. In this year, the Seljuk leader Alp Arslan delivered a humiliating defeat to the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. His victory opened eastern Asia Minor to subsequent Seljuk leaders, and laid the foundation for the Seljuk Sultanate (centred around Konya) encountered by the First Crusaders.

When they, too, suffered defeat at the hands of the Mongols in 1243, however, the region disintegrated into a patchwork of tribal principalities known as beyliks. These beyliks were Turkic-speaking, often ruled by a nomadic military elite, and included several now-forgotten kingdoms, like Karaman and Aydin, as well as that of Osman–founder of the Ottoman dynasty.

Among them, two different tribal groups–bitter rivals–gained control of eastern Anatolia, and even expanded into Iraq and Iran before their brief ascendancy was quashed between the Ottomans in the west and the Safavids in the East.

Continue reading The White Sheep and the Black: Nomad Empires of Anatolia | mediaevalmusings.

Now you know as much about this as I do, if you know more, please tell me.


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