Sunday, October 4, 2015

1841. And Latin. And Germany

In 1841 there wasn't a single Germany as there is today. When someone said "Germany" back then, they may well have been referring to those people in central Europe who spoke German, who lived in a variety of different political entities.

Then again, it's not as if there is 1 political entity today in Central Europe where German-speakers live: besides Germany itself, German is the native language of Austria, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, about 2/3 of Switzerland; and about 1 million people in the French area of Alsace-Lorrain, which borders Germany and has passed back and forth between French and German control quite a few times; and about 1 million more in South Tyrol in northern Italy, bordering on Austria and Switzerland.

Also, there are millions of people who live in Germany who 1st or 2nd language is Turkish. They've been there for decades, and gradually the German media and government have stopped ignoring their existence.

And of course today Germany is welcoming more refugees from Syria than any other country.

In 1841, the political make-up of Germany involved many different states. Here's a map of the German Bund, which existed from 1815 to 1866:

And it existed very uneasily, above all because of the rivalry between Prussia, the light blue on this map in the north-east and again in the west, and Austria, the orange-brown... orange-tan... orange-yellow... I don't know how to describe the color of Austria on this map, but it's the large area predominating in the south-east on this map. In 1841 Prussia was busy annexing more and more of northern and western Germany, turning more and more of it light blue on the map, while Austria was annexing more and more non-German territory east of the area which is colored and and surrounded by the red line on this map: the German Bund. For example, the territory 3/5 of the way down the right-hand edge of this map, not colored in, labeled KGR UNGARN -- that's the so-called Kingdom of Hungary, which belonged just as entirely to Austria as the orange-brown-tan-yellow area. Hungary, despite its misleading name at this time, didn't have a monarch of its own: the King of Hungary was the Austrian Emperor. If you look close, you'll see that Prussia also has extensive territory east of the Bund. On this map it's colored very light blue.

There was a lot of discussion going on between 1815 and 1871 about whether Germany was going to adopt a "kleindeutsche Lösung" ("Lesser German solution") with Germany united without the Austrian lands, or a "grossdeutsche Lösung" ("Greater German solution"), including Austria-Hungary, and with the Prussian monarchy in Berlin sharing a lot of the power with the Habsburgs in Vienna. Sometimes such things were discussed with words and sometime they were discussed with guns.

"Lesser German solution" it was: in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War -- and 2 wars against Denmark, the First War of Schleswig (1848–51) and the Second War of Schleswig (1864), and the Austro-Prussian War (1866) -- the map of this region suddenly became much less colorful: all of Prussia plus everything inside the red line which wasn't Austrian was now one solid color, and was Germany, and most of it was now dominated to some degree or other by Prussia -- the Prussian King became the German Emperor in 1871 -- "Kaiser" is the German word for "Emperor" -- while Austria now called itself and all of its territories Austria-Hungary, and usually didn't bother to use more than one color on maps to indicate all of itself, which extended much farther to the east than does this map. For example, at this time there was no Poland on the map. All of Poland was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. All of south-east Europe belonged either to the Austrian (or Austro-Hungarian) Empire, or the Russian Empire, or the Ottoman Empire.

Hey, Steve, what you're saying, it's all -- yawn -- this is all really, really interesting and all -- yawn. stretch. blink -- but what does it have to do with Latin?

Lots and lots, actually. In 1841, in Prussia and in areas about to be swallowed up by Prussia, prestigious universities in Berlin and Heidelberg and Leipzig and Bonn and elsewhere were international center of Classical scholarship; while in Austria, the Emperor and his family, the Habsburgs, were very, very Catholic, and Latin was going to remain the official language of the Catholic Church until 1962. By 1962 Austria had become much smaller than it was in 1841, having shrunk down to, oh, about 1/5 of the brown-orange-tan-yellow area on the map. Much of that shrinkage had to do with non-German people in the Austrian Empire wanting to rule themselves. Much of it also had to do with people in the Empire being Protestant or Orthodox or Muslim.

So how much of that tension between the German Catholic Habsburg dynasty and non-German and non-Catholic people also ended up in opposition to the Latin language? That's a very interesting question, and I don't know the answer. But in the rest of Germany, the part which was eventually more or less conquered and swallowed up by predominantly-Protestant Prussia, the Latin language had always had more academic and less religious and political associations, and so I'm guessing that it was much less affected by all of the political upheaval and change.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"If Something Offends You On The Internet -- Move On," They Say.

Depends what offends you. In this case I think the people saying "move on" are mostly telling homophobes to leave people alone. And I'm completely with them on that.

I'm not offended by people loving each other. I AM offended by people selling the secrets of the ancient Nazi alien Templar conspiracy code, with Bigfoot. And I CANNOT come to bed right now, because someone is WRONG on the Internet! The story of the Holy Grail was invented in the 12th century by Chretien de Troyes -- I'm not mad at Chretien, he never pretended that he was writing nonfiction -- and I CANNOT rest while the History Channel makes hillbillies believe that they can dig up the Grail in the woods right next to their homes! Chretien made up the Grail! In the 12th century! That's when it was made up! And by whom! And I will not be silenced!

Secrets Of The Ancient Nazi Alien Templar Conspiracy Code -- With Bigfoot

The word "secret" is spreading, getting into all sorts of places where it doesn't belong, like the titles of halfway-good TV on historical topics with no blatantly non-historians among the talking heads. The thing is, historians don't keep secrets about the things they study. In fact, it's their job to do the opposite, to bring things to light, things which very often were never kept secret by any one at any time. Don't get me wrong: occasionally, people do keep secrets, and sometimes the people who expose those secrets are historians. It's just not their full-time job. Typically, the information which historians gather was never held secret by anyone, it just hadn't been recorded, and/or the records hadn't been published, and/or the information on one particular topic hadn't been gathered together into one place, and/or every one of those things had already happened, in books which had been forgotten, gathering dust for a while, and/or etc etc.

Beyond that, often enough, none of the information, exactly 0% of it, on a TV show on an historical topic with a title that starts "Secrets of[...]" is common knowledge to everyone who's taken some trouble to research the topic. Often, a lot of the information on the show is bullshit, but that's not the same as secrets.

A lot of people have a very difficult time in life. It may sometimes feel as if there are secrets and conspiracies all around them. Kind people can help them by explaining how things really are. That's what real historians do, full time. Assholes who make crap shows for the so-called "History Channel" do exactly the opposite: they exploit people's anxiety. They say:

Yes, you're right, there ARE secrets and conspiracies all around you! (Aliens too!) But that's okay, because there are CODES to UNLOCK all of these secrets! So, chin up, because who knows, you might dig up the Holy Grail* in that woods over there right next to your home!

*There is no Holy Grail, it was invented by Chretien de Troyes in the 12th century in a fictional poem about King Arthur and his Knights. Good poem -- but fictional.

Well, it's no secret that you can sell crap to morons. I don't know if more crap is posing as history today than a few decades ago or if the decades-old crap has just steadily faded away, to be constantly replaced on a conveyor-belt of crap in crap factories. 40 years ago there was no so-called "History Channel," but The Bermuda Triangle by Charles Berlitz was huge bestselling book, and Uri Geller was making a fortune bending spoons But not nearly as much as he claimed to be earning, apparently. Uri, this is Donald, he's running for President, he's yuge, you 2 have a lot in common.

"DaDa ist schön wie die Nacht, die den jungen Tag in ihren Armen wiegt." - Hans Arp
"Was wir DaDa nennen, ist ein Narrenspiel aus dem Nichts, in das alle höheren Fragen verwickelt sind." - Hugo Ball
"DADA spricht mit Dir, es ist alles, es umfaßt alles, es gehört allen Religionen an, kann weder Sieg noch Niederlage sein, es lebt im Raum und nicht in der Zeit." - Francis Picabia
"Dada ist die Sonne, Dada ist das Ei. Dada ist die Polizei der Polizei." - Richard Huelsenbeck

1841. And Latin. And Constantin von Tischendorf

Unlike railroads, the Khyber Pass, the Ottoman Empire and baseball, I've had no difficulty whatsoever in linking Constantin von Tischendorf to the Latin language in 1841. It was as easy as could be, of course.

To be precise, in 1841 he was still just Constantin -- or Konstantin, or Constantinus -- Tischendorf. The "von," or "of," or "de," was awarded to him in 1869 by the Russian Tsar. I don't know how the "of" of an aristocratic title is written in Russian. But most Russian aristocrats, and many German ones too, were perfectly comfortable with the French "de," which makes me a little less self-conscious about my ignorance of the Russian term. Today he's usually Constantin to those reading or writing in French, Konstantin in German and Constantinus in Latin; in his own time he was perfectly comfortable with all 3 spellings, one of many examples of why I oppose those who insist that there is such a thing as "correct" spelling.

But you're saying, "Yeah, yeah, Steve, whatevs, but who was this Tischendorf, and why was it 'of course' easy to link him to Latin?" And because you ask that, I can see that you're no New Testament scholar. He's the most prominent figure in the history of the field. He made the single most spectacular discovery, of all time so far, of 1 Biblical manuscript, the Codex Sinaiticus, which he found in several pieces and put back together during 3 visits to St Catherine's Monastery under Mt Sinai in 1844, 1853 and 1859.

(I think that Grenfell and Hunt's discovery of the manuscripts at Oxyrhynchus is more spectacular, but it's a discovery of many manuscripts, not just 1, and of many kinds, not just Biblical.)

Besides this world-famous discovery he also discovered several other manuscripts less well-known to the general public, but nearly comparable to Sinaiticus in the eyes of Biblical scholars.

He was a thoroughly professional academic Biblical scholar, fluent in Greek and Hebrew. And it just so happens that in Western civilization, almost all scholars who are fluent in Greek are fluent in Latin as well. It's a matter of course that ancient Greek texts are published in the West with prefaces and footnotes in Latin. And generally expected that those prefaces and notes will be more easily-understood by most readers than those Greek texts. In Tischendorf's case, there's no need to wonder whether he might have been a rare exception to the rule of mastery of Latin, because, like a typical mid-19th-century scholar in many a field, he wrote and published a great deal in Latin, perhaps more, if you count it all up page-by-page, than in his native German. Tischendorf published quite a lot before he turned 26 in 1841. Here's his 1837 dissertation, Doctrina Pauli apostoli de vi mortis Christi satisfactoria.

(It's ironic that among the ancient people who wrote and spoke Greek, knowledge of Latin was NOT assumed. The Latin-speaking Romans had a great admiration for Greek literature. Young Roman gentlemen were often sent to Athens to complete their educations. But the Greeks tended to underestimate the literary achievements made in Latin, and often they looked down their noses at Latin and refused to learn any of it at all, even after the Romans conquered the Greek-speaking regions, giving great practical benefit to a knowledge of Latin.)

All of the territory Tischendorf covered in Egypt, where he made all of his great manuscript discoveries, was a part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. It seems quite possible that he may have ridden the Cairo-to-Alexandria railway line, which opened in 1856. Given his quite busy professional life after the first discovery of parts of the Codex Sinaiticus in 1844, it seems that he only would have avoided riding European trains at some time during his life (1815-1874) if he had deliberately gone quite far out of his way to do so. It seems a very safe assumption that Tischendorf rode the rails at some point. Perhaps if I could find his diaries, it could go from an assumption to a certainty.

It seems unlikely, however, even though he traveled a bit around Germany and Switzerland before 1841, that he rode a train as early as 1841, simply because there weren't very many railways in that region yet.

As far as Tischendorf ever having been in the Khyber Pass -- I do not yet know enough to rule it out, but I believe that his travels beyond Europe were mostly or entirely confined to Egypt.

I have not yet found any evidence that Tischendorf ever heard of baseball, nor that during his lifetime any baseball players ever heard of him. But you never know. (I'm picturing some various tenuous possibility such as Mark Twain meeting Tischendorf during his travels in Germany and mentioning baseball. That's a pretty tenuous possibility, I think.)

Friday, October 2, 2015

1841. And Latin. And Baseball.

Baseball was around by 1841, and, as many of you undoubtedly already know, Abner Doubleday didn't invent it. You may not be aware, however, that Doubleday never claimed to have invented it. I was not aware that he had never made any such claim, and I was getting set to denounce him as a lying self-promoter, but when doing research for this post I discovered that Abner Doubleday, who lived from 1819 to 1893 and was a US Army man from the time he entered West Point in 1838 until he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1873, never mentioned baseball once in his letters, diaries or his two books, Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, published in 1876, and Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, published in 1882. The only time Doubleday can be shown to have mentioned baseball at all was in 1871 when he filed a request for baseball equipment for the men under his command.

It seems that no claim that Doubleday invented baseball can be found until the 20th century, years after his death. There are some signs that Doubleday was a cantankerous braggart at times, but absolutely no proof that he bragged about inventing baseball. Whoever made that up, it seems very unlikely that it was he.

James Naismith (a Canadian btw) invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, but no one invented baseball. It evolved over the course of centuries. Baseball and softball have many undeniable similarities to rounders. The earliest reliable report of a baseball game being played comes (like Naismith) from Canada in 1838. Overzealous American patriotism and a feeling that baseball was "America's game" probably account for why some felt the need to make up the story of Doubleday inventing the game in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. I don't think baseball was invented in Canada in 1838, I think it was played in the US and Canada before 1838, and quite possibly in other countries as well.

I know: some of you are saying, "Hey, Steve, this is all really fascinating and so forth, but were there any poems written in Latin about baseball in or before 1841?"

I don't know. I thought for sure I'd be able to find a slew -- a veritable slew -- of translations of "Casey at the Bat" into Latin, but that poem wasn't even written in English until 1888, and to my great surprise, the only translations of it I've been able to find are one into French, "Casey au bâton" by Paul Laurendeau (anOTHer Canadian!) and 2 into Hebrew: "Hator Shel Casey Lachbot" by Menachem Less and "Casey BaMachbayt" by Jason H Elbaum. I have yet to find anything written about baseball in Latin, original or translated from another language, verse or prose. Total failure on that front.

I've also found nothing at all about baseball being played in the Ottoman Empire. Surely that's just personal failure on my part, not a lack of anything to be found.

As far as baseball somewhere near the Khyber Pass: surely it will come as no surprise that an Afghani national baseball team has been formed since the arrival of US military personnel in that country in 2002. In 2013 they lost a game to their neighbor across the Pass, Pakistan, by a score of 34-0, which shouldn't come as a total surprise when you consider that the skills required in baseball and in cricket are similar in many ways, and that Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup in 1992 and was a close runner-up to Australia in 1999, while Afghanistan has had had only 1 appearance each in a World Cup and a World Twenty20. In fact, although cricket has been played in Afghanistan since the 19th century, Afghanistan's national cricket team is only a few years older than its national baseball team.

As far as baseball and railroads are concerned, connections are many and should be fairly obvious. Union Pacific claims that "By 1876, game times were being scheduled to coincide with train schedules," and the claim doesn't seem farfetched. Finding a connection between baseball and railroads as early as 1841 is proving more difficult.

As to whether baseball came to Mexico as early as the Mexican American War of 1846 to 1848, let alone 1841, that is controversial, although a confluence of baseball and railroads in Mexico as early as that war can be ruled out. Plans for Mexican rail lines began in 1837; however, the first line, between Mexico City and Veracruz, did not open until 1873.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

1841. And Latin. And The Ottoman Empire

I have not been able to find much information about the knowledge or use of the Latin language in the Ottoman Empire in 1841. This of course should by no means be understood as indicating that there is little or nothing to be found out. In the 1840's the Empire was in the midst of a massive program of reform, re-organization and modernization which involved some imitation of Western Europe in things such as legal codes, finance, modes of dress and also education. Whether the latter included the great emphasis on Classical scholarship to be found at the time in Western universities, I do not know.

Here is a report by an Englishman who inspected the Seraglio collection of Greek manuscripts in 1907; his report, disappointing, to say the least, to anyone who had imagined a vast store of such manuscripts, includes one 15th-century "Lexicon Latino-Graecum et Graeco-Latinum."

Every now and then a Westerner would publish an account in Latin of his sojourn to the exotic Ottoman east, from Pierre Gilles' De topographia Constantinopoleos: et de illivs antiqvitatibvs, published in 1561,

to Victor Guerin's thesis De Ora Palaestinae: A Promontorio Carmelo Usque Ad Urbem Joppen Pertinente, published in 1856, in which descriptions of what Guerin himself had experienced in Palastine in 1852 and 1854 only very seldom interrupt the flow of quotations from ancient Greeks and Romans, the Bible and Crusaders.

I have mentioned before on the blog how Lord Charlemont, on his visit to Constantinople in 1749, asked his guide, whom he described as a "sensible Turk," whether the Seraglio library had by any chance preserved the lost books of Livy. Such anecdotes make one very curious about what such "sensible Turks" might have had to say about the eccentric Westerners who occasionally popped up in their midst. Who knows how much more I could tell you about things like that if I were fluent in Turkish or Arabic.

There appear to have been no railroads anywhere within the Empire in 1841; the earliest I have been able to find is the Alexandria to Cairo line, in operation from 1856. It seems that large-scale building of railways in the Ottoman dominions did not get underway until the 1880's. The lines dynamited by Lawrence of Arabia and his followers during WWI would've been 30 years old or less at the time.

The borders of the Ottoman Empire never advanced further eastward than the western shores of the Euphrates river and the Caspian Sea, about 1000 miles away from the Khyber Pass in a straight line by air, somewhat more than that by train and/or car.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I'm Not Going To Complain About Not Having Won A 2015 MacArthur

That would be neither dignified nor constructive. It's true that as I write this, the tagline of my blog reads, "I didn't win a 2015 MacArthur grant." But that should be construed in no way as a complaint. It's a simple statement of fact, and no more than that. I didn't win one -- that's the truth, no more and no less.

Of course, if OTHER people want to complain -- if they want to tell the MacArthur Foundation that I'm a tremendous genius and that they blew it again this year, and that aiding me would only be to aid mankind and other friendly animals and to make the universe better and more beautiful -- if others want to complain, then, naturally, there's nothing I can do about that.

Nothing at all.

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