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The Second Peloponnesian War: Hobbesian Causes

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Athens and Sparta. The two most well-known city-states of Ancient Greece, and the cornerstones of Western Civilization. They were also the leaders of two alliances that fought head to head in a series of wars. The focus of this paper will be on the Second Peloponnesian War, fought between 431 and 404 BC. The Second Peloponnesian War provides an excellent example for the Hobbesian/Realist theory of war. Continue reading


09/18/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Death

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Yersinia Pestis: The Black Death and Religion

            “[S]uch terror was struck into the hearts of men and women by this calamity, that brother abandoned brother . . . the wife her husband.  What is even worse and nearly incredible is that fathers and mothers refused to see and tend their children, as if they had not been theirs. . . .” (Sanders, Nelson, Morillo, & Ellenberger, 2006, p. 398).  As told by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron, the Black Death was a terror unrivaled by any other that turned life upside down for nearly all inhabitants of Eurasia.  The plague, Yersinia pestis, once called Pasteurella pestis, was caused by ravenous fleas aboard burrowing rodents (McNeill, 1976).  The fleas’ throats would close due to the disease, making it impossible for them to feed from the blood they took from the rodents (McNeill, 1976).  Since they could not swallow, the blood would be spit back into the wound, along with infected blood, and they would continue trying to feed to prevent starvation (McNeill, 1976).  When the rodents, black rats in the case of the Black Death in Europe, would die, the fleas would find new hosts, such as people, and the disease would manifest as massive swellings in the groin and armpit that became dark with internal bleeding (McNeill, 1976).  From the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China and Mamluk dynasty in Egypt, states fell to be replaced by the Ming dynasty and Ottoman Empire, respectively (Bentley, Ziegler & Streets, 2008).  Between sixty and seventy percent of all people afflicted by the disease would die within days of symptoms appearing, and nobody, from doctors to the Church, could stop it (Bentley, et al., 2008).  When natural means could not explain the horrors afflicting the people, they started attributing the plague to God, and even Pope Clement VI referred to “this pestilence with which God is afflicting the Christian people” (Sanders, et al., 2006, p. 392).  In a deeply religious period, the Black Death and its repercussions proved to be a challenge to each of the three major religions in Europe: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

During the Middle Ages, Europe was experiencing something often called the “Dark Ages,” while Islam had something of a “Golden Age.”  There are doubts as to whether either was as good, or bad, as they sound, but the Black Death not only evened the playing field, but actually knocked dar al-Islam out of Europe.  The Prophet, Muhammad, had addressed epidemic disease, providing a guideline for his followers.  “When you learn that epidemic disease exists in a county, do not go there; but if it breaks out in the county where you are, do not leave,” which may have assisted in stemming the spread of disease through the Islamic lands, but many people disregarded this sage advice, particularly those who were not Muslim (McNeill, 1976, p. 198).  Ibn Battuta especially seemed to disregard this suggestion as he traveled extensively during the time of the Black Death, often traveling through cities who were actively suffering the effects of the plague (Sanders, et al., 2006).  In addition to the advice against traveling, Muslims who died of plague were guaranteed entry into the Paradise of afterlife, perhaps as another method to prevent fear and panic, and in fact were thought of as highly as those who had died in jihad (Sanders, et al., 2006).  Like the Christians, Muslims believed the plague was sent from God, or Allah, as a divine punishment, however, they disapproved of attempts to heal the afflicted or otherwise escape Allah’s will, and thus suffered a larger portion of deaths compared to the Christians (McNeill, 1976).  This feeling was documented when an imperial ambassador to Constantinople asked the Ottoman Sultan for permission to change his home since the plague had broken out in the house next to his.  The Sultan replied “Is not the plague in my own palace, yet I do not think of moving?”  (McNeill, 1976, p. 199).  In fact, in the Balkan peninsula, Muslim casualties were so great, that the only way they managed to stay in power was through a steady stream of conversions (McNeill, 1976).  The Muslims in that area constituted a ruling class and often lived in cities, where disease is already more common than in rural areas due to the higher density of people, while the people in the lower classes stayed in their own faith (McNeill, 1976).  McNeill (1976) postulates that the 19th century wars of independence throughout the Balkans by Christians, such as the Greeks, would not have been successful if the Muslim casualty rate was not so high in the 14th century.  In this same land, however, were physicians seeking to explain the plague in natural terms and treat it with natural therapies, using the preserved medical texts of antiquity in well-organized hospitals (Sanders, et al., 2006).  These hospitals were forbidden from turning anyone who wanted treatment away for being unable to pay (Sanders, et al., 2006).  With the losses sustained due to the plague, the Muslims could not hold their tiny remaining piece of western Europe against the return of Christianity.

Christianity offered many advantages to its believers over non-believers that may have actually strengthened the Church and faith during this time of pestilence.  Like the Muslims, they believed that death was not necessarily something to fear or fight, and Pope Clement VI granted forgiveness from penalty to the dying through the confessors, allowing believers to die with less burden on their souls (Sanders, et al., 2006).  Death would allow believers to go on to their eternal life with Christ while their enemies would be sent into Hell (McNeill, 1976).  Like many of the salvational religions, this coping mechanism is very attractive during times of high mortality (McNeill, 1976).  In addition, care for the sick is a religious duty for Christians, and even basic care, such as providing food and water for those who cannot serve themselves, can help reduce the death count (McNeill, 1976).  With this care, survivors are more likely to feel thankful towards their Christian nurses, and thus Christianity strengthened while others sputtered (McNeill, 1976).  Not everything about Christianity was a ring around the rosies.  Due to their increased contact with the sick and dying, many priests and monks also died of the plague, so many that there often were not enough priests to perform sacraments for the dead or dying (Getz, 1991).  Because the replacements for those priests were often less experienced, or less trained, the public became even more upset with the Church, and the anticlericalism that stemmed from it provided Martin Luther with some success later (McNeill, 1976).  In addition, it encouraged the shift from Latin to vernacular tongues, and mysticism and personal relationships with God, which all major branches of Christianity embraced (McNeill, 1976; Osborne, 1996).  Movements like devotio moderna encouraged approaching God through “personal contemplation and an intimate relation with their own spirituality” rather than the bureaucracy of the Church (Osborne, 1996, p. 217).  Unfortunately, there was another, more destructive variant of Christianity in the Flagellants.

The vast majority of information about Judaism during the Black Death comes from accounts of the persecution of Jews by the Flagellants or the peasantry.  The Flagellants were a sect of Christianity, deemed heretical by Pope Clement VI once he heard about it, who gathered in town squares to beat themselves and each other with weighted scourges, often with iron tips that bite into the skin (Sanders, et al., 2006).  They believed that they were “proclaimers of a new time, that of the preparation for the end of the world” (Lerner, 1981, p. 535).  Not only did they inflict punishment upon themselves, but often killed Jews they came across as well as Christians who spoke out against them (Lerner, 1981).  Jews were often seen as the cause of the plague, possibly because they suffered less during the heightened stages of plague.  One explanation for this could be that the Jews had removed all grain from their homes for Passover, during the peak season of plague, which then caused the plague-bearing rat to avoid their homes (McNeil, 2009).  Jews were accused of poisoning wells, streams, and food, and were sentenced to death across Christian Europe (Cohn, 2007; McNeill, 1976).  In Spain, it was the Catalans who took the brunt of persecution (Cohn, 2007).  While popular history states that the Jews were persecuted by peasants and the common rabble, close investigation shows that it was the aristocracy and nobles that created the atmosphere for wholesale murder.  Aristocrats were the most common clients of Jewish usurers, the ones with the power to authorize pogroms (state-sanctioned anti-Semitism), and the ones who forgave debts owed to the now-dead Jews (Cohn, 2007).  Nobles would accuse Jews of spreading or causing the plague, capture them, and torture them until they confessed, and by the end, some two hundred Jewish settlements were utterly destroyed, their people thrown into the fire alive, and their houses demolished (Cohn, 2007).  Jean de Venette reported that to ensure their small children would not be captured and baptized in the Christian faith, Jewish mothers would first throw their children into the flames, then join them in death (Sanders, et al., 2006).  These attacks were most severe in German-speaking lands, and recurred occasionally with recurrences of the plague (Cohn, 2007), possibly fueling the deep-seated anger and hatred that came to a head in the Holocaust of the twentieth century.  These attacks also accelerated the eastward shift of Jewish population, as western Jews were killed and their survivors fled east into places like Poland (McNeill, 1976).  Though some attacks occurred in Poland, the royals there welcomed urban, skilled Jews, and a market-oriented agricultural society rose in the Vistula and Nieman valleys under Jewish management (McNeill, 1976).  While anti-Semitism started well before the Black Death, and continues today, the use of the Jews as a scapegoat for the Black Death highlights the challenges Judaism faced during these times.

The Black Death was a scourge across Eurasia and had no known cause.  Doctors were powerless to stop or even stem the course of the disease, so the deeply religious people of the Middle Ages tended to look towards their gods for reasoning and relief.  Common to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism was the belief that God (or Allah) brought the plague down on the people to punish them for their wicked ways.  Muslims suffered greatly due to their acceptance of “Allah’s will” and refusal to try to avoid the plague, such as the case of the Ottoman Sultan.  Christians also suffered greatly, but their care for the sick and remittances offered by the Pope brought inner strength to the people.  Finally, the Jews did not suffer as much from the plague, possibly because of coincidental timing of Passover, but suffered greatly at the hands of Christians who accused them of poisoning wells.  All these factors led to Western Europe becoming overwhelmingly Christian.  The Spanish would chase the Muslims from their land in Reconquista, and the Jews shifted their population centers to Eastern Europe.  Now that European countries did not need to argue about which God to follow, they would become embroiled in wars and infighting in the coming centuries over how to follow God, whether through Catholicism, Protestantism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism.


Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H.F., & Streets, H.E. (2008). Traditions and encounters: A brief global history. Ashford University edition.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Cohn, S. (2007). The Black Death and the burning of Jews. Past & Present 196, pp. 3-36. Retrieved February 5, 2012 from Project Muse.

Getz, F. M. (1991). Black death and the silver lining: Meaning, continuity, and revolutionary change in histories of medieval plague. Journal of the History of Biology 24(2) pp. 265-289. Retrieved January 22, 2012 from JSTOR.

Lerner, R. E. (1981, June). The Black Death and Western European eschatological mentalities. The American Historical Review 86(3), pp. 533-552. Retrieved February 5, 2012 from JSTOR.

McNeil, D. (2009, September 20). Laying blame for disease; Humans love to find a scapegoat for pandemics- Jews, Mexicans, pigs, storks, and even planets have been singled out- but the truth is that diseases are so complex that pointing blame is useless. Edmonton Journal, E.6. Retrieved February 5, 2012 from ProQuest.

McNeill, W. H.  (1976). Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press.

Osborne, R. (2006). Civilization: A new history of the western world.  New York: Pegasus Books.

Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S. & Ellenberger, N. (2006).  Encounters in world history: Sources and themes from the global past: Vol. 1. To 1500.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

02/06/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greco-Roman Mediterranean

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!


The Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome have long been considered the foundations for the modern western world.  The cultural traditions, political conventions, and philosophical, religious, ethical and moral standards have survived since the days of Socrates, Plato, Solon, Caesar, and Augustus, and still play a role in our culture today.  The Greeks and Romans were part contemporary, part successive, and sometimes indistinguishable from one another as is seen by the spread of their cultures, the role of women in society, and the effect of social distinctions.  It must be said, however, that when speaking of “Greeks,” more often than not, the Greek polis of Sparta is not included, such as in its equality of women and social distinctions.

The Mediterranean, throughout history, has “acted more as a bridge than a barrier, encouraging trade and social contact between the countries bordering it” (Gilmore, 1982, p. 177).  Both the Greeks and Romans used the sea as a way to spread their culture from one end to the other, but in different ways.  The Greeks were always able seamen, relying on their maritime trade to supplement meager harvests caused by the rocky terrain.  By the mid-eighth century BCE, the Greeks were colonizing areas along the Mediterranean coastline (Bentley, et al., 2008).  These colonies, while maintaining many of the cultural aspects of the Greeks and benefitting from their trade routes, were not part of any Greek kingdom or empire, and were mostly left to their own devices.  On the other hand, the Mediterranean served as an invasion point for Rome against Carthage and many of its other conquests.  At the high point of the Roman Empire, there was a wide strip of Roman land entirely surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, which they referred to as “mare nostrum (“our sea”)” (Bentley, et al., 2008, p. 149).  While the Greeks were content to maintain cultural unity with independent city-states, or poleis, the Romans centralized government power in a Republic, then an Empire, but allowed conquered people to maintain much of their own culture.

Gender equality is both an ancient concept, and a relatively new one.  In the days of hunters and gatherers, the small family units are generally thought of as egalitarian- all members of the family play a role in food production, so all members are considered equal.  With the rise of agriculture, men started doing the heavy outdoors work of tending the fields, and with it, the power within the household and culture.  Both the Greeks and Romans had strong patriarchal traditions, with the Greeks granting citizenship only to men, and giving men total control of their family, including the ability to legally abandon children in the wilderness (Bentley, et al., 2008).  The only public position available to women was priestess, and one of the very few exceptions is Sappho, the 6th century BCE poet, who was eventually ostracized for probable homosexuality, another example of something open to men but unacceptable for women (Bentley, et al., 2008).  However, Greek women did have some power within their households, and upper class women were valued for their “pedigree” (Sanders, Nelson, Morillo & Ellenberger, 2006). In Rome, pater familias were given much authority over their households, including the ability to sell their family members into slavery or even execute them (Bentley, et al., 2008).  Roman women also had some power within the domestic sphere, which gradually extended to small shops and stalls as well as working around the law regarding inheritances until, in the third and second centuries BCE, women owned a considerable amount of property (Bentley, et al., 2008).

Finally, and most applicable to our modern world, is the effect of social distinctions.  Both the Greeks and Romans had an upper class of wealthy landowners and a lower class that was unhappy with their lot (Bentley, et al., 2008).  In both cases, the underprivileged threatened to revolt or secede, and in both cases, additional allowances were granted to help ease the gap between the rich and the poor.  In Greece, a 6th century BCE statesman named Solon compromised, allowing the aristocrats to keep their land, but cancelling all debt, freeing those who were in slavery due to debt, and outlawing debt slavery, and eventually, statesmen were even paid to ensure that “financial hardship would not exclude anyone” from holding office (Bentley, et al., 2008, p. 135).  In Rome, plebeians were granted the ability to elect tribunes, which became eligibility for almost all state offices, and eventually, even one of the consuls could be elected from the plebeians (Bentley, et al., 2008).  By the early third century BCE, plebeians had majority in the Senate, allowing the lower classes political power that bound the rest of the Romans (Bentley, et al., 2008).

The geographic proximity of Greece and Rome likely led to many of their similarities, while time and experimentation can account for many of their differences.  Even the term “Greco-Roman” points toward the inevitable comparison between these two cultural, political and philosophical powerhouses.  From the use of the Mediterranean to spread their cultures, the way women were treated in their societies, and the effect of social distinctions, one can see their similarities, differences, and effect on the western world.

Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H.F., & Streets, H.E. (2008). Traditions and encounters: A brief global history. Ashford University edition.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Gilmore, D.  (1982).  Anthropology of the Mediterranean area.  Annual Review of Anthropology 11, pp. 175-205. Retrieved January 14, 2012 from JSTOR.

Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology (S. Wainwright & D. Moneypenny, Eds.).  Retrieved from http://content.ashford.edu/books

Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S. & Ellenberger, N. (2006).  Encounters in world history: Sources and themes from the global past: Vol. 1. To 1500.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

01/16/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Importance of Agriculture

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!


Agriculture is one of the most important discoveries/inventions in human history.  Nearly everything in civilization relies on the transition from nomadic hunter/gatherer, and pastoral lifestyles to a permanent settlement based on plant and animal domestication.  Over the centuries, women collecting grains would probably have started learning peculiarities about their “prey,” like the regions, types of soil, and amount of wetness required for the best harvests.  They probably would have noticed that a spilled pile of grain turned into plants the next season.  Likewise, men on the hunt would have gathered knowledge about their prey- what it eats, where it goes, what sorts of needs it has, and its breeding habits.  With a likely combination of higher population and some sort of shortage or famine, they would have tried planting and perhaps herding the animals away from their competitors.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and with more tribes fighting over the same resources, every edge counts.  Once horticulture caught on (non-mechanized agriculture), they likely would have started using horses and cattle to pull plows to prepare fields.  Current horticultural people tend to migrate between their fields, but once agriculture became the norm, people started settling in permanent villages.  They were then able to stockpile and accumulate items, food, and wealth since they no longer had to carry everything they owned on their backs.  With accumulation comes hoarding, and when wealth was transferred from generation to generation within a family, social classes were born.  More food means more people can be supported, so a population explosion occurred.  When people were no longer required to constantly be searching for their next meals, fewer people were required to take care of food, and with the surplus, other non-producers could pursue other skills and occupations.  This surplus is mandatory for a culture to have monuments, temples, palaces, a standing military, and any art form more intense than cave painting.  Without being able to support other people who do not harvest their own food, none of these other pursuits are possible.  In addition, once you have more than a tribe made up of a family, you must have some method of settling conflict and a method of maintaining a standing military force against invaders who want to steal your surplus.  This leads to the formation of government, whether a chiefdom, a kingdom, or an empire.  Agriculture allows civilization to exist.

Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H. F., & Streets, H. E. (2008). Traditions & encounters: A brief global history (Ashford University ed.). Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology (S. Wainwright & D. Moneypenny, Eds.).

Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUANT101.10.2/sections/ch00

01/02/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Evolution of David: Donatello to Bernini

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The Evolution of David: Donatello to Bernini

            Everybody likes an underdog, perhaps none in history more than the city of Florence.  Facing invaders who often, fortuitously, were stricken with illness or other non-battle related deaths, Florence believed that they had God on their side, much like the youthful David in his battle with Goliath.  Florence, the Rome of the Renaissance, took David as their symbol, and the Medici often used his image to portray themselves as the reason for the success of Florence.  So many masters have portrayed David in so many manners that there seems to be at least one example from each of the major art styles of the time.  From Donatello’s classically inspired feminine boy to Bernini’s Counter-Reformation warrior, the biblical slayer of Goliath is a worthy measuring stick of style and political influence on art.

Donatello’s bronze David reflects a revival of the Classical period and the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  The Medici family, great patrons of the arts, and the most powerful political family of Florence, commissioned Donatello’s bronze David.  The Medici thought of themselves as the reason for Florence’s superiority as a city-state and thus used the Florentine symbol of David as their own (Kleiner, 2010).  Donatello’s bronze David is vastly different from his marble David, which was completed while Florence was under threat of invasion by King Ladislaus (Kleiner, 2010).  Donatello’s marble David portrays an older, more warrior-like, fully clothed David to show that Florence was willing to fight for its freedom, and is in the Gothic style rather than the Classic-inspired style of the Renaissance.  His bronze David was the first freestanding nude in the Renaissance (Shaked, 2007).  David is nude, but wears a shepherd’s hat and sandals, possibly as a note of sarcasm towards Church officials who argued that a biblical hero and ancestor of Christ should not be nude (Shaked, 2007).  David stands in a typical contrapposto stance, weight shifted on one leg with hips pointing one direction and shoulders in another.  Donatello depicts him after his victory over the giant, Goliath, with Goliath’s sword in hand and his head beneath his foot.  Goliath’s head itself offers much detail and conflict over what that detail means.  The tendrils of his hair curl over David’s foot, and his iron helmet, much better suited for battle than David’s lack of armor, is adorned with a scene that some say depicts the Ark of the Covenant (Shaked, 2007).  The battle on his helmet shows a previous battle in which the Israelites brought the Ark out, confident of their victory, but the Philistines won, an outcome Goliath was hoping to repeat (Shaked, 2007).  In addition, while Goliath’s helmet is often depicted with small, decorative wings, the wings on this Goliath appear to be live and large.  While David stands on one wing with his right foot, a much longer wing on the other side rests against the inside of David’s thigh, coming very close to his groin.

There have been a number of suggestions about why Donatello portrayed David as such an effeminate figure with the wing of Goliath’s helmet resting on the inside of his thigh.  Some say it was to point towards Donatello’s homosexuality (Schneider, 1973).  Another example may be found in the revival of Plato and the current atmosphere of Florence.  Plato, and many other ancient Greeks, believed that the greatest love was found between two men, due to the inherent inferiority of women (Schneider, 1973).  The Bible is wholly against homosexuality in places, but read with a certain eye, the verses about Jonathan’s love for David can easily refer to such love.  Plato’s Symposium asserted that the love god Eros, the Roman version of Cupid, inspired soldiers and was a protector of those soldiers who went into battle alongside their male lovers (Schneider, 1973).  By making David a beautiful boy, which also keeps with the biblical statement of David being “ruddy and handsome, with pleasant eyes,” Donatello may have been inferring that David was protected not only by the Jewish God, but by Eros as well (1 Samuel 16:12 New Living Translation; Schneider, 1973).  Florence, at the time, was considered a “modern Sodom” and David, as a symbol of Florence, could have been meant to portray the defender of laws that encourage Platonic love, the love between men (Schneider, 1973, p. 22).

The Renaissance was, at first, not as much an advance of culture, but a rediscovery of Classical Greece and Rome after the Middle Ages.  The influence of Classical art is evident in David, as many of the ancient Greek and Roman statues depicted nude males in contrapposto, but rather than a young god or hero from myth, he chose the biblical slayer of Goliath.  He uses the soft form, “proportions and sensuous beauty” of the Greek sculptor, Praxiteles (Kleiner, 2010, p. 427).  As mentioned previously, with the interest in ancient Greece and Rome came a rediscovery of the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, possibly lending credence to the suggestion that Donatello placed David under the influence of Eros.

In contrast to Donatello’s Classic-inspired David, another sculpture for the Medici was Verrocchio’s humanist, realist David.  In this David, Verrocchio did not portray David as nude, and he wears a leather doublet instead.  According to the Bible, Saul, the King of the Israelites, gave David a bronze helmet and coat of mail to protect him when he volunteered to go into single combat against the Philistine giant.  David put the armor on, but discovered that it was too heavy, and he could not move well, so he removed the armor.  Many representations of David show him as nude, inferring that David had removed his clothing to don the armor, and when he removed the armor, he had no other clothes on.  This is possibly corroborated by Goliath’s proclamation that “I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals” since his flesh would have been open to injury (1 Samuel 17:46).  Unlike Donatello, Michelangelo, and Bernini, however, Verrocchio chose to show David donning a lighter version of armor common with runners and assistants on the battlefield (Shaked, 2007).  This idea is suggested by Shaked by comparing David’s clothing to that of a prince’s assistant in the painting Ferrante d’Aragona, duca di Calabria, e il suo seguito by Angrea dall’Aquila (2007).  The prince wears armor, plain and unadorned, specifically suited for protection, while the man next to him wears an “ornate blouse and skirt, though he is armed with a sword and a helmet,” suggesting that he may need to move about the battlefield as an assistant or a runner, but still be capable of fighting if necessary (Shaked, 2007, p.25-26).  The skirt would have allowed for better movement than the heavy armor that was given to him, and may have been more indicative of his gear as an armor bearer, which Saul had made him prior to the battle (1 Samuel 16:21).  As it stands, the clothing worn by Verrocchio’s David is extremely form-fitting, and the floral embellishments mimic the human body.  His ribcage and belly button are both easily visible despite the clothing, which makes it appear as though he was originally intended to be nude, but for the skirt hiding his genitals, or if it is to be left to the viewer to decide whether he wears clothing or not.  There is similar confusion with his feet, his shins depicted as wearing some form of boot, but his toes are exposed.

Unlike Donatello’s effeminate boy, Verrocchio shows David as wiry, but strong in adolescence.  This is more an example of humanism and narrative realism as his protruding veins and the pride of a hunter posing with his kill show Verrocchio’s understanding of the Bible and the “psychology of brash young men” (Kleiner, 2010, page 428).  As an interesting bit of additional trivia, it is said that the model for David was a young apprentice of Verrocchio’s, named Leonardo da Vinci (Leonardo, n.d.).  Verrocchio did choose to portray David at the same moment as Donatello, after his victory, with Goliath’s sword in his hand, and his head at David’s feet, but unlike the almost comically large sword in Donatello’s work, Verrocchio’s sword looks like it was made for David instead of Goliath.  Also like Donatello’s David, this piece was commissioned by the Medici, reaffirming their connection with the biblical hero, who later sold it to the Florentine government to place in the Palazzo della Signoria (Kleiner, 2010).  After the Medici’s exile in 1494, the government appropriated Donatello’s David to place in the city hall as well (Kleiner, 2010).

Seven years after the exile of the Medici, the Florence Cathedral building committee requested that Michelangelo use a block of marble that had been intended for another project to make another David.  Initially, it was to be placed atop the cathedral’s roof, offering one of many reasons for it to be so large, but its beauty and size demanded an alternate placement.  After much debate, it was placed outside of Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine city hall, replacing Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes (Levine, 1974a).  There was some vocal opposition to having David face the Florentine public since his gaze is so intimidating and terrifying, but from the “front,” which is actually the side view, he looks calm and peaceful, as though he was simply tending his sheep (Levine, 1974a).  It is possible that the original intended placement would have David staring maliciously at Rome, Florence’s enemy at the time, and even his current placement may be to turn his hostile gaze away from public sight, since he is facing a set of columns and a true frontal view is unattainable in person (McCulloch, 2007).

Michelangelo’s David is full of the artist’s unique style and differs tremendously from the two bronze statues discussed earlier.  Although the biblical hero was often portrayed as a youth, adolescent at best, Michelangelo portrays him as strong, vital, and large at over fourteen feet tall.  The reason for David’s size may be due to the large piece of marble given to Michelangelo to use, or may be to signify that with God’s will behind him, David was more formidable than Goliath, standing at only nine feet tall according to the Bible (Shaked, 2007; 1 Samuel 17:4).  Another reason given for his musculature may be that the unmarried Michelangelo never had a female model, only studying male corpses (Shaked, 2007).  He may have also considered true beauty to have been in strength and muscle, supported by the rather muscular women he painted in other works, such as the Sistine Chapel (Shaked, 2007).  This may be because Michelangelo himself was rather muscular.  Working marble by hand was strenuous work, and he often referred to sculpting as the superior art form, mourning the loss of his sculptor’s physique in old age, so he depicted his figures as “the highest form of human perfection: as sculptors, as ‘Michelangelos’” (Shaked, 2007, p. 15).  His strong nature is also spoken of in the Bible when he states that he has fought and killed bears and wolves who come after his sheep with nothing but a club (1 Samuel 17:34-37).  Not only is the statue itself large, but his proportions are large as well.  His large hands and feet as well as his musculature hint at the strength to come in the future as well as in this particular battle (Shaked, 2007).

Unlike Donatello and Verrocchio, Michelangelo chose a moment in time before the battle with Goliath, instead of after victory.  There have been sketches of David attributed to Michelangelo that may show his original intent to place Goliath’s head at David’s feet, which could have been thwarted by the shallowness of the marble near the legs from a previous, abandoned work (Shaked, 2007).  Michelangelo wanted to be true to the biblical story, and due to uncertainty about the style of sling used, he placed the sling over the left shoulder, out of view (Shaked, 2007).  By turning David’s head so far to the side, the statue breaks from the self-contained tradition and almost forces the viewer to look in the same direction and imagine the giant Goliath approaching.  This is likely the moment in time that David gazes across the field of battle at the approaching Philistine and decides on his strategy.  Another of Michelangelo’s portrayals of David, this one in bronze, held Goliath’s head in the air, and was requested as a copy of Donatello’s by French Marechal de Rohan (Levine, 1984b).  This bronze David is very different from both Donatello’s work and the marble David by Michelangelo, from pose to content (Levine, 1984b).

Not only by the muscular nature of David, but by the tension of the piece, David is a wonderful example of Michelangelo’s unique style.  Michelangelo’s figures usually depict “energy in reserve,” or figures coiled tightly as a spring waiting for release (Kleiner, 2010, p. 468).  This sculpture, more than any other, proved Michelangelo to be a master in his own time.  Only forty years after its completion, Vasari claimed that it “put in the shade every other statue, ancient or modern, Greek or Roman” (Kleiner, 2010, p. 468).  The statue was placed in front of the seat of the Florentine government to signify that just as David was a just ruler and protector of his people, the rulers of Florence must also “vigorously defend the city and govern it with justice” (Kleiner, 2010, p. 468).  David truly exemplifies the Renaissance ideal of power tempered with intelligence, and his demeanor indicates the superiority of inner strength over brute force (Ruehring, n.d.).

Though Donatello, Verrocchio, and Michelangelo all produced distinctly different works of the same subject, they were all tied together within the styles of the Renaissance.  Bernini, on the other hand, was one of the greatest artists of the Baroque period.  Baroque, like many other styles, was ridiculed when it was in its infancy, in this case because of the excess and intricacy of detail compared to the restrictive and controlled Renaissance style.  Where the Renaissance painters, such as Leonardo, would infer emotion and action through slight gestures or facial movements, Baroque artists made emotion more apparent, more energetic, and, to detractors, more overblown (Baroque, n.d.).

The rise of the Baroque style coincides with the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church had long used art as a symbol of power.  The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Tomb of Pope Julius II, and Raphael’s School of Athens in the papal apartments are just a few examples (Kleiner, 2010).  With the rebuilding of St. Peter’s taking an excess of time and money, the Church began selling indulgences, or a way to lessen the amount of time spent in Purgatory, to help pay for the rising costs.  This, as well as rampant nepotism and a general distrust of the Church’s policies caused Martin Luther and John Calvin to “protest.”  They caused a split in Christianity, becoming the Protestants before splitting amongst themselves into the Lutherans and Calvinists.  The Calvinists, and to a lesser extent, the Lutherans, started turning away from religious art, claiming it to be idolatrous.  The Catholics, on the other hand, formed the Council of Trent which affirmed that when using art for religious purposes, it is not the painting or sculpture that is being worshipped, but the figure being depicted.  By using realistic depictions of movement and emotion that is conveyed by the whole body, the Catholic Church hoped, along with pushing some reforms of the Church itself, that those who had turned away from the Church in favor of a personal relationship with God would realize the error of their ways and be inspired to piety (Baroque, n.d.).

In the vein of changing times amid the Christian schism of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Bernini’s David has less in common with the other Davids discussed thus far.  Bernini’s work was one of Rome for his patron, the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, rather than a work of Florence for the rulers, whether Medici or government (Shaked, 2007).  Rather than choosing the popular “victory” to portray, or Michelangelo’s pre-battle pose, Bernini chose the moment with the most action, in keeping with Baroque style.  David is twisted, feet spread wide, rock in sling, with a look of pure determination on his face.  He is nude, but he has a piece of cloth, strategically placed to avoid scandal.  He wears the pouch for pebbles mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:40, and the armor he cast off due to weight and unwieldiness lies at his feet.  The only thing missing from the biblical story is the shepherd’s staff, which was likely dropped when he readied his sling.  Oddly, unlike the other Davids, Bernini’s also has a harp at his feet.  This harp is symbolic of the time he spent play the harp to soothe the King’s tormented soul as well as his work later in life as author of many of the Psalms (Shaked, 2007).  As such, the symbols of the harp, the armor, and the sling indicate the stages and turning points of David’s life: from harpist to slayer of Goliath, to leader of armies and king, to musician again.

Similar to, but extending beyond, Michelangelo’s modeling of bodies after his own impressive physique, Bernini added himself to his work more than any of the other Davids.  The most obvious example is that David’s face is Bernini, who had an assistant hold a mirror for him while carving (Poseq, 2006; Shaked, 2007).  It is likely that young Bernini, at only twenty-five, saw a great deal of parallel between himself and the youthful slayer of Goliath.  They are both “young, at the start of their careers, and face enormous challenges . . . using stone to secure their futures” (Shaked, 2007, p. 44).  Depending on how one would describe David’s facial features, with prominent brow, receding forehead, and curved or hooked nose, he would fit the zoomorphic typology of either the leonine face or that of a bird of prey (Poseq, 2006).  Both of these are considered men who are destined for success with many excellent gifts from God, which Bernini would be quick to assign to himself since he had been groomed for greatness since he was eight years old when he first showed an exemplary raw talent (Poseq, 2006; Shaked, 2007).

The sculpture appears to have taken inspiration from the Borghese Gladiator, an ancient Hellenistic statue that Bernini certainly would have had access to.  The way the statue uses its environment and demands space be made for it had not been seen since antiquity (Shaked, 2007).  Finally, bringing Bernini back to Leonardo, he may have used Leonardo’s advice on painting the throwing figure, from wide stance to where the weight should rest during the movement (da Vinci, n.d.).

Sculpted and painted in so many different political climates from threat of invasion to growing discontent with rulers, different styles, and by different masters, the evolution of David provides special insight into the history of art.  From Classical Donatello to humanist Verrocchio, Michelangelo’s masterpiece to the Baroque Bernini, David represents the artist, the city, and the ideals of the day.


Baroque.  (n.d.).  Baroque: One big misshapen pearl.  Retrieved December 1, 2011 from http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~fellows/hart206/baroque.htm

Da Vinci, L. (n.d.).  A treatise on painting: With a life of Leonardo and an account of his works.  Retrieved December 8, 2011 from Google books.

Kleiner, F.  Gardner’s art through the ages: Volume II.  The Western perspective (Thirteenth ed.).  (2010). Wadsworth: Boston, MA.

Leonardo.  (n.d.)  Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci.  Retrieved December 2, 2011 from http://faculty.ncc.edu/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=VSGWrLU1KrY%3D&tabid=2646&mid=3394

Levine, S. (1974, March).  The location of Michelangelo’s “David”: The meeting of January 25, 1504.  Art Bulletin, 56(1), pp. 31-49.  Retrieved December 8, 2011 from http://digilib.bc.edu/reserves/fa310/bres/fa31020.pdf as extracted from ProQuest.

Levine, S.  (1984b). Michelangelo’s marble “David” and the lost bronze “David”: The drawings.  Artibus et Historae 5(9), pp. 91-120.  Retrieved December 1, 2011 from JSTOR.

McCulloch, J. H.  (2007, June 7).  David: A new perspective.  Retrieved December 8, 2011 from http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/david/David.htm

McHam, S.B.  (2001, Mar.).  Donatello’s bronze “David” and “Judith” as metaphors of Medici rule in Florence.  The Art Bulletin 83(1), pp. 32-47.  Retrieved December 1, 2011 from JSTOR.

Poseq, A. W. G.  (2006). On physiognomic communication in Bernini.  Artibus et Historiae 27(54), pp. 161-190.  Retrieved December 1, 2011 from JSTOR.

Ruehring, L. M. (n.d.).  Michelangelo sculptures. Retrieved December 1, 2011 from entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/artwork/Michelangelo-sculptures7.htm

Schneider, L.  (1973, June).  Donatello’s bronze David.  The Art Bulletin 55(2), pp. 213-216.  Retrieved December 1, 2011 from JSTOR.

Shaked, G. Masters of Italian sculpture.  (2007). ISBN: 978-1-84799-834-7.

12/08/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning | , , | 6 Comments

May 20

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act by Abraham Lincoln, in 1862. For five years of living on the land, the government gave settlers 160 acres of land. By 1900, 38 years later, 80 million acres were distributed.

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May 19

Today is the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s beheading. She was the 2nd wife of Henry the 8th, and was beheaded for adultery, treason, and incest.

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First Fleet (1787-88)

Today, May 13, marks the anniversary of the departure of The First Fleet.

Eleven ships under command of Captain Arthur Phillip left Portsmouth, England for an eight month trip to Australia. On these ships were 750 convicts from Britain’s overcrowded prison system. Their destination? Botany Bay, to establish the first European settlement on Australian soil.

On the way, they stopped in the Canary Islands, Rio de Janeiro, and the Cape of Good Hope. They arrived at Botany Bay January 1788, but continued looking for the best possible location of the settlement. A week later, they found “one of the finest harbours in the world,” and anchored at Sydney Cove, named for Lord Sydney.

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Florence Nightingale

Today, May 12, is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale, born May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy, was the daughter of William Nightingale of Embly Park, Hampshire, a wealthy landowner. Her father never had a son, and they became very close friends. He took charge of her education, and taught her many subjects from Greek, Latin, French, German, and Italian to history, philosophy, and math.

At 17, she heard a call from God to an unnamed “great cause.” She rejected several suitors, much to her mother’s dismay, and at 25, told her parents she wanted to become a nurse. Her parents opposed the idea, since they were of the upper-class, and nursing was a “working class” job.

Florence met Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to qualify as “doctor” in the US, at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Blackwell encouraged her, and finally, in 1851, Florence’s father gave his permission to train as a nurse.

At 31, Florence studied medicine at the Institute of Protestant Deaconesses in Kaiserwerth, Germany. At 33, she was appointed resident lady superintendent at an invalid women’s hospital in Harley Street, London.

In March, 1853, the Crimean War started, with Russia invading Turkey, and Britain and France coming to Turkey’s aid. A cholera epidemic ensued. Mary Seacole attempted to aid the British Army, but was rejected. When public outcry caused the Army to think again, Florence volunteered and was given permission to take 38 nurses to Turkey.

Florence was appalled by conditions in Army hospitals. Wounds were not cleaned, soldiers laid in their sickbeds in the uniforms with blood and gore caked on them. Only 1 in 6 wounded soldiers died of their wounds. Most would die of illness and disease.

Of course the military officers took offense to Nightingale’s demands to straighten up the hospitals. They took it as an affront to their professionalism. She eventually used The Times to report details of the conditions until the Army let her organize the barracks and improve sanitation.

In 1856, Florence returned to England as a national heroine. She began a campaign to improve the quality of nursing, hygiene, and elementary care, in military hospitals. In October, 1956, she had a long discussion with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and in the following year, presented evidence at the 1857 Sanitary Commission. Eventually, this caused the Army Medical College to be formed.

Florence published two books, Notes on the Hospital (1859) and Notes on Nursing (1859), to spread her opinions on reform. She raised money through wealthy friends and her contact at The Times to found the Nightingale School & Home for Nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital. She also had strong opinions on women’s rights, which she shared in her book Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truths (1859).

She was strongly opposed to the passing of the Contagious Diseases Act, but refused to become involved in Josephine Butler’s campaign. She disapproved of women making speeches in public. When confronted about her apparent lack of support for women doctors, she said that it was more important to have better trained nurses than women doctors.

Later in life, Florence suffered from poor health, going blind in 1895. She become a complete invalid soon after, but lived another 15 years before her death in London on August 13, 1910.

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Paul Revere

Today, May 10, is the anniversary of the death of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere was born in Boston, December of 1734, as Paul Rivoire, to a French Huguenot immigrant. His father was a goldsmith, and Paul was the second of many children, and the oldest surviving son. Paul was 19 when his father died, leaving the family business to him.

In 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, NY as a 2nd Lt. in the colonial artillery. In August 1757, Revere married Sarah Orne, with whom he had eight children. After Sarah’s death in 1773, he married Rachel Walker, and had eight more children.

Revere was an accomplished goldsmith and silversmith, and his work was highly praised in his lifetime. He worked as a copper plate engraver and illustrator for books, magazines, business cards, political cartoons, bookplates, song books, and bills of fare for taverns during the pre-Revolution economic depression. He was also a dentist from 1768-1775, but never made George Washington’s teeth.

Revere was a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, and gathered intelligence by watching the movements of British soldiers. He was a courier for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, riding to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He also spread word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia.

At 10 pm, April 18, 1775, Revere was told by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the British approach.

Two associates rowed him across the Charles River to Charlestown, where he borrowed a horse from his friend, Deacon John Larkin. While there, he verified that the local Sons of Liberty chapter saw his pre-arranged signal of “Two if by sea”, two lanterns hung in the belltower of Christ Church in Boston. The “by sea” indicated that they would row across Charles River to Cambridge, rather than marching across Boston Neck, by land.

Revere then rode north towards Lexington, stopping at each house to warn the countryside. A sentry near the house where Adams and Hancock were told him to stop making so much noise. His reply? “Noise! You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!”

Two other riders, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, on the same mission by another route, met up with Revere. They decided to continue to Concord where weapons and supplies were hidden. All three were arrested by a British patrol, Dawes and Prescott escaped quickly, but Revere was held for a bit longer, then released. Revere returned to Lexington in time to see part of the battle on the Lexington Green.

After the Revolution, he expanded his business, opening a small hardware store until 1789. In 1788, he opened a foundry for shipyards, which created the brass fittings for the USS Constitution, along with bolts, spikes, nails, cannons, and bells. One of his largest bells still hangs in Boston’s Kings Chapel.

In 1801, he opened the first American copper rolling mill to end dependence on British copper. The USS Constitution’s hull was sheeted with Revere’s copper, as well as the Massachusetts State House dome in 1803. “Revereware” copper bottomed pots and pans are now made by another company, but started out from Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., a descendant of Revere’s rolling mill.

Revere died of natural causes May 10, 1818, at the age of 83, leaving his well-established copper business to his sons and grandsons. He is buried in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground.

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