The missing Menorah

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On this day in AD 70 the siege of Jerusalem ended with the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus, son of Vespasian, at the head of a Roman army.

According to the historian Josephus the Menorah of the temple was taken as spoils of war and brought back to Rome.  It was carried in the Triumphal Procession of Vespasian and Titus and is recorded on the Arch of Titus.

Using the spoils taken from Jerusalem Vespasian constructed the Templum Pacis, the temple of peace in the Forum of Vespasian.  The Menorah was stored in the temple for hundreds of years until the sack of Rome by the Vandals in 455 AD.

The Vandals brought the Menorah back with them to their capital in Carthage, in the Roman African province, modern day Tunisia.

One hundred years later the Vandals had become soft from living on the fat of the land.  Their armies were no longer the terror of the western Mediterranean.  Emperor Justinian of the Eastern Roman Empire sent his favourite general, Belisarius, to retake Africa for Rome.  In 533 AD Belisarius defeated the armies of King Gelimer and his brothers.

According to the historian Procopius the Menorah was found amongst the treasures of the Vandals and was taken to Constantinople.  It was displayed in the Ovation given by Justinian to his victorious general.  Gelimer was prostrated before the Emperor, and was allowed to live out his life on a Roman estate.

According to Procopius Justinian gave the Menorah back to the Jews in Jerusalem.  On the one hand it is hard to believe that such an ardent Christian emperor would have given this treasure to people he regarded as little short of heretics.  On the other hand he may have looked at the fate of the Second Temple, Rome and Carthage and wondered if he really wanted to keep the Menorah in his capital.

Whatever the truth this is the end of the tale for the Menorah.  It is never seen again.  Some say it is hidden in the Vatican City and the Vandals never found it.  Others say it was looted from Jerusalem when the Persians sacked the city in 614 AD.  Some think it was in a ship that sank in the Tibur when the Vandals were leaving Rome and that it lies at the bottom of the sea outside Ostia.  Others think it was still in Jerusalem during the Crusades and was taken by the Knights Templar.  Whatever the truth it is a tempting theme for a “Da Vinci Code” style adventure, or a new quest for Indiana Jones.

Psalm III : by Allen Ginsberg
To God: to illuminate all men. Beginning with Skid Road.
Let Occidental and Washington be transformed into a higher place, the plaza of eternity.
Illuminate the welders in shipyards with the brilliance of their torches.
Let the crane operator lift up his arm for joy.
Let elevators creak and speak, ascending and descending in awe.
Let the mercy of the flower’s direction beckon in the eye.
Let the straight flower bespeak its purpose in straightness — to seek the light.
Let the crooked flower bespeak its purpose in crookedness — to seek the light.
Let the crookedness and straightness bespeak the light.
Let Puget Sound be a blast of light.
I feed on your Name like a cockroach on a crumb — this cockroach is holy.

 

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Vandalised

Seattle-vandals

Cathage celebrates two really bad days on this anniversary.  Firstly the Carthaginians under Hannibal lost the Battle of Zama on this day in BC 202, and then in AD 439 the Romans lost the city to the Vandals under Genseric.

Genseric, king of the Andals and the Alans,  went on to sack Rome itself, from which we get the modern term “Vandal”.  The Vandals pillaged the city but did not destroy it or set it on fire.  They broke a lot of glass windows, painted walls with graffiti and left with a lot of electronics, TV’s and other valuable consumer goods.  That last bit might be a lie.

From the tribe “Andals” we get Andalucía in southern Spain.  We also get the term popping up in G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.  Jorah Mormont is apparently an Andal.

Furthermore Game of Thrones has a city called Qarth.  The original name of Carthage under the Phonecians was “The New City” or Qart-hadast.

Finally, just to clear up any confusion, the Hex key was not invented by the tribe of Alans.  The clue is in the spelling.  They are Allen Keys, not Alan keys.

 

Zama

Elephant

Hannibal’s Lament

The serried legions parted before my elephants,

the fools about me cavorted thinking we had won,

as eighty mighty pachyderms thundered off the plain

shredding my dreams in the African sun.

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Nothing can resist that mighty wall of flesh,

the Roman did not try and so the day was done.

Boldly they charged through the opening lines,

soldiers safe since elephants cannot turn.

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And so we settled to the business of the day

the close up bloody hacking of the host.

I grant that well the legions know this trade,

they did not rest until all to me was lost.

o

Every battle victorious, to lose is still my plight,

defeated by those who shirk, evade and cower,

our own leaders with no stomach left for war,

I had head, heart and guts for plenty more.

o

On the plains of Carthage the wind blows dry and hard,

bleaching the bones of armies now long gone.

Bitter hemlock, sweeter than Zama’s sands,

Rome!  Fear no more.  I am done.

Fabian Strategy II

Fabian strategy is named after a dictator of the Roman Republic, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus.

The Second Punic War occured when Hannibal took an army overland from “New Carthage” in modern Spain, across southern France, over the Alps and into Cisalpine Gaul.  His strategy was to divide Rome from her allies by weakening her in battle.  Once isolated Rome could be defeated.

Initially Hannibal fought the perfect campaign.  He scored resounding victories in the battles of Trebbia and at Lake Trasimene in what many analysts believe to be the greatest ambush in history.

Rome was in panic.  In 221 BC Quintus Fabius Maximus was elected dictator to handle the situation.  The post of dictator, giving sole control to a single individual, was only taken “in extremis” by the Senate.  It was awarded only a handful of times in the history of the Roman Republic.

Fabius recognised that Hannibal needed victories to maintain his impetus.  Keeping an army supplied in a foreign land is not an easy matter.  Many of his troops were mercenaries, who were looking for short campaigns, easy victories and lots of plunder.  The strategy devised by Fabius was to avoid large scale pitched battle.  If Hannibal advanced he withdrew.  If Hannibal moved he followed.  All the time he harassed the Carthaginian foraging parties, scouting expeditions or reconnaissance missions.

He employed a scorched earth policy to deny Hannibal food.  He used asymmetrical battle opportunities to score small victories and deplete the Carthaginian forces.

As time went by the Romans became impatient with this approach.  Used to decisive victories they struggled to understand a general who avoided contact with the enemy.  It smacked of cowardice.  The situation became politically untenable and when his tenure as Dictator expired Fabius was not reinstated.

He was replaced by the consuls Varro and Paullus.  The consuls put together a massive army of 88,000 legionnaires and marched on Hannibal.  Hannibal obliged them by taking control of a supply depot at Cannae, threatening to deprive the Romans of vital supplies.  The legions marched in.  Hannibal fought the greatest battle in history, a double envelopment. He killed approximately 75,000 Roman and Auxiliary troops and sold the remainder into slavery.  The Roman army was obliterated.

The Senate again turned to Fabius who reinstated his previous tactics.  Hannibal was unable to follow his victory at Cannae with an attack on Rome because he lacked the siege equipment to do so.  Fabius was successful in wearing down the Carthaginians until Rome could recover.

Then it was the turn of the young and dynamic Scipio, who took the war to Africa and Spain and defeated the Carthaginians in their own homeland.  As a result Carthage had to call Hannibal home from Italy.  He was defeated in Africa at the Battle of Zana where Scipio earned his nickname “Africanus”.

Now, there is an entire article about Hannibal Barca and I never once mentioned the E word, you know, Grey, Trunk, Tusks, Large Quadruped, useful in battle.

Quintus Fabius Maximus also gave his name to the “Fabian Society” a British Organisation which seeks to better society by the introduction of Socialism through Gradualist and Reformist means.