Massacre in the Mediterranean

It was one of the greatest naval battles of all time. At Lepanto in the Gulf of Corinth on October 7, 1571, a Christian fleet halted the seemingly inexorable Ottoman drive through the Mediterranean. The victory was greeted with acclaim throughout the Western world, but history's verdict is that it was not as decisive as it seemed at the time.

A ferocious sea battle raged in the Gulf of Corinth. Soldiers and sailors were dismembered on board their ships, the bodies of dead mariners floated in the sea, and the water was stained red with blood. Thousands of ill-fated galley slaves, still chained fast to their banks of oars went down with their ships.

It was the bloodiest clash between Christians and Muslims for centuries and the fiercest naval battle fought in the Mediterranean since Octavius Caesar and his admiral Agrippa defeated the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at
Actium in 30 BC. The Ottoman fleet, which consisted of some 220 to 230 war galleys, 50 to 60 galliots and other supporting vessels, was decimated. Only 40 of the galleys managed to escape and more than 25,000 Turks perished. For their part, the Christians lost 8000 dead, with some 16,000 of them being wounded. Some 10,000 Christian galley slaves were freed.

The last battle ever to be fought solely between galleys took place at Lepanto in October 1571. The Christian fleet finally prevailed over its Ottoman opponents.

Christian and Muslim naval forces had never before faced each other in a major battle at sea.


In 1565, 600 Knights of St John, and a supporting force of some 8000 seasoned warriors, prepared to defend their island fortress of Malta from Ottoman attack. The Turks had mustered a fleet of 181 ships, carrying 30,000 soldiers, for the purpose. Their aim, once they had secured the island, was to sweep the Mediterranean of Christian shipping and establish Ottoman dominance over the region once and for all.

All through the summer, the Turks laid siege to the island.

Though they were eventually forced to withdraw, their ambitions were certainly not at an end. It was then that a new and powerful player - the newly elected Pope Pius V - came on the scene. Pius knew that there was no possibility of the Turks leaving Europe in peace. In the east, Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg Empire, was still under threat - the Turks had already besieged the city back in 1529. In the Mediterranean, it was a matter of when, not if, the Turks would strike again. Pius did not have long to wait.


In 1570, a vast Ottoman force under Sultan Selim II attacked the Venetian-held island of Cyprus and laid siege to Nicosia and Famagusta, its two principal towns. Cynical observers suggested that the Sultan, who had won himself the unflattering nickname of 'the Drunkard', had chosen his targets because he wanted to bring the area where the renowned Cypriot wines were grown under his control. In fact, the Turkish plan was far more strategically motivated. Mehmed Pasha Sokollu, the Sultan's  Grand Vizier and the real power behind the throne, was aiming to wipe out all of Venice's surviving outposts in the Eastern     Mediterranean. As far as Cyprus was concerned, he succeeded in his goal: Nicosia was captured on September 15, 1570, while Famagusta fell into Muslim hands almost a year later, on August 1, 1571.

When they took Constantinople on May 29, 1453, so putting an end to the once mighty Byzantine Empire, the Ottomans sent a shock wave throughout Christian Europe. Their next step was to secure the Balkans and march into Hungary as a first step to attacking Habsburg Austria and then invading the rest of the West.

At the same time, the Ottomans attacked the city and port of Tunis on the North African coast, threatening Christian control of the narrow passage into the western Mediterranean. The twin threats proved more than enough to enable Pius to bring Spain, Venice and some other Italian states together into a military alliance. The result was the formation of a second Holy League against the Turks: the previous attempt, one between Pope Paul III, the Habsburg Emperor Charles V and Venice, had collapsed in 1540 as a result of poor relations between the Venetians and the Emperor. In a formal agreement signed on May 25, 1571, all the powers involved committed themselves to taking the fight to the Turks, rather than waiting for further attacks.

The League immediately began preparing for all-out war. Under the command of Don John of Austria, the half-brother of Philip II of Spain, a combined Spanish, Venetian and Papal fleet began to gather in the Straits of Messina, off the island of Sicily. Although only in his twenties, Don John had already shown himself to be a capable naval commander. All told, he had over 200 ships under him, more than 100 of them supplied by Philip II. The Venetian contingent numbered around 100 vessels, while Pius himself had personally outfitted 12 galleys and supplied the funding for many of the others.

On September 16, 1571, the great fleet was ready to weigh anchor. Despite its size and strength, commanders and crews both must have been nervous about the outcome. They were taking on opponents who, ever since their resounding victory over the Christians at the battle of Prevesa in 1538, had enjoyed the reputation of being as invincible at sea as they were on land. Ottoman spies had long since discovered the secret of the planned alliance and the Turkish fleet, commanded by Ali Pasha, had set sail westwards ready to meet the expected attack.

The Venetian shipwright Francesco Duodi developed the galleass. This new type of warship helped the Christians to secure their conclusive victory at Lepanto.


Fortunately for the Christian cause, Don John and his fellow admirals had a secret weapon. This was the galleass, a new kind of galley that possessed a significant sailing capacity rather than relying solely on banks of oars for its propulsion. It was also heavily armed with cannon. Six were hastily made ready in Venice's great arsenal and despatched to join the main body of the Christian fleet, were now sailing east across the Ionian Sea.

Despite the fact that battles had been fought at sea since ancient times, the tactics employed were still relatively unsophisticated. As on dry land, two opposing squadrons confronted one another in rigid formation. The battle began with the firing of a salvo of shots from giant catapults, followed by cannon fire when the fleets were at close quarters. The aim was to try to inflict as much surface damage as possible. It was rare for a ship to be sunk by catapult or cannon fire. Eventually, the ships would get close enough together to be boarded. Hand-to-hand fighting followed until one side or the other had prevailed.

Traditional oar-powered galleys were considered the most suitable vessels for this stage of the battle. Equipped with stout rams on their prows, they ploughed into the side of enemy ships in a controlled collision. Then soldiers would swarm across the gangplanks lowered onto the decks of the vessel to be boarded and a fight to the death would ensue.

Galleys were far less useful early on.

The one or two heavy guns they carried could only fire directly fore and aft. The galleass was designed to overcome the problem. Not only did such vessels carry more cannon, but their guns could fire in a variety of directions as well. They were also built with high sides, rather like the walls of a castle, which made it harder for an enemy to board them.

Key naval battles

The destruction of the Armada 

In 1588, the Spanish Armada fought a losing running battle against an English fleet commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham as it sailed up the English Channel. While anchored off Calais, it was driven out to sea by English fire ships. During the enforced flight home via Scotland and Ireland it lost many of its ships to violent storms.

The battle of Aboukir Bay 

On August 1, 1798, off the Egyptian port of Aboukir, the French fleet suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Nelson's English fleet. With 14 ships under his command, he captured six and destroyed seven French vessels out of a total of 17

The battle of Trafalgar 

Nelson confirmed British dominance at sea in 1805 when he destroyed the bulk of the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar. Shot down by a sniper in the rigging of a French ship, he died of his wound in the moment of victory.


In the morning of October 7, 1571, the Christian fleet entered the Gulf of Patras, where, having failed to intercept the Turks at Corfu, it was finally to confront its adversaries. It comprised 210 Galleys and galleasses, along with a dozen supply ships, manned by a total of 80,000 sailors, oarsmen and troops. The Venetians made up the lion's share of the Christian force. The Ottoman fleet had around 330 ships, Ali Pasha's squadrons having been reinforced by ships commanded by Uludj Ali, the Bey of Algiers and leader of the notorious Muslin corsairs (pirates) who had long terrorised Christian shipping. Ali Pasha stationed it off the fortress of Lepanto. The fort had been in Turkish hands since the third war between the Ottomans and Venice, and the Turks could retreat there if the battle went against them.

The Turks felt secure in their haven, but, with hindsight, their position was disadvantageous. They would probably have done better to engage Don John and his fleet in open water. Instead, they were forced to fight in the treacherous narrows off Navpaktos, which gave little room for manoeuvre. The gusty winds in the narrows also had a major influence on the course of the action. At its outset, they blew strongly from the east. Had the Turks taken advantage of this, they could still have advanced to meet the Christian fleet, but they hesitated and missed their opportunity. At around midday, the wind dropped, and then turned into a westerly. As a result, Don John's fleet now had the wind at its back while the west wind blew gunpowder smoke directly into the Turks' faces, obscuring their gunners' sightlines. Once in position, battle was joined. Don John split his forces into three: the Venetians, under Agostini Barbarigo, on the left and to the north, Andrea Doria and the Genoese and Papal galleys on the right and to the south, with himself in the centre, Santa Cruz's 35 vessels were held in reserve. Having ordered his captains not to open fire until they were close enough to be splattered with Muslin blood, he readied himself for action. Ali Pasha had arranged his ships in a giant crescent formation but, seeing what the Christians had done, he ordered them to reform in three divisions with himself, like Don John, in the centre. The Venetian galleasses were the first ships to open fire and, almost immediately, eight Muslim vessels were hit and started to sink. As the galleys in the centre closed on one another, the Christian troops crowding the decks raked their opponents with arquebus and crossbow fire. Ali Pasha's men tried to board the Christian ships, but each attempt was beaten back with heavy losses. Then, Don John seized the chance to board Ali Pasha's flagship. His Spanish troops swarmed over its decks, captured Ali Pasha and beheaded him on the spot - against the wishes of their commander. The head was impaled on a pike and raised high for all the ships around to see. The demoralised Turks started to flee.

On the right, things had been going less well for the Christians. Uludj Ali and his pirates broke through their battle line and captured the flagship of the Knights of St John. But with the arrival of Christian reinforcements, he too decided to turn and flee. The story was much the same on the left, where Admiral Mahomet Sirocco at first managed to outflank the Venetian galleys, take their flagship and kill their admiral. The Venetians were saved when help arrived; Sirocco's galley was sunk, the Turkish admiral unceremoniously hauled out of the water and, like Ali Pasha, executed immediately. The battle went on for a few more hours until a thunderstorm ended the slaughter. The Christian victory was absolute.


When news of the great victory spread through Europe, church bells rang out in celebration in cities across the continent. In St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Pope Pius hailed Don John as the Saviour of the Christian world. Yet its fruits were soon dissipated. Pius, who had inspired the creation of the Holy League, died the following year. Spain proved reluctant to commit more forces to the eastern Mediterranean and, in 1577, a financially exhausted Venice made its own terms with the Turks. As for the Ottoman fleet, it was swiftly rebuilt and soon regained its former strength. At best, Lepanto was a psychological triumph, since it showed that the Turks could be beaten. It was to be many years before a final and lasting check would constrain Ottoman ambitions.



Best shoes

in the World

In an age when nike meant 'victory', you could tell a lot about someone just by looking at their shoes or you could in ancient Rome. The type of footwear worn by upper class Romans distinguished them from soldiers and plebeians.

Cobblers were highly respected in ancient Rome, their clients coming mainly from the upper echelons of society. Common people provided their own shoes - it was cheap and fairly straightforward to make simple footwear like the sandals worn by the standard bearer.

The type of footwear a Roman wore clearly revealed his or her status in society. Slaves were not allowed to wear any shoes while convicts wore heavy wooden clogs - which may have helped to stop them from running away. There were other complex rules about who could wear what. Older men took care not to wear the kinds of shoes designated for younger men, while only senators were allowed to wear red boots.

By and large, Roman citizens wore sturdy, solid shoes called calcei. These had a leather sole - grain side down - and a soft leather insole - grain side up - sandwiching several more layers of leather. Winter shoes were often cork-soled to provide insulation. A major difference between the Roman calceus and a modern walking shoe was the lack of a raised heel; anyone wanting to look taller simply had the whole sole thickened. The uppers and soles of these shoes were not stitched together like a modern shoe, but nailed. If the uppers of a calceus reached over the ankles or even higher up the leg, the resulting boot, which kept the feet dry in wet weather, was known as a pew.


The famous army boot, the caliga, was so strongly identified as a soldier's footwear that the terms caligatus or caligatus miles in Latin texts can be translated as 'common soldier'. The uppers of caligae consisted of a single piece of leather with slits cut into it to keep the foot cool in a hot climate. These military shoes used iron hobnails as treads. Each boot could have up to 90 nails with rounded heads hammered into the sole, so a pair of caligae weighed over a kilo (2lbs). A Roman soldier could cover record-breaking distances with just a single pair of sturdy shoes - one lair could survive up to 600 miles worth of heavy marching. Caligae were tied on with leather laces that continued half way the shin, and which, in cold weather, could be stuffed with wool or fur. Caligae was the term from which the Emperor Gaius-Caligula - got his nickname. Son of the popular legate, the boy accompanied his father's legions on several campaigns. The soldiers regarded the child as a lucky mascot and nicknamed him Caligula, or 'Little Boots'.


The favourite footwear of all Romans, rich or poor, was sandals (sandalia or soleae), often a simple affair with a thong between the toes. Sandals were meant to be worn indoors, not in public. Some contemporary moral guardians feared a complete moral collapse if the nation that aspired to rule and civilise the known world started wearing light sandals in public. The sandals-indoors-only rule had some exceptions - Romans could wear sandals on the street if they were on their way to a banquet or the public bathhouse - and with good reason: it was a slow business undoing and doing up the straps of some outdoor shoes. Once inside the bathhouse, bathers could put on wooden-soled soleae to protect their feet from the underfloor heating.

The history of shoes

Prehistoric shoes

Early Stone Age rock paintings indicate the

wearing of shoes made of animai hides.

The first sandals

The Egyptians invented sandals c.3000 BC.

Pointed shoes

In medieval times, the length of the pronounced pointed toe showed the social status of the wearer.


High heels first came into fashion in the 17th century.

Shoes for everyone

Shoes began to be mass-produced in the 19th century.

When out visiting, Romans generally wore outdoor shoes, which they removed at the door before slipping into the sandals that had been carried by their slaves. The rule didn't apply to Emperor Caligula, whose despotic rule over Rome lasted from AD 37 to 41. He is said to have liked nothing better than to don ordinary sandals and wander through the streets. And when he wanted to be even more provocative, he would dress in women's clothes and put on ornately decorated women's shoes. While there are no obvious gender differences in Roman footwear, women's sandals were often dyed and decorated and made from softer, finer leather than men's. Alternatively, women and children wore stitched socci indoors. These were slipper-socks made from thin leather or sometimes fabric.

The cheapest shoe - equivalent to modern flip-flops - were simply-constructed palm-leaf sandals called baxae. Contemporary historians report that these shoes were not only made and worn by the poor but, for some  unfathomable reason, by philosophers and comic actors too.


The pearl of the Mediterranean

The metropolis of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, was intended to be a fitting centre for the vast empire he was creating. Although he did not live to see it built, the city more than fulfilled his dream. Known as the 'shining pearl' of the Mediterranean, it was one of the intellectual and commercial hubs of the ancient world.

His conquests made Alexander the greatest hero of ancient times Now he sought, to build a new metropolis that would immortalize his name.

He came in person to supervise his architect Democrates, the master mason Numenios and his technical adviser Hyponomos as they decided on the new city's ground plan. Alexander himself indicated the overall layout they were to follow, including the location of the market place, the number of temples and the gods they should serve, and the city's defences. He also stipulated where the royal palace should be built and worked out a drainage and sewerage system for the entire city.

Because they were pressed for time, they marked out the ground with barley flour instead of chalk, sprinkling it on the earth as the king led the way along the city's projected roads and avenues. Then a flock of birds descended and ate all the grains. Not a trace of Alexander's plans survived.


Worried that the incident was a warning from the gods, Alexander was reassured by his soothsayer Aristander, who told him that it was a sign that Alexander's city would prosper and be able to provide for as many inhabitants as the vast number of birds that had just eaten their fill. Alexander immediately ordered building work to resume before setting off through the northern

Sahara to the oasis at  siwah - the home of the world-renowned  oracle of the god Amun.

On the way,  Alexander and his companions ran out of water, to be saved only by a sudden and unexpected rainstorm. Then they got lost in a sandstorm. They were saved again by the, appearance of two black ravens that led them to their destinationn. Alexander believed that the gods had sent them as divine guides. His consultation with the oracle proved to be equally satisfactory. Encouraged, Alexander and his army began the long march into Asia. His aim was to overthrow the Persian Emperor and take control of his dominions. He had invaded Egypt to give a strong base so that he could secure his communications across the Mediterranean. It would also enable him to handle the lucrative sea-borne trade network he planned to take over from the Phoenicians who, up to then, had been the foremost Mediterranean merchants of the day. Having conquered Persia, Alexander pressed forward to India, only to die suddenly on the return journey in Babylon at the age of only 32.


Alexander was convinced that if a city City was built on the sight it would

certainly prosper.

THE greek HISTORIAN arraign in Anabasis.  The Greek architect Democrates drafted the plans for the new city of Alexandria and supervised the construction.

lucrative sea-borne trade network he planned to take over from the Phoenicians who, up to then, had been the foremost Mediterranean merchants of the day. Having conquered Persia, Alexander pressed forward to India, only to die suddenly on the return journey in Babylon at the age of only 32.


Meanwhile, the city Alexander had left behind was growing steadily. The street pattern was modelled on a chessboard, so that all the streets intersected at right angles. The main boulevards were to be particularly imposing - it was specified that they should be no less than 35 metres wide. The orientation allowed for northerly breezes to blow down the streets, while a low line of hills to the south protected them from the scorching desert winds. Ample space was allowed for wide public squares, important buildings such as palaces and temples, while the offshore island of Pharos was linked to the city by a stone causeway 1300 metres long. Named the Heptastadion as it was ten stades long - a stade being one-eighth of a mile - its construction gave the city a second well-sheltered harbour. Nor did the planners neglect the problem of peopling the new city. By all accounts, this was no easy task - at least initially. Ancient records reveal that all the people within a 20-mile radius of Alexandria were ordered to abandon their villages and move en masse to the city. But it was not long before such coercion became unnecessary.

A great military hero and general, who became ruler of vast swathes of the known world, Alexander aimed to make his city the economic, cultural and population centre of his empire. 


Following Alexander's death, a bitter struggle broke out over who should succeed him as ruler of his vast empire, which stretched from Greece to the borders of India. He left no heir, so several of his generals vied for the right to the succession. The upshot of the protracted wrangling was the division of the empire. The warring generals - the diadochi (followers) - were reduced to grabbing individual fragments for themselves. No single figure succeeded in taking Alexander's place.

The person who came out of this process the best was Ptolemy, who had been one of Alexander's most loyal confederates during his campaigns in the East. He made a bid for control over Egypt and founded a dynasty that lasted until the death of Cleopatra 300 years later. He chose Alexandria as his royal capital. Unlike Alexander, Ptolemy could personally devote himself to furthering the city's development. It was his ambition to turn Alexandria into the most important city in the world - not least to gain the upper hand in the struggle for prestige between Alexander's successors. In turn, his heirs all took a personal interest in promoting the new city's growth and well-being.

The result of the constant concern for the city's welfare shown by its rulers was a metropolis that steadily expanded on all fronts. In particular, trade and commerce flourished. The bustling harbour played host to ships from faraway India and Arabia, bearing luxury goods from the Far East such as spices and fine textiles. At the same time the Egyptians supplied the whole of the Aegean and the western Mediterranean with corn, the country's main export, papyrus, linen, oils, jewellery and perfumes.

The Seven Wonders of the ancient world

The following list of the grandest and most  prestigious feats of architecture or works of art in the ancient world is thought to have been compiled in the third century BC.

The Great Pyramid at Giza

The Hanging Gardens of Semiramis in Babylon

The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus

The statue of Zeus by the Greek sculptor Phidias

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

The Colossus of Rhodes

The Pharos of Alexandria


Ship's captains of the period were not only keen to put into Alexandria because of the good trading opportunities. It was also one of the safest ports in the region, thanks to its famous lighthouse, which became recognised as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The lighthouse, which was situated on the offshore island of Pharos, was the work of the engineer Sostratos.

Sostratos started work on the lighthouse in 290 BC during the reign of Ptolemy I, but it took him 12 years to complete, by which time Ptolemy II Philadelphus ruled Egypt. It was a technological marvel. The eight-sided tower was 110 metres high, while its constantly burning signal fire, so it was said, could be seen an amazing 30 miles away. According to various accounts, a huge mirror or even a vast lens was used to enhance the light's visibility. The seventh and last of the great wonders of the ancient world survived virtually intact for more than 1500 years, until it was finally destroyed by an earthquake in 1326.


The Ptolemaic rulers supported scientific and artistic endeavours in Alexandria. Mathematicians, astronomers, geographers, and physicians were all provided with superb working editions and paid handsomely by their royal patrons. The scholars conducted research in the Museion, or Temple, which had been founded by Ptolemy I. As well as benefiting the wider world, their efforts contributed to the

Many of the treasures housed in the world-famous library at Alexandria were lost for ever in a devastating fire in 48 BC. The fire spread unchecked to other parts of the city, notably to buildings near the waterfront where some 40,000 books were being stored.

greater glory of the city. The mathematicians Euclid and Archimedes, the philosopher Plotinus, and geographers Eratosthenes and Ptolemy were all active there.

Perhaps Alexandria's most remarkable institution was its great library which was the largest in the ancient world. Its shelves and archives held over 900,000 books or, more precisely, papyrus scrolls - devoted to a host of different topics. An army of scribes was employed to make copies of the texts, which came from many diverse sources. Rumour also had it that the city's rulers were not above playing underhand tricks to augment the library's holdings. Visitors who came by sea to Alexandria had any reading matter they brought with them confiscated as soon as they stepped off the ship. These books were immediately sent to the library, where they were copied before being returned to their reluctant donors.

Disaster first struck the library during the course of Julius Caesar's campaign in Egypt in 48 BC, when the Roman forces set some 60 ships of the Egyptian fleet ablaze in Alexandria's harbour. The library itself survived until the 4th century AD, when it was probably destroyed by a Christian mob rampaging through the city bent on sacking all its pagan temples. The Museion came to an end around much the same time.


According to some estimates, the population of the city reached a peak of 500,000, making it second only to Rome among the cities of the ancient world. As well as Egyptians, Greeks and Macedonians, the colourful mix of different peoples also included Syrians, Persians, Arabs, Ethiopians, Indians, Jews and Romans. The city's streets and alleys resounded with a welter of different languages that rivalled the mix of tongues heard at the legendary fall of the Tower of Babel. Despite the best efforts to provide more housing - a list compiled as part of a census stated that there were exactly 47,790 houses in the city - space in the city was always at a premium. Nevertheless, all its inhabitants were proud to live there. With a disarming lack of modesty, they gave their teeming metropolis the honorary title of 'the world's city'.


One of Alexandria's most popular sites for visitors was the grave of Alexander the Great. A decade after his death, Ptolemy I arranged for his body to be transported from Babylon to Egypt. This turned out to be a commercial masterstroke. As the canny Ptolemy had envisaged, well-to-do travellers now came from far and wide to Alexandria, eager to see the embalmed remains of the conqueror. Not all visitors were as careless as the Roman Emperor Augustus, who insisted on touching Alexander's body and in the process broke off the dead emperor's nose.

It was Augustus who brought the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty to an end with his victory over Cleopatra in 30 BC. Alexandria became the capital of the Roman province of Egypt. Its prestige began to wane, accelerated by the Arab conquest of Egypt in AD 642. Though the Arabs admired the city, they were not seafarers. Moreover Amr Ibn-el-Aas, the first Muslim ruler of the country, was mindful of the instructions of his master, Caliph Omar, to 'establish the capital where you wish, but let there be water between you and me'. Alexandria was on the wrong side of the Nile. The Arabs moved east of the river and chose Cairo as their new capital.

The seemingly inexorable decline continued. When Napoleon and his army entered Alexandria in 1798, it was no more than a small town. The population of the city that had once been the second largest in the world had shrunk to just 8000. It was not until the opening of the Suez Canal that it started to recapture some of its former glory.


Why  did  the  Pope

ban  the  CROSSBOW?

Pope  Innocent  II  and  the  Latin  Council  of  1139  banned  Christians  from  using  crossbows  against  their  fellows  -  but  sanctioned  their  deployment  against  the  Saracens  and  other  'infidels.'

The  followers  of  Herman  Gessler, the all-powerful  Austrian  governor  of  Switzerland,  were  dumfounded.  Their  master  had  been  suddenly  struck  down  by  an  arrow  boy,  seemingly  out  of  nowhere.  Though  the  narrow  lane  known  as  the  Hohle  Gasse  near  the  town  of  Kussnachi,  was  ideally  suited  for  an  ambush,  but  there  was  no  sign  of  any  assassin.  Having  felled  his  foe,  the  Swiss  hunter  and  patriot  William  Tell  made  good  his  escape.

In 1307 William Tell had been arrested for refusing to bow to the governor's hat - stuck on a pole in the town of Altdorf as a symbol of Habsburg imperial authority. Gessler then ordered Tell, a noted archer, to shoot an apple off his own son's head with his crossbow. If he succeeded, he would be freed, but if he refused he would be executed immediately. Tell hit the apple. But he was not released. Asked by Gessler why he had stuffed a second bolt into his quiver, he replied that it had been intended for the governor himself if the first bolt had hit his son. Gessler had Tell clapped in irons and put on board a boat for his castle at Kussnacht. As the boat was crossing Lake Lucerne, a storm arose. The crew persuaded Gessler to let Tell take the helm. He promptly steered for a convenient rock, leapt ashore and fled. He then made his way to the sunken lane, where, hidden behind the bushes, he lay in wait for his intended victim. When the governor came into sight, Tell loaded his crossbow, pulled the trigger, and hit his target. The tyrant was dead.


The story of William Tell makes it clear what an insidious weapon the crossbow was - a person could use it to fire at their intended victim from an unseen position. The Italians of the time christened it 'the assassins' bow.' A famous early victim was William Rufus, king of England, who was killed by a crossbow bolt while out hunting in 1100. What made the weapon special was the distance a bolt could travel and the speed it could reach in flight. A bolt could punch its way through even the sturdiest chain mail and armour, as Richard the Lionheart found to his cost when he was fatally wounded by a crossbow shot as he laid siege to Chalus Castle in France in 1199. Knights feared it, because it made them more vulnerable than before, challenging their battlefield supremacy. The use of such a weapon also flouted the accepted rules of chivalrous combat, in which opponents fought face to face at close quarters.

Above all, the crossbow was relatively simple to operate, so military soldiers could be quickly trained to master it. Once the reapon - a bow and a short stock equipped with spanning and firing mechanisms - had been drawn using muscle power, a

Use of the crossbow helped Christian forces win a number of decisive victories over the Moors during their reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century

ratchet or a lever, a shot could be discharged with great accuracy over long distances without expending any effort. Its main disadvantage, compared to the longbow, its battlefield rival, was its relatively slow rate of fire, since it took time to draw and load the bow. Skilled crossbowmen could fire a maximum of three shots a minute, but in the same time archers equipped with longbows could let loose twelve arrows.

Both weapons shared a cardinal weakness. If the bowstrings got damp, they could prove impossible to tauten. At the battle of Crecy in 1346, Genoese crossbowmen serving as mercenaries in the French army allowed their bowstrings to get wet before the start of the battle. The English longbowmen kept their bows dry and were able to decimate the French knights when they charged.


From the 11th century onwards, both types of bow appeared in increasing numbers in battle and at sieges, and were used to devastating effect. Many knights welcomed the ban imposed on both the crossbow and the longbow by the Catholic Church. Pope Urban II tried to ban the use of crossbows in 1097, but it was the Second Lateran Council of the Church that really attempted to make the ban stick.

Pope Innocent II opened the Council on April 2, 1139. More than 500 delegates met in his palace on the Piazza San Giovanni in Rome. The penultimate edict the Council issued was the outlawing of both the crossbow and the longbow. The resolution passed by the Council stated succinctly 'We henceforth ban, on pain of excommunication, the deadly weaponry employee by crossbow and longbow marksmen, which is so repugnant to God, from being used against Catholics and other Christians', non-Christians being deliberately excluded from the Church's protection. As it turned out, warring Christian adversaries were unmoved by the proscription - the advantages crossbows and longbows gave an army in battle were simply too great to relinquish. Pope Gregory IX reiterated the ban in 1234, but also failed to enforce it. The triumphant progress of the crossbow was unstoppable.

The development of the crossbow

Early Chinese crossbows

Early types of crossbow were found in the grave complex of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuangdi, who ruled over the Middle Kingdom from 221 to 210 BC

Roman crossbows

The Romans adopted the weapon from the Far East, deploying it both as a light sidearm and as a heavy weapon mounted on a wagon.

The portable crossbow 

It was only in the Middle Ages, most likely under the Normans, that the crossbow, developed into an easily portable weapon that was produced in large numbers for armies to use in the field.


The reason for the failure of one of the first arms embargoes in history lay in the

contradictory nature of the Papal decree: the same knights who, on Crusade in the Holy Land, could fire countless bolts and arrows at their Muslim foes, were expected to lock their wonder weapons away when fighting fellow-Christian adversaries.

From the outset, such an unreasonable demand was doomed to be ignored. The crossbow's enormous range and deadly accuracy made it virtually irreplaceable. Castle design evolved to make full use of the crossbow's range: castle towers were built precisely at the distance of a crossbow shot, so attackers trying to scale a nearby tower could be picked off easily.


By the beginning of the 15th century, the 'unchivalrous' weapon as accepted as part of the basic equipment of all aristocratic knights. By this time, the Church's ban had long since sunk into oblivion, though even before that no longbowman or bowman had need to fear that he would be condemned to hell. In practice, the ban could always be circumvented - either making a payment to the Church in expiation after the event, agreeing to another form of penance, such as an undertaking to go on Crusade.


The pride of the

republic -Venice's Arsenate

Its mastery of shipbuilding enabled Venice to become the richest trading city in the Mediterranean and a leading power in medieval and Renaissance times.

Hidden behind the high wails of the Arsenale and under conditions of absolute secrecy, Venice's fleet was laid down from the late Middle Ages onwards. It was the cornerstone of the city's enormous wealth and continuing prosperity.

In its 16th-century heyday, Venice's celebrated Arsenale (arsenal) proudly claimed to be the largest shipyard in the world. It was enormous by the standards of the time. In 1104, following a series of fires that destroyed a number of the shipyards scattered throughout the city, Venice's rulers decided to concentrate

The rise of Venice

A favoured location 

Venice was sited in a sheltered lagoon and on the border between areas under Byzantine and Frankish control.

Trading privileges 

The city deployed its fleet to aid Byzantium against its enemies. In recognition, the Byzantines granted many trading privileges, as a result of which Venice swiftly came to dominate trade with the East.

Rewards from the Crusader

The Christian kingdoms established in the

Holy Land after the First Crusade were also

dependent on Venice's help, particularly the

support of its navy. In return Venice gained

control over further bases around the


shipbuilding in one quarter. Work on the old arsenal was completed by 1300. The new arsenal was built between 1300 and 1400 and the most recent - the one that survives today - between 1473 and 1573. In the 16th century, 2000 shipwrights, carpenters and other artisans worked at the arsenal. In times of war this could rise' to 3000 or more. The workers were known as the arsenaloti. They built and maintained the merchant vessels and warships that made up Venice's all-powerful fleet - the basis of the city's power, prosperity and prestige.


Founded on trade, Venice began its dealings with the East in the 10th century      AD, when much of the Dalmatian coast came under its rule, giving the city control of the Adriatic. At the same time, Venice was laying the foundations for continued commercial expansion by winning trading and other concessions in ports throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The Venetians also consolidated their influence on the Italian mainland. After defeating Genoa, its main rival, in a great naval battle off the tiny island of Chiogga in 1380, Venice was recognised throughout Europe as the leading sea power. Convoys of merchant ships escorted by war galleys plied every major trade route through the Mediterranean, laden with precious cargoes from the furthest corners of the Earth. Not for nothing did Venice win itself the title 'Queen of the Seas'.

The Venetians worked hard for their success. Everything that they undertook was a communal, not an individual, concern. It was not only the merchants who benefited from a successful voyage. Sailors and oarsmen shared in the profits too. The cosing-up of such trading partnerships was legally documented in document known as a colleganza - so that participants knew where they stood and what they could expect. The system helped to turn a small town on a lagoon into the foremost trading city in Europe and Asia. Preserving its cherished status depended on the quality and size of the fleet that Venice could deploy to back up its merchants and to support its diplomats. To ensure their needs were met, the Venetians developed a method of manufacture - mass production - not used elsewhere until the beginning of the 20th century.


Many trades were involved in the building of the Venetian ships. Carpenters laid down the keel and hull. The hull was then manoeuvred onto rollers and progressed through the stages of fitting out as though on a conveyor belt. Each operation was controlled by a different trade guild. Caulkers made ships watertight by sealing their timbers with pitch. Sail makers and oar makers then took over. Finally, weapons were installed. Once a ship reached the end of the production line, it was ready for launching. The admiral, commanding the arsenal, carried out a last inspection and it was then permitted to make its maiden voyage. The system was so efficient that in the 16th century the shipyard could build or repair some 40 to 60 vessels a year.


Venice's maritime star eventually waned. The city had always lacked timber but a more serious problem was a shortage of men to build and sail the ships. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 struck a mortal blow at Venice's trade with the East, while the Portuguese discovery of a sea route around Africa to the Indies, and the Spanish conquest of the New World, dramatically changed the balance of commercial power. The fall of Cyprus, Crete and the Peloponnese to the Turks ended centuries of Venetian dominance in the eastern Mediterranean. Venice became something of a backwater, seemingly content to live on memories of its past glory. When, in 1797, Napoleon occupied the city and then gave it and the surrounding area to Austria in the Treaty of Campo Formio, the once proud republic fell without putting up a fight. It was never to regain its independence. In 1866, it became part of a united Italy.


The  AGE  of  the  MOORS  in  SPAIN

Following  a  successful  invasion  in  711,  the  Moors  ruled  much  of  medieval  Spain  for  nearly  800  years.  When  not  fighting  their  Christain  adversaries  in  the  Reconquesta,  they  presided  over  a  tolerant  and  sophisticated  civilization  where  Islamic,  Jewish  and  Christian  cultures  couldd  exist  together.

The Straits of Gibraltar separate Europe from Africa by less than nine miles. In May 711, the Arab commander Tariq ibn Ziyad and his force of 7000 made the crossing. His troops chiefly comprised north African Berbers augmented by a handful of soldiers from Medina and Damascus.  It was the first step in a speedy campaign of conquest that was to amaze and astound the Christian world.

In 1431, a pitched battle took place at Higueruela between John II of Castile and Moorish forces. Following the Christian victory, Granada was forced to agree to pay tribute money to Castile.

Tariq was under orders from Musa ibn Nusair, the Arab ruler of the Maghreb in north Africa, to expand the bounds of his empire. But he also had a diplomatic pretext for his incursion. In around AD 415 the Visigoths had migrated to the Iberian Peninsula and gained control over the region. When their king, Witiza, died in 710, Roderic, Duke of Baetica, was chosen to succeed him instead of Witiza's son. The Witiza family, with Julian, governor of Ceuta, asked the Moors for help to overthrow the usurper. The family's motives were probably purely political, but Julian may have been motivated by personal considerations: according to the chroniclers, Roderic had raped his daughter.

The appeal turned out to be a major strategic blunder. Instead of helping Witiza's son to regain his father's throne, the Muslim invaders proceeded to overrun the Visigoth kingdom. Only a small strip of territory in the mountainous northwest managed to hold out against them.


The decisive battle was fought at the Rio Barbate, south of Cadiz, on July 19, 711. Here, Tariq's invaders met Roderic's hastily mustered forces. The Visigoth king had been campaigning in the north against the Franks and the Basques when news of the Muslim invasion forced him to march hurriedly south to meet it. 'Before us is the enemy, behind us the sea,' Tariq shouted to his men. 'We have only one choice - to win!' He was true to his word. The Christian army crumbled in the face of the Muslim onslaught. Roderic himself was slain. It was the beginning of the end for Visigoth Christianity in Spain.

One by one, cities fell to the Muslims, often betrayed by their own citizens who were weary of Visigoth rule. Early in 712 Toledo, the Visigoth capital, was captured after a brief siege and Muslim forces then overran almost the entire Iberian Peninsula. Their lightning advance encountered serious resistance only in the heavily forested mountains in the northwest, where the new kingdom of the Asturias provided a refuge for the beleaguered Christians. The Islamic triumph seemed to have been rapidly concluded.

Decisive battles

Bio Barbate, 711


Tariq ibn Ziyad defeated and killed the Visigoth king Roderic, paving the way for Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Tours, 732

In 732, the Frankish ruler Charles Martel halted the northward advance of the Moors into France at the Battle of Tours.


Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon, captured Cordoba in 1236, Jaen in 1246, and Seville in 1248.

Granada, 1492

In 1492, the forces of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile retook Granada, the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain.


It was from the Asturias that the Reconquista - the long series of wars fought by Christian forces to retake the Iberian peninsula was launched. In 722, Pelayo, the Asturias' ruler, defeated a large Moorish force at the village of Coradonga. The ensuing struggle lasted for centuries and cost thousands of lives on both sides. Not until January 2, 1492, did Granada, the last Muslim stronghold, finally surrender to the resurgent Christians and Islamic rule on the peninsula came to an end.

Slowly but surely the Christians fought their way south, eventually, they managed to establish five small kingdoms -istile and Leon on the great central plateau. In 1085, Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon Frested Toledo from the Moors and the Reconquista began in earnest. In 1212, at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, the armies

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, popularly known as El Cid, conquered the city of Valencia in 1094 and displayed great bravery in holding on to it. He came to epitomise the Reconquista and soon became the national hero of Spain.

of Castile and Aragon, with knights and infantry supplied by France and Germany following an appeal by Pope Innocent III, crushed the Moorish army. Some 20,000 Moors were killed. A generation later, Ferdinand III recaptured Cordoba, Seville, Jerez and Cadiz. The whole of Andalusia south of Castile became Christian - leaving the Moors with the kingdom of Granada in the far south.

Many brave men made their names in the long years of conflict, but the most celebrated was probably Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar - better known by his Arab nickname El Cid - who later became one of Spain's national heroes. At the time the war often made it unclear who was fighting for which side. El Cid began his rise to fame when he slew the champion of the Christian king Sancho of Navarre in a war against fellow Christians in Castile. Eventually, El Cid became almost a soldier of fortune, sometimes campaigning for the Christians and sometimes for the Moors. In 1094, he laid siege to and captured Valencia from the Moors, although many of the soldiers he led against the city were Muslims.

Christians were frequently as much at loggerheads with one another as they were with the Moors - who were also deeply divided. As early as 40 years after the initial conquest, they split into supporters of the rival Umayyad and Abbassid dynasties, battling for control of the Caliphate in distant Damascus. The Umayyad faction invited Abd-al-Rahman I to set up his own emirate in Spain. It became the powerful Caliphate of Cordoba in the heartland of al-Andalus, as they had renamed Spain.

Eventually, the Almoravids, who ruled from 1061 to 1147, overthrew the Ummayads. They were supplanted by the Almohads, who, in 1170, had moved the capital to Seville. The final rulers, the Nasrids, managed to keep an uneasy peace with the Christians for 250 years until they were driven out.


During more peaceful times, the Muslim rulers of al-Andalus promoted the Islamic principles of tolerance towards people of other faiths, a liberal outlook, and an interest in the arts and sciences. Their libraries housed important manuscripts, while the foremost scholars of the day taught in Spanish universities.

Muslims, Christians and Jews all helped bring Spanish culture to a peak of sophistication.

Cordoba was one of the jewels in the Muslim crown. As early as the 10th century, it had almost half a million inhabitants - one of the most heavily populated cities in the world, with 500 mosques, 300 public baths, 70 libraries and miles of paved, lamp-lit streets. |At a time when 99 per cent of the Christian population was illiterate, there were 800 public schools and it was difficult to find even a Moorish peasant who could not read and write.

With Baghdad and Constantinople, Cordoba was one the great cultural centres of the civilised world. The Arab philosopher, theologian, legal expert and physician Ibn Rushd - or Averroes - lived in the city. He was renowned for his commentaries on the teachings of Aristotle. Another Cordoban, Abu-I-Hasan, known as Ziryab (blackbird) was one of the leading Islamic composers; other luminaries included the Jewish physician Hidai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish lexicographer Menachem ben Saruk, and Abu al-Qasim, the greatest Muslim surgeon of the Middle Ages.


Not all of the magnificent treasures of Moorish Spain were preserved for posterity. Christian iconoclasts destroyed priceless and unique works of Islamic art during and after the reconquest of the country. But some did survive - at least for a time.

In Cordoba, the lavishly appointed Mesquita (mosque) remained more or less unscathed for three centuries after the city's recapture. The Christians simply reconsecrated it as a church. Then, despite protests from Cordoba's civic leaders, the clergy persuaded Emperor Charles V to authorise the building of a new cathedral in its precincts. The result was a travesty. 'By installing something that is commonplace', said Charles, 'you have destroyed something that was once unique.' But despite the graceless addition, much of the original Mesquita remained intact around it. In Seville, the imposing minaret of the main mosque became the bell-tower for a new church, the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe - a visible symbol of the final triumph of the 'faithful' over the 'unbelievers'.

Such zealotry was not confined to the Christians. The Almoravids set fire to the 10th-century grand summer residence of the Umayyad Caliph Abd-al-Rahman III. Lying northwest of Cordoba at the foot of the Sierra Morena, it was the Versailles of its day. Luckily, the Alhambra in Granada came through the entire Reconquista amid its aftermath relatively unscathed. Built by the Nasrids between 1248 and 1354, this fortress-palace situated on its high hill still dominates the city.

The Moorish legacy was wide-ranging. They set up the first paper and pottery manufactories in Europe, built the first windmills and laid out terraced fields watered by irrigation systems. Their long presence left its mark on several European languages - common words like 'mattress,' 'alcohol,' or 'algebra' were originally derived from Arabic. By their introduction of rice

Muslim artists developed the decorative arts to a high degree of perfection. Basic geometrical shapes and also plant forms adorn the magnificent buildings they created such as the Mesquita in Cordoba with its 'forest' of columns made from marble, jasper, and porphyry.

they helped to transform the culinary scene, as did the cultivation of plants like lemons, apricots, bananas, aubergines and watermelons. Although the Prophet Mohammad had forbidden the consumption of alcohol, they encouraged winemaking.


How did Ferdinand and Isabella, the 'Catholic Kings' who presided over the final stages of the Reconquista, repay the Moors for the rich gifts that they had brought to Spain? The answer was simply with repression and expulsions. Agreements that the last Caliph of Granada - Muhammad Abu-Abdullah, or Boabdil - had negotiated were quickly violated. Muslims and Jews were dispossessed and forcibly converted to Christianity, Muslim uprisings were brutally suppressed, and those who took part slaughtered, turned over to the newly established Spanish Inquisition, or deported to other parts of Spain. Though many Muslims returned to North Africa, thousands hung grimly on until, in 1609, Philip III conducted a religious ethnic 'cleansing' of his realm. Some 300,000 'Moriscos,' or baptized Moors, were expelled to the Maghreb. The cross had replaced the crescent and the Moors had faded into history. But their legacy left Spain - and the West - forever in their debt.


Keeping it in the family

In ancient Egypt, many Pharaohs married their sisters or daughters, leading to highly complicated family relationships. Later, the Romans condemned and outlawed such practices.

Gaius Julius Caesar, Rome's greatest general, was totally smitten: the Egyptian queen, the clever and beautiful Cleopatra, had turned his head completely. They had come together as the result of two hard-fought civil wars - one between rival factions in Rome - the other between royal Egyptians. In the course of the former, Caesar pursued his rival Pompey to Egypt. Pompey was murdered by the Egyptians, keen to please the winning side. Caesar was still determined to secure Rome's interests in the area. Egypt was the granary that kept Rome fed and Caesar was anxious to end any disruption that might hinder grain exports.

Cleopatra VII had been toppled by her elder brother Ptolemy XIII from the throne that their father had decreed on his deathbed they should share. Civil war ensued. Cleopatra was determined that Caesar should support her claim. According to Plutarch, she was smuggled past Caesar's bodyguards rolled up in a carpet. Regardless of the accuracy of the account, Cleopatra did gain admission to Caesar's presence and swiftly succeeded in bending him to her will. He agreed without more ado to help her to secure sole occupancy of the Egyptian throne. He must have been flattered - Caesar was 31 years older than Cleopatra and bald into the bargain. Whatever his motives for intervening, the consequence was that Cleopatra regained supreme power. Her brother was drowned in the Nile while attempting to flee from his sister's victorious forces.


Two factors still gave Caesar cause for concern. He was uncertain whether the Egyptian people would consent to being ruled by Cleopatra alone. Despite her brother's death, his followers still commanded substantial support and this might be transferred to a new male claimant to the throne. His affair with Cleopatra was now an open secret. The knowledge that their queen was in love with a foreigner - a Roman - might stir up even more trouble among the Egyptians.

Then Caesar had a brainwave. He knew that it was an Egyptian tradition for royal siblings to marry one another. He had even heard that, in former times, pharaohs had been known to marry their own daughters - which, in Roman eyes, the grotesque result that such rulers were at the same time husbands, fathers and fathers-in-law, and their daughters likewise were both wives and daughters-in-law. Assuming that children resulted from such a union, the king in question would have achieved the peculiar feat of being both father and grandfather to his
own children.

Cleopatra, the mysterious and strikingly beautiful Egyptian queen - had no trouble winning Caesar's heart and securing her hold on power.

In order to pacify the Egyptian populace, Caesar and Cleopatra arranged, in best Egyptian royal tradition, that the queen, who was then 22 years old, should enter into a sham marriage with her younger brother, the 12-year-old Ptolemy XIV. Although the marriage existed only on paper, the demands of convention were satisfied and the Egyptian people mollified.

Caesar and Cleopatra continued their affair. The union produced a son, Caesarion. When Caesar was assassinated by Marcus Brutus and other discontented Roman senators in 44 BC, Cleopatra had Ptolemy murdered and established Caesarion as her co-ruler. The little boy was only four. After his mother killed herself following defeat by Octavius Caesar and the suicide of Mark Antony, her new lover, Caesarion was strangled. Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire and the long line of the Pharaohs finally came to an end.

The trouble with a limited, gene pool

The royal disease Haemophilia is referred to as the 'royal disease' for good reason, since it affected several interrelated royal families in 19th-century Europe. Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria's eighth child, suffered from it, while two of her daughters - Princess Alice and Princess Beatrice - were carriers of the disease. Through them, the condition was passed on to other royal families, notably those of Spain and Russia. Alexis, Russia's last Tsarevich, was a haemophiliac.

The royal jawline

The Habsburgs paid the price for selecting from too limited a gene pool. Charles II (the Bewitched), the last Habsburg ruler of Spain, came to the throne in 1665. He had the most pronounced case of the Habsburg jaw on record - so large and deformed that he was unable to chew. He was also impotent and mentally retarded.


Caesar and Cleopatra had historical precedent on their side in planning such a union. The Pharaoh Ahmose, who liberated his country from the invading sea-peoples, the Hyksos, and founded the New Kingdom married his sister Nefertiri
in around 1552 BC. The Pharaoh Tuthmosis II, who reigned from 1494 to 1490 BC, also married his half-sister Hatshepsut. Although like many Ancient Egyptian rulers he had more than one wife, she was undoubtedly his favourite. When Tuthmosis died, she acted as regent for the son of another of his wives, whom he had named as his successor but who was not old enough to ascend the throne. But she enjoyed her new role so much that she was loath to abdicate once her nephew had reached his majority. In 1473 BC she had herself proclaimed

The gods Osiris and his wife and sister Isis were the model for royal incest in ancient Egypt. They are shown on a pectoral ornament from the 9th century BC along with their son Horus.

Pharaoh, dressing in the traditional garb of a male Pharaoh and wearing a false beard in an attempt to legitimise her position. Her achievements once on the throne made her one of ancient Egypt's greatest rulers.

Amenophis III, who ruled Egypt from 1402 to 1364 BC, married his daughter - for an entirely different reason. His favourite wife, Teje, was the daughter of a Nubian general - Egypt had recently conquered Nubia - and was generally considered unworthy of her status by the priests and nobles at the Pharaoh's court. Amenophis decided to placate them by taking his daughter Satamun as another wife.

Ramses II lived to the age of almost 90, ruled for 66 years - 1290 to 1224 BC, and left an indelible mark on his country's architectural heritage. His wives and concubines bore him more than 100 children. His favourite wives were Nefertari and Istnofret. The former is thought to have been the daughter of a Theban nobleman, so Ramses may have married her to strengthen his power-base there. Another theory is that she was daughter of Seti I, so she would have been Ramses' half-sister.

Ramses called Nefertari 'the one for whom the sun shines'. After her death, he married Meryetamun, her eldest daughter. Istnofret gave birth to Merenptah, who succeeded Ramses as pharaoh, Khaemwese, who became high priest of the temple of Ptah at Memphis and a daughter, Bent' anta, who became another of Ramses' consorts after her mother's death.


In most cases, such marriages were a matter of form. The key consideration was to safeguard the future of the dynasty by giving as few outsiders as possible the chance to gain influence by marrying into the royal family. As a precaution, a Pharaoh would probably marry only one of his half-sisters

'It is a great thing to erect one      
monument after another.' Ramses II

The practice also had religious overtones. Belief in a 'sacred union' between the divine siblings Isis and Osiris set the pattern for subsequent marital relationships within the ruling dynasties. As a loving sister and wife, it was Isis who brought Osiris back to life after his murder by his evil brother Set.


By Cleopatra's time, the practice of marrying a sibling had become common in all echelons of society. But the ancient Egyptians were one of the few societies to condone the practice. The Greeks and Romans regarded incestuous marriages as decadent and perverse. In Tudor England, one of the false charges laid against Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, at her trial for treason was that she had committed incest with her brother George.

On the other hand, among royal families, intermarriage was viewed as the best means of preserving - or expanding - a particular dynasty's power and influence. The Habsburgs went virtually unparalleled in the degree of their interbreeding -although they stopped short of marrying their siblings.



of the sea

Tea clippers were characterised by a sharply-raked bow, an overhanging stern and acres of sail.

In the mid-19th century tea clippers battled the high seas as they raced to deliver their valuable cargo from China to the tea-drinkers of London. The first ship to come home with the tea brought riches and prestige for its owner.

In the era of the tea clippers, voyages that might have taken a year could be completed in 100 days. Speed was everything. Competing importers tried desperately to be first back with the new season's tea. The tea races captured the British imagination

After harvesting, China tea was loaded onto small boats, which ferried the bails out to the tea clippers anchored offshore.

and huge bets were placed on the outcome. And smart Victorian hostesses across London were willing to pay a premium in order to be able to serve tea from the winning ship.

On June 18, 1872, as the cry of 'anchors aweigh' rang out on the deck of the Cutty Sark, Captain George Moodie may have been looking forward to the weeks at sea that lay ahead but he would also have been under considerable pressure. Although the Cutty Sark was technically the fastest tea clipper afloat, she had yet to take on her greatest competitor, the Thermopylae.

The Thermopylae was built in 1867 by the owner of the Aberdeen White Star Line, George Thompson, who wanted a winning clipper. His ship's iron framework supported a streamlined wooden hull and a huge acreage of sail. In 1868, on her maiden voyage, the Thermopylae made the journey from Gravesend to Melbourne in a record-breaking 63 days.

In a few hours, both clippers - their holds laden with the new season's China tea - would be sailing on the same high tide from the port of Woosung (now Wusong) on the Yangtze delta. Woosung was the starting point for a race that, over the next three to four months, would take the two tall ships through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic Ocean and from there up the English Channel to London. Captain Moodie knew that his ship's owner, John Willis, was banking on the huge bonuses that the winner of this race would earn - and was determined not to let him down.

With her 43 sails, the Cutty Sark was the fastest tea clipper in the world.

As the anchor was winched up, Moodie was not the only one keeping an eye on the procedure. Robert Willis, the shipowner's brother, had appeared on deck. Over the next few hours, the two men watched from their vantage point on the bridge as the Cutty Sark was towed out of the harbour at Shanghai and 14 miles downstream to Woosung. From there, within sight of the Thermopylae, she would set sail. The crew of the Cutty Sark scrambled up the rigging and unfurled the sails. One square sail after another billowed in the wind and the clipper began to gather speed. A final signal was sent between the ships and then they were off.

Over the following days, the two ships caught sight of one another on several occasions. When they entered the Indian Ocean, the Thermopylae - under the command of her experienced captain, Robert Kemball - was one-and-a-half nautical miles ahead, a negligible lead in view of the Cutty Sark's potential top speed of over 17 knots. In London, countless wagers on the race made the Cutty Sark the favourite; she was newer than the Thermopylae by a year and, being narrower in the beam and having a larger sail area, faster, too. But would these advantages be enough? And did Moodie, who had a reputation as a responsible and calm master, have the competitive spirit to push his ship to her limits?


Initially, it looked as though he did. With a steady southeasterly wind behind her, the Cutty Sark had, by August 14, put nautical miles between herself and her rival as they crossed the Indian Ocean. But the weather was beginning to make Koodie anxious, The wind was freshening to storm strength and

The Cutty Sark

The last of the clippers 

The Cutty Sarkh the world's only surviving tea clipper. She is now a standing museum ' exhibit on the quayside at Greenwich in southeast London


Cutty Sark was launched from Dumbarton on November 22, 1869, displaced 983 gross registered tonnes, and was 85.3 metres long She could carry a cargo of 6000 tonnes of tea and was sailed by a crew of 35.

The career of the Gutty Sark 

The Cutty Sark was used on the tea run from China until 1877. From 1885, after being reassigned to carrying wool from Australia to England, she beat her old rival the Thermopylae five times.

waves broke ceaselessly over the ship's bows. The clipper was not deflected from her course and ploughed steadily ahead. As the wind grew increasingly strong, Moodie trimmed the sails - a dangerous operation for the crew, who had to climb more than 40 metres up the rigging to fasten the sails as the ship pitched heavily beneath them.

All of a sudden a violent shudder ran through the ship. The helmsman could no longer hold his course and turning the wheel had no effect. The rudder had broken; the Cutty Sark was virtually out of control. Now it was no longer a question of being first in London and winning the race; what mattered was getting the ship and her crew home in one piece.

As the Cutty Sark wallowed in heavy seas, the crew fought to get her under control. To make matters worse, a row erupted between the captain and the owner's brother. Willis wanted to put into Cape Town and have the rudder repaired there. Moodie disagreed. He wanted his experienced shipwright, Henry Henderson, to rig up an emergency rudder. The captain believed that putting in to Cape Town would scutter any chance of victory, and that the necessary repairs could be done at sea. Willis was intransigent. His overriding concern was the safety of the ship - and with good reason. He was probably the only person on board who knew that neither the ship nor its cargo were insured. The argument grew more violent, and it was not until Moodie charged Willis with mutiny and threatened to clap him in irons that he finally yielded to the captain's authority.

Henderson and the crew carried out the repairs efficiently, and the Cutty Sark was underway after just five days - but the captain now had to exercise more caution than he would have liked. With an emergency rudder in place, he couldn't chance pushing his ship too hard through the Atlantic. His rate of progress, about 200 miles a day, was well below the 300 miles that the Cutty Sark was capable of. Moodie knew that he now stood only a slim chance of overtaking the Thermopylae. On the other hand, perhaps the Thermopylae, too, had lost valuable time through running repairs.

With a steady hand, Moodie guided the Cutty Sark safely through the unpredictable Atlantic. On October 18, 1872, 122 days after setting sail from China, the Cutty Sark passed Gravesend at the mouth of the Thames. She was just seven days behind the triumphant Thermopylae, whose 115-day passage had won the race.

In the meantime, news of the dramatic events at sea had spread throughout London, and when she finally docked a wildly cheering crowd greeted the Cutty Sark and her crew, almost more enthusiastically than they had welcomed the Thermopylae.


When the Cutty Sark was launched in 1869, it was already an Indian summer for tall ships. The Suez Canal had opened the same year, providing a short cut for all eastern trade. This was bad news for the sailing ships, as they could not navigate the narrow passage.

The new steamships that were being developed could manage the canal, but their technology was so inefficient to begin with that the clippers were safe - at least in the short term. But before long, the increasing speed and larger cargo capacity of steamships would make sailing ships obsolete. The journey from China to England no longer depended on favourable winds and couldd be completed by plodding steamships in just 60 days. The great race had had its day.

The Cutty Sark was built in Scotland at Dumbarton and Greenock on the River Leven and launched in 1869. Her timber and iron hull was strong and sleek. Her three masts could hold a spread of canvas that propelled the ship at more than 17 knots. She now lies in dry dock at Greenwich.


a Race to remember

Towards the end of the 19th century kings, emperors and tycoons, acquired luxury racing yachts as symbols of their prestige. Among the greatest enthusiasts was the German emperor Wilhelm II. Between 1887 and 1914, he sailed five fabulous yachts, which he raced in all-out competition against the finest British and American yachtsmen of the day.

On a fine June day in 1904, hordes of spectators packed the harbour wall in the north German port of Cuxhaven, craning their necks to glimpse the yacht Meteor III, the latest racing schooner owned by Emperor Wilhelm II. A cannon shot would signal the start of the Lower Elbe Regatta - the prelude to Kiel Week, the sailing event founded by Wilhelm in 1895 in emulation of Britain's Cowes Week. He had attended the latter religiously from 1889 until his growing unpopularity ended his personal participation in the regatta. His competitiveness so irked his uncle the Prince of Wales that the future George V sold his own yacht Britannia and gave up sailing for good.

Ever since then, the sailing-mad Wilhelm had taken part in Kiel Week. His enthusiasm helped to establish the popularity of sailing in Germany, even though his first two yachts were built in Britain and Meteor III in the United States. His crews were British too until 1906, when the rising tide of anti-British feeling led to their replacement by German sailors while Meteor IV and Meteor V were designed and built at German shipyards.

But in June 1904 all minds were concentrated on that day's racing, which promised to be thrilling. The freshening wind was now blowing straight down the Elbe estuary. The ebb tide, just beginning to flow, gave rise to a heavy swell that would tax the seamanship of those taking part in the race to the utmost.


Meteor III was tacking her way up to the starting line under full sail, followed by one of her keenest rivals, the American yacht Ingomar, owned by Morton F. Plant and helmed by the legendary Charlie Barr, who had shown his talent in a number of America's Cup races, and was certain to be going all-out for a win. From the start, the prospect of the American yacht's participation worried the organising committee, since it was by no means certain that the emperor would manage to defeat his rival. The builders of the Ingomar had put a premium on speed at the expense of comfort - in stark contrast to Wilhelm's yacht, which was fitted out in the opulent style befitting an emperor and whose deck always stayed dry, however much she heeled in the wind. Accommodation on board included an imperial bedroom suite, two saloons and a dining room that could accommodate 24 at a sitting.

As the starting cannon fired, the 11 yachts crossed the line and the spectators were treated to a dramatic duel on the Elbe. With all their canvas spread, Meteor III and Ingomar headed directly for one another as the American yacht began to overhaul Meteor III on the starboard tack. The vast bowsprit of the Ingomar was closing on the bow of the Emperor's yacht with alarming speed. In a few minutes, the two would collide if neither altered course. But which would give way? To the onlookers' consternation, it became clear that the imperial yacht was in breach of the sea's highway code by trying to muscle in and illegally steal its rival's water.

Wilhelm II's racing yachts

Naming the yachts 

Between 1887 and 1914, Wilhelm raced five yachts with great success, all of them called Meteor. The name commemorated a naval action in the Franco-Prussian,War.

The first three Meteors 

Meteor I and II were constructed in Scotland - Meteor I's original name was Thistle - but the-Emperor had Meteor III built in the United States.

Max Oertz's Meteors 

Both Meteor IV (1908)' and Meteor V (1913) were designed and built by the brilliant German shipwright Max Oertz. His work helped German yacht construction to gain an international reputation.


On board Ingomar, the crew's nerves were at breaking point. At the helm, Charlie Barr held steady, determined not to give an inch of seaway to his rival. Yet even he must have had a moment's doubt as he saw his vessel's bowsprit bearing down and threatening to skewer Meteor III. How seriously would a collision damage the imperial yacht and what would be the consequences if she sank, taking the Emperor with her, or left him swimming for his life?

Barr called out across the deck to his fellow crewmember Brooke Anthony Heckstall-Smith: 'Mr Smith, who has right of way?' 'The Ingomar' came the immediate reply. Though Barr knew the laws of seamanship as well as Heckstall-Smith, the two had previously agreed that the decision on any issue like this would be the latter's. 'Mr Robinson, what am to do?' said Barr, turning to the vessel's racing skipper. Quick as a flash, Charles Robinson, the Vice-Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, a man with nerves of steel, replied: 'Hold on'. 'By God, Charlie', suddenly chimed in Morton F. Plant, 'you're the boy. I'll give way to no man!'


Had the crew of Meteor III not come to their senses, things could have taken a disastrous turn. As a keen sailor, Wilhelm was fully aware of the rules and that he was in danger of breaking them. Despite the determination he liked to display, he had absolutely no intention of damaging Meteor III and risking injury to himself and his crew, especially as the really serious business of Kiel Week was due to start a few days later. Moreover, he was scheduled to take the salute at the review of the Imperial High Seas Fleet that was to be the highlight of the festivities. One of the many prominent guests invited to witness the occasion was King Edward VIII himself.

Perhaps it was such considerations that lay behind the Meteor III putting her helm down at the very last minute, when the Ingomar's bowsprit was barely a metre away from her rigging. The Ingomar also jammed her helm down as quickly as the wheel could be turned and the two vessels ranged alongside each other, their sides almost touching as they shot into the wind. Meteor III was the ultimate victor, though for Wiihelm the triumph must have been tainted by the apology he had to make to the Ingomar's skipper after the race. His enthusiasm for the sport remained undiminished. The following year, he was instrumental in founding the first trans-Atlantic yacht race for the Admiral's Cup, when 11 crack yachts set sail from New Jersey, USA, for the Lizard in Cornwall. This time, the American vessel Atlantic won first and the German contender Hamburg second. And, though he never took part personally, Wilhelm continued to enter his yachts in British regattas until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 put an end to his participation once and for all.

Before Wiihelm came to the throne, Germany had a tiny navy. Inspired by Grand Admiral Von Tirpitz, the Emperor fought hard to build a fleet big enough to rival Britain's Royal Navy and to help Germany to win its coveted 'place in the Sun'.


Spreading the word

Using thousands - sometimes even millions - of pieces of coloured stone, known as tesserae, to create elaborate pictures was a painstaking and expensive way to advertise a business - but one that was widely used in ancient Rome.

Black-and-white silhouette mosaics, made around AD 200, characterise the main squares and thoroughfares of Ostia, Rome's port at the mouth of the Tiber. This example depicts a sea nymph riding , a mythical beast - half bull and half serpent.

About 2000 years ago Ostia was the principal port serving Rome, then the most important city in the world. Located at the mouth of the Tiber, Ostia was densely populated with a broad cultural and racial mix. A combination of immigration and the import of slaves - mainly taken from Egypt, the Middle East and Turkey - added up to a population of some 50,000.

The city had a variety of buildings but, because it was a port, there was plenty of warehousing (horrea), for storing imported goods before they were transported to Rome and elsewhere in great barges towed up the Tiber by oxen. Ships docked at Ostia from all over the world, bringing cargoes of consumer goods such as corn, oil, wine, dates and papyrus - and luxury commodities such as gold, silk and ivory. Roman goods were also exported through the port.


The city's heart was in the theatre district. There, built around a large square - the Piazzale delle Corporazione - were the various guilds' headquarters. The offices housed trade associations of craftsmen and merchants, from shipbuilders to corn traders. The most imposing buildings were the elegant offices of the shipowners or navicularii, who drummed up business by hanging carved or painted signs outside and using wall paintings to advertise their services. Then someone had the novel idea of using the floor and commissioned a mosaic - an image made up of tiny tiles - to illustrate the services on offer.

This expensive publicity stunt proved so successful that, before long, other navicularii around the square followed suit. Ultimately, the entrance to almost every one of the 70 or so businesses in the city's port area was adorned with a mosaic floor. Passers-by could see what sort of goods or services were mailable within and, in some cases, could read a clear inscription of the owner or his country of origin. A cosmopolitan range of businesses advertised in this way. Mosaic inscriptions show that traders came from Gaul, North Africa and Egypt - and they often reflected aspects of their homelands in their floor designs. The navicularii from the North African region of Missua suggested the nature of their business

Merchants from Sabratha (in modern-day Libya) used a picture of an elephant. This is thought to imply that Sabratha exported elephants - and probably other wild beasts - as well as ivory.

with sea creatures, ships and a lighthouse at a harbour mouth. They also invited the potential customer to stop and browse by placing the simple word hic (here) in the mosaic. Carthaginian shippers - navicularii Carthaginenses - showed grain ships typical of those used to cross between Africa and Italy.

Mosaics unearthed

Gladiators in Germany 

In 1852, a publican in Nennig in the Saar region of Germany unearthed a large finely coloured mosaic depicting gladiatorial scenes, dating from the 2nd century AD.

Satyrs at the cathedral

In 1941 a mosaic showing Dionysus, maenads and satyrs was discovered at the southern entrance to Cologne Cathedral during the building of an air raid shelter.

Mosaics in every room 

In 1960, a Roman palace was discovered at the village of Fishbourne near Chichester in West Sussex during the digging of a main water trench. Dating from the 1st century AD, every one of the villa's 100 or so rooms has a mosaic floor.


The use of mosaics for advertising and public relations was not restricted to shipping. The owner of a thermal bath enticed customers with the simple invitation bene lava (bathe well), while reminding people not to forget to take off their shoes when entering - and to take them with them when they left.

The restaurant trade touted for custom with simple signs in doorways - some of which blatantly drew attention to the poor service or high prices of competitors.

The classic motto in mosaic form was cave canem (beware of the dog) which adorned the entrance of many Roman houses, and was designed both to warn the unwary and deter unwanted guests.


The fall of the



A carrier pigeon bearing a false message spelled doom for the Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers, which had withstood no fewer than twelve Muslim sieges.

The soldiers manning the ramparts desperately scanned the horizon for any sign of relief forces. Muslim besiegers had broken through the outer ring of fortifications and were now preparing to storm the the castle's inner defences. Suddenly, a carrier pigeon appeared in the sky. The note was from Grand Master of the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem - the Knights Hospitaller - in Tripoli. He told the defenders that no relief could be despatched, and advised them to make the best terms they could with their assailants. So the garrison accepted the offer of safe conduct back to the coast and surrendered. The mightiest Christian stronghold in Syria had finally fallen.


Perched high on a windswept mountain spur, dominating the strategic pass between the Mediterranean coast and the inland cities of Horns and Hama, Krak des Chevaliers was a great prize. Such was its reputation for impregnability that many centuries later, T. E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia - described it as 'the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world'.

The Crusades

A call from the Pope

In 1095 Pope Urban II called for a Crusade

to be launched as a 'holy war' against Islam.

A crusade for Christ

Crusaders aimed to liberate Jerusalem and

reconquer the Holy Land for Christianity.

A short-lived success 

Territories captured in the first years of the Crusades - such as Antioch in 1098, and Jerusalem, in 1099 - were all eventually retaken by the Muslims.

The eighth Crusade 

The final Crusade ended with the defeat of Louis IX's army and the French king's capture in 1270. In 1291, Acre, the last Christian stronghold, fell to Muslim forces.

In 1031, the Emir of Aleppo built a Muslim stronghold on the site. Crusader forces under Raymond of Toulouse captured it during the First Crusade in 1099, but abandoned it when they marched on Jerusalem. The castle fell into Christian hands again in 1110, when Tancred of Hauteville, Prince of Antioch, retook it and in 1142 Raymond II, Count of Tripoli, gave it to the Knights Hospitaller, who remodelled it into the most powerful Crusader fortress in the entire Holy Land. Krak des Chevaliers was fortified with two ingeniously engineered concentric lines of defence, the inner ramparts lying close enough to the outer ones to continuously overlook and dominate them. The 30-metre-thick outer wall, had seven massive guard towers. Deep under the castle, vast storage rooms were carved out of solid rock. They held sufficient food and other provisions to enable the Hospitallers to withstand a siege for as long as five years. Nor did the garrison risk perishing from thirst. A special aqueduct was built to feed fresh water to deep reservoirs in the underground cellars.

The Crusaders suffered numerous defeats at the hands of their Muslim adversaries in the 13th , century. A 14th-century illustration from a French manuscript shows a battle scene, with the Muslims in control.

The castle withstood Muslim onslaught for well over a century. In 1163, Nur ad-Din, Sultan of Damascus, laid determined siege to the place, only to be driven off by relieving Crusader troops in a battle in the valley below the castle. In 1188 Saladin, Nur ad-Din's successor, began his own siege, but quickly decided to end it, reckoning that his forces would be better employed fighting the Crusader armies in the field. Nevertheless, in Muslim eyes it was still imperative that the fortress - the 'bone in the throat' as it had been nicknamed by those who had tried to take it - be captured if they were to succeed in eradicating the Christian presence in the Holy Land. Fate decreed that Bayburs I, a onetime soldier-slave who had risen inexorably from his humble origins to become the Sultan of Egypt, would be the man who succeeded where all others had failed. 


Born on the steppes of far-off Turkestan in around 1223, Bayburs is captured as a young man by the Mongols and sold into slavery in Egypt. He ended up in the service of the Ayyubid Sultan where he became known for his military skills. In 1250, he led an audacious attack by the Mamelukes - the warrior-slaves who fought for the Sultan - on the Crusaders and routed them at the battle of Monsrah. Louis IX of France, commander of the Crusader army, was captured on the battlefield and released only after payment of a heavy ransom. A decade later, Bayburs defeated the Mongol armies at the battle of Am Jalut in 1260. After the battle, he murdered Sultan Qutuz on the return journey to Cairo and took his place on the throne.

Baybars' first move was to establish his rule over Egypt. That accomplished, he pushed into Palestine and Syria to destroy the remains of Crusader power. He chose his moment well. Support for the Crusaders had long since waned in Europe. Though Baybars failed to capture Acre, the capital of what remained of the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1263, he went on to decimate the Crusader armies in the field before successfully laying siege to Antioch in 1268. Once the city had fallen, he had it razed to the ground. Its people were enslaved.

Finally, in 1271, the Mamelukes stood before the gates of Krak des Chevaliers. The Hospitaller forces that confronted the onward march of Baybars' army were by now seriously depleted. In its heyday, 2000 handpicked knights had garrisoned the castle, but, by the latter half of the 13th century, it and Margat, the only other important fortress still in Crusader hands in the area, could muster only 300 knights between them. Nevertheless, Krak des Chevaliers initially withstood the Muslim attack. It took four weeks for Baybars' troops to break through the vulnerable southern section of the outer wall. Given the rate of progress, Baybars must have wondered how many lives it would take to force the garrison into submission.

This consideration prompted Baybars to devise a ruse to achieve his objective. It was he who dispatched the carrier pigeon with its message urging surrender. Even though the Hospitallers were in all probability aware that the message had not been sent by their Grand Master, they were all too keen to comply with its demand in the light of their hopeless situation. Preserving their dignity - and, more importantly their lives - they fled unmolested to Tripoli. The impregnable bulwark had fallen. On April 8, 1271, the banner of the Prophet Mohammed flew for the first time over Krak des Chevaliers.