That Greatest City In Flames
~ ITEM: Byzantium 1200 – 3D Reconstruction
~ ITEM: Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization by Lars Brownworth
~ ITEM: The Fall of Constantinople
~ ITEM: 1571: Remember Lepanto!, by Robert McMullen
~ ITEM: 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, by Roger Crowley
~ ITEM: First Barbary War 1801-1805
~ IMAGINE SOMEONE trying to make sense of the modern world without reference to the two World Wars. Nothing would fit.. effects without causes, strange changes and events, none of which quite made a whole picture.
Scholar and author J.R.R. Tolkien warned his readers and critics over and over against lazy allegorizing: reading into or reading out of his stories as if they were thinly veiled commentary on modern history, people, and events. The War of the Ring was not either World War; the Ring was not the A-Bomb, and all the orcs were not on the other side.
However, just as the corpsified swamps, the desolation before the Black Gate of Mordor, and the trench-carved hell outside besieged Minas Tirith have something visceral to do with the Western Front in World War I, so the orcs and Minas Tirith have something to do with a catastrophe which goes unmarked in the minds of many, and thus the consequences misunderstood and misinterpreted by Tolkien readers, literary commentators, and film-makers alike. 1453.
Minas Tirith, All Orced Up
The Eastern Romans
BOOK — Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World by Colin Wells
The Eastern Roman Empire– unlike the barbarian-torn West which became Europe under Benedict and Charlemagne and Saint Patrick and so many others– never fell. It endured.. nibbled away chunk by piece until The Year Of Our Lord, AD 1453.
Mehmet’s Big Gun.. And Balls
Then the Great City of Constantine, guarded behind her eternal walls water and the holy angels, fell to the barbarians of Muhammed, armed with the latest and largest cannon and a longing to take a city which had defied them for over 800 years.
She was a hollow shell by the 1450s, a collection of villages and ruins and impressive leftovers behind the high triple-landwall and her seawalls. From the pillagings of the Crusaders, and battling Emperors and invasion and depradation of her once far-flung Empire, it was mere remnants, and your proverbial rag-tag international crew of misfits come together for the final agonies of the great city.
The seige was Biblical; the 1000 year old landwalls named for Theodosius trembled under the shock of the latest in cannon-making technology; the troops of Islam flung themselves against the walls like a raging and ever-rising storm-tide. The last Emperor died defending her gates.
“On the twenty-ninth of May, the last day of the siege, our Lord God decided, to the sorrow of the Greeks, that He was willing for the city to fall on this day into the hands of Mahomet Bey the Turk son of Murat, after the fashion and in the manner described below; and also our eternal God was willing to make this decision in order to fulfill all the ancient prophecies, particularly the first prophecy made by Saint Constantine, who is on horseback on a column by the Church of Saint Sophia of this city, prophesying with his hand and saying, “From this direction will come the one who will undo me,” pointing to Anatolia, that is Turkey. Another prophecy which he made was that when there should be an Emperor called Constantine son of Helen, under his rule Constantinople would be lost, and there was another prophecy that when the moon should give a sign in the sky, within a few days the Turks would have Constantinople. All these three prophecies had come to pass, seeing that the Turks had passed into Greece, there was an Emperor called Constantine son of Helen, and the moon had given a sign in the sky (an eclipse), so that God had determined to come to this decision against the Christians and particularly against the Empire of Constantinople, as you shall hear.”
Prizes For Everyone
Escaping scholars and Byzantine people brought the treasures of monasteries and Imperial libraries Westwards, and helped cause the European Renaissance; art and artifacts– those not stolen by the Crusaders in the 1200s– came with the refugees to Mount Athos, Mystras above Sparta, to cities of Italy and the west. Even in her dying agonies in the late 1300s and onwards, she was like a bag of gold slit open, spilling treasure and life and memory and worship and truth like gold pieces falling to the earth.
Go and read up– it’s one of the greatest largely unknown stories of our western history.
From Middle Earth
For Tolkien, an informed scholar and attentive man of his times and history, the Turks were known (as they were) to be Jihad-friendly genocidal brutal folks, with a guttural-sounding language, and the rape and conquest of Constantinople behind them– not to mention countless purges, destruction of history and literature and artifacts and churches, under the tutelage of the Greatest Heretic since Judas, the sworn enemy of all other religions, Muhammed the Bloody.
Elements of the Turks appear on the speech and actions and names of the orcs in the Ring Trilogy; the siege of Minas Tirith derives in part from the great loss and horror of the siege against Constantinople. The armies of Rohan and Aragorn appear at the last moment to save the city, unlike Byzantium, which might well have been saved by a last crusade of the West, had not France been in geopolitical bed with the Sultan, the gold-grubbing leaders of Venice not to be bothered; the rest of Europe too divided or stupid or entangled in closer schemes and conflicts to divert money, ships, and knights to defend what was the real bulwark against Islam for 800 years.
Most of the West stood by, and few enough recognized the loss and what would inevitably come after the death-agonies of Constantinopolis. Westerners today are pretty much the same.
The Mediterranean soon became a Muslim lake; Istanbul took up the trade and some of the culture of Byzantium, under a totalitarian religion; the Sultans built palaces and mosques and harems on and inside the ruins of Byzantine palaces and churches an monasteries; and her armies swarmed, and her navies became like a movable forest on the waves.
BOOKNESS— Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto by Niccolo Capponi
EVEN MORE Booky Goodness— The Siege of Vienna: The Last Great Trial Between Cross & Crescent, by John Stoye
The rest of the 15th century saw endless advance, the 16th the Battle of Lepanto; the conquest of much of Eastern Europe, Greece, Hungary, and the first seige of Vienna, the key to the heart of Europe. Even into the 1800s, the infant United States was forced to pay 1/3 of her national income to Muslim pirates centred in Tripoli to leave American trade alone. Eventually the U.S. decided to send her Navy and Marines (“..to the shores of Tripoli..”) to put an end to that lucrative little enterprise of Muslims taxing the infidel.
“..to the shores of Tripoli..”
So read up on the fall of Constantinople; her last tragic days; Lepanto & Vienna & Tripoli; and understand it’s still happening all around us. And the next time you read or watch Lord of the Rings and see Minas Tirith, realize with wonder that such a place– and better than the story– once stood upon earth, and that Europe and you and all you hold dear is a gift from the dying hands of the Eastern Romans. ~
Go Bump In The Night
Fae ghosties & ghoulies
& lang-legged beasties
& things that go bump in the nicht…
Guid lord, deliver us!
~ ITEM: IMDB- Supernatural 2005-2012
~ FOR A SHOW MOSTLY ABOUT two brothers hunting evil, demons, vengeful ghosts and the end of the World, Supernatural has a wicked sense of humour, and attempts to get the facts right.. but the writers are tempted by the usual simplification and dramatic possibilities of sloppy theology & angelology. What, fail in your research department?
Hence, contrary to Christian teaching, demons are not discarnate rebel angels, but evil humans become forever early. Angels can possess people; have no sight of God’s face; are cranky semi-robotic human-disliking jerks who get bored and rebellious and partial to limited human wisdom and torture, versus the Will of God. Demons can apparently take over anybody at all.
As for God, the Almighty according to McG can not only re-incarnate (apparently they forgot about Jesus and the words of the most basic Christmas Carols) but he can get lost, and whatever else can happen to superhero-types, and he’s a jerk. And there’s not exactly much attention paid to heaven, but lots of imagery and talk of hell. Hell, like sex, sells I suppose.
On The Other Hand
Except: angels are actually a different kind of being; discarnate mind and will serving God and his world and people; God is not another thing in the catalogue of creatures, but the eternal unbegotten perfect infinite source of all things ever anywhere.. in Himself without body, parts, or passions as the old definition has it.
The God depicted in Supernatural is a sloppy if clever high school misunderstanding writ large. On the one hand, supernatural and legendary monsters and ghosties and long-legged beaasties and things that go bump in the night are all depicted in detail according to the usual canon. Sadly, director McG and the writers of Supernatural didn’t bother to talk to an orthodox or Orthodox member of the clergy or theologian (yes, such mythical creatures exist) to figure out God, nor lay out some reasonable boundaries of the heavenly side of the universe for their plotlines.
The Big Storyline
After all, speaking Biblically, there is 7000+ years of Biblical goodness and 4000 years of Hebrew faith and 2000 years of Christian thinking and living to help people understand the ways and nature of God. It’s what keeps Supernatural from being a truly great show with eternal verities, instead of a not-bad attempt to allow good and evil, God & the Devil, choice and consequence a place in TV and pop culture.
Coulda woulda shoulda been so much better. But there are still many redeeming points.
Latinities & Demon-Smiting
As in most stories of the horror genre, “Who Ya Gonna Call?” still tends not to be a liberal protestant, a new age or neo-pagan devotee, or a prof of comparative religion: nope, it’s holy water, Latin exorcism passages and rosaries and all things Catholic contra stark staring evil. Hate them or not, the Popisticals still hold as official doctrine all the old stuff about sin and death and hell and war in heaven and saints and relics and all that stuff– as do the eastern Orthodox.
On The Other Hand
However, Supernatural does remind us that people are either servants of God, or otherwise, but all have a place on the divine plan. What you do really matters, and if you won’t stand for goodness, truth, love, beauty, and God’s Kingdom, that choices and actions have eternal consequences.
It’s a curious contradiction that God’s things work, but God himself is a diminished presence in the show. It’s rather like our human souls: in desire of the goodies & prizes & blessings, but not the gift-giver himself. Thankless, rebellious, forgetful, sinful & confused.
Does Binks believe in all that stuff? Well, ghosts and demons, yes; God and angels, yes; an unseen world that permeates and impinges the seen at every place? An omnipotent, omnipresent, all-loving, omniscient God, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all that Creed stuff? Yes.
The Supernatural series: not recommended for those with tender consciences or uncertain faith, and especially not for those with unhealed exposure to the occult. Evil is afoot, and real, and not to be dabbled in needlessly. You are accountable for what you know: offer any past dabbling to God, and turn unto Jesus, the Risen Lord of the Living & the Dead. ~