Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Sicilian Vespers

the Sicilian vespers

The term Sicilian Vespers refers to the historical event that took place in the thirteenth century when Sicily became independent from Angevin occupation. The word literally means the vesper hour of sunset.

Historical Facts

We are in Sicily during the reign of the Angevins. The tyranny of King Charles lasted so long, the Sicilian people was tired and harassed by the constant abuses inflicted by the Angevin kingdom. Meanwhile, King Charles prepared for war against Constantinople and set up militia to attack the castles  strategic places and the main towns of the island.

The Angevin King was assisted by the vicar Herbert d'Orleans in Messina, while Palermo was assisted by Minister John of San Remigio. Authorized by them, the army officers were responsible for violence, robberies and spreading terror throughout the island.
King Charles Capet

The inhabitants of Sicily reached their limits. During Easter, the citizens of Palermo gathered to pray in the Church. Also in this sacred place they were forced to tolerate the abuses by agents of the IRS ,who with no respect  burst into the temple and draw by force debtors who had not paid their taxes.

After this they handcuffed them and carried them in jail, the officers denounced and insulted  the crowd which meanwhile was rushed. Episodes of outrage on the part of the French against the local population were followed, but the most serious incidents in the historic revolt of the "Sicilian Vespers" took place on the Tuesday after Easter, on March 31, 1282.

In Palermo's Church of the Holy Spirit, a religious celebration was held. In the hours of evening  many people rushed: they are women, men, families who wanted to pray in peace and quiet. Some were held  back in the meadows that surrounded the Church taking advantage of the first warm days of spring, others danced accompanied by the sound of musical instruments. During these joyful festivities suddenly appeared some Frenchmen who mingled with the people,  behaving arrogantly and not very friendly towards the women who were present.
Soon some men reacted to the foreigners and ordered to give up their women. The French, however, had no intention of going away, and continued their provocations. At one point, a French rummaged  the breast of a woman in search of any hidden weapons, and she fainted  to the ground from fear. Outraged her husband, began to cry, "Death to these Frenchmen."
the pretext for the uprising

The hatred and anger which for so long repressed in the souls of the Sicilians exploded violently. Near the church was created an unspeakable scrum, and the French, although they were armed, succumbed. 

The revolt was not suppresed and reached the city of Palermo. Roger Mastrangelo initiated a fierce battle of the Sicilians and the Angevins that at some point,  had such frightening ferocity that none of the belligerents could even react and beg for mercy.
The church of the holy spirit

There was no escape even for those French who sought shelter in churches and convents, because once found they were slaughtered anyway. John of San Remigio, the minister of King Charles, defended himself in his palace, but the crowd broke through the main gate with the intention of killing him. However he managed to escape and flee with his family.

About four thousand French died during the uprising. The corpses were left on the streets or thrown into large pits dug here and there. On the night of March 31, 1282 the Sicilians gathered in the parliament and declared the city of Palermo free from Angevin rule.In the  following days they organized a federation under the protection of the Church. Approximately a month after the episode of the Sicilian Vespers, almost the whole island was free from Angevin oppression .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

People who refused to die

Through history humanity has exceeding a lot of times its limits.Here are some examples of people who either from luck ,duty or desire to live succeeded to survive through lethal circumstances.

Hiroo Onoda
Hiroo Onoda
A Japanese soldier who remained in a Philippine jungle for 30 years after the end of WWII.
On December 17, 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda left for the Philippines to join the Sugi Brigade (the Eighth Division from Hirosaki). Here, Onoda was given orders by Major Yoshimi Taniguchi and Major Takahashi. Onoda was ordered to lead the Lubang Garrison in guerrilla warfare. As Onoda and his comrades were getting ready to leave on their separate missions, they stopped by to report to the division commander. The division commander ordered:
You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we'll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that's the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you to give up your life voluntarily.
Onoda took these words more literally and seriously than the division commander could ever have meant them.

Onoda remained in the jungle along with his comrades for 30 years. During these years all the others died except him. When he was found, he refused to believe that Japan lost the war. He needed to hear it from his commander himself. Thus his commander, a booksheller travelled to the Philippines to order Onoda to surrender.

Poon Lim
Poon Lim

A WWII castaway in the Atlantic ocean. He was on a British navy ship which was sunk by a German U-boat. He survived on a raft for 133 days!

On April 5, 1943, after 133 days in the life raft, Poon Lim neared land and a river inlet. A few days earlier, he had known that he was close to the land because the colour of the water had changed; it was no longer the oceanic deep blue. Three Brazilian fishermen rescued him and took him to Belém three days later.

Steven Callahan
Steven Callahan
He survived for 76 days inside a life-raft having consumed only 8 glasses of water and 3 kgs of food.

Uruguayan air force flight 571

15 passengers of the flight survived for 72 days after their plane crashed on the Andes mountains.They had to feed from dead passengers in order to survive.

Slavomir Rawicz
Slavomir Rawicz
He was a Polish lieutenant who was imprisoned by the Soviets.In 1942 he escaped from a Soviet Gulag and walked on foot along with six other persons through Siberia, Gobi desert and Tibet to reach British India.

Juliane Koepche
Juliane Koepche
A German Peruvian school student who fell from a height of 10.000 feet(3.2 kms) and survived. Her plane was hit by a thunder and broke up, she survived the fall perhaps because she was strapped in her seat and somehow it buffered the crash.The real adventure would start after the fall as her glasses were broken and she was in an unhospitable jungle.She followed the survival principle her father taught her. She followed a water stream that eventually led her to civilization.

 Leonid Rogozov
Leonid Rogozov
A Russian scientist in Antarctica. He carried out an apendectomy on himself.His condition was urgent and the nearest research station where he could ask for help was 1600 km away. With the help of a driver and a meteorologist who were giving him surgery tools and holding the mirror he removed the appendix after a 2 hours long self-surgery.

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