History Articles

History of Ben Franklin: The Original Founding Father?

January 17, 2024 /
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Ben FranklinHISTORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

We know this polymath as a writer, publisher, printer, merchant, scientist, moral philosopher, international diplomat, and inventor.

He invented the glass harmonica in music, but he also invented the Franklin stove and started the first lending library and fire brigade in Philadelphia.

He did experiments with electricity and developed the lightning rod. He was considered:

America’s best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical, though not most profound, political thinkers. – Walter Isaacson. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

 

Ben Franklin in America

Born in Boston on January 17, 1706 *, he was among the earliest and oldest of the American Founding Fathers. He served as a lobbyist to England, was the first Ambassador to France, and has been called “The First American.”

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History of Martin Luther King, Jr.: His Life, Dream, and Legacy

January 12, 2024 /
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Martin Luther King JrHISTORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Born on January 15, 1929, we celebrate a holiday in honor of a man who was not a president, an explorer, or a saint. Instead, he was a Baptist minister and an American leader of the 1960s civil rights movement named after the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther after his father was inspired to change their name following a trip to Luther’s Wittenberg.

Though President Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1977, it was not until 1986 that a day was established as a federal holiday on the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The only other American federal holidays that honored individuals were for Jesus, President Washington, and Christopher Columbus.

 

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History of Military Stalemates: Why We Have Proxy Wars

January 11, 2024 /
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Stalemate.jpeg

History of Military Stalemates: Why We Have Proxy Wars

In recent weeks, the U.S. Congress has been considering bills for funding military support in Israel, Ukraine, and the Indo-Pacific (code for Taiwan).

What is the historical perspective behind funding wars that are not “directly” in a country or on its borders? Why do nations use proxy war strategies, and what are ancient and modern examples of them?

 

What is a Stalemate?

  • Chess: a condition on the board where no progress can be made or no advancement is possible because to do so would put their crucial piece (their King) in grave jeopardy.
  • Politics: a condition where neither side is able to be successful but has reached an intractable impasse or a deadlock.
  • Military: a condition where neither side can strike a decisive enough blow to utterly defeat the enemy without exposing itself to great harm.

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History of Epiphany and Twelfth Night: Ending the 12 Days of Christmas?

January 5, 2024 /
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EpiphanyHISTORY OF TWELFTH NIGHT AND EPIPHANY

Twelfth Night is on January 5, the eve of Epiphany, which occurs in the Christian calendar on January 6. Epiphany signifies the event of the Magi, or Wise Men, visiting the baby Jesus and is known in some Latin cultures as Three Kings Day.

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History of New Year’s Resolutions: Where Did They Begin?

January 2, 2024 /
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Janus Ponte Fabricio

Janus

HISTORY OF NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

As I mentioned previously, New Year’s Day celebrations began in pre-Christian times, beginning with the Babylonians in March but later changed to January by the Romans.

Where did we get the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, and why at the beginning of the year?

 

Roman New Year’s Resolutions

The month of January is dedicated to the Roman god who gave it its name, Janus, the two-faced deity who looks backward into the old year and forward into the new. His feast day, the Agonalia, is on January 9. Janus was also the patron and protector of arches (Ianus in Latin), transitions, time, gates, doors, doorways, endings, and beginnings. He was also the patron of bridges. This statue (pictured above) is set on the bridge Ponte Fabricio, which crosses the Tiber River from Rome to Tiber Island. It survives today from its original construction in 62 BC during the time of Julius Caesar.

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History of Telemachus: the Monk Who Ended the Roman Gladiatorial Games – January 1, A.D. 404

January 1, 2024 /
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TelemachusHistory of Telemachus: the Monk Who Ended the Roman Gladiatorial Games – January 1, A.D. 404

January 1, A.D. 404, marked the last known gladiatorial games in Rome. What part did an obscure Christian monk from the East play in this epic change in Roman entertainment?

This is the story of St. Telemachus, whose festival is celebrated today and has been remembered throughout the last 1600 years.

You may have never heard of the name. Or you know it as the name of the son of Homer’s Odysseus (Ulysses,) who was tutored and protected by Mentor while his father was away fighting the Trojan War.

Here’s the background of the little-known monk, how he brought an end to the Imperial gladiatorial games, and how the story has been adapted over the centuries until it was used less than 40 years ago by a President at an international event.

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History of New Year’s Day: Why on January 1?

January 1, 2024 /
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CalendarHISTORY OF NEW YEAR’S DAY

We have the ancient Romans to thank for celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1. It wasn’t always that way. Previous civilizations celebrated it in March to observe the “new year” of growth and fertility.

Before calendars existed, the time between seed sowing and harvesting was considered a cycle or a year. But the Romans moved the date of New Year to January 1, as I’ll explain below, but first a little on calendars.

The word Calendar comes from the first day of a month in the Roman (Latin) calendar: kalendae.

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My Top 5 Articles of 2023

December 31, 2023 /
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top 5 2023

My Top 5 Articles of 2023

These are the Top 5 articles from my blog this year based on the number of reader views at billpetro.com.

 

I publish my articles not only on my blog, my email newsletter, Medium, and Substack

 

Some of my readers find syndicate links to my articles on Facebook, Twitter/X, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Mastodon, Tumblr, Bluesky, Threads, and Reddit.

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History of Waltz Day: 123,123

December 31, 2023 /
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The Waltz, by Camille Claudel, 1905. Image: Wikipedia

HISTORY OF WALTZ DAY: 123, 123

December 31, 2023, or 12/31/23, is Waltz Day. A day like this is unique, occurring only once a century. For many, this will be the only time in their life they see this kind of date.

 

Waltz Day?

Though it has nothing to do with the annual National Waltz Dance Day celebrated on March 4th, it is so named because today’s date can be parsed as:

One-two-three,
One-two-three

… just like the timing of the waltz dance.

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History of Auld Lang Syne: What Does the Song Mean?

December 30, 2023 /
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Auld Lang SyneHISTORY OF AULD LANG SYNE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Why is it that each New Year’s Eve, we sing “Auld Lang Syne,” but do we know what it means?

The song contains words from a language that few are familiar with, in a syntax that is confusing to most, and is from a poem about friends recalling adventures they had long ago but had nothing to do with New Year’s Eve.

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History of New Year’s Eve

December 29, 2023 /
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Times Square, New York City

HISTORY OF NEW YEAR’S EVE

New Year’s Eve, according to the Gregorian Calendar, is the last day of the year and is known as Old Year’s Day or St. Sylvester’s Day.

You may remember reading that Emperor Constantine was considered the first “Christian” Roman Emperor. St. Sylvester is responsible for Constantine’s conversion in the 4th century. 

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History of Childermas: Feast of the Holy Innocents

December 28, 2023 /
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Childermas

Massacre of the Innocents, by Giotto

HISTORY OF CHILDERMAS: FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS

Childermas, from an Old English word meaning the Mass of the Infants, is the festival in the church calendar begun in the fifth century. It is celebrated in the Western Church on December 28 and in the Eastern Church on December 29. It is also known as Bairn’s Day (Scots term for child) and Día de Los Santos Inocentes in Spanish.

It commemorated the date when King Herod ordered the massacre of the children under two years of age in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, who “was born King of the Jews,” according to the Wise Men as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 2.

How many were killed?

Some traditional claims involve as many as 6,000 or 14,000, or even 144,000, though based on the population of male children in Bethlehem at that time, a few dozen is more likely.

Did this actually happen? Do we have any evidence from outside the Gospel story?
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