Thursday, May 11, 2017

Virgil's Underworld: A Land Of Death...And Reincarnation

  (Dante and Virgil in Hell, by Crescenzio Onofri  (–1714) and Livio Mehus  (1630–1691), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In The Aeneid, an epic poem written by the Roman poet, Virgil (70-19 BCE), the main character of the story (Aeneas) traveled into the underworld to meet his father. The scenes that Virgil painted about the realm of the dead in book six of his masterpiece are likely some of the most vivid and elaborate illustrations of the ancient Greco-Roman underworld.

Virgil’s description of the underworld was so compelling that it undoubtedly served as an inspiration for Dante Alighieri’s conception of Hell in his famous work, The Divine Comedy. Despite Virgil’s disquieting portrayal of the gloomy, depressing and gruesome side of the underworld, he also described a highly interesting system of reincarnation that occurred in the Fields of Elysium. Although Virgil was not the only person from ancient Greece and Rome to envision reincarnation—Pythagoras and his followers also believed in rebirth—it is, nonetheless very interesting to read about souls in Greco-Roman mythology participating in a system of reincarnation similar to what can be found in Buddhism and Hinduism.

Journeying to the Underworld

  (Aeneas and the Cumaean Sibyl, by François Perrier  (1594–1649), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Aeneas’ adventure to the underworld began when he decided to break into the realm of the dead to speak with his father. He sought out a renowned Sibyl in Cumae to teach him how a living man could enter the realm of the dead. She directed him to a Stygian marsh, where he needed to obtain a golden bough that would be vital to them during their journey into the depths of the underworld.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

U. S. General William T. Sherman Was Shipwrecked Twice In One Day During One Odd And Unbelievable Adventure

(General William Tecumseh Sherman from 1865 in front of a sinking ship painted by painting by Willy Stöwer (* 1864; † 1931), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In early 1853, William Tecumseh Sherman was a captain of the United States Commissary Department, but he was looking for a change in profession. Around this time, some buddies sent Sherman an invitation to join a banking venture named Lucas, Turner & Co. Sherman enjoyed, and was comfortable in, his military life, but admitted that he would not mind a higher wage. Therefore, he petitioned his superiors for leave to journey to California to meet with his potential business partners and assess their banking operation.

From his location in New Orleans, Sherman boarded a steamship heading toward Nicaragua. Once he had arrived there, the passengers took smaller boats across the Nicaragua River and Lake, and made the rest of the voyage to San Juan del Sur by mule.

Now the passengers were ready to depart Nicaragua for California. Sherman boarded the propeller ship, S. S. Lewis, which Sherman later remembered was commanded by Captain Partridge. For the voyage, Sherman was given his own stateroom with three berths located on the deck of the ship. Little did Sherman know, however, just how dramatic his sea voyage upon the S. S. Lewis would turn out to be.