Historical Footnotes

300 B.C.

You’re not going to believe this, but it’s true. Ptolemy’s wife was named Bernice. Also spelled Berenice, but we know.

Their son was the Ptolemy who later built the famed library of Alexandria.

The first head librarian, Eratosthenes, was also the first scholar to calculate the earth’s circumference. He found to his astonishment that it ended not three feet from where it began.

909 A.D.

The Abbey of Cluny (or Clugny) in France was built in 909 and became the center of a farflung monastic order that eventually produced four popes. It was not until 1658 that Blaise Pascal was able to prove that four popes beats a straight flush.

(Note: farflung is the past tense of farfling, now obsolete.)

One of the early Cluniac monks, Raul Glaber, was none other than Rudolf the Bald.

1413 A.D.

There’s an old castle in Herefordshire built by, though not named after, Sir John Oldcastle.

A carousing companion of Henry V during the king’s earlier days as prince of Wales, Oldcastle provided at least part of Shakespeare’s template for Sir John Falstaff. And, like Falstaff, he soon fell out of favor with the king.

Oldcastle was a leader among the Lollards, followers of John Wycliffe who wanted to reform the church. Convicted of heresy in 1413, he escaped from the Tower of London and organized a march to capture Henry at Eltham Palace in Kent. The marchers were routed by Henry’s troops, but Oldcastle escaped again, remaining at large for four more years until he was apprehended by the bishops, hanged, and burned.

Well, what would Jesus do?

Shakespeare left that part out of the play.

This entry was posted in Literary Aerie by Al. Bookmark the permalink.

About Al

Editors of The Horse You Rode In On (listed below) hail from Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. All contributions are signed. When guest contributors are included, their comments will be signed in a manner consistent with their needs for discretion, witness protection, or yearning for personal adulation.