The Missionary Position

The “missionary position” is axiomatically considered to be the most boring of all sexual positions, in which the man is on top of the woman and both are lying down.  The name of it comes from the Trobriand Islanders.  When Christian missionaries reached the islands, they preached that only this position was acceptable, a fact that was much to the islanders’ distaste, for they considered it impractical and improper.  They even performed caricatures of the position around the communal campfire for entertainment, so strange did they find the idea.  It is from them, via Bronislaw Malinowski, the famous anthropologist who studied them, that this term entered the English lexicon.


My Daughter the Milkmaid

Oftentimes, the origin of a word can tell us something about the people who created it.  For instance, the Latin word for nothing, “nihil,” comes from the saying “not even a straw,” perhaps reflecting the Romans earthy natures.

The English word “daughter,” if traced back to its ancient Germanic origins, originally meant “milk maid.”  It doesn’t say much for those early speakers that that was the meaning of a daughter to them, but it can tell us about the importance of dairy to their daily lives.

The Roman Consulship

Once the Romans expelled their kings, they needed to decide who would now lead them.  Tarquin the Proud had so greatly ruined the concept of kingship, though, that the Romans developed an extreme hatred of the very name of king, and refused to ever allow such a person to rule them again.  In order to prevent any man from ever again acquiring a kingship, the Romans set up the consulship as their executive.

Two consuls shared power, each equal to the other, and if they disagreed, no action could be taken.  Additionally, their appointment was only for a year, after which, they were not supposed to be able to take office again for a decade, a rule that was frequently broken later in the Republic.

Nevertheless, the consular system persisted for centuries, and was one of the most stable systems of government in the ancient world, a superlative it shares with the Spartan dual kingship.  Perhaps having a double executive is superior to a single executive?

The First Language

The Egyptians used to believe that they were the oldest race of mankind.  However, one of their pharoahs, Psammetichus, was of an experimental bent, and decided to test this theory in the following way.  He took two newborn children, and placed them under the care of a goatherd, who was ordered to care for the children, and bring them food and milk as they needed, but was in no way to speak around them.

Whichever language the children first spoke naturally, without being taught, would be the ancestral, intrinsic language of mankind, and that race that oldest race of man.

The goatherd did as he was commanded for two years, until one day he entered the hut where he raised the children.  They came to him crying “Bekos!  Bekos!”  The goatherd waiting until he was certain that they had said the word intentionally and with meaning and purpose, and when he was sure, he returned to the pharoah and told him what he had heard.

Psammetichus than inquired to which language the word “bekos” belonged, and it was found to be the Phyrgian word for bread.  From then on, the Egyptians considered the Phrygians, inhabitants of modern-day Turkey, to be the oldest race of mankind.

The Origins of the Olympic Torch Relay

Carl Diem, the organizer of the 1936 Olympic games, hosted by Nazi Germany, wanted an event that would link the ancient Olympics with the modern games, and came up with the Olympic torch relay as not only a link between the past and present, but also as a showcase of German engineering and science.  The Nazis saw Ancient Greece, especially the Spartans, as an Aryan forerunner of their own society.  The first torch was lit in Greece by mirrors made by Zeiss, and the steel-clad magnesium torches used to carry the flame were made by Krupp, two German companies.  The media coverage was constant, masterminded by Josef Goebbels, master of propaganda, who had dramatic photographs taken of the relay and radio coverage of the event.  The torch’s route passed through countries where Nazi Germany was especially desirous of increasing its influence, including Austria, where the passage was marked by pro-Nazi demonstrations.

Darius and the Burials of the Greeks and Callatians

Darius, the Great King of the Persian Empire, once called together some Greeks and some Callatians, an Indian people, who were at his court.  To the Greeks, who cremated their dead, he asked what it would take for them to eat their dead fathers.  The Greeks were abhorred, and protested that they would not do such an act for any amount of money.  He then asked the Callatians, with an interpreter for the Greeks, what it would for them to cremate their dead fathers, and they protested as strongly as the Greeks had, for the custom of the Callatians was to eat their dead.  “Don’t mention such horrors!” they cried.  Thusly Darius showed that it is custom, not reason, that guides many of our actions.

Carrying the Bride over the Threshold

The reason why it’s traditional to carry the bride over the threshold dates back to the Rape of the Sabine Women.  When Rome was first founded by Romulus and Remus, they mostly attracted the dregs of society, those without connections or families.  Consequently, there was a dearth of women available to the first Romans.  In order to rectify this, Romulus invited the Sabines to a festival and, upon a given signal, the Romans fell upon them, capturing their wives and daughters and bringing them back to their homes unwillingly.  It is this event that is commemorated by this wedding tradition.