Dear Readers: One consequence of the election is that I will be featuring more history-oriented posts (as most of my current event content will go to Legal Insurrection and College Insurrection.
Let me start with an homage to Egyptology: Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Princess Discovered in Unusual Spot
The tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess has been discovered south of Cairo hidden in bedrock and surrounded by a court of tombs belonging to four high officials.
Dating to 2500 B.C., the structure was built in the second half of the Fifth Dynasty, though archaeologists are puzzled as to why this princess was buried in Abusir South among tombs of non-royal officials. Most members of the Fifth Dynasty’s royal family were buried 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) to the north, in the central part of Abusir or farther south in Saqqara.
(Saqqara holds a vast burial ground for the ancient capital Memphis and is home to the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser.)
The researchers aren’t sure whether the remains of the princess are inside tomb, as the investigation is still in progress, Miroslav Bárta, director of the mission, told LiveScience. Even so, they also found several fragments of a false-door bearing the titles and the name of Sheretnebty, the king’s daughter. [Image Gallery: Egypt’s Great Terrace of God]
“By this unique discovery we open a completely new chapter in the history of Abusir and Saqqara necropolis,” said Bárta, who heads the Czech mission to Egypt from the Czech Institute of Egyptology of the Charles University in Prague.
Bárta and colleagues think the ancient builders used a naturally existing step in the bedrock to create the princess’ court, which extends down 13 feet (4 meters) and is surrounded by mastaba tombs above it. A mastaba is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb that forms a flat-roofed rectangular structure.
A limestone staircase descends from north to south along the burial court; four limestone pillars that once supported roofing blocks hold carved hieroglyphic inscriptions reading: “King’s daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the Great God, Sheretnebty.”
The four surrounding tombs were cut into the rock of the south wall of the court and of a corridor that runs east from the southeast corner of the court. The two tombs in the south wall, dating to the time of Djedkare Isesi, the seventh ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, belong to Shepespuptah, the chief of justice of the Great House, and Duaptah, an inspector of the palace attendants. The other pair is situated along the corridor, with one belonging to an official named Ity.
“We are very fortunate to have this new window through which we can go back in time and to follow and document step by step life and death of several historically important individuals of the great pyramid age era,” Bárta said in a statement.
Now, turning to a little history, I would like to highlight a few of the high-level military men who had fairly meaningful romantic affairs — and, yet, still managed to open a can of whoopass on the enemy:
Here is a fact I did not know until digging in to military leaders and their mistresses: George Washington had a major crush on a beauty named Sally Fairfax: We cannot tell a lie—George Washington almost certainly did not have an affair with Sally Fairfax, wife of his mentor, William Fairfax, one of the most prominent men in Virginia. But the young soldier was clearly smitten with her. “Tis true, I profess myself a Votary to Love,” Washington famously wrote to her in 1758. “I feel the force of her amiable beauties in the recollection of a thousand tender passages that I wish to obliterate, till I am bid to revive them—but experience alas! Sadly reminds me how Impossible this is.” The following year, Washington married the wealthy widow Martha Dandrige Custis—and the rest is American history.
Another analysis indicates the relationship between George and Sally may have been more substantial:
The evidence rests on two mysterious letters sent in September 1758, when George was a social-climbing, 26-year-old farmer-turned-army colonel writing from the front lines of the French and Indian War, and Sally was the belle of Virginia, a pretty, sophisticated and flirtatious minx two years his senior. George had met Sally several years earlier, when she married his Anglophile neighbor, G. W. Fairfax, in Mount Vernon, Virginia. The Washingtons and Fairfaxes were old family friends, so young George spent many nights playing cards, dancing, and enjoying amateur theatricals at the luxurious Fairfax mansion. Then, in 1757, while he was still recovering from “bloody flux” or dysentery he had, a little unconventionally, invited Sally to visit while her husband was away in London. The pair evidently got on like a house on fire: The poorly educated Washington, from a socially modest family, was dazzled by the lovely, refined, and aristocratic Sally. She was also attracted to the studly young George, who had a modicum of fame for his war exploits and was tall (over 6’ 2”, a giant for the period) and handsome, with gray-blue eyes and auburn hair tied in a short pigtail — a dashing effect, despite poor teeth and mild facial scars from a childhood bout with smallpox.
And so the next September, when Sally wrote to congratulate him on his engagement to the rich, plump, and good-natured widow Martha Dandridge Custis, George wrote back with a convoluted letter implying that his real passion lay with her, Sally. (“Tis true, I profess myself a Votary to Love — I acknowledge that a Lady is in the Case — and further confess, that this Lady is known to you… I feel the force of her amiable beauties in the recollection of a thousand tender passages that I wish to obliterate, till I am bid to revive them — but experience alas! Sadly reminds me how Impossible this is.” His love, he goes on, is “an honest confession of a Simple Fact — misconstrue not my meaning — ‘tis obvious — doubt it not, nor expose it, — the World has no business to know the object of my Love, declared in this manner to — you when I want conceal it…”) In the second letter, he explicitly compares himself and Sally to the fictional characters Cato and Juba — a pair of secret lovers in a famous literary work of the time. (“Do we still misunderstand the true meaning of each others Letters?” he writes. “I cannot speak plainer without — but I’ll say not more, and leave you to guess the rest.”)
Alas, it appears that, while George and Sally were quite possibly in love, the idea of an actual affair is the product of frustrated historians’ vivid imaginations. But as with so many bedroom sagas, we will never know the truth. Naysayers point out that there is no hard documentary evidence of consummation, and that George would hardly have risked his honor and career by indulging in a furtive liaison with Sally because of his friendship with her husband and father-in-law. Moreover, he was wildly ambitious, and already showing a stern self-discipline; their relationship, says the historian Joseph J. Ellis, fell under the category of “forbidden love,” and was the first sign of the self-denial that would characterize Washington’s life. His marriage to Martha, while perhaps inspired at first by her huge wealth, blossomed into a very happy and durable union; and before the Revolutionary War tore Virginia apart — Sally’s husband declared himself a Loyalist and took her away to Britain — the foursome were close friends and visited often.
Romantics, however, will never quite be convinced that a 26-year-old George would have been entirely ruled by pragmatism and social convention; after all, there is no evidence proving that they didn’t consummate their love. The pair’s later correspondence was tinged with regret. A year before his death in 1799, by then one of the world’s most famous individuals and in his late 60s, Washington wrote frankly to Sally in Britain that he had “never been able to eradicate from my mind those happy moments, the happiest in my life, which I have enjoyed in your company.” Then again, he included a note from Martha in the same letter, so the ambiguity of the message will forever remain.
Interestingly, a descendent of the beautiful Sally indicates great looks and the ability to flirt intensely is quite genetic! Perhaps there is some relationship to General Petraeus’ biographer. But, I digress.
I also recall the fairly successful Lord Admiral Nelson (e.g., Battle of the Nile) had a fairly intense affair with a beauty named Emma Hamilton. That gives me an excuse to share one of my favorite Vivian Leigh films, That Hamilton Woman.
Finally, fellow historian Word Warrior had a great post on the Petraeus resignation, which is the must-read of the day.
The loss of a man of such brilliance from public service should not be taken lightly. Such losses can have deep consequences, unforseen at the time. Future historians, perhaps commenting on the decline of the American Empire, will take not of Petraeus’ fall from grace; and note this milestone, a sign of that America is no longer a serious society capable of greatness, or worthy of Great Power status.
My take: Benghazi claims another victim.
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