Friday, November 10, 2006

From the Annals of Creative Executions 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhen fed-up natives captured Pedro de Valdivia, a conquistador infamous for his rapacious cruelty and lust for gold, they pried open his mouth and poured molten gold down his throat. As ghastly a way to die as that must have been, it still beats how Edward II was dispatched: with a glowing hot poker up the ass. (He was suspected of being gay and had been promoting too many of his lowborn 'favorites.')

The Mongols liked their executions colorful, practically elevating them to an art form. From John Dolan's "Missing the Mongols":

"They (the Mongols) poured molten silver in the eyes and ears of traitors--a visual joke. They could be compassionate: when Genghiz Khan captured Jamukha, his closest friend, he did Jamukha the honor of killing him by rolling him up in a carpet and crushing him with boulders, so that the blood would remain in the body. They had their own sense of righteousness: when the small Slavic town of Kozelsk, near Kaluga, resisted them for months, they dubbed it "the wicked town." So upset were they with the scandalous behavior of Kozelsk that they not only killed all the inhabitants (which went without saying), but drowned the child-prince, Vladimir, in human blood."

Want more, you sick little devils? List of unusual ways to go.

Hmmmmm. What else. I’m still immensely enjoying Pox: Genius, Madness and Syphilis. The author's theory why 15th - 17th century Spaniards were such dicks:

"The Spain that Columbus left behind was already one of great carnage. Seven hundred years of warfare to take back Spain from the Moors had formed a warrior culture rooted in the values of the conquistador. The Inquisition sought out heretics and non-believers to torture and murder at the stake or on the gallows, to burn or hang, behead or flay. Columbus, very much a man of his times and culture, used these same violent methods against the people he found in the New World."

As I’ve written before, no two cultures deserved each other more than the Spaniards and Aztecs, because what disgusting torture one hadn’t invented the other one had. I have great admiration for the Aztecs, what with their culture's blend of cannibalism and dazzling achievements in astronomy, but I don’t pity them or romanticize them as helpless innocents. The inhabitants of Hispaniola, Columbus’ first stop, however, were peaceful and gentle and Columbus and his men abused their hospitality egregiously. After the natives welcomed them with singing and flowers, Columbus and his men entertained themselves by raping, sport torturing, feeding native infants to dogs, burning natives alive, amputating native limbs, etc. Too bad for Columbus, his men and the rest of Europe, though - the natives were teeming with syphilis, and had their revenge by infecting Columbus’s crew with a virulent new strain to which the men had no resistance. This strain, or some new super-strain that resulted when it mixed with Old World syphillis, had its first major outbreak in Naples in 1493 and before this strain burned itself down those infected would die in as little as two weeks in such agonizing, odorous and grotesque ways that even the lepers shunned them. I’ve always thought that the disease exchange between the Old and New World was rather unfair so it’s heartening to learn that syphilis balanced the scales a bit.

I agree with the point about Spaniards in the new world. If they had a lesser degree of fanaticism they wouldn't have accomplished so much. The ethics of those achievements are, and were, debatable, of course.

Another point about the Aztecs: history texts usually portray the conquest of Mexico as quick & easy, with Cortez doing it all on his own. It actually took over 2 years, & Cortez had a lot of native help, from tribes that the Aztecs had conquered.
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