History and What’s in it for You?

History and What’s in it for You?
17 June 2016 0 Comment

The power of Imperial Rome and the genius of Renaissance Florence tells us that history has something for you! Perfect Traveller tells you what that something is.

If social network sites are any indication we are firmly and utterly engrossed, in every sense, with FOOD. Every bookshop dedicates their prime real estate displaying books on food in every conceivable manifestation. Food is quickly followed by ‘self-realisation’ discussions married to alternate anything; from medicines to weight-loss programs. Books on travel abound but mostly in the form of soporific, long winded written discourses on a person’s life-changing trip to Paris or dare I mention it, Tuscany! And then somewhere in the back of the shop, under a flickering neon tube that needs replacing is the history section!

Ah yes history. That complex cobweb of people’s and events, all connected to place and time and all there for you to pick and choose those moments that intrigue, entertain and yes, teach you something about now!  You might agree with Henry Ford who said, “History is more or less bunk.” One recent president of the United States clearly did and the mess he oversaw is yet to be untangled! History of course in not bunk but the very foundation of our existence, upon which is built our systems of education and politics. If you prefer to replace the word history with experience then you might agree with George Bernard Shaw when he said, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.

To learn from history, or experience, so as to make better decisions today seems a more than valid reason for throwing ourselves into a great book like ‘The Middle Sea’ by John Julius Norwich. Turn to page: 198 and here in a few wonderfully written pages you will learn about the rise of the Knights Templars, those great pillars of Christian faith, who by 1250 had become the most powerful bankers of the civilized world, financing kings and their wars and owning more than 9,000 landed properties within Europe and Asia Minor. All this despite their Benedictine vows of poverty, chastity and obedience! Needless to say their power and wealth proved their downfall when Philip the Fair of France, together with Edward II of England and Pope Clement of Rome (he certainly was not going to miss out on his piece of the Templar pie) conspired to destroy the Templars, declaring them all to be Satanists – gone, tortured and murdered within a few short years! Greed, envy and the manipulation of justice and faith is being played out in the board rooms of banks and global corporations today! The observations made about history often provide us with clear, if not striking insights, into the behavior of our most important institutions and by association you and me. It was Voltaire who said, “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

So what’s in it for you? Firstly, there is so much of the stuff, on every subject you can think of, that one can simply choose a time and place and the often great events will follow. Entertaining? Absolutely, just ask Ridley Scott who’s gone from Gladiator to Robin Hood and is now seducing us on the big screen with Prometheus.

If you are desperate to get back to FOOD, here is something to regale your friends at your next dinner party and no doubt impress those around you? On May 20, 1529 the future Cardinal Ippolito d’Este entertained his brother Ercole II, the future Duke of Ferrara at the Este palace of Belfiore – before he went on to build the legendary Villa d’Este at Tivoli outside of Rome! There were 54 guests for dinner and supper was served at 10.00pm. There were nine courses in total and each course consisted of eight different dishes. The second course alone included trout patties, halved and spiced boiled eggs, sturgeon roe, pike spleens and other fish offal fried with orange, cinnamon and sugar, a boiled sturgeon with garlic sauce emblazoned with the cardinal’s device (crest), fried bream, wheatstarch soup, pizza with flakey pastry with Catalan style small fried fish from the River Po. No meat for it was a day of abstinence!

Guess what, that’s history and I love it!

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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