Odds & Ends

A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research

December 1995 No. 12


1200 candles.

Figure roughly one square inch per candle. 1200 square inches. 144 square inches per one square foot. Eight-and-a-third square feet? Oven's not big enough.

Kyoto, which celebrated such a birthday this year will just have to forgive me.

The eight century AD, which saw the founding of Prague (722), the Papal States (754), Mannheim (766), and Bremen (782), also gave birth to a number of non-European cities, of which we'll look at three - including Kyoto.

The earliest of the three was in today's Nepal. Wedged between India and China, over 4,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by the foothills of the Mahabharat Lekh range, the region belonged more to myth than to history, until the sixth century. Before that, legend has it the Tibetan holy man Manjushree came to the shore of a long lake here and prayed on its banks, causing the lake to dry up, leaving the Kathmandu Valley behind. Between the sixth and eighth centuries, trade between India and Tibet began utilizing passes to the north, and Tibet annexed the area in the 600s as the trade routes extended into China. In 723 the Raja Gunakamadeva founded a city near the confluence of the Baghmati and Vishnumati rivers, named Manju-Patan. (It would not receive its present name, which refers to a wooden temple reportedly built from the wood of a single tree, until the late 1500s).

In Africa, Morocco's strongest river, the Sebou, passes through land unlike the Kathmandu Valley. Emerging from the Atlas Mountains it meanders or rushes (depending on irregular rains) through the sands of the western Maghrib Desert. The climate is temperate except when the chergui - "that which blows from the east" - pushes the temperature beyond the one hundred degree mark (F.) For centuries the nomadic tribes of the region moved with the seasonal needs of their flocks, flowing into the mountain pastures during the seasons of the year when the desert became too hot, returning with the cooler weather. Meanwhile, from 639 onward, the Arab world pushed out of the Mideast, across Africa, branching up into Spain. They would remain in the Iberian Peninsula for the next eight and a half centuries. It was in 789 that the Syrian conqueror Idris I founded the city of Fez on a bank of the Sebou, as the imperial city of his independent dynasty. Twenty years later his son Idris II began a second city on the other bank. Eventually the two settlements would become one.

The beginnings of our birthday city were quite different. The area was already more developed than the trade routes of Nepal and the nomad's pastures of Morocco that gave birth to the first two settlements.

The setting for Kyoto is a fertile plain in south-central Honshu. The climate is mild and moist, with mean temperatures between 38 and 80 degrees (F) and an average annual rainfall of 62 inches (157 centimeters).

Japan's capital did quite a bit of wandering in the 8th century. The first permanent capital of Japan, Nara (Heijo) was established in 710. Seventy-four years later the Emperor Kammu Tenno, conqueror of the Ainus, concerned about the influence of the large local Buddhist monastery, moved the capital to Nagoka (the Buddhist influence would continue). The reason for the move to Kyoto, only ten years after that move, is not clear. The presence of evil spirits in Nagoka was rumored. Undoubtedly there were more prosaic causes.

The new capital, originally named Heian-kyo (capital of peace and tranquillity) was laid out in the style of Chinese cities, with long streets intersecting wide avenues, the whole surrounded by a low wall of earth, punctured by 18 gates.

It would remain Japan's capital until November of 1868, when it was supplanted by Edo (Tokyo). [It was announced today, December 14th, that Japan may move the capital out of Tokyo early in the next century. The more things change...]


A search of Eagles Byte chronologies on the word "Asia" turns up the following events for the years 750-799 AD

India - King Gopala founds the Pal dynasty in the Bengal state.

Syria - The Abbasids massacre the family of the Umayyad Abd er-Rahman I in Damascus. He escapes and flees to Spain.

Russia - Arab forces defeat the Chinese at Samarkand.

India - The Chalukya Dynasty comes to an end. It will return around 973.

Japan - The empress Koken abdicates in favor of her cousin Junin, but she and the Fujiwara
family retain control.

Japan - The approximate date Manyoshu, a collection of poetry written by all strata of society,
from emperor to commoner, is published.

China - The approximate date of death of the painter Wu Tao-tzu.

Japan - The priest Dokyo cures the empress mother Koken of a disease and becomes a court favorite, except with a jealous Emperor Junin.

Japan - The Empress Shotoku (Koken) dies at the age of 52. Nobleman Nakanaro Fujiwara prevents the accession of crown prince Ochi, and Konin, a grandson of the emperor Tneji, ascends the throne.

China - The Nestorian monument is built in Sian.

Asia Minor - The caliph Haroun al-Raschid reaches the Bosporus.

Beginning of Japan's Heian Period.


Two pearls this time:

Morocco - Nabil Zary and Mounir El Abridi have put together a site with a nice sense of humor as well as a wide variety of pages (Historical Events, The Lion Search, Cities, Regions, Culture, Cooking, Sports)

Japanese Information (Hear the National Anthem; Geography, Culture and Customs, Proverbs, City Guides, Traveler's Japanese, Sports, Government)


You were asked to name the person of whom it was written:

What a wide world was in that little space,
Thyself a world, the Globe thy fittest place.

Answer: Richard Burbage, actor and friend of Shakespeare. He was quite short, so - little space.


There's a dynasty that has ruled in the regions that are today's Jordan and Iraq. I'm looking for the name of dynasty, the decade when it came into power and the date its reign ended in both countries.



Founding director of the American Jewish Archives, Jacob Rader Marcus, dies in Cincinnati at the age of 99.

Novelist Jack Finney, who whisked readers back to 1890's New York City in Time and Again, dies at the age of 84, in California's Marin General Hospital.

The winners of the National Book Award are announced. Historian David McCullough (Truman) receives the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Tina Rosenberg wins for nonfiction, for The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism. Other finalists were Dennis Covington for Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern
; Daniel C. Dennett for Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life; Jonathan Harr for A Civil Action; and Maryanne Vollers for Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron De La Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South.

Educator and author Solomon Liptzin (A History of Yiddish Literature; Historical Survey of German Literature) dies in a Jerusalem hospital at the age of 94.

Novelist and historian of World War II Robert H. Adleman (Rome Fell Today and The Champagne Campaign) dies in Ashland, Oregon at the age of 76.

British pacifist and author Sydney Dawson Bailey (British Parliamentary Democracy) dies in his north London home at the age of 79.

The exhibit ``Art, Design and Barbie: The Evolution of a Cultural Icon,'' opens for a two-month run at the Liberty Street Gallery in New York City's World Financial Center.

Geochemist Clair Patterson, who determined in 1958 that Earth's age was 4.6 billion years, dies at his Sea Ranch, California, home at the age of 73.

Lawyer Richard Blair Barnett, a founding trustee of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, dies in New York City at the age of 68.

Pianist-biographer Robert Fizdale (The Divine Sarah: A Life of Sarah Bernhardt, with his piano duo partner Arthur Gold) dies in Manhattan at the age of 75.

Dr. Melvin Kranzberg, co-founder of the Society for the History of Technology , dies in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of 78.

Private school administrator and historian (Roman Rulers and Rebels) P. Gordon B. Stillman dies at his New York City home, at the age of 77.

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I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends.

Detailed World Chronologies are available for all periods by e-mail ($2-4/year, depending on the year). If you'd like further information and/or fees, let me know.


© 1995 David Minor / Eagles Byte