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National Geographic History

National Geographic History September/October 2020

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United States
National Geographic Society
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
pharaoh’s temple for the sun

Today little is visible of the funerary temple built by Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile. Inscriptions say it was designed by the architect Amenhotep, son of Hapu, and constructed as a monument for the god Amun. To greet the sun god, the temple entrance faced east and was flanked by two colossal statues of Amenhotep III. Carved from single blocks of quartzite sandstone, these two giants are the most visible remnants of the complex’s vast size and grandeur. Archaeologists began new excavations at the site in 1998, led by Armenian Egyptologist Hourig Sourouzian. Her work has shown the rich detail still buried in the ground, including 72 statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet and two more colossal statues of Amenhotep III. More detailed reconstructions can now show the…

1 min
‘splendidly wicked’

In 1517 Machiavelli wrote the Discourses on Livy, which drew parallels between classical Rome and the politics of his own day. This work revisits themes from The Prince, including a reflection that certain leaders do not necessarily fall into the conventional moral categories of good and bad. In chapter 24 he cited the example of Pope Julius II’s conquest of Perugia, whose aftermath Machiavelli had witnessed firsthand: Julius II desired to remove Giovanpagolo Baglioni, tyrant of Perugia. And so coming to Perugia [Julius] entered it unattended by troops, although Giovanpagolo was there with a great company of soldiers. And thus, urged on by that impetuosity which stamped all his actions, Julius committed himself into the hands of his enemy—whom he forthwith removed from power. All who saw it remarked on the…

6 min
revolutionary measures

Mathematician and author, the Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) was an aristocrat who nevertheless embraced the early stage of the French Revolution. Even as the Jacobins hunted him down during the Reign of Terror—he was a moderate and opposed putting King Louis XVI to death—he wrote the Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, expressing his faith in a future guided by science and reason. Two days after his arrest, he killed himself in prison rather than face execution. Condorcet’s ideals live on, however, in the way most of the world measures things: the metric system. He believed a universal and standard system would allow people to calculate their own best interests, “without which they cannot be really equal in rights … nor really free.” Order From Chaos At…

1 min
in and out of political power

1469 Niccolò Machiavelli is born in Florence the same year that Lorenzo “the Magnificent” de’ Medici assumes power. 1494 The Medici are expelled from Florence when the Dominican friar Savonarola imposes his rule over the city. 1498 Savonarola is executed. At age 29, Machiavelli is appointed a senior diplomat under the city’s chief minister, Piero Soderini. 1512 Machiavelli’s allies are ousted when the Medici return to power after the Holy League defeats France, a Florentine ally. 1513 After being imprisoned by the Medici, Machiavelli is released and retires to the country, where he writes The Prince. 1516 Machiavelli dedicates The Prince to Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence and grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent. 1527 After spending years working to restore favor with the Medici, Machiavelli dies on June 21, at age 58.…

1 min
stitches in time

1042 Edward the Confessor, son of Aethelred II and Emma of Normandy, takes the English throne. The pair will not produce a biological heir. 1064 Edward sends Harold, son of his powerful adviser Godwin, to tell William, Duke of Normandy, that he will be England’s next king. JANUARY 5, 1066 Edward dies, and Harold crowns himself king the next day. William prepares for an invasion of England that will launch in September. OCTOBER 14, 1066 William’s soldiers kill Harold on a field near Hastings, Sussex. William will be crowned King William I of England on Christmas Day. CIRCA 1100 A tapestry depicting the events of 1066 is completed, perhaps on the orders of Bishop Odo of Bayeux, a close Norman ally of William. 1476 An inventory at Bayeux Cathedral lists the cloth, the first documentary reference to what is now called…

1 min
male model

In what would be one of the most significant meetings of his life, Machiavelli, in his role as Florentine ambassador, first met Cesare Borgia at Urbino in 1502. By then, Borgia had taken control of much of central Italy. The powerful Borgia family originated not in Italy but Aragon (in modern-day Spain); Cesare’s great-uncle Alfonso had been appointed Pope Calixtus III in 1455 largely because his outsider status made him more palatable to feuding Italian families. To expand the clan’s power in Italy, Calixtus III subsequently promoted his nephew Rodrigo. In 1492 Rodrigo became the new pope, took the name Alexander VI, and made his 18-year-old bastard son Cesare a cardinal. Cesare spent six years in the service of the church before renouncing his title to focus on his military…