Battle of Gaixia

Battle of Gaixia


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The Battle of Gaixia (202 BCE, also known as Kai-Hsia) was the decisive engagement of the Chu-Han Contention (206-202 BCE) at which Liu Bang (l. 256-195 BCE), from the State of Han, defeated Xiang Yu (l. 232-202 BCE) of the State of Chu and subsequently founded the Han Dynasty. The battle, which took place in a canyon on the Central Plains of China, was the culmination of four years of brutal civil war which had broken out following the collapse of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE).

Xiang Yu and Liu Bang fought together against the Qin forces shortly after 210 BCE when Shi Huangdi (r. 221-210 BCE), the first emperor of the Qin, died and Qin control of the country loosened. After the fall of the Qin capital of Xianyang in 206 BCE, however, conflicts of interest made Xiang Yu and Liu Bang enemies and they turned on each other. Liu Bang was finally victorious when his general Han Xin kidnapped Xiang Yu's beloved consort, Lady Yu (also known as Yuji and Consort Yu) and lured Xiang Yu to Gaixia to rescue her. After defeating Xiang Yu, Liu Bang took the name Gaozu as first emperor and founder of the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE).

Rise of the Qin Dynasty

When the era of the Zhou Dynasty ended (the Spring and Autumn Period, c. 772-476 BCE) China, which had never been fully unified, split into seven separate states – Chu, Han, Qi, Qin, Wei, Yan, and Zhao, each an independent political entity – who then fought each other for control in what has come to be known as the Warring States Period (c. 481-221 BCE). Shi Huangdi of the State of Qin ignored the previous rules of engagement in military matters, which emphasized civility, and instead waged total war in subduing the other states. Once he had defeated and unified them, he continued the same brutal policies which had brought him to power.

Shi Huangdi ruled his vast kingdom through fear as his spies and secret police network ensured that no one felt safe in objecting to any of his policies. Any books which did not support his philosophy of Legalism or focus on him or his family were burned and those who objected were killed. He conscripted thousands for work on his northern border wall (which followed the same course as the later Great Wall of China) and the Grand Canal as slave laborers while others served in his armies. As long as Shi Huangdi was in power, there was no chance of any organized revolt because his spy network was so vast and so efficient.

The Early Alliance

In 210 BCE, however, the emperor died on a trip while seeking an elixir of immortality and his son, Qin Er Shi, took the throne. Qin Er Shi was ill-equipped to follow his father and the government's tight control of the people loosed as he repeatedly failed at every aspect of rule; he was assassinated after three years. His nephew, equally inept, then took the throne but could do nothing to hold back the rising tide of rebellion by the former subject states.

Between 210-206 BCE, these states battled the Qin (and often each other) for supremacy. By 206 BCE, the Chu and Han were the strongest states and the generals of their respective armies were the recognized leaders of the revolt: Xiang Yu of Chu and Liu Bang of Han. These two were equally skilled commanders and each had contributed significantly to the defeat of the Qin forces. Xiang Yu had fought in more engagements while Liu Bang was responsible for the final victory at Xianyang. Scholar Harold M. Tanner writes:

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Theoretically speaking, Liu Bang and Xiang Yu were both fighting on behalf of King Huai of Chu. In fact, they were competitors for power. Each man wanted to be the first to break through the passes into the Wei Valley and take the Qin capital of Xianyang. Liu Bang got there first. According to the histories (written during the Han, and thus biased against Xiang Yu), Liu Bang treated the people and the pitiful third ruler of Qin with kindness and courtesy. When Xiang Yu arrived with a much larger army, he was livid with anger. Liu Bang survived only by apologizing and turning the Qin capital and the Wei Valley over to Xiang Yu. (93)

Xiang Yu was of noble birth and had taken the title 'King of Western Chu' after assuming command of the troops. Liu Bang was a commoner (though some sources cite him as a prince) but was raised to noble status by Xiang Yu who conferred upon him the title King of Han, with all attendant power, after he had apologized and handed over Xianyang. Tanner describes the differences in the two men:

Xiang Yu and Liu Bang came from very different backgrounds. Many generations of the Xiang family had served the state of Chu as generals. Xiang Yu was a big, powerful aristocrat, trained in the art of war. Liu Bang was a poor, low-ranking official, a village headman, with a fondness for drink and women. As village headman, Liu Bang was once assigned to take a group of men for forced labor on the First Emperor's tomb. So many men escaped en route that Liu Bang gave up, let the rest go as well, and fled into the swamps, where some of the men joined him. (92)

Liu Bang, then, was hardly fit for the position of supreme leader of the troops and had fewer men under him than Xiang Yu. Even though the victory at Xianyang had been Liu Bang's, Xiang Yu, claiming victor's rights and the superior social status, set about the redistribution of land. In administering the re-ordering of the states, he gave away lands which Liu Bang claimed belonged to him. When Liu Bang contested this decision he was ignored and, feeling dishonored by his former ally, he rallied his forces and attacked Xiang Yu.

The Chu-Han Contention

Between 206 and 202 BCE, the forces of the Han and the Chu battled each other with the additional states allying themselves now with one and now with the other. Shi Huangdi had conquered the states by ignoring the old rules of chivalry concerning warfare and conducting a programme of total war; this lesson was not lost on either Liu Bang or Xiang Yu. The Chu-Han Contention claimed thousands of lives and destroyed vast areas of farmland as well as urban areas.

Battles between the Han and the Chu forces raged until 203 BCE when Xiang Yu negotiated a peace known as the Treaty of Hong Gate (also known as the Treaty of Hong Canal). Under the terms of the accord, China would be divided between the Han and the Chu. Liu Bang signed the treaty but desired the same unification, and attendant glory, which Shi Huangdi had achieved and, breaking the agreement, resumed hostilities.

Xiang Yu drove Liu Bang back behind the defenses of Han and besieged the central fortification. Liu Bang then orchestrated a three-pronged attack on Western Chu through the combined forces of the generals Han Xin, the king of Qi, and Peng Yue of the province of Liang. Xiang Yu was forced to drop the siege to defend his homeland. Liu Bang, however, had ordered Han Xin to circle back and harass the Chu forces during their march.

Han Xin did far more than that and successfully ambushed Xiang Yu and his army repeatedly. Han Xin's goal, however, was not to engage his opponent directly in any prolonged battle but to maneuver Xiang Yu into a hopeless position. Han Xin continued his tactics in order to manipulate the large Chu force into the canyon at Gaixia on the Central Plains of China where their numbers would work against them and they could be destroyed.

The Battle at Gaixia

Once Xiang Yu's forces had fully entered the canyon at Gaixia, Han Xin deployed his troops in the “ambush from ten sides” & decimated the army.

Xiang Yu's young concubine, the Lady Yu (born Yu Miaoyi), who always travelled with him on campaign, was captured during one of these skirmishes and Han Xin quickly conveyed her to Gaixia. He positioned his captive, and the bulk of his troops, deep in the canyon but situated other groups of warriors along the route. Xiang Yu, knowing he was walking into a trap, mobilized his forces to save the woman he loved. He sent most of his army on toward his capital at Pengcheng and, with 100,000 warriors, marched for Gaixia.

Once Xiang Yu's forces had fully entered the canyon, Han Xin deployed his troops in the “ambush from ten sides” and destroyed the army. Xiang Yu and his remaining forces fought on until nightfall, finally rescuing Lady Yu. In the darkness then, Liu Bang and Han Xin ordered their men and the captured enemy soldiers to sing the native songs of Chu. These songs reminded the remaining Chu forces of their homes and their families and further demoralized the army. Men began deserting in the darkness and headed for their homes.

Xiang Yu rose to stop the deserters by force but, at the request of Lady Yu, relented and those who wished to were allowed to leave. He then sat drinking with Lady Yu and is said to have composed the lament The Song of Gaixia (which is still sung today). Listening to the songs of his native land sung by the enemy throughout the night, Xiang Yu believed that Western Chu must have fallen to the Han and his cause was lost. With Lady Yu, he sang his lament and, according to the historian Sima Qian (145-86 BCE), alternated verses with her which is how the song is often sung in the modern day.

Lady Yu performed the sword dance as she sang her verses and then, blaming herself for the Chu defeat, and wishing to save Xiang Yu from further disaster through his love for her, she killed herself with his sword. Though surrounded by enemy forces, with his troops steadily deserting him, Xiang Yu ignored the pleas of his counselors to move on and buried Lady Yu, erecting a large mound over her grave to prevent desecration.

Liu Bang's Victory & the Rise of the Han

Liu Bang then proclaimed himself emperor, founding the Han Dynasty which would rule China from 202 BCE to 220 CE. He was known as the Emperor Gaozu and governed with his wife, the Empress Lu Zhi. In time, he became suspicious of his old allies Peng Yue and Han Xin and had them both executed, under the pretext of spreading sedition, in 196 BCE. To divert blame from himself, he had the order come from Lu Zhi. With no other model to follow and no experience in government, the new emperor Gaozu modeled his dynasty after the Qin whom he had helped overthrow; although he administered his laws in a far-gentler fashion.

The Battle of Gaixia is among the most famous in Chinese history and the merits of the two antagonists, as well as their faults, are still debated. The story of Xiang Yu and his consort Lady Yu is the subject of the 1993 CE novel Farewell My Concubine by Lilian Lee, and the 1993 CE film by Chen Kaige of the same name, and has also been adapted as a popular opera. In 2011 CE the film Hong Men Yan, directed by Daniel Lee, was released (referencing the Feast of Hong Gate) based on the Chu-Han Contention and the Battle of Gaixia (the film's title in English is White Vengeance which has nothing to do with the Chinese title).

Another feature film, The Last Supper, written and directed by Chuan Lu, was released in 2012 CE, depicting the battle and the story of Xiang Yu and Lady Yu. The Tomb of the Concubine, Consort Yu's grave, is a highly regarded tourist attraction nine miles (15 km) east of modern Suzhou City in Lingbi County. The Chinese phrase, “surrounded by Chu songs” is derived from the Battle of Gaixia and refers to anyone in a hopeless situation.

The story of the Chu-Han Contention has always been colored by the bias of the Han Dynasty scribes who first recorded it and cast Xiang Yu as the tyrannical villain opposite the noble Liu Bang. Modern scholarship, however, has reevaluated these early accounts and Xiang Yu is regarded today, for the most part, as a great general whose defeat was only possible because of his devotion to the Lady Yu.


Background

The Han forces had earned many major victories against Chu, but they still did not control most of the country. Most of eastern China was still under Chu control. Eventually Xiang Yu was able to reorganize his forces, and strike back at Liu Bang.

At this point, major disagreements had occurred between Liu Bang and Han Xin. The primary reasons were because Liu Bang refused to give Han Xin too much control over the Han army, and his refusal to use many of Han Xin's suggestions. As a result, Han Xin withheld his forces in Qi as Liu Bang was under siege from Xiang Yu. Liu Bang was only able to hang on because of the assistance from another excellent military strategist, Zhang Liang.

Xiang Yu was one of the best warrior-commanders in Chinese history, but in most battles he rarely paid sufficient attention to resource logistics. In this battle, Zhang Liang was successful in assaulting Xiang Yu's supply lines, which Xiang Yu did not care much about, and this greatly hurt the Chu army's effectiveness. On the other hand, Zhang Liang was successful in keeping the Han supply lines open. During a conversation, Xiang Yu's archer hit Liu Bang with an arrow, which wounded his lung. However, Liu Bang was able to hide this fact from his own army and Xiang Yu, hence keeping the morale of the Han troops high.

Sensing the tension between Liu Bang and Han Xin, Xiang Yu tried to persuade Han Xin to ally with him, or at least to stay neutral during this conflict. Xiang Yu warned Han Xin that he would be in grave danger if Liu Bang comes out victorious in this conflict. Xiang Yu even offered to openly accept Han Xin's Qi as a third nation after Chu and Han. However, due to the past history between the two Han Xin refused any diplomatic relationship with Xiang Yu.

Xiang Yu then threatened to kill Liu Bang's captured father and wife and have them cooked over a fire, to force Liu Bang to surrender. Liu Bang simply replied that since the two had been named 'brothers' (during the earlier years of the revolt against Qin Dynasty) he would be effectively cooking his own father, and that Xiang Yu should not forget to send him a cup of 'their' father's flesh to share as good brothers, but Xiang Yu still did not kill them. At one point, Xiang Yu was about to capture Liu Bang. Finally, Liu Bang agreed with everything that Han Xin requested, and Han Xin finally agreed to help. Later, with the arrival of Han Xin, Liu Bang was able to convince Xiang Yu to agree to a peace treaty. At the end, both parties agreed that the two countries of Han and Chu could co-exist peacefully. Liu Bang's father and wife were returned to Liu Bang. Then, in October 202 BC, Xiang Yu started to move his forces back east.


Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC)

The Battle of Thermopylae took place during one of the most destructive but essential wars of the ancient period the Second Persian War. This was the second phase of the Greek-Persian wars, and after the people of Persia, under the auspices of Darius, lost to the Greeks, Xerxes came back to invade Greece and take revenge for the loss of his father.

Although the Persians had one of the most diverse militaries the world had ever seen, the Greeks were known for their ruthless spirit and the powerful unity between the alliance of Athenians, Spartans, Plebeians, and other smaller communities.

Nonetheless, during the battle, King Leonidas of Sparta knew that the Greeks would lose at this point, and considering the enormous enemy of the Persians and the small road of Thermopylae, the projected outcome of the events would be a loss for the Greeks.

Although there were 7,000 Greeks in Thermopylae initially, Leonidas understood that it was impossible to beat the Persians. Therefore, he ordered that only 300 Spartans continued to fight in the battle and sacrifice themselves, so the rest of the Greeks could retreat and protect the country.

This is one of the most critical paths and battles for the Spartans and a historical event that solidified themselves as the most ruthless and, at the same time, glorious communities in ancient history.


The Hesitant Prize Fighter

The Battle Of Gaixia was one of the last battle in the Chu-Han Contention that which led to the suicide of Xiang Yu, which resulted to the forming of the Han Dynasty for Liu Bang.

Before this battle, the Kingdoms of Chu and Han has fought for supremacy for a long period of war. The King of Chu, Xiang Yu, was one of the best warrior commanders in history. However, his brutality as well as his inablity to listen to his advisors and his lack of attention to supply lines, cost the Chu army to lose much effectiveness in battle. He himself did not lost much of the battles he participated in, but tactically, he was suffering a defeat.

Chu started with a much stronger position than Han, but as time goes by, more and more nobles and support went to the Han side.. Forcing Xiang Yu to go sign a peace treaty agreeing to divide the Chinese empire between the Chu and the Han.

As the treaty was signed, the soldiers of Chu were overjoyed about the peace. Liu Bang had a commander named Han Xin, who wanted very much defeat Xiang Yu to prove that he was a better general. And forces Liu Bang to ignore the peace treaty hence bringing forth this battle.

At the beginning of the battle, Han Xin wanted to ensure that Xiang Yu never returned back to his capital at Peng Cheng. and his plan was to lure the Chu Army into the valley at Gaixia where escape is harder. So as the Chu army was faced with surprised attack and ambush. But Xiang Yu when faced with this, knows the main traps are in the valley, ordered his troops to keep going on the main road back to Pan cheng. Unfortunately, his wife that travelled with him was captured and brought deep into the valley, so Xiang Yu had to send the bulk of his troop back, and he personally led 100 000 man to rescue his wife.

When they got to her, they were trapped deep inside the valley of Gaixia. That is the beginning of Han Xin’s plan called 十面埋伏 (Ambushed from 10 sides). Han Xin initially fought with Xiang Yu Face to face, then he retreated… as Xiang Yu was pursuing him, he was ambushed again and again. The ambushed lowered the morale of his troop further. The soldiers were trapped in the canyon… It was then Han Xin’s second plan called 四面楚歌 (Surrounded by Chu Songs) started. he got the captured Chu soldiers play hometown tunes on the hills all around.. Causing Xiang Yu to think that he has lost his entire kingdom to Han.. The songs made the Chu Army homesick, and destroyer their morale further… Most of the troops deserted. Leaving Xiang Yu with 800 men left swearing to fight till the end..

Eventually the wife of Xiang Yu committed suicide blaming herself for the lost of her husbands kingdom… lowering his morale further. Although Han Xin’s tactics work, his tactics also created for himself an very persistent and mobile army. Allowing them to manoeuvre easily and avoid detection. The 800 men broke through the encirclement in the valley of Gaixia, and fled the battlefield. They were left with about 100 when they escaped.

After Han Xin discovered that they had escaped, he was shocked. So Liu Bang ordered 5000 elite calvary to pursue Xiang Yu. But as he we in an unfamiliar territory. He tried to ask for directions back to Chu, and the locals deliberately misdirected him, tricking him into a swamp (most people thinks that is frictional).

In the end, the chased him to Wu River, where the remaining Chu soldiers made a last stand. and were killed to the very last man… Xiang Yu could have escaped, but he was too proud to do so.. so in the end, he made his last stand, killing around 100 enemy soldiers. After being seriously wounded.. he slit his own throat.

Lessons from the story. I guess there was many lessons one could learn from this
1. Always be ready for Good advice. Initially, if Xiang Yu were to listen to his adviser (Namely Fan Zheng). Perhaps he would have successfully killed Liu Bang before the contention started.
2. When in battle, do not bring your wife to the field.. Actually it was a big wonder for me why would he allow his wife to go to battle, I am sure “虞姬” (the name of his wife) is not a warrior princess. (At least as depicted in the operas)
3. One should not start a battle or war just to prove that he is “smarter” (Eg Han Xin)
4. Always learn to be kind, do not be known for your brutality. It is believed that the people are not in favour of Xiang Yu, claiming him to be a Tyrant and a mass murderer. Hence willingly gave him the wrong direction
5.If you are stuck in a battle, and you know its a lost clause. You should try to escape. Liu Bang had suffered many losses, but he would rather escape than to make a last stand.. leaving him to be the winner in the end. Most people believe that Xiang Yu would have been able to help Chu fight if he had escaped.

This battle has a significant effect in Chinese culture.
1. There was a Pipa piece called 十面埋伏. Trying to capture the atmosphere of that battle
2. 四面楚歌 became a idiom. describing a situation where one was surrounded with no allies to turn to.
3. There is a Beijing Opera piece called “Song Of Gaixia” 垓下歌 which dramatised the last night Xiang Yu spent with Yu Ji. The song goes (extracted from Wikipedia)


References

Dollinger, A., 2000. The Incursions of the Sea Peoples. [Online]
Available at: http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/sea_peoples.htm

emp.byui.edu, 2015. Medinet Habu and the Sea Peoples. [Online]
Available here.

realhistoryww.com, 2015. Sea People Inscriptions in the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. [Online]
Available at: http://realhistoryww.com/world_history/ancient/Misc/Medinet_Habu/Medinet_Habu.htm

Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods. Read More


Episode 22 – Gaixia versus Manzikert

Today we head over to the Battles bracket where we will be discussing two important clashes in world history with the first being the Battle of Gaixia which helped found the Han Dynasty of Ancient China and the Battle of Manzikert which was fought between the Seljuk and Byzantine Empires which fatally weakened the later.

Battle of Gaixia

Fought in 202 BC, the Battle of Gaixia was fought between the forces of Liu-Bang, the King of Han and Xiang Yu King of the Chu. If you remember in episode seven when we discussed Qin Shi Huangdi who united China until his death in 210 BC caused things to unravel. For the next four years, the subject states began to fight for the remains of the empire until there were only two left, the Han and the Chu.

Liu-Bang of the Han was initially a minor patrol officer in the Qin dynasty, but with Huangdi’s death, he decided to switch sides and become an anti-Qin rebel. One of his rivals in the anti-Qin movement was Xiang Yu who was the overall head of the rebel forces. The Qin Empire was split into something known as the Eighteen Kingdoms, created by Xiang Yu. He gave Liu Bang a region in the southwest known as Han which included Sichuan, Chongqing, and southern Shaanxi. The area was one of the least productive at the time which Liu Bang viewed as an insult.

The tension between the two men led to Xiang Lu holding Liu Bang’s father and wife hostage, but in the end, they agreed to a peace treaty. The truce, known as the Treaty of Hong Gate or the Hong Canal, was but a ruse engineered by Han Xin, another military general who sided with Liu Bang. Han Xin orchestrated a series of ambushes against the Chu armies over and over again forcing them into a canyon at Gaixia. The reason for this was to use the Chu’s vastly larger army against itself by putting it into a narrow and tight battlefield. This could be considered another Cannae, where the Roman army was smashed by the Carthaginian’s led by Hannibal Barca. We’ll meet Hannibal in episode 80 when he faces off against Joan of Arc.

To further move the trap forward, one of Xiang Lu’s favorite consorts, one Yuji, was captured by the Han army. Han Xin then placed her in the valley near Gaixia to entice the Chu army to save her. Xiang Lu certainly knew this was a risky place to fight, but he felt that his numerically superior Chu army was up to the task. Here is where history starts getting fuzzy.

It is supposed that the Chu army was numbered about 100,00 men with Han’s hovering around 600-700,000. So, in reality, the Han’s were the bigger force, but other historical records suggest that the opposite was true. Who to believe?

Now we begin to get into legend and storytelling when we get to the Battle of Gaixia. Supposedly, Han Xin started an attack known as the “ambush from ten sides.” The attack, while devastating to the Chu, wasn’t near enough to claim victory. Xiang Yu had saved his consort Yuji, and his men had fought bravely, but he felt that the end might be near. Then, the Han soldiers began to sing songs native to the Chu. This caused the soldiers to yearn for home, and slowly but surely, they started to abandon their leader and headed home.

The reason I mentioned storytelling is that our old tale-teller is our old friend Sima Qian from the Shi Huangdi episode who we know stretches the truth a bit. He tells us that the Consort Yuji commits suicide as the armies of the Han began to encircle the Chu. Xiang Yu buried his love that morning and escaped the canyon at Gaixia only to be caught soon after that, committing suicide when he was about to be captured.

The aftermath of the Battle of Gaixia was the start of the Han dynasty which was to rule a unified China for the next four hundred plus years. Liu Bang was to be named Emperor Gaozu, and he would rule for four years. The Han dynasty is considered one of the greatest Chinese dynasties of all time.

Quickly after taking control of China, Liu Bang, jealous and somewhat scared of Han Xin, had him and other powerful generals executed to solidify his authority.

Now to turn to our, Putting it Into Perspective segment of the podcast.

In the years surrounding the Battle of Gaixia, Hannibal’s armies fight against the Romans, The Parthians fight the Seleucid Empire, the Spanish city of Seville is founded by the Roman general Scipio, the Battle of Zama, which we will hear about in episode 52, is fought leading to the end of the Second Punic War.

Battle of Manzikert

Now on to the Battle of Manzikert.

This clash between the forces of the Byzantines and the Seljuk Empire wasn’t a huge fight, in fact, it is estimated that only 80,000 men were there which is small when you talk of decisive battles. What happened there was a mental death blow to the successor to the Roman Empire, and the ramifications of its outcome would accelerate the eventual fall of Constantinople, an event we will discuss next episode.

Edward Gibbon, the author of the seminal work known as the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, said this about the battle, “The Byzantine writers deplore the loss of an inestimable pearl: they forget to mention that, in this fatal day, the Asiatic provinces of Rome were irretrievably sacrificed.

The Battle of Manzikert was fought between forces of Byzantium led by their Emperor, Romanus IV Diogenes against the Seljuk army led by Alp Arslan. They both had an equal number of men. The Byzantines, while still a formidable force, were not the same army of the past. Their previous emperors, Constantine IX, and X were incompetent and let their armies’ decay during their reigns. The Seljuks, on the other hand, became more and more formidable making them a power to be reckoned with.

The Greeks relied on their military manuals like the Strategicon and Tactica to guide their generals. But as pointed out in the book, 100 Decisive Battles, by Paul K. Davis, “…the sturdy Anatolian peasant upon which the empire had long depended for its soldiery was no longer providing the core of the army.” He further goes on to write, “Only the lack of an organized rival kept the Byzantine army the premier force of the time, and the tenuous nature of the force’s composition meant that it could not really stand to be seriously challenged or poorly commanded.

Some of you might wonder where Anatolia is located. It is basically the Asian part of Turkey with some extra land in Armenia. It was one of the great recruiting grounds for the Romans and their successor state, the Byzantine Empire. This is one of the main reasons that the Battle of Manzikert is so crucial as it was fought in the mainly Christian, Greek-speaking territory of Anatolia.

Leading up to the battle, we need to look at the makeup of the Byzantine army in particular. They had about 40,000 men with only about 5,000 of them, professional troops. The rest included some Frankish and Norman mercenaries along with Bulgarian, Turkic, Georgian and Armenian men. There were some of the Varangian Guard, the most feared of their troops along for the ride, but not many. The reason I mention this is because the loyalty of some of the men would come into question when push came to shove.

To top things off, Emperor Romanos, thinking his troops superior to his enemy, split his forces as the headed to Lake Van, with the goal of retaking the fortress at Manzikert. This was in direct violation of the peace treaty he signed with the Seljuks. Their leader, Alp Arslan was on his way to Egypt to take care of a revolt but when he heard of the Byzantine deception, turned back and took his entire army of 40,000 with him.

As they neared each other, Arslan offered a peace treaty once again as he knew that one part of the split army of Romanos had been defeated at a battle we have no name for. Others have suggested that no fight occurred with general Joseph Tarchaniotes fleeing from the Seljuk army. Whatever the reason for the 20,000 men not being available to the Byzantine’s, they were now at half strength.

The Seljuks were nomadic peoples, so their strength was in their cavalry which they used in a hit and run strategy. During the battle, the Turkic mercenaries bailed out early on as did many other units of the Byzantine army. Those who were not captured or killed, ran away, back to their homes throughout the empire. Emperor Romanos was taken prisoner where he was eventually released after a ransom was agreed upon.

When he returned to Constantinople, Romanos knew he was in trouble. His rivals, the Doukas family, defeated him in battle three times. They sent him into exile where he died of an infection after he was blinded, a typical penalty in those times.

The aftermath of the Battle of Manzikert was not the decisive fight that some historians claim, but it was a clash that set the wheels in motion to severely cripple the Byzantine Empire. First off, the ensuing civil war damaged them, but more importantly, they lost their major recruiting center in Anatolia. That region began to convert from a Christian-Greek region to an Islamic-Turkic one slowly. In 1453, the Fall of Constantinople, an event we will interestingly enough be covering next episode, was the culmination of events that can be traced to the Battle of Manzikert.

Now for our second Putting it into Perspective segment.

At the time of the Battle of Manzikert, Canterbury Cathedral is rebuilt following a fire, the Normans conquer Sicily, William the Conqueror invades Scotland, Sviatoslav II begins his reign as the head of Kievan Rus, and Omar Khayyam of Persia computes the most accurate length of a year to date.

Let’s begin our scoring between these two influential battles. First, we have 15 points to give out for the number of people involved in the fights. Gaixia wins this by a landslide as there were an estimated half a million people there while Manzikert’s armies totaled 80,000 combined. Fifteen for the Chinese contest with five going to their opponent.

Next up is the 20 points of how the battle affected the rest of the world at the time. Gaixia really only changed China with minimal effect in the near- or far-term while Manzikert’s outcome reverberated throughout the Western Asiatic region and Europe. Twenty to Manzikert, eight to Gaixia.

Twenty-five points now need to be dolled out based on the effect on world history. The same argument that we made on the last point give away works here. Twenty-five to Manzikert, fifteen to Gaixia.

The big prize, of course, is how the battle affected their country for the better at that time. For the Byzantines, it was a minor disaster, for the Seljuks, a significant victory. It set into motion the decay and eventual destruction of the Byzantine Empire. For the Chinese, the Battle of Gaixia led to a four-hundred-year reign of the Han dynasty which is considered a golden age of Chinese history. For these reasons, Gaixia gets the full 40 points with Manzikert getting 25.

This was a see-saw contest, but the numbers tell us that Gaixia moves on to the second round where it will face off against Platea.

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6 The Inca Emperor&rsquos Hubris At CajamarcaNovember 16, 1532


We&rsquove mentioned before how the Incan Civil War between Huascar and his half-brother Atahualpa led to the former&rsquos loss and capture. It is also worth noting that the end of the war between the two brothers significantly raised not just Atahualpa&rsquos morale, but his arrogance as well. Encamped in the north of Peru where the Spaniards would later make their headway, Atahualpa believed these men were not gods but regular people, albeit potential subjects.

Francisco Pizarro, the leader of the expedition, could not count on retreat or reinforcements deep in the Peruvian jungles. He enticed Atahualpa to meet him in the plaza of Cajamarca. So it was that with Atahualpa&rsquos naivete and obstinacy did he lead an estimated 80,000 Incan troops to meet the 168 Spaniards. Despite the sheer, overwhelming numbers, Atahualpa went to the town square with less than 10 percent of his actual forces, all of whom were only armed with a few token, ceremonial weapons. It would be sheer madness for the hopelessly outnumbered Pizarro to attack him.

As the meeting began, the Spanish friar, Vicente de Valverde, offered Atahualpa a Bible, saying, &ldquothis is the word of God.&rdquo The emperor of the Incas didn&rsquot know what to do with the book, so the friar reached over and opened it for him. This angered Atahualpa (for no one would have dared think of him as a fool), and he threw the Bible to the ground.

Pizarro and the men were quick to react. The measly group of Spaniards, clad in armor and riding warhorses, surprised the Incan troops. Musket and cannon fire and an assortment of European blades mowed down thousands of the Incas within a short span of time. Atahualpa, the emperor who led an army that outnumbered the Spaniards nearly 500 to 1, was taken captive.

The Spaniards thought he would incite a revolt and sentenced him to be burned alive. Atahualpa did not desire such a death, so he accepted baptism, which gave him the opportunity to be killed by strangulation, instead of fire. With Atahualpa gone, the conquistadors crushed the remaining pockets of local resistance in South America, leading to Spanish hegemony for centuries to come.


Prelude

Like other similar clashes immediately after the end of World War II between the communists and the s in China, this conflict also rooted from the fact that Chiang Kai-shek had realized that his regime simply had neither the sufficient troops nor enough transportation assets to deploy his troops into the Japanese-occupied regions of China. Unwilling to let the communists who had already dominated most of the rural regions in China to further expand their territories by accepting the Japanese surrender and thus would consequently control the Japanese occupied regions, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Japanese and their turncoat Chinese puppet regime not to surrender to the communists and kept their fighting capabilities to “maintain order” in the Japanese occupied regions, fighting off the communists as necessary, until the final arrivals and completion of the deployment of the troops. As a result, most members of the Japanese puppet regimes and their military forces rejoined the s.

However, it must be noted that most of these former s turned Japanese puppet regime forces were not from Chiang Kai-shek’s own clique, but instead, they were mainly consisted of troops of who were only nominally under the Chiang Kai-shek’s before World War II, since they were s in name only and mostly maintained their independent and semi-independent status. These were only interested in keeping their own power and defected to the Japanese side when Japanese invaders offered to let them keep their power in exchange for their collaborations. After the World War II, these forces of former Japanese puppet regimes once again returned to the camp for the same reason they defected to the Japanese invaders. Obviously, it was difficult for Chiang to immediately get rid of these warlords for good as soon as they surrendered to Chiang and rejoined s, because such move would alienate other factions within the ranks, and these former Japanese puppet regime's warlords could still help the s to gain more territories by holding on to what was under their control until Chiang completed the deployment of his own troops to takeover. Chiang Kai-shek’s objective was to simultaneously solve the problem that had plagued China for so long and the problem of the extermination of communism together, which proved to be an extremely fatal mistake for him and his regime later on, as shown in this conflict.


Battle of Gaixia - History

The Gaixia site was the base camp of Xiang Yu during the decisive battle between the late Qin Dynasty and the early Han Dynasty, and the hometown of Wenxian governing place in the Han Dynasty. It is a national key cultural relic protection unit. The beautiful and moving stories of "Being on All Sides", "Ambush on All Sides", and "Farewell My Concubine" that are widely circulated among the people all come from this.

The Gaixia site was the base camp of Xiang Yu during the decisive battle between the late Qin Dynasty and the early Han Dynasty, and the hometown of Wenxian governing place in the Han Dynasty. It is a national key cultural relic protection unit. The beautiful and moving stories of "Being on All Sides", "Ambush on All Sides", and "Farewell My Concubine" that are widely circulated among the people all come from this.

If you are interested in history or have a heroic complex with overlord Xiang Yu, you can come here to have a look. The traffic is inconvenient, and there are two long-distance buses to depart from Bengbu, unless there are special buses. It was so easy to get here, only to see the sculpture at the entrance of the village, and the two signs in the village that read the ruins of Gaixia. The rest are wheat fields, I can't see anything, I can only pay tribute to this tragic hero here.

It is located in the east of Lingbi County, 15 Huali, on the south side of Su (county) and Si (county) highway. The Chu and Han armies fought decisively here. Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu, forcing Xiang Yu to perform "Farewell My Concubine" and the historical tragedy of Wujiang. Today, it is difficult to find traces of the war in this land, but there are still many legends and memorial buildings.

The scenic spot is in a state of development. There is only one stone statue of Xiang Yu hugging Yuji. There are four stone piers around the platform, each of which has two sides carved with Chu Ge, which should be embarrassed on all sides. Although the above lyrics are fabricated by later generations, the artistic conception does make people feel the desolation of Chu Jun being surrounded and Xiang Yu's unpaid feelings. Two of them are selected as follows: "Once the soldiers die by the sword, the flesh and blood will fall into the mud and the grass and the beams. The soul is long and unreliable, and the aspirations are few and the ruins." "The King of Han has the virtue and will not kill the army. Come back to your love and let you soar. Don’t guard the empty camp and the food road is gone, you will hurt you when you catch feathers and jade.” Follow the trail behind you to a small lake with ancient trees and elms holding mulberries.


Check Out This Beautifully Preserved 100-Million-Year-Old Flower in Amber

The new flower species Valviloculus pleristaminis fossilized in amber for 100 million years. Credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU

A flower unknown to science was discovered in a fragment of Burmese amber, which is mined in the northeastern part of Myanmar. This ancient flower has now been named Valviloculus pleristaminis and belongs to the Cretaceous period which makes it about 100 million years old. Earlier, ancient insects were also found in Burmese amber, which were called the “transitional link” between wasps and bees.

The new species belongs to the order of laurel flowers ( Laurales ) and is closest to the modern family of Monimiaceae, common in the tropics, mainly in the southern hemisphere.

According to the well-known expert on the remains of plants and animals preserved in amber, George Poinar Jr., despite its modest appearance, the 100-million-year-old amber flower is beautiful, since it is part of a forest that grew almost a hundred million years ago.

See the mesmerizing details on a flower that is less than 2 millimeters in size. Credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU

The size of the flower is only two millimeters. It is a male (staminate) flower with six petals and about fifty stamens arranged in a spiral. Scientists were able to make out the constituent parts of the stamens: filaments and anthers with two pollen sacs in each.

The flower may have been part of a large inflorescence with both staminate and pistillate flowers. It has an ovoid hollow hypanthium – a part of a flower formed by an intergrown receptacle and a flower tube. Among modern plants, there is hypanthium, for example, in wild rose and pomegranate.

“Even though the size of the plant is so small, the details are perfectly preserved. Our sample was probably part of a larger heterosexual inflorescence, ”says University of Oregon professor George Poinar.

Scientists are confident that the flower grew in forests on the supercontinent of Gondwana and can tell a lot about the geological processes on Earth. Experts determine the time of the split of the supercontinent in different ways – it is believed that it occurred from 200 to 500 million years ago.

Biologists say that angiosperms like Valviloculus pleristaminis only started spreading 100 million years ago. This means that the division of Gondwana, which once included Africa, South America, Antarctica, Australia, Madagascar, Hindustan, and New Zealand, may have happened much later than previously thought.

It is curious that this is not the first unexpected discovery of this kind. George Poinar’s team had a similar find three years ago in 2017 when they described another 99 million-year-old flower found in amber, belonging to the Araucariaceae family.

Tropidogyne pentaptera flowers discovered in amber in 2017. Credit: George O. Poinar, Jr. / Kenton L. Chambers

In case you haven’t heard of the previous discovery either, the flowers found in amber were also miniature – only 3.4 – 5 millimeters in size. However, just like the new Valviloculus pleristaminis specimen, a good look under a microscope revealed their incredible characteristics.

They have five sepals, nectar discs, on some flowers you can see ovaries (the lower parts of the pistils) with protruding ribs. The researchers determined that the flowers are related to another ancient species found in amber – Tropidogyne pikei, which was previously described by the same group of scientists.

Overall, I think we need to appreciate such findings much more than we do now. Although they do not seem significant compared to what is happening now in the world or to discoveries that could change our future, these discoveries reveal much about the planet’s past and life as it once was, while they also remind us and how unique nature is. Who would have thought that such things could be found during the mining of amber?


Watch the video: Battle of Gaixia: 202 BCE


Comments:

  1. Hans

    It is simply ridiculous.

  2. Mekazahn

    I apologize, but in my opinion you admit the mistake. I can prove it. Write to me in PM, we will handle it.



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