Posted in book review

‘Hittites: A History From Beginning to End’ by Hourly History – book review

Hittites: A History From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The name Uriah always fascinated me from British Rock band Uriah Heep to the biblical Uriah, whose beautiful wife led him ultimately to death, willy-nilly, by King David infatuated with her sensuousness. When I learned that the ancestor of Uriahs was the founder of the Hittites race, being the great-grandson of Noah, the biblical patriarch, I had a Eureka moment. Consequently, I picked up this concise but comprehensive book on the Hittites to know a little more about the people whose founder had the great name.

Before the splendor of ancient Greek contributions to our human cultural progress as a collective enterprise, there was the forgotten but enduring legacy of the Hittites, the mysterious Indo-European trailblazers of civilizations at the crossroads of the East and the West in the vast plain of modern-day Turkey. The Hittites were an integral people to solve the mystery of mythological and biblical events anchored in the real world, thus dissolving fact and legend into one another like a genie from an empire that vanished into the dunes of time and comes alive in the calling. The calling of these mysteriously vanished people came first from British Reverends Archibald Henry Sayce and William Wright in the early 19th century. They discovered the artifacts and sites of the Hittites. Their discovery led to more remarkable discoveries. During the middle Bronze age and Iron age, the Hittites were the first to utilize iron from the region of present Armenia to craft tools and weapons. Also, the Hittites were deft at commerce, developing the city of Carchemish as an ancient mercantile hubbub in which they imported products from Phoenicia and exported them to Assyria (the North) and Babylon (the South) in Mesopotamia. In this fabulous ancient city, Israelites of the Old Testament acted as intermediaries in trade between Egyptians for exporting horses and chariots and the Hittites for importing them.

Like all those famous entertainers who sparkled then lost the lusters, the Hittites as a collective empire fell from splendor gradually by outside forces: some pointed the fingers at the Sea People, while the others blamed a certain barbarous Kaska people. But, perhaps, such clandestine ending of the Hittites is what makes them formidably alluring and mysteriously fascinating, blurring the boundary of fact and legend. Suppose you are keen on the history of ancient civilizations other than Greece and Egypt. In that case, this elegant primer for the history of the Hittites will equip you with fundamental knowledge enough to whet your craving for more and more profound knowledge about the Hittites.



View all my reviews

Posted in Miscellany

The Rambler – Religion

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary,” said Thomas More, who died for his relentless faith despite Henry VIII’s promise of honor he would confer on to his most trusted counsel in his cabinet. Samuel Johnson also confirmed that faith required no byzantine theories or philosophy for the validity of truth. Until I attended a public Sunday mass in a parking lot yesterday, I had not realized the power of faith, which I doubted I still had in my heart.

The beautiful liturgy of the mass, which culminated in the Eucharist, was akin to a flowing of streams of life to the eyes of a seasick seaman and the thirst of a weary traveler. I had never expected such exaltation of the soul with faith disappearing into an abyss of despondency populated with a school of doubt, disbelief, and frustration nurtured in a reality of everyday life. But while listening to a priest’s sermon based on the reading of Matthew 25:31-46, which is about the importance of practicing faith into actions, especially by sharing milk of human kindness with people you feel least likable or unkindest.

The priest further asked if we would counsel with God in making decisions in life or just about anything needful of help. No one answered yes because let’s face it, we regard such tendency to recourse to God as a derogatorily medieval way of living life in this Digital Age of Artificial Intelligence. We try to reason our faith with the validity of practical truth and willfully turn our heads from the Gospel with the usual facade of “Religion has nothing to do with it.” But then can you also prove that we are nothing but of a highly complex living organism made of accidental atoms, sans souls? What is the feeling that urges you to search for meaning in life, our sense of purpose? Can atoms do it?

It is my wholly solipsistic reflection of hearing mass, but now I feel like finding Ariadne’s Thread in the labyrinth to find a way out on this last day of the church calendar. What a feeling. Peace to be with you, and God bless you all. 

Posted in book review

‘Brief Lives’, by Paul Johnson – review

Brief LivesBrief Lives by Paul Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Biography is an ancient branch of literature that attests to the unchangeability of human nature against the flow of time. In its literary context, the Bible, composed of 66 books, is about the prophets, kings, sinners, let alone Christ and his disciples. Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad recite the ancient Greek heroes’ honors and foibles during the Trojan War and the aftermath. Plutarch’s Parallel Lives reveal the naked truth about the ancient Greek and Roman powers-that-be who seem to be no less different than their modern descendants in power. There are no other types of writing that are intuitively intriguing than an honest biography. A good biography gives the reader a sensation of reading a private diary that lays bare the subject person’s real persona. Out of this ancient tradition of biography comes Paul Johnson’s Brief Lives of the famous people he has met from all over the world told in episodic vignettes.

The book tells Johnson’s reminiscences of historically notable personalities he has met directly and indirectly throughout his long journalistic career. Ernest Hemingway was not a Pooterish famed writer but a down-to-earth bon vivant with a love of wine. John Paul II was a true vicar of Christ gifted to our mad secular world. Princess Diana had incredible intuition, which was of prime kind channeled into high and low people’s feelings. However, Pablo Picasso was the artist as rich as Croesus with the matching haughtiness. C.S. Lewis was an excellent lecturer whose populous lecture rooms were also an intellectual version of dating hippodrome. And Richard Nixon, regardless of his Watergate infamy, proved himself to be a diligent scholar of history with the admirable zeal of continuous learning. Johnson is a keen observer of people with a prism through which people’s true colors are reflected. It is refreshingly educating to learn about the other, overlooked sides of the infamous and the famous without a gloss of the uniformed panegyrics or accusations, and doing justice to the publicly ill-informed.

It is also interesting to compare the book with Plutarch’s Parallel Lives in terms of its episodic vignette form of writing, making both books more comfortable to read and stimulating to delve into. Johnson’s episodes are vivaciously sprightful and wittily feisty, grasping the reader’s attention from page to page with irresistible curiosity. Johnson and Plutarch use the ordinary language about the extraordinary to serve the purpose of writing biographies for the public with the knowledge about humankind that even the powerful and the beautiful are subject to anfractuous ridges that all humans have to climb in life.

I have read several books by Paul Johnson. All of them are packed full of his trademark wits, conservative but not chauvinistic perspectives on morality, and admirable erudition, thrown into a brilliant bonfire of words enjoyable by general readers. Brief Lives is no exception to the rule, showing that Johnson has ways with the words that make them vernacular in his choice of vocabulary he conjures and scholarly of the sentences he alloys. Samuel Johnson defined an excellent biography that should disclose the person’s human side to show that no one is utterly powerful and beautiful. The book Brief Lives echoes the same.




View all my reviews