Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Miscellany: Odds, Ends and Personals


From Sue P in relation to the post on the Chinese Treasure Fleet:

Fascinating Otto - thanks once again for filling a gap in my knowledge!

From Leo M in respect of Van Gogh’s starry paintings and his depictions of them in pen and ink:

This reminds me of my search for the missing ear in Arles this month last year.

What a great time I had, wine trips most days and eating and drinking with friends each night. Still one of the best markets I have ever seen.

Losers and Bad Days, 1-3

1.  Napoleon

In 1807, after having signed a historic treaty between France, Russia and Prussia Napoleon decided to celebrate by having the Imperial Court take part in a rabbit shoot. Chief-of-staff, Alexand Berthier, keen to impress Napoleon, bought thousands of rabbits to make sure there was plenty to shoot. After a feast by the party in a marquee, the rabbits were released. Unfortunately Berthier had bought tame rabbits and they were hungry. When released they didn’t bolt, they ran instead at top speed (56kph (35mph) to Napoleon and the shooting party, believing that they were to be fed. Napoleon and his shooting party also ran, beating the rabbits off with their hand and horsewhips until they reached the safety of their carriages and fled the scene.

2. Pyrrhus

Pyrrhus (319–272 BC) was a Greek general and statesman who became king of Epirus. Some of his battles, which he won, caused such heavy losses that he has given his name to the term “pyrrhic victory”, meaning a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.

The battles referred were against the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279. In both of Pyrrhus's victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers and their casualties did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus's casualties did to his. 

Pyrrhus is reported to have said "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."

3. Siegfried "Wim" Esajas

Wim Esajas (1960)

In 1960 at the Rome Olympics, New Zealander Peter Snell won the 800m gold.

Also entered in the event was Siegfried “Wim” Esajas of Suriname, a tiny South American country that was then a Dutch colony. Suriname had never had an athlete at the Games so this was a great honour for both the runner and the country.

Unfortunately Wim was asleep when the heats were run in the morning. When he turned up in the afternoon he was dismayed to find that it was all over for him.

Wim became a laughingstock, going home in disgrace and becoming known as the man who had slept through his event. Even at the 1976 Olympics, when Suriname was announced, the commentator said that the country had slept through its first Olympics.

Esajas lived with it for 45 years. In 2005 it became know that he was terminally ill. Two weeks before his death the Suriname Olympic Committee re-examined the evnts of 1960 and found a report at the time by Fred Glans, then the secretary-general of the Suriname Olympic Committee, that he had given the incorrect start time to Esajas, mistakenly advising Esajas that his morning qualifying race had been rescheduled to the afternoon. Esajas used the time to rest. It remains unknown as to why the Committee chose to bury it rather than to reveal it.

Esajas lived in undeserved shame for 45 years. The Suriname Olympic Committee gave him a plaque and a letter of apology to make up for it.

According to his son:

“The events in Rome caused a wound in my father’s soul that never healed. He felt he was robbed of what would have been the greatest moment of his life. [On being given the plaque and apology].. His eyes lit up and he was happy. I think it was enough for him to finally have peace.”

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