NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star !!!

The newly-discovered ‘exoplanets’ could have life-supporting liquid water under the right atmospheric conditions, according to the space agency, but the chances of finding water in its liquid state are highest with the three in their star’s ‘habitable zone’.

NASA revealed the new findings about the exoplanets, meaning planets outside our solar system, at a special press event in Washington, DC. The exoplanets circle the star TRAPPIST-1, which lies just 39 light-years from Earth. The discovery sets a new record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. “Answering the question, ‘Are we alone?’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

At a news conference to announce the discovery, one of the research team said TRAPPIST-1’s relatively close proximity to Earth means information on the planet’s life-hosting potential should soon be informed by hard data. In a Q&A session following the announcement, NASA scientists said that the presence of water has not been confirmed on any of the newly-discovered planets.

They also confirmed that they have yet to name any of the exoplanets, because there is no easy system for naming planets outside of our solar system. The exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1 after the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, which was used by researchers to discover three exoplanets last year. The latest discovery, which was made using the Spitzer Space Telescope, confirmed the existence of two of those previously discovered planets, along with an additional five.

Data gathered so far suggests that all the planets are likely covered with a rocky surface. The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature and announced at the news briefing at NASA HQ. “The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said the lead author of the paper, Michael Gillon. “It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds.”

The TRAPPIST-1 star is much cooler than our sun and is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf, meaning it is cool enough for liquid water to exist on planets orbiting very close to it, much closer than is possible even on planets in our solar system. All seven of the planets are closer to TRAPPIST-1 than any planet in our solar system is to our sun. The planets also are clumped very close to each other, NASA says. If a person was standing on one of the exoplanet’s surface, they could potentially see geological features on the neighbouring planet.

10 Things You May Not Know About the Byzantine Empire !!!

Fall of Constantinople

476 A.D. is usually cited as the year that the Roman Empire came crashing down, but its eastern half lived on for another thousand years in the form of the Byzantine Empire, a mighty kingdom centered in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). This Eastern Roman Empire had many of the facets of its western counterpart—high culture, a booming economy, dazzling architecture and vicious, power-hungry leaders—and it served as a bulwark against invasions of Europe until 1453, when it was finally toppled by the Ottoman Turks. Below, explore 10 fascinating facts about the medieval empire that bridged the gap between the classical world and the Renaissance.

It wasn’t called the Byzantine Empire until after it fell.

The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 18th and 19th centuries, but it would’ve been completely alien to the Empire’s ancient inhabitants. For them, Byzantium was a continuation of the Roman Empire, which had merely moved its seat of power from Rome to a new eastern capital in Constantinople. Though largely Greek-speaking and Christian, the Byzantines called themselves “Romaioi,” or Romans, and they still subscribed to Roman law and reveled in Roman culture and games. While Byzantium later developed a distinctive, Greek-influenced identity as the centuries wore on, it continued to cherish its Roman roots until its fall. Upon conquering Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish leader Mehmed II even claimed the title “Caesar of Rome.”

Constantinople was purpose-built to serve as an imperial capital.

The early origins of the Byzantine Empire date to 324, when the Emperor Constantine abandoned the decaying city of Rome and moved his court to Byzantium, an ancient port town strategically located on the Bosporus strait separating Europe and Asia. In the span of just six years, Constantine converted the sleepy Greek colony into a metropolis complete with forums, public buildings, universities and defensive walls. He even had ancient Roman monuments and statues brought in to cement its status as a world capital. Constantine dedicated the city in 330 as “Nova Roma,” or “New Rome,” but it soon became known as “Constantinople” after its creator.

Its most influential emperor came from humble origins.

Byzantium’s rise corresponded with the unlikely reign of Justinian I. Born around 482 in the Balkans, he spent his youth as a peasant’s son before being taken under the wing of his uncle Justin I, a former swineherd and soldier who later became the Byzantine Emperor. Justinian succeeded Justin in 527, and while he always spoke Greek with a bad accent—a sign of his provincial origins—he proved to be a natural ruler. During nearly 40 years on the throne, he recaptured huge swaths of lost Roman territory and launched ambitious construction projects including rebuilding Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, a domed church now considered one of history’s great architectural achievements. Perhaps most important of all, Justinian was responsible for compiling Roman law into the Corpus Juris Civilis, a compendium of jurisprudence that forms the bedrock of many modern legal systems.

A riot by chariot racing hooligans nearly brought the Empire to its knees.

Just as modern sports franchises have diehard fans, Byzantine chariot racing had the Blues and the Greens, a pair of fanatical—and often violent—supporters’ groups named for the colors worn by their favorite teams. These ancient hooligans were sworn enemies, but in 532, discontent over taxation and the attempted execution of two of their leaders saw them band together in a bloody insurrection known as the Nika Riots. For several days, the Blues and Greens ran amok through Constantinople burning buildings and even trying to crown a new ruler. The Emperor Justinian nearly fled the capital, but was dissuaded by his wife, Theodora, who convinced him that it was nobler to fight for his crown. Bolstered by her words, Justinian had his guards block the exits to the city’s Hippodrome—which the rioters were using as their headquarters—and then ambushed it with a host of mercenary troops. The result was a wholesale slaughter. By the time the battle ended, the riot was crushed and an estimated 30,000 people were dead—as much as 10 percent of Constantinople’s entire population.

Byzantine rulers were known to blind and mutilate their rivals.

Byzantine politicians often avoided killing their rivals in favor of carrying out ghastly acts of physical mutilation. Many would-be usurpers and deposed emperors were blinded or castrated to prevent them from leading troops or fathering children, while others had their tongues, noses or lips cut off. Maiming was supposed to prevent victims from challenging for power—disfigured people were traditionally barred from imperial rule—but it didn’t always work as planned. The Emperor Justinian II famously had his nose hacked off when he was overthrown in 695, but returned from exile 10 years later and reclaimed the throne—supposedly while sporting a prosthetic golden nose.

Its military used an early version of napalm.

Byzantium owed much of its military success to Greek Fire, a mysterious incendiary liquid that was used to set enemy troops and ships ablaze. The precise recipe for this ancient napalm has been lost to history—it might have contained everything from petroleum and pine resin to sulfur and saltpeter—but accounts describe it as a thick, sticky substance that could be sprayed from siphons or hurled in clay pots like grenades. Once ignited, it could not be extinguished with water and could even burn on the surface of the sea. Greek Fire was most famously associated with the Byzantine navy, who used it to devastating effect against Arab and Russian invaders during sieges of Constantinople in the seventh, eighth and tenth centuries.

The Empire gave rise to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Byzantium was almost always a Christian empire, but over the centuries its Greek-speaking church developed distinct liturgical differences from the Catholic, Latin-speaking church in the West. The theological tensions finally boiled over in 1054, when a falling out between the patriarch of Constantinople and a papal delegate led the Eastern and Western churches to issue decrees excommunicating one another. This “Great Schism” created two separate branches of Christianity: the Roman Catholic Church in the West, and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Byzantine East. The two churches eventually repealed their excommunication orders in the 1960s following a historic meeting between the Catholic Pope Paul VI and the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I, but they remain separate entities to this day.

Its capital was sacked during the Crusades.

One of the darkest chapters in Byzantine history began in the early 13th century, when Christian warriors assembled in Venice for the Fourth Crusade. The Crusaders were supposed to sail for the Middle East to seize Jerusalem from the Muslim Turks, but due to cash shortages and friction with the Orthodox Byzantines, they were persuaded to make a detour to Constantinople to restore a deposed Emperor to the throne. After a deal to fund their expedition to the Holy Lands fell through in 1204, the Crusaders carried out a bloody sack of Constantinople, burning the city and carting off much of its treasure, art and religious relics. They also carved up much of the declining Byzantine Empire and installed a Latin ruler. While the Byzantines later recaptured Constantinople in 1261, the Empire would never regain its former glory.

The invention of the cannon helped bring about the Empire’s fall.

Constantinople’s towering city walls kept invading Goths, Persians, Russians and Arabs at bay for centuries, but they proved to be no match for changing military technology. In the spring of 1453, having already conquered most of the Byzantine frontier, Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II laid siege to the capital with a collection of cannons specially designed by a Hungarian engineer. At the center of the arsenal was a 27-foot gun so heavy that a team of 60 oxen was required to transport it. After bombarding Constantinople’s defenses for several weeks, the Ottomans blasted a breach in the walls on May 29, allowing scores of Islamic soldiers to pour into the city and put its inhabitants to the sword. Among the many killed was the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, who supposedly stripped off his royal regalia and cried out “the city is lost, but I live!” before charging into battle. With the fall of its once-mighty capital, the Byzantine Empire crumbled after more than 1,100 years in existence.

The Byzantines preserved many of the writings of Ancient Greece.

The writings of Greek thinkers such as Plato, Ptolemy and Galen might have been lost to history if not for the Byzantine Empire. Though often hostile toward so-called “pagan” ideas, Byzantine scribes judiciously copied the decaying manuscripts of the ancients, and Constantinople’s libraries safeguarded Greek and Roman texts that were slowly vanishing in the West. It has been estimated that of all the ancient Greek manuscripts that survive today, more than two-thirds were handed down by the Byzantines.

8 Famous Barbarian Leaders !!!

From the third to the fifth century A.D. various foreign armies—chief among them the Goths, Vandals and Huns—began making serious inroads into Roman-held territory. Branded by the Romans as brutish, violent and uncivilised, these “barbarian” groups proved to be formidable opponents on the field of battle, applying relentless pressure that would eventually topple the Western Roman Empire. Find out more about eight of the most famous barbarian leaders, including their origins, their military exploits and the kingdoms many of them established during the late Roman period and beyond.

Arminius

Illustration of Arminius (Credit: Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Born into a noble family of the Germanic Cherusci tribe around 18 B.C., Arminius (known in Germany as Hermann) was plucked from his home by the Romans as a boy and served in the Roman army. In 9 A.D., his Cherusci forces ambushed and massacred three Roman legions under Publius Quinctilius Varus, governor of the province of Germania, in Teutoburg Forest. In the wake of the humiliating defeat—after which a crushed Varus fell on his own sword—the Romans withdrew behind the Rhine, and did not attempt any further invasions. Though Arminius would be hailed as a nationalist hero during the unification of Germany in the late 19th century, his reputation suffered in the wake of World War II, when modern Germans associated his historic exploits with the militant nationalism of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Boudica

Illustration of Boudica (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Like other Celtic women, Boudica (or Boadicea) enjoyed greater liberty than many other women in the ancient world, and trained in fighting and weapons alongside the men of her tribe. When her husband, King Prasutagas of the Iceni people of East Anglia (present-day eastern England), died with no male heir in 60 A.D., the Romans took the opportunity to annex his kingdom, publicly flog Boudica and rape her two daughters. With the Roman provincial governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus absent from the region, the defiant warrior queen led a rebellion of disgruntled Iceni and other tribes to victory over the Roman Ninth Legion. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Boudica’s forces massacred some 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons in their rampage. Paulinus soon returned, and his forces won a standoff at an unknown site. In the wake of that defeat, Boudica likely killed herself with poison.

Alaric

Alaric I (Credit: Apic/Getty Images)

One of the most famous barbarian leaders, the Goth King Alaric I rose to power after the death of the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II in 395 A.D. shattered a fragile peace between Rome and the Goths. When the Western Emperor Flavius Honorius refused to supply Alaric’s forces with land and supplies in 408, Goth forces laid siege to Rome. In the summer of 410, a group of rebellious slaves opened the Salarian Gate, and Alaric’s troops became the first foreign enemy to enter the city in some 800 years. They plundered Rome over three days, but treated its inhabitants humanely. Alaric is thought to have died soon after they left, during a subsequent expedition towards Africa. His descendants, the Visigoths, migrated to Iberia and established their kingdom in what is now Spain.

Attila the Hun

Credit: Palais Bourbon/Wikimedia Commons

Born into a royal family of Huns, a nomadic people based in what is now Hungary, Attila rose to power alongside his brother, Bleda, in 434 A.D.. A onetime ally of Rome against other barbarian groups, including the Burgundians and Goths, Attila accepted hefty subsidies in gold in exchange for not attacking Roman territory—then did it anyway. After having Bleda killed, he assumed total control of an empire that stretched across Central Europe. A complicated series of events involving Western Emperor Valentinian III and his sister, Honoria, inspired Attila to invade Gaul (present-day France) in 450. Though a combined force of Romans and Visigoths blocked the invasion, Attila was undaunted, and in 452 he invaded Italy. The Romans sent Pope Leo I as a peace emissary, and though the details of their meeting are unknown, Attila subsequently withdrew his troops and returned to Hungary. In 453, he was found dead the morning after his wedding (he had multiple wives), apparently the victim of a fatal nosebleed, accidental alcohol poisoning or a murderous conspiracy, possibly involving his new bride, Ildico.

Genseric

Genseric’s Vandals in Italy. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Soon after the Vandal king Genseric (also Geiseric or Gaiseric) rose to power in 428 A.D., he led some 80,000 of his people to North Africa, where they established a kingdom that would effectively control the Mediterranean Sea for the next century. After Emperor Valentinian III was assassinated, voiding a treaty that had promised his daughter, Eudocia, to Genseric’s son in marriage, the Vandals marched on Rome in 455. Realizing the inadequacy of their defenses, the Romans again sent Pope Leo I to plead for mercy. Thanks to the pope’s diplomacy, the Vandals agreed not to burn the city or massacre its inhabitants in exchange for free entry. A victorious Genseric later returned to North Africa, where he successfully crushed two Roman attacks (in 461 and 468) and raided the territories of the Eastern Empire from Alexandria, Egypt to Anatolia. He died in 478 of natural causes, still undefeated on the field of battle.

Odoacer

Odoacer meets Severin. (Credit: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Most scholars agree that Odoacer, the first barbarian king of Italy, was the son of Edico the Hun, king of the Germanic Sciri tribe and advisor to the feared Hun leader Attila. In 476 A.D., after serving as a commander in the Roman Army in Italy, Odoacer led a rebellion against Orestes, a Roman general who had overthrown Western Emperor Julius Nepos and had his teenage son, Romulus Augustulus, declared as emperor. Odoacer’s forces captured and executed Orestes and sent Romulus Augustulus—the last Roman emperor in the West—into exile. Though he officially recognized the sovereignty of the Byzantine emperor, Zeno, Orestes refused to restore Julius Nepos as emperor in the West (as Zeno wanted), instead declaring himself king. He was a tolerant ruler, allowing the practice of Roman Catholicism despite his own Arian Christian faith. Eventually, Zeno’s alliance with Ostrogoth (eastern Goth) leader Theodoric spelled the end for Odoacer’s reign, as Ostrogoth forces invaded Italy in 489 and soon captured nearly the entire peninsula. Odoacer managed to hold out for a while in Ravenna, but after signing an agreement to govern the city jointly in 493, Theodoric murdered Odoacer, his family and his followers.

Clovis

Clovis I, King of the Franks. (Credit: Florilegius/SSPL/Getty Images)

Clovis I was the first ruler of the so-called Merovingian dynasty, which would rule in Gaul and Germany from 500 to 750 A.D., and is considered the founder of France. The son of Childeric, the pagan king of a Germanic tribe known as the Salian Franks, Clovis assumed the throne in 481, when he was only 15 years old. After defeating the last Roman governor of Gaul at the Battle of Soissons in 486, Clovis established a united kingdom of various Frankish peoples stretching from the west bank of the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. Clovis famously converted to Catholicism, and his kingdom blended Roman and Germanic cultural traditions. A power struggle with the young Visigoth king Alaric II marked much of Clovis’ reign, but in 507 Clovis defeated and killed his rival near Poitiers, in west-central Gaul. From the seat of his empire in Paris, Clovis sought to expand his empire further, but was thwarted in these attempts by Theodoric, the powerful Ostrogoth ruler of Italy. Clovis died around 511, and his Merovingian descendants (notably Charlemagne) would rule for more than 200 years; no fewer than 18 future French kings would bear the name Louis, the Latinized version of Clovis.

Theodoric

Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths. (Credit: Archive Photos/Getty Images)

As a boy, Theodoric was sent to Constantinople as a hostage of the Eastern Roman Empire in order to ensure the compliance of his father, the Ostrogothic chieftain Theodemir, with a Roman-Goth treaty. Though he never learned to read or write, he adopted many aspects of Roman culture. In 488 A.D., Theodoric invaded Italy, conquering virtually the entire peninsula and Sicily by 493, when he manipulated and killed his rival, Odoacer. By his own design, peace ruled in Italy throughout Theodoric’s more than three decades (33 years) in power. He issued edicts to ensure fair legal treatment for both Goths and Romans, and stressed that the two groups should live together amicably. Far from the brutish stereotype of a “barbarian” king, Theodoric clothed himself in the royal purples favored by Rome’s emperors and worshiped the ideal of civilitas (“civilized life” or “civilization”). After his death in 526, he would be remembered as Theodoric the Great for his peaceful, fair governance and his revitalization of Italy after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

8 Reasons Why Rome Fell !!!

The Fall of Rome

In the late fourth century, the Western Roman Empire crumbled after a nearly 500-year run as the world’s greatest superpower. Historians have blamed the collapse on hundreds of different factors ranging from military failures and crippling taxation to natural disasters and even climate change. Still others argue that the Roman Empire didn’t really fall in 476 A.D., since its eastern half continued for another thousand years in the form of the Byzantine Empire. While just how—and when—the Empire fell remains a subject of ongoing debate, certain theories have emerged as the most popular explanations for Western Rome’s decline and disintegration. Read on to discover eight reasons why one of history’s most legendary empires finally came crashing down.

Invasions by Barbarian tribes

The most straightforward theory for Western Rome’s collapse pins the fall on a string of military losses sustained against outside forces. Rome had tangled with Germanic tribes for centuries, but by the 300s “barbarian” groups like the Goths had encroached beyond the Empire’s borders. The Romans weathered a Germanic uprising in the late fourth century, but in 410 the Visigoth King Alaric successfully sacked the city of Rome. The Empire spent the next several decades under constant threat before “the Eternal City” was raided again in 455, this time by the Vandals. Finally, in 476, the Germanic leader Odoacer staged a revolt and deposed the Emperor Romulus Augustulus. From then on, no Roman emperor would ever again rule from a post in Italy, leading many to cite 476 as the year the Western Empire suffered its deathblow.

Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor

Even as Rome was under attack from outside forces, it was also crumbling from within thanks to a severe financial crisis. Constant wars and overspending had significantly lightened imperial coffers, and oppressive taxation and inflation had widened the gap between rich and poor. In the hope of avoiding the taxman, many members of the wealthy classes had even fled to the countryside and set up independent fiefdoms. At the same time, the empire was rocked by a labor deficit. Rome’s economy depended on slaves to till its fields and work as craftsmen, and its military might had traditionally provided a fresh influx of conquered peoples to put to work. But when expansion ground to a halt in the second century, Rome’s supply of slaves and other war treasures began to dry up. A further blow came in the fifth century, when the Vandals claimed North Africa and began disrupting the empire’s trade by prowling the Mediterranean as pirates. With its economy faltering and its commercial and agricultural production in decline, the Empire began to lose its grip on Europe.

The rise of the Eastern Empire

The fate of Western Rome was partially sealed in the late third century, when the Emperor Diocletian divided the Empire into two halves—the Western Empire seated in the city of Milan, and the Eastern Empire in Byzantium, later known as Constantinople. The division made the empire more easily governable in the short term, but over time the two halves drifted apart. East and West failed to adequately work together to combat outside threats, and the two often squabbled over resources and military aid. As the gulf widened, the largely Greek-speaking Eastern Empire grew in wealth while the Latin-speaking West descended into economic crisis. Most importantly, the strength of the Eastern Empire served to divert Barbarian invasions to the West. Emperors like Constantine ensured that the city of Constantinople was fortified and well guarded, but Italy and the city of Rome—which only had symbolic value for many in the East—were left vulnerable. The Western political structure would finally disintegrate in the fifth century, but the Eastern Empire endured in some form for another thousand years before being overwhelmed by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s.

Overexpansion and military overspending

At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Euphrates River in the Middle East, but its grandeur may have also been its downfall. With such a vast territory to govern, the empire faced an administrative and logistical nightmare. Even with their excellent road systems, the Romans were unable to communicate quickly or effectively enough to manage their holdings. Rome struggled to marshal enough troops and resources to defend its frontiers from local rebellions and outside attacks, and by the second century the Emperor Hadrian was forced to build his famous wall in Britain just to keep the enemy at bay. As more and more funds were funneled into the military upkeep of the empire, technological advancement slowed and Rome’s civil infrastructure fell into disrepair.

Government corruption and political instability

If Rome’s sheer size made it difficult to govern, ineffective and inconsistent leadership only served to magnify the problem. Being the Roman emperor had always been a particularly dangerous job, but during the tumultuous second and third centuries it nearly became a death sentence. Civil war thrust the empire into chaos, and more than 20 men took the throne in the span of only 75 years, usually after the murder of their predecessor. The Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s personal bodyguards—assassinated and installed new sovereigns at will, and once even auctioned the spot off to the highest bidder. The political rot also extended to the Roman Senate, which failed to temper the excesses of the emperors due to its own widespread corruption and incompetence. As the situation worsened, civic pride waned and many Roman citizens lost trust in their leadership.

The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes

The Barbarian attacks on Rome partially stemmed from a mass migration caused by the Huns’ invasion of Europe in the late fourth century. When these Eurasian warriors rampaged through northern Europe, they drove many Germanic tribes to the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans grudgingly allowed members of the Visigoth tribe to cross south of the Danube and into the safety of Roman territory, but they treated them with extreme cruelty. According to the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman officials even forced the starving Goths to trade their children into slavery in exchange for dog meat. In brutalizing the Goths, the Romans created a dangerous enemy within their own borders. When the oppression became too much to bear, the Goths rose up in revolt and eventually routed a Roman army and killed the Eastern Emperor Valens during the Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378. The shocked Romans negotiated a flimsy peace with the barbarians, but the truce unraveled in 410, when the Goth King Alaric moved west and sacked Rome. With the Western Empire weakened, Germanic tribes like the Vandals and the Saxons were able to surge across its borders and occupy Britain, Spain and North Africa.

Christianity and the loss of traditional values

The decline of Rome dovetailed with the spread of Christianity, and some have argued that the rise of a new faith helped contribute to the empire’s fall. The Edict of Milan legalized Christianity in 313, and it later became the state religion in 380. These decrees ended centuries of persecution, but they may have also eroded the traditional Roman values system. Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which viewed the emperor as having a divine status, and also shifted focus away from the glory of the state and onto a sole deity. Meanwhile, popes and other church leaders took an increased role in political affairs, further complicating governance. The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon was the most famous proponent of this theory, but his take has since been widely criticized. While the spread of Christianity may have played a small role in curbing Roman civic virtue, most scholars now argue that its influence paled in comparison to military, economic and administrative factors.

Weakening of the Roman legions

For most of its history, Rome’s military was the envy of the ancient world. But during the decline, the makeup of the once mighty legions began to change. Unable to recruit enough soldiers from the Roman citizenry, emperors like Diocletian and Constantine began hiring foreign mercenaries to prop up their armies. The ranks of the legions eventually swelled with Germanic Goths and other barbarians, so much so that Romans began using the Latin word “barbarus” in place of “soldier.” While these Germanic soldiers of fortune proved to be fierce warriors, they also had little or no loyalty to the empire, and their power-hungry officers often turned against their Roman employers. In fact, many of the barbarians who sacked the city of Rome and brought down the Western Empire had earned their military stripes while serving in the Roman legions.

After 60 Years, Archaeologists Find New Dead Sea Scrolls Cave !!!

Ever since Bedouin shepherds stumbled on the first fragments hidden in caves in the Judean desert back in the late 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls have ranked among the greatest archaeological finds of the past century. A collection of nearly 1,000 Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts dating back to the fourth century B.C., the scrolls included the earliest surviving written fragments of the Hebrew Bible. Last week, an excavation led by Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery of a new scroll-related cave at Qumran, in the West Bank—the 12th, to be exact, and the first to be successfully excavated in more than 60 years.

Though Bedouin shepherds first discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in late 1946 or early 1947, official excavations of the Qumran caves didn’t begin until the 1950s. By that time, looters had already gotten to the caves and removed many of the priceless ancient scroll fragments. Thousands of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, from more than 900 manuscripts, have been recovered from 11 different caves at Qumran, but only a relatively small number of those fragments were found during organized excavations.

Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls.
Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)

Over the past 15 years, researchers noticed an increasing number of what they believed were scroll fragments appearing on the private art and antiquities market. Though many of the examples on the black market appeared to be fake, this resurgence prompted the IAA and researchers to begin their own survey of all the Qumran caves. At the same time, IAA authorities were apprehending a growing number of artifact hunters attempting to enter those caves, another development that led them to speed up their own excavations.

According to a news release from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the excavation that unearthed the newly discovered cave was part of “Operation Scroll,” a joint effort by the university, the IAA, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. Near the entrance to the cave, the researchers found pottery shards, including broken jars and lids they believe were used to store the scrolls. Alongside such items, they also discovered flint blades, arrowheads and semi-precious stone, suggesting the cave was used during the Neolithic period (which began in 10,200 B.C. and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 B.C.)

Neolithic flint tools found in the cave.
Neolithic flint tools found in the cave. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)

In a particularly striking find, the archaeologists carefully extracted an unbroken storage jar. Inside was a relatively undamaged scroll. The team rushed it to the conservation lab at Hebrew University, where it was painstakingly unfurled in a protected environment. The scroll had no writing on it, and the researchers believe it was placed in the jar in order to prepare it for writing.

Beyond the entrance, the roof of the cave appeared to have caved in. Proceeding with caution, the archaeologists discovered the cave-in had most likely been intentional, as it hid a tunnel measuring some 16-20 feet in length. Inside the tunnel, they found more broken jars and lids, along with fragments of cloth wrappings, leather and string that they believe were used to bind the scrolls within the jars. Deep inside the tunnel at the rear of the new cave, the researchers found a pair of rusty pickax heads. Their findings support the longstanding theory that looters ransacked the cave back in the 1950s, stealing the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves.

The fault cliff, with the cave entrance on the left
The fault cliff, with the cave entrance on the left. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea Scrolls in 60 years,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found…the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen.”

In addition, the discovery of the ancient blank scroll certainly sheds some light on how high-quality forgeries of the Dead Sea Scrolls might be making their way onto the black market. The parchment recovered from the new cave will help experts assess fragments that come up for sale in the future.

Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls.
Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)

Controversy has hovered around the excavation of Dead Sea Scroll sites, as Qumran is located in the West Bank, a territory Israel won from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967. Jordan has asserted on different occasions that it is the rightful owner of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Palestinians (and the United Nations) consider the West Bank occupied territory, and Israel signed a convention in 1954 that forbids excavation and removal of “cultural artifacts” by foreign occupiers. In any case, it seems highly unlikely that Israel will surrender its claim to what are believed to be the oldest written examples of the Hebrew Bible.

Excavations of other caves in the Judean desert will continue, say IAA officials, but time is running short. Israel Hasson, the director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, urged the Israeli government to gather the resources necessary and join forces with the public to launch a “systematic excavation” of all the caves in the region. According to Hasson: “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain.”

JFK Speech – Secret Societies !!!

There have been numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. These theories posit that the assassination involved many people or organizations. Most of today’s theories put forth a criminal conspiracy involving parties as varied as the CIA, the Mafia, sitting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cuban President Fidel Castro, the KGB, or some combination of those entities. Some conspiracy theories claim that the United States government covered up crucial information in the aftermath of the assassination.

In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only person responsible for assassinating Kennedy. In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that a second gunman other than Oswald probably fired an extra bullet at Kennedy. The HSCA did not identify that second shot, nor did they identify any other person or organization as having been involved. The acoustic evidence on which the HSCA based its second gunman conclusion has since been discredited.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Polls from the Gallup Organization have also found that only 20–30% of the population believe that Oswald did act alone. These polls also show that there has been no agreement on who else may have been involved. Former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi estimated that a total of 42 groups, 82 assassins, and 214 people had been accused in various conspiracy theories on the assassination