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111 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

Louis-François Pinagot He was an illiterate shoemaker in western France in the 19th century. French historian Alain Corbin picked Pinagot at random on a town registry, and wrote his biography as a ...
Evargalo's user avatar
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66 votes

Were Egyptian Pharaohs literate?

First, a few general observations: The time period covered here is more than 3,000 years and we know very little about many of the Pharaohs. Also, there were different scripts which evolved over time ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
42 votes
Accepted

Did this "sledge rigged like a sloop" vehicle ever exist, or was it an invention of Jules Verne?

Yes, and this wikipedia article and this other one describe it. The first article talks about ice boats in America (invented in Poughkeepsie, etc), but the second makes it clear that the Dutch had ...
kimchi lover's user avatar
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34 votes
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Are currently sold versions of "Mein Kampf" censored?

Mein Kampf was illegal in a lot of countries for a very long time. As already noted in a comment, it was never illegal in Germany. You could sell and buy any existing copies. Reprinting it was not ...
nvoigt's user avatar
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30 votes

What is the oldest known work of fiction?

I remember being taught that the oldest known work of fiction was the Ancient Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers. The story was one of those found on the Papyrus D'Orbiney, which has been dated to the ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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28 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo (1957) is a biography of Francesco Datini a 14th-century merchant banker. The only distinguishing factor of Datini is that by chance a huge stash of his written ...
Daniel Darabos's user avatar
26 votes
Accepted

What is the oldest known work of fiction?

If folktales count, then The Poor Man of Nippur (c. 1500 BCE) probably beats the Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers by at least a few centuries. It's certainly not mythological in any modern sense, being ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
24 votes

Where can I find the earliest surviving versions of Herodotus's Histories?

For a critical discussion on how modern versions of Herodotus' Histories have been compiled from the surviving manuscript sources, you could do a lot worse worse than the 1983 essay On Editing ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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23 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

Not a book, but there is a long-running documentary film series in the UK following the lives of ordinary people with a film every seven years from the first when they were seven years old. The latest,...
cookie75's user avatar
  • 331
22 votes

What kind of ink was used by medieval scribes in Iceland, given that there were no plant galls for iron-gall ink?

That's a really good question. As far as I know, there isn't yet a definitive answer, although I haven't kept fully up to date with the subject in recent years.. In Care and Conservation of ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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19 votes
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Why did Pausanias travel to Greece?

Short answer Pausanias does not clearly outline his aims in his work Periegesis or, if he did, that part of text has been lost. Thus, historians have had to rely on clues in Pausanias' text and what ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
17 votes
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Why didn't a noble family change their last name from a kind of duck to something more prestigious?

Actually, the answer is a bit confusing. The name was apparently originally a 'normal' one before one of Nikolai's ancestors added the 'Gogol' bit. A Reference Guide to Russian Literature tells us: ...
CDR's user avatar
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15 votes
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What was the primary motivation for a historical figure like Xenophon to create an extensive collection of written material?

Xenophon gave specific reasons for some of his works but for others he did not. Xenophon (about 431 BC to 354 BC) produced a very wide range of work during his lifetime: historical, biographical, ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
14 votes
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Did the medieval Europe have an active "lowbrow" culture?

Lowbrow culture have always existed in human society, they're just not necessarily that well preserved in the historical record, or in modern popular consciousness. Jokes about sex, farts, penises, ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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14 votes
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What are the tabs/spaces for in the Beowulf text

The spacing divides the 'half-lines' of the poem. This is fundamental to Old English metre, where each line of the poem consists of two half-lines, connected by alliteration. If you are interested, ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
13 votes

What kind of ink was used by medieval scribes in Iceland, given that there were no plant galls for iron-gall ink?

No expert scribe about to invest months of time, yards of prepared vellum, and scarce pigments would want to skimp on the black ink. In the middle ages, iron gall ink was the dominant standard for ...
Aaron Brick's user avatar
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13 votes
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What does this quote from the Roman imperial poet Rutilius mean?

Rutilius was referring to monks, whom he strongly disapproved of because of their ascetic lifestyle. At the time (late antiquity), the abandonment of wealth and family for an ascetic lifestyle was ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
13 votes

Why can't the gospel of Mark be as late as 110 CE?

The question needs a couple of frame challenges. Dating solutions for the gospel of Mark do range from ~40s–140s. It is correct to say that the most common/popular/conventional dating would put Mark ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
12 votes
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References or accounts in historical Egyptian literature about the Exodus

I will answer this in two parts, concerning historical tradition and actual historical documents. Historical Tradition and Writings None of the stories from the Hebrew Book of Names, which you know ...
Tyler Durden's user avatar
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12 votes

Were the names in 'Les Miserables' ever common?

Fantine I don't believe "Fantine" is a proper name, that is no mother ever names a child "Fantine" it's more of a nickname. It comes from the same root as "infant". It ...
12 votes
Accepted

Is the following claim concerning the loss of classical Latin literature substantiated?

It's hard to see how this claim could be substantiated given that we don't know how much existed in the first place. In a 2013 article Lost writings of Latin literature, Peter Knox (Professor of ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
12 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

One of my favorite historical accounts is The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (an Italian historian). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cheese_and_the_Worms It's an account of the life and ...
JamesIsIn's user avatar
  • 121
12 votes
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Are there any exemplars of the 'trope of the exiled poet' prior to CE 8?

Assuming that you are not restricting this to Roman poets, Alcaeus of Mytilene (circa 625–620 to circa 580 BC), a Greek lyric poet from Lesbos may be of help. He was certainly known to Ovid, who even ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
12 votes

Was Mark Twain's book 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' banned in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany)?

No. It wasn't "banned". And, well, yes. It was an examplary piece of world literature. Not to be ignored. Indeed: Much well liked by the governmental censors. But the very word "censors&...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Did Muslims swear by "the beard of the Prophet"?

This is a classic case of false depiction which is not uncommon in fiction. The Hadith (Sayings of Muhammad) quoted in the question you linked is correct and Muslims follow the "Sahih Hadiths" (Which ...
NSNoob's user avatar
  • 8,195
11 votes
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What does this Rx glyph mean in what looks like Latin?

You're looking at a scribal abbreviation for "-rum". That is, the word is actually philosophorum, but with the last three letters replaced with ꝶ. Here is a screenshot of the enlarged character from ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.6k
11 votes
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What is the full text of the song about the failed battle of Kiska?

The song is titled "Tales of Kiska", it's full text is located in the book Aleutians, Gilberts & Marshalls, June 1942-April 1944. You've heard the bloody tales of old Of fearless knights and ...
Josh's user avatar
  • 462
10 votes
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Was Ezra Pound a descendent of Jews?

Your question reminds me of the persistent Soviet/Russian folk legends that Isaak Newton and Abraham Lincoln were Jews ;-) There is no reason to think that Ezra Pound had any connection to Jews. He ...
sds's user avatar
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