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Friday, 25 March 2016

World History: Achaemenid Empire

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Standard_of_Cyrus_the_Great_(Achaemenid_Empire).svg
Iran, sometimes referred to as Persia, is a country that as seen many empires rise and fall over the many centuries. However, in the west the empires of Iran are often seen as 'the bad guy'. The main reason for this is because the people who shaped western civilizations often warred against Iran. The Romans repeatedly fought against the Parthians, the splintering Seljuk empire warred against Christian armies during the First and Second Crusades and since 1979 the United States and Iran have been enemies. Hence quite often historical bias has clouded interpretations on the many Iranian societies. Today we shall look at an Iranian empire which has been praised and reviled: the Achaemenid Empire. The Achaemenians rose to power around 550 BCE and created an empire which stretched from the Indus River Valley to Greece. Only in 331 BCE would the Achaemenians fall. How did this empire come into prominence though?

The forging of an empire
Cyrus the Great: http://www.iranchamber.com/history/cyrus/cyrus.php
The empire of the Achaemenians was not the first empire to take route in what is now Iran. A group known as the Medes established themselves near the Zagros mountains in western Iran during the Bronze Age. Unfortunately most of the literary sources that we have referring to the Medes comes from Greek sources, (notably the early historian Herodotus who lived a long time after the Medes were around), so we have much historical bias and inaccuracies to work with. What makes it worse is that only two Median sites, Godin Tepe and Nush-i Jan have been excavated. The Medes would go out and conquer modern day Iran bringing into their borders another group of people called the parsus or Persians. In fact they would even use the Persians to help conquer the Mesopotamian civilization of Assyria. Oral tradition has alleged that a legendary king overthrew the Medians. Through archaeology, and bias Greek sources, we know that during the reign of King Nabonidus of Babylon (554/553-550-549 BCE) Cyrus of Anshan from his city of Fars/Anshan overthrew the Median king Astyagas around 559 BCE. Cyrus was made Cyrus II and began a series of conquests which would rival that of Alexander the Great and Napoleon. Until his death around 530 BCE Cyrus was conquer the rest of Iran, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan and Central Asia with him supposedly being killed while campaigning against the Scyths east of the Aral Sea. His son, Cambyses, would go on to conquer Egypt. Cyrus, however, would be later called Cyrus the Great.
Tomb of Cyrus: http://www.historvius.com/tomb-of-cyrus-the-great-770/

The Achaemenians managed to achieve such successes against their opponents for several reasons. Greek sources allege that the Medians were skilled horsemen and it is likely that the Persians were equally as capable with horses. Horses can be used for chariots and chariots were powerful weapons, they were fast and hard to stop. However, it is one thing to conquer land it is another thing to keep it. Hitler and Napoleon were both heavily hindered not from opposing armies, but rather opposition among the people (although the armies were the main reason why they were defeated). Most of how he kept people on side shall be explained later on but Cyrus and his successors managed to establish a pro-Achaemenid government and appeal to the people. A recurring theme in history is how important religion was (and is) in society. When Cyrus took Babylon the Cyrus Cylinder claimed that he took Babylon a the bequest of Marduk, a Mesopotamian god, and restored his cult to dominance. He also extended tolerance to Jews by letting them return to Jerusalem. By appealing to the religion of most people in Babylon this helped Cyrus keep his empire. He also kept in place most of the ruling elite and had a military governor, with Babylon his son Cambyses, to rule the province. The best way to stop people from revolting was to let them rule themselves. Which brings us nicely onto the next point.

Ruling an Empire
http://www.ancient.eu/uploads/images/148.png?v=1431030815
 The above image shows how large the Achaemenid Empire was. Empires throughout history faced revolts based on religion and nationalism ranging from the Iceni revolts against Roman rule in Britain to countless uprisings against the often intolerant rule of the British and other European powers during the 1800s. The Achaemenids did face these types of uprisings but there were never an Achaemenid equivalent of Boadicea or George Washington. In fact the first widespread uprising against the Achaemenid was under Darius I, and even then it was because Darius had usurped the throne. How then did this empire manage to rule over so many different peoples?

The first main reason was communication. Despite the animosity Herodotus had for the Achaemenids he did complement how good their communication was. Efficient roads allowed messages sent via donkey to travel 200 miles a day. Aramaic was used as the lingua franca of the empire and it used the Phoenician alphabet instead of cuneiform to allow it to be more widely used. As stated earlier the Achaemenids used the pre-existing elite to rule the empire. This decentralization greatly aided the rulers. They would appoint Persian officials to make sure the territories were ran efficiently and the locals were normally left alone. The Achaemenid rulers actually referred to themselves as the 'king of kings' as they literally were this. Sources indicate that local cultures were regularly respected and even adopted by the Achaemenids. The tomb of Cyrus is heavily based on Greek design and the tomb of Darius has decorated Egyptian columns and Greek reliefs. This tolerance can also be seen in an account when Cambyses went to Egypt: 
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt [Cambyses] came to Sais. His majesty betook himself to the temple of Neith. He touched the ground before her very majesty as every king had done. He organized a great feast of all good things for Neith, the Great One, the Mother of God, and the great gods who are in Sais, as every excellent king has done.

By showing religious and cultural tolerance they created an empire which would last. Speaking of religion...

Religion and tolerance
http://www.livius.org/articles/religion/ahuramazda/
 The Achaemenids were Zoroastrian. Little is known about the founder of the religion, Zoroaster, but it perfectly encapsulates the key beliefs of the Achaemenids. Due to the inclusive nature of Zoroastrianism this allowed Cyrus to claim the victory over Babylon in the name of Marduk.  Zoroastrianism states that there is one god, Ahura Mazda, who is opposed to the destructive nature of Angra Mainyu. Sacrifice centering on fire is a core part of the belief as fire is believed to represent Ahura Mazda's light and wisdom. Persecuting religious minorities is prohibited in Zoroastrianism so the Achaemenids never enforced their religion on their subjects. When Babylon was captured and the Jews were allowed to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem this allowed them to support Cyrus. In fact he is mentioned in the Bible and has been called 'God's anointed'. In fact Zoroastrianism would deeply affect Jewish thinking and its influence would inspire several Christian teachings. Although Cyrus's tolerance could be seen merely as pragmatism rather than an actual tolerance. Another thing to mention is how Zoroastrianism forbade slavery. Slavery was banned in the Achaemenid Empire where the 'cradle of democracy' Athens had slavery.

Women
http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/women-i
Like most societies the Achaemenids were patriarchal. Men had primary inheritance rights and women were often silenced from politics, they were not allowed to perform religious ceremonies or hold office. However, they did have some power. Both men and women could work equally as laborers and women frequently headed the workforce in a position called arraššara pašabena where they could earn a high wage. Women have often been reported owning property and being educated on an equal basis as men also. High ranking women could also influence the king. Two women, Amestris and Amytis, managed to convince the king to spare the life of a local leader named Megabyzus. Although subordinate in society they were not completely suppressed. 

Greece
A shot from 300http://screenrant.com/300-prequel-movie-xerxes-sandy-109614/
Many people will recognize the above image from the hit film 300. Based on a graphic novel, based on a film called The 300 Spartans, based on ancient Greek propaganda and based on the Battle of Thermopylae where, according to Herodotus, 300 Spartans fought valiantly against the 5 million Persians under the tyrant Xerxes. However, this is all bull****. The truth lies to before Cyrus took power. The Greeks had colonized parts of Anatolia (modern day Turkey and Cyprus) and were known as the Ionian Greeks. Cyrus would later conquer them but unlike in other areas there was no local aristocracy or elite that was not divided to rule through. Hence the Persian imposed rulers, called 'tyrants', were met with constant revolt. In fact the Ionian Greeks were the few who opposed Achaemenid rule based on culture/ethnicity. In 499 BCE the Ionian Greek city states rose up and Darius I went to stop them. Athens and Sparta started helping the rebels which caused Darius to invade Greece. He landed at Marathon, about 42.195 kilometers or 26 miles 385 yards from Athens (and coincidentally the same distance as a marathon), but was defeated. After the death of Darius his son Xerxes decided to do what his father failed to do and conquer Greece. The Battle of Thermopylae was one such battle where King Leonidas of Sparta was killed. Xerxes was later defeated after another year of fighting.

Why is this important? Figures like Herodotus writing about history can show just how easily it can be distorted. From a society which forbade slavery, gave women some rights, adopted cultures and tolerated religions we instead saw it is a tyrannical monarchy. Would democracy have been stamped out in its infancy if the Achaemenids had won? Next time on World History we'll look at this as we look at Ancient Greece.
The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Persians by Gene Garthwaite
-The Human Past edited by Chris Scarre
-The Penguin History of the World by John Roberts

Friday, 18 March 2016

Comics Explained: The Punisher

http://nerdist.com/comics-relief-marvel-announces-the-return-of-the-punisher/
The new season of Daredevil starts today on Netflix and it will bring two major Marvel characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One will be covered this week and the other shall be covered in a fortnight. Today we'll be looking at Frank Castle a.k.a The Punisher. The Punisher is unique among Marvel characters in how he fights to save the innocent but does so with brutal force. Unlike Daredevil the Punisher is out to kill his opponents. How did the Punisher come about though?

First Appearance
http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_129
The Punisher first appeared in 1974 in The Amazing Spider-Man #129. Created by John Romita Sr. and Gerry Conway he actually appeared as an antagonist for Spider-Man to go against. Unlike the likes of Dr Octopus or the Green Goblin the Punisher came to blows with Spider-Man over Spider-Man supposedly killing Norman Osborn. Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin and had died by impaling himself on his own glider while battling Spider-Man (something later replicated in the film Spider-Man). Convinced by a mob boss named the Jackal the Punisher decided to kill Spider-Man for apparently murdering an innocent person (Osborn's identity as the Green Goblin was a secret). After he found out that Spider-Man was innocent he turned on the Jackal. Following his debut the anti-hero became an instant success and frequently appeared alongside multiple other Marvel characters including Daredevil and Captain America.

Origin
http://www.forbiddentointerfere.com/?m=201505
Frank Castle was born into a family descended of Sicilian immigrants. He was expected to become a Catholic priest but he opted out as he could not forgive people who had done evil. Instead he joined the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam. During his tenure in the Vietnam War he would win the Purple Star as well as learn the techniques that he would later use as a vigilante. A curious side note is how the Punisher's backstory has not been updated. Marvel utilizes a sliding timescale in order to keep their characters at around the same age. Iron Man for example originally made his suit during the Vietnam War but this has been updated to him getting his suit during the Gulf War and later during the War on Terror. Frank Castle is one of the few characters to not have this done to them (Captain America and Magneto are some other notable exceptions). After his time in Vietnam he joined the police, married and became a father to two children. However, everything went wrong when his family went to visit Central Park. A mob family called the Costas performed a mob execution and deciding they didn't want any witnesses shot Castle's family (depending on the author Frank was either shot and survived or arrived late to meet his family). Despite evidence from Frank the executors managed to get away with the murders. Enraged Frank became a vigilante called the Punisher with the direct aim to make sure nothing like this would happen again.

Other Appearances and Own Series
https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=92691
Over the years following his initial appearance Frank Castle as the Punisher would appear in various comics. In 1976 with The Amazing Spider-Man #161 he would reappear and would even get his own archenemy. A hit-man named Billy Russo was hired to kill Castle by the Costa family. He failed and the Punisher threw him through a window panel which tore his face to shreds. A botched surgery left his face horrifically scarred and this inspired Russo to become a mob leader and try to frame the Punisher. This failed thanks to Spider-Man and a member of the X-Men named Nightcrawler but he would become one of the Punisher's reoccurring opponents: Jigsaw. 

In 1986 the Punisher would finally gain his own series which would be far darker than the regular Marvel print. Although Jigsaw would be a regular villain he would be one of the few due to the fact that Frank Castle would often kill his opponents. He even got a 'sidekick' in the form of Mircrochip: a computer programmer who helped the Punisher get weapons and track his foes. During the 1980s and 1990s Castle would get two other series: War Journal (it would run from 1988-1995) and War Zone (running 1992-1995) as well as two black and white magazines. During this period he would take on hundreds of criminals from around the world including Yakuza, Russian and Italian mafia, cartels, rapists, human traffickers, the Aryan Brotherhood and corrupt cops. 

Punisher MAX and Gnucci War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Punisher_(2004_series)
By the late 1990s the steam in the Punisher comics would start to run out. However, in 2000 there was a storyline which would be so popular that it became implemented into a video game. Wanting to strike fear once again into the hearts of New York's criminal underworld he decided to go after the Gnucci crime family. Ma Gnucci ran the family with her three sons so the Punisher decided to wear them down in the war. Castle managed to kill her sons while Gnucci retaliated by having the police (who were in her pocket) hunt down Castle. Virtually unarmed he led Gnucci and her 'army' to the Central Park Zoo where he killed them off one by one until only Gnucci was left. He then threw her into the polar bear enclosure and the bears proceeded to maul her! She survived (even having a bodyguard shoot her cousin when asked 'how she is') and had a hitman named the Russian kill Castle for $10 million. The Russian failed and Castle returned to finish what he started.

A few years later Punisher MAX was formed by Marvel to create more gritty and darker variants of their characters. One of the series (Alias) would be made canon but virtually all of the other stories were not canon. Garth Ennis (an author known for more violent and darker comics) became the main writer for the series and created a world full of crime. Another thing to note is how superpowers do not exist in the series. However, the impact this series has had is phenomenal, so much so that parts of the story has been referenced in the mainstream comics. Just before the Civil War event in Civil War Files (where Iron Man discussed various heroes) it says: It’s almost like he inhabits two worlds, one where heroes can capture him and one where they can’t, and he can slip from one to the other with ease. Speaking of Civil War...

Civil War 
http://comicvine.gamespot.com/civil-war/4045-40615/
The Civil War storyarc affected virtually every Marvel character and the Punisher is no exception (feel free to check out my Comics Explained on Civil War: http://historyandgeekstuff.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/comics-explained-marvel-civil-war.html). The Punisher did not get involved in the Civil War until the pro-registration forces started recruiting supervillains, such as Venom, to fight for them. This brought him into the war as he was disgusted at how the pro-registration forces were using the villains. He initially even killed one in Civil War: Punisher #1, when the said villain tried to recruit him (the villain was Stilt-Man who I am pretty sure Marvel remembered was a character that existed, felt ashamed for making him and then tried to make up for it by killing him off). When Spider-Man tried to switch sides he was ambushed and started to be beaten to death by two pro-registration villains, Jack O'Lantern and Jester, until the Punisher arrived and killed them. He then took Spider-Man to Captain America's hideout (he had been secretly watching the anti-registration heroes) and managed to join their side. The Punisher even managed to steal the plans for the prison that the pro-registration forces were building to house the anti-registration forces. However, he was expelled when he shot two villains.

Thanks for reading. Next week will be a World History post but the week after I'll do another Comics Explained for the second newly introduced character: Elektra! 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

World History: Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism

http://www.ancientindia.co.uk/buddha/home_set.html
The last time we visited India for World History we looked at the Harappan Civilization (see here: http://historyandgeekstuff.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/world-history-three-river-civilizations.html). By 1300 BCE the civilization had collapsed and India saw a wave of changes including the increased usage of iron, various invasions by people from the north-west and the resurgence of city based cultures. In this setting India saw the rise of two offshoots of Hinduism. These two religions would go on to be two of the largest religions in not only India but the world. They were Jainism and Buddhism. Before we look at the development of these religions we first have to look at India after the disappearance of the Harappan Civilization.

Post-Harappa India
http://www.facts-about-india.com/aryans-arrival-in-india.php
Around c.1700 BCE a group of people migrated to India through the Indus Valley called the Aryans. Unfortunately through the work of European stupidity and that of the stupidity Social Darwinism the Aryans who migrated to India have often been viewed in terms of the Teutonic meaning. Romila Thapar, a very good historian, has summed it up well by saying 'It is doubtful whether the term arya was ever used in an ethnic sense'. Arya instead is a word meaning 'pure', 'respectable' or 'noble' and was applied to individuals and not an entire ethnicity. Anyway these Aryan people came from around the Caucasus and arrived in India via Iran and Afghanistan in several waves of migrations. They first settled in Panjab and soon spread across the Indian subcontinent. Whether this was a peaceful settlement or not has been highly debated; Mortimer Wheeler, the initial discoverer of the Harappan Civilization sites, argued that the Aryans conquered the Harappans although he lived at a time when the general consensus was if one civilization replaced another it had to be through conquest. 

The new settlers were mainly farmers and it would take centuries for them to build the impressive cities which on the scale that the Harappans did. They did, however, settle alongside the native peoples and eventually the two cultures started to blend together; although there is a strong leaning towards the Aryan culture. They used Sanskrit to write with and this produced the world's oldest religious text: the Rig-Veda. This text would not only give us a name for the new settles, Vedic, but would also act as one of the four sacred texts for Hinduism. In the Rig-Veda we would see some of the Vedic pantheon of gods including Agni, the god of fire, whose sacrificial flames could help people reach the gods as well as Varuna, the god of the heavens. 
The Rig-Veda: http://www.holybooks.com/rig-veda/
This blend of Vedic and native cultures would eventually shape India in the future. Many parts of Indian society and that of Hinduism can be found emerging during the Vedic period. One of these is the Varna which would evolve into the caste system. Ancient texts said that all of humanity was split into four varnas: the Brahmins, priests, teachers and preachers, Kshatriyas, kings, governors and warriors, Vaishyas, merchants and agriculturalists and the Shudras, laborers. As the brahmins were the mouth for the gods they were highest in society while the shudras who did menial work were at the bottom. The caste system would remain throughout Indian history and would be often challenged by many influential figures such as Gandhi and the 19th Century mystic Ramakhrisna. Varna was heavily linked to the idea of Dharma which is your duty to do your job no matter what. If you were a farmer in was your duty to be a farmer and if you were a warrior it was your duty to fight. In the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita this is summed up well. Lord Krishna visits a prince and tells him there is nothing more noble for him than to battle, the prince is a kshatriya. Even if he is killed he has achieved his Dharma. It was far better to be a poor warrior than to be anything else. Another major part of Hinduism and Vedic culture is Samsara; the continuous cycle of rebirth. When you died you would be reborn in the body of an individual just born. Who you was reborn as depended on karma. If you did good deeds and worked to fulfill your Dharma you would get good karma and would be reborn as someone in a higher caste but if you did the opposite you would be reborn in a lower caste. However, the goal is not to be born into the brahmin caste; instead the goal is to achieve Moksa which is the liberation from the continuous cycle of rebirth. Different schools of thought in Hinduism disagree about how to achieve this but they often refer to a oneness with god.

Along the Gangetic Plain in northern India in the late seventh century BCE sixteen major city based kingdoms emerged called the mahajanapada. The history of these kingdoms are so complex that it makes European history seem homogenous and easy to follow so instead we shall look at the two major developments that arose during this time period: Buddhism and Jainism

Jainism
http://www.galeriegolconda.com/en/products/jain-india-medieval-tirthankara-shantinatha-jainsandstone-galerie-golconda/
We know very little about the origin of Jainism, much less so than we do other religions like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Helmut von Glasenapp has suggested that it arose around 1000 BCE. Jainism follows the teachings of twenty-four Tirthankara where Rishabhanatha was the first one. However, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara, Mahavira, is the most influential one and most of the teachings of Jainism derives from him stretching all the way back to the sixth century BCE. Jainism was a reaction against the brahmanical aspect of Hinduism where Moksha can be achieved without a oneness with god. To do this you would have to have the Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. A series of ethics would go on to shape how Jains lived: Ahimsa, this forbids the harming of any life-form bar the lowest form of life (vegetables, wheat etc.), Satya, to only speak the truth, Asteya, non-theiving, Brachmacharya, chastity and finally Aparigraha, non-possessiveness. Jainism would quickly take off after Mahavira but it would be overshadowed by another new religion: Buddhism.

Buddhism
http://allcars.pw/brandsadwn-ancient-buddhist-paintings.htm
Like with most religions we actually know little about the actual founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, (there are many debates about when he was actually born). As a result we rely heavily on Buddhist texts and from there Siddhartha Gautama had a somewhat vaguely similar situation to Mahavira. Both came from the kshatriya caste although 'Buddha' would live around the fifth-century BCE. He was the son of Suddhodana who was the raja of the Sakja, a state which had many rajas, and a prophecy said that if Suddhodana's son ever left the palace the family's power would fall. As a result Siddhartha Gautama would be given a wife and as much food and entertainment that he wanted but he realized that there was more to life so would sneak out. While outside the palace he saw an old man, a sick man and a corpse and started to question why these misfortunes happen. He permanently left the palace, renounced his crown and traveled to find the holiest people to help him answer his question. He studied under various distinguished teachers but always felt disappointed and even ignored King Bimbisara of Magadhara who offered him the opportunity to return to his ksatriya station. After meditating for a month he is said to have reached nirvana (moksa) becoming the Buddha. He would teach his pupils the Four Noble Truths: all life is suffering, the source of suffering is desire, to end this suffering you have to end desire and to stop desire you have to follow the Noble Eightfold Path. This path comprised of the right view, the right intention, the right speech, the right action, the right livelihood, the right effort, the right mindfulness and the right concentration. Buddhism managed to quickly become successful as it did not challenge the brahmanical religion but rather sidestepped it, throughout history clashing religions often leads to violence which Buddhism averted. It also managed to gain widespread support as it offered women and members of lower castes the opportunity to become monks or key roles. Caste and sex were irrelevant in the eyes of the Buddha so it gave greater roles to these oppressed peoples.

Buddhism did continue after the death of Siddhartha Gautama, largely thanks to the role of monks. Inevitably Hinduism would win over the people of India and even today Buddhism is nowhere near the main religion in India. Buddhism, however, did spread into Bhutan, Nepal, Japan, China, Sri Lanka and southeast Asia extremely successfully. Today Buddhism is the dominant religion, or one of the main religions, in those countries. However, there was on Indian ruler who did convert to Buddhism.

Ashoka
https://historyfacebook.wikispaces.com/Maurya+Dynasty
Ashoka was born around 304 BCE into the Maurya dynasty and is often regarded as one of India's greatest emperors. The Maurya Empire was one of the largest empires at the time. The picture below shows just how great the empire was.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurya_Empire
Ashoka in 265 BCE would go on to conquer the Kingdom of Kalinga in eastern India. He attacked the small kingdom with an army of 400,000 and destroyed Kalinga. Over 100,000 civilians were supposed to have been massacred and the Daya River quite literally ran red with blood. This horrified Ashoka so much that he converted to Buddhism, renounced violence and started building monuments including stupas and pillars devoted to Buddhism. On many of these monuments Ashoka had edicts describing Dharma written on them. However, Buddhism's nature directly contradicts the rule of emperors so Ashoka's state can only be considered quasi-Buddhist. The Maurya Empire would collapse fifty years after Ashoka's death and with it Buddhism was almost wiped out in India.

The reason why Buddhism survived though is how flexible it is. Buddhism's teachings and the fact that it says that all religions can achieve nirvana allowed it to blend with local teachings. Buddhist teachings are very similar to that of Taoism and Confucianism which allowed it to get such a stronghold in China. We have to remember that the spiritual leader of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, (a position established in the fourteenth-century CE) home is traditionally in Tibet and not India. Likewise the Buddha is considered to be one of the incarnations of Vishnu in Hinduism. Buddhism's flexibility helped make it last through the ages.

Thanks for reading. The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Penguin History of the World by John Roberts
-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Nn5uqE3C9w
-India: A History by John Keay
-A History of India by Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund
Next time on World History we'll be looking at the Achaemenid Empire and seeing how accurate 300 is in representing the mighty Persian empire.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

My Top 20 Pokémon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon
This week the trailer for Pokemon Sun and Moon was released. Pokemon has been a major aspect of culture for the last twenty years and it has been a massive part of my own life. For years I would be fully emerged in the world of Pokemon travelling across the lands of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh with my six Pokemon. We bonded with our Pokemon and felt elated when they won and crushed when they lost. Very few series have managed to create such a bond with the characters and the world as poignant as that of Pokemon. Watching the trailer for Sun and Moon brought back many found memories of the hours that I spent playing Pokemon. As it is the twentieth anniversary I thought it would be fitting to do my top 20 Pokemon. The last generation that I played was Generation Four, Black and White was released in 2011 so it was either buy one of the games or save up for Skyrim and unfortunately the 3DS was a bit too far out of my price range, so this list will only cover Generations 1 to 4. Now let us travel through Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh one more time!

20- Poochyena  

http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/poochyena
Introduced in Generation Three Poochyena is not one of the most stand out Pokemon. With total stats of 220 it is one of the weakest of the initial Pokemon encountered with only Wurmple being weaker; even then Wurmple was purposefully designed to be a weaker Pokemon. Although it's abilities Quick Feet and Run Away can be useful, especially Run Away if in a cave and are constantly being attacked by Zubats, it is not the best Pokemon to battle with. However, Poochyena earned a spot on the list purely for one reason: it was the first Pokemon I ever caught. My first Pokemon game was Sapphire and the first wild Pokemon that I managed to catch was a Poochyena (which I named Poochy). Although Poochy was often knocked out he remained with me through the entire game alongside my starter. He was unfortunately knocked out by the Champion's Aggron but he was there regardless when the Champion was defeated. Poochyena may not be the best Pokemon around but it has a special place in my heart.

19- Miltank
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/miltank
Miltank has turned out to be one of the most enduring Pokemon in the entirety of the franchise. With speed of 100 and combined with defense of 105 already it is a Pokemon not to be dealt with lightly. I have seen many people rage about Whitney's (the third Gym Leader in Generation 2) Miltank would destroy their party. Although I did not start with Generation 2 the infamy of this Miltank would cause me to hunt for a long time in the Safari Zone in Emerald to find one. A year later when I managed to get a second hand copy of Silver I found out firsthand the power of this unsuspecting Pokemon. It's move Rollout would continuously decimate the health of my Pokemon for turn after turn and the move Milk Drink (which restores up to 50% of Miltank's health) would render all the work I had previously done useless. For that reason Miltank has to be on this list.

18- Gastrodon
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/gastrodon
Gastrodon is not one of the most strongest Pokemon, in fact its health stat is the only stand out stat that it has, and being both Water and Ground type makes it doubly weak to Grass type Pokemon. However Gastrodon has the benefit of Storm Drain which makes all Water type moves 100% accurate which decimated any Fire type Pokemon. Gastrodon is also very unique by having two designs based on where it is found, the blue/green one found in east Sinnoh and the pink/brown one in west Sinnoh. I thought this was a very inventive aspect of the game as often in the wild we see animals which can look different depending on where they are in the world. Game Freak (the creators of Pokemon) implementing this into the game added another layer of detail and helping us be immersed in the world even further. Gastrodon also looks much like the animal in which it is based on, sea slugs, so this is why Gastrodon appears on this list over the Pokemon it evolved from (Shellos).

17- Pidgeot

Although not as good as Staraptor from Generation 4 Pidgeot was hands down one of the best bird Pokemon for years. With speed of 101 accompanied by an attack of 80 Pidgeot was one of the most formidable member of any finely tuned Pokemon teams. In fact a Pidgeot was one of the Pokemon that I used in FireRed to defeat the Champion and she managed to survive the battle. Pidgeot narrowly beats Fearow in terms of stats and wipes the floor with Farfetch'd making it the best bird Pokemon in Generation 1. It would take until Generation 4 for a new bird Pokemon to knock Pidgeot of its roost so for that Pidgeot is one of the best Pokemon in my opinion.

16- Geodude
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/geodude
Although being a very common Pokemon and being doubly weak to Water and Grass Geodude is a must for any early Pokemon Trainer. For being the first Pokemon in an evolutionary trio it has staggering defense at 100 and its attack, although not as strong, can really pack a punch. It is a difficult Pokemon to catch early in game with Defense Curl raising an already high defense even higher and if you are unlucky enough to encounter one early game that knows Magnitude it can do serious damage to your team. On the plus side if caught those negative effects can be used to your advantage. In Generation 1 (and in the remakes) Geodude can be caught at Mt. Moon, just before the Electric Gym so with Geodude being immune to Electric attacks this can be a great help to get your third Gym Badge.

15- Blaziken
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/blaziken
I initially did not pick Blaziken's initial form (Torchic) in Generation 3 but after battling my rival's Blaziken I decided to trade for one (albeit that trade was with myself when I traded a Zubat for a Combusken). Blaziken's mixture of Fire and Fighting makes it a formidable opponent with it knowing several very powerful attacks. When adds to this is Blaziken's extremely high stats with it having an attack of 120 and special attack of 110 which makes Blaziken's already powerful moves even more powerful. On top of this every Fire type attack that it knows is made even more powerful by the fact that it has the ability Blaze which makes these moves far more powerful. We have to mention its design as well. It looks like it is a formidable Pokemon and looks like it is a born fighter. This makes even more sense when the designers announced that Blaziken was based off of Shamo chickens, a breed bred especially for cock fighting. Blaziken was so popular that the next generation Game Freak tried to replicate Blaziken with Infernape but nothing could surpass this Fire/Fighting warrior.

14- Mew
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/mew
Mew is our first legendary Pokemon on our list. Mew is on here for several reasons. For one in the Pokemon world it is said to be the very first Pokemon, the DNA of Mew is supposedly to have the genetic codes for every Pokemon. Catching Mew itself lives up to its legendary nature. In Generation 1 the only way to catch Mew involved glitching the game and since the only way to obtain a Mew was via a short event held by Nintendo and Game Freak. Since that event there has been no legitimate way, that I know of in Generations 1-4, to catch a Mew without glitches, cheats or hacks. Mew also is one of the few Pokemon to have 100 for each of its stats making it an overall powerful Pokemon but on top of this Mew knows the move Transform. That means Mew can take the form of any other Pokemon and use its move set. As a result of this Mew can know every move possible. Hence Mew is truly a legendary Pokemon.

13- Blastoise
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/blastoise
Blastoise was the final evolution of the first generation and has gone on to be one of the fan favorite Pokemon. Although outmatched in other fields by other Water type Pokemon Blastoise more than makes up for this with the staggeringly high defense and special defense meaning it takes much to drain this Pokemon's health. While I was playing FireRed my rival had a Blastoise and the raw power of this Pokemon made the battle extremely enjoyable as well as making the victory even greater. Game Freak has even shown us that Blastoise will be appearing in Sun and Moon, look on the designs for the fire truck and you can see that there is a Blastoise sitting on it.

12- Absol
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/absol
Absol is the better version of Mightyena, without a doubt. When choosing which Pokemon to use to battle the Elite Four in Sapphire my Absol was almost chosen over Poochy and later on for Emerald I did battle the Elite Four with an Absol. Although Absol is weaker than Mightyena in health, defense and special defense it more than makes it up for it in attack (at a staggering 130!). Moreover Absol is more of what I expect a Dark type Pokemon to be: something mysterious and foreboding. Houndoom, Mightyena and Luxray all look foreboding but Absol has been designed to have an air of mystery about it, just as the dark should be. Moreover Absol can only be found in one area in Generation 3 and two in Generation 4 (and even then those two places were not in the same place) which added to the mystery behind this Pokemon. Good stats, design and rarity definitely earns Absol a place on this list.

11- Dragonair 
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/dragonair
Dragonair is a regal looking Pokemon. When we think of a dragon we either think of the great winged behemoths of The Hobbit ilk or we think of the majesty of the Japanese ryu or Chinese lung. Dragonair perfectly encapsulates this design having an air of sheer beauty surrounding it. It is a powerful Pokemon as well having stats equivalent to that of fully evolved Pokemon. Dragonair's less frequent appearances in the Pokemon games also adds to the idea that it is a psuedo-legendary Pokemon. In Generation 1 and the successive remakes Dragonair could only be obtained via evolving Dratini and in the later generations any wild Dragonairs were extremely rare. With it being a hard to obtain Pokemon this adds to the overall appeal of Dragonair. I chose to put Dragonair and not the evolved form, Dragonite, for two main reasons. One is how I actually used a Dragonair for quite some time playing FireRed so I got more attached to it being a Dragonair than a Dragonite. The second reason is how Dragonair and not Dragonite was deemed so important to appear in the opening of the first season of the anime. 

10- Lugia
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/lugia
First appearing in Generation 2 Lugia is one of the most memorable of the legendary Pokemon and when it was first released it was also one of the more powerful ones. In the world of Pokemon it is supposed to be the leader of the trio of legendary birds from the first generation, (Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres), and is said to be the guardian of the seas. The PokeDex entry from Diamond and Pearl says that Lugia can cause 40 day storms by flapping its wings. Not only that but Lugia is based off of the legendary dragon Ryujin from Japanese mythology adding to Lugia's credibility as a powerful legendary figure. A final point to mention is how Pokemon XD: Gales of Darkness had Lugia as the flagship legendary Pokemon bearing a slight color redesign to make it look like a malevolent god. As a child the image of Dark Lugia stuck with me for a long time making Lugia one of the greatest legendary Pokemon.

9- Pikachu
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/pikachu
No list is complete without Pikachu. Pikachu is the most recognizable Pokemon around being the flagship for the entire franchise. Pikachu is one of the few Pokemon to appear in every game in the Pokemon franchise and even managed to have games entirely devoted to Pikachu. Over the years this Pokemon has been parodied in many forms of media ranging from The Simpsons, to Drawn Together to the Nostalgia Critic thus showing how recognizable this Pokemon is. Although not the best Pokemon Pikachu is the most enduring and I always made sure that I had a Pikachu in either my party or my PC through each play through. Even if I had evolved my Pikachu into the much stronger Raichu I would always go out and catch another one. We also have to mention how Ash's Pikachu in season one of the anime gave us two of the best episodes of said season, Electric Shock Showdown and Pikachu's Goodbye.

8- Butterfree
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/butterfree
Many of you would be thinking why I placed Butterfree so high on the list when there are many more better designed and stronger Pokemon. My two favorite Pokemon games growing up were FireRed and Emerald for several personal reasons. The first wild Pokemon that I caught in FireRed was a Caterpie and it soon became the first Pokemon in that game which I fully evolved. That Butterfree would remain a loyal member of my party through the rest of the game and would often prove decisive in every gym battle. My Butterfree would often use Confusion and Psychic to great effect which helped me win several hard gym battles. The same can also be said for helping me defeat one of the four members of the Elite Four. Butterfree was one of my best Pokemon in that game. The second reason lies with the anime. Ash's first fully evolved Pokemon was his Butterfree and the episode Bye Bye Butterfree was one of the best episodes in the series. It was heart wrenching and one of the most sad episodes of the entire program let alone season. Hence Butterfree has earned its way onto the list. 

7- Lucario
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/lucario
Lucario is one of the best known Pokemon of recent years having great success among non-Pokemon fans. Although having no where near the acclaim that Pikachu can boast Lucario has earned much acclaim. For one it is one of the four fighters from the Pokemon franchise to appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (the others being Pikachu, Jigglypuff and Pokemon Trainer), being one of the mascots for the new game Pokken and even had a movie before the Pokemon even appeared in the games. Not only that Lucario has extremely high stats for a Pokemon which isn't a legendary or psuedo-legendary with a total stats of 525. Even obtaining Lucario is a task in itself having to complete a certain amount of Diamond and Pearl, hatching the egg of Riolu and then increasing Riolu's happiness during the day to help it evolve. Despite such as hassle obtaining a Lucario it is well worth it.

6- Alakazam
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/alakazam
This Pokemon is one of the most powerful Psychic types in the entire franchise. Having speed at 120 and special attack at 135 this made Alakazam one of the most powerful non-physical attack Pokemon. Not only that Alakazam was one of two Pokemon (the other we shall get to shortly) which caused Psychic Pokemon to be weak against Ghost and Dark types when Generation 2 was released due to have overpowered it was. In fact the Dark type was actually introduced in Generation 2 to combat the strength of Psychic types. Alakazam also raised a few questions in the Pokemon world. Several PokeDex entries state that Alakazam has an IQ of 5000 and is smarter than many supercomputers. The world's smartest person, Christopher Langan, has an IQ between 195 and 210. In the Pokemon world a being with an IQ almost 24 times that of the smartest human can be trapped in a ball to fight for a ten year old child...

5- Kyogre 
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/kyogre
Kyogre was one of the legendary Pokemon introduced in Generation 3 and is one of my favorite legendary Pokemon. Within the games it is said that Kyogre controls water and created the seas but also has intense battles with a legendary Pokemon called Groudon that can destroy the entire planet and said battles can only be stopped by the intervention of a third legendary Pokemon. Not only does this resemble biblical tales of gods fighting but it also raises issues about how a child can catch it in a ball and make it fight for them. Like all legendary Pokemon Kyogre has staggeringly high stats being at a total of 670. There is a reason why I put Kyogre so high: it got me interested in Pokemon. Seeing Kyogre on the adverts so many years ago it instantly drew my attention to the franchise. I started watching the anime in hope that I could catch a glimpse of the Pokemon and eventually when I first played Sapphire I was eager to do battle with the behemoth.

4- Sceptile
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/sceptile
Sceptile is not even close to being the strongest starter Pokemon never mind Pokemon in general but it has a special place in my heart. It was my very first starter Pokemon and I would use it again in Emerald. Over two adventures I battled with a Sceptile and it earned a firm place in my heart. What made it even better was how Ash in the anime managed to get a Sceptile as well so I felt a stronger connection with mine. I could see an animated version of my own Pokemon alongside some of my favorite characters. Also the fact that it was with a Sceptile that I caught a Kyogre helps a lot to endear itself in my childhood nostalgia.

3- Charizard
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/charizard
This is easily one of the best known starter Pokemon in all of the games. Charizard is one of the more powerful of the starter Pokemon and is one of the best design. Dragons instantly capture the attention of everyone and Charizard is no exception to this rule. The design for Charizard is fantastic. Not only that the people in charge of adapting Pokemon noticed this as well. Ash's Charizard was the only fully evolved starter that he had in season one, Red in Pokemon: Origins had a Charizard and Charizard even appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl being one of the Pokemon Trainer's Pokemon. Not to mention how Game Freak made you battle two Charizards in Pokemon Ranger and gave Charizard two mega evolutions showing how popular this Pokemon is. Finally I love Charizard myself. Not only was Charizard my starter in FireRed but my character was also a character in the first Mystery Dungeon game. Being as blunt as possible Charizard is awesome.

2- Rayquaza
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/rayquaza
Rayquaza is without a doubt one of the best legendary Pokemon around. When first introduced it had the joint highest stats of any Pokemon, only to be beat by Arceus in Generation 4, but with the addition of Mega Rayquaza it now has the joint highest stats once more. Flying endlessly in the ozone layer it is a virtual god and is the only Pokemon able to end the battles between Kyogre and Groudon. As stated earlier Emerald was one of my favorite Pokemon games and this legendary happened to be said game's mascot. Rayquaza even served as the final boss in Mystery Dungeon as well as a boss in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Not only that but the design of Rayquaza is fantastic. The design is clearly inspired by the dragons of Japanese mythology and Rayquaza fits the part perfectly. In Japanese mythology dragons are often god like beings which Rayquaza definitely is. 

1- Mewtwo
http://pokemondb.net/pokedex/mewtwo
Here we have the ultimate Pokemon. Born of genetic experiments by splicing the DNA of Mew Mewtwo has become the ultimate fighting machine. The power of Mewtwo is so strong that this is one of the Pokemon that influenced Game Freak to introduce Psychic Pokemon being weak to Ghost and Dark types to counteract how overpowered it is. Until Generation 3 it was by far the most powerful Pokemon having stats of 680 and even then when Rayquaza was introduced it was only equal to Mewtwo's stats. With the introduction of Arceus however Mewtwo ceased to be the most powerful Pokemon. When mega evolutions were introduced Mewtwo though Mewtwo became the most powerful again alongside Rayquaza. Like Charizard Mewtwo was recognized as being a fan favorite and gained two mega evolutions.  Mewtwo even has an entire movie based around it! Mewtwo remains one of the greatest legendary Pokemon and one of the greatest Pokemon altogether.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my list and were there any Pokemon which you would have chosen instead? Please feel free to comment.