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Friday, 30 September 2016

World History: The Maya

Chichen Itza
When we think of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city based societies we often think of the Aztecs of modern day Mexico. However, the Aztecs were not the first city based societies to inhabit Mesoamerica. Today we shall look at one of these civilizations: the Maya. The Maya are primarily known for two things: their flat topped pyramids and their 'prediction' that the world would end in 2012. Thirty-two languages comprising of people living in cities across Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico the Maya civilization was intriguing. Despite their cities becoming abandoned the Maya live on despite what the media says with 6 million individuals living across central America. Today we shall look at the Maya civilization. First though we have to look at the origin of the Maya civilization.

The Rise of Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan Today
Mesoamerica has been described as being one of the 'cradles of civilization', (others being Mesopotamia, the Yellow River, the Nile, the Indus River and the central Andes). Around 2000 BCE signs of farming could be found in Mesoamerica including the cultivation of maize, beans, chili peppers, and squash, (for the origins of agriculture please see here). Without draft animals like cattle and horses living in Mesoamerica the early farmers did not have to cut down the forests to grow grass to feed the animals, (as a result the wheel was not invented in Mesoamerica). In the Yucatan peninsula villages started to emerge and, in the 7th century BCE these villages had grew becoming cities. Around this time we also see the rise of Mesoamerican hieroglyphic writing at sites including San Jose Mogote. For a long time, particularly western historians, have asserted that the Mesoamerican writing was not real writing, or that even the Egyptians founded the Mesoamerican cities. Thor Heyerdahl even built two boats out of papyrus to prove that it was capable for ancient north Africans could travel to the Americas, (he also believed there to be a cultural link between the peoples of South America and Polynesia). However, analysis has shown that the Mesoamerican cities evolved independently from other civilizations. Looking at Mayan and Egyptian hieroglyphs, for example, you can see a clear difference between the two.

In the 1st century BCE cities in the Yucatan started to grow exponentially. From c.400-200 BCE at Nakbe buildings were made 30-40 meters high, and at El Mirados several large monuments were created. We also see evidence for stratified societies with the presence of rich burials at Tikal. One of the main centers of growth of Teotihuacan in Mexico, founded around 200 BCE. Several cultures other than the Maya inhabited Teotihuacan including the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. Despite being on swampy ground it thrived thanks to it being built on raised beds called chinampas, and thanks to this the city was connected via water channels allowing transportation of food and other goods with canoes. It also became an area of religious significance with in 200 BCE the mighty Pyramid of the Sun being built in the center of the city. As the city was built around a religious site this shows the importance of religion in Mayan society. By 100 CE the city had reached a population of 200,000, dwarfing most contemporary cities in Europe. In 250 CE the Mayans ruled Teotihuacan, and several other cities across Mesoamerica. From 250 is the period we shall look at.

Mayan Society
Mayan social heirachy
Like virtually every other society in history the Mayans had a strict class structure. Despite there being many different Mayan languages and peoples this class system was almost universal among them. At the top was the king/high priest, (called the ajaw), who was both the political and spiritual head of the city. The ajaw was said to be semi-divine, being descended from a maize god, which is not too dissimilar from many other societies: European Christian rulers had the 'Divine Right of Kings' saying that God made them king, Japanese Emperors were said to be descended from a god, the Egyptian pharaohs and Mesopotamian kings were descended from gods, Chinese emperors claimed the Mandate of Heaven to rule etc. As religious leader as well the ajaw had to lead religious ceremonies including a bloodletting ceremony as being descended from a god this meant their blood was sacred. Below the ajaw was the royal family who helped rule. Like many other societies the Mayans were patriarchal so women could only inherit the throne if the dynasty had gone extinct. Below the royal family we have the nobles or almehenob who gave up members of their family to become priests to help the ajaw perform religious customs. Then we have the remaining 90% of society. The commoners, (and slaves), were the largest section of society who regularly worked on farms, as laborers, or as soldiers during times of war. If they were lucky they could become a servant for a noble or the ajaw himself, but this was a very rare privilege. We know little about the lives of commoners with the written and archaeological records strongly favoring the elite of society, so as always they are forgotten about. Traditionally commoner dwellings were at the bottom of the city on the lower platforms. However, particularly after the widespread usage of metallurgy after 600 CE we have another class distinction among the commoners: artisans and merchants. These people started to become extremely wealthy thanks to trading goods like jewelry and gold, as well as being hired to design buildings for the elite.

Below the commoners we have slaves. Slaves were traded all around Mesoamerica by the Mayans, and other peoples, and had no rights. Typically slaves were either used for hard labor, or for ritual sacrifice although the latter was rare. Many slaves were acquired through warfare and were prisoners of war as, according to Elizabeth Graham of University College London, it was seen as dishonorable to kill or die in battle. Women were marginalized in society as well. Like with the commoners there are few records showing or depicting women. Although there were many female goddesses there is little evidence of women taking part in rituals. On a side note, unlike many other societies even commoners ate meat. The elite got the best cuts but a large part of Mayan diet was meat.

Mayan sacrifice
The Mayans were polytheistic so when the Spanish arrived they destroyed much of the texts and hieroglyphs seeing them as blasphemous. Luckily enough survived, as well as tales from Mayans today, for us to have a good knowledge of Mayan religion. Mayan gods were depicted as having a good and a bad side to them which they also in turn applied to the human soul which was believed to be split into a human and animal side. The animal side of the soul was believed to be a protector or companion. One of the most revered god was Izamna, the fire and earth and Creator god. Kukulkan, the feathered serpent god, was also deeply revered in the state of Itza where many sites honor this god. El Castillo at Chichen Itza was a temple honoring Kukulkan where during the equinoxes the sun casts shadows from the temple and the pyramid which merge making it appear a large serpent has descended onto the pyramid. Conversely, the Lacandon Maya portray Kukulkan as a monstrous, evil serpent.

Blood was significant in Maya religion. The ajaw and royal family were expected to partake in bloodletting ceremonies. The reason for this is that it was believed that you could communicate with the gods with blood, and as the royal family were said to be descended from gods this was the ultimate honoring of the gods. Human sacrifice was also prevalent. Elizabeth Graham has said that Mayan sacrifices have been over exaggerated but they did happen. Since the Olmecs (1200-400 BCE) human and animal sacrifice had happened in Mesoamerica. The Mayans, however, would not perform mass sacrifices of thousands as many European primary sources have stated. Instead they would sacrifice notables such as leaders of opposing cities and tribes. An example is in 738 CE K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat managed to capture his overlord, Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil, and sacrificed him by decapitation. Normally sacrifice was done by cutting out the heart so it could be burnt. Sacrifice played a huge role in the idea of the afterlife. Only those who were sacrificed, or died in childbirth, could go to heaven; everyone else, including the ajaws, had to go to a underworld to go on a treacherous journey. 

Calendars and Astronomy
A Mayan Calendar
The movement of the stars and planets was essential for Mayan religion. Although done by the naked eye the Mayans managed to track the movements of the stars so accurately that they were far more accurate than the contemporary European knowledge of the stars. They even managed to measure the the 584-day cycle of Venus being only two hours out! Venus was associated with war so leaders would plan their battles to coincide with favorable positions of the planet. Solar and lunar eclipses were seen as dangerous events with even the Dresden Codex depicting a serpent devouring the hieroglyph for day, (k'in). As a result priests would perform rituals to ward off disaster. The Mayan calendar was so successful that it is still in use in some areas to this day. 365 days was called a haab' and 52 habb's constituted one calendar round. To accurately track history though they created the Long Count, (although it is likely that the Olmecs first created it), which was accurately placed on monuments they had so much trust in it. The Long Calendar would reset after 5,126 years and a new Long Calendar would start. However, the Long Calendar would end on December 21 2012, and because in Maya religion there had been three previously failed worlds each lasting a Long Calendar this led to many people in the 20th and 21st centuries to believe the apocalypse would come in 2012. This was a grievous error as in Mayan religion the time that the Long Calendar covered was seen as a success, not a failed world, and there are no Mayan accounts saying that the apocalypse would come on December 21 2012. In fact, on that date in areas where the Mayan civilization existed many people celebrated in festivals to welcome in a new brand new era. 

Mayan Collapse
In 600 CE the various Mayan cultures dominated Mesoamerica, around 700 CE Teotihuacan was destroyed, and from 800 CE the Mayan cities started to be abandoned. From successful traders and city-based farmers the Mayans dispersed making the Spanish initially refuse to acknowledge that the cities had been built by Mayans. The big question is why? This was not a fast, universal process either. From 600 to 850 the southern Yucatan and Maya started to 'vanish', (as in from the cities), and eventually this spread to the north. With Teotihuacan we know that there were severe droughts during the sixth century but that does not explain the burn marks, and signs of sacking in the city. One theory has stated it was thanks to foreign invasion, but all the burn marks are located around royal areas leading to archaeologists to believe that there was an uprising. Although nearby cities such as Cholula and Cacaxtla have signs of Teotihuacan art leading some to believe that the droughts weakened the larger city, and the smaller ones took advantage by sacking it. For the other cities it is likely that there were a wide range of factors including drought, soil erosion, uprisings, savage warfare, and disease which caused the Mayans to abandon their cities. However, it was not a universal exodus; Chichen Itza actually became a power in 900 and Mayapan remained a power around 1441 having a population of 12,000. Mayan sources have said in these two areas drought, famine, and rebellion caused a collapse. Quite possibly this also happened with the other cities. After this several small polities with small populations dotted the Yucatan, and they remained when Hernan Cortes arrived in 1519, (he would later conquer the Aztecs). The Spanish were impressed by the Mayans with their large towns, pyramids, and literacy of the priests. However, this did not stop them from fighting the Mayans hungry for slaves, gold, and land. In 1697 the last Mayan kingdom fell.

The Mayan civilizations remain one of the most unique civilizations across the world. Thirty-two languages, various cultures, and a range of gods made them a unique city-based society. While Europe and China remained mostly rural the Maya was mostly urban, a sign of things to come for most of the world. What is fascinating though is how people forget that 6 million Mayans live in central America today. Ideas of the population vanishing from the cities and apocalypse predictions have made them appear as a long lost people, like the Tasmanians or Minoans. However, Mayan culture is still strong today. The next World History post will take us back to Europe. Last time we spoke about the Byzantines and their view that they were the successor of Rome; next time we'll look at an actual attempt to reform the western half of the empire. We'll look at Charlemagne and the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. 

Thanks for reading and the sources I have used are as follows:
-The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies edited by Chris Scarre
-World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction by Brian Fagan
-BBC In Our Times podcast, The Maya Civilization
-The Times Complete History of the World edited by Richard Overy

For a list of other World History posts please see here

Sunday, 25 September 2016

World History: Byzantine Empire

A mosaic in the Hagia Sophia
Last time on World History we spoke about the origin of Islam, and how it managed to spread thanks to the weakness of the Byzantine Empire (as well as the Sassanid Empire). Please see here. Quite often the Byzantine Empire is mentioned in history but very rarely do any world history books or series focus on this empire. Born through a desire to better handle the larger Roman Empire the Byzantines lasted until either 1453 or 1461, (which we'll get onto later). First though we have to see how this empire came into being.

By 284 Rome was just too big to administer effectively. Covering most of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa the empire was just too big for it to be stably ruled from Rome. As a result various civil wars took place as powerful regional generals vied for the title of emperor. After one such civil war the general Diocletian took power and in 284 divided the empire. His ally Maximian would rule the west, (Italy, France, Britain, Iberia and most of North Africa), while he placed himself in charge of the east, (the Balkans, Greece, Egypt and Turkey). Each half of the empire would work with one another but, each emperor would have their own courts and could make their own decisions. However, there would be attempts to bring together the two halves of the empire. In 312 Constantine managed to defeat his enemy Maxentius outside Rome which he then used to declare tolerance for all Christians, and was baptized into Christianity, (he attributed his victory to help from the Christian God). Although he united the two halves of the empire he spent most of his time in the east from a new city. This new city was built on the Greek colony of Byzantium and soon was named after Constantine, Constantinople, (modern day Istanbul). Under his rule he started supporting Christians by reinstating ones who had been dismissed from the eastern army or government, banned pagan sacrifices, and banned any pagan rituals which went against Christian chastity such as sacred prostitutes or religious orgies. In 363 the last pagan emperor, Julian, died when trying to fight the Persians.

Later emperor Theodosius I (r.379-395) made Christianity the main religion of both the west and the east. He would later in 391 close all pagan temples solidifying Christianity in the empire. However, following Theodosius's death the east/west divide became a permanent one. The east had started to outstrip the west with it facing far fewer 'barbarian' invasions, (although it too would be invaded having to rely on the west to fight the Huns), getting loot from fighting the Persians, and benefiting from a better administration. In 476 Odoacer deposed the western emperor Romulus Augustulus with the east not lifting a finger to stop them. Although Rome had collapsed in the west it lived on in the east with a new empire: the Byzantine Empire.

Byzantine Culture and Administration
Despite the capital of Constantinople not being in Italy the Byzantines saw themselves as Romans. Although everyone spoke Greek Latin was the official language and many people referred to themselves as being Roman, not Greek or Byzantine. Often you will see the Byzantines called the Eastern Roman Empire as a result. From this we get the merging of Greek and Roman ideas; the term 'Greco-Roman' is very applicable here. As a result both the Byzantine court and culture came off as appearing Rome with Hellenistic themes, something which Edward Gibbon was highly critical of in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon and many later historians often paint the Byzantine court and world as being eastern influenced, debauched, hedonistic, corrupt, and full of scheming power-hungry empresses. Out of all these accusations only the eastern influenced is true and in itself is not a bad thing. Edward Said's criticism of orientalism can be applied here, although his theory best applies to the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. Said says that western historians who knew little on eastern cultures assumed western culture was better so then painted eastern cultures in a negative light. This is not the case and the Byzantine Empire is evidence for this.

The Byzantine tax system was extremely efficient so it managed to collect taxes from its subjects which the western empire failed to do. Similarly, the Byzantines managed to effectively administer its land which allowed it to keep the empire stable. Not only that but Constantinople's location straddling the Bosporus Strait allowed the capital to receive goods from both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea as well as the proximity to the Silk Road trade routes allowing goods to be traded from Asia making the empire very wealthy. We can even see this wealth in the foods, (shown in mosaics), that they ate with honey being a big component in their diet. The Byzantines also restored Greek philosophy, (something which the Romans looked down upon as it was something created by a conquered people), with even the emperor taking part in philosophical and theological discourse. (It should be noted that the general masses rarely took part in these debates). We shall get onto this later but the Council of Chalcedon happened in the empire for this reason. Science also prospered under the Byzantines but it was set back by Emperor Justinian closing Plato's Academy of Athens in 529. Although the Byzantines did not contribute as much to science as the predecessors they were responsible for the preservation of the knowledge which was later picked up by Muslims who expanded on the knowledge, and later helped Europeans explore this knowledge during the Renaissance.

Justinian and Theodora
Justinian and Theodora
One of the best known of the Byzantine rulers are Justinian and Theodora. His legacy is such great that he is depicted in Dante's Divine Comedy sitting in Heaven where he is shown as being the defender of Christianity to only confess that he did it through glory, not God. In 525 Justinian and Theodora wed, both from poor or peasant backgrounds, and two years later Justinian became emperor of the Byzantines. Justinian was a native Latin speaker which ended a tradition that Greek speakers became emperors. Justinian is best remembered for his conquests with his general Balisarius managing to conquer African from the Vandals in a campaign lasting from 533-534. However, his better known conquest is that of Italy where after twenty years of fighting in 554 he managed to expel the Ostrogoths from Italy. Finally the Roman empire had been united. However, his rule was not fully secure. In 532 riots between political factions at a Hippodrome race, (called the Nika riots with nika meaning 'Win' or 'Conquer'), almost overthrowing his rule. Each faction supported opposing teams and eventually a riot broke out causing widespread fires as well as the palace being placed under siege. Justinian's political opponents disliking his taxes and legal codes chose to use this by calling for Justinian to step down, even crowning a new emperor Hypatius. He would have done this if not for Theodora who convinced him to stay saying: Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress. Justinian managed to get one faction to support him and crushed the riots. In 541 there was also an outbreak of the bubonic plague killing up to 25 million worldwide. Justinian even contracted the plague but survived.

Justinian's reign saw the revision of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which would be spread to Italy and later western Europe. It is considered one of the founding documents of western legal tradition. He also passed many laws protecting women such as protecting prostitutes from exploitation and preventing women from being forced into prostitution, widows could have their dowry returned, women prisoners became guarded by women, and rapists got severe punishments. The secrets of Chinese silk also came to the Byzantines in the 550s when monks managed to bring silk worm eggs from China. Christianity also became more entrenched in society with there being mass church building including that of the Hagia Sophia. Although he did was very harsh against non-Christians having 70,000 pagans converted in Asia Minor, having civil rights for Jews reduced, intervening in synagogue affairs, and closing down Plato's school as he saw it as being pagan. After his death in 565 the empire he had built started to decline. Constant wars against the Sassanids of Persia had almost bankrupted the country, and he was finding it difficult to put in place the Greco-Roman laws onto Italy. Just three years after his death almost all of Italy was conquered by the Lombards. He managed to cripple the empire so it became easier later for the Muslim empires to dismantle it.

The Hagia Sophia: first a church, then a mosque and now a museum
Byzantium for centuries was the dominant Christian power but it was also the sight of Christianity's first major division, (another would come in the form of the Protestant Reformation). First quite a while Christianity was united under the influence of Constantinople. Initially Christianity was ruled by five patriarchs, each in the major Christian cities of the world: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Later, in 451 the Council of Chalcedon was held to determine power in the church. It was here that the patriarch of Rome would be the highest authority in Christianity while the patriarch of Constantinople would be the second highest. The emperor of the Byzantines, however, was the protector of the eastern church and, would preside over ecumenical councils and choose the patriarch. As a result emperors, like Justinian, built churches, like the Hagia Sophia, for the church. However, by 1054 theological differences had started to rise between the Latin and Greek churches. These included whether unleavened or leavened bread should be used during the Eucharist, the source of the Holy Spirit, and power in the church. In 1053 churches conforming to eastern tradition in Italy either had conform to the Latin traditions or be closed down causing the patriarch to close down Latin churches. The following years relations broke down with the pope excommunicating the patriarch and the patriarch excommunicating the pope. Thus the Great Schism happened between Catholicism and Orthodoxy and since they have not reconciled.

1204 Siege of Constantinople
Despite the successes of the Macedonian dynasty (867-1057) the Byzantines started to decline. Still weakened thanks the Justinian's campaigns in the 630s the first caliphate started to conquer Byzantine provinces in the Levant, (please see here). Not only that but the wealth of the Byzantines had started to become eclipsed by the new wealth of the Italian republics of Venice and Amalfi. As these republics started cutting into world trade the Byzantines started to lose the importance that they once had. Making matters worse the Great Schism caused many kingdoms loyal to the Latin church to stop trading with the Byzantines. Eventually the Seljuk Turkish empire started expanding into Byzantine lands in Anatolia where the emperor himself was defeated in 1071 at the Battle of Manzikert. Eventually the emperor begged Pope Urban II for aid starting the First Crusade (something for a later World History post). The crusaders had to retake Byzantine lands from the Seljuks, but, they only returned the Anatolian provinces; instead they built kingdoms for themselves in Antioch, Edessa and the Holy Land. In 1204 during the Fourth Crusade crusaders sacked Constantinople, much of what was looted now is in Venice. This caused the remnants of the empire to crumble into three successor states: Nicaea, Epirus and Trebizond. However, historians consider Nicaea the true successor as it managed to reconquer Constantinople. The Seljuks eventually fell to the invading Mongols but the vacuum they left did not allow a resurgent Byzantium. Instead a ghazi or raider state led by Osman grew in Anatolia eventually forming the Ottoman Empire. This empire grew and grew until in 1453 it managed to conquer Constantinople. Many consider this the fall of the empire but one other successor state, Trebizond, existed in northern Anatolia. This fell in 1461 ending the Byzantines.

Although the fall of Constantinople and Trebizond spelled the end for the Byzantines it did spell the end for Rome. Although there would be no other Latin empire the idea of Rome never left Europe. In the north west since the tenth century there had been the Holy Roman Empire in Germany although it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. However, after 1453 a growing power whose ruler married the niece of the Byzantine emperor started styling itself as the Third Rome. Being Orthodox and with the ruler married to the old emperor's niece it tried to appear to the new Rome. Even the ruler's title is Caesar in their language. We are talking about Russia. We also have to notice the links between the fall of the western and eastern Roman empires: both suffered through overextension and land loss before being overshadowed by a new empire to their east. The Ottoman Empire would remain and constant power in Europe, Africa and Asia until 1922. Just like the Byzantines it lasted a very long time. Next World History will take us away from the Mediterranean, which we've focused a lot on the last two posts, to go to the other side of the world to Mexico where we will look at the Mayans.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-A History of the Byzantine State and Society by Warren Treadgold
-The Penguin History of the World by John Roberts
-The Times History of the World edited by Richard Overy

For a list of other World History posts please see here

Saturday, 17 September 2016

World History: The Rise of Islam

Muhammad meets Gabriel
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, having around 1.3 billion followers, but, it is one of the most misunderstood religions in the west. Originating in the Arab peninsula around 610 CE when the Prophet Muhammad received a revelation from the angel Gabriel, (the angel which appeared to the Virgin Mary), Islam became a dominant force in the peninsula, then the Middle East, and then the world. With this World History post we'll look at the course of Islam starting from the foundation all the way up until the end of the Rashidun, or the first four caliphs. However, before we look at Islam we have to first look at pre-Islamic Arabia.

Pre-Islamic Arabia
Prior to the arrival of Islam the Arabian peninsula was not a unified place. Although Arabic was the dominant language in the region there were various other languages floating about, Persian was one of these languages. The Arabian peninsula was mostly tribal with tribal loyalties surpassing any loyalty to a central government. Bedouin nomads were extremely common as well as Bedouin farmers. There were relatively few urban areas with Mecca being one of these cities, which in turn acted as a melting pot for the tribes and their various beliefs. Various religions were prevalent in the peninsula with many tribes having their own polytheistic religion, (often descended from the ancient Mesopotamian religions), while in urban areas Christians and Jews were prevalent. In Mecca the Kaaba, currently the most sacred mosque in the world, was a holy site home to various polytheistic religious icons. It was in areas like Mecca that tribes often met and traded with one another. However, to the north between 602 and 628 the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire went to war, again, which created a political vacuum in the north of the peninsula as the empires swept their armies over the small client states, (the Ghassanids in Syria and the Lakhmids in Iraq), leaving the area weakened.

The Prophet Muhammad was born around 570 to the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. His father had died before he was born and, both his mother and grandfather died in his childhood which meant that he was raised by his uncle Abu Talib. Muhammad had an honest and trustworthy nature which meant that he soon became the business manager for an elderly widow, Khadija, in his twenties, and he went on to marry Khadija. In 610 while praying in a cave named Hira on Mount Jabal al-Nour Islamic tradition says that the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad and made him recite verses which would become the Qu'ran. Distressed he went home and was consoled by Khadija who became the first convert to Islam. Thus Islam had been born.

The Prophet Muhammad, 610-632
A 16th Century Turkish depiction of Muhammad
Muhammad started preaching in Mecca and had various converts among his friends and relatives, including his uncle Abu Talib. We shall later get onto the teachings of Islam but we first need to know some of what the Prophet Muhammad preached to understand why he got many converts, and to understand why Muslims became ostracized from society. The Qu'ran called for strict monotheism, Islam means 'submission to the will of God', as well as taking care of the weaker peoples in society with 2:177 saying:
True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west - but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance - however much he himself may cherish - it - upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer.
This upset many of the elite in Mecca. Muhammad's calls to improve the lives of women, orphans. beggars and slaves which would seriously disrupt the traditional social order of Mecca. On top of this Muhammad preaching strict monotheism in an area where many polytheists traded made the elite wary as well. One final thing which upset many of the elite was Muhammad's formation of the ummah, or Islamic community, which called for loyalty to fellow Muslims regardless of tribe. The authorities of Mecca, and Muhammad's own Quraysh tribe, started oppressing Muslims with the Quraysh saying to Abu Talib 'O Abu Talib, your nephew has cursed our gods, insulted our religion, mocked our way of life, and accused our forefathers of error'. Both Khadija and Abu Talib died in 619 which removed Muhammad's protectors in the eyes of the Quraysh. In 622 Muhammad's position was growing worse which caused him to leave Mecca with many of his followers to go to Yathrib, the future Medina, with his followers. On his way he made many friends among Jews and Christians. His flight from Mecca is the start of the Islamic calendar and this era in Islam's history is referred to as the hijra. While in Medina Muhammad created the Constitution of Medina which created an alliance between the Muslims and Medinan tribes, as well as the inclusion of Jews and Christians into the ummah. During the hijra Muhammad started differentiating Islam from Judaism and Christianity by having his followers pray in the direction of Mecca instead of Jerusalem. From 624 and 630 there were various battles between the Muslims and the Meccans who tried to crush the young religion. Eventually in 630 Muhammad managed to capture Mecca with virtually no bloodshed. Muhammad declared an amnesty for all past offences of the Meccans except for ten men and women who were guilty of either murder or starting war although some of them were pardoned. Polytheistic statues in the Kaaba were destroyed while Christian motives were spared. 

After 630 Muhammad established his capital in Medina and began solidifying Arabia. There were several battles against hostile tribes but many voluntarily chose to join the ummah seeing the benefits of being able to trade in the urban markets. There was conflict, however, as many tribes did not want to lose their independence. As a result Muhammad created a compromise: they could be independent as long as they recognized Medina as their sovereign, did not attack Muslims or their allies, and paid the religious levy. Muhammad also brought in some tribes into the ummah via marriage. In 632 Muhammad made his final pilgrimage to Mecca where he proclaimed 'know that every Muslim is a Muslim's brother, and that the Muslims are brethren'. He would die the same year in the house of his favorite wife 'A'isha. Within ten years Muhammad had managed to change Arabian society. Piety instead of birth placed your position in society, women gained more rights, (including being able to actually divorce), a new religion dominated the region, there was a new urban elite, and society had become more equal than it had been before, (although it was still not equal). Before we look at the first caliph we have to first look at what Islam actually teaches.

Islamic Theology
According to Muslims the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet of God, Allah in Arabic. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus were all prophets of God but Muhammad is the final prophet. Muslim theology also says that the Qu'ran is the literal words of God rather than the interpretation of God's words with the other prophets. According to mainly Sunni Muslims to lead a good life you have to live by the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm and Hajj. The Shahadah is the testimony 'There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God'. Salat is prayer five times a day in the direction of the Kaaba. Zakat is alms-giving to the poor or indebted, (as well as freeing slaves), although both the Qu'ran and a hadith urges Muslims to voluntarily give more in what is called the Sadaqah. Sawm is fasting from food, drink, tobacco and sex during the month of Ramadam unless if you are pre-pubescent, ill, menstruating, nursing or pregnant. Finally there is Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it has to take at least once in their life. Other than the Qu'ran there are 7,275 hadiths which are texts which are words, reports and texts directly from the Prophet Muhammad which a Muslim is meant to live by. However, many of these are repeats, and quite a few are discounted due to their authenticity being in question. For example, the hadith exempting menstruating women from fasting is very authentic so many Muslims follow it whereas the 72 virgins hadith has little authenticity so many disregard it. Finally we have sharia. This is basically a legal framework for people living in an area whose legal system is based on Islamic teaching. Over the centuries there have been various debates about how vigorous this should be implemented.

Abu Bakr
After Muhammad's death although there was no religious vacuum, (Muhammad was the final prophet in the eyes of Muslims), but there was a political one. What followed was the appointment of a caliph; a caliph was a steward who led the Islamic community who was originally chosen by a consultation. Abu Bakr was the father of Muhammad's wife 'A'isha and was seen as a good successor. He was Muhammad's father-in-law, he was Quraysh, he was an early convert, he went with Muhammad to Medina, he led prayers during Muhammad's last illness, he was diplomatic and, he knew the tribes. However, many wanted Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, to succeed him which was the early signs of the Sunni/Shia split, (Shias feel that Muhammad appointed a successor with Ali while Sunnis believe that Muhammad did not pick a successor. Since then more differences have emerged). Abu Bakr continued the expansion of Islam by recording the Qu'ran in writing, ended several uprisings after several tribes refused to pay taxes, (although the Banu Hanifa declared someone called Musaylima a prophet), and, started the military campaigns. Muhammad had sent troops had sent troops to secure the road to Syria which Abu Bakr continued as well as conquering all of present day Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, and the UAE. He also put into practice the Ten Islamic Rules of War during these conflicts, (something which Muhammad had started) which included not to forcibly convert people; not to kill women, children or the elderly; not to kill monks or those worshiping; not to mutilate people; do not burn people; do not destroy towns etc. Abu Bakr, however, in 634 caught a fever which he did not recover from and died. Before he died he did appoint a successor in the form of his closest adviser, Umar.

The Caliphate at the end of Umar's reign
Umar was good at two things: administration and conquering. Umar divided the caliphate into provinces ruled by a governor which allowed them some autonomy. Quite often empires fall because they cannot effectively administer a large territory from one center. He would have canals built for irrigation and, organized the zakat to get to not only poor Muslims but also Christians and Jews, (he even lived in a mud hut to be close to the poor). Although he did expel Jews from Najran and Khaybar he did later allow them to live in Jerusalem which they had been barred from living in while it was under Byzantine rule. One common thing among the early caliphs was that you did not have to convert to Islam which Umar continued, although wealthy Christians and Jews had to pay the jizya, or poll tax. However, Umar is best known for his conquests. Taking advantage of the wars between the Byzantines and Sassanids leaving them weakened he went to war against both. His troops quickly spread over Iraq and Syria, and after capturing Damascus in 637 the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius chose not to put any more armies into the field. Heraclius then fled to Anatolia after the quick capture of Aleppo, Antioch and Qinnasrin. Meanwhile, in the south in 638 Jerusalem fell in a curious way. Patriarch Sophronius would only surrender to the caliph directly which meant Umar had to visit Jerusalem personally. The following year the caliphate invaded Egypt which fell in 642. Following Egypt's capture Umar began a full scale invasion of the Sassanid Empire and the empire weakened through years of war against the Byzantines was almost fully conquered when peace was made in 644. Umar had also the advantage of not converting the conquered. Although the Muslims weren't entirely seen as liberators they were still seen positively. For example, Coptic and Monophysite Christians in Egypt refused to answer Byzantine levees due to the ruler trying to force Orthodoxy on them. However, in 644 a Persian slave, Piruz Nahavandi, assassinated Umar due to him annexing Persia.

Uthman succeeded Umar, as chosen by a committee, but his reign was split into six years of prosperity and six years of decay. In 642 his armies destroyed the remains of the Iranian army at Nihavand in the Zagros mountains destroying the Sassanid Empire by 650. He also expanded the navy to fight the Byzantines winning a major battle, the Battle of the Masts off the Lycian coast, in 655. The Kingdom of Nubia was also added to the caliphate under Uthman. He also managed to successfully standardize the Qu'ran. However, he made some blunders including allowing the sale of conquered land which Umar had forbidden. There were many grievances in Egypt and Syria which all culminated in his house being under siege by rebels and his eventual assassination by his own guards while reading the Qu'ran in 656. 

After Uthman's death Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, finally became caliph after waiting over twenty years. Unfortunately from him the memory of his opposition to Abu Bakr, and the issues from Uthman's reign meant that he was not in a good situation. Shortly after the assassination of Uthman and Ali's succession Muhammad's wife, 'A'isha, as well as two companions of Muhammad, Talha and Zabair, revolted in protest over Ali's succession, and the lack of revenge for Uthman's murder. At Basra at the Battle of the Camels, (named due to the intense fighting around 'A'isha's camel), Ali won while 'A'isha was captured and, Talha and Zabair were killed. Ali was blamed for Muslim shedding Muslim blood. Ali, however, would then face what is called the First Fitna as various tribes wanted more autonomy. On January 20th 661 while in his capital of Kufa Ali was assassinated. His son was hastily declared caliph except that one of the leading rebels, Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan of the Umayyad dynasty, was also declared caliph. Not wanting further civil war Ali's son abdicated.

The Rashidun
Following Ali's assassination the age of the Rashidun ended. The Rashidun were seen as the greatest caliphs by Sunni Muslims. Here the Sunni/Shia split can be seen. Sunnis view all four caliphs as Rashidun while Shias acknowledge that the first three were holy, they see Ali as the first true caliph. After Ali's son abdicated the Umayyad Caliphate was born which would expand the caliphate across north Africa, into Iberia, and into India. It also started the trend of the caliph hereditary instead of being elected. Now we will leave the origins of Islam to go into Europe and look at the successor to Rome which fought the Rashidun: the Byzantines.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani
-The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
-A Chronology of Islamic History, 570-1000 CE by H.U. Rahman
-The Times Complete History of the World edited by Richard Overy
-The Penguin History of the World by John Roberts

For a full list of World History posts please see here

Sunday, 11 September 2016

History in Focus: Great Fire of London

Painting depicting the Fire
From September 2nd to September 5th 1666 a fire swept across London in what has since been called the Great Fire of London. Three hundred and fifty years later in London a small recreation of the progress of the fire was made, (which can be seen here), in memory of the event. The fire succeeded in destroying huge areas of London, including St Paul's Cathedral, and, it almost spread to Westminster. Before we look at the fire itself we first have to look at London in the seventeenth century.

17th Century London
During the seventeenth century London was Britain's largest city having a population exceeding half a million people. Although not as large as Paris or Constantinople London was one of the largest cities in Europe as well. London originated as a Roman settlement called Londinium, and for centuries after the Roman withdrawal from Britain the settlement continued to grow within the defensive Roman wall which had defended the settlement. However, London's growth was not a planned growth so buildings and houses were often put up without much city planning. Thanks to this many houses which were built happened to be built virtually on top of one another creating squalid slums. Unlike her Scottish counterpart, Edinburgh, London expanded outside of the city walls instead of building more storeys on each building, which in turn, brought nearby slums into the confines of the city. When the Fire broke out in 1666 the area bounded by the walls, called the City proper, only supported a fraction of London's population, having around 80,000 people. Despite London's large size it was still very much a medieval city which virtually all the buildings outside the City being built of wood with thatched roofing. Prior to the Great Fire there had been several fires which had devastated areas of London, such as in 1633. The cramped, squalid, dirty slums also allowed disease to rapidly spread through the city, and in 1665 England's last great epidemic of the bubonic plague, named the Great Plague of London, broke out.

There were also political issues in London. London was the capital of England, as it is today as well as being the capital of the UK. The English Parliament was, and currently remains, located in London, at the Palace of Westminster, and in the 1660s King Charles II's residence of Whitehall was located in London. However, the ruling elite in Whitehall and Westminster were located far from the dirty, polluted, cramped, and plague-ridden slums of the City. There was great division, politically, in London. The city had been the epicenter of republicanism during the English Civil Wars, (1642-1651), which resulted in the execution of Charles I, (Charles II's father), and, the establishment of a brief republic under Oliver Cromwell. When Charles II was restored when republicanism was abandoned in 1660 his position was not very strong. The aristocracy, who favored the monarchy, lived in the country away from the grime and disease filled city, Charles owed his crown to the Parliament, and there were still republican sympathies in the city. In this tinder box of disease, wooden houses, slums, and political rivalries the Great Fire would be lit.

The Great Fire
A modern sign of the street where the fire started
On September 2nd 1666 after a drought lasting since the November of 1665 a fire broke out in the bakery of Thomas Farriner at midnight on Pudding Lane. Farriner and his family managed to escape the burning building, but, they could not stop the blaze which quickly spread between the dry, thatched roofed, tightly packed buildings. The local parish constables wished to demolish several nearby buildings in order to prevent the fire spreading but to do so required the permission of the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth. Bloodworth was not a good politician and owed his position to being a yes man, although this view of him could stem from contemporaries being angry over his actions during the Great Fire. Noted diarist Samuel Pepys, whose diary gave us most of the details about the Great Fire, said that upon seeing the fire said 'Phish! A woman could piss it out!' and refused to let buildings get destroyed to contain the fire. Pepys was watching from the Tower of London and estimated that 300 houses, as well as several parishes churches, had been consumed by the fire by Sunday morning. Pepys wrote: 
where people come about me, and did give them an account dismayed them all, and word was carried in to the King. So I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of Yorke what I saw, and that unless His Majesty did command houses to be pulled down nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor from him, and command him to spare no houses, but to pull down before the fire every way.

James, the Duke of York and Charles's younger brother, even offered the use of the Royal Life Guards to help battle the flames. Despite efforts the fire was spread further by the prevailing winds, and the size of the fire engines meant that they could not be taken down the many narrow streets where the fire raged. 
Seventeenth Century fire engine
Charles actually went down to the City without soldiers to inspect the area to do his civic duty. He knew that by helping fight the fire it could help dispel republican ideas. By the afternoon of Sunday the fire had managed to grow in size as it was forced down small streets and alleys. This created a vacuum under the flames forcing oxygen in which fed the flames. Despite Charles ordering houses to be torn down the fire spread because of its size. On the Monday the fire continued to spread and ended up destroying areas inhabited by the rich, including Lombard Street where many bankers lived. The Royal Exchange also went up in flames, as well as the General Letter Office and the printing presses of The London Gazette. With the situation growing worse Charles overrode the city authorities and placed his brother James in charge who began press-ganging men into becoming fire fighters. The price of barges rose to 40 shillings as people became desperate to flee via the River Thames. Also, with the Gazette taken out an atmosphere of fear swamped England. Many believed the fire had been started by Catholics for another plot like the Gunpowder Plot, (a Catholic plot to assassinate Parliament and Charles's grandfather, James), while others blamed the Dutch as England was embroiled in a war against the Dutch. They thought this was part of, or a precursor to, a Franco-Dutch invasion of England. 
St Paul's on fire, ca.1670
On Tuesday 4th September St Paul's Cathedral was gutted by the conflagration as the wooden scaffolding on the building, for restoration, made the thick stone walls redundant. On Wednesday 5th the winds dropped and the fire was contained. Upon inspecting the last areas which the fire had consumed Pepys described it as 'the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw'. The mood had become volatile. A light over Fleet Street generated a story that a Franco-Dutch army of 50,000 had landed and was massacring any Londoner who had escaped the flames. This caused mobs in a fit of violence and xenophobia to start murdering any foreigners which they found. The mob only dispersed thanks to militias and the court. Fearing a republican uprising Charles ordered bread markets to be placed in the city, although the bread had to be bought.

Accounts state that the Great Fire killed around eight people which is staggering considering the size of the fire. However, many more died through the xenophobic mob riots and exposure or hunger following the fire. Around 13,500 houses, 87 parish churches and 44 Company halls all burned as well as St Paul's Cathedral, the Customs House, various prisons, Bridewell Palace, the General Letter Office, and three of the wall gates, (Aldersgate, Newgate, and Ludgate), reaching a staggering £10,000,000 in damages, (or £1 billion in today's money). Initially a simple-minded French watch maker called Robert Hubert was arrested for starting the fire. In the midst of anti-French hysterics he was found guilty and was hanged. Shortly after his death it was revealed he was on a ship in the North Sea when the fire broke out. The Dutch claimed it was divine retribution for the English burning a Dutch coastal town during their war. It would take some time before the real origin was found. Following the fire there were many plans to rebuild the city in a Baroque style to rival Paris which were abandoned in favor of the old city plan but with some changes: wider roads, houses not obstructing the river, better access to wharves, better sanitation etc. A monument was made on the orders of Charles to commemorate the fire which was finished in 1677, however, for many years it bore an anti-Catholic inscription:
Here by permission of heaven, hell broke loose upon this Protestant city.....the most dreadful Burning of this City; begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction...Popish frenzy which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched...

Aside from a brief stint during the reign of Charles's brother James the inscription remained on until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Although not fully destroyed it was decided that St Paul's Cathedral should be rebuilt, and Sir Christopher Wren, (who was in charge of restoring the cathedral before it set on fire), was placed in charge of creating the new cathedral. Construction of the cathedral lasted until 1697, 32 years after it was commissioned. Since then it has remained a hallmark of London.
Modern St Paul's Cathedral
Sources are as followed:
-A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714 by Mark Kishlansky
-The Stuart Age: England, 1603-1714 by Barry Coward

Friday, 2 September 2016

Comics Explained: Deathstroke

Earlier this week, as of writing, Ben Affleck tweeted a photo of the newest villain in the DCEU: Deathstroke. It is a strong possibility that Deathstroke will be appearing in Ben Affleck's solo Batman movie, entitled The Batman, and he is a clear fan favorite. Not only is he my favorite DC villain but he is a much loved villain, and at times anti-hero, among the comic book community. Many comic book fans fell in love with the character thanks to him being the main villain in the excellent animated TV series Teen Titans, voiced by the excellent Ron Perlman. I actually watched an episode of the terrible Teen Titans Go! because it hinted that Deathstroke would appear in it, (turns out he didn't). He's appeared in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and the far better Injustice: Gods Among Us. He's also been featured in Arrow as a villain. Today we'll look at the character's history.

First Appearance
The New Teen Titans #2
Deathstroke first appeared in 1980, and was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in The New Teen Titans #2. However, in his initial appearance he was not called Deathstroke; instead he was called The Terminator, (four years before James Cameron's hit movie). In the comic the Teen Titans have a hit put on them by the criminal organization the H.I.V.E, and they wanted Deathstroke to do it. Deathstroke refused to take the contract as there was no advance. Instead his son who he had trained, called Ravager, took up the contract. As the Ravager fought the Teen Titans the H.I.V.E's experiment to make his brainpower greater caused him to age at an accelerated rate leading to his death. When Deathstroke arrived to claim his son's body he vowed vengeance against the Titans, (which the H.I.V.E wanted), and since he has become the Teen Titans' greatest foe.

Origin (pre-52)
Part of his origin
The New 52 changed his origin slightly, (which we shall get to), but it has remained somewhat the same as his initial appearance. Slade Wilson managed to lie about his age and managed to join the army aged sixteen. After briefly serving in Korea he got sent to Camp Washington, was promoted to major, and trained new recruits alongside Captain Adeline Kane. They fell in love and Adeline started to secretly train Slade in guerrilla warfare so by the time the Vietnam War broke out he was a master in countless martial arts and styles of warfare, (earning him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel). He and Adeline married a few months later, and Adeline became pregnant with their first child. His actions during the Vietnam War, including being horrified about his unit massacring a village and meeting a SAS solider called Wintergreen who would later become his right-hand man, led the army to choose him to take part in a program to create superpowered soldiers. The experiments led him to fall into a brief coma, but when he awakened he found he could use more of his brain capacity, was extremely agile, and his strength and durability had drastically increased. He left the army to take up the life of a mercenary, (just as Adeline became pregnant with his second son, Joseph), which attracted the attention of unsavory people. A rival mercenary named the Jackal had his younger son Joseph kidnapped and threatened to kill him unless Slade released important information about a client. Slade gambled on trying to rescue his son before the mercenaries acted but he was too late. Before he could prevent it one of the criminals slashed Joseph's throat. He survived but was rendered mute as his vocal cords were cut. Adeline was so furious that his lifestyle had almost ended their son's life that she tried to shoot Slade. Due to his agility the bullet only managed to destroy his right eye. Despite only having one eye Slade remained the best mercenary around and started to train his elder son, Grant, to become the Ravager.

The Judas Contract
Tales of the Teen Titans #42
The Judas Contract, a story starting in Tales of the Teen Titans #42, best shows the skill and strategic planning of Deathstroke, and another villain called Terra. Deathstroke had periodically fought the Titans since his initial appearance and, he was defeated by the Titan Beast Boy and the newest Titan Tara Markov, Terra. However, Terra turned out to be working with Deathstroke and had staged the battle so Terra could earn the trust of the Titans. Terra remained among the Titans and managed to learn their identities. With the identities of the Titans known the two villains started to take down the heroes one by one. Donna Troy, (Wonder Girl), was gassed in her photo studio, Beast Boy, (then going by the name Changeling), was poisoned using envelopes when responding to mail, Raven was taken down by Terra herself, Cyborg was electrocuted by a chair in his apartment, and Starfire was taken down by a device which affected her powers. Only Dick Grayson, the first Robin who had adopted the moniker of Nightwing, managed to escape. Grayson went to rescue his friends with the help of Deathstroke's son Joseph who had become Jericho. Jericho was born a metahuman, (the DC Universe's version of Marvel's mutants), who could possess people. Jericho managed to possess his father's body, and with Nightwing's martial arts managed to destroy the H.I.V.E facility that the Titans were held with. Terra was killed in the battle and Slade was taken into custody. However, the Titans chose to honor Terra's passing showing the optimistic nature of the team.

Own Comic
Deathstroke the Terminator #1
In 1991 Marv Wolfman and Steve Erwin got Deathstroke his own series. It was in Deathstroke the Terminator #1 that we found the details of Deathstroke's past and as the comic progressed we saw a wider aspect of Slade. In #15 we saw the first appearance of Rose Wilson, a daughter which he had with Lillian Worth following his divorce. Lillian his the existence of Rose from Deathstroke until his half-brother, the new Ravager, started murdering Deathstroke's family. Slade and Wintergreen managed to rescue Rose from Ravager but he chooses not to train her after what happened with his two sons, (especially Jericho who got possessed by a demon forcing Slade to stab him in The New Titans #83). However, Rose managed to get training and became the new Ravager working with the Teen Titans. 

In his own comic series Deathstroke first came into contact with Batman and since he has become one of the Dark Knight's greatest enemies. Fans have pointed out the similarities between the two characters with their high intelligence; both are martial arts experts; both have a code of honor; both use technology to their advantage; both are expert fighters; and both are expert planners. 

New 52
Deathstroke in Deathstroke vol. 2 #8
In 2011 DC rebooted the universe with the New 52, (called this as it had 52 new series). In Deathstroke #0 he got a slightly altered origin story. Most of his origin has remained intact except that after Camp Washington he was drafted into a special ops group called Team 7. In one of Team 7's missions he was badly injured leading to the operations which gave him superpowers. After the birth of Joseph he received intel that his friend Wintergreen had been captured in Somalia so he went after the kidnappers donning a mask. He slaughtered the kidnappers causing his fame to grow earning many enemies. After an attack by North Korea bombing his house, seemingly killing Adeline and Joseph, he massacred North Korean soldiers resulting in his eye being lost. In Teen Titans: Deathstroke #1 his origin was slightly changed again. This time he left Team 7, resulting in it disbanding, when the army bombed a children's hospital. This infuriated him so became a mercenary with a code of honor, and began training his son Grant. Missions together caused their bond to grow and Slade started seeing Grant as the only person he could trust. Unfortunately, during a mission in North Korea, soldiers found their refuge and started firing at them. Checking on Grant cost Slade his eye and he proceeded to massacre the soldiers when Grant was presumed dead. Now Slade only works to look after his daughter Rose seeing money as the only way to protect her. 

Other Appearances
Deathstroke is one of the most popular DC villains and has made many appearances in non-canon comics and media. In 1982 there was a Marvel/DC crossover called Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans which featured Deathstroke going after the X-Men. He manages to easily defeat Colossus, (who incidentally appeared in the movie Deadpool, a character who is a partial parody of Deathstroke), and a fight with Wolverine results in a draw. During the Flashpoint story, (where the Flash accidentally changed time and ended up resulting in the New 52 when the timeline was restored), he was a pirate in the Paris after the city was flooded by Aquaman looking for treasure and Rose. He also appears in the Injustice: Gods Among Us prequel comics, and later the game itself, where he has been forced into retirement by Superman's increasingly authoritarian One World Government. When Batman and Lex Luthor require a device from S.T.A.R Labs to help bring heroes from another reality to help them topple the regime Deathstroke quickly accepts. He breaks into the facility and gets hold of the device, but the hero Metamorpho, (who allied himself with the regime), comes to stop him. Deathstroke kills Metamorpho only to realize he will be unable to get the device to Batman and Luthor, so he instead sends the device's blueprints via the internet. He is then quickly captured by Raven and Cyborg who would interrogate him for a year, which is where the game picks up.

Deathstroke has made several non-comic appearances. As mentioned earlier many people first encountered the character in Cartoon Network's Teen Titans, and has such a big following thanks to the show. Due to censorship he was only called Slade in the show. Later, Teen Titans Go! announced they would have him appear in The Return of Slade in what transpired to be one of the worst episodes of a terrible series. Not only does Slade not appear, it acts as a rating trap for fans of the original series, and proceeds to insult said fans by saying the original was terrible and fans only regard it positively thanks to nostalgia. Not only was this incorrect and a Straw Man fallacy but it also was an insult to fans of Teen Titans Go!, (like my younger cousin), who expected a villain built up in the first half of the episode only to not appear. I digress though. Deathstroke was a playable character in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe and appeared in DC Universe Online. He also made an appearance in Batman: Arkham Origins in one of the greatest fights of the Batman: Arkham games and, in Batman: Arkham Knight in one of the most disappointing fights of the series. He's made many movie and TV show appearances including Son of Batman, Smallville, Arrow, Beware the Batman, and the upcoming animated movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Not only that we have the DCEU Deathstroke...
DCEU Deathstroke