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Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2015

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Footnotes:


[1] All photos are mine except where indicated.

[2] Its lack suggests they block any program lending support to a view that that the Earth may be but one of many trillion-trillion bodies in the universe; that modern humans have been around for less than 0.0005% of the life of this universe; that we are probably just one of an infinity of possible organisations of common cells in the evolutionary continuum of life on earth and like all such organisms, from bacteria to rose bushes, may have no special immortality; that our religions are ephemeral and are demonstrably authored by men, largely for political reasons; or that we and our works are thus likely be of no special interest to any of the pantheon of hypothetical, often highly imaginative, deities, to whom people have prayed for the past ten millenia. Why do they so often have animal heads; or human heads and animal bodies?

[3]Cleopatra was famously Machiavellian. She learned Egyptian, as well as her native Greek, and represented herself to the people as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. She originally ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married in accordance with Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne and later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name. After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions with her brothers produced no children. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC. She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh, but he was soon killed on Octavian's orders.

[4] Iconoclasm was proscribed at the Second Council of Nicaea 787, when the making of religious representational art was officially endorsed by the church; thus bowing to established Roman artistic sensibilities and laying the ground for some of the greatest art ever made. But iconoclasm re-arose on a grand scale with the Protestant Reformation; after biblical scholars reinstated the historical Second Commandment, prohibiting the making of idols (or any religious images of people or animals). This is a Comandment followed by both Judaeism and Islam as well as some early Christians.

[5] Great Khufu Pyramid (Cheops in Greek) 2580-2560 BCE. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) - from Don Juan
Or as Shelly, Byron’s friend, put it reflecting similarly on Ramesses II (Ozymandias in Greek); his imagined arrogance; the ephemeral nature of existence, position and fame; and the futile attempts of the powerful at self-preservation:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley - 1818

[6]A Christian mob led by a man called Peter: ‘waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her by scraping her skin off with tiles and bits of shell. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.’ - Socrates Scholasticus Ecclesiastical History, Book VI: Chap 15. A Pre-Raphaelite painting by CW Mitchell (prior to flaying) romanticises this.

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Russia

 

 

In June 2013 we visited Russia.  Before that we had a couple of weeks in the UK while our frequent travel companions Craig and Sonia, together with Sonia's two Russian speaking cousins and their partners and two other couples, travelled from Beijing by the trans Siberian railway.  We all met up in Moscow and a day later joined our cruise ship.  The tour provided another three guided days in Moscow before setting off for a cruise along the Volga-Baltic Waterway to St Petersburg; through some 19 locks and across some very impressive lakes.

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