To escape a forced engagement to a senator she despised, Roman Emperor Valentinian II’s sister Honoria sent to Attila the Hun for help, by sending her engagement ring. Attila interpreted it as a marriage proposal, and asked for Rome as a dowry.
“History and literature cannot be fully comprehended, still less fully enjoyed, except in connection with one another. I confess I have little love either for ‘Histories of Literature,’ or for chapters on ‘the literature of the period,’ hanging at the end of history books like the tail from a cow. I mean, rather, that those who write or read the history of a period should be soaked in its literature, and that those who read or expound literature should be soaked in history.”—George M. Trevelyan, ‘Clio, A Muse,’ 1913 (via ladycashasatiger)
When I was a child, it was believed that animals became extinct because they were too specialized. My father used to tell us about the saber-tooth tiger’s teeth — how they got too big and the tiger couldn’t eat because he couldn’t take game anymore. And I remember my father saying, with my brother sitting there, ‘I wonder what it will be with the human beings that will be so overspecialized that they’ll kill themselves off?’
My father never found out that my brother was working on the bomb.
On September 19, 1940, Witold Pilecki, a Polish soldier, was captured by German SS officers and sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Considering he was a spy, things had turned out exactly as he’d planned. Captain Pilecki’s mission was to organize resistance from within the most horrific symbol of the Holocaust, send information to the Allies, and record the horrors he witnessed for the sake of history.
Pilecki arrived in Auschwitz sometime in the evening between September 21 and 22, 1940, and described what he found as “another planet”—a hell in which every building’s walls were covered in swastikas and corpses lay everywhere. Pilecki went on to live in inhumane conditions for nearly 1,000 days and become the first person to inform the Allies about the appalling conditions of detention and the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.