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Age of Discovery: The Fra Mauro Map

Fra Mauro is a Venetian cartographer and monk who had once been a solider and merchant who had traveled extensively. Now with his commitment to the monastery he has set down roots and opened a mapmakers shop. The Portuguese have been navigating around the world in an attempt to find a way to Far East. Since the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, goods coming from the East over land or sea has become nearly impossible for Christian Europe. The Portuguese efforts to find a way around Africa has spurred them to buy maps from anyone who had any idea what lay beyond the areas labelled "terra incognita" [TAIR-rah in-CAWG-nee-ta] meaning "Unknown Land". Fra Mauro has a better idea than most and his maps are a thing of beauty. He has just delivered a copy to Lisbon that measures 6 feet across. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Fra Mauro's maps are also "upside down" according to convention. Ptolemy [TOHL-eh-mee] used the convention of north being at the top but it is only a convention. Limiting one's self to a specific orientation limits one's thinking. Compare air routes of the 1950s to those of 2000 or later. Air travel was limited by maps until someone looked at a polar orientation of a map (that is, a map looking down on the north or south pole) and realized that some routes would be shorter if the plane flew a polar route. It saves fuel. Also note that a Mercator map (a map split like an orange flattened out) distorts the size of land masses, making Greenland look as big as Africa when in fact Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland. Maps help us in some ways but we must keep their limitations in mind or we can be misled by them. [7]

Additional Information: The movie "Apollo 13" (1995) starring Tom Hanks, mentions seeing "the Fra Mauro Highlands," named after the cartographer. That was to be the landing site on the Moon before the rupture of the spacecraft's fuel cells. It's a good movie and still worth seeing.[8] [9] [10]

Dracula: Impaling the Ottomans

The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror had held Vlad (the 3rd) Dracula hostage for several years to guarantee payment of tribute from his father, Vlad the 2nd but when the father was killed, the Ottomans released the younger Dracula so that he could inherit his lands rather than letting them pass to the Hungarians. This becomes an obvious mistake when the Sultan sends an envoy to Vlad the 3rd to collect the backlog of tribute and the envoy members are returned with their turbans nailed to their heads... presumably because they refused to remove their turbans in the presence of Vlad so Vlad made sure they never would. The Sultan then sends a much larger force... almost all of which ends up impaled to the trees. Thus Vlad Dracula gets his nickname, Vlad the Impaler. He also begins building what is known as "Castle Dracula" this year using slave labor... made up of the people who killed his father and brother. [11] [12] [13]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Apparently Vlad the Impaler resented his years as a hostage to the Ottomans though he did learn a lot from them concerning warfare. He also became fluent in Turkish which allowed him to infiltrate the Ottoman camps. The name "Dracula" means "Son of the Dragon" which refers to the Order of the Dragon, a knighthood created by the King of Hungary to oppose the Ottoman Turks. The land of Transylvania is now part of modern day Romania and Vlad the Impaler remains a hero there despite his reputation for cruelty. [14] [15] [16]

War of the Roses: Driving Queen Margaret

The uneasy truce between the House of York and the Lancasters (meaning the forces loyal to Queen Margaret and King Henry the 6th) has come to blows in the West Midlands region of Blore Heath, England. Queen Margaret has sent her loyalists but the battle does not go well for them. Her forces must cross a stream and they are beaten back. They make another attempt, perhaps to retrieve their dead but they are caught on both sides of the stream and the leader of the Lancaster forces is killed in heated battle. His second-in-command mounts another attack but it is all for naught. Queen Margaret will lose this battle to Richard of York, causing her to send another army after him. He will flee to Ireland which will support him against King Henry's Act of Attainder. [17] [18]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Richard of York is fighting because King Henry the 6th has issued an act of attainder against Richard... essentially separating (more like confiscating) all of Richard's possessions from him and denying the inheritance of same to his heirs. In anyone's book this would cause a nobleman to think about knocking off the king, but since King Henry is often incapacitated by his mental condition, it seems most likely that Queen Margaret is driving this confrontation. She suspects Richard of wanting the throne of England and because of her suspicions and fears, she is driving the man to that very end.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1459, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Terra incognita - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  2. Fra Mauro. mapsofworld.com (2014 [last update]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  3. Fra Mauro: Information from Answers.com. answers.com (2014 [last update]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  4. Fra Mauro map - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  5. Mauro, Fra (2014 [last update]). Map of the World by Fra Mauro, 1459 - Wikimedia Commons. commons.wikimedia.org. Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  6. Fra Mauro - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  7. Mercator projection - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  8. Fra Mauro formation - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  9. Apollo 13 - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  10. Apollo 13 (1995) - IMDb. imdb.com (2014 [last update]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  11. Mehmed the Conqueror: Conquest of Wallachia - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  12. Vlad the Impaler - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  13. Palermo, Elizabeth (October 24, 2014). The Real Dracula: Vlad the Impaler. livescience.com. Retrieved on 2 November 2014. “Around the same time, a group of Ottoman envoys allegedly had an audience with Vlad but declined to remove their turbans, citing a religious custom. Commending them on their religious devotion, Vlad ensured that their turbans would forever remain on their heads by reportedly having the head coverings nailed to their skulls.”
  14. Geringer, Joseph (2014 [last update]). Vlad the Impaler — Man More Than Myth — Crime Library. crimelibrary.com. Retrieved on 2 November 2014. “At three separate times, Dracula governed Wallachia, one of three Hungarian principalities that later merged with the others — Transylvania (to the north) and Moldavia (to the east) — to become the country of Romania. Because Wallachia, his province, sat directly above the open Danube River Plain, which separated the Ottoman Empire from free Romania, his was the frontal defense against the non-Christian Turks. Despite his cruelties and severe punishments, and because of his seething hatred for anything Turkish, he is considered today a national hero by the populace.”
  15. Vlad the Impaler: Information from Answers.com. answers.com (2014 [last update]). Retrieved on 2 November 2014. “Early in his reign, probably in the spring of 1459, Vlad committed his first major act of revenge. On Easter Sunday, after a day of feasting, he arrested the boyer families, whom he held responsible for the death of his father and brother. The older ones he simply impaled outside the palace and the city walls. He forced the rest to march from the capital city of Tirgoviste to the town of Poenari, where over the summer, in the most humiliating of circumstances, they were forced to build his new outpost overlooking the Arges River. This chateau would later be identified as Castle Dracula.”
  16. Order of the Dragon - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  17. Battle of Blore Heath - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.
  18. Attainder - Wikipedia (2014 [last modified]). Retrieved on 3 November 2014.

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