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The French Disease and the First Italian War

The Kingdom of Naples was once part of the Kingdom of Sicily ruled by the French House of Anjou. However, in 1282 the House of Anjou lost control of the Island of Sicily after a French soldier molested a Sicilian's wife in the public square. By the next morning every Frenchman in Paloma was dead. Then Sicily came under Aragon rule (which is part of modern day Spain) and Naples came under Anjou rule. Over the years Naples came under the rule of Spain which has recently made several voyages to the New World. The King of France, Charles the Affable, has purchased the rights to Anjou, giving him the theoretical right to rule Naples... making everyone really, really nervous. After the King of Naples dies, King Charles is welcomed in Naples at first but the original successor to the throne of Naples takes exception. A battle ensues and King Charles is chased out of Naples but this war isn't over. Charles leaves a garrison behind and the Spanish realize they need to reorganize their entire military. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Remember those Spanish voyages to the New World? Every Spanish sailor coming home has wondrous stories to tell... and new diseases to distribute. Initially this one is called the French Disease since it shows up amongst the French troops after the Naples visit and subsequent fight. It will have many other names including "the Great Pox" to distinguish it from small pox and the name we use today... syphilis. Medical historians don't know if the French brought it to Naples or if Naples already had it and gave it to the French. It didn't take long to get around though. In a few decades it is estimated that a million will contract it. According to reports, pustules cover the body from head to knees and some people die within months. Assuming kids are listening... it begins with a single painless eruption that disappears. Then the pox shows up and if you live, maybe half the people will eventually exhibit bodily disfigurement. Any cure? Nothing in the 16th century. They did try vaporized mercury though. (shudder!) In the modern day it is cured with antibiotics. In the early 20th century certain arsenic compounds cured it if it didn't kill the patient first. Or they would expose patients to malaria and then try to cure the malaria with quinine. That actually worked sometimes due to the high fever it created. Don't try that one at home though. [5]

Leonardo's Last Supper *

Leonardo Da Vinci begins the famous painting "The Last Supper". It depicts what looks like a formal group dinner with Jesus and his apostles in attendance. It is called the Last Supper due to the New Testament narrative that Jesus met with his apostles for dinner and was betrayed by Judas shortly thereafter. Whether it was actually the last thing he ever ate or not, according to the narrative, it was his last meal without physical torment. [6] [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Because Passover occurs around the same time as Easter, many people assume the formal dinner was a Passover feast. It's possible. The calendar dates are fuzzy around the time of Jesus because the calendar was lunar-based and adjustments to the calendar were made from time to time to bring it more in line with harvest and planting times. We all hope that it wasn't too fuzzy but the system wasn't working well at the time... which is one reason why people like John the Baptist and Jesus kept showing up to complain. The author, Dan Brown has fun in his novel, "The Da Vinci Code," by suggesting that one of the Apostles in the painting is actually Mary Magdeline and that writings from the time (not the Bible) suggest that she started a secret society. I've read some of those writings. Dan Brown was not using them in a rigorous, academic way. He was writing a story and a pretty good story, but that's all.[10] [11]

First Scotch Whiskey *

Friar John Cor makes the first documented reference to Scotch Whiskey. [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The rest is history.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1495, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Italian War of 1494-98 - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 6 January 2015.
  2. Charles VIII (1470-98), King of France. 1902 Encyclopedia (1902). Retrieved on 6 January 2015. “Charles was now at liberty to attempt the realization of his dream of founding an Eastern empire. His father had purchased the claim of the House of Anjou to the throne of Naples, and he himself bought the title of Andrew Palaeologus, the nephew of the emperor of Constantinople. Having made a treaty with the Pope, Charles in 1495 entered Naples unresisted.”
  3. Italian History - Age of Invasions. 1902 Encyclopedia (1902). Retrieved on 6 January 2015. “Charles hurried back from Naples, and narrowly escaped destruction at Fornovo in the passes of the Apennines. He made good his retreat, however, and returned to France in 1495. Little remained to him of his light acquisitions ; but he had convulsed Italy by this invasion, destroyed her equilibrium, exposed her military weakness and political disunion, and revealed her wealth to greedy and more powerful nations.”
  4. TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY - Syphilis. EveryHistory.org (2013). Retrieved on 4 January 2015. “Indisputable reference to it in European literature occurred only after the return of Columbus from the New World. The rapidly spreading scourge was given several names, including &lquot;Great Pox&rquot; and &lquot;French disease,&rquot; the latter after invading French soldiers either brought the infection to Italy or caught it from the Italians.”
  5. History of syphilis - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 7 January 2015.
  6. The Last Supper (Leonardo da Vinci) - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 28 December 2014.
  7. Ludovico Sforza - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 28 December 2014.
  8. Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan) - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 28 December 2014.
  9. Leonardo da Vinci - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 28 December 2014.
  10. Mary Magdalene - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 7 January 2015.
  11. The Da Vinci Code - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 7 January 2015.
  12. John Cor - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 7 January 2015.

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