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Strange quirks of history

Belhomme’s Clinic

In the midst of the Terror, at a time when Parisians were laying low, afraid of falling victim to the revolutionaries, when a heavy atmosphere weighed down on the city and dread and anxiety suppressed all amusement, when shortages grew ever more dramatic and severe, there was at Charenton, a refuge, a haven where all the…

The Cathars

Two centuries after the death of Christ, Mani, an exceptional magus and prophet, rose to prominence in Persia. He mixed the religion on his country, Zoroastrianism, with a fiery interpretation of Christianity. Mani himself would not end well, as the shah eventually had him executed, yet his followers would multiply. These faithful soon emigrated, reappearing in Asia Minor in…


When the Orient arrived at the gates of Rome, it brought with it a rather discrete deity. This god was born to a virgin on the 25th of December. He was frequently represented as an infant, seated upon the knee of his mother before a group of kneeling wise kings who offered gifts. He was…


Abraham, contrary to what was commonly held until recently, did not come from the village of Ur in Mesopotamia, but rather the town of Urfa in southern Turkey. The confusion, as one might have guessed, was likely a consequence of phonetic confusion. Long ago, Abraham, the father of monotheism, had lashed out against Nimrod, the…

Zoe Porphyrogenita

My favorite empress is Zoe Porphyrogenita, from the Greek meaning “born into the purple,” signifying the child was born to the reigning emperor, for the prince or princess would see the purplish porphyry columns within the ornate palace. She was the daughter of Emperor Constantine IX, the perfect embodiment of frivolity and indifference during his long reign….

Scotland and Northumbria

Since first discovering Scotland, when I was sent there during my adolescence to learn English, I have felt attached to the country. Scotland has everything I love: romantic monuments, ghosts by the dozen, charming cities, and a countryside amongst the most beautiful in Europe. Scotland reminds me of Greece, but with different colors. Greece is…


The patron of the epoch who built the grandest palaces was without a doubt Catherine II of Russia. With unlimited resources at her disposal, she could build colossal homes, grander than all the palaces of Europe. In fact, Catherine was only imitating her predecessor, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great. The latter was…

History’s Greatest Natural Disaster

Cretan artifacts are unique, unlike those of any other civilization. How had such a civilization vanished? What had become of the Minoans of Crete? It was a mystery.               In 1965, I married my wife Marina. To celebrate, we took a cruise that stopped at the island of Santorini….

The Love Story That Led To World War I

Many years ago, when I began attending the Salzburg music festival, I became well acquainted with my distant cousins, the Hohenberg princes. I was particularly fond of them. They were friendly, funny, and lively. They were also the grandchildren of one of most history’s most famous tragedies. At the end of the 19th century, Archduke…

The Venieri Nun

Kythira, it was my friend Fivos who helped me discover it. As well as Kiria Eleni Harou, who recounted its many stories. Some of them were well known, others were buried deep in the collective memory of the island, but the most enchanting were the histories of Hora, the capital of the island, where she had been a schoolteacher….