, , , , ,

Philip ii ruled the Ancient Greek state of Macedonia from 358BC til his death in 336BC. Philip was the father of Alexander the Great who would go on to subdue the mighty Persian Empire. Philip however, was no slouch and laid the groundwork for Alexander to achieve such feats. He had led wars against the Illyrians and Thrace to the north and Thesaly to the South. He had also managed to get the Athenians to sue for peace after unsuccessful attempts to stop the juggernaut which was Ancient Macedonia. Having control of most of mainland Greece, Philip turned to Sparta. According to Plutarch, he sent Sparta an ultimatum.

‘You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land I will destroy your farms, slay your people and raze your city’

The Spartans sent a message back:


Neither King Philip nor Alexander the Great ever marched on Sparta.



The Betrayal of Black Kettle


, , , , ,

This is a story that I was oblivious to until recently. It wasn’t until I read Dee Brown’s brilliant book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee that I became aware of the Cheyenne chief, Black Kettle. His story, in a book full of tragedy, deception and betrayal, stood out the most for me. Ultimately the man was trying to do what was best for his people and ultimately he failed. The sad truth is that most of my ‘knowledge’ of native Americans had come from Hollywood’s warped lens. In the western narrative the Indians are ‘savages’ who kill indiscriminately and scalp (scalping was actually a Spanish practice brought to the Americas) their defenceless victims. While there is no doubt that there was violence from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, a lot of it was retaliatory for the violence and broken promises from the government of the time. Black Kettle tried to curb this violence, to stop the tick for tack that was keeping his people, the Cheyenne, back.

Black Kettle

Chief Black Kettle



Due to white settlement the Cheyenne had left their traditional home in present day Minnesota and settled around Montana, South Dakota and Colorado. It was declared that the native Americans would have the territories west of the Mississippi River and the whites the east. However, by the mid 19th century, with the discovery of gold there was more migration westwards and with that more encroachment on Indian land. The U.S. government then planned to put these tribes in their own reservations, away from the white man and with the ability to self govern and live in their traditional ways. The Cheyenne (who are broken up into two groups, the northern and the southern) were divided on this issue. Some thought they should fight the white man to the death and appose any resettlement of their people. Other chiefs such as Black Kettle, thought it was futile the fight the white man as this would lead to the destruction of the Cheyenne. Black Kettle and another Cheyenne chief, Lean Bear,  years earlier had visited the then President, Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C. , they saw first hand the technology and ingenuity of the white man and realised that opposing them would lead to the destruction of the Cheyenne. These peace chiefs knew that they had to work with the United States to secure the safety of the Cheyenne. The chiefs shook the hand of the president and were given medals, an American flag and official documents saying that Black Kettle and Lean Bear were a friends of the United States. They were told that as long as the flag is flown above their camp their people will be safe. Black Kettle and Lean Bear returned to their tribes with renewed optimism and pride that peace had been secured. Other Cheyenne did not share that optimism. Roman Nose, a fearless and respected warrior, led a group called the Dog Soldiers (might do a future write up on these guys as they were seriously bad ass) who were staunchly opposed to any peace deals. They would go around wreaking havoc on the plains of the United States and scoffed at the idea of peace.

Black Kettle and a number of other Cheyenne chiefs signed a treaty, which gave up some traditional lands of the Cheyenne in return for peace. As Cheyenne leadership didn’t fall on one person, these treaties were observed by some and totally ignored by others. One day, a group of soldiers were riding towards the Cheyenne camp. Lean Bear grabbed his papers signed by the president, and rode out to meet with the soldiers to see their intention. He felt he would be fine as he was given the word of the President of the United States. As soon as he was close enough the Cheyenne chief was shot in the head and killed. These course of events enraged Roman Nose and the Dog Soldiers even more and many rode north raiding on the way and seeking revenge for the death of Lean Bear. Black Kettle, perplexed over the death, kept a cool head and told his people (the ones who would listen) that revenge was not the answer. Black Kettle rode out to Denver to speak to the governor of Colorado. Cold and distant Governor Evans told Black Kettle that if they stayed in their reservation and report to the fort close by, they would not be harmed. Black Kettle was unconvinced of Evans’ integrity but took the Governor at his word.

The Sand Creek Massacre

Believing he had secured the peace of his people, Black Kettle and his group of Cheyenne settled at Sand Creek. However, Governor Evans had employed a man called John Chivington, to keep the peace. Chivington had served in the American Civil War and was an accomplished general. He was also a real piece of shit. He had more disdain towards the native Americans than his boss, Evans. Its also important to point out that the camp at Sand Creek, consisted mostly of women, children and the elderly. Most of the warriors


John Chivington

were aligned with the more aggressive Cheyenne such as Roman Nose and the Dog Soldiers and the warriors who did reside at the Sand Creek, were out hunting. This didn’t stop Chivington. On the morning of the 29th of November, 1864, Chivington and his military unit rode towards Sand Creek.  White Antelope (another Cheyenne chief) rode out to meet with the soldiers. Just like Lean Bear, he was gunned down. The troops then charged towards the camp. Hearing the hooves of the horses Black Kettle grabbed the American flag given to him in Washington and told his people to gather around. “They will not touch us as long as this flag fly’s above us.” They were, after all allies of the United States. Confusion had struck the camp at this point as the hooves of the horses got louder and louder. Some ran. Some huddled around the flag. Chivington and his forces stormed the camp and started killing indiscriminately. They  shot and hacked to death anyone not of white skin. As those around the flag realised that this flag offered no protection at all, mass panic hit the camp. Some ran. Some got away. Most didn’t. Black Kettle somehow survived and he managed to save his injured wife as well. If killing innocent women and children isn’t enough, the soldiers then moved on to mutilating the corpses. Taking ‘trophies’ with them. Scalping and hacking off body parts. There are even reports of a young children having their privates slashed off. One soldier said he saw a little girl begging for mercy, but instead of mercy she got her head bashed in with a club. Another young girl had put her hand up to stop a blow. Her arm was broken. She lifted her other arm, that arm was broken. She was left there to die before being scalped. Some soldiers stretched the private parts of females over their hats. The eye witness accounts of some of the soldiers is truly grotesque. Some soldiers, it must be noted, provided evidence later on and were directly responsible for saving some of the Cheyenne. However, if Chivington had his way there would not have been one survivor. I think when I called Chivington a piece of shit earlier I let him off lightly. I don’t think words can express the soldiers’ conduct and Chivington is to be held accountable. As he had, only a few weeks earlier, condoned the scalping of all native Americans, even children. Remarkably, Chivington would not face justice. In fact a few weeks after the massacre he was given a parade through the streets of Denver. Chivington had claimed that his unit had killed around 500 warriors. The actual figure was closer to 150, very few if any were warriors. The surviving Cheyenne, fled north to meet up with their warriors that were hunting buffalo. They had to do it on foot (as the Cheyenne’s horses were killed at Sand Creek) in winter. When news of the massacre finally arrived with the survivors the warriors mourned. “They cried and  wailed. Even the warriors. Many consumed with grief were gashing themselves with knives.” This understandably led to more warriors who may have been aligned to Black Kettle and the peace chiefs join with Roman Nose and the Dog Soldiers in their war with the whites.



Sand Creek Memorial


Medicine Lodge Treaty

Black Kettle warned against retaliatory attacks. He was as angry as any about Sand Creek but felt that an all out war would not bode well for the Cheyenne. The chief was present with other chiefs of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa and Apache. Black Kettle signed a peace treaty but in the process gave up more land and agreed to move his tribe down to a reservation in Oklahoma. The Dog Soldiers did not sign the agreement and it seems that Black Kettle’s influence over the Cheyenne, started to wane (particularly with the younger warriors). For the next few years the Roman Nose and his Dog Soldiers waged war on the plains of Kansas, Colorado and Texas.

Battle of Washita River

In November 27, 1868, almost 4 years to the day of the Sand Creek Massacre, General George Custer (the same Custer that was killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn) marched his soldiers into the Cheyenne camp on the banks of Washita River, Oklahoma. He was under orders of General Sheridan, who supposedly muttered the words “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”.  Custer was to kill any Cheyenne warriors but was told to spare women, children and the elderly. It was an order he and his troops found difficult to follow. As the soldiers stormed the camp and the first gun shots rang out Black Kettle ran to get his rifle, he knew there would be no huddling around an American flag. He shot the rifle in the air and told his people to run. This could not be another Sand Creek. The chief put his wife on a horse and as he pulled himself up to get away he was shot in the neck. Black Kettle was dead. A moments later he was joined on the other side by his wife, she was shot down from the horse and killed. As their bodies lay on the banks of the river, the horses hooves trampled them and sprayed mud all over their lifeless bodies. Black Kettle’s quest for peace had ended there at Washita river. There was more of a battle this time around, there were some warriors in camp and Custer lost quite a few men. But the Cheyenne were no match for the highly trained troops of General Custer.  Estimates of the death toll vary. Some say as many as 300 Cheyenne died that day while others say as little as 30. Most historians agree that a large percentage of total deaths were of women and children.

Black Kettle was a tragic figure of the American West. He wanted peace and gave up Cheyenne land to achieve it. He lost the respect from some of his own people who thought he was weak because he didnt go down the war path like other Cheyenne. In an cruel twist of fate the chief faced the same fate as those who advicated war.
All he wanted was to live side by side with the whites. It was a fruitless endeavour. He tried, but he couldn’t protect his people. The man was betrayed, not once but twice and that betrayal cost him his life.


Further Reading: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Dee Brown. Cannot recommend this book enough. Talks heavily about the Cheyenne but also other tribes who waged war defending their land.







Life lessons learnt through Gilgamesh


, , , , ,

One thing I find interesting about the ancients was that they faced the same fears and insecurities we do today. Take away all the social and technological advances we have made and strip away human beings to our most basic level and we are no different to those who walked the earth thousands of years ago. The Epic of Gilgamesh is full of life lessons that one can take and draw inspiration from. Everyone who reads such an epic may take different things from it, but for me here are the 4 life lessons learnt through Gilgamesh.

Humility: Being humble is an important trait. I heard once that you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat people they don’t have to be nice to. This always resonated with me. You have some people who seem to get off on being nasty to other people. Gilgamesh, pre Enkidu was that person. He was king so he didn’t need to be nice to anyone. He took whatever girl he wanted and worked people so hard they would die from exhaustion, he didn’t give a shit. That was until Enkidu came into the picture. When these two warriors had a fight Gilgamesh was a changed man. He developed empathy and humility. He went from being hated by his people to being loved, from  villain to a hero. Being humble should be a priority as we are all here a short while and we are all in this thing together. You enjoy the journey a lot more when you’re not being a prick.

Facing your fears: I have a friend who is so scared of failure it paralyses him into a state of apathy. He hates his job and has a social life that is limited to fleeting interactions with friends who he has known since high school. I  myself at times would prefer the comfort zone where bad things don’t happen and your ego is left untouched in your own little protective bubble. I think we all do sometimes, but the thing with that is nothing good comes of it. Greatness exists outside that comfort zone. Bored with life, Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to slay the demonic giant Humbaba. They didn’t need to. They could have stayed in the comfort of their palace and sleep with their concubines all night and pursue whatever other pleasures imaginable. But they didn’t. They risked it all for greatness. At various times both Gilgamesh and Enkidu wanted to give up and turn back. But they found something inside them to keep going and not give up. What’s your Humbaba?

Consequences to your actions: As a teacher it surprises me just how surprised students are when they get called out on their actions. They fail to see the connection between an action and a consequence. Its even worse when adults have the same ignorance. All actions have a consequence, some direct, some indirect and some positive and some negative. But we should be in tune with what may happen if we follow through with our actions. When Gilgamesh killed Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven he had no idea the impact it would have. His own actions set off a chain reaction which inevitably ends with the death of his closest friend, Enkidu. Being aware of the storm you may cause through your actions is important and if your actions cannot be avoided at least you can be prepared of the possible consequences.

We live forever through our legacy: Death is an inevitable part of life that we all must face. We cannot live forever, at least not physically. But what we can do is leave behind a legacy that will last long past the death of the physical. Ask yourself, what do you want to be remembered for? Gilgamesh was distraught by the concept of death and it wasn’t until he returned to Uruk that he realised his legacy will live forever. As well as the beautiful city he built, the positive impact he had on the people of Uruk and the adventures he had would last forever. They would last a long after he passed away. How do you want to be remembered?


Epic of Gilgamesh (Part 2)


, , , ,

Gilgamesh, naturally distraught over the death of his closest friend, wanders the earth dressed only in animal skins. The demise of Enkidu seemed to bring attention to Gilgamesh’s own mortality and this absolutely terrifies him. With his own death weighing on his mind, Gilgamesh goes in search of Utnapsishtim, one of 2 people (the other being his wife) who has been granted eternal life from the gods. Eerily similar to the tale of Noah, Utnapishtim, warned by the gods, builds a great boat and brings animals aboard to escape a torrential downpour that devastates mankind. On his way he comes across two scorpion men and they ask why he has travelled such a perilous journey to which Gilgamesh says ‘For Enkidu, I loved him dearly…… Since he went my life is nothing. That is why I have travelled here in search of Utnapishtim for he has found everlasting life.‘ The scorpion man realising that Gilgamesh has blood of gods in his veins, allows him entrance into the mountain. After some substantial time wandering, Gilgamesh reaches Urshanabi, the ferry man and pleads for him to take him across to see Utnapsishtim ‘How can I be silent? How can I rest? He is dust and I too shall die and be laid in the earth forever. I am afraid of death, therefore, tell me which is the road to Utnapishtim?‘Eventually the ferry man relents and takes Gilgamesh to see the man with everlasting life.


Gilgamesh and the serpent

Utnapishtim proceeds to tell Gilgamesh the story of how he and his wife obtained immortality (I will not go into this now but think good man, great flood etc.). At the end of the tale Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh how can he obtain everlasting life when he cannot even conquer sleep? The challenge is set. One week, no sleep. Gilgamesh, much like a schoolboy trying to do an all nighter, falls asleep immediately. He is awoken after 6 days and told he didn’t pass the test and must return to Uruk. At this point, Gilgamesh seems to have accepted his mortality and boards the boat to return home to Uruk. Utnapishtim, at the insistence of his wife tells Gilgamesh of a very important secret, ‘There is a plant that grows underwater, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores youth to a man’. Gilgamesh ties some stones to his feet and sinks to the deepest part of the channel. He sees the plant, grabs it while it cuts him, and then proceeds to release the stones from his feet and rises to the surface of the water. He shows the ferryman his prize possession and together they proceed to travel down stream into Uruk. After many days of travel, Gilgamesh sees a beautiful well of water and decides to bathe in it. At this point, a serpent, smelling the beautiful scent of the flower, rises from the well and snatches the plant which returns youth to a man, and just like that the serpent was gone. Gilgamesh, distraught, weeps ‘Oh, Urshanabi, was it for this that I toiled with my hands, is it for this I have wrung out my heart’s blood? For myself I have gained nothing; not I, but the beast of the earth has joy of it now. Already the stream has carried it twenty leagues back to the channels where I found it. I found a sign and now I have lost it. Let us leave the boat on the bank and go.‘ Finally, when they arrive to Uruk, Gilgamesh marvels at the city he has helped build. He is moved to tears, realising that while he may be mortal his city which is the most amazing in the world will last forever. This offers Gilgamesh some solace as he is reconciled with the mortality of the body.

And just like that. Like all people of the earth, great and small alike, Gilgamesh dies.

‘The king has laid himself down and will not rise again’

The Epic of Gilgamesh


, , ,

The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered one of the first works of literature. Dated at around 2600BC it tells the story of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk (present day Iraq), and his adventures and growth as a person. What makes this such an interesting story for me however, is not the slaying of demonic trolls and giant bulls (as cool as this is) but rather the themes that exist in a story just under 5000 years old are still themes that are prominent today. Life, death, love, fear, sex, humility, glory and redemption are just some of the things covered in this story. The life of the ancient man at its core was not too different to the life of modern man.

This post will offer a condensed version of the epic, broken up over two parts, however if you enjoy it, I would strongly recommend reading the original translation (numerous sources online). There is something special about reading a story that was first being told over 4000 years ago. I hope I do the ancients justice.


One of the clay tablets the Epic was written on. This one is on display at the British Museum.



GILGAMESH was born one third man and two thirds god. He ruled Uruk at a time when gods and mortals associated freely with one another. As king of Uruk, he helped build a magnificent city with high walls and extravagant buildings. It was the jewel of Sumer. Gilgamesh was a strong, handsome man who despite his endeavours in building such a magnificent city was hated by his people. He was mean and merciless and would often work people to near death in his pursuit of building such a grand kingdom. He also felt he had the divine right to sleep with any woman who he fancied. Grooms had to give up their newly wed brides to Gilgamesh and if there was any protest these poor sods would be put to death. The people called out to the gods to save them from this tyrant. Hearing the cries of the people the goddess of creation Aruru, created a man that would match Gilgamesh in strength and bring this man to his knees. This man was called Enkidu.

Enkidu was a wild man. He was covered in hair and would live with the gazelles in the fields. He would eat grass and berries and have no understanding that he was more than an animal. One day a hunter spotted Enkidu and was dismayed that this wild man was destroying the hunters traps. The hunter’s son goes off to Uruk to speak to Gilgamesh and obtain a prostitute to come and tame this wild man. Gilgamesh sends the prostitute Shamhat, to seduce this man and thus turn him from nature and bring him into the civilised world. Shamhat waited by the watering hole for three days before Enkidu showed up. Mesmerized by the form of a woman Enkidu has a great 7 nights and 6 days of having sex with Shamhat. Enkidu then returns to the wild to find out the animals have now rejected him. Weakened by his realisation that he is now a man of the world Enkidu returns dejected to Shamhat who then convinces him to return to Uruk with him. Enkidu agrees and it isn’t long before he hears the tales of Gilgamesh and how he feels the need to sleep with any woman he desires. Enkidu is horrified by these stories and decides to put an end to Gilgamesh’s transgression meanwhile Gilgamesh is having dreams and visions of a man who he will become brothers with.

On his way to sleep with a newly wed bride Enkidu blocks the path into the house. A fight ensues in which eventually Gilgamesh prevails, however, it serves to show that Gilgamesh is not invincible and must change his ways. Gilgamesh, humbled by the experience, becomes a better person and a better king to his people. The two instantly become friends and after a certain amount of years they become inseparable. However, Gilgamesh eventually becomes bored with life and needs a new challenge. So naturally he proposes that they go on an adventure to the cedar forest to slay the guardian of the forest, Humbaba. Through this, he feels they will obtain glory and will be remembered forever. Now Humbaba is a giant, demonic troll who was created by by the god Enlil to guard the forest and generally to strike terror in the hearts of men. Enkidu is not thrilled at the idea, in fact he tries his utmost to dissuade his friend of such a foolish endeavour that will almost certainly result in death. Gilgamesh however, is staunch in his stance and tells Enkidu he will do it with or without him. So, feeling as though he has no choice, Enkidu agrees to go with him to slay the beast. Before they do this they go off to visit Gilgamesh’s mother who blesses the two and adopts Enkidu and tells him he must look after him. He agrees and the two set off but not before offering a sacrifice of tears to the god Shamash.


Gilgamesh and Enkidu battle Humbaba.

To get to Humbaba they need to travel deep into the cedar forest, deeper than any man has travelled before and as they get closer to the monster, fear starts engulfing both men. They find strength in each other and keep venturing deeper and deeper. Every night as they camp out, Gilgamesh has terrifying dreams which seem to worry him but Enkidu tells him that they are good omens and not ones of doom that Gilgamesh believes. They get closer and closer and as they do can hear the screams and bellows of the monster awaiting them. At one point, Enkidu seems to have succumbed to his fear and begged Gilgamesh to go back with him, to which Gilgamesh replies “Dear friend, do not speak like a coward. Have we got the better of so many dangers and travelled so far, to turn back at last? You, who are tried in wars and battles, hold dose to me now and you will feel no fear of death: keep beside me and your weekness will pass, the trembling will leave your hand. Would my friend rather stay behind? No, we will, go down together into the heart of the forest. Let your courage be roused by the battle to come; forget death and follow me, a man resolute in action, but one who is not foolhardy”. So they went forth. When close enough Gilgamesh took an axe and chopped down a cedar tree. Humbaba heard the felled tree and called out who dares chop down my trees? Now Enkidu gives Gilgamesh strength at his time of weakness and the pair go on. Finally they are face to face with the monster and battle begins. Spurred by the battle the pair battle valiantly but it seems to no avail as Humbaba is just too strong. Gilgamesh cries out to the god Shamash who sends seven winds which neutralise the demon giant. Gilgamesh and Enkidu gain the upper hand and capture Humbaba. The giant pleads for his life, claiming he was forced into this life by the gods. Gilgamesh takes pity on the monster and is about to grant him his freedom when Enkidu tells him that the monster must die. If he is let loose he will take revenge on us and the people and will send famine and floods among other things. So the two take their axes and strike Humbaba three times in the neck, decapitating the monster of the cedar forest and thus returning home to Uruk as heroes.


Gilgamesh slaying Gugalanna.


Upon their return both men’s popularity soars. Gilgamesh in particular becomes loved by everyone, he did after all slay the beast Humbaba. As happens when you slay a monster women start to gather around. One particular woman, a goddess for that matter, was especially smitten with Gilgamesh. Ishtar was a woman (goddess) who usually got what she wanted and she wanted Gilgamesh. However our hero had other ideas. Gilgamesh while recognising her beauty, dismisses the goddess’ advances as he knows that eventually she will tire of him like she has tired of all the other men who had loved her in the past. So politely, he says thanks but no thanks and goes on his way. The goddess, infuriated by the rejection demands her father Anu (a god himself) to send Gugalanna, the giant bull of heaven to avenge her. Anu refuses, as it he knows her demands our completely unreasonable. At this Ishtar then threatens to “bring up the dead to eat food like the living, and the dead will outnumber the living”. Anu feels at this point he has no choice so he sends the giant bull down to Earth to kill Gilgamesh. Ishtar leads the bull to Uruk, causing mass destruction on the way. When they arrive our two heroes are waiting and the battle ensues. Enkidu takes the bull by the horns and the two quickly gain the upper hand. Gilgamesh then strikes the final blow with his sword and kills the bull of heaven. They cut out Gugalanna’s heart and offer it to the god Shamash. Ishtar, watching from the great wall of screamed out “woe to Gilgamesh for he has scorned me in killing the Bull of Heaven“. Enkidu on hearing this ripped the right thigh of the bull and tossed it at the goddess claiming “If I could lay my hands on you, it is this I should to you, and lash the entrails to your sides“. Angry, beaten and shamed, Ishtar returns to the heavens and seeks a council.

At this point of our story, the gods are quite angry at both Gilgamesh and Enkidu. They are becoming too big for their own shoes and the fact they have killed Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven means that they must be punished. It is decided that one of the heroes must die. Despite the protests of Shamash, it is decided that Enkidu will be the one who bites the dust. Very soon after, Enkidu is engulfed with a sickness and his health quickly deteriorates. At first he curses the world and all those around him. He is bitter, cynical and angry. He wishes that he had stayed in the wilds with the animals but he is quickly reminded that if he was still in the wilds, he would have never met his brother, Gilgamesh. Enkidu comes to terms with his own mortality however Gilgamesh struggles with his friends imminent death.

This next part is taken directly from the epic, as I feel it is important and moving. It deals with the moment Gilgamesh finds his friend dead.

He touched his heart but it did not beat, nor did he lift his eyes again. When Gilgamesh touched his heart it did not beat. So Gilgamesh laid a vel, as one veils the bride, over his friend. He began to rage like a lion, like a lioness robbed of her whelps. This way and that he paced around the bed, he tore out his hair and strewed it around. He dragged off his splendid robes and flung them down like they were abominations.

In the first light of dawn Gilgamesh cried out “I made you rest on a royal bed, you reclined on a couch at my left hand, the princes of the earth kissed your feet. I will cause the people of Uruk to weep over you and raise the dirge of the dead. The joyful people will stoop with sorrow; and when you have gone down to the earth I will let my hair grown long for your sake, I will wander the wilderness in the skin of a lion” The next day also, in the first light, Gilgamesh lamented; seven days and seven nights he wept for Enkidu, until the worm fastened on him. Only then he gave him up to the earth, for the Anunnaki, the judges had seized him.

COMING UP  – Gilgamesh stricken by grief roams the earth in search for eternal life.

The People vs Miss Piggy


, , ,

Medieval Europe was a funny place. Kings ruled over a feudal  system which saw land given to nobility who in turn made peasants tirelessly work the fields to make a living. It was no surprise that for a peasant, life expectancy was only around 32 years of age (mostly due to child mortality). Work hard, play hard right? Na, you can forget about that holiday to the seaside, just leaving the boundaries of the manor would have been a big deal. The one word which you could use to describe life for your quintessential peasant in medieval Europe, shitty.

In the middle of the 12th century, King Henry ii introduced a new legal system which saw England slowly do away with Trial by Ordeals. Instead of making someone hold a burning rod and check back in a few days to see if his wound was healing (if it was infected, it was determined that God deemed you guilty the crime), there would now be a proper trial with a jury adjudicating. Now these were not perfect, as the jury could be completely biased, but it was a step in the right direction and an overall better system then dunking someone in water to see if they drown or not (trial by water). Funnily enough, this new justice system wasn’t exclusive to humans. Animals were also put on trial.

In 1386, in the town of Falaise in Normandy (France), a pig was put on trial for killing a young boy. The sow had eaten the boy. Probably due to the peasants, who led shitty lives, not feeding the pig enough, or maybe the pig was just an asshole. Who knows. But what is certain is that the new judicial system would be put into place. Rather than just kill the sow, the sow was to stand trial.


From Chambers Book of Days, depicting a trial of another pig in 1457.

On the day of the trial Miss Piggy was dressed up in mens clothing, humiliating for a sow but her spirit would not be broken. She remained resilient, proud and defiant in the face of certain conviction, and certain death. She called upon no witnesses, didn’t answer any questions (yes questions were asked!) and refused to swear an oath to the God of men. Miss Piggy stood no chance. She was convicted and sentenced to death. She was led up the steps to the platform where her head was bashed in and legs broken. She squealed in pain hoping it would end soon. But she knew she had killed a child. Her ordeal would not be swift. She would go in and out of consciousness but in one final humiliating blow, she is hung in the town square, in front of hundreds of cheering people. And human justice is served.

Crazy right? But it did happen. And it wasn’t a one off. Animals have been put on trial throughout the middle ages. A lot of the information about these trials can be found in the book The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals by Edward Evans. I”ll leave you now with a quote from that book that seems to try to justify the process of a trial for animals. Middle Ages you cray.

“Why should not animals be held responsible for their conduct as well as human beings? There are men apparently less intelligent than apes. Why should the man be capitally punished and the ape not brought to trial? And if the ape can be made responsible and punishable, why not the dog, the horse, the pig and the cat?”

Yeah why not?


Diogenes. Taking douchebaggary to a whole new level.


, ,

You know that friend you’ve had since high school? Their antics at the age of 13 were kind of funny and the obvious disdain for authority was even admirable. But the years go by and slowly you mature and take your place in this functioning society and the stupidity of your friend (‘friend’ is used quite loosely at this point) isn’t amusing nor warranted nor serves any real purpose. You tell yourself that they’ll come around, they have to right? You’ve grown up, matured, maybe even married, few kids, contemplating whether to put them through a private school, looking at a bigger car or house. Generally making those decisions that adults make. Days of not giving a shit are gone. You got responsibilities, man. In your peripheral you see your ‘friend’. They still don’t give a shit. In fact, rather than slow them down, the years have had an opposite effect. They are now more obnoxious,  more intolerable, more wittier, more crude and more boisterous than ever before. Everyone wonders why you still talk to this person. You don’t really like them, nor do they think very highly of you for that matter. To them, your square life is the cowards life. But in some perverse way, you feel somekind of loyalty to your past. So you stay in touch. You don’t meet in person. Ever. You did once, where your friend slapped the bartenders ass, after a few hours of insufferable remarks, and proceeded to get beat up. Not an unusual thing. On the contrary, ass kickings are common. But these beatings seem to only loosen the tongue even more. They get off on the beatings. They play the role of villain admirably with no signs of slowing. Yeah that ‘friend’.


Diogenes was a wanker. There is no other way to put it. He was also a philosopher during the golden years of Athens, so naturally, he was a very smart dude. Born around 412BC he was originally a banker before being banished. When he finally did return to Athens he brought with him a disdain for society. Diogenes practiced a life of simplicity, sleeping in a ceramic bowl in the main market in Athens. Unfortunately there is nothing written from Diogenes himself, so all we have are various anecdotes in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (which can be found online). Some of them are straight up hilarious. When invited into a prominent mans house, he was explicitly asked not to spit on the floor, so naturally Diogenes spat in the mans face, claiming he couldn’t do it elsewhere. He saw a man practicing shooting arrows at a target. The man was terrible, missing quite a few shots. Diogenes went and sat by the target, claiming he would be much safer here. Most notably though, he practiced living as a dog with people throwing scraps to him in the street. He also urinated on the legs of people and openly and regularly shouted insults to passers by. Amazingly though, he did have pupils who wanted to learn from him! Ultimately he lived to beyond 90, which is an effort by itself but even more astonishing when considering the way he lived his life with insult after insult being hurled at those he deemed to be without ‘virtue’.

All in all an amazing if not bizarre character. I think his life is summed up nicely in a few lines from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers:
Music and geometry, and astronomy, and all things of that kind, he neglected, as useless and unnecessary. But he was very happy in meeting arguments, as is plain from what we have already said.”

Diogenes: that idiot friend from school.

The Gatton Murders (Part 4). Case closed. Sort of….


, , , , , ,

This is the fourth and final part of my investigation on the Gatton murders.

Who did it?

When I began my research into the Gatton murders I told myself that I would not try to solve the case or much less offer a theory. I figured that any theory might be as good as another. It became clear to me however, quite early on, that the murder is far from a mystery. While it is impossible to prove, I believe the murder seems to point to one man. Occam’s Razor tells us, find the hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions. Thomas Day as the killer makes the fewest assumptions. He came to Gatton as a mysterious stranger, he left never to be heard of again, he was identified as the man on the sliprails, he had a jumper with blood splattered on it, he washed the jumper and possibly even boiled it, he bought a razor to shave his moustache the day after the murders and he lived right next to Moran’s paddock were the murders were committed. Yet ten days after the murders he left Gatton claiming he didn’t like Clarke’s food (if he had left immediately after the murders it would have aroused more suspicion). The question then is why did the police not pursue Thomas Day more vigorously and how did they let him slip away so easily?

Police Incompetence & Cover Up

The police were so determined to implicate Richard Burgess on the murders that they did not seem interested in anyone else. While I believe Burgess to be innocent of these crimes, there is no doubt that the man was of particularly bad character. He was in jail for beating an elderly man and had been known to frequently beat women. He also held the police in content and didn’t hesitate to show it (Gibney 1971, pp.118-120). When Sergeant Toomey, Inspector Urquhart, Sub Inspector Galbraith and Sub Inspector Durham found out that Burgess had been released from prison and was in the proximity of Gatton at the time of the murders, they thought they had their man. To them it was obvious. Only a man of Burgess’ character could commit such a serious crime. Sub Inspector Urquhart was tipped off early on in the investigation. Three aboriginal trackers had come to Gatton to make what they could of the remaining crime scene. All three were pretty clear as to who committed the murders. One of them, a Mr Meston, said at the Royal Commission ‘I pointed out to Urquhart that he was starting in a wrong direction altogether. When I went there on Friday I asked him where was so and so and at the time of the murders, and he said that they had all proved alibis’ (1899). The police also failed to see that Burgess was prone to only attack people who were almost defenceless. Why would he risk attacking a man of Michael Murphy’s stature? He also had no prior convictions or even signs of being a sexual deviant.  The police didn’t see this. They were so sure that Burgess was guilty they dismissed all talk of Thomas Day. The fact that Thomas Day seemed responsive to the police was proof to them he wasn’t involved.

By the time that Richard Burgess was acquitted of any wrong doing, Thomas Day had disappeared. He enlisted in the army only to be discharged shortly after joining and unsurprisingly was never heard of again. No public record exists for the Thomas Day that arrived in Gatton on the 15th December 1898.  The man is a phantom and it seems likely that Thomas Day was just a mere alias.

Of course realising their blunder, the police had to maintain the staunch stance that Thomas Day was checked extensively and was cleared of any wrong doing. Toomey and co. did this to protect themselves. They surely seen the huge mistake they made and knew that their reputations would be ruined if word on this got out, thus they continued to push Burgess as a prime suspect and dismiss any claims as to Day being involved. Not until the Royal Commission into these murders and police incompetence does it come out that Sergeant Arrell was bullied and threatened with his job if he continued his line of pushing Day as the murderer. Urquhart couldn’t believe the nerve of Arrell who was ‘criticising the work of better men!’ (Royal Commission1899). Detective Robert Christie himself did not hand in his report which implicated Thomas Day as the murderer because he was fearful as to what would become of him. Mary Murphy, after the Royal Commission was sure that it was Thomas Day. Gatton seemed sure. Everyone was sure. But the police would not hear of it, for acknowledgement as Thomas Day as the probable murderer would also acknowledge error on the investigation. Those in charge of the investigation were nearing retirement and they didn’t want any negative press that might affect their immediate jobs (subsequently most would receive rewards for their service!). That is why they kept the firm line that Thomas Day was innocent of all wrong doing.


The Gatton murders remain to this day, a hugely debated crime that captures the imaginations of anyone who looks into it. The murders were gruesome and the fact that they happened in a small town and involved people generally liked and respected in the community shocked not only Queensland but all of Australia. Merv Lilley even proposes that it was his own father, Bill who committed the crimes under the alias of Thomas Day (1995). Something about the Gatton murders spurs interest and intrigue. Unfortunately with this comes rumours and outlandish theories, but to me it seems quite clear as to who was the culprit. Of course we can never be fully certain if Day was involved, but the police at the time made sure we would never even have the opportunity to find out.

The Gatton Murders (Part 3)


, , , ,

This is the third part of a four part series looking at the Gatton Murders

It was established fairly early on in the investigations that there was a man loitering around the sliprails of Moran’s paddock on the night of the murders. The police could not clearly identify who this man was. The Tent Hill road was quite busy that night as it is the only road leading back to Gatton from Mt Silvia. It must be remembered that there was a race meet at Mt Silvia earlier that day. In total five witnesses came forth claiming to see a mysterious man. The man seemed elusive and did not speak to any of the passers by. He was strongly built, had a dark coat on and a hat pulled down to obscure his face (The Queenslander, 1899). It must be noted that although many more people passed through the area, he was only spotted four times, the first being at 7.45pm and the final time at 9.15pm (Gibney p74). Why was this man so elusive? And what was his business there?


Of the five witnesses, only one identified the man. Mrs Margaret Carroll and her son John were on their way back from Mt. Silvia where they were selling fruit at the races. They passed the man at the sliprails to Moran’s paddock around 8.30pm. They passed Michael and his sisters who were on their way to the dance in Gatton (which would be ultimately cancelled). On the left hand side of the sliprails they saw the man. Mrs Carroll was unsure as to who it was but John seemed a little more sure. Speaking at the commission, Mrs Carroll claims that they both saw the man on foot at which point John said ‘That is Clarke’s man’ (Carroll, 1899, Royal Commission). Clarke’s man, of course refers to Thomas Day, who had started working with Mr Clarke the butcher only weeks earlier. John collaborated this story. Although when grilled at the royal commission, Inspector Tooney seemed to pressure the fourteen year old boy to the point that he was no longer sure that it was Day. Tooney even mentioned Richard Burgess again. Who, must be noted, at this point had been acquitted on any wrong doing in regards to the murders. The young John relented somewhat and said the man that was at the sliprails resembled Burgess (Carroll J, 1899, Royal Commission).

At this point it is obvious that the police were relentless in their pursuit of Richard Burgess. Even after it was established he was innocent of the murders, Sergeant Tooney and co seemed to want to make him seem the perfect suspect. But more on that later, let us look further into Day and some more peculiar circumstances that were not investigated thoroughly enough.

Sergeant Tooney when questioning Day after the murders found a blue jumper with blood stains on it. Day’s response was that those stains had belonged to animals as after all he was working with the butcher. This seemed to suffice Tooney and he left it at that. Thomas Day then proceeded to wash and boil this blood stained jumper despite Clarke’s wishes to leave the jumper as it might come in handy. Clarke at the royal commission said ‘I cautioned him against washing his clothes. I told him to leave the stain in,  that he should not wash anything of that kind, because they might be of service. I thought the blood would have been analysed. In face of that he washed them’ (1899). When quizzed further about the nature of the stains, Clarke claims that the stains could not have been caused by any work Day did for him. He was a labourer, merely transporting the meat around and not involved with the actual cutting of the meat. The only possible blood stains would have been from a smudge and not the splatter that was on Thomas Day’s blue jumper. Of course any further investigation on this jumper was futile as the jumper had been washed.
On the contrary, Richard Burgess’ clothes upon his arrest were immediately sent away to be analysed.

All the witnesses of the man at the sliprails had claimed that the man they saw had a moustache. The very next morning Thomas Day went into Gatton and bought a razor to shave his moustache off. This detail was almost completely ignored by police.

The police did however pick up Day after the murders and brought him down the station for a statement. Tooney when questioned at the Royal Commission said of Day when  brought in, he was not in the least bit flustered as he ‘conversed all the way’ (1899). This on the surface would seem to offer some evidence as to the man’s innocence. But as the Gibbney brothers pointed out, Thomas Day’s character was that of a man most uncommunicative. He was aloof and unsociable, but yet talkative on the way to the police station. This detail again escaped Sergeant Tooney’s

Detective Robert Christie arrived from New South Wales to Gatton in March to assist Inspector Urquhart in the murder investigations. After a few days he had written a report ready to hand in. He had his view as to who committed these murders. Thomas Day. Christie went even further, claiming that if Day did indeed come from New South Wales as he claimed, he would have more than likely passed through Oxley around the time that another sinister murder was committed (1899). Alfred Stephen Hill went missing on the tenth of December. His body was found one month later brutally murdered. Edward Wilson was charged with the murder. His son said he had seen his father hand something over to a swagman near the Oxley hotel. It therefore might be of more than coincidence that Michael Murphy, Alfred Hill and their horses were shot with the same calibre gun (Mathews, 2001). Of course this is all speculative still and in the end Christie did not hand his report in. Why? He had the answer that the police did not want to hear. Thomas Day had disappeared from Gatton on January 10th never to be seen and thus never be questioned again.

Sergeant Arrell, the lone policeman at Gatton prior to the murders was also of the opinion that it was Thomas Day. It was his treatment that made sure that Christie did not show his letter until the Royal Commission. Christie claimed that Arrell was of the same opinion of him and that he had heard Arrell being threatened with his job if he continued pursuing this line of thought that Thomas Day had anything to do with the murders (1899).
It must be noted that while Arrell made some crucial mistakes in the opening stages of the investigation (e.g. failure to secure the crime scene), this was due to Arrell simply being out of his depth. Nothing as gruesome had happened in Gatton prior to the murders and nothing even close in the hundred and seventeen years since.

At this point I would like to take some time away from the immediate events to go back to the ongoing victims, the Murphy’s. In the century or so since the murders the Murphy name has been tarnished with sinister claims of incest and murder. There is not even the slightest bit of evidence to implicate the Murphy’s in any way. While new theories should always be put forth, they should be held up by evidence. When evidence doesn’t exist, some researches have a tendency to make outlandish claims . In one theory put forth claims that Michael was involved in incest with his sisters. This results in a family murder and cover up by the Murphy’s. Richards says that this is ‘cruel, irresponsible and unnecessary’ (2005). What flimsy evidence is offered by I found very easy to debunk.


Father! Father! – Two women, Louisa Theuerkauf and Catherine Byrne heard screams from Moran’s paddock at approximately 10pm on Boxing Day night. One of the women Louisa, claims that she heard a woman scream ‘father’. According to some this is attributed to the father being the murderer. Unlikely. Daniel Murphy was the family’s protector. He was a strong and staunch man who cared deeply for his family. It is much more likely that these calls were for her father to save them from this imminent horror. Another possible explanation is that the woman was screaming for her father in heaven. Jesus Christ. The Murphy’s were Irish immigrants and thus quite religious. Also it must be remembered that in the climate of 1898 Australia, religion played a prominent part.

Michael Murphy’s body – Semen was found on the bodies of both Norah and Ellen Murphy. There is no debate about that but what was more peculiar was that semen was found on the tip of Michael’s penis, evidence of incest? Possibly but probably not. Rigor Mortis is a condition in which the body stiffens immediately after death. In a sudden death there are even more implications. Excrement of bowels and penis fluids. That includes urine and semen. It is common in hangings and a little less so in shootings. It is however quite prominent in sudden deaths of any kind. (American Medical Association 2003).
It is much more likely that Michael was shot prior to the secual assault of his sisters. Of course, DNA testing today would solve a crime and mystery like this one rather quickly.

Next, in the final part of The Gatton Murders, we will look at who was most likely responsible and the fallout of these gruesome  murders.

The Gatton Murders (Part 2)


, , , , ,

This is a continuation of my investigation into the Gatton murders. If you haven’t read part 1, you should go back and do so before jumping into part 2.

The Murder Scene

The Crime Scene (Moran’s Paddock). The sulky is clearly visible in the center.


As McNeill went to find the sergeant a small group of men from the hotel saddled up and went to the murder site. McNeill and Sergeant Arrell caught up to the men just as they were about to enter the sliprails into Moran’s paddock and onto the murder scene. Sergeant Arrell found the bodies and seemed to be flustered as to what to do next. McNeill was sent to the Murphy household to pass on the tragic news. This is where any chance of finding the murderer starts to unravel and a bumbling police investigation seems to take hold.

Arrell, presumably not finding any clues, left the murder scene to go into town to send a telegram to the Commissioner of police. Arrell didn’t mark the telegram urgent as he was incorrectly told that the police did not have the authority to send urgent telegrams. Upon arriving back at the scene Sergeant Arrell must have been somewhat angered and shocked to see the crime scene had almost entirely been overrun by curious onlookers. Arrell repeatedly tried to move them on but he was overwhelmed by the crowd.

Meanwhile, Mary Murphy had arrived at the crime scene. She repeatedly begged Sergeant Arrell to remove the bodies as the sun and ants had started to get to them. Arrell was very reluctant to do so before a doctor could arrive on the scene but eventually relented. At around 2pm that day the bodies were moved to the Brian Boru Hotel and put up in a room before Dr William Henry von Lossberg (Government Medical Officer, Ipswich District) arrived to do a post mortem on the bodies at around 4pm (Royal Commission 1899, p.409).


The Imperial Hotel (formerly the Brian Boru Hotel). The bodies where taken from the crime scene to this hotel. (circa 1906)


Sub Inspector Galbraith was at nearby Rosewood when he heard about the murders and immediately rushed over to Gatton. He arrived late on the 27th of December. Early on the morning of the 28th of December Inspector Urquhart arrived and immediately took over the case. After ruling out the immediate family, the police quickly established three main suspects, William McNeil, Richard Burgess and Thomas Day. McNeil who had discovered the bodies was shadowed heavily by the police (Gibney p.93-6). Police found it curious that McNeil had gone to the hotel before heading into town to find the Sergeant, it was an interesting point that even though McNeil had discovered the bodies there were no visible tracks. These two sticking points are easily explained and one feels that the police must have wasted valuable time in chasing this dead end. As explained earlier, McNeil was not a native of Gatton and thus only went into the hotel to enquire about where to find the police station. As for the lack of tracks, the ground at the murder site was not the kind that left many tracks. Also it must be noted that McNeil, when discovering the bodies did not loiter around, he rushed immediately into town after seeing blood and was not completely sure that it was murder. While I understand that police must look at all possible suspects it becomes quite clear that they prolonged their investigation into McNeil. It must be noted that William McNeil only a few years later was involved in an incident in Toowoomba in which he chased down a wayward horse and carriage and proceeded to save the lives of the children stuck inside.

On researching this case it became clear to me very early on that McNeil had absolutely nothing to do with the murders and if anything conducted himself in a most admirable way throughout this tragedy. However, the two other suspects I feel deserve a little more investigation.


Richard Burgess was the prime suspect for the Gatton murders throughout the police investigation. He was a violent criminal who was only released a month or so before the murders. When the police enquired about Burgess, they found out he was in the Bunya Mountains roughly 100 kilometers north of Gatton. This immediately attracted the attention of the police as it seemed that he had passed through the surrounds of Gatton around the time of the murder. The police seemed hell bent on getting Burgess and on the 6th of January he was arrested by a constable near the Bunya Mountains on suspicion of murder (Queensland Times 1899). With no evidence to present, Burgess was released eight days later only to be immediately arrested again on the charge of stealing a saddle (The Queenslander 1899).

Burgess’ trial began on the 24th of January. He explained his movements from the 30th November 1888, when he was released from prison all the way to his arrest in the Bunya Mountains on the 6th of January 1899. Burgess’ movements were extensive however he claimed he was not near Gatton on Boxing Day night. He claimed he was in Clifton heading towards Toowoomba, Clifton being approximately 70km south of Gatton. His movements around this time were corroborated by a Presbyterian Minister, a Danish woman who gave him food and a farmer. All these people claimed that they ran into Burgess on the day/night of the murders.

But this did not seem enough for the police, who spent much of February on the road with Richard Burgess tracing his supposed movements from his release all the way up to his re-arrest for the suspicion of the murders.  After these expeditions it was finally conceded by the police that there was no evidence whatsoever to connect Richard Burgess with the Gatton murders. The police reached this conclusion two full months after the murders. Valuable time to catch the real culprit was lost.


The third suspect in the murders was given the least amount of attention from the police. This was very surprising to me as by all accounts Thomas Day seems to be a mysterious person of questionable character. Day arrived in Gatton on the 15th of December 1898. He almost immediately started work with Mr Clarke, the butcher. He boarded in a hut on Clarke’s property, which must be noted was right next to Moran’s paddock, the scene of the murders. There seems to be something sinister about Day, as Clarke explains his wife’s warning during the Royal Commission into the proceedings ‘She had a very bad opinion of him and told me to be careful, that it was quite likely he might knock me on the head. He is a very powerful man and a big man too’ (Clarke, Royal Commission, 1899). Of course a seedy disposition is never enough to connect a man to a crime. But when it comes to Thomas Day it appears the police did not investigate thoroughly enough. There seems to be a few bits of evidence that were dismissed too early.


Next, we look more closely at the very mysterious Thomas Day, the evidence that may link him to the crime and how the killer evaded justice.