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Hannibal's Elephants: Myth and Reality

Hannibal Crossing the Rhone - Henri-Paul Motte (1894) Pachyderms are an inseparable part of the image of the great Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, although they took part in a lot fewer engagements than most people familiar with his story assume. But let us examine three incidents involving elephants in order to evaluate the accuracy of the classical sources.

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The Barons' War

King Henry's heavy taxes to pay for his dynastic ambitions in Europe, plus bad weather and widespread famine, provoked civil unrest in England leading to civil war.

200 years after the Norman invasion the country's nobility had largely become anglicized and viewed France and Europe in general with suspicion.

French born Simon de Montfort was tolerated as a councillor of King Henry III, but things changed when he inherited through his mother, the title of Earl of Leicester and became a focal point for those nobles unhappy with the perceived misuse of power by the king. The situation worsened when he married the king's sister Eleanor without first seeking royal consent.

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Wounded Knee

By the end of 1890, the US government's subjugation of the Native American peoples was virtually complete with the remnants of the once proud tribes herded into reservations located on poor land and relying on government handouts for survival.

Despite this, the white settlers still remained fearful of the Indians; these sentiments worsened by the endless production of Western fiction and the many Wild West shows depicting the Indians as bloodthirsty savages. The army too, stationed in forts near the reservations, where legends of earlier Indian atrocities were embroidered and enlarged, remained trigger happy and ready to crush any remaining signs of resistance.

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Bannockburn and After

King Edward II had infuriated his barons by his refusal to consult with them or take their advice and instead was influenced by his coterie of hangers on such as Gaveston and Despenser. Revolt and open defiance of his rule was spreading throughout the old nobility and was to result in a crushing English defeat at the hands of the Scots.

Taking advantage of the unrest, Robert the Bruce of Scotland had not been idle and was gradually retaking the castles captured and garrisoned by Edward’s father and by 1313 only Stirling castle remained in English hands. The Scots besiegers were led by Edward, the brother of Robert Bruce.

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Finding Francesco Gullino, aka Agent 'Piccadilly'

Agent Piccadilly? Francesco Gullino in 2012 A Danish citizen, born in Bra, Italy, on 31 May 1945, Francesco Gullino has long been considered to be the prime suspect in the murder of Georgi Markov in September 1978.

Gullino allegedly also was used as a Bulgarian espionage agent in Denmark. In February 1993, based on information from Bulgarian authorities, the Danish National Commissar, Department G (PET) charged Gullino with “violation of section 107 of the Danish Criminal Code, alternatively section 108 of the same Code.”

Section 107 read,

Any person who, being in the service of any foreign power or organization or for the use of persons engaged in such service, inquires into or gives information on matters which, having regard to Danish state or public interests, should be kept secret, shall, whether or not the information is correct, be guilty of espionage and liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding 16 years.

On 5 February 1993, Danish police, two Scotland Yard detectives investigating the murder of Georgi Markov, and one Bulgarian investigator, interrogated Gullino for at least six hours. He was fingerprinted and released from custody without admitting culpability for either espionage or for his involvement in the murder of Georgi Markov.

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Crazy Horse

There are times when a famous person's life and exploits are so embroidered by writers and historians that it difficult to get to the true story. Such a man was the Lakota Indian warrior Crazy Horse, who fought so hard to hold back the invasion of European settlers into his people's lands which at the time stretched from Missouri to the Bighorn Mountains of Dakota.

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