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Saturday, August 31, 2013

What ever happened to the ancient library in Alexandria?

 Posted by Emily Upton on June 18, 2013

Artist's rendition of the ancient Library of Alexandria

Great question!  For those not familiar, I’ll start with a little background on the subject. The Library of Alexandria was founded by either Ptolemy I or his son, Ptolemy II, sometime in the third century B.C. Libraries were nothing new to ancient civilizations, though places to keep etched clay tablets might not be what we would consider a proper library today. The initial goal of the Library of Alexandria was most likely to flaunt Egypt’s enormous wealth rather than provide a place for study and research, but of course the library transformed into something much more.

File:Ptolemy I Soter Louvre Ma849.jpg
Bust of Ptolemy I in the Louvre Museum
File:Egyptian - Head of Ptolemy II - Walters 22109.jpg
This granite statue depicts Ptolemy II in the
traditional canon of ancient Egyptian art.
Walters Art Museum
, Baltimore.

Charged with collecting the knowledge of the world, many of the workers at the library were busy translating scrolls from “barbarian” languages into Greek. Scrolls were obtained from ancient “book fairs” in Athens and Rhodes. Scrolls from ships that made port were taken to the library and copied. Ptolemy III also borrowed the original manuscripts of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides from Athens. According to Galen, the pharaoh had to pay a hefty price to guarantee that he would return the originals, but Ptolemy III had the scrolls copied and returned the copies. Because much about the library is wrapped in legend, we can’t be sure if this is true, or if it was a story told to show the power of Ptolemaic Egypt.
File:Octadrachm Ptolemy III BM CMBMC103.jpg
Gold coin depicting Ptolemy III
issued by Ptolemy IV to honor
his deified father

Needless to say, the library’s collection was vast, but the knowledge of exactly how many scrolls the library contained at any given point has been lost. Estimations range from 40,000 scrolls to 600,000. We do know that the collection spurred the need for a system of library organization. A precursor to today’s library catalogue was developed called Pinakes, or “tablets.” The tablets were divided into genre and sorted by the author’s name. It’s likely that this served as a record of the contents of the library rather than a precise system for finding the scrolls. Scrolls, unlike the books we know today, could not stand up on shelves but lay in heaps, meaning a precise method of organization would be nearly impossible to achieve. Unfortunately, the tablets along with the rest of the library have been lost to fire or time, meaning we have little record of the library’s exact contents.

File:Alexandria Library Inscription.jpg
This Latin inscription regarding Tiberius Claudius Balbilus
of Rome (d. c. AD 79) mentions

Partially because of the library, Alexandria became a seat of scholarship and learning. Scholars from all over the Hellenistic world were allowed to browse the library. They researched, discovered, and taught. It was at the library that Euclid wrote his groundbreaking work on geometry (much to the distaste of a majority of high school freshmen everywhere); Eratosthenes discovered how to measure the Earth’s circumference with remarkable accuracy; Herophilius learned that the brain controlled thought rather than the heart; and Aristarchus stated that the Earth revolves around the sun—1,800 years before Copernicus. The library represented a blending of cultures and minds and we have it to thank for many of our modern ideas about medicine, astronomy, math, and grammar.

5th century scroll which illustrates the
destruction of the Serapeum by Theophilus

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.


To answer your question specifically on what ever happened to the historic library, you’ll often hear it disappeared suddenly in a fire, but this probably isn’t accurate.  What actually happened seems to have been a series of events over time that slowly led to the demise of the library.

File:The Burning of the Library at Alexandria in 391 AD.jpg

The Burning of the Library at Alexandria in 391 AD

More specifically, while there are several reports of fires in Alexandria linked to the destruction of the library, there is no solid historical evidence of the “great fire” believed to have destroyed the entire library. That being said, you’ll often hear three names bandied about as the top players in the library’s demise: Julius Caesar, Theophilius of Alexandria, and Caliph Omar of Damascus.


Legend has it that Theophilius, Patriarch of Alexandria in 391 A.D., began destroying pagan temples in the name of Christianity. The classical “pagan” scrolls contained in the library would have been a point of contention, as was the Serapeum temple attached to the library. If Theophilius destroyed a library in Alexandria, though, it is thought it was probably the “daughter library’ set up by Ptolemy III which contained far fewer scrolls than the historic great library.  We do know that one of the rare historic mathematicians, philosophers, and astronomers who was female, Hypatia, was brutally murdered by a religious mob in Alexandria around this time (in 415 A.D.) demonstrating some of the strife between certain scholars and the religious in the region, though many scholars today think her death had more to do with her being caught up in political events than specifically her stance on Christianity.

The Library of Alexandria

The story about Caliph Omar is almost certainly made up. In 645 A.D., Omar conquered Egypt and supposedly burned the books in the library because they were not in line with the Koran’s teachings. Again, if Omar did burn a library it was probably the one rebuilt at the site of the original daughter library. Most historians think that this story was probably invented in the 12th century, and as with all stories that emerge long after they were said to take place, it should be considered with a grain of salt.

File:Mosaic Ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria.jpg

The most likely origin of the “great fire” theory is Julius Caesar’s actions during a war with Alexandria. Julius Caesar did set fire to the dockyards of Alexandria as well as the Alexandrine Fleet, which he documented in The Civil Wars. He doesn’t say whether or not the fire spread to the library, but it’s thought unlikely that it did, despite certain historic accounts. However, scrolls stored in warehouses along the harbour probably burned, and it is very likely that Caesar’s men looted the library and took a large number of scrolls back to Rome. Seneca wrote that 40,000 books were destroyed in Caesar’s fire, but if this is true, it would have probably been only a portion of the books that the library contained. Later writers, including Strabo and Seutonius, make mention of the museum of which the library was a part, as well as connections to the library scholars. This and other evidence demonstrates that the library survived, at least in part, past Caesar’s time—even if it, perhaps, never returned to the peak of its grandeur.

But if the library wasn’t destroyed by a fire and the original library isn’t standing today, then something must have happened to explain the loss of so much literature. If any one event contributed to the quick demise of the Library of Alexandria, it’s unknown to historians, contrary to popular belief. It is thought more likely that mundane things led to the “destruction” of the library, like time taking its toll on the amassed knowledge, with scrolls experiencing wear and tear and falling apart; the librarians at Alexandria faced tough decisions on which scrolls to continue to copy in the face of papyrus shortages. A few conquering emperors took many of the library’s works as spoils of war to other parts of the world, dispersing the texts. It’s possible religious leaders, taking offense to some of the contents, may have had some of the scrolls destroyed as well, though most historians think this latter factor to be wildly exaggerated. (Particularly around the 17th century on it became in vogue by secular scientists to rail against the ignorance and misguided notions of various religious groups, with Catholics tending to be public enemy number one.  As a result, many myths popped up, such as that Medieval Christians thought the world was flat and the like- basically attempts to portray religious people throughout history as mindless mobs burning books and rejecting science at every turn, despite this being quite contrary to actual documented evidence on many of these popular stories.)


Whatever the case, the loss of the knowledge contained in the library is enough to still the heart of many an academic today, particularly with hints of such works as the lost “History of the World” three book set, the “Books of Berosus”, written around 290 B.C., and references to other such works that were once there, hinting at how much we’ve lost.


However, this story does have something of a happy ending. In 2002, another library was built near the site of the original Library of Alexandria. Bibliotecha Alexandrina aims to maintain the spirit of the original library. People from all walks of life are coming together with the aim to preserve knowledge, from rare ancient texts to a science museum to computer systems. Countries from all over the world have sent books in an attempt to rebuild the collection that was lost to history. This time, just in case, the building is virtually fireproof.


Bonus Fact:

  • The library largely used papyrus for its scrolls and it’s thought that it never switched to parchment. It is thought by some historians that the library’s use of papyrus may in fact have indirectly caused the creation of parchment. Because so much papyrus was used for the library, exported papyrus was hard to come by, meaning an alternative writing material had to be developed.


Taken from: http://www.todayifoundout.com posted by Emily Upton on June 18, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tourists Behaving (Really, Really) Badly

Hieroglyphic vandalism, airport nudity and penguin-napping...

Taken from: http://travel.howzit.msn.com Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:45:00 GMT | posted By Adam Bisby


Pick a crime, any crime, and tourists have likely been found guilty of it while visiting a foreign land. The globetrotting misadventures that follow, however, grabbed international headlines not because they resulted in serious injury, physical violation or death, but because they are all spectacularly odd, or dim-witted, or rude, or inappropriate, or ignorant, or require the creation of a new adjective.
The takeaway: You don’t want to end up on a list like this.

Warning - There Are Two Bums Enclosed In The below gallery


Graffiti gone (horribly) wrong

Chinese teenager Ding Jinhao defaced Egypt's Temple of Luxor a few years back with Mandarin characters proclaiming he had visited the site. (© Newscom/RTR)

It's one thing to carve your initials into an old oak tree or park bench, but it's quite another to decorate a 3,500-year-old archaeological treasure with your full name (if not your mailing address). In the end, it was this complete lack of guile that may elicit some sympathy for Chinese teenager Ding Jinhao, who defaced Egypt's Temple of Luxor a few years back with Mandarin characters proclaiming he had visited the site (pictured).
This banal vandalism was exposed a few months ago by a Chinese blogger, who posted photos that prompted an international outcry. Fifteen-year-old Jinhao was soon rooted out — hackers even attacked his former school’s website — eventually drawing an apology, and an appeal for mercy, from the teen's parents.

The Hangover, with a penguin


You know you had a night to remember - if only you could - when you wake up to find a penguin in your pad. According to various media and police accounts, this is exactly what happened to a pair of young Welshmen who, along with a local Aussie teen, broke into Australia's Queensland Sea World, swam with dolphins, discharged a fire extinguisher in the shark tank, and kidnapped poor Dirk (the penguin, pictured).
To make matters worse, the panicked (and presumably hungover) pair proceeded to release Dirk into a canal (from which he was rescued, unharmed). The visitors ended up with a fine, the Aussie with probation, but it could have been much worse: they could have gone swimming with the sharks.


 Putting the strip in search

Chinese teenager Ding Jinhao defaced Egypt's Temple of Luxor a few years back with Mandarin characters proclaiming he had visited the site. (© Newscom/RTR)

The metaphorical 'straw' in the case of American high-tech consultant John E. Brennan was the pre-flight security pat-down he was slated to receive at Portland International Airport last year. The 'camel's back', however, came when Brennan stripped down to his birthday suit in protest (pictured).

Brennan was soon arrested and charged with exposing himself in public, which has spawned a lengthy legal battle focusing on air travellers' First Amendment rights. The 2011 case of a 36-year-old woman flying from London to Bermuda may not have been quite so principled: when officials asked to search her luggage, she disrobed and reportedly replied, “If you want to see me naked, you can do it right f---ing here.”


Sexy scandal in Dubai

 Chinese teenager Ding Jinhao defaced Egypt's Temple of Luxor a few years back with Mandarin characters proclaiming he had visited the site. (© Newscom/RTR)

A British woman and an Irish man trysting in Dubai would have done well to 'get a room.' Getting it on in the back seat of a taxi after a 10-hour drinking binge might not be a big deal in London or Dublin, but the gratuitous public display put on by Rebecca Blake and Conor McRedmond in the strict Islamic state landed them in jail, and then in court, where they faced up to three years in prison. After a lengthy legal battle they (ahem) got off with three months behind bars. 

Straight outta Heathrow

 Chinese teenager Ding Jinhao defaced Egypt's Temple of Luxor a few years back with Mandarin characters proclaiming he had visited the site. (© Newscom/RTR)

With apologies to American rapper Snoop Dogg, here's an account of his posse's 2006 rampage through London's Heathrow airport: Some of Snoop's crew didn't have the right tickets / So they couldn't get into a V.I.P. lounge / They told the lounge staffers where they could all stick it / And proceeded to toss several policemen around / Smashed a bunch of glass cases, busted up the duty-free / But the cops they came back, threw the crew in the slammer / What happened to Snoop? He was barred from the country / And hit with a fine... kind of like MC Hammer.

The flight attendants strike back

 Maðurinn hafði uppi ógnandi talsmáta við farþega og flugáhöfn og hrækti ítrekað á fólk. <em>Ljósmynd/Reddit</em>

In January, Icelandair reported that passengers and crew had to restrain a 46-year-old man on a flight from Reykjavik to New York because he was drunk, striking people, screaming profanities and spitting. Nothing new so far, at least when it comes to air rage.
Indeed, stories abound of unruly fliers having their hands bound mid-flight - but this may be the first time the malcontent in question was duct taped to his seat and gagged*. Videos and photos of the cocooned nutcase soon surfaced online, and while the airline wouldn't confirm exactly what happened, it's hard to argue with the evidence that was caught on, er, tape...

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


French roast

You know your national reputation is slipping when your government releases an open letter lambasting its own citizens' overseas shenanigans. For example: The 22,000 French nationals living and working in Australia received a stern rebuke from consul-general Eric Berti a few months ago after a spate of shoplifting (apparently known as 'French shopping' Down Under), and an incident in which a 20-something Frenchman - described by police as a 'disrespectful knucklehead' - was caught climbing and damaging a cenotaph in Sydney's Martin Place (pictured).

Naked ambitions

On one hand, it's difficult to condone the behaviour of an American tourist who, in 2009, stripped naked and strolled through the streets of Jerusalem, at one point stopping to jump on the hood of a car (pictured) and giving new meaning to the term 'rear-ender.'

On the other, one has to admire the moxy of a 19-year-old Aussie who bet a friend he could travel through Europe naked. 'I simply like to be naked,' the traveller apparently explained - and he was good at it, too, visiting 10 cities in the buff before being apprehended by police in Munich after a chase through the German city's main train station. 
Mid-flight striptease

Stripping and air rage, together at last. According to 2011 media reports, a London-bound BMI flight was forced to return to Russia's Domodedovo Airport shortly after takeoff after a drunk female passenger began stealing other passengers’ eyeglasses and performing an erotic dance. 
There was no word on whether the eye-wear theft and attempted striptease were somehow connected — officials speculated that her behaviour was the result of a 'low tolerance for alcohol' — how racy the performance was, or whether passengers were offended or delighted by her show. All we can really draw from this, then, is that some passengers will do anything for complementary access to the snack cart.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Shortest War in history: The Anglo-Zanzibar War (27 August 1896)


The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted around 40 minutes, and is the shortest war in history.[3] The immediate cause of the war was the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the subsequent succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash.

File:Hamad bin Thuwaini of Zanzibar 1891.jpg
Sayyid Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid,
, (1857 - August 25, 1896)
File:Kalid bin Barghash.jpg
Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid
(1874 – 1927)

The British authorities preferred Hamud bin Muhammed, who was more favourable to British interests, as sultan. In accordance with a treaty signed in 1886, a condition for accession to the sultanate was that the candidate obtain the permission of the British consul, and Khalid had not fulfilled this requirement.

File:Hamoud bin mhamed.jpg
Sayyid Sir Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Said,
, (1853 - July 18, 1902)
(ruled August 27, 1896 - July 18, 1902)

The British considered this a casus belli and sent an ultimatum to Khalid demanding that he order his forces to stand down and leave the palace. In response, Khalid called up his palace guard and barricaded himself inside the palace.

The Sultan's harem after the bombardment.
The ultimatum expired at 09:00 East Africa Time (EAT) on 27 August, by which time the British had gathered three cruisers, two gunboats, 150 marines and sailors, and 900 Zanzibaris in the harbour area. The Royal Navy contingent were under the command of Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson whilst their Zanzibaris were commanded by Brigadier-General Lloyd Mathews of the Zanzibar army (who was also the First Minister of Zanzibar). Around 2,800 Zanzibaris defended the palace; most were recruited from the civilian population, but they also included the sultan's palace guard and several hundred of his servants and slaves. The defenders had several artillery pieces and machine guns which were set in front of the palace sighted at the British ships. A bombardment which was opened at 09:02 set the palace on fire and disabled the defending artillery. A small naval action took place with the British sinking a Zanzibari royal yacht and two smaller vessels, and some shots were fired ineffectually at the pro-British Zanzibari troops as they approached the palace. The flag at the palace was shot down and fire ceased at 09:40.

File:Harry Holdsworth Rawson Vanity Fair 25 April 1901.jpg
Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson
File:Lloyd mathews.JPG
Zanzibaris were commanded by Brigadier-General
Lloyd Mathews of the Zanzibar army
(who was also the First Minister of Zanzibar)

The sultan's forces sustained roughly 500 casualties, while only one British sailor was injured. Sultan Khalid received asylum in the German consulate before escaping to German East Africa (in the mainland part of present Tanzania). The British quickly placed Sultan Hamud in power at the head of a puppet government. The war marked the end of the Zanzibar Sultanate as a sovereign state and the start of a period of heavy British influence

File:Anglo-Zanzibar war map.gif


File:Majid Bin Saiid2.jpg
Sayyid Majid bin Said Al-Busaid (1834 - October 7, 1870)
was the first Sultan of Zanzibar.

Zanzibar was an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanganyika; today it forms part of Tanzania. The main island, Unguja (or Zanzibar Island), had been under the nominal control of the Sultans of Oman since 1698 when they expelled the Portuguese settlers who had claimed it in 1499.[4] Sultan Majid bin Said declared the island independent of Oman in 1858, which was recognised by Great Britain, and split the sultanate from that of Oman.[4] The subsequent sultans established their capital and seat of government at Zanzibar Town where a palace complex was built on the sea front. By 1896, this consisted of the palace itself; the Beit al-Hukm, an attached harem; and the Beit al-Ajaib or "House of Wonders"—a ceremonial palace said to be the first building in East Africa to be provided with electricity.[5] The complex was mostly constructed of local timber and was not designed as a defensive structure.[6] All three main buildings were adjacent to one another in a line, and linked by wooden covered bridges above street height.[7]

File:Sansibar House of Wonders.jpg
Beit al-Ajaib or "House of Wonders"—
a ceremonial palace said to be the first building
in East Africa to be provided with electricity

Britain had recognised Zanzibars's sovereignty and its sultanate in 1886, after a long period of friendly interaction, and generally maintained good relations with the country and its sultans.[4][8][9][4] However, Germany was also interested in East Africa and the two powers vied for control of trade rights and territory in the area throughout the late 19th century.[10]

File:Seyid Chalifa ben Said.jpg
Sayyid Khalifa I bin Said Al-Busaid,
, (or Chalîfe) (1852- February 13, 1890)

Sultan Khalifah had granted rights to the land of Kenya to Britain and that of Tanganyika to Germany, a process resulting in the prohibition of slavery in those lands.[4] Many of the Arab ruling classes were upset by this interruption of a valuable trade, which resulted in some unrest.[4] In addition, the German authorities in Tanganyika refused to fly the flag of the Zanzibar Sultanate, which led to armed clashes between German troops and the local population.[11] One such conflict in Tanga claimed the lives of 20 Arabs.[11]

File:Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar (1963).svg

Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar

Sultan Khalifah sent Zanzibari troops led by Brigadier-General Lloyd Mathews, a former Lieutenant of the Royal Navy, to restore order in Tanganyika.[12] The operation was largely successful, but anti-German feeling amongst the Zanzibari people remained strong.[11] Further conflicts erupted at Bagamoyo where 150 natives were killed by German military forces and at Ketwa where German officials and their servants were murdered.[12]

File:Bagamoyo ruins 2007.jpg
German garrison of Bagamoyo

Khalifah then granted extensive trade rights to the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) who, with German assistance, ran a naval blockade to halt the continuing domestic slave trade.[12] Upon Khalifah's death in 1890 Ali bin Said ascended to the sultanate.[13] Sultan Ali banned the domestic slave trade (but not slave ownership), declared Zanzibar a British protectorate and appointed Lloyd Mathews as First Minister to lead his cabinet. The British were also guaranteed a veto over the future appointment of sultans.[14]

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2005-0151, Übergang Helgolands an das Deutsche Reich.jpg

Heligoland–Zanzibar Treaty

The year of Ali's ascension also saw the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty between Britain and Germany. This treaty officially demarcated the spheres of interest in East Africa and ceded Germany's rights in Zanzibar to the United Kingdom.[15] This granted the British government more influence in Zanzibar which they intended to use to eradicate slavery there, an objective they had held as early as 1804.[16][17]

Hamad bin Thuwaini stamp

Sultan Ali's successor was Hamad bin Thuwaini, who became sultan in 1893. Hamad maintained a close relationship with the British but there was dissent amongst his subjects over the increasing British control over the country, the British-led army and the abolition of the valuable slave trade.[14] In order to control this dissent, the British authorities authorised the sultan to raise a Zanzibari palace bodyguard of 1,000 men, but these troops were soon involved in clashes with the British-led police.[18][19] Complaints about the bodyguards' activities were also received from the European residents in Zanzibar Town.[14]

25 August

old Zanzibar

Sultan Hamad died suddenly at 11:40 EAT (08:40 UTC) on 25 August 1896.[14] His 29 year-old nephew Khalid bin Bargash, who was suspected by some of his assassination,[14] moved into the palace complex at Zanzibar Town without British approval, in contravention of the treaty agreed with Ali.[14] The British government preferred an alternative candidate, Hamud bin Muhammed, who was more favourably disposed towards them. Khalid was warned by the consul and diplomatic agent to Zanzibar, Basil Cave, and General Mathews to think carefully about his actions.[19][20] This course of action had proved successful three years earlier when Khalid had tried to claim the sultanate after the death of Ali and the British consul-general, Rennell Rodd, had persuaded him of the dangers of such an action.[21]

Sir Basil Shillito Cave

Khalid ignored Cave's warning and his forces began mustering in the Palace Square under the command of Captain Saleh of the palace bodyguard. By the end of the day, they numbered 2,800 men armed with rifles and muskets.[20] The majority were civilians but the force included 700 Zanzibari Askari soldiers who had sided with Khalid.[20][22] The sultan's artillery, which consisted of several Maxim machine guns, a Gatling gun, a 17th century bronze cannon and two 12 pounder field guns, was aimed at the British ships in the harbour.[20][22][23] The 12 pounders had been presented to the sultan by Wilhelm II, the German emperor.[20] The sultan's troops also took possession of the Zanzibari Navy which consisted of one wooden sloop, the HHS Glasgow, built as a royal yacht for the sultan in 1878 based on the British frigate Glasgow.[24]

File:HHS Glasgow Sultan's guardship.jpg
His Highness' Ship Glasgow was a royal yacht
belonging to the Sultan of Zanzibar.

Mathews and Cave also began to muster their forces, already commanding 900 Zanzibari askaris under Lieutenant Arthur Edward Harington Raikes of the Wiltshire Regiment who was seconded to the Zanzibar Army and held the rank of Brigadier-General.[20] 150 sailors and marines were landed from the Pearl-class protected cruiser Philomel and the gunboat Thrush which were anchored in the harbour.[20]

File:Arthur Raikes.JPG
Arthur Raikes (right) with
Sultan Ali Bin Hamud

The naval contingent, under the command of Captain O'Callaghan, came ashore within fifteen minutes of being requested to deal with any rioting caused by the general population.[20][25] A smaller contingent of sailors under Lieutenant Watson of Thrush were put ashore to guard the British consulate, where British citizens were requested to gather for protection.[20] HMS Sparrow, another gunboat, entered the harbour and was anchored opposite the palace next to Thrush.[20]

File:HMS Thrush.jpg
HMS Thrush
HMS Sparrow (1889).jpg
HMS Sparrow
Some concerns were raised among the British diplomats as to the reliability of Raikes' askaris, but they proved to be steady and professional troops hardened by military drill and several expeditions to East Africa. They would later become the only land troops to be fired upon by the defenders.[1] Raikes' troops were armed with two Maxim guns and a nine pounder cannon, and were stationed at the nearby customs house.[26] The sultan attempted to have the US consul, Richard Dorsey Mohun, recognise his accession but the messenger was told that "as his accession had not been verified by Her Majesty's government, it is impossible to reply."[23]

R Dorsey Mohun in Congo.JPG
Mohun in the Congo c.1895

Cave continued to send messages to Khalid requesting that he stand down his troops, leave the palace and return home but these were ignored and Khalid replied that he would proclaim himself sultan at 15:00. Cave stated that this would constitute an act of rebellion and that Khalid's sultancy would not be recognised by the British government.[20] At 14:30, Sultan Hamad was buried and exactly 30 minutes later a royal salute from the palace guns proclaimed Khalid's succession. Cave could not open hostilities without government approval and telegraphed the following message to the Foreign Office of Lord Salisbury's administration in London: "Are we authorised in the event of all attempts at a peaceful solution proving useless, to fire on the Palace from the men-of-war?"[27] Meanwhile, Cave informed all other foreign consuls that all flags were to remain at half mast in honour of the late Hamad. The only one that did not was a large red flag flying from Khalid's palace. Cave also informed the consuls not to recognise Khalid as sultan, to which they agreed.[28]

Old Diplomatic Quarter in Stone Town

26 August

File:HMS racoon 1887.jpg

HMS Racoon

At 10:00 on 26 August, the Archer-class protected cruiser Racoon arrived at Zanzibar Town and was anchored in line with Thrush and Sparrow. At 14:00, the Edgar-class protected cruiser St George, flagship of the Cape and East Africa Station, steamed into the harbour. Onboard were Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson and further British marines and sailors. At around the same time Lord Salisbury's reply arrived authorising Cave and Rawson to use the resources at their disposal to remove Khalid from power.[29] The telegraph read: "You are authorised to adopt whatever measures you may consider necessary, and will be supported in your action by Her Majesty's Government. Do not, however, attempt to take any action which you are not certain of being able to accomplish successfully."[27]

File:St George and Philomel.jpg
HMS St George and HMS Philomel
in the harbour

Cave attempted further negotiations with Khalid but these failed and Rawson sent an ultimatum, requiring him to haul down his flag and leave the palace by 09:00 on 27 August or he would open fire. During the afternoon, all merchant vessels were cleared from the harbour and the British women and children removed to St. George and a British-India Steam Navigation Company vessel for their safety. That night, Consul Mohun noted that: "The silence which hung over Zanzibar was appalling. Usually drums were beating or babies cried but that night there was absolutely not a sound."[30]

27 August

 File:Anglo-Zanzibar War without gunfire.svg

At 08:00 on the morning of 27 August, after a messenger sent by Khalid requested parley from Cave, the consul replied that he would only have salvation if he agreed to the terms of the ultimatum.[6][31] At 08.30 a further messenger from Khalid declared that "We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us"; Cave replied that "We do not want to open fire, but unless you do as you are told we shall certainly do so."[30] At 08:55, having received no further word from the palace, aboard St George Rawson hoisted the signal "prepare for action".[32]

File:Zanzibar palace after low.JPG
The palace complex following the bombardment

At exactly 09:00, General Lloyd Mathews ordered the British ships to commence the bombardment.[27][33] At 09:02 Her Majesty's Ships Racoon, Thrush and Sparrow opened fire at the palace simultaneously, Thrush's first shot immediately dismounted an Arab 12-pounder cannon. 3,000 defenders, servants and slaves were present in the largely wooden palace and even with barricades of crates, bales and rubber, there were many casualties from the high explosive shells. Despite initial reports that he had been captured and was to be exiled to India, Sultan Khalid escaped from the palace.[6][34] A Reuters news correspondent reported that the sultan had "fled at the first shot with all the leading Arabs, who left their slaves and followers to carry on the fighting", but other sources state that he remained in the palace for longer.[6] The shelling ceased at around 09:40, by which time the palace and attached harem had caught fire, the enemy artillery had been silenced and the Sultan's flag cut down.[1]

File:Marines in zanzibar.jpg
British sailors pose with a captured
cannon outside the sultan's palace

During the bombardment a small naval engagement occurred when, at 09:05, the obsolete Glasgow fired upon the St George using her armament of 7 nine-pounder guns and a Gatling gun which had been a present from Queen Victoria to the sultan.[35] The return fire caused Glasgow to sink, though the shallow harbour meant that her masts remained out of the water.[1] Glasgow's crew hoisted a British flag as a token of their surrender and they were all rescued by British sailors in launches.[1] Thrush also sank two steam launches whose Zanzibari crews shot at her with rifles. Some land fighting occurred when Khalid's men fired on Raikes' askaris, with little effect, as they approached the palace.[1] The fighting ceased with the end of the shelling. The British controlled the town and the palace and by the afternoon Hamud bin Muhammed, an Arab favourable to the British, had been installed as sultan with much reduced powers.[36] The British ships and crews had fired around 500 shells, 4,100 machine gun rounds and 1,000 rifle rounds during the engagement.[37]

The Harem after the bombardment



Around 500 Zanzibari men and women were
killed or wounded during the bombardment
Around 500 Zanzibari men and women were killed or wounded during the bombardment, most of the dead a result of the fire that engulfed the palace.[1][2] It is unknown how many of these casualties were combatants, but Khalid's gun crews were said to have been "decimated".[38] British casualties amounted to one Petty Officer severely wounded aboard Thrush who later recovered.[1] Although the majority of the Zanzibari townspeople sided with the British, the town's Indian quarter suffered from opportunistic looting and around twenty inhabitants lost their lives in the chaos.[39] To restore order 150 British Sikh troops were transferred from Mombasa to patrol the streets.[36] Sailors from St George and Philomel were landed to form a fire brigade to contain the fire which had spread from the palace to the nearby customs sheds.[40] There was some concern about the fire at the customs sheds as they contained a sizeable store of explosives, but fortunately no explosion occurred.[38]

The palace of the bombardment

Sultan Khalid, Captain Saleh and around forty followers sought refuge in the German consulate following their flight from the palace,[38][41] where they were guarded by ten armed German sailors and marines whilst Mathews stationed men outside to arrest them if they tried to leave.[42] Despite extradition requests the German consul refused to surrender Khalid to the British as his country's extradition treaty with Britain specifically excluded political prisoners.[36] Instead, the German consul promised to remove Khalid to German East Africa without him "setting foot on the soil of Zanzibar". At 10:00 on 2 October, SMS Seeadler of the German Navy arrived in port; at high tide, one of Seeadler's boats made it up to the consulate's garden gate and Khalid stepped directly from consular grounds to a German war vessel and hence was free from arrest.[42] He was transferred from the boat onto the Seeadler and was then taken to Dar es Salaam in German East Africa.[43] Khalid was captured by British forces in 1916, during the East African Campaign of World War I, and exiled to Seychelles and Saint Helena before being allowed to return to East Africa, where he died at Mombasa in 1927.[44] The British punished Khalid's supporters by forcing them to pay reparations to cover the cost of shells fired against them and for damages caused by the looting which amounted to 300,000 rupees.[36]

Khalid escape route

Sultan Hamud was loyal to the British and acted as a figurehead for an essentially British-run government, the sultanate only being retained to avoid the costs involved with running Zanzibar directly as a crown colony.[36] Several months after the war, Hamud, with British prompting, abolished slavery in all its forms.[36] The emancipation of slaves required them to present themselves to a government office and proved a slow process—within ten years only 17,293 slaves had been freed, from an estimated population of 60,000 in 1891.[45]


The badly damaged palace complex was completely changed by the war. The harem, lighthouse and palace were demolished as the bombardment had left them unsafe.[39] The palace site became an area of gardens whilst a new palace was erected on the site of the harem.[7][46] The House of Wonders was almost undamaged and would later become the main secretariat for the British governing authorities.[38][47] During renovation work on the House of Wonders in 1897 a clocktower was added to its frontage to replace the lighthouse lost to the shelling.[46] The wreck of the Glasgow remained in the harbour in front of the palace where the shallow waters ensured that her masts would remain visible for several years to come; it was eventually broken up for scrap in 1912.[48]


The British protagonists were highly regarded by the governments in London and Zanzibar for their actions leading up to and during the war, and many were rewarded with appointments and honours. General Raikes, leader of the askaris, was appointed a First Class (Second Grade) member of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar on 24 September 1896, a First Class member of the Zanzibari Order of Hamondieh on 25 August 1897 and later promoted to Commander of the Zanzibar armies.[49][50] General Mathews, the Zanzibari army commander, was appointed a member of the Grand Order of Hamondieh on 25 August 1897 and became First Minister and Treasurer to the Zanzibari government.[50] Basil Cave, the consul, was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on 1 January 1897[51] and promoted to Consul-General on 9 July 1903.[52] Harry Rawson was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for his work in Zanzibar and would later be Governor of New South Wales in Australia and receive promotion to Admiral.[53] Rawson was also appointed a first class member of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar on 8 February 1897 and the Order of Hamondieh on 18 June 1898.[54][55]

Rebuilding of House of Wonders

Perhaps due to the effectiveness shown by the Royal Navy during the bombardment, there were no further rebellions against British influence during the remaining 67 years of the protectorate.[56]

Masts of the Glasgow still sticking out



The war, lasting around 40 minutes, is considered the shortest in recorded history.[57] Several durations are given by sources, including 38,[1][58] 40[59] and 45[60] minutes, but the 38 minute duration is the most often quoted. The variation is due to confusion over what actually constitutes the start and end of a war. Some sources take the start of the war as the order to open fire at 09:00 and some with the start of actual firing at 09:02. The end of the war is usually put at 09:40 when the last shots were fired and the palace flag struck, but some sources place it at 09:45. The logbooks of the British ships also suffer from this with St George indicating that cease-fire was called and Khalid entered the German consulate at 09:35, Thrush at 09:40, Racoon at 09:41 and Philomel and Sparrow at 09:45.[61]



Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Zanzibar_War [27.08.2013]



1.        ^ a b c d e f g h i Hernon 2003, p. 403.
2.        ^ a b Bennett 1979, p. 179.
3.        ^ Editor-in-chief, Craig Glenday (2007), Guinness World Records 2008, London: Guinness World Records, p. 118, ISBN 978-1-904994-19-0.
4.        ^ a b c d e f Hernon 2003, p. 397.
5.        ^ Hoyle 2002, pp. 156–157.
6.        ^ a b c d Hernon 2003, p. 402.
7.        ^ a b Hoyle 2002, p. 160.
8.        ^ Bennett 1978, pp. 131–132.
9.        ^ Hernon 2000, pp. 146–147.
10.     ^ Bennett 1978, pp. 124–131.
11.     ^ a b c Hernon 2003, p. 398.
12.     ^ a b c Hernon 2000, p. 147.
13.     ^ Bennett 1978, p. 165.
14.     ^ a b c d e f Hernon 2003, p. 399.
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16.     ^ "1 August 1890". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). col. 1530–1533. 1 August 1890
17.     ^ "22 August 1804". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). col. 324–337. 22 August 1804
18.     ^ Hernon 2000, p. 148.
19.     ^ a b Bennett 1978, p. 178.
20.     ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hernon 2003, p. 400.
21.     ^ Tucker 1970, p. 194.
22.     ^ a b "A Warning to Said Khalid", The New York Times, 27 August 1896: 5, retrieved 2008-10-16.
23.     ^ a b Patience 1994, p. 9.
24.     ^ Patience 1994, p. 5.
25.     ^ "Zanzibar's Sultan Dead", The New York Times, 26 August 1896: 5, retrieved 2008-10-16.
26.     ^ Patience 1994, p. 8.
27.     ^ a b c Owens 2007, p. 2.
28.     ^ "Sultan of Zanzibar Dead", The New York Times, 19 July 1902: 9, retrieved 2008-10-16.
29.     ^ Hernon 2003, p. 401.
30.     ^ a b Patience 1994, p. 11.
31.     ^ Lyne 1905, p. 200.
32.     ^ Lyne 1905, p. 201.
33.     ^ Thompson 1984, p. 64.
34.     ^ "Bombarded by the British", The New York Times, 28 August 1896: 1, retrieved 2008-10-16.
35.     ^ Patience 1994, p. 6.
36.     ^ a b c d e f Hernon 2003, p. 404.
37.     ^ Patience 1994, p. 14.
38.     ^ a b c d Patience 1994, p. 12.
39.     ^ a b Patience 1994, p. 15.
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41.     ^ "Will Not Surrender Khalid", The New York Times, 30 August 1896: 5, retrieved 2008-10-16.
42.     ^ a b Frankl 2006, p. 163.
43.     ^ Ingrams 1967, pp. 174–175.
44.     ^ Frankl 2006, p. 161.
45.     ^ Bakari 2001, pp. 49–50.
46.     ^ a b Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Sultan's Palace at Zanzibar, retrieved 08-09-29
47.     ^ Hoyle 2002, p. 156.
48.     ^ Patience 1994, p. 16.
49.     ^ The London Gazette: no. 26780. p. 5320. 25 September 1896. Retrieved 16 August 2008.
50.     ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 26886. p. 4812. 27 August 1897. Retrieved 16 August 2008.
51.     ^ The London Gazette: no. 26810. p. 65. 1 January 1897. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
52.     ^ The London Gazette: no. 27588. p. 5150. 14 August 1903. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
53.     ^ "Obituary: Admiral Sir Harry H. Rawson", The Times, November 4, 1910, retrieved 2008-10-16
54.     ^ The London Gazette: no. 26821. p. 758. 9 February 1897. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
55.     ^ The London Gazette: no. 26979. p. 3769. 21 June 1898. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
56.     ^ Bennett 1978, p. 179.
57.     ^ Hernon 2003, p. 396.
58.     ^ Haws & Hurst 1985, p. 74.
59.     ^ Cohen, Jacopetti & Prosperi 1966, p. 137.
60.     ^ Gordon 2007, p. 146.
61.     ^ Patience 1994, pp. 20–26.

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