The Cat Army of Cambyses —- How the Ancient Egyptians Were Conquered by Cats in 525 BC.

Dedicated to Gary’s kitty, Mongo (pictured above)

In 530 BC Cambysis II, son of the legendary Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, inherited the Persian throne.  Among his many goals for the mighty Persian Empire was to conquer the ancient land of Egypt, and add the rich kingdom to his realm.  In 525 BC he invaded Egypt, right when a new pharaoh named Psammetichus III inherited the Egyptian throne.  Psammetichus fortified a position near Pelusium at the mouth of the Nile, confident that by holding a superior position he could easily repel the invaders.  However Cambyses came prepared with a secret weapon; cats.

The common housecat was one of the most sacred animals in Ancient Egyptian religion, symbolizing the kind goddess Bastet.  The cat was so highly revered that killing one was punishable by death.  Cambyses used the Egyptian veneration of the cat in one of the most ingenious psych outs in military history.  He ordered all of the shields of his men painted with a picture of Bastet.  Most incredibly he brought along thousands of cats with his army, as well as a whole heard of animals that were considered sacred to the Egyptians.  He ordered that every soldier and cavalryman carry a cat with him into battle, in essence using them as feline shields.

When the Persians and Egyptians met in battle at Pelusium it was the Persians who immediately attacked.  Upon seeing the thousands of cats among the Persian Army and the Persian shields painted with Bastet, the Egyptians waivered and hesitated.  Egyptian archers refused to fire and Egyptian infantry cowed at the assault, refusing to fight lest they harm the animals or profane the image of Bastet.  What resulted was an immediate route as the Egyptian Army went into full retreat.  Many thousands of Egyptian soldiers were massacred as the army became a panicked mob.  To add insult to injury, when the Egyptian Army surrendered, the Persians then flung many thousands of cats at the surrendering Egyptians.

The Egyptian Empire fell and was absorbed into the Persian Empire.  With a few exceptions, Egypt would be ruled by non-native pharaohs; first the Persians, then a return to native rule, reconquest by the Persians, and finally rule by the Greeks after Alexander the Great.  Psammetichus III would be taken prisoner and treated well, but later executed after instigating a revolt.  Cambyses later attempted to conquer lands west and south of Egypt, but with little success.



College life in the People’s Republic of Poland

Parties, life from session to session, illegally bought or home made alcohol, discotheques in student clubs, over-crowding in dorms, unregistered students sleeping on the floor, decade-long degrees, and taking semesters or even years off - that’s how student life looked for many in the People’s Republic of Poland.  Not for everyone, of course.  There were those who finished school on time, passed all of their exams, while at the same time raising a family, and making extra money at student cooperatives.  Thankfully there were also those who joined political movements against the oppressive government, and took part in strikes against its policies.

Students at the University of Warsaw dorms, living “na waleta” (with unregistered roommates), 1977.

Students at the University of Warsaw dorms at a shared kitchen - one per floor, with one fridge per kitchen, 1976.

Female student at the University of Warsaw using a pay phone, 1977.

A political refugee from Chile sits at a table after a party at the University of Warsaw dorm, 1976.

Student dorm “Riviera” in 1976 Warsaw.

Daily life at the dorms at Adam Mickiewicz University; pictured a student with her newborn in Poznań, 1978.

Nursing students at the Medical Academy in Lublin, 1974.

Party at the student club “Medyk” in 1976 Warsaw.

International student summer camp in Sandomierz, 1962.

An sit-down student strike at the Medical Academy in 1981 in Warsaw, against the policies instituted by the communist government.  Seated on the left is Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, who would be murdered by the the Polish communist internal intelligence agency (Służba Bezpieczeństwa) three years later, for his anti-communist stance.  (source)



The Worst Military Commander in American (and perhaps world) History

Gideon J. Pillow was a lawyer, politician, and good friend to President James K. Polk.  Because of his connections Pillow was granted a commission as a Major General when war broke out with Mexico in 1846.  The problem was that Pillow had absolutely no military experience or know how in military command.  Regardless Pillow was granted command of a corps and marched off to battle.
    One of his biggest mistakes during his command in Mexico was when he was tasked to hold a small town called Camargo.  In a stroke of military genius, he ordered fortifications built but had the trenches dug on the wrong side of the fortifications,thus leaving his men’s back turned to the enemy and exposed.  After unimpressive performance during the Mexican American War, Pillow made one of the biggest political blunders of his career.  Anonymously writing to several newspapers, he took credit for major victories that had occurred during the war, including those of Gen. Winfield Scott, who was the commander of US forces in Mexico.  He also conducted a campaign of slander and libel against his fellow officers in a bid to polish his image and exaggerate his role in the war.  When he was outed as the anonymous author, he was arrested and court-martialed.  He managed to save his own butt, however, by paying a Major Archibald W. Burns to admit authorship and take the fall for him.
    With the onset of the American Civil War, Gideon Pillow was again granted a commission as a general, this time with the Confederate Army. During the Civil War the Union was especially notorious for placing command in the hands of idiots and the incompetent.  Pillow is proof that the Confederacy had some pretty smelly stinkers as well. With the rank of brigadier general, he was given co-command of Fort Donelson along the Cumberland River.  In 1862 the fort was surrounded and placed under siege by the forces of Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  Gen. Pillow decided that the best course of action was to go on the offensive and try to open an escape route.  The assault was successful, but inexplicably, Pillow ordered his troops to pull back right when it seemed that they were victorious.  Pillow ordered his men to surrender, but as they were surrendering he escaped across the Cumberland River on a small rowboat. Grant himself remarked that he was glad Pillow had escaped and returned to the Confederate Army, “where he could do the most good for the Union cause.”
    After the faux pas at Fort Donelson, Pillow was again given a brigade, this time under the command of Maj. Gen. John C. Beckinridge.  On the second day of The Battle of Stones River, Beckinridge gave orders for Pillow to support him on an assault against Union lines.  Beckinridge and his men moved out, but Pillow panicked and ordered his men to halt the attack.  As a result Beckinridge’s assault was a disaster and Beckinridge was dismayed to find Pillow cowering behind a tree.  After the battle Pillow tried to pin blame for the failure on Gen. Beckinridge.
    After The Battle of Stones River Pillow was removed from command and given simple desk jobs.  After the war he resumed his career as an attorney.  He died in 1877 at the age of 72.