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If the Greeks had lost at Salamis (480 BC) they would never have repelled the Persians. There are very few instances in history when so much was at stake in a single battle. The channel at Salamis was the eye of the needle through which world history had to pass if the decisive role was to be played not by vast, monarchically ruled empires but by a strange nation composed of small independent cities that must have seemed terribly exotic to Eastern eyes. It was a nation almost entirely without monarchs and, in many cases, one that gave a political voice to broad segments of the population.

It is almost impossible to imagine what would have happened if the Greeks had lost at Salamis and consequently lost the war. Modern historiographers prefer to think in terms of processes and are reluctant to admit that events may have the power to block such processes as the development of a civilization. That is not the claim here. Greek history would not have come to an end if the war had been lost. Anaximander, Heraclitus, and the great scholar Hecataeus all studied and developed their philosophies in small Greek cities under Persian rule in Asia Minor. Greek arts and architecture flourished under the Persians, and tolerant as they were, the Persians were even willing to put up with ever more powerful Greek oligarchies. And the cities west of Greece, from Syracuse to Marseilles, would surely have remained free of Persian rule.

The question is whether without Salamis Greek culture would have taken the course it did. Would democracy have evolved without Athens' naval supremacy? Would the profound transformations that Athens experienced both domestically and in its astonishing military successes have taken place? To put it differently: What would have given rise to the evolution of historiography itself? What would have caused politics, tragedy, sophism, and classical art and architecture to develop in the ways they did? Without the challenges brought on by victory at Salamis, would there have been the incentive for such amazing growth in rational thought?

There is no evidence that June was a popular month to get married until the last 100 years. Flowers have been associated with weddings since the earliest times, probably as symbol of fertility.

Canopy beds may have originated as a means of keeping out flying insects but if you think about it, people rich enough to afford a canopy bed would also be living in homes with proper ceilings.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor."

People cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while - hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

A wake refers to what the visitors do, not what you expect the corpse to do! In this context a wake means a watch or a vigil. It originated from an all-night watch kept in church before certain holy days. It later became associated with fairs and revelries held at such times. Some towns in the north of England still observe local holidays called wakes.

Saved by the bell is a boxing term dating from the 1930s and dead ringer is from horse racing about 1890 and refers to a horse - or somebody - who looks virtually identical to someone else.

According to John D. Spalding, man has been able to make increasingly better weapons in order to kill his fellow man. The art of war is a bloody history. The Club (Dawn of man) This weapon provided a tactical advantage in hand-to-hand combat, enabling primitive man to step back from his opponent and strike blows more devastating than punches—and without breaking his knuckles.

Stone (2 million B.C.) The course of warfare was forever changed when the Australopithecus realized he need not engage his enemy face-to-face, but could hurl rocks from a safe distance. The Spear (35000 B.C.) Sharp, pointy stones easily penetrate flesh, and a long shaft guarantees that the tip strikes first. The added weight provides the kinetic energy to increase the blow. The Sling (800 B.C.) A cord, a pouch, and a rock: Swung overhead with increasing centrifugal momentum, the “bullet” is then released with deadly force and accuracy.

The Catapult (200 B.C.) Warring nations used them during the Middle Ages to fling dead horses 500 yards over each other’s walls to spread disease. The Crossbow (900 A.D.) This weapon was very popular in its day. Reason: The arrows it used were lightweight, so it was easy to aim and fire from a variety of positions. The Longbow (1298) In archery, bow size matters. The medieval longbow, which stood as tall as the archer, had the greatest range—more than 200 yards.

The Musket (1500) Thanks to the magic of gunpowder, armies could exchange fusillades of lead with the squeeze of a finger. Smoothbore muzzle-loaders, however, were not very accurate beyond 50 yards. The Cannon (1670) Napoleon perfected artillery support. As the French armies advanced, cannonade from their 18-pound guns flew overhead toward the enemy almost one mile away.

The Rocket (1792) The Chinese first used “fire arrows” in the 13th century. The British used them in the War of 1812. The “rockets” seen by Francis Scott Key were Congreves, 12-pound warheads fired at Fort McHenry from British boats.

The Gatling Gun (1862) Samuel Colt’s revolver (1836) and Oliver Winchester’s repeating rifle (1854) represented major advancements in gun development. But Richard Gatling’s 3,000 rounds-per-minute machine gun took killing to a bloody new level.

The Tank (1916) In WWI tanks mostly served as troop support. By WWII, however, tanks commanded a primary role. During the German blitzkrieg, heavily armed panzer divisions rolled across the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in 1940. The Plane (1917) The Handley Page 0/400 expanded strategic warfare. Instead of simply fighting an attacking army (tactical warfare), this British biplane crippled the enemy’s industry (strategic warfare) by dropping 1,650-bombs deep inside German territory. Paris Gun (1918) The Germans’ WWI “Big Bertha” was the most powerful gun of its day. The Germans used it to fire 120 kg shells at Paris from 75 miles away.

The Carrier (1922) Japan built the first true carrier in 1922. Today the U.S. dominates the seas with its seven Nimitz-class carrier battle groups. Up to 85 aircraft complement each of the $4.5 billion nuclear ships.

The Missile (1942) The German V2 weighed 28,504 pounds. Its 2,200 pounds of warhead was virtually unstoppable once launched from across the English Channel. In the last 12 months of WWII, the Germans fired more than 4,000 V2s, mostly at London and Antwerp. The B–29 (1942) America’s flying “Superfortress” literally ended WWII. Able to cruise nearly 400 mph, carry tons of bombs, and fly missions more than 5,000 miles, the B–29 destroyed every last strategic target in Japan and Germany…and then some.

The B–52 (1954) After 47 years in service, this Cold War workhorse is still the U.S.’s primary strategic bomber. The “Stratofortress” served in Desert Storm and can fly a subsonic 650 mph at heights up to 50,000 feet. It can carry 70,000 pounds of bombs, mines, and missiles.

The ICBM (1962) In the ’60s, Minuteman missiles were central to our national defense. Today’s Minuteman III weighs almost 80,000 pounds and can travel 6,000 miles at Mach 23. In the passenger’s seat: 335-kiloton thermonuclear warheads.

The Nuclear Sub (1981) The Trident is the most destructive weapons platform ever created. The 18 Tridents carry 54 percent of U.S. strategic warheads and can stay submerged, quietly patrolling the globe, for three months.

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