5 of Rome’s Greatest Emperors | History Hit

5 of Rome’s Greatest Emperors

Colin Ricketts

30 Jul 2021
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While the might of Rome became supreme around the 1st centuries BC and AD, it had some truly terrible rulers. However, the Empire would not have survived for nearly five centuries without some great men who were worthy of all the statues, triumphal arches, and amphitheatres that were raised in their name.

Most people’s first name of this list would be Julius Caesar. But Caesar was not an emperor, he was the last leader of the Roman Republic, appointed permanent dictator. After his assassination in 44 BC, his nominated successor Octavian fought off his rivals to achieve total power. When the Roman Senate named him Augustus in 27 BC he became the first Roman Emperor.

Here are five of the best of a very mixed bunch.

1. Augustus

The Prima Porta statue of Emperor Augustus of Rome

A statue of Emperor Augustus from the villa of his widow at Prima Porta. Photo by Till Niermann via Wikimedia Commons.

Image Credit: Operation Market Garden was the name given to the Allied military operation in the Netherlands that occurred between 17 and 25 September 1944. The plan was centred around Allied airborne units seizing the main bridges across the lower Rhine and its neighbouring rivers/tributaries, and holding them long enough for Allied armoured divisions to reach them. From there, the Allies could strike into the heartlands of the Third Reich, ending the war by Christmas. However, a combination of bad luck and poor planning quickly doomed the operation. Some even argue that the campaign never had a chance of success. Here are 20 facts about Operation Market Garden.

1. By September 1944 the Allies believed the Germans were crumbling

By September 1944 the Allies were in a state of euphoria. The speed of the allied advance since the Normandy landings, alongside news of Stauffenberg’s failed plot to kill Hitler, convinced British and US Intelligence that the Wehrmacht had reached a state of war weariness and would soon disintegrate. In fact, this wasn't the case. The failure of Operation Valkyrie had resulted in the German army coming under the full control of the SS. German soldiers were now going to be forced to fight on to the very end. [programme id="29783"]

2. The plan was the brainchild of Bernard Montgomery

Cracks among the Allied high command had started to emerge by September 1944, particularly between Generals Montgomery, Patton and Bradley. Montgomery believed he was the only man who could win the war, much to the anger of Patton and Bradley. He planned to bypass the German Siegfried Line by marching the Allies through the Netherlands and then down into Germany, ending the war by Christmas. Patton and Bradley strongly disagreed, arguing the northern route into Germany was, in fact, the most difficult due to the numerous, wide rivers they had to cross. [caption id="attachment_22861" align="alignnone" width="650"] Image of Bernard Montgomery in North Africa in 1942.[/caption]

3. The operation was made up of two parts

Operation Garden involved the advance of a British tank and mobile infantry force across the bridges of the lower Rhine and then down into Germany. Operation Market was the landing of 40,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines to take control of the bridges and hold them long enough for the tanks to cross. The plan depended on the Allies maintaining hold of the bridges. The airborne divisions involved were the 101st US Airborne Division (they would land near Eindhoven), the 82nd US Airborne Division (at Nijmegen), the British 1st Airborne Division and the 1st Polish Independent Airborne Brigade (both would land near Arnhem). The 101st Airborne had to capture 5 bridges near Eindhoven on the first day of the operation The British at Arnhem had two bridges to take, the most important of the two being the road bridge. The 82nd US Airborne at Nijmegen had one: the Waal Bridge. It was the combination of these two operations that made up Operation Market Garden. [caption id="attachment_35022" align="alignnone" width="650"] Operation Market Garden - Allied Plan. Image Credit: Duncan Jackson / Commons.[/caption]

4. Montgomery pretended Eisenhower had approved the whole project

Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, had given Montgomery control of the 1st Allied Airborne army, but he had not been told any details regarding Operation Market Garden. [programme id="39808"]

5. The bridges were not the final target

Part of the army would press north past Arnhem, initially to capture the Luftwaffe airfield at Deelen before going further north to Zuiderzee. [caption id="attachment_35026" align="alignnone" width="650"] An aerial view of the bridge across the Waal River at Nijmegen. 17 - 20 September 1944.[/caption]

6. The commander of the 1st Allied Airborne was General ‘Boy’ Browning

Browning was the one who would take the airborne corps to war. He had yet to see action in the Second World War and so was desperate for the operation to go ahead. His American counterpart, Major-General Ridgway, had more experience, but Browning was still made the overall general of the operation. [caption id="attachment_35021" align="alignnone" width="650"] Browning observes training at Netheravon, October 1942.[/caption]

7. Montgomery did not communicate his plan with the RAF

When Browning finally revealed the plan to RAF staff on 10 September, RAF transport officers raised several logistical problems regarding the airborne operation: not only was there not enough daylight for the RAF to do two lifts every 24 hours, but each tug aircraft could only tow one glider. They advised Browning to reassess the plan to ensure it had a greater chance at success. Browning refused to consider it. [caption id="attachment_35025" align="alignnone" width="650"] Six man parties of 1st Airborne Division paratroops marching toward Hotspur gliders of the Glider Pilot Exercise Unit at Netheravon, October 1942.[/caption]

8. Dutch resistance groups cautioned the Allies against the plan

They revealed that the German army was not as spent as the Allies believed. Meanwhile Dutch officers warned them that marching an entire division along one road up to Arnhem and the German border was extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, despite hearing these warnings, Browning was fixed on the plan. [caption id="attachment_35020" align="alignnone" width="650"] The sunken, flood plain land that surrounded the elevated road to Arnhem was the perfect ambush territory for powerful German weapons such as the 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41 gun. Image Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.[/caption]

9. The British plan was to land 8 miles outside Arnhem

The RAF refused to drop the British closer than 8 miles from the city because they feared suffering heavy losses from anti-aircraft fire. [programme id="35310"]

10. British 1st Airborne commander Roy Urquhart realised the campaign would be a disaster before it began

Just prior to the Operation’s commencement, Urquhart met Browning to inform him he believed the operation would be ‘a suicide mission’. Additionally, General Gale of the British 6th Airborne voiced strong opposition to the plan, mainly due to how far away from Arnhem the 1st Airborne was to be dropped. Polish Brigade General Stanoslaw Sosabowski also raised concerns with the plan. Browning pushed aside this opposition however, claiming such attitudes were bad for morale. [caption id="attachment_35019" align="alignnone" width="650"] Major-General Roy Urquhart DSO and Bar.[/caption]

11. The 1st British Airborne landed 1/3 of their troops on 17 September

1/2 of these had to remain at the drop site, however, to guard the landing zones for the next lot landing in the following days. Therefore, only one brigade could march on Arnhem on the first day. [caption id="attachment_35018" align="alignnone" width="650"] Parachutes open overhead as waves of paratroops land in Holland during operations by the 1st Allied Airborne Army. September 1944.[/caption]

12. An SS training battalion happened to be training in the woods near the British drop zone

The SS division reacted quickly and managed to hold up most of the British airborne. But Colonel John Frost and the second battalion managed to bypass the defence and enter Arnhem. [caption id="attachment_35027" align="alignnone" width="650"] Four men of the 1st Paratroop Battalion, 1st (British) Airborne Division, take cover in a shell hole outside Arnhem. 17 September 1944.[/caption]

13. British command and control quickly fell apart

Trying to move things along, Urquhart became separated from headquarters when he headed to the front lines. The fact that the radios also did not work only added to the confusion. John Hackett, a British officer who landed on 18 September, said:
‘Everything that could go wrong did go wrong’.
[caption id="attachment_35013" align="alignnone" width="650"] Operation Market Garden. 18 September 1944. By then the Germans had erected a blocking line between the landing zones and the northern side of the bridge. Image Credit: Ranger Steve / Commons.[/caption]

14. Frost’s division captured the north end of Arnhem bridge and held it heroically

Although much of the British Airborne division never reached the town, Frost and his men captured Arnhem Bridge and defiantly resisted German attacks. Following the battle, the Germans asked if Frost's men were specially trained in urban warfare, due to the ferocity of their resistance. [caption id="attachment_35028" align="alignnone" width="650"] Sergeants J Whawell and J Turl of the Glider Pilot Regiment search for snipers in the ULO (Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs) school in Kneppelhoutweg, Oosterbeek, 21 September 1944.[/caption]

15.The Germans destroyed 2 of the 5 bridges before the 101st Airborne were able to capture them

When the armoured divisions heard that two bridges had been destroyed, they decided to advance up the road to Eindhoven at a more leisurely pace. This provided the Germans more time to dig in. [programme id="35023"]

16 The 6th US Airborne Division had great difficulty taking Nijmegen Bridge

James Gavin, the 6th Airborne commander, could only send one battalion to take the bridge, which had been heavily reinforced in the meantime. The rest were focused on occupying the Groesbeek Heights to the southeast of the city, as ordered by Browning. [caption id="attachment_35029" align="alignnone" width="650"] Nijmegen and the bridge, pictured after the battle in September 1944.[/caption]

17. One of the most heroic moments of World War Two happened at Nijmegen

On 20 September, U.S. paratroopers crossed the River Waal in 26 small, canvas boats under heavy fire. When they reached the far side, they seized the north side of the bridge. The daring feat is regarded as among the most heroic in the Second World War, though it is blackened by the fact that the survivors killed all they faced when taking the bridge, including prisoners. [programme]

18. The armoured brigade stopped after crossing the Nijmegen Bridge

The trouble was that the Grenadier Guards, who had just cleared Nijmegen after ruthless urban fighting, were exhausted and had run low on ammunition. By that point anyhow, Frost’s battalion at Arnhem had almost run out of ammunition and were on the verge of surrender. What remained of Frost’s division was captured on 21 September. [caption id="attachment_35017" align="alignnone" width="650"] When the British XXX Corps could finally cross the Waal Bridge, it was too late to relieve Arnhem.[/caption]

19. The Polish Brigade landed on 21 September

They landed east of Driel (under some German fire, but not as much as the film A Bridge Too Far suggests) and went on to cover the withdrawal of the British 1st Airborne Division. [caption id="attachment_35031" align="alignnone" width="650"] Gen. Sosabowski (left) with Lt-Gen Frederick Browning, commander of the British 1st Airborne Corps.[/caption]

20. What remained of the British 1st Airborne Division and the Polish Parachute Brigade were evacuated back across the Rhine on 25 September

It signalled the end, and failure, of Operation Market Garden. Arnhem would not be liberated until April 1945. [caption id="attachment_35030" align="alignnone" width="650"] The grave of an unknown British airborne soldier at Arnhem, photographed after its liberation 15 April 1945.[/caption]

Gaius Octavius (63 BC – 14 AD) founded the Roman Empire in 27 BC. He was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar.

Augustus’ enormous personal power, won though bloody struggle, meant he had no rivals. The 200-year Pax Romana began.

Augustus conquered Egypt and Dalmatia and its northern neighbours. The Empire grew south and east in Africa; north and east into Germania and south-west in Spain. Buffer states and diplomacy kept the frontiers safe.

An overhauled tax system paid for his new standing army and Praetorian Guard. Couriers carried official news quickly along his roads. Rome was transformed with new buildings, a police force, fire brigade and proper local administrators. He was generous to the people, paying vast sums to citizens and veterans, for whom he bought land to retire on.

His last words in private were: “Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.” His final public utterance, “Behold, I found Rome of clay, and leave her to you of marble,” was just as true.

2. Trajan 98 – 117 AD

Map of the Roman Empire under Trajan.

Trajan left the largest Empire in Rome’s history.

Image Credit: It’s a game historians play – who really won the Battles of Waterloo, Hastings, Agincourt etc. With the Battle of Bosworth Field it’s a particularly apposite debate. Did Henry win in 1485 or did Richard lose? Either way there is always the nagging thought that it was neither. So, who won the battle? Let me offer you Lord Thomas Stanley.

Husband number three

Within two months of Henry’s birth at Pembroke Castle in January 1457 Margaret Beaufort, his young mother, left the security of the West Wales stronghold and headed east to Monmouthshire. Jasper Tudor, her brother-in-law, knew that with Margaret’s husband (his brother Edmund) dead, she needed a new husband and her son a new protector. A first attempt ended in failure when husband number two, Henry Stafford, was executed by Warwick the Kingmaker after the Battle of Edgecote. Husband number three was an altogether more successful choice. [programme id="31038"] Lord Thomas Stanley was one of the richest and most powerful men in England. A supporter of Edward IV, it was only after Richard of Gloucester seized the crown in 1483 that he began to have doubts. Margaret had hitched her star to the Yorkist cause by marrying Stanley but undoubtedly her aim was to obtain a pardon for her son – then languishing in exile in Brittany. From the beginning of their relationship Margaret could see that Stanley was a prevaricator. He had no love for the usurper Richard but Henry was an unknown alternative. Nevertheless he allowed Margaret to write secretly to her son, promising his support – and that of his younger brother William – should the last of the Lancastrian princes decide to invade. The message gave Henry heart, even though the promise of support was indirect and given at second hand. [caption id="attachment_35132" align="alignnone" width="650"] Quartered arms of Sir Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, KG. Image Credit: Rs-nourse / Commons.[/caption]

Hedging his bets

Henry left Harfleur with his small invasion force on 1 August 1485, having had no further communication from his father-in-law. He trusted Stanley’s word but throughout the march northwards from Milford Haven a lack of further contact with the powerful Stanley continued to plague Henry. When the time came how would his father-in-law jump? The worry would simply not go away. Henry regularly despatched messages to Stanley, writing or sending out envoys every time his army paused to rest, but received little in reply. When he did respond Stanley was non-committal. At Machynlleth Henry’s concern was so great that he consulted a local soothsayer about his chances of victory. The prophet gave a positive reply – perhaps understandable with dozens of heavily armed troops around his door. If Henry could have received so positive a response from his father-in-law he would have been deliriously happy. [caption id="attachment_32002" align="alignnone" width="650"] Without Stanley's support, Henry's army would have been greatly outnumbered by Richard III's royal force.[/caption]

Richard III takes action

Meanwhile Stanley was receiving threatening messages from the King, demanding that he join him at Nottingham. Pleading illness – the so-called sweating sickness – Stanley stayed away from court which led Richard to take his son George, Lord Strange as hostage. If Thomas Stanley was annoyed at this his brother William was infuriated, declaring Richard’s action as un-knightly and base. He then declared for Henry. Even so he did not move his troops any closer to the invader and Henry was actually no better off. When he sent requests for the Stanleys to meet him at Shrewsbury – a Stanley enclave -  there was no reply. It was not all doom and gloom, however. After refusing Henry entry to the town, the bailiff changed his mind when a message from Lord Stanley was apparently thrown over the wall (wrapped around a stone) ordering the gates to be opened. The unaccountable arrival of Stanley’s son-in-law with 1,000 troops also played a part. [programme id="30351"]

Aiding from a distance

Stanley’s behaviour continued to puzzle Henry. When he entered the town of Lichfield, he found that Thomas had been there a few days before and had effectively “paved the way” for him. Henry was welcomed by the townspeople as the future King but Thomas Stanley stayed resolutely away. Stanley had left his castle at Lathom on 15 August and was soon in position mid-way between the forces of Henry and Richard where he could turn whichever way he chose. Henry and Lord Stanley did finally meet at Merevale Priory on 21 August, the day before the battle, and Henry came away pleased at Stanley’s promises. Jasper Tudor and the Earl of Oxford, Henry’s main advisers, were not.

The Battle of Bosworth

[caption id="attachment_35133" align="alignnone" width="650"] Bosworth Field: Richard III and Henry Tudor engage in battle, prominently in the centre.[/caption] When, early on 22 August Henry sent a message asking Stanley to take up his position at the head of the vanguard – as agreed during the meeting at Merevale - the reply was devastating. Lord Stanley would take up his battle position but only when Henry and his troops were actively joined in battle. Despite his declaration of support, William Stanley also declined to attack at that stage. Henry gazed at Stanley’s 6,000 troops sitting impotently on his right flank and knew that, outnumbered three to one, he would have to fight Richard without their help. The battle lasted just two hours and the Stanleys stayed inactive for most of it. They watched as Oxford destroyed Richard’s right wing and then saw the King make his final, fatal charge down the hill towards Henry’s exposed and potentially fatal position. [caption id="attachment_13681" align="alignnone" width="690"]facts about richard III Engraving of Richard III charging at the Battle of Bosworth.[/caption] Only when it was clear that Henry was in danger did William Stanley, followed by his brother, send in his troops. King Richard was killed, his army scattered and Henry saved. Richard had been just a few sword lengths from his enemy when he was battered to the ground. Without the timely intervention of the Stanleys the battle could easily have gone the other way.
Phil Carradice is a well-known writer and historian with over 60 books to his credit. A poet, story teller and broadcaster, he is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio and TV, presents the BBC Wales History programme “The Past Master”. Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor is his most recent book, published by Pen and Sword on 4 September 2019.

Marcus Ulpius Trajanus (53 –117 AD) is one of consecutive Five Good Emperors, three of whom are listed here. He was the most successful military man in Roman history, expanding the Empire to its greatest extent.

Trajan added gold-rich Dacia (parts of Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Ukraine) to the empire, subdued and conquered the Parthian Empire (in modern Iran), and marched through Armenia and Mesopotamia to extend Rome’s reach to the Persian Gulf.

At home he built well, employing the talented Apollodorus of Damascus as his architect. A column recorded his victory in Dacia, while a forum and market in his name improved the capital. Elsewhere spectacular bridges, roads and canals improved military communications.

He devalued the silver denarius to finance the spending of his enormous war booty on public works, providing food and subsidised education for the poor as well as great games.

3. Hadrian 117 – 138 AD

Painting of Hadrian's Wall by William Bell Scott.

Hadrian’s Wall, imagined here by William Bell Scott, was just part of Hadrian’s frontier building.

Image Credit: The route taken by North Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to give it its correct name) to the authoritarian regime that it has become today, was certainly a tortuous one, and one that pays thanks to the cult of personality as much as anything else. [programme id="29821"]

Foreign occupation

The original Great Korean Empire came into being on 13 October 1897 following a peasant revolution, one of many in previous years by the Donghak religion against the controlling Chinese, and later the Japanese. It was announced by Emperor Gojong, who was forced to flee almost immediately after the assassination of his wife, and sweeping reforms were called for and planned. Unfortunately, the country was in absolutely no position to defend itself, and with the strategic importance to the Japanese, and only faced with around 30,000 badly trained and inexperienced soldiers, they ceded by agreeing the Japan-Korea Protocol in 1904. [caption id="attachment_35070" align="alignnone" width="650"] Japanese marines landing from the Unyo at Yeongjong Island which is near Ganghwa on 20 September 1875.[/caption] Despite international pressure, within six years the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was declared and the permanent cession of sovereignty to Japan was implemented. There then followed a brutal 35 years of oppression by the Japanese, which still leaves scars on the nation today. The cultural heritage of Korea was suppressed, with its history no longer taught in schools. All historical temples and buildings were closed down or razed to the ground, and it was forbidden to print any literature in the Korean language. Anyone who failed these draconian rules was dealt with in ruthless fashion. Protests took place sporadically, and many of the leaders are martyrs today, not least Yu Kwan-soon, who at the tender age of eighteen, led an uprising in 1919 – later to be described as ‘The First Arduous March' – but it resulted in thousands of deaths and the continued barbarism of the invaders. She is now revered across the country and her story is taught in all North Korean schools. [caption id="attachment_35063" align="alignnone" width="650"] A photo from 'The First Arduous March', also known as the March 1st Movement, 1919.[/caption]

Korea divided

By the Second World War, Korea was a complete annex of Japan and it’s estimated that around five million of its civilians were forced to fight for the Japanese, with casualties amongst the highest in the area. Of course, history tells us that the war was lost, and Japan surrendered alongside Germany to the American, British and Chinese forces. It’s at this point that Korea became the two nations we see today and how the DPRK came into being. [programme id="30937"] With the allies looking to control the country, but with the Soviets and China also seeing the importance of Korea, the nation was effectively divided, when two inexperienced soldiers, Dean Rusk – later to become Secretary of State – and Charles Bonesteel III, picked up a National Geographic map and drew a pencil line across the 38th parallel. This seemingly simplistic act created the two Koreas that we know today. [caption id="attachment_35064" align="alignnone" width="800"] The Korean Peninsula first divided along the 38th parallel, later along the demarcation line. Image Credit: Rishabh Tatiraju / Commons.[/caption]

The North's road to isolation

The South does not concern us in this brief history, but the North then started along a tumultuous road to isolation and abandonment by the rest of the world. The Soviets and China now controlled the Northern State of Korea, and on 9 September 1948, they nominated a military leader, Kim Il-sung as the head of the new Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Kim Il-sung was a 36-year-old unremarkable man who had actually been removed from the head of his regiment in World War Two due to his inability, and his initial appointment was greeted lukewarmly by a suffering population, but he turned into the most powerful leader of the age. From 1948 he self-appointed himself as the Great Leader and his sweeping and ruthless reforms completely changed the country. Industry was nationalised and land redistribution almost completely rid North Korea of rich Japanese landlords, turning the country into the beyond-communist State that it is today. His cult-of-personality was confirmed during the 1950-53 Korean War, essentially against the ‘Imperialistic America’, where his leadership was the only thing that stood between his people and certain defeat. This is how the story of one of the bloodiest and brutal conflicts in modern times is taught to all schoolchildren. [caption id="attachment_35065" align="alignnone" width="650"] Kim Il-sung conversing with female representatives.[/caption]

'The greatest military commander ever known'

To give some idea as to how quickly the people turned to Kim Il-sung (not actually his real name but one he allegedly took from a fallen comrade in World War Two), this is how he is described in a history book that is a staple diet of children’s education.
‘Kim Il-sung…devised outstanding strategic and tactical policies and unique fighting methods based on Juche-orientated military ideology at every stage of the war and led the Korean People’s Army to victory by translating them into practice… ...Portuguese President Gomes said of him…"General Kim Il-sung defeated them single-handedly and I saw it with my own eyes and came to know that he was the most ingenious military strategist and greatest military commander ever known in the world."
This is the type of adoration that he received from a grateful public, and combined with a personally-devised Juche Theory (a political maxim that now dictates the lives of every North Korean citizen, despite its almost incomprehensible designs) that he implemented, the country was in awe of their Leader. He kept their respect with some of the worst examples of brutality, massacring anyone who stood against him, imprisoning thousands of political prisoners and ruling a country that slowly fell into starvation and a backward economy. Yet he was, and still is, loved and adored by the people. [programme id="34462"] This had a lot to do with his son, and eventual successor, Kim Jong-il (the Dear Leader), who turned his father into a figure of near-worship, commissioning the hundreds of statues and portraits in his honour and composing and writing numerous odes. He used his skills as a film producer to bombard the populace with propaganda messages so that no one could be unaware of the guiding influence his father had in transforming the country into the paradise they all believed it to be. Of course, his devotion was rewarded when he was named successor after his father’s death – an event that was mourned for thirty days in Pyongyang in scenes that are incredibly distressing to watch – and despite taking over at the time of Great Famine in the 1990s and implementing even stricter atrocities, he became as loved and adored as his father. He now has as many statues and portraits in the kingdom. [caption id="attachment_35066" align="alignnone" width="650"] Idealized portrait of Kim Jong-il.[/caption]

Sorting fact from fiction

The cult-of-personality was bestowed on Kim Jong-il when it was announced on the day of his birth in 1942, that a new double rainbow appeared in the sky above him on the sacred Mount Paektu, a nearby lake burst its banks, lights filled the surrounding area and swallows passed overhead to inform the population of the great news. The reality was that he was born in Siberia after his father fled the country during the war, being pursued by the Japanese. That reality is not recognised in North Korea. Now of course the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, has the unwavering adoration of the people as he tries to drag the country into the twenty-first century, although parts of the technology-free farming areas may have to leapfrog a hundred years or so, and this is the point. It’s an authoritarian regime, but it’s no jackboot dictatorship in the eyes of the North Korean public. They genuinely love the Kim dynasty and there is nothing that any other foreign country could possibly do to change that. [caption id="attachment_35068" align="alignnone" width="650"] A mural in Pyongyang of a young Kim Il-sung giving a speech. Image Credit: Gilad Rom / Commons.[/caption] There is a saying that translates to ‘Nothing to Envy’ in the literature of the country. It basically means that everything is better in North Korea than anything anywhere else. They don’t need the internet. They don’t need to know about how others live. They want to be left alone and they want to be understood. This is North Korea.
Roy Calley works for BBC Sport as a TV Producer and is the author of several books. Look With Your Eyes and Tell the World: The Unreported North Korea is his latest book and will be published on 15 September 2019, by Amberley Publishing.
Featured Image: Visitors bowing in a show of respect for North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae (Mansu Hill) in Pyongyang, North Korea. Bjørn Christian Tørrissen / Commons.

Publius Aelius Hadrianus (76 AD –138 AD) is now best known for the magnificent wall that marked the northern frontier of the Empire in Britain. He was well travelled and educated, promoting Greek philosophy.

Dan visited the Bodleian Library in Oxford, home to one and a quarter million historic maps. Aided by professor Jerry Brotton, together they discuss the significance of ancient cartography and look at some of the jewels of the collection.
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Uniquely among Emperors Hadrian travelled to almost every part of his Empire, initiating great fortifications both in Britannia and on the Danube and Rhine frontiers.

His reign was largely peaceful, he withdrew from some of Trajan’s conquests, strengthening the Empire from within by commissioning great infrastructure projects and inspecting and drilling the army on his travels. When he did fight he could be brutal, wars in Judea killed 580,000 Jews.

A great lover of Greek culture, Hadrian built up Athens as a cultural capital and patronised the arts and architecture; he wrote poetry himself. Among many spectacular building projects, Hadrian oversaw the rebuilding of the Pantheon with its magnificent dome.

The historian Edward Gibbon wrote that Hadrian’s reign was the “happiest era of human history”.

4. Marcus Aurelius 161 – 180 AD

Portrait bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

A portrait of the serious, philoshopical Marcus Aurelius.

Image Credit: The month of September 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the attack by Nazi Germany on its neighbour Poland, the act of aggression that ignited the Second World War and a conflagration that would engulf Europe in a storm of blood and steel. Who were the soldiers that wore the iconic steel helmets and twisted cross on their uniforms? In effect, how were these implements of the Blitzkrieg, along with the panzers and Stukas, “manufactured.” Who were these purported Ubermensch, “Supermen” of the Third Reich? In actuality, all began as children, as tabula rasa. They would be carefully, relentlessly moulded into that which the world famous German writer of the day, Thomas Mann, would describe as “machinists of death” motivated by a “terrible obedience.” Some 20,000,000 Germans would don a uniform of one kind of another during the twelve year lifespan of Hitler’s promised Thousand Year Reich. [programme id="35110"]

Forming the Hitler Youth

Immediately after assuming full power on January 30, 1933, one of the dictator’s priorities was preparing the German young for his New World Order. He set his Nazi social engineers a task: make them
“as fast as a greyhound, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steel.”
The organisational framework had already been set by the country’s long history of youth group organisations geared toward providing youth with a healthy physical lifestyle and social cohesion. They would be taken over completely or subverted as a mean for indoctrinating both boys and girls into the mindset and worldview of Nazi Socialism that demanded absolute fidelity to the Führer and obedience to the State. The plan saw the formation of the Hitler Jugend or HJ (Hitler Youth) for males and Bund Deutscher Mädel or BdM (League of German Girls) as a Gliederung or extension of the Nazi Party, a breeding ground as it were for new generations of warriors and their female partners. [caption id="attachment_35113" align="alignnone" width="650"] Hitler Jugend and Bund Deutscher Mädel members in China, 1935. Image Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.[/caption] Organisation of the new youth entities was paramount. As a result, several geographic areas or Obergebeite were created, specifically Nord, Sud, West, Ost, Mitte and Sudost, a patch bearing the designation part of the uniform worn. Everything was to be kept “uniform,” especially their thinking. The unending series of events, outings, camps, competitions, songfests, marches and rallies also created wide scale loss of student school attendance, the attraction of HJ physical activities outweighing intellectual training, the game plan of the Nazi social planners. Traditional studies of history no longer focused on the classics but on the history of the Nazi Party as indoctrination supplanted education. [programme]

"Your real father is the Führer"

By 1936 the Hitler-Jugend would count 5.4 million members aged 10-18 with most pre-Third Reich youth groups, both for boys and girls, aggressively assimilated into the Nazi collective organisations. Some groups balked, particularly the religiously affiliated, but all eventually fell under the steel-booted thrall of the State that sought to supplant the traditional family as the controlling social force. Children were encouraged by rewards of money for reporting on their parents “anti-State” words or actions. Nazi doctrine stated,
“Your real father is the Führer, and being his children you will be the chosen ones, the heroes of the future.”
[caption id="attachment_35104" align="alignnone" width="650"] A member of the Deutsche Jungvolk (German Young People).[/caption] Hitler Youth formations for boys were divided into sections based on age: the so-called “Little Fellows” and known as Pimpf recruited 6-10 year-olds; the Deutsche Jungvolk (German Young People) took in those 10-13 and for whom their outdoor sports now focused on para-military training. They in turn transitioned at 14 to the regular Hitler Youth, remaining there through the age of 18 during which they received enhanced martial training. At this juncture, they began fulfilling their required, as of June 26, 1935, six month civilian labour service for 19-25 year-olds via RAD (Reichsarbeitdienst). The ultimate goal of Hitler Youth training was matriculation into regular military service within the Wehrmacht (army, navy, air force or SS). Boxing and other combative sports were encouraged, even to injury and sometimes death, Hitler having declared,
“I want a brutal, domineering, fearless, cruel youth. Youth must be all that. It must bear pain.”
[caption id="attachment_35102" align="alignnone" width="470"] Hitler Jugend Security Officer and Nazi Party Member. Special groups of HJ males aged 16-18 worked closely with the Gestapo and SS, some going on to serve in concentration camps.[/caption] Hitler added,
“There must be nothing weak and gentle about it. The free, splendid beast of prey must once again flash from its eyes. That is how I will eradicate thousands of years of human domestication. That is how I will create the New Order.”
An estimated 1,500,000 million Hitler Youth boys received para-military training including the use of the rifle. 50,000 boys would earn the marksmanship medal indicating their proficiency at accurate firing to a distance of 50 meters (164 feet). Evidence of the intensity of the indoctrination effort can be seen in use of some 200,000 special trains required to transport 5,000,000 German youth to the 12,000 HJ camps during the reign of the Third Reich. Their schooling was also seen as adjunct of HJ and BdM membership. Traditional academics were cast aside. In keeping with the growing anti-Semitic regulations, Jewish teachers were summarily dismissed from German schools and universities. [programme]

Nazi curriculum

By 1932 more than 30% of teachers were already sworn Nazi party members. Then after the full takeover by Hitler, “re-education camps” for teachers were established with a mandatory month long immersion resulting in two-thirds of grade school teachers processed by 1938. Teachers were now instructors of National Socialism focusing on “racial awareness” in which science and biology were turned into indoctrination programs promoting the Aryan race over the “unworthy races,” especially fanning the hatred of Jews. Hitler had achieved his avowed goal when saying,
“I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men.”
In 1939, with war about to be set into motion, the State mandated HJ membership for all boys and girls and as a result could count 7,000,000 recruited or nearly 82 percent of eligible German youth enrolled. Further decrees made it mandatory for the remaining hold-outs to join or suffer the consequences.

Women in Nazi Germany

[caption id="attachment_35100" align="alignnone" width="432"] The brown “climbing jacket” or Kletterjacke was a popular BdM wardrobe item, along with the standard white shirt and black scarf.[/caption] For girls, those aged 10-14 joined the Jungmädel (Young Maidens) with training emphasizing healthy habits, duties of the housewife and child-raising. Emphasis was also placed on Nazi racial dictums inflamed by its anti-Jewish virulence. Between ages 15-21, girls took part in further State sponsored motherhood training via the BdM (Bund Deutsche Mädel) League of German Girls. Additional training in “domestic science and marriage preparation” could be granted to 17-year olds who applied to the Glaube und Schonheit (Faith and Beauty) program. By 1936, total membership counted two million members girls supervised by 125,000 leaders. Motherhood was sacrosanct in Nazi Germany. Mothers were ranked with the same status of frontline troops. A popular slogan was,
“I have given a soldier to the Führer.”
[caption id="attachment_35106" align="alignnone" width="500"] Motherhood was sacrosanct in Nazi Germany.[/caption] Prolific child bearers were awarded a special medal, the Honor Cross of the German Mother, in bronze for more than four children, silver for more than six, gold for more than eight. Hitler Youth members were required to salute any woman wearing the award. In seeking to fill the ranks lost during World War One and the mounting casualties on the new war’s battlefields, the Third Reich encouraged high birth rates via various incentives including financial inducements. During the first four months into the war, December 1939 to May 1940, some 121,853 gold medals were awarded. Additional efforts to increase the replenishment source for the fallen warriors of the Fatherland included the Lebensborn programs and homes where girls were housed and encouraged to welcome the visits by SS men in order to create more members of the superior race.

Child soldiers

[caption id="attachment_35107" align="alignnone" width="650"] In the last months of the war, as bombs rained down upon the German cities, the young anti-aircraft crews often manned their guns to the death.[/caption] In the last months of the war, as bombs rained down upon the German cities, the young anti-aircraft crews often manned their guns to the death. After the Allied D-Day landings of June 1944, Hitler in his efforts to stem the invasion sent a newly formed unit, the 12th SS Panzer Division, most of its members under 18. Instead of receiving the usual rations of alcohol and tobacco, they received candies as they went to war. But when they came up against the British and Canadians attempting to secure the French port of Caen, the child soldiers, though outnumbered and outgunned, fought fanatically, holding up the Allies for a month. By 1945, the Third Reich disintegrating on all fronts, the HJ could still count 8,000,000 members, many still fanatical. As a result during the last weeks of the war, boys and girls as young as 10 would be manning anti-aircraft guns or sent against the Russian and American forces, some riding their bicycles mounted with grenade launchers. [caption id="attachment_35103" align="alignnone" width="601"] A U.S. Signal Corp photo carried the following caption: Three small German boys were picked up on a road near Aachen for firing on advancing American soldiers. From left are Willy Eischenburg, 14, a Hitler Youth; his brother, Bernard, 10; Hubert Heinrichs, 10, and another Eischenburg Brother Victor, 8.[/caption] While thousands of such child soldiers, boys and girls, died in uniform, thousands more, having passed through the Nazi youth programs, were left bereft of their underpinnings at war’s end and found themselves coping with a transition beyond physical survival, rather a mental and spiritual re-evaluation and hopefully a rebirth. The underlying message is that authoritarian states or ideologies have, and can, radicalise the young for their own dark purposes and all such efforts must not be ignored.
Paul Garson lives and writes in Los Angeles having produced over 2500 magazine features, often accompanied by his own contemporary photography. His previous books include science fiction, motorcycle history, and military history. Children of the Third Reich is his most recent book and will be published on 15 September, by Amberley Publishing

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121 –180 AD) was the Philosopher Emperor and the last of the Five Good Emperors.

Marcus’ reign was marked by tolerance for free speech, even when it was critical of the Emperor himself. He was even able to rule alongside Lucius Verus for the first eight years of his reign. The less accademic Lucius taking a lead in military matters.

Despite constant military and political troubles, Marcuss competent administration reacted well to crises like the flooding of the Tiber in 162. He reformed the currency intelligently in response to changing economic circumstances and picked his advisors well. He was praised for his mastery of the law and his fairness.

The depraved behaviour of Roman emperors could fill several websites, but Marcus was moderate and forgiving in his personal life and as Emperor.

Militarily he conquered the resurgent Parthian Empire and won wars against Germanic tribes that were threatening the Empire’s eastern frontiers.

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The historian of his reign, Cassius Dio, wrote that his death marked a descent “from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.”

Marcus is still today considered an important writer on Stoic philosophy, which values duty to and respect for others and self-control. His 12 volume Meditations, probably written while campaigning and for his own use, was a bestseller in 2002.

5. Aurelian 270 – 275 AD

Porta Asinaria, a gate in Rome's Aurelian Walls

A gate in the Aurelian Walls built to defend an empire under threat from invaders.

Image Credit: Bill Bremner, Geoffrey Hampden and Eric Anson were junior naval officers who saw the military potential of the fast launches that had competed in the pre war competitions such as the International Harmsworth Trophy. They collaborated with John Thornycroft who’s Basingstoke company had constructed some of these competition boats. Out of this liaison a new class of fighting boat was born.

The Coastal Motor Boat

Fast and small, with 18 inch torpedoes in their stern, these new World War One Royal Navy ‘Coastal Motor Boats’ (CMB) were not the benign craft their name suggests. High powered and with a single step hull design, they were light, fast planing boats easily transported and when underway, capable of crossing minefields and skipping over protective booms. Deploying the torpedo from the CMB while planing at speed towards the target with bow high out of the water was the most obvious design difficulty these innovators encountered. This was solved by launching the torpedo tail first out of the stern of the CMB, remembering to then turn sharply out of its way. To achieve reasonable range and speed required lots of heavy fuel so the boats themselves had to be light; flimsy wooden ‘eggshells’ the crews called them. In August 1916 the first of these 40 foot CMB’s were completed at Platt’s Eyot on the Thames and went into service. [caption id="attachment_35161" align="alignnone" width="650"] A photo of a CMB travelling at full speed.[/caption]


Other than their torpedo ‘stings’ in their tail, the CMBs only armament consisted of a few Lewis machine guns. Reliant on speed and surprise, their operations were generally secret and usually undertaken at night. They proved so effective that production of larger 55-foot boats carrying two torpedoes, or one torpedo and four depth charges, followed these initial successes. 70 foot mine-laying CMBs followed and in 1918 a Cruiser was converted to carry six 40 foot CMBs. Another major development of CMB technology followed the trials in 1917 of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) ‘Aerial Target’ drone aircraft. Five Distance Control Boats (DCB) were built, three by converting the 40 foot CMBs Number 3, 9 and 13. [programme id="35154"] These unmanned DCBs, designed to be packed with an explosive charge, were remotely controlled from ‘mother’ aircraft using the RFC’s control system. They were tested successfully during 1918. A 1920 Admiralty review identified the invention of DCBs and Wireless Controlled Aircraft as significant threats to the Royal Navy’s capital ships. As the CMB fleet grew in numbers and diversity of design during the war, their crews fought with great valour in what were usually secret operations.

At wars end – the new war

At the end of the Great War many countries were vulnerable to Bolshevik influence and aggression as the Russian Civil War raged on their borders. It is not surprising therefore, that in 1919 CMBs would be at sea again engaging this new enemy. CMBs were transported to the Baltic and even to the Caspian Sea. [caption id="attachment_35153" align="alignnone" width="650"] A coastal motor boat arrives by rail at Baku. 1919.[/caption] Operation Red Trek in 1919 involved a British fleet including CMBs in operations in support of the Baltic states. For their actions in attacks undertaken by this fleet, three CMB crew members won the Victoria Cross. With his experience supplying the Russian Imperial forces with material through their Arctic ports, Gus Agar had been selected by MI6 to operate CMB4 and CMB7 in the northern Baltic Sea to support land based agents. Attempts to use his CMBs to extract the operative ST-25 (Paul Dukes) from his mission in Petrograd failed but these incursions into the Bolshevik harbours inspired an unauthorised attack.

Sinking the Oleg

Despite its forts, searchlights, formidable minefields and a submerged invisible breakwater, on the night of the 17 June 1919, Agar in CMB4 ran the gauntlet of these obstacles to torpedo and sink the cruiser Oleg. For this action he won the VC which became known as the mystery VC as security demanded Agar’s identity be protected when the Russians put a price on his head. Following this successful June raid on Kronstadt harbour the aircraft carrier HMS Vindictive and more CMBs joined this Baltic operation and a more extensive attack was instigated against the Russian fleet at Kronstadt on 18 August 1919. [caption id="attachment_35156" align="alignnone" width="650"] Firing party for dead pilot, deck of HMS Vindictive, Baltic 1919.[/caption] This involved Vindictive’s aircraft and eight CMBs attacking at high speed in two waves of three boats in the dark congested harbour while Gus’s boat CB7 guarded the entrance and the remaining CMB attacked the guard destroyer Gavriil. Three boats were lost with many of the crews injured, killed and captured. William Hamilton Bremner (1894-1970) commanded CMB79A. He was badly injured and spent six months as a POW. He, like many others on this raid were decorated. Tommy Dobson who commanded the CMB flotilla aboard CMB31BD and Gordon Steele of CMB88 were awarded VC’s. Bill’s continuing naval career merged into intelligence work in SIS/MI6 through into the Cold War era.

Of the others mentioned…...

[caption id="attachment_35160" align="alignnone" width="650"] A group of Naval VC's at a party given for holders of the Victoria Cross by King George V at Wellington Barracks. Gordon Charles Steele is second from the left and Augustus Agar is in the centre.[/caption] Geoffrey Cromwell Edward Hampden (1883-1951) went on to raise a number of patents including one on a Hydrofoil craft. Around 1938 he had serious financial troubles and then his son was killed near Narvik flying a Swordfish aircraft from HMS Furious in April 1940. George Frederick Vernon Anson (1892-1969) returned home to New Zealand where he had a long and distinguished medical career. Paul Henry Dukes (1847-1930), MI6 codename ST-25, escaped into Latvia and was knighted in 1920. Augustus Willington Shelton Agar VC (1890-1968) on the 40 foot CMB7 acted as pilot for the flotilla on the August raid. In his long naval career he experienced first hand the vulnerability of ships to air power as Captain of the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire when she was sunk in April 1942 by Japanese aircraft. His injuries curtailed but did not end his service days. Claude Congreve Dobson VC (1885-1940) achieved the rank of Rear-Admiral by the time he retired in 1936. Gordon Charles Steele VC (1891-1981) also had a long naval career, retiring in 1957. CMB9 / DCB1 was returned to the water after 40 years following her restoration by its dedicated owners Robert and Terri Morley (see image) and has since appeared at many events including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant. [caption id="attachment_35158" align="alignnone" width="650"] CMB9 returned to the water. Image Credit: Robert Morley and Liner Lookout Cafe.[/caption] The RFC’s ‘Aerial Target’ and DCB radio control systems are in the IWM stores. CMB4 is a static exhibit in the IWM at Duxford.
Steve Mills had a career in engineering design and development until he retired, after which he has been involved in the work of a number of organisations. His engineering background in aviation on civil and military projects here and in North America has been put to use over the last 8 years as a volunteer at Brooklands Museum in Surrey.
His book, 'The Dawn of the Drone' from Casemate Publishing is due to publish this November. 30% discount for readers of History Hit when you pre-order at www.casematepublishers.co.uk. Simply add the book to your basket and apply voucher code DOTDHH19 before proceeding to checkout. Special offer expires 31/12/2019.

Lucius Domitius Aurelianus Augustus (214 – 175 AD) ruled for just a short time, but he restored the Empire’s lost provinces, helping to end the Crisis of the Third Century.

Aurelian was a commoner, earning his power by rising through the military. The Empire needed a good soldier, and Aurelian’s message of “concord with the soldiers” made his purposes clear.

First he threw barbarians from Italy and then Roman territory. He defeated the Goths in the Balkans and wisely decided to step back from defending Dacia.

Boosted by these victories he overthrew the Palmyrene Empire, which had grown from captured Roman provinces in North Africa and the Middle East, important sources of grain for Rome. Next were the Gauls in the west, completing a complete reunification of the Empire and earning Aurelian the title, “Restorer of the World.”

An exploration of the very first human inhabitants of the British Isles. Presented by travel writer Noo Saro-Wiwa and featuring the Natural History Museum's Dr Selina Brace.
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He didn’t just fight, bringing stability to religious and economic life, rebuilding public buildings, and tackling corruption.

Had he not been murdered by a conspiracy started by a secretary fearful of punishment for a minor lie, he might have left an even better legacy. As it was, Aurelian’s reign secured the future of Rome for another 200 years. The danger he faced is shown in the massive Aurelian Walls he built around Rome and which still stand in part today.

Colin Ricketts