The Earlier Rip Van Winkle(s)

We all love a good legend or fable.  One of the favorites of Americana is the story of Rip Van Winkle which we all know well.  That legend was from the earliest days of the Colonies and is still read in English classes today.  At least I hope it is.   We have those urban legends that live on in every major city around the country.  Every big city has a lake somewhere and there is always the “lady of the lake” story about tragic love and ghosts.   Those stories are older than many realize.

In the Roman era when the Vandals were marching and conquering much of the former Roman world a new legend was born.  It was in the late 4th or very  early 5th century.  The Romans were already paying tribut to the Vandals to leave Rome itself and the Vandals had descended on Spain and had crossed the Gates of Hercules and were making their way east along the coast of northern Africa.  They had even taken the great city of Carthage.  Again that city was brought low by invaders from across the Meditterranean Sea.  The Christians around the Empire were desperate for succor and relief.  The legend came out of modern day Turkey, the city of Ephesus where so many tourists have strolled when their cruise ship docked near there. 

Much earlier than the Vandals the Roman  Emperor Decius had been persecuting the early Christians without mercy.  To escape the death and destruction seven noble youths of Ephesus hid themselves in a cave in the side of a mountain near the city.  But they were discovered by the Decius and he ordered the entrance sealed with huge stones that could not be moved.   The nobles inside fell into a deep sleep.  Their slumber lasted for 187 years without any aging.   After that passage of time the stones were removed by a new owner of the mountain for a new building.  When the stones were removed the youths awakened and thought they had been asleep for only a few hours.    They believed the persecution was still occurring and their hunger drove them to select one of their number to sneak into town to acquire some food.   Jamblichus was the one selected and he immediately noticed that things had changed.  Nothing was familiar.   He even noticed that a cross was over the main gate to the city.  His clothing was not as others and when he tried to purchase bread the coin he offered was from a Roman Emperor long since dead.  He was dragged before a Judge for his suspicious behavoir.  When he told his story everyone was amazed and realized the great passage of time.

There was a great unproar by the bishop and even the Emperor Theodosius came to visit these miracle men.  They were blessed by the Bishop, told their story and then died.

This legend was translated into many languages and became religious lore for the faithful from Abyssinia to Russia.   The fame even spread beyond the Christian world and the prophet Mahomet used the story as an example of divine revelation in the Koran.    So old Rip didn’t have nearly as old a tale as we might have believed.  The sleeping interval and brief return are old legends. 

You notice that the PIPP program is now going to be for 50 billion?  It was announced with such great fanfare and headlines about being a trillion dollar program to save those banks and remove toxic assets.   The private sector doesn’t want to play with the Government, Inc. goons I reckon.  They have watched the strong arm tactics enough to get the message.   That is 1/20th of the original deal.  You recall the papers all had graphs and charts showing exactly how these investments were going to be made in those partnerships between government and private investors.  I wonder if it will even do the 50 billion.


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Filed under Culture, history

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