A historical opera of sweeping proportions, The Cradle and the Sword hurtles the reader from the classical ages of Greece and Persia back into the mists of prehistory, chronicling the wars, intrigues, discoveries and triumphs of the world’s first great civilizations. A web of tales brings together an unforgettable cast of characters, united across thousands of years by common struggles, ambitions, and dreams. Thomas unveils an odyssey in reverse, tracing a myriad of intertwined paths, from the palace conspiracies of mighty Assyria to the lush gardens of Babylon, to the primeval city of Ur—revealing an action-packed saga whose deepest roots reach back to legendary Eden itself.
In the midst of all these fun articles, I’ve been working on a bigger project: a novel set in ancient Mesopotamia.
Well, maybe “novel” isn’t exactly right — it’s a collection of short stories set in the same area, all linked to each other by themes, characters, legends, and so on. Together, the stories form a narrative that reaches far back into the ancient past.
It’ll be available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle on August 15.
How my friend’s art connects Hollywood and ancient Egypt
Last weekend, I took a trip up to Milan. My friends and I hit all the usual sightseeing spots — the big famous Gothic cathedral, the sprawling neoclassical shopping mall known as the Galleria — but I had one special destination in mind.
Two things made this show especially interesting to me.
But to prove it, we’re gonna have to get NSFW.
We’ve all gotten pulled into one of those conversations at one party or another: “Art is on the decline! No ones creates original work anymore! Music is produced by robots and armies of slave children! All we do is take selfies and mindlessly share them!”
That’s how art critic Jonathan Jones reacted to the above painting by artist James Needham this week. Needham is shocked — shocked — that this painting has gotten almost a million shares on Imgur. “It washes out all aesthetic ambition,” Jones wails in The Guardian, “and reduces the 600 years of art history since the Renaissance to the level of a glorified selfie.”
My response to all that is,
What do you think art history IS?
We’ve got some strange ways of dealing with bad thoughts.
Want to hear a cool story?
In the 1280s, the Mongol warlord Hülegü Khan was getting ready to make war on the city of Baghdad — which was, at that time, the epicenter of the civilized world.
The Khan sent a threat letter to the Caliph of Baghdad that always sends chills up my spine when I read it. Here’s a sample:
They’re called Roma, they’re intriguing, and “gypsy” is a slur.
All right my friends, let me tell you about “Gypsies” — or as they’re actually called, the Romani people, or simply the Roma.
They’ve been in the news a few times lately for child abductions. They’ve got a reputation as musicians and fortune-tellers at best; or as thieves, pickpockets and kidnappers at worst. They’re probably from Romania, right? They must have something to do with the Romanians.
Well, not really. Not at all, actually.
The story of a man, a city, and a piece of truth.
The estate where we live is not in the slums. It’s a nice middle-class neighborhood — about ten acres with a big stone wall around them, and a whole community of small shops and apartments and houses and cow-grazing patches inside, all connected by winding dirt trails that run through the scrub.
The long low buildings are communal houses where Swahili people live. The little shacks with signs outside are stores — butcher shops, beauty salons, convenience stores, phone top-up stands. Everything you want, you can find within the estate, sold by your neighbors.
An interactive experience in speaking with people from the past
You stare into these peoples’ eyes and wonder what they were thinking about, what their days were like, how their voice sounded—maybe how they died.
Night can make you feel like a stranger, even when you’re home
Last night, when the power had been out for twelve hours and the sun finally set and left me in the dark, and someone knocked on my door to hand me candles, and I lit the candles and sat on the bed and listened to the shouting outside — that was when I realized how alone I was.
THIS CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS.
The Revenant takes place in Montana in the 1800s, but most of it could’ve happened any time since the last Ice Age, in any cold part of the earth.
There’s the snow. The wind. The trees. The slow shaggy meaty animals and the quick fierce ones that bring them down.
Men in heavy furs trudge across this landscape. They carry spears and bows. They know the trick of making fire. They catch fish with their hands in the cold river. When a storm blows through, they cut the trees and build shelter.