Your RDA of Irony

Today’s Mediterranean Cruise

On this day in A.D. 70:

If you had booked the Temple of Jerusalem for a wedding or a bar mitzvah, ask the High Priest for a refund. Either that, or ask the cater to set up some extra tables for a rampaging Roman army. On third thought, get the refund. The Romans destroyed the Temple. And don’t let the High Priest or your insurance agent claim that it was an act of God. After all, which God? I’d say it was Mars, although it took the War God and Rome four months to crush Jerusalem.

To commemorate this day, I will be eating spumoni ice cream. But for the Romans and their pacification policy of exiling the Judeans to Europe (where no doubt we would lose our identity), today I might look Yassir Arafat. (Worse, my wife might.) Instead we were forced to wade through some better looking gene pools. So, thanks Rome.

On This Day in 1704:

Austria gained control of Gibraltar. At least, the British claimed the captured peninsula on behalf of Archduke Karl, their candidate for the Spanish throne. Yet, the British somehow never did turn over Gibraltar; perhaps, they were waiting for the Austrian navy to show up. The British settled in and soon abandoned all pretense of acting for their Hapsburg ally. Of course, the Spanish and their French allies attempted to retake Gibraltar but they learned this lesson in military topography.  Attacking from the sea, you can take Gibraltar. Attacking from land, you can’t.

In 1713, with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, the Spanish ceded control of Gibraltar only on condition that “no leave shall be given under any pretence whatsoever, either to Jews or Moors, to reside or have their dwellings in the said town of Gibraltar.” The British agreed but they did not order their immigration officers to check everyone for foreskins. And once the Jews and Moors were back, the British did not ask them to leave. (Irish Catholics would have been less welcomed.) Of course, Spain declared that this was a violation of the Treaty and used it as a justification for another war. But once again the Spanish attacked by land, with predictable results.

Spain–with French support–attacked again in 1782 and this time remembered to use ships as well as a large army. Good strategy but bad timing. The British had been preoccupied trying to restore order over some dyspeptic colonies in North America, but after 1781 had signed an armistice with the rebels. Britain was now free to thrash the Spanish and the French–which is exactly what happened.

Yet Spain would try once more. In 1808, with Spanish permission, Napoleon and his forces marched into Iberia with the understanding that he take Gibraltar. But there must have been a misunderstanding; Napoleon seized Spain instead. Add a cedilla to the irony, the Spanish needed the British to drive out the French.

(And Hitler offered to march through Spain to take Gibraltar. For some reason, Franco refused.)

Of course, Spain still demands the return of Gibraltar. Britain will probably schedule that a week after it returns the Elgin Marbles.

p.s.  As if today did not have enough historical gossip, have some more:

  1. Bob Kincaid says:

    At least you can take solace in the fact that the modern state of Israel is doing all it can to keep those pleasantly muddled gene pools pleasantly free of those Yasser Arafatian visages. Don’t know if you saw this, Eugene, but it fits nicely with your thesis:

    Me, I’m grateful for all those tolerant, inclusive Slavs and Greeks who contributed to your blood-line, Yevgeny/Eugenion!

  2. Eugene Finerman says:

    Dear Bob,

    I doubt if I have any Greek genes–and the Greeks were anything but inclusive. Remember their definition of barbarian: anyone who wasn’t Greek. And the original meaning of xenophobia is the fear of a Greek from another citystate.


  3. Peg Pruitt says:

    Dear Eugene,

    You never need an excuse to eat ice cream.


    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Dear Peg,

      True but sometimes the flavor should be appropriate to the day. As it turned out, however, I was at a Persian restaurant and had a bowl of saffron ice cream. And I thought it was delicious. (I’ll be denounced by Mitt Romney–as soon as the focus group tells him what he thinks.)


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