strange lives

I surf Wikipedia looking for interesting stories, so you don’t have to. For instance:

Charles deRudio/Carlo di Rudio is born an Italian aristocrat in 1832. After fighting for Italian unification, he flees the country and is shipwrecked off Spain. We next meet him living in East London with his Cockney wife Eliza. In 1858, he is one of several men who throw innovative, mercury-based bombs at the Emperor Napoleon III, killing eight people but not harming the monarch. DiRudio is sentenced to be guillotined but spared and sent instead to the notorious Devil’s Island, off today’s Suriname. He escapes from there and immigrates to the US. During the Civil War, he serves as a Second Lieutenant, commanding Black troops. He stays in the US Army after the war and fights in the Battle of Little Binghorn, at which George Custer and most of his men are killed. DeRudio and one other man survive by hiding in a copse for 36 hours while Lakota women attack the bodies of the US Cavalry. DeRudio dies in Pasadena in 1910.

An anonymous Irish monk works at Reichenau Abbey, now in Alpine Germany, during the 9th century. He writes a poem in Old Irish about his companionable cat, Pangur Bán, which is translated by W.H. Auden and Seamus Heaney, among others, and set to music by Samuel Barber.

In 1943, Hans Robert Lichtenberg is born to the chief of police of wartime Frankfurt. In 1980, at age 36, he is adopted by Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt, daughter-in-law of the late and deposed German Emperor Wilhelm II. There are allegations that the adoption, which makes him “Prinz von Anhalt,” is arranged for cash. At age 43, he marries the 69-year old Zsa Zsa Gabor. They adopt three grown men, who inherit various titles. In 2007, three women allegedly approach “Prinz von Anhalt,” ask to pose in a picture with him, pull out guns, and steal his Rolls-Royce, jewelry, wallet, and all his clothes, leaving him naked when the police arrive. In 2010, he runs for Governor of California.

The king of India learns that his son Josaphat is planning to become a Christian. He isolates him from the world, but a Christian hermit saint named Barlaam gets access to Josaphat and converts him. The king relents and abdicates in favor of Josaphat who, after reigning for some time, leaves with Barlaam to become a wandering saint. In all probability, this is actually the foundational Buddhist story of Siddhartha Gautama, translated from Sanskrit into Persian (by Manicheans), which is then translated into Arabic as the “Book of Bilawhar and Yudasaf,” which influences the Georgian Orthodox and Catholic churches to recognize a pair of saints. The Sanskrit title bodhisattva (saint) probably becomes the name Josaphat by way of “bodisav” in Persian, Budhasaf or Yudasaf in Arabic, Iodasaph in Georgian, Iodasaph in Greek, and lastly Josaphat in Latin.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.