Beauty and Cruelty

The 17th century was a time of innovation and devastation on a worldwide scale. Kind of like the 20th century, only less automated. Researching my latest novel has been an adventure of discovery for me, and one of the hardest things to understand is the attitude toward cruelty displayed by virtually all levels of society. The images below, from Braun and Hogenberg’s Cities of the World (Civitates Orbis Terrarum), illustrate perfectly the beauty and cruelty that suffused the world. I suppose it should be easier for me to comprehend, given the situation in Somalia today (just one example of many), but I’m glad that I have that difficulty.

Imagine yourself on the road from Dresden to Prague today. And then imagine seeing this as you travel the 90 miles:

“Above seven score [1 score = 20] gallowses and wheels, where thieves were hanged, some fresh and some half rotten, and the carcasses of murderers broken limb after limb on the wheels.”  (From The Thirty Years War, by C.V. Wedgwood.)