Friday, January 21, 2011


“Aiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam?”
(Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it)
Bronze relief by Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), Campo de' Fiori, Rome
 Originally, I intended to write about the trial of Galileo. However, during my research, I came across an amazing figure. I had never before heard of Giordano Bruno. He was an amazing genius. Compared to him, Galileo was a candle shining in a search beacon. many years before Galileo was tried his discoveries that confirmed a heliocentric belief that the earth was one of many planets circling the sun, Bruno had already recognized that the earth and other planets advanced around the sun, which he noted was a star, like other stars in the sky. He propounded that the Universe was infinite. Bruno's genius was not limited to astronomy or physics. He was famous across Europe for his amazing memory. Giorgano Bruno was heralded, demonized, excommunicated, tried, and executed. His trial demonstrated many things. Justice was not one of them.

Giordano Bruno
He had been a Dominican Monk. Bruno was an absolutely brilliant man, who hungered for knowledge of religion and science. His trial by the Roman Inquisition instead force fed him pagan dogma. In retrospect, it was the Church that was tried and convicted. However, its punishment paled in comparison with that of Giordano Bruno and other Christians who suffered for daring to question ancient Greco-Roman polytheistic beliefs. 

The Inquisition revealed a startling fact about the Holy See and his Church. The Roman Empire did not become Christian. Rather, Catholicism became Roman. It's not a coincidence that the Vatican remains in  what once was the capital of the Caesar's Rome. It was a gift from Emperor Constantine to Pope Miltiades in 313 AD. It was not the only thing given by the Romans. Even the name "Vatican" predated Christianity.

Others had viewed the Christian world as paganized. For instance, in the “Sunna,” the Muslim Prophet Muhammed called Christians “Pagans” and "Romans," because they worshipped Saints. The Church embraced other pagan views, such as Aristotle’s genocentric view of the universe. In the King James Bible, Chronicles 16:30 states that "the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved." Obviously, the Earth had to be an unmoving center point for all of the moving heavenly bodies. Although the Church allowed some debate about the matter, it never allowed scientific discoveries to prove it wrong. 

Aristotle -Engraved in Stone?
There were other Aristotelian views which the Church embraced. For example, it  also believed that there was a "universal" method of reasoning. Of course, the Church believed its reasoning was to be universally accepted - or else! The word, "catholic," means "universal."

During the height of the Renaissance Period, the Vatican saw its monopoly on truth being eroded by science. So, it repressed the flood of ideas and knowledge with its infamous Roman Inquisition. Popes during that terrible period wanted everyone to believe they shared God’s omniscience. They were the gatekeepers of His Kingdom. That was the foundation of their power. Without it, there was no reason for anyone to follow them, or feed their coffers.

The Church was threatened by the Renaissance. It clung to Aristotelian thought. After all, the philosopher's belief that the world was a sphere had been proven right by the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492.  There was comfort in the notion that the Church's adopted beliefs were true. 

The charge against Bruno was heresy. Ironically, the beliefs he challenged were of pagan origin. Aristotle himself would have been offended by Bruno’s 120 theses against the ancient philosopher's “natural science.” Aristotle struggled to accept the idea of a heliocentric universe, much less one in which the sun was one of a sky full of stars in an infinite universe, or that the earth revolved around the sun while rotating on its own axis. Ironically, the Vatican felt it had to punish its own followers for challenging outdated pagan notions.

Pope Pius V
The trial was not the first time Bruno answered to authorities. During His adulthood, Bruno was summonsed by Heads of State who were astonished and concerned about his ideas and abilities. He had to explain mneumonics to Pope Pius V (now a Saint; he was also the Pope who excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I) and French King Henry III (who was involved in the Wars of Religion against the Huguenots). They suspected his amazing powers of memory were some sort of witchcraft. He explained to them, and others, his system of mneumonics, so that others could enjoy advanced powers of memory. Unfortunately, the Church never forgot rumors that Bruno was a “spy” against Catholic conspirators in England, or that he may have been a “Calvinist,” nor did it forget or forgive his abrasive sarcasm. Bruno's quest to discover God through science brought the wrath of religious leaders across Christendom. Not only was he persecuted by the Holy Catholic Church, but Bruno was excommunicated by the Lutheran Church, as well. 

Not all charges against Bruno’s involved science. He also was charged for having religious ideas. Unfortunately for him,.those were the province of the Church, any Church! Among other things, he questioned the notion of immaculate conception. Even today, that is heresy to many. Church dogma held that Jesus was born of a virgin birth, although Christ was quoted in the scriptures as saying he was "the Son of Man." However, scholars who translated the Gospels chose to translate the word “aalmah,” as “virgin.” The word actually meant “young woman,” and most scholars believe that Mary was less than 20 years old He was born. So, she certainly was an aalmah. That did not mean the conception of her child was immaculate.

Pope Paul V
However, the early Church had its own reasons to translate the word otherwise. The Apostle Paul spread the teachings of Christ across the Pagan world, where virgin births were common among legendary figures. As examples, Augustus Caesar was supposedly fathered by the god, Apollo.  Romulus and Remus, were fathered by the god, Mars, and Plato, who was Aristotle’s Mentor, supposedly was born from the union of Apollo with a young maiden. For centuries, the belief that Jesus was conceived by a virgin birth blended well with popular Pagan culture. In the year, 1600 AD, the Catholic Church didn't want to contradict 1300 years of accepted dogma.

The Church intended to preserve its traditions by prosecuting anyone who questioned them. Its fear of being proved a wrong prompted Saint Peter's Church to torture and execute its followers. Even that approach was of pagan nature. Peter himself was tortured and crucified upside-down for challenging accepted religious dogma. In any event, many believe today that Jesus's gift was His Golden Rule, not an immaculate conception. To others, His birth made His death more important, for God had sacrificed His only begotten Son to cleanse the sins of humanity. Neither can be proved by science. So, instead of trying to punish those who questioned the immaculate conception, the Church could have simply pronounced that it was a matter of “Faith.” 

The Execution of Giorgano Bruno, 1600
Bruno’s heresies did not end with his ideas about the Universe or the birth of Christ. He also questioned the Holy Trinity. He was not the first Christian to do so, and the Vatican did not want to revisit its belief that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all One. It was another example of the Vatican clinging to its Greco Roman roots. Indeed, it was a Roman Emperor, who settled the issue of The Holy Trinity. Constantine, a pagan convert to the faith, called the First Council of Nicaea. He exiled anyone who did not reject the notion that Jesus was inferior to God. He ordered the books of Aryus, who advanced that heretical idea, to be burned. That was 12 centuries before the Vatican ordered the books of Bruno burned and banned. However, unlike Pope Clement VIII, Constantine later ordered that his heretic, Aryus, be readmitted to communion. Unfortunately, Aryus died on his way to that event as a notable Catholic Bishop prayed for his death.
Pope Clement VIII, Bruno is Guilty

12 centuries later, the Church wished Giorgio Bruno dead. He had committed multiple offenses of TWI (Thinking While Intelligent). The Church had yet to learn that Faith and Science were not enemies. So, it treated men like Bruno as invaders. Bruno was imprisoned during his Inquisition from 1592 until it ended soon after Christmas in early 1600. 

Among his Inquisitors was Cardinal Bellarmine, who later judged the works of Gallileo, and Cardinal Borhese. The latter later became Pope Paul V, who enjoined Galileo from advancing the notion of a heliocentric universe. They offered Bruno a chance to recant everything, which could have saved his life, but the stubborn Priest refused. Instead, he offered a partial recantation to Pope Clement VIII. Unfortunately, that didn't relieve the Holy Father's concerns, so he expressed himself in favor of a guilty verdict. 

Bruno was declared to be a “heretic.” His Inquisitors handed him over to secular authorities for punishment, much as did the Sanhedrin with Jesus. Bruno’s reply to certain death was, “aiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam."(Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it).

Campo de Fiori

Giorgano Bruno’s execution took place at a central Roman market square (Campo de' Fiori ) on February 17, 1600. He was led naked through the streets. His tongue was gagged, as a warning to anyone else who may wish to speak freely. The former Dominican Priest was hung upside down and fastened to a stake surrounded by wood and kindle. It is said that he did not have a friend among the crowd who gathered to watch him roasted to death. There were no concerns about capital punishment in those days and no appeal. His death was designed to be painful and humiliating.

400 years later, the Church remains unrepentant. Cardinal Angelo Sodano declared Bruno's death to be a "sad episode," but he defended the Inquisitors. He said they acted properly. The clerical party in Rome sharply opposed a proposed monument for Bruno at the site of his execution, but the monument was finally erected by the Rome Municipality and inaugurated in 1889.

Monument of Giordano Bruno
Giorgio Bruno was a master of mneumonics, the science of memory. That's not why he is remembered more than 500 years after his death. It was his search for truth and God, despite pain of death that gives life to his memory. Those who tried him are remembered, too. The Inquisition of Giordano Bruno revealed the truth about them. His trial proved those who offered themselves as spokesmen of God did the work of His adversary. It is a lesson well-remembered today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Phryne before the Areopagus - 1861

She pioneered women's lib before bras had been invented. The painting above is one rendition of “Phryne before the Areopagus.” The artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme, painted it in 1861. As did his subject, a courtesan named Phryne, he intended to provoke thought.

The painting has the look of a trial. It appears Greek, maybe because the men wore wine-colored tunics, but why did they seem so shocked? History remembers Phryne as stunning, not shocking. She obviously was both.

Defendant's Exhibit Number 1

The men were in fact Greek, They were respected noblemen selected to be Judges for a Court where all capital cases were tried. Only the most righteous of nobility were called upon to serve there. It was steeped in tradition and honor. According to legend, the god, Aries, was tried there by fellow gods for the murder of Poseidon's son, Alirrothios. Phryne was being tried for her life at the Aeropagus, a place which had been the heart of Athenian government centuries earlier. It was not the sort of place where one would expect a strip show.

Gerome's painting caused a scandal when it was first presented. It was not the first artwork inspired by Phryne to do so. Jerome's style of painting, known as “Academicism,” was waning. He believed the “Trial of Phryne before the Areopagus” would revive it. The painting won him attention. However, it also caused him scorn from influential French critics. It is ironic that Frenchmen could be  intimidated by the sight of a naked woman. 2500 years before, other men reacted similarly. Her arrogant beauty threatened their manhood.

Some believe Phryne won her name because she had a golden, yellow complexion. Others said it was a stage name. Literally, it means, “toad.” Her real name was “Mnesarete,” which meant, “she who remembers virtue.” As a famous courtesan, few in patriarchal societies accused her of virtue.She proved one man's virtue was another woman's oppression.

"Respectable" women in Fourth Century Greece had no “freedom” or “democracy,” even in Athens. They were denied education and public life, much as women in modern Islamic countries. Greek women were segregated to quarters in their own homes. They were not permitted to go out, except to religious ceremonies. Even then, they were closely guarded by male family members. They were not allowed to do their own shopping. That task was performed by slaves. Wives and daughters were condemned to toil and drudgery, discouraged from speaking. They were handed down as chattel from their fathers to their husbands to their sons. Greek women were repressed with notions of piety. No respectable Greek woman would have undressed in public, much less in a capital court. Yet, there she stands in the painting, alone among a courtroom of men.

Phryne was a “hetaerae” (courtesan). Today, some might call her a prostitute or “call girl,” but heterae were much more than that. They were independent, educated and shrewd, and many of them became fabulously wealthy. Alone among Greek women they belonged to no one and could even own property. They went about in public as they pleased, even attending the theater and other venues forbidden to “virtuous” women. The services of the hetaerae were sought by kings, philosophers and poets.

Phryne became wealthy. She was so rich that she offered to rebuild the walls of Thebes. in 435 BC. Legend claimed that one the gods built the walls. Amphion moved blocks and stone with his music. A self-proclaimed god, Alexander the Great, destroyed the walls in 435 BC. Yet, somehow, an aging courtesan promised to rebuild them - without the help of Amphion, or other muses. She asked only that the walls  bear the inscription, “Destroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the Courtesan.” Afraid that a mortal woman could rebuild what gods had built, and what Alexander had destroyed, Phryne's offer was rejected by the town's patriarchs. The walls remained in ruin. However, Thebian manhood remained intact. 

Phryne Modeled for the famous
Aphrodite of Knidos, rendered by
Praxiteles, the Most Famous and
Esteemed Scupltor of Greek Culture.

           In Jerome'spainting, there is a small golden statue of Alexander the Great standing atop a piece of the broken wall. Obviously, it was part of Phryne’s legacy. The artwork suggested her trial was a result of Phryne’s impudent offer. Her lawyer, “Hypereides,” who is depicted in the artwork, was a famous orator who had been involved in revolts against Alexander's rule. Ultimately, the revolts failed, and he was condemned to death. Hypereides fled to Aegina where he was assassinated in a temple for Poseidon Greek, god of the seas. Poseiden himself may have been awed by Phryne.

However, the trial had nothing to do with the walls of Thebes. When Phryne’s trial began the famous Courtesan was in her mid-fifties. Thebes had been sacked years before. Alexander's savage attack against Thebes was a meant to be a lesson to all Greeks. His army slaughtered thousands of helpless citizens and destroyed every building, except for temples. It was an example of what would happen to anyone else who might challenge Alexander. When Phryne promised to rebuild the walls, her famous lawyer, Hypereides, was probably a fugitive.

Phryne's prosecution had probably been urged upon the Court by prominent citizens who resented her success and impropriety. Her conduct was provocative, if not insulting. At the very least, it was arrogant.
This Painting of Phryne at the Festival for Poseidon was painted
by Semiradski G.I 

Phryne shocked many by undressing among worshippers in a festival for Poseidon and walking naked into his sea. Greeks had no problems with male, or “heroic,” nudity, but female nudity was unacceptable then. Even Plato was chastised when he suggested that women should be allowed to exercise in the nude, as did men. 

Phryne must have known her stunt threatened the foundations of Greek society. It challenged the notion that women were intended to have no rights. Her scandalous conduct went unpunished by Poseiden, whose waves caressed her naked body.

Phryne's antics reminded Greeks of a famous legend. In it, Poseidon forced his godly self on a young maiden who had caught his eye while she was worshiping in the Temple of the goddess Athena. The male god suffered no retribution for desecrating Athena's holy temple. Instead, the maiden received the wrath of the gods. She was made so ugly that  anyone who gazed upon her turned to stone. Athena banished her to the Isle of Gorgon to live the remainder of her days in a dark, cold cave. Her long, flowing hair was transformed into a nest of venomous serpents. Centuries later, her name, "Medusa," is synonymous to hideousness. The message of the legend was that women had no rights. Their dignity was not entitled to protection. Phryne disproved the myth at Poseiden's festival.

As did Medusa, she attended a place of worship (a Festival). It was not in Athena's temple, but it was in Athens, her city. The famed courtesan bared her famously beautiful body and waded into the lecherous god's sea, separated from him only by his rolling, wet surf. Yet, Poseidon never appeared, much less ravaged the famous beauty. Phryne was not turned into a Gorgon, nor was she banished to a distant island. The infamous heterae could still brush hair her without being bitten, and no one turned to stone when they saw her (though some undoubtedly hardened). Phryne tempted the wrath of the gods and nothing happened. It was heresy, but it was an effective way to make Greece's chauvenist society appear impotent.

As a result, Phryne was prosecuted. One of the country's leading orators argued to the Judges that Phryne engaged in heresy; she undoubtedly knew her conduct was inappropriate and offensive, and that authorities would react (if the gods did  not). He argued that Phryne had used a religious ceremony for her own self-promotion. A sacred festival for Poseidon, or any other god, was not a proper forum for a heterae to advance her celebrity. His argument was forceful.

Although he was an esteemed Orator himself, Hypereides could find no words to defend his client. Phryne was doomed by the prejudice of the court. She was independent, proud, educated, outspoken, powerful and wealthy. Phryne was the diametric opposite of everything a “virtuous” Athenian woman was supposed to be. In some accounts, when the outcome of the trial appeared to be unfavorable, Hypereides disrobed Phryne in the court room, which is what the painting shows. In other accounts, Phryne uncloaked herself. In either event, it is reported that one of them then argued to the startled Judges:

“How could a festival in honor of the gods be desecrated by beauty which they themselves bestowed?”

The gambit succeeded. Some suggest it worked, because Ancient Greeks viewed physical beauty as a gift of Aphrodite. Since Phryne’s figure was so perfect, the judges had  to accept it as a sign of divine favor. Further, if the gods allowed her to go unpunished, unlike Medusa, then how could a mortal court do otherwise? Her judges were forced to acquit the famous courtesan.

The Nudity Defense Was Soon Outlawed
In another account, Phryne approached the Judges. She held the hands of each and pleaded tearfully. She explained that she undressed at the Festival and walked into the sea as an offering to Poseidon. Her actions were intended to honor him with beauty the gods bestowed upon her. Confronted with a choice of executing an impudent young woman, or disappointing others who were offended by her conduct, the Court chose to let her go. 

They may have had second thoughts later. For one thing, the nudity defense, which Phryne invented, wasn't well received when other Defendants tried it. It became a problem. Not everyone was blessed with divine beauty, so the Courts eventually banned it. The courtesan's impudence wasn’t curbed by the trial, either. If anything, the tribunal fueled her fire. Phryne was the model for a controversial statue of Aphrodites by the famous sculptor Praxiteles. That also raised a furor, not only because it was the first nude statue of a Goddess, but also because it cast the image of Aphrodite in the likeness of a heterae. Some suggested it questioned the goddess’s virtue. Praxiteles didin't care. He was inspired by the story of his model’s conduct at the Festival of Poseidon, as can be seen by his work.

The statue was very popular. The people of Cnidus placed it in their Temple for Aphrodite. It raised so much revenue from tourism that King Nicomedes offered to but it. Although he offered to pay off all of their foreign debt in return, they refused to sell. Eventually, the “Aphrodite of Cnidos,” as it was called, was lost or destroyed. However, scores of ancient copies survive.

The same could be said of Phryne herself. She died at age 60 in 430 BC. Her fame and likeness have lived onwards. Even today, the image of her undressed body stirs scandal. Some use the phrase, “Phryne Trial Syndrome” to criticize an innate tendency to accept as “right” what is seen, and more importantly what is seen as beautiful. One Biologist, Víctor de Lorenzo, wrote, “Every scientist has a favourite horror story in which a handsome image has led to a mistaken conclusion.” Even today, lessons of the "Trial of Phryne before the Areopagus" are debated.

The famous heterae is remembered by some as a rebel against repression disguised as piety. Contrary to the notion of “Phryne Trial Syndrome,” the young woman chose to do what she believed was right, not what others proclaimed was "right." That is her legacy. It is a lesson to be learned today.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


In today's society, a valid driver's license is a necessity. The State calls it a "privilege." Most jobs are more than 10 miles from an employees home. If you live in a large City, there may be public transportation available to you. Otherwise, it is a long walk, unless a co-worker can give you a lift.

Losing your driving privileges is serious. Driving with a suspended license is a class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by 120 days imprisonment. It also creates an additional suspension on your license. For the first offense, it is a one year suspension. There is a 2 year suspension for the second offense, and your license is permanently suspended for a third offense.

In North Carolina, limited privileges are available for a driver with a suspended license under very limited circumstances. Usually, none are available.

The trouble is that a driving privileges can be suspended for any one of dozens of reasons. Of course, serious offenses, such as DWI or Excessive Speeding can result in a suspension. Too many drivers license points can cause a revocation. Missing a court date can cause an indefinite suspension. Not paying a fine or court costs will do the same. Driving during a period of suspension can create further suspensions, even a permanent one. Your license may be suspended and you may not know it until you are stopped at a drivers license checkpoint.

If you are charged with Driving with a Suspended/Revoked License, contact our office. We not only defend you in Court, but we try to recover your license. It is not uncommon for our clients to leave court with the charges dismissed and a valid drivers license in hand. Mr. Dawson has been practicing law since 1982. He is well familiar with traffic law. He is versed in how suspensions are caused and how they may be recovered. Many attorneys believe that the only way to get their clients on the road legally again is through a DMV Hearing. Sometimes, that is the only recourse. However, Hearings take time and are not always available. What we do is address whatever caused the suspension. in some instances, we can erase a suspension by filing a Motion to strike a Failure to Appear, or a Failure to Pay Fine. 

Here is a free word of advice. Do not ask the DMV how to recover your license. They are not trained to do that. If you ask them how to get rid of an indefinite suspension, they may tell you to pay a ticket. That may cause several other suspensions, even a permanent one. They may tell you to wait and request a Hearing at a later date. So, you drive while your license is revoked until then. When you get to the Hearing, you have to swear under oath that you did not drive during your period of suspension, or else you are usually denied. If you get another ticket before the Hearing, you lose your chance at it, and your suspension is increased.

So act now. We can help you. Most Courts want to help you recover your license, so you can drive legally again with insurance. For more information, visit our website at:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Are You Shark Bait?

In many jokes, Lawyers are compared to sharks.

However, there are things far worse than lawyers, worse than dorsal finned monsters, and they walk on two legs. They are "shark baiters."

In the first week of December, 2010, five tourists were attacked by sharks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. One was killed, others maimed. Why? Aren't such attacks more unlikely than being struck by lightning?

Sharm el-Sheikh

The following report was printed in The Telegaraph. It suggests that the culprits were shark baiters:

Five attacks within six days culminated in the death of a 70-year-old German woman who was snorkelling close to the shore in Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt's tourism ministry called in experts and conservationists from abroad to investigate as speculation mounted as to what caused such an unusual spate of attacks, thought to be the work of at least one oceanic whitetip shark.
Elke Bojanowksi, a leading researcher on Red Sea sharks, admitted that the international team hastily put together to track the predators down was in possession of very few details.

"No one can honestly say whether it was one shark or more," she said. "We are trying to get more information on what happened and why it happened." But she acknowledged that tour guides who take tourists out to spot sharks have been known to throw offal overboard in order to lure the predators closer.

"It seems there could be links with illegal feeding and baiting," Ms Bojanowski added.

- January 19, 2011

The carcass of a sheep was found washed ashore near the resort. How does a sheep wind up in the Red Sea? Was it a tourist, too?

A growing number of shark attacks are attributed to "shark-baiting." It is the practice of attracting sharks to an area by feeding them chum. Sharks are attracted with fish heads, blood, and even live puppies and kittens. Below is a photo of a dog which had been rescued from a shark-baiter. A fishing line was run through the Golden retriever's snout

Why would anyone want to attract sharks? One reason is fishing. Another is tourism, Wealthy people, whom one critic called "rich douches," find it exciting to see live, powerful sharks up close and personal. In South Africa, Australia, and the Red Sea, it's common for rich tourists to pay local dive shots to take them to shark infested waters where they can see the beasts within the protection of a shark cage. Unfortunately, surfers and tourists playing in the same water aren't protected. They aren't even aware that hungry sharks have been baited to the area, and that the animals have been led by the baiters to associate people with food.

There is one area off San Francisco Bay called the "Red Triangle."It was named for bloody shark attacks. Approximately thirty-eight percent of recorded Great White Shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle - eleven percent of the worldwide total. Why" Could it be shark baiters? Bodega Marine Lab’s 20-foot workboat “The Cape Horn” has been used to lay bait for Great White sharks between Chimney Rock and Tomales Point on the “Ten-mile beach” side of the Point Reyes Seashore. The Lab claims  it is engaged in scientific research. The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz claims it baits sharks to tag them, but denies actually feeding them bait. They say their research will save the lives of sharks and humans.  19-year-old Lucas McKaine Ransom wasn't saved by it. He was killed by a shark off of nearby "Surf Beach" on October 22, 2010.

So, are you willing to go back into the water? Are you shark bait?