English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

A to Z Index

The Restoration of the Icons
two-part story
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
By the early eighth century, sacred art was thriving in newly-Christian England, but in the East seeds of doubt and confusion had been sown.

WHEN St Augustine preached Christianity to King Ethelbert of Kent in 597, he carried a silver cross and a painted icon of Christ. A century later, icons were putting a human face to the spoken word up in Bede’s Northumbria, from church walls to the pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels.

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St Mary of Egypt
two-part story
Music: John Marsh
Back in the 6th century, a young woman was ruining her own life and the lives of others.

WHEN she was twelve Mary ran away from home, and became a sexual thrill-seeker so compulsive that she lived for seventeen years as a prostitute without payment, just to get her ‘fix’.

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St Nicholas of the Cats
Music: Felix Mendelssohn
A very unusual monastery with some very unusual protectors.
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition

THE monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats was founded on Cyprus by St Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, in the 4th century.

But the site on the Akrotiri peninsula was infested with venomous snakes, so much so that the local residents began to leave.

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Welcome to Micklegarth
Music: John Field
After the Norman Conquest, thousands of worried Englishmen departed for a new life in the Byzantine world.

AFTER the Norman conquest of 1066, hopes that Sweyn II of Denmark might invade (many in England were of Scandinavian stock) came to nothing when King William bought him off. So several dispossessed English earls assembled a fleet of two or three hundred ships, and left home for ever.

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4
The Keeper of the Gate
Music: Elias Parish Alvars
A widow cast her precious icon into the sea rather than see it dishonoured by government agents, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition

A WEALTHY widow from Nicaea near Constantinople kept an icon of Mary, a criminal offence at the time. Rather than see it harmed again - a soldier’s sword had already left a scar on its cheek - she set it afloat on the Aegean Sea.

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The Spear of St Mercurius
two-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel
Roman Emperor Julian was ready to destroy an entire Christian community over his wounded pride.
Based on a sermon by
Elfric of Eynsham

ON his way to Persia to do battle, the Emperor Julian ran into Basil, Bishop of Caesarea. They had been at the same Christian school, and Basil, after offering him some bread, joked that he had benefited rather more from their education than Julian, who was now a pagan.

To Basil’s amazement, Julian was furious.

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Our Lady’s Mantle
two-part story
Music: Francesco Geminiani
Shortly after Askold and Dir founded Kiev in 862, they launched a brazen but ill-fated assault on the capital of the Roman Empire.

IN 988, Vladimir the Great, Prince of Kiev, converted to Christianity after receiving exuberant reports of the beauty of worship in Constantinople. A century earlier, however, Kiev’s pagan founders, Askold and Dir, had thought quite differently, crossing the Black Sea to lay siege to the Imperial capital while its Emperor, Michael III, was away dealing with an Arab assault on the eastern border.

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All Posts
Tagged Roman Empire (Byzantine Era) (17 posts)
page 1
1 The Restoration of the Icons
By the early eighth century, sacred art was thriving in newly-Christian England, but in the East seeds of doubt and confusion had been sown.
2 ‘Filioque’
It started as an honest mistake, became a diplomatic standoff, and brought down an Empire.
3 The Voice of an Angel
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition
A tenth-century Greek monk is joined by a total stranger for Mattins.
4 Bede and the Paschal Controversy
The earliest Christians longed to celebrate the resurrection together at Passover, but that was not as easy as it sounds.
5 Our Lady’s Mantle
Shortly after Askold and Dir founded Kiev in 862, they launched a brazen but ill-fated assault on the capital of the Roman Empire.
6 St Helen Finds the True Cross
Based on ‘Elene’ by Cynewulf
(8th century)
The mother of the Roman Emperor goes to Jerusalem on a quest close to her heart.
page 2
7 The Spear of St Mercurius
Based on a sermon by
Elfric of Eynsham
Roman Emperor Julian was ready to destroy an entire Christian community over his wounded pride.
8 Stick and Carrot
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition
The Virgin Mary and her son team up to get the best out of some careless monks.
9 The Fall of Constantinople
Hospitality and sympathy, but no help - the Byzantine Emperor learns a bitter lesson about western diplomacy.
10 St Mary of Egypt
Back in the 6th century, a young woman was ruining her own life and the lives of others.
11 Welcome to Micklegarth
After the Norman Conquest, thousands of worried Englishmen departed for a new life in the Byzantine world.
12 The Miracle of St John of the Caves
The story of an unexpected escape through the heart of a hill.
page 3
13 St John of Damascus
John’s enduring influence is evident today in the rich sights and sounds of Christian liturgy.
14 St Nicholas of the Cats
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition
A very unusual monastery with some very unusual protectors.
15 Cyril and Hypatia
A ‘Christian’ mob kidnapped and murdered a much-loved professor of mathematics - for her politics.
16 The Keeper of the Gate
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition
A widow cast her precious icon into the sea rather than see it dishonoured by government agents, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
17 A Battle of Wills
Based on ‘A Book of Golden Deeds’ by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
Two strong and determined men refused to back down.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Adjectives

By Ethel Smyth
(1858-1944)
Composer Ethel Smyth buys a new-fangled ladies’ bicycle, and scandalises the neighbours.
By Lewis Carroll
(1832-1898)
Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, and it turns out that she has been using words wrong all her life.
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Drink’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Do you know ‘glittering crown’ (6 letters), and ‘dark and gloomy’ (5 letters)?
Do you know ‘perceptive’ (5 letters), and ‘English artist’ (3 letters)?
An arithmetical puzzle based on the popular TV show.
Do you know ‘plaything’ (3 letters), and ‘a river in South Wales’ (3 letters)?
Do you know ‘raised stitching on a cricket ball’ (4 letters), and ‘a 1901 Kipling novel’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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History (375)
Fiction (81)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

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numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Maths Gym Mental arithmetic