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In the Land of the Blind the One Eyed Man is King

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By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1014 A.D., the course of human relations and communications took yet one more step – in the wrong direction.

The war between Byzantium and Bulgaria was drawing to a close. The Byzantine Emperor (Basil II in your program) was not just ahead on points; he had won hands down in the slaughtering and pillaging categories. Just two days ago, he had overrun the forces of Bulgaria’s Czar Samuel (Sam the Inept) and captured 15,000 prisoners. Now came the dilemma. Basil pondered how he could use the victory to warn Czar Sam out of further adventures and also intimidate some neighbors upon whose harbors Basil cast covetous eyes.

Some advisors suggested killing all the captives. (Too easy! Done before!!) One or two suggested releasing the captives. (The rarely used mercy ploy!) Basil rejected them all. He wanted to really send a message. And he sent a lulu.

On this day (-1), he had his men gather the 15,000 prisoners and put out both the eyes of each man. Well let me correct that. Realizing that 15,000 totally blind guys might have a tough time getting home, Basil ordered that every 100th man should lose only one eye so that he could assist in leading the others back to Bulgaria. Basil assumed that once home, these 150 “one-eyed men” would help in telling the tale of the punishment and the horrible journey back, and the totally blind would be a burden and a fearsome reminder to their nation and their Czar.

Despite bad weather, bad terrain and bad directions, many of the captives actually made it home. And their tale of terror and woe was so fierce that the story lives on for a thousand years in legend and folk saying – Did you ever hear that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king? And if you have any doubts you could look it up….but don’t look under Basil the Good or Basil the Great or…even Basil the Sauce.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art’s posts simply click on “Cashin’s Comments” in the label section on the sidebar.

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