People in History Who Went to Great Lengths To Prove Themselves: De Aguilar, Gannibal, Lawrence of Arabia

Fareeha Arshad

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TE LawrenceWikimedia Commons

Success is selfish. It never comes easy. It wants to see you suffer, fail a million times, work harder than ever before you get a taste of it. If success were a person, it would get high on simply seeing you crawl out of your comfort zone on your four limbs with a missing shoe and tattered clothes. History bears witness that success happily handed itself to such people, who went to great lengths to prove themselves.

1. Jeronimo De Aguilar

Sometime in the sixteenth century, a Spanish ship was unexpectedly hit by a storm while on the hunt for slaves in the Caribbean. Because of the intensity of the downpour, the vessel couldn’t survive. However, the ship members were able to escape the drastic fate narrowly. They exited the broken ship on a small boat that took them towards the Yucatan coast.

After they finally stepped onto the unknown land, they thought they had found a temporary haven for themselves. The local Mayans, however, were not happy with the new faces. They imprisoned the Spanish crew members but treated them well. They provided the captain and his friends with great food and fed them until they fattened.

The Spanish realized much later that they were being fed to be eaten by the local Mayans. So, when the captain was being taken to be roasted alive, the other prisoners escaped saving their lives. But unfortunately, they couldn’t go very far and were taken prisoner by another group of locals who later enslaved them. Among these slaves, Jeronimo de Aguilar became very popular and respected among the Mayans.

Over the years, Aguilar earned the trust of the local people, remained a celibate, and became a priest. Though he was revered among the locals, Aguilar never truly settled him; his heart remained loyal to his home country, Spain. He finally escaped the land when Hernan Cortes had made his way to Yucatan to fight against the Aztecs.

Seeing the opportunity, Aguilar volunteered to become Cortes’s translator. However, the Spanish did not know the language of the Aztecs and were fluent only in the Mayan language. So instead, another youth Tabascun was given his position. Regardless, his efforts were recognized, and he was given property in Mexico, where he remained until his death. Aguilar eventually married and had two daughters despite his previous insistence on being a celibate.

2. Abram Petrovich Gannibal

During the early 1700s, a Russian envoy bought a young African slave to gift Peter the Great, who was immediately taken by the boy and took him as his adopted son. The Tsar named him Abram Petrovich Gannibal and took on himself to educate the young man.

Gannibal grew up studying Russian laws and ethics. Not much later, he started accompanying Peter on his military expeditions and campaigns. Eventually, the Tsar sent Gannibal to France for further education, where he served the French army and studied engineering and mathematics.

Because of the high military rank and impeccable education, Gannibal acquired over the years, he became a tutor to the heir of Peter the Great, Peter II. After the Tsar’s death, things started getting difficult at Gannibal’s end. People who were always jealous of the position he enjoyed, began taking out their frustration on him. They sent him to Siberia to stay away from Russian affairs.

Eventually, Gannibal returned and married the daughter of a Swedish army captain, Christina Regina von Schoberg. He then became the military engineer in Revel in the 1740s and was later promoted to the general of the army. By the time Gannibal died in 1781, he was one of the most respected figures in the Russian military.

3. Thomas Edward Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in 1888 and was very curious as a child. His love for medieval history and archaeology served as his motivation to know more about the buildings and sites around him. After graduating from the University of Oxford, Lawrence went to Palestine to study an archaeological dig, where he also brushed on his Arabic language skills. There, he completely immersed himself in the Arab culture and lifestyle.

When the first world war started, Lawrence left for Egypt as an intelligence officer. Then when the Emir of central Arabia began a revolt against the collapsing Ottoman Empire in 1916, Lawrence went to Arabia and won the trust of the ruler of the Hejaz region and was appointed as a liaison to Faisal, the commander in chief of the Arabs. Lawrence became very close to them within a short period and was also included in the important tribal meetings.

However, by this time, Lawrence was already aware of the secret pact between the British and the French known as the Sykes-Picot, according to which the Arabs would get independence from the Ottomans. Still, their scope would be only limited to the Arabian peninsula area. Because Lawrence was aware of this pact, his guilt started increasingly gnawing on him. So finally, he chose to betray the Britishers and told Faisal about the entire plan.

Together they headed towards Aqaba, where an Anglo-French assault was planned and helped the Arabs achieve their first major victory. In 1918, Lawrence fought harder for Arab independence, but France and the UK disagreed on a united Arab state. By 1922, he joined the Royal Air Force to live an anonymous life. He died in 1935 because of a motorcycle accident.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

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