QUESTION Did the Romans eat marshmallows?
The marshmallow was a treat enjoyed by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. However, it was very different from the fluffy, sugary confectionery we know today.
The ‘marsh mallows’ were in fact a plant, Althaea officinalis, indigenous to Europe and Asia. The Malvaceae or mallow family includes more than 4,000 species of herbs, shrubs and trees.
A. officinalis grows primarily in marshy wetlands. It has pinkish flowers, borne on stalks about 6ft tall. Hollyhock and hibiscus are well-known members of the mallow family.
The first marshmallows were made by boiling pieces of the root pulp with sugar until the mixture thickened. After it had done so, it was strained and cooled. As far back as 2000 BC, Egyptians combined the root with honey.
Althaea is the Greek word for ‘healer’ because the ancients considered every part of the plant to have medicinal qualities, as noted by Pliny the Elder.
Modern marshmallow confections were first made in France around 1850 and used the mallow root sap as a binding agent for the egg whites, corn syrup and water. But modern marshmallows do not feature A. Officinalis at all; they are a combination of egg whites, gelatine, caster sugar, glucose and vanilla.
Heather McGowan, Whitehaven, Cumbria.
QUESTION What is the longest time anyone has walked for in a single go?
In 1986, Georges Holtyzer, a native of Ghent, Belgium, entered Guinness World Records for ‘non-stop walking’.
He walked continuously around the industrial estate in the city of Ninove for six days, ten hours and 28 minutes. He covered 418.5 miles and stopped only for a maximum of two minutes every four hours to change his shoes and answer the call of nature.
In 1986, Georges Holtyzer, a native of Ghent, Belgium, entered Guinness World Records for ‘non-stop walking’. He walked continuously around the industrial estate in the city of Ninove for six days, ten hours and 28 minutes. He covered 418.5 miles and stopped only for a maximum of two minutes every four hours to change his shoes and answer the call of nature
Holtyzer had prepared for this with several ultra-walks, having walked twice from Ninove to Lourdes and once from the North Cape in Norway, mainland Europe’s northernmost point, to Rome, a trip of 75 days.
There have been greater distances covered over six days. For example, Yiannis Kouros, the Greek ultra-distance runner, twice ran 1,000km (621.5 miles) in under six days, but these were not ‘non-stop’. In 1988, he ran 1,000 miles (1,609km) in ten days, ten hours, 30 minutes and 36 seconds during the 1988 International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World Championship in New York City.
The greatest distance walked in 24 hours was the 142 miles 440 yards covered by Jesse Castaneda (USA) at Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1976.
The greatest single journey undertaken was that of Canadian small business owner Jean Béliveau. Between August 2000 and October 2011, he walked 46,600 miles through 64 countries. En route, he met Nelson Mandela in South Africa. His walk raised awareness for children who suffer from violence, to coincide with an United Nations initiative.
J. B. Pryce, Shrewsbury, Shrops.
QUESTION Did a mistranslation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works form the basis of Nazi philosophy?
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher whose writings reflected ideas of morality, religion and science. He was renowned for his concept of the ‘will to power’, which emphasised the fundamental drive for individuals to assert their power and dominance in the world.
He critiqued traditional morality, particularly Christian ethics, advocating a higher, more authentic form of human existence which he termed the ‘Ubermensch’ or ‘Superman’.
Such concepts were manipulated by the Nazis to justify their racial hierarchy and the idea of a superior Aryan race.
Shortly before he had a mental breakdown, Nietzsche feared his ideas would be seized upon by ‘bad actors’ and was justifiably concerned about the influence of his sister Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche and brother-in-law Ludwig Forster.
Elisabeth (1846-1935) significantly manipulated and promoted her brother’s works to fit with her own anti-Semitic and nationalistic beliefs.
Along with her husband Ludwig, she founded a utopian ‘Aryan’ colony in the Paraguayan jungle called Nueva Germania in 1887. It was a disaster; her husband committed suicide in 1889 and Forster-Nietzsche returned to Germany.
Despite Nietzsche’s mental and physical frailty, his published writings were beginning to be read and discussed throughout Europe. By 1893, Forster-Nietzsche had taken firm control of the Nietzsche Archive, publishing a collection of Nietzsche’s fragments entitled The Will To Power. She also began selectively editing his works, often in ways that distorted his original ideas.
The extent of her falsehoods has only recently been revealed. Of a collection of 505 of her brother’s letters that Forster-Nietzsche published in 1909, just 60 were the original versions and 32 of them were entirely made up.
She deliberately censored his condemnation of anti-Semitism: ‘The anti-Semites cannot forgive the Jews for the fact that they have ‘spirit’.’
When Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nietzsche Archive received financial support and publicity from the Nazis, and Forster-Nietzsche’s funeral in 1935 was attended by Hitler and several high-ranking German officials. The Nazis left a stain on Nietzsche’s reputation that may never be fully repudiated.
Alan Gould, Stow-on-the-Wold, Glos.
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