Famous Brothers Throughout Time
WORLD HISTORY | April 24, 2019
Cain and Abel make offerings. Genesis cap 4 vv 3-7. De Vos. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)
The bond of brotherhood is strong, but sometimes the intensity of sibling rivalry can be just as strong. History is filled with brothers whose interactions had lasting results, not only on their own lives but on the lives of those around them. In some cases, they came together for good; others were more nefarious. But, in all cases, they will not soon be forgotten.
Cain and Abel
In the Bible, Cain, and Abel, the eldest sons of Adam and Eve, are the first brothers. Consequently, they are also the first example of sibling rivalry gone too far. Cain was a farmer and Abel, a shepherd. Both brothers brought offerings before God: Abel brought the firstborn of his flock while Cain brought crops from his harvest. After God favored Abel’s offering over Cain’s, Cain killed Abel in a fit of jealousy, committing the first murder. His punishment was an exile, but God gave him a mark of protection to prevent him from being murdered himself.
Jacob and Esau
The first set of twins mentioned in the Bible (though it is argued by some that Cain and Abel were twins), Jacob and Esau also had a bit of a rivalry. Before they were even born, God told their mother, Rebekah, that she would give birth to two sons, representing two nations, and that one would be stronger than the other. When they were born, it seemed as if the extremely hairy Esau would be the stronger of the two as he came out first with the smooth-skinned Jacob grasping his heel. And that certainly seemed to be the case as Esau grew into a mighty hunter while Jacob kept to the house.
But Jacob was clever, convincing his brother to trade his birthright for a bowl of soup. Of course, these were just idle promises made in a moment of hunger. But as their father Isaac lay on his deathbed, old and blind, Jacob, with the help of his mother, disguised himself so that he felt and smelled like Esau and went before his father to receive the elder son’s blessing. Once the blessing was given, it could not be rescinded; however, Jacob fled to avoid retribution from his brother. Having received God’s covenant as part of the blessing, Jacob went on to become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Newton Boys
Fast forward to the early 20th century and a gang of brothers known as the Newton Boys. The gang consisted of four biological brothers - Willis, Joe, Jess, and Wylie (Doc) - with the last name Newton. Willis Newton, along with his brothers and various other criminals, robbed over eighty banks and six trains during his lifetime. All four brothers were participants in the robbery of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul mail train in Rondout, Illinois, on June 12, 1924, during which $3 million was stolen. It was the biggest train robbery in United States history. It was also the offense which led to their eventual capture. They received relatively light sentences, with Doc serving the most time, six years, due to the fact that he had previously been incarcerated and escaped. Unlike most notorious bank robbers, the Newton brothers lived long enough to die of old age.
The Menendez Brothers
The Newton Boys might have been criminals, but they never killed anyone - though one of their non-related gang members did manage to shoot Doc during the infamous train robbery. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Lyle and Erik Menendez of Beverly Hills, California. On August 20, 1989, the two brothers gunned down their parents in their family home before disposing of their weapons and buying movies tickets to create an alibi. They returned home later and called 911. The brothers were not under suspicion until Erik confessed to his psychotherapist, Dr. L. Jerome Oziel, whose mistress went to the police with tapes of the confession. Both brother’s first trials, during which they claimed sexual abuse and self-defense as their motives, ended in mistrials; however, the brothers were convicted during the retrial and in March 1996, they were sentenced to life in prison.
The Grimm Brothers
Unlike other famous brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm reserved the violence for the page. Jakob was born on January 4, 1785, and Wilhelm, the following year on February 24. They spent almost their entire lives together, attending school in Kassel, Germany before going on to study law at the University of Marburg. However, it was folklore that really interested the brothers. They transcribed stories passed down orally and published them as a collection of tales. While they spent their final years compiling a complete dictionary of the German language which would not be completed until nearly one hundred years after their deaths, today the Grimm brothers are best known as the authors of the dark fairy tales that inspired several Disney movies.
The Wright Brothers
While there are many famous brothers in history, very few of them could boast life-changing achievements. However, Wilbur and Orville Wright are among those few. On December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they successful flew the first “heavier-than-air, power-controlled” airplane. Their flight lasted a mere twelve seconds but it was enough to prove the concept. Today the Wright Brothers are known as the fathers of aviation.
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