A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On This Day in History

The estmable Dr. Boli tells us that...

On this day in 627, the Roman Empire in the East finally broke the power of the Persian Empire after more than seven centuries of nearly constant conflict—the longest, and therefore most profitable, war in human history. It was the greatest triumph of the Roman Empire, and it lasted for about half an hour, after which the Caliphate obliterated Persia and reduced the Roman Empire to a state about the size of Delaware.


  1. Well, there was a war between the Byzantines and the Sasanid Persians in the early seventh century. And the Caliphate did obliterate Persia. Dr. Boli has got that much right.

    There were not seven centuries of ‘nearly constant conflict’. There was a long and uneasy peace, beginning in the 1st century B.C. when the expanding Roman Republic came into contact with the Kingdom of the Parthians along the line of the upper Euphrates. This peace was punctuated, as relations between neighbouring powers are wont to do, by several sharp and nasty wars. None of these wars were profitable for the participants; the expense of patrolling their mutual frontier was a constant and heavy burden on the treasuries of both empires. The last of these wars did not end on this day in 627, or on any day in 627, but in the following year. The eventual defeat of Persia was not ‘the greatest triumph of the Roman Empire’ – that distinction belongs to Trajan’s conquest of Parthia, which actually reduced the kingdom to a Roman client state until Hadrian restored the status quo ante. The peace following the Byzantine-Sasanid war did not last ‘about half an hour’, but eight years, before the incursions by Arab raiders newly converted to Islam turned into an all-out invasion at the Battle of the Yarmuk. And the surviving portion of the Roman Empire was not ‘a state about the size of Delaware’, unless Delaware (2,489 sq. mi.) has recently had its boundaries redrawn to be about the size of Turkey (302,535 sq. mi.). (Byzantium did not control all of modern-day Turkey, but in compensation, it held portions of Greece, the Balkans, southern Italy, and the Mediterranean islands, even at its low ebb c. 800. AD.)

    Other than these quibbling details (i.e. nine-tenths of the history), he certainly seems to have two of his facts right.

    1. Comic hyperbole is an acquired taste. For 9 December, he featured:
      On this day in 480, Odoacer occupied Dalmatia, having defeated an army of spotted white dogs.
      And "Civilization destroys civilization" is a classic.

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    3. The spotted white dogs thing is not comic hyperbole, it's a pun. It's also much more successful.

  2. (Sigh...) Literalists.

    Biblical creationists. Dogmatic atheists. Alanis Morissette critics:

    The epidemic over-emphasis on literalism dashes poetry and humor upon the rocks. [NB: No actual rocks were hurt in this metaphor.]



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