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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Deus vult! Part I: The Preludes

"But before we become too certain of our rectitude and complacent about how far our society has advanced, we should remember that secular ideological violence -- "ethical" in the sense that it is employed on behalf of a religious or cultural or even pseudoscientific ideal that is considered by its adherents to be of universal importance -- has manifested itself recently in wars waged in the names of imperialism, nationalism, Marxism, fascism, anticolonialism, humanitarianism, and even liberal democracy."
-- Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam

The Stage Setting

Map from The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History: Trade Routes and Towns
The World of Late Antiquity was in serious decline. Global warming, with its longer growing seasons and more expansive agriculture, had ended and global cooling had set in. The bubonic plague had, well, plagued the Empire. Population had dropped 20% and cultivated land had contracted, esp. in North Africa, Rome's breadbasket after the wheat of Egypt had been diverted to Constantinople by the New World Order. Town life in Western Europe had virtually ceased even before the Germans crossed the frozen Rhine on the last day of AD 406.

The Empire itself was being called Romania by folks sensing that they were now all in the same lifeboat together. The Gauls had finally given up Gallic for Latin, and the Iberians likewise, though both spoke it with funny accents. Case endings were no longer being pronounced, though they were still being meticulously spelled. (Though odd spelling mistakes are creeping in as the new semi-literate elites have begun spelling things they way they sound.) The Latin demonstrative ille has been clipped to become il or le or even el in different dialects and the definite article has appeared as if by magic.

The Empire is a large agribusiness with luxury goods coming in from the east and bulk commodities circulating on the Mediterranean, the backbone and center of the classical world. Anyone much more than a day's cart ride from the sea coast is S.O.L. bulk shipment-wise, save for what can be raised locally. The grain grown in Egypt and Africa is destined for the welfare lines in the great cities. The peasants in the provinces live in poverty and oppression, and many have been placing themselves under the protection of local counts or (in the West) barbarian barons. (Outside the Empire, in Ireland, it is different: the farms are smaller, the peasants are independent, and they are well-armed.)

North of the Alps, the city lamps have gone out, but there are still four sizable metropolises around the Mediterranean, though only Constantinople is still growing. None of them exceed 125,000 people. Rome itself is only a shadow of its old imperial glory. Anybody who is anybody is headed for Constantinople to kiss imperial butt.

At the time of the map, all the territory shown in the map is Christian of one sort or another except for the North, where the Scandinavians, Saxons, Lombards, Slavs, etc. remain pagan, and the East, where the Persians practice Zoroastrianism. The Arabian peninsula is a mixture of pagans, Jews, and Christians; and there are additional Christians off the map in Ethiopia (Axum), India (Malabar Coast), and in Central Asia.

There are also Jews ruling Yemen, in the city-state of Yathrib (now Medina), and in the empire of the nomadic Khazars north of the Caucasus. Also, as agriculture contracts with the cooling climate, the pagan Berbers of the Sahara have begun raiding the Christian Berbers of the coast.

The Patriarchs

As the Church had grown, so had the need for some sort of organization.  Each of the four metropolises has become the seat of a Patriarch of the Church and under each is a set of local bishops. The idea is to keep the beliefs reasonably uniform. This network parallels roughly the organization of the Empire in which the Church found herself.Or did until trans-alpine Europe began to deflate.

1. First in dignity is Rome, the See of St. Peter, which has administrative authority over all the West, including North Africa as far as Tripolitania (Tunisia) and northern Europe as far as anyone dares go a-calling. About a hundred years before the map, Patrick chased snakes out of Ireland, and about a hundred years after it, Boniface will cut down the Donar Oak in Hesse. The bishop of Rome, who started calling himself "Pope" about a hundred and fifty years before the map, has a collegial doctrinal authority over the whole church. That is, when the others cannot agree on a troublesome matter, they would appeal to Rome.
2. Second in dignity is Alexandria, the See of St. Mark, whose Patriarch is also called "Pope", and who has administrative authority over All Africa east of the Libyan desert and south into Nubia and Ethiopia. It is a raucous and rowdy city, given since ancient times to frequent rioting over even the election of a patriarch.

3. Third, but disputing precedence with Alexandria from the get-go, is Antioch, the city where folks were first called "Christians." This See, too, was founded by Peter. It has authority over "all the East," including lands under Persian rule, on the Malabar coast of India, and even in China. Antioch is at the end of the Silk Road and the Spice Route and is known even to the Chinese (who call it Tai Ch'in (Daqin)). [The term actually refers to the whole Roman Empire, but the Chinese only knew it as the terminus of the Silk Road.]

Constantinople, with the Land Walls in the background
4. Finally, the bishop of Constantinople, the See of St. Andrew, has recently been raised by the Council of Chalcedon to the status of Patriarch over the objections of Antioch and Alexandria. But it's hard to say no when one of your parishioners is the Emperor of the Whole Freaking World. Well, of what is still being called the Roman Empire. This gives the Ecumenical Patriarch considerable throw-weight of metal, especially when that metal is carried by Gen. Belisarius and Gen. Narses who, shortly after the time of the map will bring all the cities shown (except the Persian ones) back into the "Roman" embrace. They will even bring in some of the uncitied regions: the remainder of North Africa, the southern third of Spain.

5. A fifth Patriarch, Jerusalem, the See of St. James, administers three provinces in Palestine; but this position is mostly honorary as being the Mother Church. Jerusalem at the time is nowheresville and was given the honor at the council of Chalcedon. Jews had been forbidden to live in Jerusalem by the pagan Romans after the failed revolt of Bar Kockba. This really frosted them and they are eager to return from Arabia and Persia.

Ctesiphon, what's left of it
6. Outside the system, a sixth patriarch is the Patriarch of Ctesiphon, in Iraq, near what is now Baghdad, and was then part of the Persian Empire. This is the center of the Ancient Church of the East and is not in communion with any of the other Patriarchal Sees. It achieved its status by being outside Roman control. The Nestorians expelled by the Empire after the Council of Ephesus had gone there. Their descendants are the Assyrian Christians currently being massacred and expelled by ISIS.

But all is not beer and skittles. (Except maybe in German lands, where there is at least beer. Come to think of it, they may also have played an early form of skittles. Who knows?)

Vandals behaving badly. Why are football teams named Vikings
and Pirates, but not Vandals and Visigoths?
Rome, away off in the mostly-rural West has her own problems. The Eternal City has proven not so eternal. She had been sacked (almost reverently) by Alaric's Visigoths (410) demanding their back pay as foederati, then by the Vandals (455) (who thereby gave us "vandalism"), and will shortly be besieged and wasted in the upcoming 10 Years War between Byzantium and the Ostrogothic kingdom shortly after the time of the above map. The Ostrogoths are trying to keep up appearances for the sake of the kids, but otherwise the Western Patriarchate consists of a gaggle of Germanic warlords, and their spiritual shepherd is more like a border collie. The situation around map-time is roughly this:

Clovis united the Franks into a single nation, and converted to Catholicism a generation or two before the map. But the Frankish custom of dividing the inheritance among all surviving male heirs means a) unified kingdoms split up in the next generation and b) the next generation starts killing one another. The Visigoths in Spain are about to switch from Arian to Catholic ca. 589, but the Ostrogoths in Italy will remain stubbornly Arian until the Byzantines arrive, kick their butts, and snuff out the lights in Rome.

Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria
is a saint in the Coptic Church
But the truly fatal flaws are in  the East, where religious tumult brews over Christological matters that seem rather obscure to Moderns. A succession of heresies -- Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and others in between -- have inflamed passions. Somehow.

In overreaction to Nestorianism, there had been a swing to the opposite extreme of Monophysitism. So a Council had been called at Chalcedon in 451 to settle things. This Council declared that Monophysites had cooties and deposed Patriarch Dioscorus from the See of Alexandria, installing Proterius in his place.

Pope Proterius of Alexandria is a
saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church
The non-Chalcedonians in Alexandria took offense at the deposition of Dioscorus and thought the pro-Chalcedonians looked too much like neo-Nestorians. In time-honored Alexandrian fashion, they settled the debate by mob violence. A mob attacked Proterius in the cathedral baptistery during Holy Week, dragged him through the streets behind a chariot, dismembered him, and burned his body, thus showing their displeasure in that very special Alexandrian way (cf. Arian Bishop George (361), philosopher Hypatia (415), and Prefect Callistus (422)). Thus began the line of Coptic Popes of Alexandria. Most of the Egyptians went with the non-Chalcedonians so this represents the majority, but an official (Chalcedonian/Orthodox) Patriarch continued to administer the church in the name of the emperor, and persecute the Copts, who began to look around for someone, anyone to liberate them from Greek oppression. The irony is that the non-Chalcedonians were not really Monophysites. The real problem was that the Greeks were in freaking charge and did not want anyone to forget it.

The situation in Antioch was similar, but instead of killing the Orthodox patriarch, the Syrians simply continued to recognize the deposed heretical one and after AD 518 Antioch wound up permanently with two Patriarchs. Again, much of this was rooted in Syrian resentment against heavy-handed Greek rule. Ironically, both the Egyptians and the Syrians also regarded genuine Monophysites as heretics and preferred to call themselves Miaphysites.
From our distant perspective, much of the problem seems to have stemmed from the difficulty of translating Greek philosophical terms into Syriac and Coptic. These were not only different languages, but were from different language families! Concepts that were distinct in Greek overlapped in Syriac. Discussions in 1984 between St. John Paul II and Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, the Patriarch of the Syriac Church, concluded the whole thing was a matter of "differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter."

In 525, shortly before the above map and off its southeast border, Dhu Nuwas, a pagan Yemeni convert to Judaism rebelled against the Ethiopian garrison and attempted to forcibly convert the Christian Arabs of Najran, throwing those who refused into a burning ditch. Survivors who escaped to Ethiopia secured a punitive expedition from Axum, which crossed into the Yemen and kicked Yemeni butt. The story of the Martyrs of Najran spread all over the Middle East.
The Relevant World in AD 600, on the Eve of the Byzanto-Sassanid Was
Last but not least, a new round (602-628) of the neverending war between the occupier of the Iranian Plateau and the occupier of the Anatolian Plateau -- a war that goes back to Achaemenid Persia vs. Lydia -- was being played out between the Sassanids and the Byzantines. The Persian Sassanids take advantage of a Roman Civil war, which we won't Phocas on, and invade Anatolia, Syria, and even Egypt. Woo-hoo. It's Cyrus the Great reborn! The Persians bring a force of Jews along with them and restore them to Jerusalem. Even more shades of Cyrus! The Jews then proceed to slaughter all the Christians in town. Bad tactical move.

The Persians think this is going a little too far and begin to suppress the Jews, who respond WTF? Fun and games in the early 7th century. Heraclius, the governor of Africa, overthrows Phocas and after a penalty flag for offsides, throws long and goes straight for the Persian heartland. The shah pulls all his troops out of the Empire to block him and gets himself assassinated by his brother, who sues for peace. He's like, Dude, what were you thinking?

Jerusalem is now back under Christian rule. The Jews are like uh-oh.

Shah and Emperor look around and realize that nearly thirty years of continuous war has seriously depleted their military resources. Oh well. We'll just take some time to patch things up and rebuild.

But they would not have time, because....

It's Jihad Time!

The Prelim Bouts

Before we get into the Crusades, we have to review the context. Here is the context. (Events not directly affecting Europe are in italics. Those representing counterattacks (i.e., not simply battlefield victories) are in boldface.)

634-651 Muslims conquer Persian Empire (incl. Iraq); extirpate Zoroastrianism. 

634. Muslims take Damascus from the Byzantines.
636. Muslims defeat the Byzantines at Yarmuq.
637. Muslims take Aleppo from the Christians.They go on to take all of Syria-Palestine from the Christians (the Patriarchate of Antioch). Following the Siege of Caesarea, they slaughter all men, women, and children. The Patriarch of Jerusalem welcomes the muslims as liberators, and there is no sack.
642 Muslims take Egypt from the Christians (the Patriarchate of Alexandria). The Egyptians have been waiting for someone to liberate them from Greek rule and have not yet learned about frying pans and fires. So what is this dhimmi tax thing? Some Byzantine forces retreat upstream and harrass the Arabs for a few years. Byzantine naval expeditions harass the coast.
642 Muslims overrun Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (modern Libya).
649 Muslims raid Cyprus, sack the capital, Salamis-Constantia.
650 Muslims raid Sardinia.
652 Muslims from Tunisia raid Sicily.
653 Muslims from Syria raid Rhodes and take the remaining pieces of the Colossus back to Syria to be sold as scrap metal. Similar treatment is often meted out to pagan relics to this day.
654. Muslims conquer Cyprus from the Christians.
667 Sicily is raided again.
668-675. First siege of Constantinople. Byzantines ward off the Muslims with Greek fire.
669. Muslims conquer Morocco from the Christians;  convert the Christian Moors to Islam.
698. Muslims capture Carthage.
672. Muslims conquer Rhodes from the Christians.
674. Muslims reach the Indus river.
677. Muslim fleet against Constantinople turned back by Greek fire.
688. Muslims and Byzantine agree to a Co-Dominium on Cyprus (which in a sense continues to this day).
700. Muslims raid the island of Sicily.
705. Muslims raid the island of Sardinia.
711. Newly-converted Berber muslims cross into Spain at the invitation of the losers in a Visigothic dynastic squabble. But after killing King Roderic, they refuse to turn the kingdom over to the heirs of would-be-king Witica. Bummer.
716. Muslims take Lisbon from the Christians. 
717-718. Second Siege of Constantinople by mulsims fails.
718. Nearly all of Iberia is under muslim control.
719: Muslims attack Septimania in southern France and establish themselves in the Languedoc, later the center of the Cathar heresy.
720. Muslims raid Sicily. Again.
721. Muslims cross the Pyrenees and take Narbonne, but are defeated by the Franks near Toulouse. and forced back into Spain.
722. Pelayo, a Visigoth noble who had been elected the first King of the Asturias, defeats a Muslim army at Alcama near Covadonga. This is generally regarded as the first real Christian victory over the Muslims in the Reconquista.
724. Muslims raid southern France and capture the cities of Carcassone and Nimes. Primary targets in these and other raids are churches and monasteries where the Muslims take away holy objects and enslave or kill all the clerics.
725. Muslim forces occupy Nimes.
730. Muslim forces occupy Narbonne and Avignon.
732. Battle of Tours: Charles (the Hammer) Martel halts a Muslim force of around 40,000 to 60,000 cavalry under Abd el-Rahman Al Ghafiqi from moving farther into Europe. Many regard this battle as being decisive in that it saved Europe from Muslim control. Muslims regard it as a minor border skirmish, but that might be because they lost.
735. Muslim invaders capture the city of Arles.
737. Childebrand, brother of Charles Martel, drives the muslims out of Avignon and goes on to recapture Narbonne, Beziers, Montpellier, and Nimes in the following years.
(Note: By this time, Rome had dwindled to a few villages in a vast rubble field. Where Augustus had once fed a city of 200,000, the Pope was hard-pressed to feed a hundred. There were no more sizeable cities in the West and with the loss of the granaries of Egypt, the population of Constantinople began to dwindle. The opening of the Black Sea trade routes with the Khazars was crucial. The Mediterranean was no longer the highway of trade, but a barrier across which muslim raiders harried Europe. "The Christians cannot float a plank on the inland sea," the historian ibn Khaldun will boast.)
739. Childebrand captures Marseille, one of the largest French cities still in muslim hands.
751. Muslims, having completed the conquest of the outlying provinces of Persia defeat the Chinese and take Central Asia from them; they extirpate Buddhism in the region.
756. Taking advantage of the Umayyad civil war in Spain, the Asturias found the kingdom of Galicia in northwest Iberia.
761. Muslims conquer Tabaristan on the Caspian coast, the last Persian hold-outs.
770s. Pepin III drives the muslims from Septimania.
792. The Emir of Cordova calls for jihad against the infidels in Andalusia and France. Tens of thousands from as far away as Syria heed his call and cross the Pyrenees to subjugate France. Cities like Narbonne are destroyed, but the invasion is ultimately halted at Carcassone.
798. Muslims from Spain conquer Ibiza
810. Muslims conquer Corsica from the Christians.
813. Muslims attack the Civi Vecchia near Rome.
813. Muslims raid Nice.
823. Muslims from Spain conquer Crete.
827. Muslims from Tunisia invade Sicily, initially aided by a rebel Byzantine general. 75 years of hard fighting ensues.
832. Muslims conquer Palermo from the Christians.
838. Muslim raiders sack Marseilles.
841. Muslim forces capture Taranto and Bari, principle Byzantine base in southeastern Italy, as well as Brindisi.
843. Muslims raid Rome. 
846. Muslim raiders sail a fleet of ships from Africa up the Tiber river and attack outlying areas around Ostia and Rome. Some manage to enter Rome and damage the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul, demanding a yearly tribute of 25,000 silver coins.
847. Muslims seize Bari on the heel of Italy and use it as a base for further raids. 
849. Battle of Ostia. Aghlabids send a fleet of ships from Sardinia to attack Rome. As the fleet prepares to land troops, the combination of a large storm and an alliance of Christian forces destroy the Muslims ships.
843. Muslims take Messina on Sicily from the Christians.
850. Christians retake Corsica.
858. Muslim raiders attack Constantinople. Again.
859. Muslim invaders capture Castrogiovanni (Enna) on Sicily, slaughtering several thousand inhabitants.
859. Muslims raid Nice.
868-870. Muslims occupy Ragusa. 
869. Muslims capture the island of Malta from the Christians.
870. After a month-long siege, muslims take Syracuse on Sicily from the Christians.
871. Frankish forces retake Bari.
876. Muslims pillage the Campagna in Italy.
880. The Byzantines recapture lands occupied by Arabs in mainland Italy.
880. Muslims raid Nice.
884. Muslims burn the monastery of Monte Cassino to the ground.
885. The Caliph grants autonomy to the Christian kingdom of Armenia and (in 888) Caucasian Iberia as counterweights to a rebellious emir in Azerbaijan. The Caucasus goes to hell in a handbasket.
888. Muslims set up castles in Fraxinet, Provence, and raid along coast and inner France
902. Muslims take Taomina on Sicily.
911. Muslims control all the passes in the Alps between France and Italy, cutting off passage between the two countries.
916. A combined Byzantine and German force and the Italian city-states defeat muslim invaders at Garigliano.
918. Muslims raid Reggio Calabria.
920. Muslims cross the Pyrenees, enter Gascony, and reach as far as the gates of Toulouse.
During this period the Umayyads of Spain lead regular raids into the Christian north of Spain and conquer the islands of Majorca and Minorca, the Fatimids of Tunisia ravage the Italian coast, and both give Corsica (officially part of the Kingdom of Italy) and Sardinia (technically part of the Byzantine Empire, but who knew) a bad time. The bolder rievers set up bases ashore. One on the Italian foot lasts 25 years before a combined force of the Pope, the Duke of Spoleto, and the Byzantine fleet eradicate it. Another, on the Provençal coast above St. Tropez, endures for the better part of a century.
930. Muslims conquer Corsica. Again.
934. Muslims sack Genoa. Region depopulated.
935. Muslims take La Spezia from the Christians.
939. Reconquista: Christians recapture Madrid. 
942. Muslims raid Nice. Again.
942-964. Muslims reach Asti and Novi in the Piedmont, move north along the Rhone valley and western flank of the Alps; defeat the Burgundians.
952-960. Muslims briefly occupy Savoy and part of Switzerland
961 et seq. Caliph Abdallah of Cordova has captured Christians decapitated if they refuse to convert to Islam.
961. The Byzantines recover Crete.
964 Muslims take Rometta, the last Byzantine stronghold in Sicily.
965. The Byzantines recover Cyprus.
965. Franks recapture Grenoble.
969. The Byzantines recover Antioch.
972. The muslims in the Sisteron district of France surrender to Christian forces and their leader asks to be baptized. 
972. Muslims give up Fraxinet under German pressure
981. Kingdom of Leon is defeated and forced to pay tribute to the Caliph of Cordova.
985. Muslims sack Barcelona.
994. Muslims destroy the monastery of Monte Cassino a second time.
997. Muslim forces find the city of Compostela evacuated and burn it to the ground.
1002. Muslims attack Genoa
1004. Muslims sack Pisa
1004. Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, founder of the Druze sect and sixth Fatimid Caliph in Egypt, forbids the Christians under his rule to celebrate Epiphany and Easter. The next year, he orders Christians to wear an iron cross around their necks and Jews to wear a wooden calf necklace.
1009. Al-Hakim orders Constantine's Church of the Holy Sepulcher (along with other churches) in Jerusalem be destroyed down to the bedrock. The rumor reaches Europe that this was done at the instigation of the Jews, which leads to unjust attacks on Jewish communities in Rouen, Orelans, and Mainz.1012. Al-Hakim orders the destruction of all Christian and Jewish houses of worship in his lands.
1012. Berber forces capture Cordova from the Christians and order that half the population be executed.
1013. Jews are expelled from the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordova.
1015. Arab muslim forces conquer Sardinia from the Christians.
1016. Sardinia freed by the Genoans and Pisans
1020. Christians retake Corsica again
1021. Caliph al-Hakim proclaims himself to be divine, managing to honk off the muslims along with everyone else. Shortly after, he disappears and his blood-stained garments are found in the hills outside the city. His successor allows the Byzantines to rebuild the destroyed churches and loosens up the restrictions; but the Christians are now understandably nervous.
1022. (Cathar heretics discovered in Toulouse are put to death.)
1030. Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba collapses into 20 independent states following a revolt against Berber ministers (1009).
1034. Pisans attack Tunis.

1061. Normans capture Masara in Sicily.
1065. Bishop Gunther of Bamberg leads 7000 pilgrims, incl. nobles and an armed escort. Central authority has collapsed and the Turkish invasions are in high gear. The party is attacked by bedouin in sight of Jerusalem. After two days siege, the knights in the party arm themselves and repel assailants. They are eventually rescued by the emir of Ramleh and his garrison. Only 2000 pilgrims return to the Germanies. Things go downhill after that.
1070. Saljuq Turks take Jerusalem from the Fatimids and begin oppressing Christians. Pilgrims like Bishop Gunther return to Europe with tales of persecution and oppression.
1071. Battle of Manzikert. Saljuq Turks crush Byzantine Army and Turkish herdsmen swarm into Anatolia, displacing native farmers.
1072. Normans retake Palermo.
1073. Saljuqs conquer Ankara. 
1078. Saljuqs capture Nicaea. It will change hands three more times, finally coming under control of the Turks again in 1086.
1079. Battle of Cabra. El Cid routs Emir Abd Allah of Granada.  
1080. Armenian refugees feeling the Saljuq invasion of their homeland found Little Armenia in Cilicia, on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor, north of Cyprus.
1084. Saljuqs capture Antioch.

1085. Castilians capture Toledo.
1086. Battle of Zallaca. Remaining Umayyad emirates call on the Almoravids (al-murabitim) for help. These Sanhaja Berbers from the Sahara had recently conquered Morocco and practice a fiercely puritanical form of Islam. They regard the Moors as weenie Muslim-light. They defeat the Castilians; but afterward the Murabits take over from their allies. (Serves 'em right. See 711.) The intent is to make Al-Andalus an African colony ruled by Marrakesh.
1089. Byzantine forces re-take Crete.
1090. Almoravids capture Granada.
1091. The last Arabic fortress in Sicily falls to the Normans.
1091. Almoravids capture Cordova.
1094. El Cid captures Valencia from the Moors. Almoravids from Morocco land near Cuarte and lay siege to Valencia with 50,000 men. El Cid, however, breaks the siege and forces the Amoravids to flee.

1095. For no apparent reason, religious maniacs in Europe declare an atrocious "crusade" against muslims in their Near Easter homeland.

Tune in again next time when we will look at the First Crusade in some detail and compare it to the modern myth of the crusades.


  1. Actually "Daqin" was the Chinese name for the entire Roman Empire, they just appear to have identified it with Syria rather than Italy. Of course, in 528 Middle Chinese would pronounce "Daqin" as "Daidzien".

  2. I fear there's a typo: the estimates about Charles Martel's Battle of Tours are at least one order of magnitude over the 1,500 soldiers reported.

  3. Otherwise, 1,500 are the losses reported by the ancient chronicles.

    1. Those Frankish knights were an early version of the winged Hussars.

    2. Those Frankish knights were an early version of the winged Hussars.

  4. YES! I'm really looking forward to this.

  5. This is really wonderful stuff, thanks. Happy, Holy & Blessed Triduum to you and yours.

  6. I find myself highly suspicious of your population figures for cities. Even Treadgold (who tends to take the low-end estimates for populations) gives sixth-century Constantinople a population upwards of 400,000, and first-century Rome substantially more than that.

    I note that there seems to be a strong tendency of minimizing revisionism in successive population estimates for the ancient world. Soon, no doubt, we shall discover that Rome under Augustus was a village of about fifteen people, and Constantinople had nobody in it but Constantine and his dog. What gives?

    1. Rome in the first century was a megalopolis, but this is the sixth century. The city has been sacked, twice. Its grain supply from Egypt has been virtually cut off (diverted to the New Rome) and the Vandals are sitting on the North African grain supply. The City is in a bad way.

      Constantinople is ramping up, the only city to have gained in numbers in this period, and hasn't hit its peak yet. However, the general disruption in trade throughout the Empire has put stress on all the cities.

      Earlier historians were impressed with the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome and tended to up the population estimates. They paid little attention to technology. How much wood could a Roman woodchuck chuck, after all, given the agricultural technology. Modern historians tend to crunch the numbers. There's a limit to how many people you can feed in an essentially agricultural society powered primarily by the muscle power of slaves and beasts. Food comes in through the city's circumference to feed its area, so the square-cube law comes into play. (Actually, the linear-square law ) It's the same way that analysts realized that Moscow was not nearly as large as Soviet-era population figures claimed. Rome could be big because the port of Ostia could bring barge-loads of grain in; but at this time the Vandals ruled both the North African granary and the Mediterranean sea routes. (And they had just sacked the City.) Following the Gothic War, Rome will be reduced to a cluster of villages.

  7. Re: Football mascots

    The University of Idaho uses the Vandals as its mascot. Their supporters are called "Vandalizers".

  8. Cf. Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword (2012) for the 6th-century clashes among the (Byzantine) Romans, the Persians, and their neighbors.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Isn't it interesting that this portion of history of Europe is often referred to as Dark?

    1. The name was coined by a later period solely to puff themselves up (they named their own era "the Enlightenment" and the "Age of Reason"; never trust anyone who declares his own period a golden age).

      Besides, nobody who knows anything about history ever applies the term Dark Ages to any part of history after about 800, which is over 200 years before this period.

  11. "The Gauls had finally given up Gallic for Latin, and the Iberians likewise, though both spoke it with funny accents. Case endings were no longer being pronounced, though they were still being meticulously spelled."

    AD 406?

    Are you sure you don't mean coalescence of certain endings, rather?

    Like nom sg -us coalescing with acc pl -os (originally long o) into -os (short o, as in Carlos).

    Or like acc sg -um (if not originally at least for long as in Portuguese "um") and dat/abl sg -o coinciding into -o.

    And like endings other than these (ok, nom pl in Italy and Provence ...) starting to be used like a marker of posh occasion or speaker, like the dative of katharevousa opposing dhimotiki until 1970 in Greece?

    "The Latin demonstrative ille has been clipped to become il or le or even el in different dialects and the definite article has appeared as if by magic."

    And was obviously very low brow, something you omitted while reading the Gospel.

    Or even in the Strassburg Oaths.

    Btw, some of the magic was not just the appearance of the phonetic form, but taking over of the function from presumably Greek.

    "North of the Alps, the city lamps have gone out,"

    Did they now?

    I read sth about Vienne getting taken through the aquaeduct by Clovis (or Chlodevechus, if you prefer). Aquaeducts were ... out of fashion, for security reasons, I would say ... since this event as well as Belisarius using same kind of opportunity with Naples.

    But city lamps? I think they had to be invented before they could go out!

    "But all is not beer and skittles. (Except maybe in German lands, where there is at least beer. ...)"

    Sure they did not prefer hydromel, back then? Odin's stepson's son Fjolner was at least drowning in hydromel in the time of Caesar Augustus!

    "722. Pelayo, a Visigoth noble who had been elected the first King of the Asturias, defeats a Muslim army at Alcama near Covadonga."

    Let's not forget, he had pursued a Muslim and spared his life at behest of a monk at the shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga. HENCE the victory at Covadonga is regarded as Our Lady rewarding him for that piety.

    1. 'Twasn't a treatise on linguistic evolution, so there was no need to bring up every single channel of change. (The loss of the case endings is the reason why French has so many words with their accents on the final syllable: Latin never stressed a case ending, so the accent was usually on the penultimate syllable.)

      Case endings died because their functions were taken over by word order and prepositions, perhaps under Germanic influence.

      There was also the introduction of W, the distinction between I and J, the shifting of soldiers' slang to standard speech (testa [lit. "pot," referring to the helmet] starting to mean "head," and relegating caput to metaphorical meanings like "captain" or "chef."

      "City lamps." This is a metaphor for civilization. The West was always rural. It's cities were generally administrative centers rather than trade centers like Antioch or Alexandria. When the western empire fell apart, there was nothing to administer and these centers dried up.

  12. "The loss of the case endings is the reason why French has so many words with their accents on the final syllable: Latin never stressed a case ending, so the accent was usually on the penultimate syllable."

    This loss of case endings would, at least in educated speech, have occurred after Oaths of Strassburg. Not in 406.

    "Case endings died because their functions were taken over by word order and prepositions, perhaps under Germanic influence."

    Not very likely, since Germanic has more cases than proto-Romance or late Latin, which had two, while first millennium forms of Germanic had four or five cases.

    "the introduction of W, the distinction between I and J"

    THAT is an orthographic matter, totally irrelevant for how proto-proto-pre-French was represented as somewhat correct or even not Latin by Gregory of Tours.

    "the shifting of soldiers' slang to standard speech"

    Not exclusively soldiers' slang, but very much substandard could become standard once the old standard had by Alcuin (also conspicuously well after 406, though before Oaths of Strassburg) been solidly tied to a renewed Classic pronunciation.

    "This is a metaphor for civilization."

    Noted, but somewhat off for those civlisations which existed before city lamps.

    " The West was always rural."

    Hrrrmm ... had a high rural component.

    "It's cities were generally administrative centers rather than trade centers like Antioch or Alexandria."

    Hrrmm ... rather than ultra-mega trade centres like Antioch and Alexandria.

    "When the western empire fell apart, there was nothing to administer and these centers dried up."

    On THIS specific point, your historiography happens to be simply wrong.

    First of all, Germanic kingdoms meant that Germanic (and sometimes outright German rather than Dutch even) nobility and dynasties mixed with and replaced the Romano-Gallic counterpart. The Romano-Gallic population by and large lived by Roman law. And that meant Roman administration had business as usual. Not to mention that trade went on too, obviously on a less grand scale than in Alexandria or Antioch, but even so.

    Try to read up on this in more recent manuals than the 19th C. Middle Ages bashing ones you seem to have consulted.

  13. Correction "Noted, but somewhat off for those civlisations which existed before city lamps."

    Should be: "Noted, but somewhat odd for those civilisations which existed before city lamps."

  14. This must be wrong. It is a religion of Peace.


Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology anthropology aphorisms Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor Hunters Moon hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics potpourri psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the russians are coming the spiral arm the writing life thomism thought for the day thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play wuv xmas you can't make this stuff up