Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dover Clip Art

Age of Blood & Iron is now in color thanks to the folks at Dover Publications! I received my copy of Medieval Ornament cd-rom & book and I had to try it out. Dover produces a series of royalty free clip art books with companion cds.These books are a must for bloggers and self publishers. This book contains 355 full color illustrations taken from medieval tapestries and illuminated manuscripts. The cd comes with a simple design manager program. You can buy this book direct from Dover here: Dover Publications Here is a selection of images from this nifty book.

I bought more clip art books of Celtic and Norse designs taken from stone monuments and metalwork. These images are black & white line drawings. I'll use some of these illustrations in future posts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Day at the Lists

When people think of knights, they imagine two heavily armed men on horse back charging each other lance in hand. Jousting as this knightly sport is known, was relic of a bygone age until the end of the 20th century. Yes that's right you can real honest to god jousting as a competition sport in Leeds, England! The Royal British historical organization know as The Royal Armories holds annual jousting exhibitions at their permeate site in Leeds. Check out this link here: Royal Armories Leeds

Jason Kingsley at Leeds Armories

Jason Kingsley Leeds Team Tournament Easter 2009

The knight in this video is Jason Kingsley who established the video game company Rebellion with brother Chris Kingsley in 1991. Their first known title was Alien Vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar, which was considered one of the few good games for that console. Since 2000, it also publishes the 2000 AD comic books, and have since developed several characters from the comic for the games market. You can learn more about this avid jouster by following these
Realitypanic Interview

Friday, August 28, 2009

Face Lift

The page just got a little face-lift; moved things around and added some pretty pictures. I had a crazy notion of starting this thing with the fall of Rome and then moving forward chronologically. Crazy I know. But that would turn into a weird wonky history lesson real fast. So I’m going to jump around talking about this and that. If you have any particular interests just let me know. I’m new to the whole internet blogging thing so I’ll add more gadgets as I go long.

I’ve added some links to some of the best Viking living history/re-enactment groups in the world. The Long Boat Company sails historically accurate Viking longboats. Check out their stunning pictures. You can find the links to the left.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Fall of Paganism

The fall of Rome was not the end of the Western Roman Empire that struggled on for another sixty years. The fall of Rome was in fact the fall of Paganism in Western Europe. The Gothic sack of Rome sparked what might very well be the first conspiracy theory in history. It goes like this, the officials of Rome where Christians, the Goths where Christians, the Roman Christians let the Goths in. Why would the Pagans say this? Two reasons; first the Goths never stormed the walls of Rome they entered through an unguarded gate, whether they were let in or successfully infiltrated Gothic agents is not entirely clear. What is clear it that the battle between the Goths and Rome’s defenders was remarkably short, the Goths gained control of the city in about an hour and relatively bloodless. Secondly the Goths spared the churches. They did not spare the temples. They effectively wiped out the Pagan infrastructure of Rome. A feat the Christian officials had been laboring at for the past ten years.
The ruins of the temple of Vesta in Rome

The Pagan senate cried foul. They shouted their accusations from the senate floor, the smoking ruin of the forum and in letters to their friends. They claimed Christian pacifism weakened the Empire; Christians were legally exempt from military service because they were pacifists. They also claimed that the haughty Christian officials angers the Gods and that the sack was divine retribution. But the most damaging accusation was that the Christians revoked the divine protection of Rome when they removed the alter of Victory from the senate. During the Emperor’s last visit to Rome the senate begged him to restore the alter to its rightful place. A Christian poet belittled the senate with a popular poem, which criticized them for believing in the protective powers of the alter. He went on to claim that Rome would remain invulnerable so long as St Peter’s bones resided in the ballista. Needless to say when the Goths arrived, St Peter did not rise from his tomb and throw them back as was foretold.

How did the Christians counter these devastating attacks? They did it with The City of God. That’s right De Civitate Dei the book that gives us the concept of a city of God and a city of Man was really just a very long winded debunking of the Pagan conspiracy theory. In it St. Augustine argues that the heavenly city is truly eternal whereas the earthly city of men is perishable. In Book III, he claims that Rome suffered as many calamities before the advent of Christianity as after. He details each event beginning with the first fratricide of Romulus through the republican civil wars. In summary his argument is that rather than being preserved from such woes, Rome has been overwhelmed by them. And yet the pagan gods, no matter their number, did not preserve the city. Why then, asks St. Augustine, should the Christian God be blamed for not having done so?

Now the sack of one city however great, was not responsible for the end of Paganism. But the Goths didn’t just confine their temple ransacking to Rome, they did this throughout the Italian peninsula and on into southern France. Add the loss of the Pagan infrastructure to dispersal of several hundred thousand Roman Christian refugees all over Western Europe. This enables Christianity, which had previously been confined to the major cities, to spread out into the French and Italian countryside.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Fall of Rome

"My voice sticks in my throat; and, as I dictate, sobs choke my utterance. The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken."
Jerome, Letter CXXVII (To Principia)

The city of Rome was the largest, richest and most famous city of the ancient world. Generation after generation of barbarians heard fabulous tails of Rome ’s untold riches. Even today the splendor of Rome remains fresh in our minds, to which the popularity of HBO’s series can attest. So when Alaric king of the Visigoths rebels against the Roman Empire, his first thought is to lead his people against Rome herself. The walls of Rome proved to strong for his barbarian army to breach. So he surrounded the city, in an effort to starve the Roman’s into submission. Rome has long been dependant on grain shipments from Egypt to feed it’s citizens. It was simply too populous a city for the surrounding countryside to support. The Visigoths besieged Rome for two years causing wide spread famine. Two years of enforced isolation drove foods prices to such heights that even a pound of dog meat was beyond the means of all but the richest citizens. The Roman administration resorted to feeding the poor with bread made mostly of sawdust. Not surprisingly, the poor began to die of starvation. People turned to cannibalism, feasting on the dead in order to live. Cannibalism became so wide spread that during one gladiatorial game, the crowd demanded the flesh of the fallen gladiators, crying out “how much per pound for that meat!” The Visigoths themselves where driven from their pillaging of Rome after only three days for want of food. Here is what Procopius wrote about the sack of Rome in 545 CE, a generation after Rome’s fall. He is one of the leading sources about this event. Most scholars consider him to be the last of the great ancient historians.

After much time had been spent by Alaric king of the Visigoths in the siege, and he had not been able either by force or by any other device to capture the place, he formed the following plan. Among the youths in the army whose beards had not yet grown, but who had just come of age, he chose out three hundred whom he knew to be of good birth and possessed of valor beyond their years, and told them secretly that he was about to make a present of them to certain of the patricians in Rome, pretending that they were slaves. And he instructed them that, as soon as they got inside the houses of those men, they should display much gentleness and moderation and serve them eagerly in whatever tasks should be laid upon them by their owners; and he further directed them that not long afterwards, on an appointed day at about midday, when all those who were to be their masters would most likely be already asleep after their meal, they should all come to the gate called Salarian and with a sudden rush kill the guards, who would have no previous knowledge of the plot, and open the gates as quickly as possible. After giving these orders to the youths, Alaric straightway sent ambassadors to the members of the senate, stating that he admired them for their loyalty toward their emperor, and that he would trouble them no longer, because of their valor and faithfulness, with which it was plain that they were endowed to a remarkable degree, and in order that tokens of himself might be preserved among men both noble and brave, he wished to present each one of them with some domestics. After making this declaration and sending the youths not long afterwards, he commanded the barbarians to make preparations for the departure, and he let this be known to the Romans. And they heard his words gladly, and receiving the gifts began to be exceedingly happy, since they were completely ignorant of the plot of the barbarian. For the youths, by being unusually obedient to their owners, averted suspicion, and in the camp some were already seen moving from their positions and raising the siege, while it seemed that the others were just on the point of doing the very same thing. But when the appointed day had come, Alaric armed his whole force for the attack and was holding them in readiness close by the Salarian Gate; for it happened that he had encamped there at the beginning of the siege. And all the youths at the time of the day agreed upon came to this gate, and, assailing the guards suddenly, put them to death; then they opened the gates and received Alaric and the army into the city at their leisure. [Aug. 24, 410 A.D.] And they set fire to the houses, which were next to the gate, among which was also the house of Sallust, who in ancient times wrote the history of the Romans, and the greater part of this house has stood half-burned up to my time; and after plundering the whole city and destroying the most of the Romans, they moved on.

At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Rome had perished. And he cried out and said, "And yet it has just eaten from my hands!" For he had a very large cock, Rome by name; and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Rome which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: "But I, my good fellow, I thought that my fowl Rome had perished." So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed.

But some say that Rome was not captured in this way by Alaric, but that Proba, a woman of very unusual eminence in wealth and in fame among the Roman senatorial class, felt pity for the Romans who were being destroyed by hunger and the other suffering they endured; for they were already even tasting each other's flesh; and seeing that every good hope had left them, since both the river and the harbor were held by the enemy, she commanded her domestics, they say, to open the gates by

From the History of the Wars, The Vandalic War, Books III and IV (of 8) by Procopius of Caesarea, Translated by H. B. Dewing (Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg)

Though the pillaging of Rome socked the ancient world, it was not particularly violent. Edward Gibbon stats in his book The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire that only one Roman Senator lost his live during the sack. The Visigoths where a Christian nation, so they spared many of Rome’s famous churches during their rampage. Here is an antidote from about pious actions of the Visigoths from The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Chapter XXXI.

Amidst the horrors of a nocturnal tumult several of the Christian Goths displayed the fervor of a recent conversion; and some instances of their uncommon piety and moderation are related, and perhaps adorned, by the zeal of ecclesiastical writers. While the barbarians roamed through the city in quest of prey, the humble dwelling of an aged virgin, who had devoted her life to the service of the altar, was forced open by one of the powerful Goths. He immediately demanded, though in civil language, all the gold and silver in her possession, and was astonished at the readiness with which she conducted him to a splendid hoard of massy plate of the richest materials and the most curious workmanship. The barbarian viewed with wonder and delight this valuable acquisition, till he was interrupted by a serious admonition, addressed to him in the following words: "These," said she, "are the consecrated vessels belonging to St. Peter: if you presume to touch them, the sacrilegious deed will remain on your conscience. For my part, I dare not keep what I am unable to defend." The Gothic captain, struck with reverential awe, dispatched a messenger to inform the king of the treasure, which he had discovered, and received a peremptory order from Alaric, that all the consecrated plate and ornaments should be transported, without damage or delay, to the church of the apostle. From the extremity, perhaps, of the Quirinal hill to the distant quarter of the Vatican, a numerous detachment of Goths, marching in order of battle through the principal streets, protected with glittering arms the long train of their devout companions who bore aloft on their heads the sacred vessels of gold and silver, and the martial shouts of the barbarians were mingled with the sound of religious psalmody. From all the adjacent houses a crowd of Christians hastened to join this edifying procession, and a multitude of fugitives, without distinction of age or rank, or even of sect, had the good fortune to escape to the secure and hospitable sanctuary of the Vatican. The learned work concerning the City of God was professedly composed by St. Augustin, to justify the ways of Providence in the destruction of the Roman greatness. He celebrates with peculiar satisfaction this memorable triumph of Christ, and insults his adversaries by challenging them to produce some similar example of a town taken by storm, in which the fabulous gods of antiquity had been able to protect either themselves or their deluded votaries.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Kopervik Viking Festival

It this very minute one of the largest Viking festivals is taking place in Kopervik Norway. It is held annually from June 5 to June 8th. This site is historically linked to King Harold Fair Haired, a figure instrumental in creating the kingdom of Norway. It’s put on by the Vikinggarden living history museum and supported by the Norwegian government. The Vikinggarden museum includes a reconstructed Viking boathouse. So naturally one of the central events at this festival is the sailing of Viking longboats. See picture from last years event.

The festival has become a major tourist attraction for the town of Kopervik, they feature it in their tourist brochures. Here is a link to the brochure in pdf format.

A quick Introduction

I suppose I should have begun with this, but I just couldn’t wait to get to the good stuff. So what or rather when were the Dark Ages? The Dark Age officially began with the sack of Rome by the Visigothic King Alaric in 410 CE (common era) and ends with the return of the knights of the First Crusade. During the First Crusade the decedents of the Germanic conquerors of Rome became re-acquainted with Roman engineering and the other lost arts of the Roman Empire through contact with the Middle East. Where the scientific breakthroughs of the Roman Age where never forgotten. The History Channel has made a really nifty overview with some very high production values of the Dark Age in 2007. It’s called “The Dark Ages” and is available through NETFLIX.

What do I hope to accomplish here? Am I creating a blog for gamers (both roleplayers and wargamers) and re-enactors? Sure I’d like this blog to be of benefit to them. But what I really hope to do is to turn everyone who reads this into a hard-core history junkie.