The Aneurin Great War Project: Timeline
Part 1 - (Ape)men at War, Prehistory to 730
Copyright Notice: This material was written and published in Wales by Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). It forms part of a multifile e-learning resource, and subject only to acknowledging Derek J. Smith's rights under international copyright law to be identified as author may be freely downloaded and printed off in single complete copies solely for the purposes of private study and/or review. Commercial exploitation rights are reserved. The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so. Copyright © 2013-2016, High Tower Consultants Limited.
First published 09:00 BST 30th May 2013. This version [16.1 routine correction and upgrade] 12:00 GMT 21st January 2016 [BUT UNDER CONSTANT EXTENSION AND CORRECTION, SO CHECK AGAIN SOON].
FORWARD IN TIME
Part 10 - The War Itself, 1917
Part 10 - The War Itself, 1918
Part 11 - The Poetry and the Science, 1919 to date
1 - Toward a Cognitive Science of War
This timeline weaves together a number of otherwise separate empirical research traditions to create an interdisciplinary scientific theory of humankind at war. It is written for an international Internet audience, and therefore presumes no prior knowledge of either British or WW1 history, or of cognitive science. Background explanations will be provided as and when needed. The research traditions contributing to the narrative, together with brief statements of their individual relevance to the task at hand, are shown in the following table ...
Nature of the Data / Relevance Thereof
Hominid palaeontology, the science of humankind's deepest prehistory.
Palaeontologists and archaeologists study skeletal remains, site detritus, physical artifacts (including weapons), jewelry and personal adornment, and art.
Students of WW1 need this stream of data because humankind appears to have been a warlike species for its entire evolutionary history.
Archaeology, the science of humankind's more recent prehistory (the last 10,000 years, say).
Historians study narrative accounts and monumental inscriptions from the beginning of recorded history some 5400 years ago, making due allowance for biased reporting, inaccuracy, or incompleteness of that record.
Students of WW1 need this stream of data in order not to overlook any of the so-called "lessons of history". Military and technological histories are particularly informative.
Cognitive psychologists study the "parts" of cognition, using objectively recorded performance measures derived from memory, perception, reasoning, and skilled motor action tasks; they also study language, creativity, and aesthetics. They also devise "cognitive models", that is to say, suggestions as to the processing logic used by the mind.
Students of WW1 need a science of mind because going to war (or refusing to do so) is ultimately a matter of what one believes in, and you cannot get more cognitive than that; students of WW1 poetry likewise.
Medicine, Neurology, and Neuropsychology
Neurologists try to correlate the physical nature of head injury with both (a) the nature of the resulting impairment and (b) the relative efficacy of different types of treatment. Neuropsychologists are less immediately concerned with the physical injury but have more to say about the "parts" of cognition which have been consequently impaired. Battlefields are good sources of data for both disciplines. [For an ancient but precise example of the neurological method, see 2500BCE (Edwin Smith Papyrus); for a more modern example of the neuropsychological method, see 1917 (Poppelreuter).]
Students of WW1 need this stream of data because ultimately it is the science of physical bravery, cowardice, and shellshock.
Cognitive ergonomics is cognitive psychology applied to the world of work, which, in the present context, is the world of the military. Cognitive ergonomics thus includes such issues as effective training, combat skills, weapon design, group tactics, and - in those in positions of command - sound battlefield judgement. It follows that forensic cognitive ergonomics is the applied science of error and inefficiency in the workplace, that is to say, of events where defective training, weapon design, tactics, or command judgement seems to have contributed to a military setback.
Students of WW1 need this stream of data because, in short, it is the science of "military bungling".
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics
AI workers and roboticists study machine cognition in computing and robotic systems.
Students of WW1 need this stream of data because it allows explanatory theories which cannot be scientifically tested in real life to be tested in simulation.
Ethology and Neuroethology
Ethologists study naturally occurring "instinctive" behaviour, especially social, reproductive, and aggressive. Neuroethologists study the nerve circuitry involved in producing same.
Students of WW1 need this stream of data because humankind's "fight and flight" and "group affiliation" systems are not just instincts, but instincts which we share with many other animals.
2 - Important Rules
There are a number of important points to make before we present the main body of the timeline, because they will help explain the "shape" of what is to follow ...
2.1 When did the Great War Begin?
It is not possible to understand WW1 in historical isolation, because it was just the latest in a more or less continuous string of violent confrontations going back far into prehistory. It was just another war of greed, self-interest, hubris, political chicanery, and profiteering. So there are lessons to be learned from every war which has ever been fought. Here is that rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #1 - The Great War Begins Early: To understand WW1 we need to study humankind from its very beginnings, where it came from, how it was built to behave, how it likes to organise itself into "us and them" identities, and how the "thems" regularly end up as targets of hatred unto death.
2.2 When did the Great War End?
In some very important respects it has yet to end. WW1 is still being actively researched, its locations are still being excavated by field archaeologists, its battlefields still run alive with tour buses, its archives are still being trawled by historians [many of the documents relating to the French Army mutinies of 1917 will not even be released for examination until 2017!], and its poetry and artworks are still being analysed. Moreover with centenary celebrations already being planned for 2014-2018 [the Prime Minister outlined the British government's initial strategy for the Centenary on 11th October 2012], WW1 is likely to be the subject for intelligent debate for the remainder of the decade. Here is that rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #2 - The Great War Ends Late: To understand WW1 we need to study warfare all the way through to the present day.
2.3 Who Fought the Great War?
It is not possible to understand any war without putting yourself in the position of each of the adversaries in turn, noting not just their immediate justification for fighting but also their beliefs about themselves. Nowhere is this more troublesome than with the separate ethnicities making up "the British", simply because Britain has never been totally united psychologically. We shall be dealing with this issue in detail in due course, so suffice it to note for now that the British Army of 1914 fielded as "British" many old enemies - Scots, Welsh, English, protestant Irish, and catholic Irish. We shall accordingly be using the words England, Ireland, and Britain very carefully. Similar considerations apply to the Merovingians, Carolingians, and Burgundians who fought alongside each other as "French", the Prussians, Saxons, and Bavarians who fought alongside each other as "Germans", the Slavs, Ukranians, and Georgians who fought alongside each other as "Russians", and so on. Here are some of the key definitions and distinctions ...
MINI-GLOSSARY - DEFINING THE "BRITISH"
ALBION: The British Isles, possibly by allusion to the White Cliffs of Dover [Latin albus = "white"]. BRITISH ISLES: The British Isles is the geographical entity comprising the political entities of Scotland, England, and Wales. We shall not be including Ireland in the British Isles, because it has had a separate political and cultural history for much of the timeframe concerned]. BRITAIN: This is the modern English equivalent of Prydein. BRITANNIA: This is the Latinised equivalent of Prydein, but only the proportion thereof conquered by Rome (that is to say, not including Wales and Caledonia). CALEDONIA: This is the Roman name for the unconquered territory of the Picti north of Hadrian's Wall. CYMRU: That part of the British Isles west of a line between modern Chester and Caerleon, never totally conquered by Rome. ENGLAND: England is the mainland of the British Isles south of the Scottish border and east of the Welsh border, and was - in 1914 - a predominantly protestant Christian "Anglo-Saxon" nation. HIBERNIA: This is the Latinisation of ίουερνια, the Phoenician Greek name for Ireland. IRELAND: Ireland is the smaller and more westerly of the two land masses making up the British Isles. Geographically it is presently divided politically into the Republic of Ireland [a.k.a. Eire] to the south and Northern Ireland [a.k.a. the "six counties", or "Ulster"], part of the "United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland", to the north. PRYDEIN: This is the ancestral Celtic name for the political and geographical British Isles. SAESNEG: This is the modern Welsh word for "Saxon". SCOTIA: The Roman name for the territory of the Scotti, this, somewhat perversely, being in modern Ireland not modern Scotland. SCOTLAND: The modern name for Caledonia. WALES: The modern name for Cymru.
To make things even more complicated all the WW1 powers had extensive national myths stating why they were so special, and these, too, need to be taken on board by anyone wishing to understand those who believed in them. Here is the rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #3 - Science Recognises no Ethnic Superiority: To understand WW1 we need to get into the skins of each of the warring nations in turn, not speaking of them until we have felt what it is like to be them. We also need to accept their belief systems and traditions as facts, because wars are fought on such things.
RESEARCH ISSUE: What is curious about national myths and legends is that many are historically comparatively recent, having been constructed not when they first could have been, but in the age of Romanticism, when that sort of thing suddenly became popular; and even then not by warriors and princes, but by artists, poets, writers, and composers. We shall be exploring this issue in meticulous detail in due course.
2.4 The Problem of Personal Testimony
This timeline is intended to be a work of scientific precision, and as such it has to critically evaluate competing explanatory hypotheses. This means routinely treating all personal testimony as unsafe, even when not intentionally deceptive. It also means being especially cautious of received wisdoms, personal justifications, hagiographies, and consensus explanations. We shall be especially suspicious of history based upon supernatural events or religious visitations; also of the authenticity of religious and legendary relics. All mysterious disappearances are murders, all "stomach upsets" are poisonings, all sorceries are conjurings, all demonic possessions are hysterical fugues, and so on. Here is that rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #4 - Personal Testimony will be Critically Deconstructed: To get to the truth about WW1 all testimony needs to be very critically inspected, and alternative interpretations considered. Occam's Razor1 will be applied.
1 William of Ockham (sometimes Occam) was a fourteenth century English philosopher, who developed what has since been described as the "rule of ontogenetical economy" (Magnusson, 1990, p1096). "Entities," Ockham wrote, "are not to be multiplied beyond necessity". In other words, when you are faced with explaining the unexplained, the simplest explanations are usually the best.
2.5 The Problem of Pain and Suffering
One of the "great lies" of war is that death on the battlefield is invariably quick and painless ...
KEY WW1 TROPE - THE C.O.'s LETTER OF CONDOLENCE: It is established practice in the British Army for your Commanding Officer to send a personal letter of condolence to your next of kin should you be killed while under his/her command. Such letters routinely praise the deceased, mention his/her popularity in his/her unit and his/her selflessness on the day in question, and reassure the recipient that s/he could not have felt any pain [see specimen letter].
In fact the luxury of an instant death is far from guaranteed. More often than not it takes pain and fear to die from a battlefield injury, and even more pain and fear to survive one.
RULE #5 - We Shall Tell it Like it Is: To get closer to the scientific truth we shall always explore battlefield suffering "warts and all".
2.6 The Problem of Narrative Thread
Because the timeline is strictly date-sequenced it is necessary to "zipper" separate narrative threads into each other's gaps. To assist keyword-based item-hopping each timeline entry is tagged with the narrative thread(s) to which it is most directly relevant. Here is that rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #6 - Thread Pointers will be Provided: Thread pointers allow readers to follow specific threads of narrative within the broader passing of time. Here are the threads which have been provided ...
· CHURCH HISTORY
· CSI ON THE BATTLEFIELD
· MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY
· PREHISTORIC WARFARE
· MILITARY DISCIPLINE AND MUTINY [including the "shot at dawns"]
· HUMAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
· THE NATURE OF BRAVERY
· REMEMBRANCE AND CEREMONIAL
· SURVIVOR SYNDROME
· THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD
· THE SHAPING OF THE WW1 AMERICAS
· THE SHAPING OF THE WW1 FAR EAST
· WW1 ARTILLERY
· WW1 TACTICS
· WW1 MILITARY MEDICINE [including shellshock]
2.7 The Problems of ABC
For various reasons the historical record is usually quite unintelligible to the lay reader. Ancient manuscripts are typically incomplete, eroded, discoloured, and written in an unfamiliar lettering without the punctuation and word- and paragraph-spacing we have grown used to. As a result archaeological German is difficult for a modern German to read, archaeological French is difficult for a modern Frenchman, and so on. In Welsh, for example, what was written in the 14th century as MAXIMGULETIC now appears in modern textbooks as Macsen Wledig. Here is that rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #7 - Modern Alphabets will Replace Ancient: We shall show all ancient place names in modern English, Welsh, French, or whatever. They will therefore NOT match the manuscript or archaic version. STUDENT EXERCISE: Just as a warm-up exercise, re-write the following fragment of Chaucer into modern English - CLICK FOR MANUSCRIPT IMAGE.
2.8 The Problem of Eye-Witness Testimony
The difference between history and archaeology as sciences is that the former relies on subjective report and the latter on physical evidence. But subjective report, even five minutes after the event, is quantifiably unreliable. This is because human memory evolved to handle gist rather than detail, doing a few things well rather than maintaining an exhaustive detailed record. We shall be dealing with this issue in detail in due course, but readers unfamiliar with the cognitive science of memory may care to inspect the following introductory material before proceeding ...
ASIDE - EYE-WITNESS MEMORY: Check out the following entries in our Companion Memory Glossary: Attentional Failures; Cognitive Framing; Confabulation; Conflation; Contamination; Eye-Witness Memory Theory; Face Recognition; Flashbulb Memory; Innoculation; Memory Overload; Misinformation; Proactive Interference; Retroactive Interference; Stress Level; Suggestibility; Transference; and Viewpoint. Check out also the entries concerning the perception of gist in our Companion Aesthetics Timeline [scroll to 2003 (Nodine and Krupinski) and follow the onward pointers].
Here is the rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #8 - Eye-Witness Memory is not Fact: We shall treat all first-hand testimony as innocently spurious, subject to various forms of content degradation. It will therefore be "cross-examined" as though it were evidence in a court of law. The same goes for second, third ... and nth-hand memory accounts, and that includes the succession of Actae, Vitae, Epitomai, and Historia on which Dark Age history is grounded. STUDENT EXERCISE: Play this "Whodunnit" video. This short video includes 21 deliberate visual tricks and inconsistencies - how many can you see?
2.9 The Problem of Gratuitous Adjectives and the Like: Recent research has highlighted a number of journalistic devices used (consciously or otherwise) to bias a piece of political argument toward a particular conclusion. We shall be dealing with this issue in detail in due course, but readers unfamiliar with the cognitive science of propaganda may care to inspect the following introductory material before proceeding ...
ASIDE - BIASING DEVICES IN POLITICAL PROPAGANDA: Check out the following entries in our Companion Glossary: Ad Hominem Argument; Anecdotal Evidence; Argument by Adjective; Argument by Adverb; Argument by Metaphor; False Dilemma; Illicit Contrast; and Loaded Language.
Here is the rule, formally expressed ...
RULE #9 - Political Bias will be Exposed: We shall treat all political argument as spurious, intentionally or not. It, too, will therefore be carefully deconstructed and any hidden deceptions exposed. STUDENT EXERCISE: Just as a warm-up exercise, spot the biasing device used in the following short passage: "We have to spend less on hospitals, otherwise we won't be able to afford education improvements".
3 - The Timeline
Modern humankind is genetically closely related to the great apes [= orangutan, chimpanzee, bonobos, and gorilla]. It follows that there may be lessons to be learned from the ways these cousin-species of ours express their aggression. This means beginning our investigations 24 million years ago. Unfortunately many of the species we need to consult are extinct, and some, indeed, are "missing links", filling theoretical gaps without any direct fossil data of their own.
ASIDE: The science of extinct species is palaeontology and the science of living species is ethology. Palaeontologists study physical remains and use "CSI skills" [check these out] to theorise as to the behaviour which created those remains. Ethologists, on the other hand, have living specimens available to them and can therefore study the behaviours directly. A third science - comparative anthropology - compares different cultural practices in different human cultures.
The basic questions are (1) what exactly is it which distinguishes animal aggression from warfare, (2) to what extent do animal emotions influence calm rationalisation when individuals are deciding whether to participate in a war, and (3) whether it is therefore humanity's "natural state" to be at war (Guilaine and Zammit, 2001).
STUDENT EXERCISES: (1) You take a swim in an Everglades creek and get eaten by an alligator. Q: Was the alligator being "warlike"? "Aggressive"? "Vindictive"? (2) You are touring a chimpanzee colony carrying your baby when a chimpanzee snatches it from you, drags it away, and eats it [this has happened - check it out]. Q: Was the chimpanzee a "murderer"? Was this perhaps an "act of war"? Ought you to retaliate?
KEY VOCABULARY - "COALITIONARY INTRASPECIFIC KILLING": The defining characteristics of human warfare are (a) that it is "intraspecific", that is to say, it involves humans fighting other humans, and (b) that it is "coalitionary", that is to say, it is a group behaviour. WAR AND WARFARE: The dictionary definition of "war" is as follows: "Hostile contention by means of armed forces, carried on between nations, states, or rulers, or between parties in the same nation or state" (O.E.D.). Similarly "warfare" is "the action of carrying on, or engaging in, war" (O.E.D.).
24 MYA1: Warfare Amongst Apes and Apemen2: Around this time an ape-like creature now known as genus "Proconsul" [Wikipedia factsheet] flourishes in Eastern Africa, possibly as an ancestor of the later apes. We presume that the behaviour of modern chimpanzees provides a rough model for the behaviour of all these extinct species, especially where their lifestyles involved forming small colonies. We also presume that the roots of modern warfare lie in the types of behaviour seen in chimpanzee intergroup aggression ...
Although it is easy to demonstrate chimpanzees fighting in groups the question remains open whether this is warfare in the WW1 sense ...
RESEARCH ISSUE - ANIMAL AGGRESSION VERSUS "WARFARE": [Readers unfamiliar with the work of "ethologists" such as Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt will benefit from pre-reading our introduction to the subject - see Companion Resource.] In a 1963 Institute of Biology seminar (subsequently published as Carthy and Ebling, 1964) the topic of animal aggressive instincts as a cause of human warfare was discussed. One of the outcomes was the now conventional wisdom that modern "civilised" society permits humankind's animal instincts to operate with less inhibitions and therefore greater cruelty than those same instincts might have produced in the wild.
For their part, the evolutionary psychologists John Tooby [academic homepage] and Leda Cosmides [academic homepage] place much of the blame for the human liking for warfare on our ancestors' capacity for cooperation, thus ...
"We propose that the distinctive and frequently surprising features of war stem from an underemphasised dimension: cooperation. Although a fight is an aggressive conflict between two individuals, and involves no cooperation, a war is an aggressive conflict between two coalitions of individuals, and would not be possible unless each coalition were able to coalesce, function, and sustain itself as a group of cooperating individuals. We suggest that a detailed analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in the context of coalitional aggression may explain (1) adaptive obstacles in the evolution of coalitional aggression, (2) why war is so rare among animal species, and (3) why, nevertheless, it is so easy to generate conditions in which human males find initiating warfare so psychologically appealing" (Tooby and Cosmides, 1988 online, pp1-2; bold emphasis added).
One has only to study those who return from war to conclude that Tooby and Cosmides have hit the nail very precisely on the head. Old soldiers (to the extent that they permit themselves to speak of anything) speak of very little other than "their mates". Thus the WW1 poet David Jones dedicates his 1937 memoirs as follows ...
"... to the memory of those with me in the covert and in the open ... especially Pte. R.A. Lewis-gunner from Newport Monmouthshire killed in action in the Boesinghe Sector N.W. of Ypres some time in the winter 1916-17" (In Parenthesis, dedications).
Similarly, in the years before he died the WW1 veteran Henry J. ("Harry") Patch [Wikipedia biography] was interviewed many times and used his growing celebrity as (ultimately) the oldest surviving "Tommy" to honour those who had died alongside him in the trenches [YouTube clip].
RESEARCH ISSUE - COGNITION AND COOPERATION: Tooby and Cosmides (op. cit.) characterise the "cognitive mechanisms" regulating battlefield cooperation as "adaptively designed information processing systems" (p3). One such mechanism, for example, is described as being responsible for "tracking the performance and the levels of participation of multiple individuals over time" (p3). Unfortunately cognitive science has yet to unravel the precise nature of this mechanism.
We shall be returning to all these issues in detail in due course. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
1 = million years ago
2 = by which we mean all hominoid species prior to H. habilis [=> next entry]
********** THE PALAEOLITHIC, OR "OLD STONE AGE", BEGINS **********
********** THE HAND AXE IS INVENTED **********
2.3 MYA: Warfare Amongst Early Hominids1: Around 2.3 million years ago, the human ancestral line successfully splits away from the great apes. The first important species in the line to modern humankind is Homo habilis [Wikipedia factsheet]. Their lifestyle is traditionally described as "tool-makers" and "hunter-gatherers", and their site detritus reveals that they knew how to fabricate stone hand axes. Pitt (1978) argues that tool use encourages population growth in two important ways. Firstly tool use gives an edge over natural predators, and secondly it makes available new food sources such as bone marrow. This is noteworthy in the present context because it gives us population growth in a species whose immediate ancestors had instincts to make contiguous communities the target of coalitionary aggression. Although the details still  remain to be worked out, herein lies the root of human warfare. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
1 = early humankind, in the genus Homo, all now extinct
ASIDE: There is no direct and conclusive evidence of coalitionary intraspecific killing in H. habilis, but we presume they followed the pattern of chimpanzee warfare outlined above.
********** THE CLUB IS INVENTED **********
********** THE SHARPENED STICK IS INVENTED **********
1.8 MYA: Warfare Amongst Early Hominids: Around 1.8 million years ago, the second important species in the line to modern humankind is Homo erectus [Wikipedia factsheet]. They live long and multiply, adding fire and new tools to their technological repertoire. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
ASIDE: There is no direct and conclusive evidence of coalitionary intraspecific killing in H. erectus, but again we presume they followed the pattern of chimpanzee warfare outlined above.
400,000BP1 Warfare Amongst Transitional Humans: Around this time two new species - archaic Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis - begin to make their presence known in the fossil record, both of which are larger bodied and larger brained than Homo erectus, who are now progressively peripheralised. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
1 = before present
ASIDE: There is no direct and conclusive evidence of coalitionary intraspecific killing in the transitional humans, but again we presume they followed the pattern of chimpanzee warfare outlined above. Now, moreover, we have the intriguing possibility of both warfare and inter-breeding between different species of humans - Neanderthals against/with H. erectus, H. erectus against/with H. sapiens, and H. sapiens against/with Neanderthals. Perhaps not coincidentally, H. erectus become extinct around 300,000BP.
********** HAFTED SPEARS AND AXES ARE INVENTED **********
200,000BP Warfare Amongst Anatomically Modern Humans: Around this time a gracile [= "slender"] variant of archaic Homo sapiens begins to make its presence known in the fossil record. These beings - Homo sapiens sapiens - are skeletally indistinguishable from our own immediate ancestors, that is to say, they are "anatomically modern". However when it comes to their behaviour palaeontologists have been careful not to step beyond their data. There is, for example, no way of knowing what these people thought or how they communicated. Hafted tools and weapons are also reported from this time. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
ASIDE: "Hafting" is the process of mounting spear-heads, arrow-heads, axe-heads, knife blades, etc. onto prepared (typically) wooden shafts, as opposed to simply sharpening or shaping pieces of wood or bone.
50,000BP Warfare Amongst Behaviourally Modern Humans: Around this time (and quite abruptly given the normal sedate pace of evolutionary change) something very strange happens to anatomically modern humans [<=200,000BP]. Specifically, the fossil record suddenly starts to include evidence of the use of jewellery and adornment, of complex grief ritual, of creative problem solving and technology, and the like. One possible explanation is that adaptive selection favoured soft-tissue changes in the fine arrangement of the brain which required no particular change to the skeletal anatomy. Anatomically modern man, in other words, having been around for some 150,000 years suddenly turned into the superficially identical but cognitively far more sophisticated "behaviourally modern man".
RESEARCH ISSUE - THE COGNITIVE MISSING LINK: As to what these magical new cognitive powers might have been, the Stanford University palaeontologist Richard G. Klein [academic homepage] points the finger at language use and an associated expansion in Working Memory ...
ASIDE - WORKING MEMORY IN COGNITIVE THEORY: Working Memory, or "WM" for short, has been one of the mainstays of cognitive theory ever since it was first introduced in the 1970s. It is best thought of as both (a) a specific cognitive resource, and (b) a general theoretical orientation. As a specific resource WM is no more than a re-usable short-term memory store available for use by focal cognitive tasks as their particular needs dictate (just as different computer programs make use of the RAM available to them in different ways). As a general theoretical orientation, on the other hand, WM theories then have to consider how some sort of central "supervisory" or "executive" system makes use of different sub-types of WM during different cognitive tasks. (Thus the WM required during mental addition, say, is both quantitatively and qualitatively different to that required during silent reading, say.) For some quick definitions see the Companion Resource [scroll to the entry for Working Memory Theory and follow the onward pointers]. Our Konrad artificial consciousness software [check it out] models WM as "medium-term event" clusters, the contents of which are prescribed qualitatively by the cognitive module which generates them, and which are maintained either until some time- or size- threshold is reached.
Again there is no direct and conclusive evidence of coalitionary intraspecific killing in behaviourally modern humans, but again we presume they followed the pattern of chimpanzee warfare outlined above, and again it may not be merely coincidental that their rise takes place at the same time that the Neanderthals become extinct. The archaeologist Paul Pettit [academic homepage] (2000 online) puts it this way ...
"For too long we have regarded the extinction of the Neanderthals as a chance historical accident. Rather, where Neanderthals and modern humans could not coexist, their disappearance may have been the result of the modern human race's first and most successful deliberate campaign of genocide."
And with the Neanderthals out of the way, these new humans - us - suddenly have no-one to quarrel with but themselves. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
40,000BP Warfare in Early Cave Art: See the Companion Resource [entries 40,000BP to 15,000BP]. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** SPEARS AND HARPOONS ARE INVENTED **********
20,000BP Stone Technology in the Solutrean: The class-defining archaeological site at Solutré, France, will be excavated in 1866 by the French palaeontologist Henry Testot-Ferry [Wikipedia biography] and will provide evidence of exceptionally fine flint and bone technology, not least biface daggers, arrow-heads, spearheads, scrapers, sewing needles, gimlets, and saws. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
***** THE MESOLITHIC, OR TRANSITIONAL STONE AGE, BEGINS *****
12,000BCE1 Around this time the "upper", or most recent, palaeolithic starts to shade over from a hunter-gatherer society to one based on microliths and, in some regions, pottery, but not yet to the farming and village-dwelling which characterises the neolithic a few millennia later. These microliths are small and sharp and take tools and weapons to new levels of sophistication. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
1 = before Christian era
********** CANNIBALISM OR WAR? **********
12,000BCE The Massacre at "Site 117": One of palaeontology's most challenging tasks as CSI investigators is to decide from ancient skeletal evidence how the person in question actually died. Was it suicide or murder, for example? Or old age or sickness? Was the victim perhaps struck by lightning, or drowned, or did s/he fall from a high place? Is there a visible blade-on-bone injury? If so, was it enemy action (war), ritual sacrifice (not war), or food predation (not war)? And so on. At Djebel Sahaba "Site 117" in modern Sudan, Wendorf (1968) has studied a burial ground containing 59 individuals with multiple weapon wounds. Guilaine and Zammit (2001) describe whatever happened here as "one of the first conflicts" (p67), and see the ultimate motivation for incidents of this sort as competition for the most fruitful real estate. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
***** THE NEOLITHIC, OR NEW STONE AGE, BEGINS *****
10,000BCE Around this time the mesolithic starts to shade over from its transitional advanced hunter-gatherer society to a lifestyle based on farming and village-dwelling. This sets the scene for what we might reasonably term a domestication of coalitionary killing as communities grow ever larger and more numerous and - most importantly of all - develop an ever greater psychological attachment to the territory beneath their feet. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** THE BOW AND ARROW IS INVENTED **********
9000 BCE Modern archaeologists have unearthed fragments of bows and arrows dating from around this time from excavations at Holmegard in modern Denmark (Guilaine and Zammit, 2001). [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** FORTIFICATIONS ARE INVENTED **********
8000 BCE The occupants of neolithic Jericho build the first of a series of town walls large enough to house a six-acre "proto-city" community of 2000 to 3000 people. These are progressively overbuilt during the ensuing 6500 years until eventually the uppermost is built on the ruins of 16 earlier attempts, only to collapse itself in an earthquake [=> 1400BCE (Siege of Jericho)]. The ruins will be excavated in detail in the mid-20th century by a team led by the British archaeologist Kathleen M. Kenyon [Wikipedia biography]. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
7000BCE Fortifications at Çatal Hüyük: Excavations at the Çatal Hüyük site in modern Turkey reveal it to have been a "blind-walled" village, that is to say, arranged into a more or less continuous circular shape, with the outer walls devoid of low windows. This arrangement may have been coincidental or it may have been for ease of defence. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
6500BCE Massacre at Ofnet: At Ofnet in modern Bavaria, Boule and Vallois (1946) have unearthed the skulls (only) of four adult males, nine adult females, and 20 children, dated to around this time, beaten in with clubs and with some suggestion of scalping. There are many possible explanatory scenarios to fit these observations, including action by war-party. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** THE MILITARY UNIFORM IS INVENTED **********
********** SERGEANTS ARE INVENTED **********
********** THE FIRING SQUAD IS INVENTED **********
********** WAR ART IS INVENTED **********
6500BCE Cingle de la Mola Remigia: This Spanish cave complex will be excavated between 1934 and 1944 by a team including the painter-academic Juan Porcar Ripollès [Wikipedia biography] and found to contain a number of cave paintings unmistakably of human conflict, perhaps of outright war. Guilaine and Zammit (2001) comment as follows concerning a picture in Abri #9 ...
"Two groups are shown, fighting each other. On the right-hand side there are 20 or so figures, mostly archers, some of whom seem to have lost their bows [...] On the left-hand side, 15 or so figures are engaged in battle. Some are throwing projectiles and three figures are standing back, ready to intervene. Particularly interesting is a group of five individuals, separated from the others in the top left corner of the picture, who seem to have arrived, determined to assist in the battle. The figure leading this 'phalanx' seems to be wearing a hat, unlike his subordinates" (pp104-105).
If we look closely at Guilaine and Zammit's phalanx [check it out] we see that the leading figure [history's first sergeant? - Ed.] appears to be wearing a three-plume cockscomb head-dress. Similar head-dresses grace museums of ethnography across the modern world [example; example; example] and are still in active use [example].
RESEARCH ISSUE - UNIFORM: The issues here are best illustrated by the following extracts from the literature ...
"All male costume tends to become a uniform, by which is meant not something which is worn by everyone, but something that can be worn only by certain people. Once any kind of civilisation has been established we find a whole system of uniforms. The King has a special dress, so has the Priest. In this sense, the dress of all men of a certain social rank is a uniform" (Laver, 1964, p102).
".....in wars or clashes between clans man often uses artificial supersymbols of threat, almost always modeled after the ancestral devices: the bearskin hat, warpaint, the war bonnet, plumes, brilliantly coloured attire, and very loud sounds" (Guthrie, 1970, p297).
In Abri #5 Guilaine and Zammit (2001) also detect a battlefield execution ...
"Cave 5 at the Remigia site contains three capital punishment scenes. In one scene, ten archers are shown holding their bows above their heads after having inflicted the punishment: a few steps away, the body of the victim is shown lying on the ground, covered with arrows" (p113).
Guilaine and Zammit warn, however, that it is not possible to determine whether the body of this "squad" killing was that of an enemy, an outcast, or a sacrificial victim. The historian Philip M. Taylor [Leeds University biography] suggests that cave paintings of this sort might have been "the earliest forms of war propaganda" (Taylor, 1990, p20). [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS] Taylor, P.M. (1990). Munitions of the Mind: War Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Nuclear Age. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens.
6000BCE?? Minateda: This seven-acre hilltop fortress and cave complex in modern Albacete, Spain, will be excavated by Hernandez Pacheco (1918) and Garcia Guinea (1963). Like Jericho [<=8000BCE] it has layers of recent remains overlaying more ancient ones, and so is difficult to date. Amongst the most ancient discoveries is a cave/cellar with painted panels from between 6000BCE and 1500BCE showing more than 500 figures involved in a number of scenarios including unmistakable battle scenes. [SEE MINATEDA SLIDE SHOW] [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** THE COPPER AGE **********
5500BCE Around this time neolithic craftsmen acquire the skills necessary to smelt copper from ore, and use it to fabricate daggers and short swords. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
5000BCE Herxheim, Germany: Here modern archaeologists are unearthing a site containing at least 450 bodies located in such a way as to suggest they were victims of ritual execution and ritual cannibalism (as opposed to cannibalism for food). [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
5000BCE Massacre at Schletz-Asparn: At Schletz-Asparn in Austria modern archaeologists have unearthed a mass burial, of and by persons unknown, containing 67 known bodies (and probably several hundreds not yet excavated) with various weapon-related injuries. Again "hostile contention" between communities is high on the list of possible explanations. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** CSI SKILLS AT THE MASSACRE SCENE **********
5000BCE Massacre at Talheim: At Talheim in Germany modern Wahl and König (1987) have unearthed a mass burial, of and by persons unknown, containing 34 skeletons with weapon-related injuries. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
ASIDE: Guilaine and Zammit (2001) explain how CSI skills might help interpret these injuries ...
"In certain cases, the relative positions of the attacker and victim could also be determined. In general, it seems to be the case that the majority of the victims were attacked from behind as they were standing, presumably as they tried to protect themselves or flee. Having already been struck, many individuals were then hit again as they knelt or even lay on the ground. [...] The location of the impacts upon the bodies seems to indicate that the attackers, who struck their victims from behind, were right-handed" (pp88-89).
5000BCE Trading Tokens: Trading tokens and tally counters are a primitive way of keeping commerce-related records, probably as an adjunct to debt accounting and/or the collecting of taxes. They are apparently in widespread use in the "fertile crescent" [Wikipedia map and factsheet] from at least 5000BCE. The archaeologist Denise Schmandt-Besserat [Wikipedia biography] will in due course [=>1978] describe how the Jarmo village site in Northern Iraq yielded up more than a thousand simple clay shapes - spheres, disks, cylinders, etc. - and will note similarities between the inscriptions on such tokens and some of the characters in the Sumerian writing system which developed in that region around 3300BCE. [=>next entry] [THREAD = HUMAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS]
********** THE WARRIOR IS INVENTED **********
3999BCE Around this time Guilaine and Zammit (2001) propose that the profession of warrior has become well established, complete with its own vocabulary, iconography, technology, and tradition. Here is their core argument ...
"Over the course of the fourth and third millennia BCE, the image and ideology of the warrior gradually began to emerge. Whilst conflicts took the form of 'primitive warfare', raids, or ambush attacks between males of neighbouring communities, the mentality of the male, equipped with weapons and ready to engage in combat, was reflected in the iconography of the day. [...] The peaceful farming communities of the Neolithic, devoting their time to working the fields, would have been overpowered by these newcomers who were willing to use force to seize the possessions of other groups. [...] Theories propose that the image of the warrior evolved as new populations, with a greater tendency for warfare, arrived on the scene ..." (p192; bold emphasis added)
They offer as evidence the inclusion of weapons as grave goods and as themes within commemorative carvings and decoration. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** THE BRONZE AGE **********
3500BCE Around this time copper age craftsmen acquire the skills necessary to smelt bronze from a mix of copper and tin ores, and use it to fabricate tools and weapons. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** WAR IN FRANCE **********
3500BCE Following a meta-analysis of the literature Guilaine and Zammit (2001) detect a sharp increase around this time in the number of "projectile-related injuries" (p130) in excavated burial sites across southern France.
"From this time onward, skilled craftsmen produced arrows in greater numbers. Even if this remained a domestic and part-time activity, the arrow-heads produced by the most skilled artisans would have required more time and effort and would therefore have been attributed greater material and social 'value'. In fort 1 which dominates the large-scale Los Millares site (Almeria, Spain), one room seems to have been a workshop where arrow-heads were made. [...] The ground was often littered with chippings from the carving process; ditches were often filled with the discarded waste" (p170).
Guilaine and Zammit note in passing that tools for domestic usage were produced with much less care than were weapons. [THREAD = PREHISTORIC WARFARE]
********** RECORDED HISTORY BEGINS **********
3300BCE Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics: Cuneiform is the writing system developed initially by the Sumerians and then improved upon by the Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. It is a wedge-based script written by pressing the tip of a stylus into soft clay tablets and then allowing the clay to harden. The system flourishes in the third, second, and early first millennia BCE, but then falls suddenly from use after the fall of Assyria (being replaced initially by Phoenician-Aramaic and then by Greek). Hieroglyphics [Greek hieros = "sacred" + glyphos = "sculptured"] is the Egyptian writing system consisting of a basic consonant-only phonetic alphabet, supplemented firstly by a syllabary, and secondly by a rich variety of logograms, determinatives, and ideograms. The system appears around 3100BCE and will last with natural evolution but no fundamental change until around the fall of the Roman Empire three and a half thousand years later. During this time, it will give rise to two other forms of Egyptian - hieratic and demotic - and will also heavily influence the development of systems such as Proto-Canaanite in surrounding lands. The last known hieroglyphic inscription will not be until 394CE (Gardiner, 1957), whereupon the system will remain undeciphered until its principles are rediscovered by Jean-François Champollion in 1822. [THREAD = HUMAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS]
RESEARCH ISSUE - ON THE FRAGILITY OF PAPER RECORD: The most enduring cuneiform and hieroglyphic inscriptions are those in large characters deeply engraved into hard stone, protected from both acid- and water-erosion, and hidden from grave-robbers. Less robust sources exist on papyrus or vellum, but require very dry and protected conditions to survive. Everyday written hieroglyphics - if they existed at all - have long since crumbled into dust.
********** THE HERO IS INVENTED **********
2999BCE Around this time Guilaine and Zammit (2001) propose an historically important extension of the role of the warrior, namely that of the "hero". Here is their core argument ...
"What warrior does not dream of becoming a hero? [... Warriors] were only fully satisfied if they managed to carry out activities that would gain them recognition, prestige, and legendary status. These honours were only attainable through competition in the form of battle and a desire for confrontation. Like the legendary combatants of the Trojan war [...] all regions of Europe probably had their heroes who fought in single combat and exerted great fascination over their contemporaries. In the absence of writing, of course, no one was able to record such epics. However, it is likely that the exploits of these warriors would have been passed on by local bards who may have exaggerated details concerning the warriors' courage, merit, and weapons. [...] During the third and beginning of the second millennia BCE in Europe, it is likely that 'heroes' were leaders who, for one reason or another, awarded themselves this superior status. They were rather like great ancestors, acting to protect a given community ..." (p217; bold emphasis added).
Guilaine and Zammit also point to a perhaps surprising sociological spin-off, whereby the metalsmiths responsible for keeping the armouries well stocked would probably have been elevated in status above lesser trades such as farmers and herdsmen. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
********** RAMPARTS ARE INVENTED **********
********** WAR ART BECOMES ARCHITECTURAL **********
2900BCE At its peak around this time but with its deepest elements dating back to 5000BCE, the early Bronze Age city of Uruk [= modern Iraq] will be excavated in the 1850s by the British archaeologist William K. Loftus [Wikipedia biography]. The ruins include a 9.5 Km rampart around a 400-hectare city, complete with rectangular and semicircular bastions. Taylor (1990) observes that over the next few centuries "the rise of interstate warfare between the cities of ancient Mesopotamia was celebrated on stone and other monuments. Elongated, rectangular stone monuments, known as stelae, depicting the king with his god or with a subjugated enemy, often with lengthy inscriptions, were erected at city gates or on borders. [Example given]" (Taylor, 1990, p20). [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
2500BCE Around this time an unknown smith produces an iron dagger which somehow finds itself included in the grave goods of an unknown warrior at Alaçahöyük [= modern Turkey, 80 miles east of Ankara]. This artifact will be unearthed by modern archaeologists in the 1930s, and may well be the earliest iron weapon yet discovered (Hayman, 2005). [=>350BCE] [THREAD = THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION]
ASIDE: At this point in time we are still 1300 years short of the official Iron Age. We therefore presume that the iron came fortuitously from a residual "bloom" in the ashes of a furnace intended to smelt bronze.
2500BCE The "Edwin Smith" Papyrus: This ancient Egyptian document (named after the archeologist who will acquire it in 1862) has been called the oldest medical "textbook" on earth. It presents 48 case studies, including head injuries and broken bones [selected cases online]. It also includes the first recorded use of a word for "brain" (Breasted, 1930), and records both lateralised skeleto-muscular impairments and loss of speech. [THREAD = WW1 MILITARY MEDICINE]
********** THE SLING IS INVENTED **********
2500BCE The Standard of Ur: This highly decorative funerary tribute is included at a high status male burial in the Royal Cemetery at Ur [modern Iraq]. It is a rectangular wooden standard decorated with shell and semi-precious stones embedded on a bed of bitumen [image]. It will not see the light of day again until 20th century archaeologists rediscover it [=>1922 (Woolley)]. The restored artwork reveals a "war" side and a "peace" side. The war panel is famously one of the oldest depictions of the Sumerian Army, including both chariots and infantry. The peace panel is a banquet scene. [NO SINGLE THREAD]
2400BCE At its peak around this time but with its deepest elements dating back to 3000BCE, the Bronze Age city of Ebla [= modern Syria] will be excavated in the 1960s by the Italian archaeologist Paolo Matthiae [Wikipedia biography]. The city is noteworthy in the present context for the sophistication of its fortifications [factsheet]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
1600BCE At its peak around this time but with its deepest elements dating back to 3500BCE, the Bronze Age city of Mycenae [= modern Greece] will be excavated in 1841 by the Greek archaeologist Kyriakos Pittakis [Wikipedia biography]. The city is noteworthy in the present context for the size and sophistication of its fortifications [factsheet]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
1479BCE? The Battle of Har Megiddo: [Hebrew = Mount Megiddo] This battle is recorded hieroglyphically on the stonework of the Temple of Amun, Karnack, Egypt as an engagement between the armies of Thutmose III of Egypt [Wikipedia biography] and rebellious Canaanites based on the plains around the fortified hilltop town of Megiddo [now part of the Megiddo National Park, Israel]. It results in a victory for the Egyptians and the capture of 980 chariots. The battle is noteworthy militarily for both the tactics used and the legends since attached to it. The decisive tactic is Thutmose's avoidance of the direct line of approach in favour of the narrow and difficult Aruna Pass. This bold stratagem catches the Canaanites off balance and prevents them turning their forces to front up to the Egyptians. They therefore took severe losses on their flanks and soon lost cohesion. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
KEY WW1 VOCABULARY - "ARMAGEDDON": The Battle of Har Megiddo appears in the Bible (Book of Revelation, 16:16) as "Armageddon", where it carries the context of the battle at the ending of the world. The word is also used in everyday English to refer figuratively to any particularly costly conflict, and in this sense it was widely used of WW1 both at the time and since.
1440BCE The Battle of the Red Sea Crossing: This battle is fought out at the climax of the biblical flight of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt. The outcome is the inundation of the Pharaoh's pursuit forces, following an apparently miraculous "parting of the waters". The battle is noteworthy in the present context for demonstrating the value of a commander keeping a few surprises up his sleeve. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
ASIDE: On the TV Tropes website, we may tentatively place "parting the waters" somewhere between an Improvised Weapon and a Superweapon Surprise - check it out, but with echoes of the Defensive Feint Trap - check it out.
ASIDE - MILITARY MEDICINE: Moses did not leave everything to heavenly intervention. His advice to his commanders on the provision of latrines is as follows: "Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement" (Deuteronomy 23: 12-13 New International Version).
1400BCE The Siege of Jericho: This siege is fought out as part of the Israelite Conquest of Canaan between an Israelite army under Joshua [Wikipedia biography] and the virtually abandoned city of Jericho [<=8000BCE]. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, made more noteworthy in the present context both for its use of spies behind the lines, and as an example of xenophobic exaggeration. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
1353BCE The 18th Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten [Wikipedia biography] builds a palace and temple complex near the Nile at what is now el-Amarna [map]. There he will develop a trinity-based version of Egyptian religion. The site will fall out of use and remain undisturbed until rediscovered by Napoleon's forces during their Egyptian Campaign, 1798-1799. Later archaeological expeditions will take place in 1843-1845 [=>1843 (Richard Lepsius)], 1887, 1891, 1903-1908, and 1907-1914 [=>1907 (Ludwig Burchardt)]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
1274BCE The Psychologies of War [I - The Celebration of Victory (Egyptian Style)]: [New sub-thread] The 19th-dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II [Wikipedia biography] causes celebratory inscriptions to be raised on the south wall stonework of the Temple of Amun, Karnak, Egypt [images], recording what is now known as the Battle of Kadesh, an historic engagement between his army and that of the Hittites [Wikipedia history]. Militarily the Kadesh campaign is noteworthy for the large numbers of chariots involved, the interrogation of prisoners under torture, the value of accurate and timely reconnaissance, and the rapid counter-attack. Ramses' campaign in the Levant extends as far north as Nahr-el-Kalb [map, etc.], a strategically placed river estuary some 10 miles north of modern Beirut, where further celebratory inscriptions are raised. This site will be added to by later military campaigns by the Assyrians and the Romans, excavated in the 19th century [=>1843 (Richard Lepsius)], and then further extended by the British and French as they passed the same way during WW1 [=>1918 (1st October)] [sub-thread-continues at 1208BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
1208BCE The Psychologies of War [II - The Celebration of Victory (Egyptian Style)]: [Continued from 1274BCE] The Egyptian pharaoh Merenptah [Wikipedia biography] causes a 28-line stele [Wikipedia factsheet] to be erected at Thebes [map, etc.] to celebrate victories in battle in Libya and Canaan. This stele is widely accepted nowadays as including the earliest non-Biblical reference to the tribe of Israel [sub-thread-continues at 883BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
********** THE IRON AGE **********
1200BCE Around this time bronze age craftsmen acquire the skills necessary to smelt iron from ore, and use it to fabricate tools and weapons. [For details of the process involved, see 350BCE (Bloomery Furnace)] [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
1184BCE The Sacking of Troy: The semi-legendary Trojan War may be roughly dated to between 1194 and 1184BCE, and is known to modern audiences through Homer's Iliad. It is the war which will give us such heroes and villains as Agamemnon, Aeneas, Hector, Achilles, Paris, and Odysseus. It begins with a ship-borne invasion to establish a Hellenic bridgehead on the Trojan foreshore, continues into a nine-year siege, and finishes with one of the most famous acts of military deception in history, namely the Trojan Horse. Readers who are happy with a Hollywood account of these events could do worse than spend a couple of hours with Wolfgang Petersen's movie "Troy" (Warner Brothers, 2004 [see trailer]); otherwise check out The Iliad. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
RESEARCH ISSUE - ON THE RELIABILITY OF SEMI-LEGENDARY DATA: There was a 300 year interval between the events at Troy (if they happened at all) and the first surviving manuscript account thereof. There are also many possible psychological causes of incomplete and/or inaccurate eye-witness memory, as listed in Section 2.8 above. However there is no scientific way of taking an account such as Homer's, reducing it to its essential assertions, correcting those which need correcting, and thereby reverse engineering a more accurate original. The individual "facts" in semi-legendary sources must therefore always be treated as of dubious value.
1130BCE?? The "Trojan Legends": The Trojan Legend of British History holds that a chieftain named Pryd [Latinised as Brutus, later in Norman French as Brut], possibly great grandson of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas [<=1184BCE], is possibly involved in a successful invasion of Albion [i.e., the British Isles], having possibly landed at what is now Totnes, Devon. Possibly making short work of the giants who inhabit the land, they rename it Prydain [Latinised as Britannia], and move east to settle around Camulodumum [= modern Colchester] and Troy Novant [= "New Troy" = modern London]. Over the ensuing millennium, the invaders then possibly incorporate themselves into British tribal society as the Trinovantes [= "New Trojans" Wikipedia entry], only to reappear led by Queen Boudicca [=>59CE] in a failed attempt to drive later invaders from their shores. The main sources for the Trojan Legend are Nennius [=>828], Geoffrey of Monmouth [=>1136], and Layamon [=>1190].
ASIDE - CAMULODUNUM AS "CAMELOT": The Trinovantes have no written history nor literature of their own, so we know of them only what much later sources choose to tell us. This means that their place names will invariably have been Latinised. Thus the Trinovantian capital Camulodunum may bear only passing resemblance to an unknown original. That said, it has often been suggested (notably by Morris, 1973 [q.v.]) that Camulodunum is a perfect candidate for the "Camelot" of Arthurian myth. Unfortunately not everybody agrees, and rival candidates for this honour include Caerleon [=>1190 (Chrétien de Troyes)] and Winchester [=>1485 (Sir Thomas Malory)], and it may very well be that decisive hard archaeological evidence will never be found.
The Trojan Legend of French History is similar to that outlined above, save that it is part of Frankish historical tradition [=>292], not British, and the proposed migration takes place overland across northern Europe. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
1007BCE Battle of Mount Gilboa: This battle is fought between the Philistines and the Israelites, and is the Biblical event in which Saul, the Israelite king, loses his life. The battle is noteworthy in the present context (a) because this particular "us and them" conflict is still raging , and (b) because it introduces a number of important research issues. For example, 1 Samuel 30 includes the following account of the interrogation of a prisoner of war ...
"They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat - part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights. David asked him, 'Who do you belong to? Where do you come from?' He said, 'I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. We raided the Negev of the Kerethites, some territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.' David asked him, 'Can you lead me down to this raiding party?' He answered, 'Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.'" (New International Version online).
Following Perry (2011) we also note 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1, which present two conflicting versions of Saul's death in battle. Here is the first ...
"Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. Saul said to his armour-bearer, 'Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.' But his armour-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When the armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. So Saul and his three sons and his armour-bearer and all his men died together that same day" (New International Version online). [THREAD = BATTLEFIELD SUICIDE]
KEY MILITARY TROPE - THE COUP DE GRÂCE: [French = "merciful blow"] A coup de grâce is a decisive blow at the end of a prolonged bout of combat, when previous blows have rendered your opponent defenceless. The final blow is easy to deliver and by definition fatal. It may even be welcomed to some extent by the victim. As to what might go wrong, we recommend a few minutes with the short story "The Coup de Grace" by Ambrose Bierce [full text online]. KEY MILITARY TROPE - "FALLING ON YOUR SWORD": To "fall on your sword" involves placing your sword hilt downward on the ground and then collapsing bodily onto its raised point, so that your own weight prevents you chickening out half way through the process. It was the standard method of honour suicide in the Roman Army. The term is common in educated modern English, where it is used figuratively to describe honour resignations or self-punishments of any sort. KEY MILITARY TROPE - "SEPPUKO": Seppuko [Japanese = "stomach cutting"] is the approved form of ritual suicide carried out by the Japanese samurai warrior caste to avoid captivity or public dishonour. KEY MILITARY TROPE - "KAMIKAZE": The term kamikaze [Japanese = "divine wind"] became familiar in WW2 thanks to the Japanese suicide pilots who flew by that name. KEY MILITARY TROPE - "SAVING THE LAST BULLET": To "save the last bullet" is to blow your own brains out in a melée because (a) your ammunition is running out, (b) there is no chance of rescue, and (c) your assailants are otherwise going to make you suffer a whole lot more. Two (or more) bullets will be needed if you are protecting wife (children, etc.). KEY MILITARY TROPE - "NOT BEING TAKEN ALIVE": It is important "not to be taken alive" when dealing with an uncivilised enemy, that is to say, with people unlike your own, who attach no particular privileges to being a prisoner of war. It is especially important when fighting "savages" of any sort, who can be relied upon to leave no bodily appendage unmutilated and know how and where to cut or burn for maximum agony [case study; case study; case study]. The poet Rudyard Kipling doubtless had just this sort of thing in mind when he wrote ...
"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
An' go to your God like a soldier ..." (The Young British Soldier, 1895)
KEY MILITARY TROPE - BATTLEFIELD EUTHANASIA: Unlike battlefield suicide, an act of battlefield euthanasia requires another person to do the deed. This other person will often, but not necessarily, be a comrade of an injured soldier. Saul's armour-bearer, however, clearly did not feel himself able to kill his king, even though the king himself had requested it.
WAR VIDEO: The issue whether it is morally right to take a friendly life on the battlefield is very clearly set out in the scene in Stephen Spielberg's movie "Saving Private Ryan" (Paramount Pictures, 1998), where Technician Irwin Wade [played by Giovanni Ribisi], the section medical orderly, methodically checklists »his own« injuries, concludes that they are fatal, and has his comrades administer a fatal overdose of morphine [story; see this scene on Youtube].
... and here is the second ...
"'I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,' the young man said, 'and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’ 'He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ '‘An Amalekite,’ I answered. 'Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’ 'So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.' Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. David said to the young man who brought him the report, 'Where are you from?' 'I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,' he answered. David asked him, 'Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?' Then David called one of his men and said, 'Go, strike him down!' So he struck him down, and he died" (New International Version online). [THREAD = BATTLEFIELD EUTHANASIA]
KEY MILITARY TROPE - "EXECUTING PRISONERS-OF-WAR": The "young man" referred to in the above quotation was executed as a prisoner-of-war. This is a very sensitive issue with many ramifications. We shall be dealing with it in detail in due course, but to see what is at stake check out the 17th December 1944 massacre of US Army prisoners-of-war at Malmedy, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge.
********** CAVALRY ARE INVENTED **********
900BCE From around this time evidence begins to accumulate of the use of horsemen as cavalry (Guilaine and Zammit, 2001). [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
883BCE The Psychologies of War [III - The Celebration of Victory (Assyrian Style)]: [Continued from 1208BCE] Ashurnasirpal II [Wikipedia biography] succeeds his father as king of Assyria and sets about expanding his empire, recording his successes on celebratory reliefs and statues, a selection of which are nowadays showcased in the British Museum in London [museum webpage] [sub-thread continues at 722BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
850BCE The Greek poet Homer [Wikipedia biography] compiles "The Iliad" (the story of the Trojan War), and "The Odyssey" (the story of Odysseus's long and eventful journey home after the war was over). These two works tell us much about what the Ancient Greeks knew, thought, and valued, as well as how they fought, how their society and economy was structured, and how they built and used ships and other technology. As such they are a priceless side-commentary upon the more concrete evidence provided by physical archaeology. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
722BCE The Psychologies of War [IV - The Celebration of Victory (Assyrian Style)]: [Continued from 883BCE] Upon the death of Shalmaneser V of Assyria [Wikipedia biography] his throne passes to his brother as Sargon II [Wikipedia biography=>705BCE], who embarks upon a 17-year campaign of conquest against his neighbours1. He uses the resulting war-booty to build himself a new capital city at Dur-Sharrukin [= modern Khorsabad; Wikipedia factsheet], near Ninevah [map, etc.], causing it to be richly decorated with celebratory stelae and friezes. Again future historians will remark on the propaganda value of these artefacts, thus ...
"Such relics, by their celebratory nature, indicate an awareness of propaganda after-the-event. [...] During Sargon's many campaigns his huge army of over 50,000 men could only survive by living off the land, and the morale of his troops was mainly determined by their ability to do this. [...] By the middle of the fourteenth century BC, however, when the Assyrians were challenging the Babylonians for supremacy, they brought with them heroic military poems and hymns. [...] Composed after the event, often long afterward, epic royal poems and stories can be regarded as an example of celebratory war propaganda, being designed to praise and glorify the achievements or memory of a particular ruler. But what about prior to battle? Cautionary tales warning of the dangers of a possible course of action were largely inspired by the priesthoods of ancient Sumeria who began to compete with kings for public loyalty. Omens, prophecies, and oracles were also forms of social persuasion and initially it was from religion that propaganda concerning the future outcome of wars most commonly derived. Invoking the gods was of course an ideal way to sustain the power and position of the priesthood in a superstitious society; but it was also a means of boosting morale prior to a fight if priests and kings were of the same mind. [...] The Assyrians, for instance, maintained that they waged war against the enemies of the god Assur to demonstrate the glory of their deity, and they did so with such ferocity that many potential enemies conceded without a fight. Indeed, war was considered to be the very reason for a king's existence [...]. By the first millennium BC, then, the rulers of the Assyrian Empire were perfecting the use of documents and monuments to create desired behaviour among their own subjects, to demonstrate divine support, and to consolidate their royal position. Fortifications and palaces, together with their decorations of statues and murals, all reflected the power and prestige of the king and revealed his preoccupation with war. [...] Assyrian royal inscriptions referred to warlike activities in reports on specific campaigns and in annalistic accounts. These accounts invariably describe the marching out to war of the king and his army, the battle and inevitable victory, the triumph and the punishment meted out to the vanquished, and the king's concluding report back to his god. Regardless of the reality, war was presented as a defensive or punitive measure, a glorious exercise in kingship whose triumph was made in the name of an increasingly formalised or symbolic deity" (Taylor, 1990, pp21-22; colour highlighting added and now further discussed ...).
In the fullness of time precisely the devices highlighted above will be seen (mutatis mutandis) in the Allies' cinematographic celebration of their victory in World War One [sub-thread continues at 701BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
1ASIDE - THE NORTHERN ISRAELITE DIASPORA: Amongst the peoples on the receiving end of the Assyrian onslaught were the Israelites of Canaan [<=1400BCE], the "northern kingdom" of whom were taken off into exile and historical obscurity, leaving behind only the "southern kingdom" (predominantly the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi), who would be the subject of a second diaspora in 589BCE [q.v.=>]. We shall for the time being be referring to this southern kingdom as Judea - "the land of Judah" - and not "Judaea", its later name as a Roman province.
705BCE Upon the death in battle of Sargon II [<=722BCE] the Assyrian throne passes to his son Sennacherib [Wikipedia biography=>701BCE], during whose 24-year reign the Assyrian Empire continues to flourish despite more or less continual insurrection from its possessions, not least Judah [=>701BCE] and Babylonia [=>612BCE]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
701BCE The Psychologies of War [V - Conflicting Accounts (Assyrian Style)]: [Continued from 722BCE] With Egyptian aid Hezekiah of Judah [Wikipedia biography] rises in rebellion against Sennacherib [705BCE<=>1815]. The Assyrians respond by sending a punitive expedition led by Sennacherib himself, which, after securing a number of lesser towns, lays siege to Jerusalem. The outcomes of the siege are historically somewhat obscure because there exist highly contradictory Judean (i.e., biblical) and Assyrian accounts. The event is therefore noteworthy in the present context as an example of the propagandistic phrasing of national history1 [sub-thread continues at 612BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
1ASIDE: We shall repeatedly observe that one of the perks of military victory is to be able to write the history from your own viewpoint. The Judean account of the 701BCE siege is contained in 2 Kings, 18-19, and claims 185,000 Assyrians killed. The Assyrian histories mention only the receipt of tribute. The Judean account will be resurrected 2500 years later in a poem by Lord Byron [=>1815].
650BCE Around this time unknown persons deposit bronze (several) and iron (three) artifacts in the lake now known as Llyn Fawr [= modern Wales, two miles southwest of Hirwaun], perhaps with ritual purpose [King Arthur will reputedly do much the same with Excalibur, remember]. These artifacts will be unearthed by construction workers between 1909 and 1913, and the sword is believed to be the oldest iron object so far discovered in Wales. [=>350BCE] [THREAD = THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION]
612BCE The Psychologies of War [VI - The Celebration of Victory (Babylonian Style)]: [Continued from 722BCE] After 14 years of armed schism between the established but waning Assyrian Empire and a break-away administration based in Babylon [map, etc.] a Babylonian army under Nabopolassar [Wikipedia biography=>605BCE] finally succeeds in sacking the Assyrian capital Ninevah [maplink at 722BCE]. This victory enables the Babylonians to take control of Mesopotamia and the Levant while the Persians start to develop imperial ambitions of their own to the north-east. Nabopolassar has his victories celebrated in the by-now-usual way, namely with reliefs and statues. Over the coming century a number of Babylonian emperors will become historical personalities in their own right, not least Nabopolassar's son Nebuchadnezzar II [Wikipedia biography=>605BCE] and Belshazzar [Wikipedia biography=>556BCE] [sub-thread-continues at 431BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
605BCE Following the death of Nabopolassar [<=612BCE] the Babylonian throne passes to his son Nebuchadnezzar II [612BCE<=>597BCE]. Reigning for some 43 years Nebuchadnezzar's achievements will include two sieges of Jerusalem [=>605BCE and 589BCE] and the creation of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon [Wikipedia factsheet]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
597BCE The First Siege of Jerusalem: This siege is fought out as part of the Babylonian-Egyptian War between a Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar II [605BCE<=>589BCE] and the pro-Egyptian Judean garrison at Jerusalem under Jehoiakim [Wikipedia biography]. The Judean Zedekiah [Wikipedia biography=>589BCE] is installed as puppet king. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
589BCE The Second Siege of Jerusalem, 589-587BCE: This 30-month siege is fought out between a Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar II [<=597BCE] and the rebellious Judean garrison at Jerusalem under Zedekiah [<=597BCE]. The outcome is a victory for the Babylonians, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the forced removal of the population into exile in Babylonia1. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
1ASIDE - THE SOUTHERN ISRAELITE DIASPORA: More than a century after the scattering of the tribes of the Israelite "northern kingdom" [<=722BCE (ASIDE)], Nebuchadnezzar now ships the southern tribes off into slavery "by the rivers of Babylon" (Psalm 137 and Boney M [hear it now]).
587BCE The Second Sabine War: This war is fought between an invading Sabine army and the defenders of Rome under Lucius Tarquinius Priscus [Wikipedia biography]. The outcome is a victory for the Romans, but only after Tarquinius raises the number of equites - aristocratic cavalrymen - in the Roman army from 300 to 600. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
560BCE The Servian Reforms: Around this time the Roman king Servius Tullius [Wikipedia biography] implements a number of social, economic, political, and military reforms. The pivotal construct here is the civilian "century", an electoral block of 100 citizens of comparable rank from a given locality. Membership of a given civic century brings with it a duty for military service at a corresponding rank. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
559BCE Upon the death of Cambyses I [Wikipedia biography] the throne of Persia passes to his son Cyrus II [Wikipedia biography=>556BCE], who devotes the next 30 years to building up Persia from a kingdom into an fully-fledged empire. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
556BCE Nabonidus of Babylon [Wikipedia biography] ascends the throne of Babylon at a time of increasing rivalry with Cyrus II's [559BCE<=>539BCE] Persia, later acting as co-regent with (his son?) Belshazzar [612BCE<=>539BCE]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** AN EMPIRE FALLS **********
539BCE [5th October] The Battle of Opis/The Fall of Babylon: After 15 years of Persian pressure this battle is fought at Opis [map, etc.], 50 miles north of modern Baghdad, between Cyrus II [<=556BCE] and the Babylonians under Nabonidus [<=556BCE] and Belshazzar [ditto]. The outcome is a historically decisive Persian victory, following which Babylon is occupied and its status reduced to being a vassal kingdom of Persia. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
509BCE The Roman monarchy is overthrown and replaced with a republican system fronted by elected consuls. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE FRISIANS ARRIVE **********
500BCE Around this time a Germanic people known as the Frisii start to colonise the coastal lands of north-eastern Europe, in the compounded deltas of the Rhine, the Ejssel, the Ems, the Weser, and the Elbe [= modern Rotterdam to Bremerhaven]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
500BCE The Chinese general Sun Tzu [Wikipedia biography] collates the manuscript now known in English as "The Art of War" [full text online]. It contains practical advice for would-be strategic commanders, for example ...
"... 16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. 17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. 18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength ..."
As we shall be seeing in due course, the work contains a number of WW1-relevant observations. [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
490BCE Battle of Marathon: This historically significant battle takes place during the Persian invasion of Greece and involves a Greek army under Miltiades [Wikipedia biography] attempting to dislodge Persian troops from a bridgehead in the Bay of Marathon, on the northern shore of the Athenian peninsular [map]. The outcome is a decisive Greek victory. Politically the battle marks the point in the Greco-Persian Wars when the Greeks realise that the eastern hordes are not invincible, provided only that their individual city states act together as a nation. Militarily it is best remembered as a victory for a small boldly handled force over a larger, but less well disciplined, enemy. The battle becomes a foregone conclusion as soon as the Persian centre allow panic to take over, and is best remembered in modern times for the athletic deeds of the messenger Pheidippides [Wikipedia biography]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
ASIDE - PAN AND PANIC: Future historians will remark upon the role of religion in Greek warfare at this time, thus ...
"Omens and portents - perhaps natural phenomena such as an electrical storm or a lunar eclipse - were used in psychological preparations for battle as signs from the gods. [...] Contemporary accounts also refer to the gods actually appearing in battle. The heat of the moment, the rush of adrenalin during combat, combined with the religious background which dominated Greek life, may have caused the warriors to believe they were fighting alongside their heroes and gods - in short, to hallucinate" (Taylor, 1990, p27).
Legend has it that the god Pan intervened personally in the Persian panic at the Battle of Marathon by turning against them his skill at mischievously spooking herds of goats [more on this]. We shall have a lot more to say about group psychology on the battlefield in due course.
ASIDE - THE HOPLITE PHALANX: Marathon is one of the battles described by the Greek historian Herodotus, so we have a detailed contemporary insight into the motivation and tactics of the respective armies. A "hoplite" was a well-trained reservist, time-served and ready for action at short notice, much like the modern Israeli Reserve Service [more on this]. Typical equipment was a long thrusting (rather than throwing) spear, a large round shield, fish-scale armour and helmet [image], and a sword for use at close quarters when the spear became unwieldy [image]. The signature tactic was for several hundred men to form a "phalanx" - a tightly packed body intended to engage the enemy at spear's length first before closing in for hand-to-hand combat. Once closed in, the front rank would engage with their sword, while those behind would support with their spears [image]. The initial advance was slow and disciplined unless circumstances demanded otherwise, and the eventual engagement (assuming the enemy chose not to make themselves scarce) was made as bloody as possible and punctuated by the regular othismos, or heave, when the front row was driven forward into the enemy by a coordinated press from the rows behind.
KEY MILITARY TROPE - KEEPING TIGHT FORMATION: The best way to get the most out of your troops is to have them fight in tight formation. Only then can the whole become greater than the sum of its parts. But is it always a good thing? One of the enduring images of WW1 is of a set-piece walking pace advance across nomansland with rifles at the "high port" position1. No attempt is made to take advantage of local cover, nor to rush, nor to return fire. This was the British Army fretting about cohesion and doing its best to stay in control. This was the British Army inviting the German machine-gunners to do their worst, because the General Staff had already decided that the alternative would have been even costlier. Advancing passively into machine-gun fire, in other words, was thought at the time to be the lesser of two perceived evils - you could either stay neatly in line and take heavy casualties, or you could rush-and-drop randomly and end up with chaos because the 1914 B.E.F. was deemed too inexperienced to adopt skirmishing tactics. We shall be looking into the issue in detail in due course. In the meantime, for a better idea of the difference between a passive advance and skirmishing, see the entry for 1814 (Battle of New Orleans).
1see reenactment society video - the "high port" position starts at .23 and lasts about five seconds.
480BCE Battle of Thermopylae: This historically significant battle takes place during the Persian invasion of Greece between a small Greek army under Leonidas I of Sparta [Wikipedia biography], and a much larger Persian army under Xerxes I (the Great) [Wikipedia biography]. Because of the inequality of the two forces, Leonidas needs a geographically advantageous defensive position, and chooses the narrow littoral strip above the shoreline at Thermopylae [map]. Here they hold off Persian frontal assaults for two days, inflicting disproportionate casualties, only to be eventually outflanked when the Persians make their way up through Mount Anopaia to their left. Wishing to preserve the main army Leonidas orders the non-Spartan battalions to withdraw to safety, protected by a rearguard of 300 Spartans, specially selected to have living sons to maintain their family line. They perish on the final day of battle, but their spirited defence will become a model for future heroism. Indeed, it is still being commemorated, as in Zack Snyder's movie "300" (2004; Warner Bros) or (its highly entertaining spoof) Jason Friedberg's "Go Tell the Spartans" (2008; Twentieth Century Fox). [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
480BCE Battle of Salamis: This historically significant battle takes place during the Persian invasion of Greece between a 21-city Greek fleet under Themistocles [Wikipedia biography] and a much larger Persian fleet under Ariabignes [Wikipedia biography; killed this day]. The outcome is a decisive Greek victory with disproportionately high Persian losses, causing them to abandon their attempted invasion of Greece. The battle is also noteworthy in the present context for the morale effect of an owl - the Athenian state bird - settling on the mast of the Greek flagship just before the battle [full story online=>310BCE]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
445BCE Concerning the strategic importance of bronze, the Greek historian Herodotus [Wikipedia biography] explains that the tin needed to smelt it comes by boat from some islands far to the west known as the Cassiterides [Greek Κασσιτερος = "tin"]. We shall have much more to say about these islands in due course. Herodotus also introduces the Scythians, a non-Germanic Caucasoid ethnicity living in lands to the north of the Black Sea [= modern Ukraine]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
435BCE A son is born to Darius II of Persia [Wikipedia biography] and named Artaxerxes II [Wikipedia biography]. A second son, named Cyrus the Younger [Wikipedia biography], will follow some years later. Their subsequent sibling rivalry for the Persian throne will come to the boil in the Persian Campaign [=>401BCE]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
431BCE The Peleponnesian War, 431BCE-404BCE: also ... The Psychologies of War [VII - Morale (Athenian Style)]: [Continued from 612BCE] This 27-year war is fought between the Athenian Empire and the Peleponnesian League. The outcome is a victory for the Peleponnesian League. The Athenian general Thucydides [Wikipedia biography] survives the war and records his experiences in a manuscript which will survive until modern times as "The History of the Peloponnesian War" [buy Amazon].
KEY MILITARY VOCABULARY - "MEMOIRS" (I - COMMANDERS): Thucydides' work is an early example of a general eager to record his own version of history in the form of "memoirs". Many later generals have funded their retirement the same way, and such works naturally tend to be one-sided and self-congratulatory (for example, Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico [=>54BCE] carefully overlooks all the treasure he amassed during his campaigns). However providing due allowance is made for this weakness we are left with priceless first-hand accounts of the war in question. KEY MILITARY VOCABULARY - "MEMOIRS" (II - TROOPS): For a number of reasons comparable works by common soldiers are far rarer. To start with the lower ranks are far more likely to be killed, taking their testimony with them to the grave. And even if they survive they are likely to be too illiterate or too busy earning a living to put pen to paper. And even when common soldiers have the means, they may not have the inclination, falling instead into that category of "not wanting to talk about it". In due course we shall be developing the thesis that the enduring attraction of WW1 war poetry is that it allows some those not wanting to "talk about it" to do just that.
The work is packed with insights and opinions from one who was on the field. Here, for example, is Pericles [Wikipedia biography], shortly before he fell victim to the plague, on the intellectual aspects of courage ...
"... Not courage alone, therefore, but an actual sense of your superiority should animate you as you go forward against the enemy. Confidence, out of a mixture of ignorance and good luck, can be felt even by cowards; but this sense of superiority comes only to those who, like us, have real reasons for knowing that they are better placed than their opponents. And when the chances on both sides are equal, it is intelligence that confirms courage - the intelligence that makes one able to look down on one's opponent ..." (p161; bold emphasis added).
And here is Thucydides himself on the need to maintain a rapid-response reserve formation ...
"The Peleponnesians sailed with their ships in circular formation, the prows facing outward and the sterns in. The circle was as big as could be without leaving gaps wide enough for the enemy to manoeuvre in, and inside were all the light craft that formed part of the expedition, together with five of the fastest and best-equipped warships which were to be constantly ready to sail outside and come to the relief of any portion of the circumference where the enemy might attack" (pp177-178; bold emphasis added).
KEY MILITARY TACTIC - THE "FIRE BRIGADE" RESERVE: One of the cornerstones of military tactics is that you should not commit all your most effective troops into the thick of the fighting too soon. Instead you need to hold back a proportion of your strength - often the best armed, most loyal, and most experienced troops - in order to "plug gaps" as they appear. On a conventional linear battlefield this is usually accomplished by positioning your units two or three deep, so that those at the back can adjust their position to the left or right as required. This capability to move quickly to the point of greatest need is well brought out by the modern term fire brigade unit [more on this].
... on how to deliver an eve-of-battle pep talk ...
"I see, my men, that you are alarmed by the enemy's numbers, and I have called this meeting because I do not want you to be frightened when there is no occasion to be so. First of all, the reason why they have equipped this great number of ships and are not meeting us on even terms is that they have been defeated once already and do not even think themselves that they are a match for us. [...] Then, too, the Spartans who are in command of them are acting for the honour of Sparta, and most of the men are being led into danger much against their will [...] So there is no reason at all for you to fear that they will show any great audacity. It is much more the case that they are frightened of you ..." (pp181-182; bold emphasis added).
... on the battlefield value of martial music ...
"After this the two armies met, the Argives and their allies advancing with great violence and fury, while the Spartans came on slowly and to the music of many flutes players in their ranks. This custom of theirs has nothing to do with religion; it is designed to make them keep in step and move forward steadily without breaking their ranks, as large armies often do when they are just about to join battle" (p392; bold emphasis added).
RESEARCH ISSUE - "KEEPING TOGETHER IN TIME": In 1995 the historian William H. McNeill suggested that human biology renders every one of us highly sensitive to rhythms and beats, especially those of one's immediate companions. He produces testimony from veterans of many wars on the exhilarating effects of military bands, drill, group athletics, and - above all - of marching in step. We shall be dealing with this issue in detail in due course. RESEARCH ISSUE - "BATTLE TRANCE": In like vein, the "ethnomusicologist" Joseph Jordania has recently suggested that battlefield rhythms serve to induce a "battle trance", an altered state of consciousness in which fear is easier to control. Again we shall be dealing with this issue in detail in due course.
... and with a couple of snippets on the psychology of nations, both easy to apply to Britain and Germany on the eve of WW1 ...
"The fact is that when great prosperity comes suddenly and unexpectedly to a state, it usually breeds arrogance ..." (p215).
"For at this time Sparta chiefly prided herself on being a land power with an unrivalled army and Athens on being a sea power with the greatest navy in existence" (pp271-272).
As to the weapons technology of his day, Thucidides mentions the deployment of an early flamethrower at the Battle of Delium ...
"Various methods of attack were employed, and in the end they took the place by means of an engine constructed in the following manner. They took a great beam, sawed it in two parts, both of which they completely hollowed out, and then fitted the two parts closely together again, as in the joints of a pipe. A cauldron was then attached with chains to one end of the beam, and an iron tube, curving down into the cauldron, was inserted through the hollow part of the beam. Much of the surface of the beam itself was plated with iron. They brought up this machine from some distance on carts to the part of the wall that had been principally constructed of vines and other wood. When it was close to the wall, they inserted into their end of the beam bellows and blew through them. The blast, confined inside the tube, went straight into the cauldron which was filled with lighted coals, sulphur, and pitch. A great flame was produced which set fire to the wall and made it impossible for the defenders to stay at their posts. They abandoned their positions and fled; and so the fortification was captured" (p325).
And finally he offers this cautionary tale ...
"When the news [of the disastrous Athenian Expedition against Syracuse] reached Athens, for a long time people would not believe it, even though they were given precise information from the very soldiers who had been present at the event and had escaped; still they thought that this total destruction was something that could not possibly be true. And when they did recognise the facts, they turned against the public speakers who had been in favour of the expedition [... and] also became angry with the prophets and soothsayers and all who at the time had, by various methods of divination, encouraged them to believe that they would [prevail]" (p538).
One of the enduring mysteries of WW1 is that spontaneous backlashes of this sort will actually be extremely rare. We shall return to this topic when discussing the "Pals' battalions" [=>1916 (1st July)] [The Psychologies sub-thread continues at 401BCE ...]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
405BCE The Battle of Aegospotami: This battle is fought toward the end of the broader Peloponnesian War between a Spartan fleet under Lysander [Wikipedia biography=>404BCE] and an Athenian fleet under Philocles [no convenient biography]. The outcome is the virtual annihilation of the Athenian navy. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
404BCE The Thirty Tyrants: Following the Athenian defeat at Aegospotami [<=preceding entry] Lysander [ditto] installs a 30-man interim government in Athens, who proceed to conduct a 13-month-long campaign of terror against surviving dissidents. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
401BCE The Persian Campaign, 401-399BCE: This two-year military expedition is fought between a 10,000-strong mercenary army of Greeks in the service of Cyrus, Prince of Persia [<=435] and the Persian Army under (his brother) Artaxerxes II, King of Persia [<=435], whose throne Cyrus covets. The senior Greek commander is Clearchus [Wikipedia biography], commander of the Spartan brigade, and the senior Persian commander is Tissaphernes [Wikipedia biography]. The Greek soldier-historian Xenophon [Wikipedia biography] is attached to the Athenian brigade as a supernumerary, and will be proclaimed Commander-in-Chief after Cyrus' and Clearchus' deaths. Of course once Cyrus is dead there is no longer any purpose to the campaign other than to get home safely, but that will not prove as simple as it sounds. Here are the principal events ...
· The Battle of Cunaxa, 401BCE
· The Stand-Off, 401BCE
· The Escape Northward, 401-399BCE
Xenophon's memoirs - Anabasis [= (poetically) "out on a limb"] - are still available as "The Persian Expedition" [buy Amazon]. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
401BCE The Battle of Cunaxa: This battle is fought as part of the Persian Campaign [<=preceding entry] between Cyrus' expeditionary column and the full might of the Persian army under Artaxerxes. The outcome is a decent enough victory for Greek battlefield professionalism, but a hero's death for Cyrus personally. Here is how it came about ...
"Cyrus was pleased enough when he saw the Greeks winning [but] was not so carried away as to join the pursuit. He kept the six hundred cavalry of his personal bodyguard in close order, and [...eventually the king] wheeled right in an outflanking movement. Then Cyrus, fearing that the King might get behind the Greeks and cut them up, moved directly toward him. With his six hundred he charged into and broke through the screen of troops in front of the King, routed the six thousand, and is said to have killed their commander, Artagerses, with his own hand. But while they turned to flight, Cyrus's own six hundred lost their cohesion in their eagerness for the pursuit, and there were only a very few left with him, mostly those who were called his 'table-companions'. When left with these few, he caught sight of the King [... and] charged down on him, and struck him a blow on the breast [...]. But while he was in the very act of striking the blow, someone hit him hard under the eye with a javelin ..." (p50).
The battle is noteworthy in the present context for demonstrating how an offensive can be turned into a withdrawal with but a single sword-stroke. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
401BCE The Stand-Off: This is the second phase of the Persian Campaign [<=preceding entry], in which Clearchus attempts to negotiate with Tissaphernes for safe passage back to Greece. The negotiations break down as soon as the Greeks refuse to lay down their arms, and matters then come to a head when the Persians treacherously disregard the unwritten rules of parley and murder Clearchus and many of his generals. [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
401BCE The Escape Northward: also ... The Psychologies of War [VIII - Morale (Athenian Style)]: [Continued from 431BCE] This is the third phase of the Persian Campaign [<=preceding entry]. It begins with Xenophon, the supernumerary, talking things through with the surviving Greek officers. The conversation is pretty one-sided, and boils down to this: "We are at least a thousand miles from home and we all know what will happen to us if we surrender. So let's fight our way out of this mess or die honourably in the attempt". Not only do the captains agree, but they select him to be their commander. The remainder of the work is an event-by-event account of the retreat, full of facts and insights. Here, for example, is what Xenophon has to say about cavalry to an army that presently has none available ...
"If any of you feel disheartened because of the fact that we have no cavalry while the enemy have great numbers of them, you must remember that ten thousand cavalry only amount to ten thousand men. No one has ever died in battle through being bitten or kicked by a horse; it is men who do whatever gets done in battle. [...] There is only one way in which cavalry have an advantage over us, and that is that it is safer for them to run away than it is for us" (p108; bold emphasis added).
On leaving an unmistakable calling card ...
"The Greeks, acting on their own initiative, mutilated the corpses, so that the sight of them might cause as much fear as possible among the enemy" (p117).
KEY MILITARY TROPE - "CALLING CARD" MUTILATIONS: A WW1 Australian unit will do exactly the same.
On knowing the names of one's men (and thereby honouring their memory) ...
"Here a gallant Spartan soldier, called Leonymus, was killed by an arrow which went into the side of his body through the shield and the jerkin, and Basias the Arcadian was also killed, shot clean through the head" (p133)
On interrogating prisoners of war ...
"At once they brought the two men and questioned them separately, to see if they knew of any other road apart from the obvious one. One of the two, although he was threatened in every kind of way, said that he did not know of any other road. Since he said nothing that was of any help, he was killed, with the other man looking on. The survivor then [... started to co-operate]" (pp133-134).
The escape northward takes them through Kurdestan and the Ararat mountains of Armenia until they reach the Black Sea at the port of Trapezus [= modern Trabzon, Turkey; map, etc.], and then westward along the Black Sea coast to the Bosphorus [The Psychologies sub-thread continues at 386BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
400BCE Around this time some Athenian wag takes to impressing the letters DEXAI [roughly "take that!"] into the leaden slingshot slugs he is casting [image]. The practice will persist, mutatis mutandis, in WW1 [as in this Bridgeman Image] and is discussed on the TV Tropes website as the "marked bullet". [THREAD = WW1 ARTILLERY]
400BCE The Battle of the Allia: The Senones, a Gallic tribe from the lands around modern Paris, are led by their chieftain Brennus [Wikipedia biography] in an attack across the Alps into northern Italy. After establishing themselves in Umbria for nine years they will eventually move further southward into Etruria, laying siege to Clusium [= modern Chiusi]. The Clusines appeal for assistance from the Romans and a battle takes place in the valley of the Allia, just outside Rome. The Senones concentrate their ferocity on the Roman flanks, which soon give way and flee, leaving the centre to be surrounded and slaughtered. The victorious Gauls enjoy a brief occupation of Rome but withdraw as Roman reinforcements start to arrive. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - MILITARY MEDICINE: It will subsequently be suggested that Brennus' army was at less than peak strength during its Rome campaign, probably due to dysentery. Brennus had perhaps not taken sufficient account of Moses' 11th Commandment - the one concerning the proper digging of latrines [<=1440BCE]!
399BCE The Death of Socrates: Judged, in his own words, by a jury of children with a cook prosecuting (Gorgias [see next entry], §521), the Greek philosopher Socrates [Wikipedia biography=>386BCE] is found guilty of impiety and sedition and condemned to death by drinking poison. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** FROM WORDS TO GEOPOLITICAL IDENTITY **********
SOME MAJOR ISSUES
"The ability [...] to make the worse cause appear the better struck Plato as the source of all corruption" (Gorgias, Jacket Notes).
386BCE The Psychologies of War [IX - Rhetoric, Geopolitical Identity, and Militarism (Plato on)]: [Continued from 401BCE] The Greek philosopher Plato [Wikipedia biography=380BCE] compiles the Socratic dialogue now known as "Gorgias" [full text online], in which he analyses the purposes and methods of political oratory. Firstly some background definitions ...
DEFINITIONS - "ORATORY", "RHETORIC", AND "PROPAGANDA": The Greek word rhesis meant speech, rhetor (whence orator) meant speaker, and rhetorike techne meant the craft of speaking. These words have come down into modern English as "oratory" and "rhetoric", the former being the act of " " (Dictionary.com), and the latter being the more formally defined "art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques" (O.E.D.). "Propaganda" is - strictly speaking - nothing more than the spreading of a particular message as a "thing-to-be-propagated" within a target population. In practice, however, the word has so frequently been used of and by intellectually oppressive campaigns of believe-it-or-die persuasion that it has acquired connotations of "something negative and dishonest" (Jowett and O'Donnell, 1982, p2).
Recording events which took place some 40 years earlier, the dialogue is primarily between Socrates [<=399BCE] and the Sicilian Sophist philosopher Gorgias [Wikipedia biography], who is visiting Athens showcasing his skills ...
DEFINITIONS - "SOPHISTRY": Originally "Sophistry" was the delivery of knowledge as an educational commodity to be purchased. By the fifth century BCE, however, Sophist philosophers such as Protagoras [Wikipedia biography] were finding (a) that the rich and powerful - that is to say, those who could best afford the fee - were buying their services simply to stay rich and powerful, and (b) that it was usually no longer knowledge which was required, but positive opinion. This gave the word "Sophist" a sharply pejorative edge, which remains in modern usage. Thus to be accused of sophistry is to be accused of deliberately attempting to deceive, for payment, by means of clever words and selective truths, as when tobacco-funded "scientific" research of the mid-20th century found no evidence of smoking as a pathogen. It is, in short, what we know nowadays as "spin" [more on this].
DEFINITIONS - MEMORY THEORY, MODERN AND CLASSICAL: Readers unfamiliar with the distinction in modern cognitive science between the episodic, semantic, and procedural sub-forms of long-term memory should pre-read the corresponding entries in the Companion Resource. Note also the cross-mapping of the modern concepts onto the psychological skills identified in Greek mental philosophy, not least techne (craft/ability) and episteme (factual knowledge) - for fuller definitions see sections G.1 and G.2 in the Companion Resource.
Gorgias has just given a speech and is on his way to the house of his host Callicles, along with his pupil-aide Polus [Wikipedia biography]. Socrates takes the opportunity to quiz him as to the true nature of his craft, thus (a very long section, heavily abridged; main issues and conclusions highlighted) ...
"SOCRATES: What is it that oratory is the knowledge of? GORGIAS: Speech. SOCRATES: What sort of speech, Gorgias? The kind which tells the sick how they must live in order to get well? GORGIAS: No. SOCRATES: Then oratory is not concerned with every kind of speech? GORGIAS: Certainly not. SOCRATES: But you would say that it makes men good at speaking? GORGIAS: Yes. SOCRATES: And presumably good at thinking about the subjects on which it teaches them to speak? [...] So it appears that medicine too is concerned with speech? GORGIAS: Yes. SOCRATES: Speech about ailments? GORGIAS: Of course. SOCRATES: Similarly, physical training is concerned with speech about the fitness of our bodies and the opposite? GORGIAS: Undoubtedly. SOCRATES: And the same is true about all the other arts, Gorgias. Each of them is concerned with the kind of speech that is relevant to the subject with which each art deals. GORGIAS: So it seems. SOCRATES: Then [...] why do you not call these other arts oratory [...]? GORGIAS. Because, Socrates, whereas with the other arts the knowledge appropriate to them is almost wholly concerned with manual operations and such like, there is nothing analogous in the case of oratory, which does its work and produces its effect entirely by means of speech. That is why I assert that the art of oratory is the art of speech par excellence [...]. SOCRATES: Now among the arts there are, I think, some which consist mainly of action and have little or no need of speech, arts such as painting and sculpture and many others, whose business could be carried on in positive silence. It is with arts such as these, I suppose, that you say that oratory has no concern. Am I right? GORGIAS: Absolutely right, Socrates. SOCRATES: But there are other arts which achieve their whole effect by speech, and have no need of action - or very little - arithmetic, for example, and calculation and geometry and [...] games like backgammon and so on ...
ASIDE - PROCEDURE AND THE FRONTAL LOBES: The frontal lobes of the vertebrate brain have long been recognised as being heavily involved in animals' ability to "plan ahead" and "problem solve", especially where simple actions need to be selected from a skill repertoire and then deployed in a particular sequence as "procedures" [for a fuller history see Section 5 of the Companion Resource]. These are exactly the behaviours needed in arithmetic, game playing, etc.
... In some of them speech and action play almost equal parts, but in many speech is the more important [...]. It is in this class that you place oratory, I think? GORGIAS: Certainly. SOCRATES: [... So] if oratory is one of those arts which chiefly employ speech and there are other arts in the same class, try to say what is the subject about which oratory achieves its effects in speech. [Exemplars given and discussed.] GORGIAS: Oratory serves, Socrates, to produce the kind of conviction needed in courts of law and other large assemblies, and the subject of this kind of conviction is right and wrong. [...] SOCRATES: Now take this point. You would agree that there is such a thing as 'knowing'? GORGIAS: Certainly. SOCRATES: And such a thing as 'believing'? GORGIAS: Yes. SOCRATES: Well do you think that knowing and believing are the same, or is there a difference between knowledge and belief? GORGIAS: I should say that there is a difference. SOCRATES: Quite right [because] there are such things as true and false beliefs [but] are there such things as true and false knowledge? GORGIAS: Certainly not. [...] SOCRATES: Yet men who believe may just as properly be called convinced as men who know? GORGIAS: Yes. SOCRATES: May we then posit the existence of two kinds of conviction, one which gives knowledge and one which gives belief without knowledge? GORGIAS: Certainly. SOCRATES: Now which kind of conviction about right and wrong is created by oratory in courts of law and elsewhere, the kind which engenders knowledge or the kind which engenders belief without knowledge? GORGIAS: The kind which engenders belief, obviously. SOCRATES: So it appears that the conviction which oratory produces about right and wrong is of the kind which is followed by belief, not the kind which arises from teaching. GORGIAS: Yes. SOCRATES: And the orator does not teach juries and other bodies about right and wrong - he merely persuades them [...]. GORGIAS: You might well be amazed, Socrates, if you knew the whole truth and realised that oratory embraces and controls almost all other spheres of human activity. [Example given and discussed.] [So that] if he had to compete with any other professional man the orator could get himself appointed against any opposition; there is no subject on which he could not speak before a popular audience more persuasively than any professional of whatever kind. Such is the nature and power of the art of oratory [...]. SOCRATES: You said just now that even on matters of health the orator will be more convincing than the doctor. GORGIAS: Before a popular audience - yes, I did. SOCRATES: A popular audience means an ignorant audience, doesn't it? [...] GORGIAS: True. SOCRATES: So when the orator is more convincing than the doctor, what happens is that an ignorant person is more convincing than the expert before an equally ignorant audience. Am I right? GORGIAS: That is what happens in that case, no doubt. SOCRATES: And the same will be true of the orator in relation to all the other arts. The orator need have no knowledge of the truth about things; it is enough for him to have discovered a knack of convincing the ignorant that he knows more than the experts" (Gorgias, pp23-38).
In the event, science will have to wait until the mid-20th century for a decent theory concerning the use of language in the achievement of aims. Here is how we explained the birth of the science of the Speech Act in a Companion Resource ...
The term [Speech Act] comes from Austin (1962), who, when discussing utterances which were being made for effect (e.g., lies, insults, etc.), argued that "the more we consider a statement not as a sentence (or proposition) but as an act of speech [.....] the more we are studying the whole thing as an act" (p20). Austin (1962) and (his student) Searle (1969) saw speech acts as units of intentional achievement, and the formalised study of the communication of deep intent has since grown to be a major subscience of psycholinguistics, namely "pragmatics".
We shall be looking in detail at the pragmatics of WW1 war propaganda in due course because - to put it bluntly - the problem lies with politicians who believe they know, and who can deploy enough sycophants and Sophists to bring the rest of us - Socrates' "ignorant audience" - rallying to their respective flags [sub-thread continues at 380BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
Plato (386BCE). Gorgias. See Hamilton (1960).
Hamilton, W. (1960). Plato: Gorgias. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
380BCE The Psychologies of War [X - Rhetoric, Geopolitical Identity, and Militarism (Plato Again)]: [Continued from 386BCE] Having begun his analysis of political oratory in Gorgias six years previously Plato [386BCE<=>370BCE] now publishes "The Republic" [full text online], the longest and best known Socratic dialogue of all. The value of this work as mental philosophy is discussed in the Companion Resource, but it is also noteworthy in the present context for what it has to say about the different types of national leader, with the so-called "philosopher-king" [Wikipedia factsheet] at one end of the spectrum of desirability and the dictator-tyrant at the other.
ASIDE: Although primarily a war between the Republican French Empire and the Federated Monarchies of the German Empire, WW1 involved some 50 other nations [see full list in Wikipedia factsheet] from across the political spectrum, including secular and religious kingdoms, republics, principalities, Rajs, dominions, dictatorships, etc., etc..
The notion of the philosopher-king is introduced in Books 8 and 10, where the argument - briefly stated - runs like this: the only people with command of great ideas are (by definition) philosophers (democracy, incidentally, being automatically rule by the "unfit"); kings are better rulers in proportion to their command of great ideas; therefore kings must learn to philosophise. As for dictators, Plato - with the most uncanny foresight - firstly sets them aside as possessing a particularly pathological type of personality, and then suggests a number of typical stages in their coming to power, thus (Socrates in conversation with Glaucon [Wikipedia biography] and/or Adeimantus [Wikipedia biography], both brothers of Plato; a long section, heavily abridged; main issues and conclusions highlighted) ...
"'Well,' I said, 'I've already mentioned that breed of lazy, extravagant, people and how they're divided into leaders and followers, depending on the degree to which they possess courage. They're the ones we said were like drones - the leaders with stings, the followers stingless.' 'Yes, that's right,' he said. 'Well, the presence of these two kinds of drone,' I said, 'throws any political system into chaos. [...] Ideally, they should try to prevent their birth; but if they've already been born, they should try to eradicate them [...]. And aren't the people always given to setting up a particular individual as their special champion, who under their caring nurture grows to a prodigious size? [...] So what makes a champion change into a dictator? Isn't it obviously when a champion [...] trumps up the usual charges against someone, takes them to court, and murders him [...] Isn't it unalterably inevitable that this man will next either be assassinated by his enemies or change into a wolf instead of a human being - that is, become a dictator?' 'It's absolutely inevitable,' he agreed. 'And he's the one who stirs up conflict against the propertied class.' 'Yes.' [Other typical behaviours suggested] 'And then, at this stage, every dictator comes up with the notorious and typical demand: he asks the people for bodyguards to protect him, the people's defender.' 'Yes,' he agreed. 'And because they're afraid for his safety, and at the same time optimistic about their own future, they give him his bodyguards, I'm sure.' 'That's right.' [...] 'In the early days,' I said, 'in the first period of his supremacy, he greets everyone he meets with a smile. He claims not to be a dictator, makes a lot of promises to his close associates and in his public speeches rescinds debts, gives land to the people and to his supporters, and poses as an altogether amiable and gentle person, doesn't he?' 'Inevitably,' he said. [...] 'And also, I think, to find a plausible way if killing people he suspects of entertaining notions of freedom, [...] he simply makes sure that the enemy get their hands on them. Dont' you agree? All of these reasons guarantee that a dictator must constantly be provoking wars [...] And some will criticise what's going on, won't they?' 'I should think so,' 'So a dictator has to eliminate the lot of them - or else relinquish power - until there's no one of any value left among either his friends or his enemies.' [...] 'He's caught in an enviable dilemma, then,' I said, 'which requires him to choose between sharing his life with people who are, on the whole, second-rate, and who hate him, or not living at all'" (The Republic, pp305-310).
STUDENT EXERCISE: (1) Read up on the principal characteristics of the following forms of mental illness ...
Conduct Disorder [Wikipedia factsheet]
Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type [Wikipedia factsheet]
Delusional Disorder [Wikipedia factsheet]
Intermittent Explosive Disorder [Wikipedia factsheet]
Histrionic Personality Disorder [Wikipedia factsheet]
Narcissistic Personality Disorder [Wikipedia factsheet]
(2) Decide which of the syndromes in (1) best fits the dictator described in the quotation above.
Other noteworthy observations are made while discussing how one might deliberately construct the ideal Republic. Here, for example, are some ideas on the origin of war and the consequent need for armies ...
"'So we have to increase the size of our community once again [causing it] to become bloated and distended with occupations which leave the essential requirements of a community behind [such as] hordes of people concerned with shapes and colours, and further hordes concerned with music [...], and manufacturers of all kinds of contraptions and all sorts of things, especially women's cosmetics. Furthermore, we'll need a larger number of workers - don't you think - such as children's attendants, nurses, nannies, hairdressers, barbers, and savoury-cooks and meat-cooks too. [And farmers.] [And doctors.] So we'll have to take a chunk of our neighbours' land, if we're going to have [enough to eat], won't we? And [...] then they'll have to take a chunk of our land too, won't they?' 'That's more or less inevitable, Socrates,' he replied. 'And the next step will be war, Glaucon, don't you think?' 'I agree,' he said. 'Now let's not commit ourselves yet to a view on whether the effects of war are bad,' I said. 'All we're saying at the moment is that we've now discovered the origin of war.' [...] 'We need another sizeable increase in our community, then, Glaucon - an army-sized increase. We need an army to go out and defend all the community's property [...].' 'But can't the inhabitants do this themselves,' he asked. 'No,' I replied. '[Because] it is impossible for one person to work properly at more than one area of expertise' (The Republic, pp64-65).
... on the need to censor what we teach our children ...
"'Shall we, then, casually allow our children to listen to any old stories, made up by just anyone, and to take into their minds views which, on the whole, contradict those we'll want them to have as adults? [...] So our first job, apparently, is to oversee the work of the story-writers.' [...] 'Which stories?' he asked. [...] 'And what's their defect in your view?' 'There is no defect which one ought to condemn more quickly and more thoroughly [than] using the written word to give a distorted image of the nature of the gods and heroes, just as a painter might produce a portrait which completely fails to capture the likeness of the original. [Examples given from the works of Hesiod.] [...] The point is that a young person can't tell when something is allegorical and when it isn't, and any idea admitted by a person of that age tends to become almost ineradicable and permanent'" (The Republic, pp71-73).
... and in the same vein, when talking about Hades, the Greek underworld, the destination for souls after death, they decide that the nation's young men should not be scared off by the lurid accounts of its terrors in the Homeric epics, thus ...
"'So here's another aspect of story-telling for us to oversee, apparently. We must ask those who take on the job of telling stories not to denigrate Hades [...] but to speak well of it, because otherwise they'll [be] not speaking in a way that is conducive to courage in battle.' 'Yes, we must,' he said. 'Then we'll start with the following lines,' I said, 'and delete everything which resembles them: [Homeric examples given]. We'll implore Homer and the rest of the poets not to get cross if we strike these and all similar lines from their works'" (The Republic, p80).
... and finally on the need not to encourage unnecessary grief following the death of a loved one in war ...
"'Shall we also remove the passages where eminent men weep and wail in mourning, then?' 'We have to,' he said. 'It follows from what we've already done.' '[Can we agree that a] good man will not regard death as a terrible thing for another good man - a friend of his - to suffer?' 'Yes, we can.' [...] 'So he'd be the last person to mourn, then, when some such disaster overtakes him [...].' 'Very true.' 'We'd be right, then, not to have famous men mourning. [...] So we have a further request to make of Homer and the rest of the poets. We ask them not to portray Achilles [...] "crazed with grief" [other examples given]. The point is, my dear Adeimantus, that if the young men of our community hear this kind of thing and take it seriously [...] they won't find it at all degrading to be constantly chanting laments and dirges for trivial incident.'" (The Republic, pp81-82).
We shall be looking in detail at the personalities of WW1 leaders and opinion-formers and the processes of censorship in due course [sub-thread continues at 370BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS] [THREAD = WW1 CENSORSHIP]
********** HOW TO GET A NATION ONSIDE **********
370BCE The Psychologies of War [XI - Rhetoric, Geopolitical Identity, and Militarism (Plato Yet Again)]: [Continued from 380BCE] Still developing the arguments put forward in Gorgias [<=386BCE] and The Republic [<=380BCE], Plato [380BCE<=>367BCE] now releases "Phaedrus" [full text online]. Whilst primarily an analysis of love, the work briefly reprises what the earlier works had had to say concerning rhetoric, thus (another very long section, heavily abridged; main issues and conclusions highlighted) ...
"SOCRATES: We had better look into the issue [of] what makes speech and writing good, and what makes it bad. [...] Now if something is going to be spoken well and properly, the mind of the speaker must know the truth of the matter to be addressed, mustn't it? PHAEDRUS: What I've heard about this, my dear Socrates, is that it isn't essential for a would-be orator to learn what is really right, but only what the masses [...] might take to be right. Likewise, he doesn't need to learn what is really good or fine, but only what they think is good or fine, because that, not the truth, is the basis for persuasion. [...] SOCRATES: Wouldn't rhetoric, in general, be a kind of skilful leading of the soul ...
ASIDE: Note the term "leading of the soul" here. The original Greek uses the single word psychagogia at this point, signifying a process which leads the mind off in a certain direction, and - moreover - one "which carries strong currents of magical allurement" (Waterfield, 2002, p98). More on psychagogia and pro-war allurement in the run up to WW1 in due course.
... by means of words [... and] isn't it the same skill whether it is dealing with slight or great issues? [...] PHAEDRUS: What sort of thing are you getting at? SOCRATES: I think it will become clear if we take the following direction. Is deception more likely to happen with things which are only a little different? PHAEDRUS: With things that are only a little different. SOCRATES: Yes, and you're more likely to get away with shifting to an opposite position if you do so gradually rather than in big leaps, aren't you? PHAEDRUS: Of course. SOCRATES: It follows that if you are to deceive someone else, while remaining undeceived yourself, you must know precisely how things resemble and differ from one another [because] if you don't know the truth of any given thing will you be able to recognise the degree [...] to which one unknown thing resembles another? PHAEDRUS: Absolutely not. [...] SOCRATES: So it is possible for someone to be an expert at gradually getting people to change positions, by leading them by means of similarities from any given thing to its opposite, or to be good at avoiding having this done to him, if he isn't acquainted with the truth of any given thing? PHAEDRUS: No, he'll never be able to do that (Phaedrus, pp46-50).
We shall be saying more in due course about the manipulation of public opinion before, during, and after WW1 [sub-thread continues at 336BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
Waterfield, R. (2002). Plato: Phaedrus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
362BCE Around this time the Greek general Aeneas Tacticus [Wikipedia biography] draws upon his personal military experience to produce a number of treatises concerning the practical realities of military command. Here, thanks to the Aeneas Tacticus website [homepage], are some of his discussion points, all instantly relevant to life in the WW1 trenches [see the website for the full originals] ...
· on outposts
· on dealing with night attacks
· on keeping sentries alert at night
· on secret messages
· on defending one's lines against enemy undermining
Similar books of battlefield best practice will circulate down the ages, helping boys become men overnight (the equivalent volume for WW1 British officers being the 1914 [revised 1916] edition of Sir Garnet Wolseley's (1869) "Pocket Book for Field Service" [=>1869]). [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
350BCE Around this time an unknown smith builds a rudimentary "bowl furnace" for the small-scale smelting of iron ore at the remote Rudh' an Dunain site, Skye. The remains of this furnace, and its associated waste tip will remain unremarked until excavated by archaeologists in the 20th century [=>1932 (Scott) and 1986 (Tylecote)]. [THREAD = THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION]
KEY INDUSTRIAL PROCESS - THE BLOOMERY FURNACE: A bellows-assisted charcoal furnace will typically achieve a core temperature of 1200C. This is hot enough to smelt Copper [melting point = 1085C], Zinc [melting point = 420C], Tin [melting point 232], and Lead [melting point = 328C], and melt the alloys Brass [copper with zinc; melting point = 940C], Bronze [copper with tin; melting point = 950C], and Pewter [mainly tin, with copper or lead; melting point = 230C]. However it is not quite hot enough to melt iron which therefore does not dribble down into the bottom of the furnace as do the non-ferrous metals. Instead it forms a heavy crumbly block of metallic iron and slag impurities called a "bloom". The art of ironworking is then to extract the bloom while hot, and to hammer it. This hammering serves to consolidate the particles of iron whilst driving out the impurities. With a little skill a few kilograms of relatively pure iron can be obtained, and passed for further working.
343BCE Philip II of Macedon [Wikipedia biography=>338BCE] appoints one of Plato's [<=370BCE] protegés, the Athenian philosopher Aristotle [Wikipedia biography=>335BCE], as tutor of science, philosophy, and rhetoric to his 13-year-old son Alexander ["the Great"] [III of Macedon]336BCE [Wikipedia biography=>338BCE] [continues at 337BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
338BCE The Battle of Chaeronea: This battle is fought for control of central Greece between Philip II of Macedon [343BCE<=>337BCE] and a confederation of Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes. The outcome is a convincing Macedonian victory. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for a creditable first-time performance by the young Alexander [343BCE<=>336BCE] [continues at 337BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
1ASIDE: The mountain passes between Macedonia and northern Greece will be the scene of intense fighting in 1916 as part of the WW1 Monastir Offensive [=>1916 (12th September [ASIDE])]; also of some of the most intense refugee movements during the 2015 Syrian Refugee Crisis [Wikipedia factsheet].
337BCE [Continued from 338BCE] Following his victory at Chaeronea Philip II of Macedon [338BCE<=>336BCE] convenes the League of Corinth [Wikipedia factsheet], in which the Athenians and other city states (but not Sparta) ally themselves with Macedonia in preparation for a war against Persia [continues at 336BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE MASTER PROPAGANDIST **********
The following entry is best considered under two headings ...
336BCE The Psychologies of War [XII - Gods, Kings, and Generals (Alexander the Great)]: [Continued from 370BCE] ALSO The Alexandrian Conquest [I - Overview]: [New sub-thread] Philip II of Macedon [337BCE<=>assassinated this year] takes the combined armies of Macedonia and the League of Corinth [<=337BCE] to war against the empire of Darius III of Persia [Wikipedia biography=>333BCE]. When he is assassinated a few weeks later responsibility for this expedition passes to his son Alexander [338BCE<=>334BCE], who embarks on a systematic 13-year-long programme of imperial expansion of his own, not for personal aggrandisement or glory (so he will later claim) but in order to "punish Persia" for its invasion 150 years previously [<=490BCE; 480BCE] (Arrian1, p76); and all he will ever take for himself will be his robes and his crown [the Psychologies sub-thread continues at 335BCE, the Conquest at 334BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
1RECOMMENDED READING: Arrian's "Anabasis" - so named in tribute to Xenophon's earlier memoir under this title [<=401BCE] - was compiled by the general-turned-military-historian Arrian of Nicomedia [Wikipedia biography] around 150CE from source documents already nearly 500 years old. Derived manuscripts surfaced in the Middle Ages and were slowly collated and republished. The canonical edition is Chinnock's (1884) translation [full text online]. We are working here from Sélincourt's (1958) "Arrian's Life of Alexander the Great".
335BCE The Psychologies of War [XIII - Rhetoric, Geopolitical Identity, and Militarism (Aristotle On)]: [Continued from 336BCE] Having studied as a young man under Plato [<=370BCE], and already well-versed in the maestro's portrayal of oratory in Gorgias [<=386BCE] and Phaedrus [<=370BCE], Aristotle [<=343BCE] collates Rhetorike Techne - "The Art of Rhetoric" [full text online] - a textbook/training manual on that subject. Aristotle's theoretical contribution to the subject is that rhetoric is not just a techne [see definitions <=386BCE (ASIDE)], but rather the systematic bringing together of several technes and perhaps a little episteme into a fully-blown "science of persuasion" (Lawson-Tancred, 1991, p1), thus ...
"Let rhetoric be the power to observe the persuasiveness of which any particular matter admits. For of no other art is this the function; each of the others is instructive and persuasive about its special province, such as medicine about [health, etc. ...]" (Rhetoric, p74).
The remainder of the work is a classification of rhetoric by genre, type, topic, and underlying emotional state, together with copious examples and checklists for would-be practitioners. Our present interest in this work is with its deliberate focus on three inter-related terms when analysing the levels of proof available to a particular persuasive discourse. The first of these three terms is "syllogism" [Greek = with + reasoning], a highly formalised three-proposition argument structure, of which the following is probably the most famous example ...
(1st Premise) All men are mortal
(2nd Premise) Socrates is a man
(Conclusion) Therefore Socrates is mortal
********** HERE IS A NASTY NEW WORD **********
********** (BUT NEVERTHELESS IMPORTANT **********
********** TO STUDENTS OF WW1 PROPAGANDA) **********
The second important term is "enthymeme" [Greek = within + mind], a looser presentation of a syllogism in which one of the elements - in order to reduce rhetorical clutter - is simply omitted. The above example, for example, might be reduced to ...
(Compounded 2nd Premise and Conclusion) Socrates is mortal because he's human
********** THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF WW1 PROPAGANDA **********
********** THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF WW1 PROPAGANDA **********
********** THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF WW1 PROPAGANDA **********
The third important term is "maxim" [Greek gnome = aphorism or maxim], an even looser presentation of a syllogism in which both premises are omitted and merely the conclusion stated. Aristotle offers several worked examples here, including (all p192) ...
A man cannot be happy in all things
No mortal is truly free
'Tis best to be healthy
Because the prior argument has been left unstated maxims are only safe so long as they are not (deliberately or accidentally) used to conceal a fallacy. This led Aristotle himself to observe ...
"The use of maxims suits the older age, and in connection with things of which one has experience [...] and if they are about things of which one is inexperienced, then the effect is foolish and uneducated [...] But one should use even the tritest and most banal commonplaces, if they should be useful; for far from being banal, as all men agree with them, they are thought to be right; for instance, for one summoning men who have not sacrificed to danger:
One sign is best - to struggle for one's country
[...] Maxims give great assistance to speeches, for one thing, through the stupidity of the listeners; for they are delighted if someone in generalising should arrive at opinions that they hold in the particular case. [...] So one should guess at the sort of opinions that the audience happen already to have presupposed, and then speak in general about them. [...] Those speeches have character in which the moral purpose is clear; and all maxims have this effect" (op. cit., pp193-194).
We shall in due course be highlighting the use of maxims (all of them banal, but many of them desperately effective) in the propaganda war before, during, and after WW1 [sub-thread continues at 310BCE ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
Aristotle (335BCE) The Art of Rhetoric. See Lawson-Tancred (1991).
Lawson-Tancred, H. (1991). Aristotle: The Art of Rhetoric. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
1ASIDE - TELLING PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR: Adolf Hitler will in the fullness of time reach precisely the same conclusion in Mein Kampf, when designing Nazi propaganda before and during WW2. The linguistic philosopher Kenneth Burke will go so far as to claim that rhetoric "is an essential function of language itself [...] in beings that by nature respond to symbols" (Burke, 1969, p43).
Burke, K. (1969). A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
334BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [II - Thrace, Miletus, and Halicarnassus]: [Continued from 336BCE] Having assembled his army in north-eastern Macedonia Alexander [336BCE<=>next entry] sets out eastward through Thrace toward the Hellespont ...
ASIDE: The Hellespont [map, etc.] is the classical name for the Dardanelles [ditto], the more southerly of the two narrow waterways separating Europe and Asia Minor (the other being the Bosphorus at Byzantium). The region will be the scene of much fighting during the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 [=>1915 (1st January]. Ahead of him lie the two Persian vassal-kingdoms of (inland) Phrygia [Wikipedia factsheet] and (on the coast) Lydia [Wikipedia factsheet].
Once across the narrows into Asia Minor Alexander follows the Lydian coastline for a while, laying siege to the ports of Miletus [map, etc.] and Halicarnassus [map, etc.]. During the first of these sieges ...
"The Persians had about 400 ships, but [Parmenion [Wikipedia biography]], in spite of their numerical superiority, urged Alexander to engage. [... The] reason for his confidence was a sign from heaven - an eagle which had been seen on the beach just astern of Alexander's ships. [...] Alexander replied that [Parmenion] was mistaken, and that he had wrongly interpreted the omen1 [... for] the fact that he [the eagle] had been seen on shore surely indicated that it was his army, not his navy, which would render the Persian fleet powerless - he would, as it were, win his sea battle from the land" (Arrian, p45).
Similar calculations (mutatis mutandis) would be made - but not always as successfully - in WW1 prior to launching the Dardanelles [=>1915 (1st January)] and Salonika [=>1915 (5th August)] campaigns [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
334BCE [3rd May or hereabouts] The Alexandrian Conquest [III - The Battle of the Granicus: [Continued from preceding entry] After months of cautious approach the opposing imperial armies finally meet in battle at the Granicus river crossing near modern Biga [map, etc.], Turkey. The outcome is a convincing Macedonian victory, followed by some clever morale-boosting ...
"The Macedonian losses were small: about 25 of the Heterai [= Alexander's household brigade] were killed during the final assault. Their statues in bronze now stand at Dium, executed, on Alexander's instructions, by [Lysyppos1 [Wikipedia biography]], who was chosen from a number of competitors to make a statue of Alexander as well. [...] By order of Alexander all the dead were buried with their arms and equipment on the day after the battle, and their parents and children were granted immunity from [taxes]. For the wounded he showed deep concern; he visited them all and examined their wounds, asking each man how and in what circumstances his wound was received ..." (Arrian, p42).
"A number of Macedonians serving in the campaign had been married just before the expedition started; feeling that some consideration was due to these men, Alexander dismissed them from Caria and sent them home to spend the winter with their wives" (Arrian, pp52-53).
... and image-building ...
1ALEXANDRIAN WAR ART: Lysyppos was Alexander's personal sculptor for much of the period of conquest, and has been credited with "the stock representation of an inspired, godlike Alexander with tousled hair and lips parted, looking upward" (Wiki. cit.). His original bronzes were variously copied, often into marble, and many of these derivatives survive in museum collections worldwide [e.g., the Getty Museum's Victorious Youth]. As for the Granicus crossing itself, click here to see Louis XIV of France's court artist Charles Le Brun's [Wikipedia biography] "Alexander Crossing the Granicus River" (1672).
Readers with time on their hands might profitably compare the signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder [Wikipedia factsheet] with Alexander's sustained concern with his own propaganda [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
RECOMMENDED READING: For more on the Alexandrian image - literal and figurative - check out Andrew Stewart's [University of California at Berkeley biography] paper "Faces of Power" (Stewart, 1993 [full text online]).
333BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [IV - The Detour to Gordium]: [Continued from preceding entry] After his victory on the Granicus Alexander [<=>] diverts inland to Gordium [map, etc.] in Upper Phrygia, presumably seeking allies for his cause. While in that place he famously severs the "Gordian Knot" [Wikipedia factsheet], thus fulfilling a local legend that whoever succeeded in doing this would become king of Asia. He then heads south-eastward through the so-called Cilician Gates [the modern Gülek Pass; map, etc.], the mountain pass out of central Anatolia down into the coastal province of Cilicia [map, etc.].
ASIDE: During WW1 German engineers will push a narrow-gauge railway through the Cilician Gates, as the final link in the Berlin-Baghdad Railway [=>1914 (11th July)].
He then proceeds along the coast capturing the ports of Soli [map, etc.] and Tarsus [map, etc.], before reaching the Gulf of Issus and the turn southward toward Antioch [map, etc.] and Damascus [map, etc.]. Darius [336BCE<=>next entry], meanwhile, has started to assemble a Persian imperial army at Babylon to settle the invaders' hash once and for all [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
333BCE [November] The Alexandrian Conquest [V - The Battle of Issus]: [Continued from preceding entry] This is the second major battle of the Alexandrian Conquest and the first in which the Persians are commanded by Darius [preceding entry<=>331BCE] personally. The battle is fought in southern Anatolia [map, etc.] at Issus [map, etc.] for control of the sea ports of Phoenicia and the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. Although outnumbered by at least 2:1 and despite having to attack across a river, the Macedonians win an empire-shattering victory, drive Darius from the field, and capture the Persian baggage train along with Darius' mother, wife, and children. Again Alexander [<=>] is a most attentive team-leader ...
"Alexander had been hurt by a sword-thrust in the thigh, but this did not prevent him from visiting the wounded on the day after the battle, when he also gave a splendid military funeral to the dead in the presence of the whole army paraded in full war equipment. At the ceremony he spoke in praise of every man who by his own observation or from reliable report he knew had distinguished himself in the fighting, and marked his approval in each case by a suitable reward" (Arrian, pp73-74).
Alexander's victory leaves clear the road south toward Egypt [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
332BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [VI - The Egyptian Campaign]: [Continued from preceding entry] After his victory at Issus Alexander [<=>] now turns his army southward, passing down through the Levant (the eastern Mediterranean coastal strip north and south of modern Lebanon), hoovering up the rich coastal ports of Tripoli [map, etc.], Tyre [map, etc.], and Gaza [map, etc.] (thereby, just as he had predicted [<=334BCE], defeating Persian sea-power by land). Moving then down through Palestine to Pelusium [map, etc.] at the mouth of the Nile, he proceeds up the Nile to Memphis [just south of modern Cairo; map, etc.], where he holds Games to celebrate his arrival. Returning to the coast he then founds a new city at Alexandria [map, etc.] and takes time out for a 600-mile desert pilgrimage to consult the Oracle of Amon at the Siwa Oasis [map, etc.] in Libya before returning to Memphis to overwinter [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
331BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [VII - The Battle of Gaugamela: [Continued from 332BCE] Having returned to Phoenicia "at the first sign of spring" (Arrian, p95) Alexander [<=>] now moves down through Mesopotamia, crossing the Tigris a few days' march north of Gaugamela [coordinates, etc.] and advancing toward the modern Iraqi town of Mosul. At Gaugamela he comes up against Darius' [333BCE<=>assassinated shortly after the battle] rebuilt imperial army, which - even if Arrian's estimate of a million-plus men (p98) is reduced by 90% - still greatly outnumbers them. Both sides field their cavalry toward the flanks, the better to exploit their mobility [Wikipedia full scenario and maps]. The outcome is a victory for the Macedonians, thanks to a perfectly timed feint to the right which drew the Persian reserves off too far to their left. Alexander then led his best troops into the gap, breaking through the Persian line and destroying its cohesion.
WAR CINEMA: Click here for an entertaining 2004 cinematic re-enactment of this battle.
The battle is noteworthy in the present context for demonstrating the all-important difference between mere tribal horsemen gathered together for an adventure and established cavalry units. A later cavalry commander will remark: "Here was the rapidity - the dash - which ought to characterise cavalry operations" (Nolan, 1864, p3). Darius flees the field (yet again) and is done to death by his own people a few days later [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
331-328BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [VIII - Persia]: [Continued from preceding entry] With the demise of Darius [<=preceding entry] Alexander [<=>] now occupies Babylonia [= modern Iraq] and starts to push the remaining Persian forces back into modern Iran toward the Persian Gates [Wikipedia factsheet], a mountain pass on the road eastward to Persepolis [map, etc.]. Here the Persians under Ariobarzanes [Wikipedia biography] put up a spirited one-month-long defence, but are eventually worn down, allowing Alexander to become the new Persian "King of Kings" as one by one the Persian satraps [= local kingdoms] switch their allegiance to him [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
327-326BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [IX - The Indian Campaign (Bactria and Sogdiana)]: [Continued from preceding entry] Following his subjugation of the Persian Empire Alexander [<=>] now turns his eyes on the empire beyond, that is to say, "India" [in fact largely modern Afghanistan and Pakistan], an adventure which will occupy the last four years of his life. He begins by advancing his army north-eastward from Persepolis into Parthia [Wikipedia factsheet] on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, past Herat [modern Afghanistan; map, etc.], and into Bactria [straddles modern Afghanistan and Takikistan; map, etc.] where he establishes a governorship. During the winter of 327-326BCE those Bactrians who refuse to submit to his authority set up a strongpoint on the Sogdian Rock [precise location disputed]. Alexander therefore mounts a disciplinary expedition in the spring of 326BCE and captures the place in a night assault by a commando of his 300 best mountain troops [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
326BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [X - The Indian Campaign (The Move Southward)]: [Continued from preceding entry] Following the subjugation of Bactria and Sogdiana, Alexander [<=>] now turns his army southward through the "Indian Caucasus" (nowadays better known as the Hindu Kush [Wikipedia factsheet]), the westernmost element of the Himalayas, in the direction of the Indus River. This takes him southward through the Khyber Pass to Massaga [modern Chakdara; map, etc.], where local resistance is soon overcome. He then move on to Aornos [map, etc.], another cliff-top fortress, and here, as at the Sogdian Rock, his mountain troops soon secure its surrender. He then crosses the Indus into the modern Punjab, and advances on Taxila [map, etc.]. By now, however, the Indian rulers have gathered a large army across his line of advance on the southern bank of the Hydaspes River [the modern Jhelum River; Wikipedia factsheet], 100 miles further southward. After bring up the necessary galleys and pontoons Alexander mounts a successful surprise crossing of the river, followed by the last pitched battle of his Conquest. The outcome of the battle is a convincing Macedonian victory, with disproportionately high Indian casualties. Alexander also captures the Indian king Porus [Wikipedia biography], but soon receives an oath of loyalty from him and restores him to his lands [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
325-323BCE The Alexandrian Conquest [XI - End Game]: [Continued from preceding entry] After his successful summer campaign of 326BCE Alexander [<=>dies 323BCE] is persuaded by his generals and advisors that it would be unwise to advance any further south into India. He therefore starts slowly back via Persepolis to Babylon, some 2000 miles to the west. And here, from a fever, he dies. Arrian will later summarise his successes as follows ...
"Noble indeed was his power of inspiring his men, of filling them with confidence, and, in the moment of danger, of sweeping away their fear by the spectacle of his own fearlessness. When risks had to be taken, he took them with the utmost boldness, and his ability to seize the moment for a swift blow [...] was beyond praise. No cheat or liar ever caught him off guard, and both his word and his bond were inviolable. Spending but little on his own pleasures, he poured out his money without stint for the benefit of his friends" (Arrian, p254).
A more recent commentator will add ...
"Alexander's mettle as a commander is undisputed; his skill as a propagandist is less well appreciated. Alexander did of course become a cult figure [but] much of our knowledge of Alexander derives from that cult and there are actually very few contemporary sources of information about him. Even so, what does survive reveals an undoubtedly inspired leader of men and perhaps the first truly great military and political propagandist. [...] An essential ingredient of his success had been his attention to detail in matters of morale, not only among his troops but among his peoples. He realised that propaganda was an excellent substitute for his actual presence, which is why his image - on coins, buildings, statues, pottery, and in art - was ever-present throughout his empire. [...] Regardless of the reality, it was the image which captured the imagination. War propaganda came of age under the ancient Greeks. Henceforth, it was to be conducted with growing sophistication. The Greeks had recognised the need for propaganda to galvanise and inspire their citizen-soldiers and had articulated its role within a civilised society. [...] Subsequent civilisations ignored this legacy at their peril" (Taylor, 1990, pp30-31).
We shall in due course be highlighting the role of the cult of the personality in the propaganda war before, during, and after WW1 [end of sub-thread]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
315BCE Prompted by recent defeats, the Romans reorganise their legions on a "manipular" basis. The basic building block of this system will now be the 120-man "maniple", and there will be 30 such maniples per legion, organised into three lines of ten, according to their level of experience. At the rear, and therefore charged with stiffening the line as a whole, are the triarii [= "third-liners"], the most experienced soldiers of all. In front of them are the principes [= "main-liners"], with less years' service, but good at their job and physically in their prime. And in front of them are the hastati [= "spearsmen"], probably seeing their first action. Each maniple organises its men into three equal ranks, dressed six feet apart, and is commanded by a centurion. [=>168BCE]. [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
ASIDE - MANIPLE OR PHALANX: Click here to see a You Tube simulation of the system at work. For a detailed analysis of the respective pros and cons of these two systems of infantry, see Kochom (2010 online).
310BCE The Psychologies of War [XIV - The Celebration of Victory (Syracusian Style)]: [Continued from 335BCE] The "tyrant king" of the Greek province of Sicily, Agathocles of Syracuse [Wikipedia biography], leads a naval expedition against the Carthaginians. The campaign is noteworthy in the present context for two examples of effective generalship. The first anecdote concerns military deception, thus ...
"Owing to the small number of his forces - which, if rightly given, were only 13,500 strong against 40,000 - Agathocles resorted to a curious plan to add to his apparent strength. He had some of his ships' crews in camp besides his regular troops, but there were not enough arms for them all. He therefore took the cases of the shields and stretched them on wicker frames [...]. These make-shifts were quite useless in action, but from a distance the men equipped with them might deceive the enemy into believing that Agathocles had reserve troops in waiting" (Tillyard, 1908 [full text online]).
The second anecdote concerns the maintaining of morale by carefully pre-arranged artifice ...
"In the dawn before the battle of Salamis [<=480BCE] an owl settled in the rigging of the Greek commander's ship. This boosted the morale of the Athenians because the owl was the symbol of their city. A century and a half later, before a battle between the Greeks and the Carthaginians, [Agathocles] quietly released numerous owls in his military camp to raise morale among his troops" (Taylor, 1990, p28).
We shall in due course be highlighting some similarly contrived good omens in the propaganda war before, during, and after WW1 [sub-thread continues at 55BCE (Cicero) ...]. [THREAD = MILITARY DECEPTION] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
300BCE Around this time unknown persons start to consign iron artifacts into the bog now known as Llyn Cerrig Bach, Anglesey, perhaps with ritual purpose. An accumulation of 150 such items will be unearthed by construction workers in the 1940s, and the collection is currently [May 2013] split between Oriel Ynys Mon [website] and the National Museum of Wales [website]. [THREAD = THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION]
280/279BCE The Battles of Heraclea and Asculum: These battles are fought as part of the Pyrrhic War between a Roman army under Publius Valerius Laevinus [Wikipedia biography] and a Greek army under Pyrrhus of Epirus [Wikipedia biography]. The outcomes are both clear enough victories for the Greeks, but are noteworthy in the present context as archetypal "Pyrrhic victories" - victories which are expensive enough to hurt winner and loser alike: "Another victory like those," claimed Pyrrhus, "and we shall be undone"! [THREAD = MAINSTREAM MILITARY HISTORY]
262BCE The Battle of Changping: Following many hundred years of squabbling between major proto-Chinese ethnic groupings, the State of Qin finally meets the State of Zhou on the battlefield. Both armies reportedly field upward of half a million men. The outcome is a hard-fought victory for the Qin. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for bloodletting on a galactic scale [400,000 Zhou prisoners of war are reportedly methodically executed]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE WW1 FAR EAST]
250BCE Automation, Control, and Artificial Intelligence [I - Early Work (Ctesibius and Philon)]: [New sub-thread] At around this time the Greek inventors Ctesibius of Alexandria [Wikipedia biography] and Philon of Byzantium [Wikipedia biography] are developing a range of pneumatic, hydraulic, and mechanical devices, many of which operate in a manner predetermined and pre-timed by internal trigger devices similar to those which will later grace clock mechanisms [e.g., =>125BCE] and automata [=>50BCE (Heron)] [sub-thread continues at 125BCE ...]. [THREAD = WW1 CYBERNETICS, COMPUTATION, AND FIRE CONTROL]
216BCE The Battle of Cannae: This battle is fought as part of the Second Punic War between a Carthaginian army under Hannibal [Wikipedia biography] and the largest Roman army yet fielded under Lucius Aemilius Paullus (I) [Wikipedia biography] and Gaius Terentius Varro [Wikipedia biography] (who, being equal in rank, have been instructed to command on alternate days). The outcome is a humiliating rout of the Romans when they carelessly allow themselves to be "pocketed" in a Carthaginian pincer movement. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for demonstrating the risks inherent in splitting overall command, and as an example of the need to protect an army's flanks. [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
168BCE The Battle of Pydna: This battle is fought as part of the Third Macedonian War between a Roman army under Lucius Aemilius Paullus (II) [Wikipedia biography] and a Macedonian army under Perseus of Macedon [Wikipedia biography]. The outcome is a crushing defeat for the Macedonians, and the capture of their king. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for demonstrating the superiority of the manipular system [<=315BCE and its ASIDE] over the phalangist, the maniples, in short, being easy to manipulate in real time as circumstances unfold. [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
167BCE The Greek soldier-historian Polybius [Wikipedia biography] is shipped to Rome as a hostage-of-war. While there he studies Roman history and compiles his findings in "The Histories" [buy on Amazon]. The work is a major source on early Roman history and includes a first-hand account of the Sack of Carthage [=>146BCE]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
146BCE The Siege of Carthage: This three-year siege is fought out as part of the Third Punic War between a Roman army under Publius Scipio Aemilianus [Wikipedia biography] and the Carthaginian garrison at Carthage under Hasdrubal [Wikipedia biography]. The outcome is a victory for the Romans and a very bloody destruction of the city (with up to 400,000 civilians put to the sword). A first-hand account of the event survives in Polybius' "Histories". [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
125BCE Automation, Control, and Artificial Intelligence [II - Early Work (The Antikythera Device)]: [Continued from 250BCE] An unknown Greek engineer builds a clockwork device nowadays identified as "the oldest known complex scientific calculator". The remains of the mechanism will be recovered in 1900 from a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera, and will be subject to detailed scientific analysis and interpretation [full story and images] in the late 20th century [sub-thread continues at 50CE (Heron) ...]. [THREAD = WW1 CYBERNETICS, COMPUTATION, AND FIRE CONTROL] [THREAD = THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING]
107BCE At the instigation of the Roman consul Gaius Marius [Wikipedia biography], the Romans reorganise their legions according to the "Marian reforms". Each legion will now consist of ten "cohorts", each of six 80-man "centuries". Each century is commanded by a centurion, as before, and the cohort as a whole by a tribunus [= "colonel"]. With fewer, but larger, units of manoeuvre, the legion is more responsive to real-time orders from its legatus [= "general"], perhaps to local penetrations or opportunities to outflank. The new structure will be field tested later in the year ... [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
107BCE The Battle of Aquae Sextiae [= modern Aix-en-Provence]: This battle takes place between three of Gaius Marius' [<=preceding entry] newly reformatted legions and a tribal army of Teutones and Ambroses. The result is a near-genocidal defeat for the tribes, with the Romans claiming some 90,000 killed and 20,000 captured. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
60BCE The British tribal chieftain Caswallawn [Wikipedia biography] flourishes as leader of the Catuvellauni [Wikipedia factsheet] around this time. Latinised as Cassivellaunus he is mentioned in Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico [=>55BCE], making him the first Briton to enter the historical record by name. He is also mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia [=>1136], the Trioedd [=>1275], and the Mabinogion [=>1382]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - "KING TIN OF TINLAND": We shall follow Holmes (1907 [q.v.]) in presuming that the Cassiterides were Herodotus's tin islands [<=475BCE (Herodotus)]; also - but for no better reason than the resonance between the words Cassivelaunus and Cassiterides - that the Britons reflected this high status trade in their personal names.
55BCE The Roman general Gaius Julius Caesar [Wikipedia biography] sends an expeditionary force of two legions - the VIIth and the Xth - to reconnoitre the lands of southern Britain, known hitherto only from the word of passing traders. The invasion fleet finds it difficult to find a good disembarkation beach and are reportedly intimidated by a war party of hostile natives waiting to welcome them ashore. Eventually the standard-bearer of the Xth Legion decides to force the issue and jumps into the shallows, whereupon - with the unit's honour at stake - his comrades follow. The subsequent campaign is plagued by bad weather and after only three weeks Caesar withdraws his forces across the Channel to overwinter in Gaul. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
KEY WW1 VOCABULARY - "MOB": In colloquial English one's "mob" is the military unit to which one has been allocated. During WW1, for example, the question "What mob are you in, then?" might be answered "the Manchesters", "the Black Watch", "the Sappers", and so on. KEY MILITARY TROPE - "RALLYING TO THE FLAG": "Ensigns" and "standards" are flags which identify a particular commander in the heat of battle, thereby helping to keep his troops together. Physically they provide a rallying point, and psychologically they help maintain morale. Over time they also become symbols of a particular unit's identity and traditions, and perhaps even good luck charms in their own right. They therefore need to be carefully defended because if they are captured by the enemy bad things will follow. Acts of heroism in the carrying or rescuing of battleflags are therefore commonplace in military history, war poetry, war art, and - more recently - war movies.
55BCE The Psychologies of War [XV - Rhetoric, Geopolitical Identity, and Militarism (Cicero on)]: [Continued from 310BCE] The Roman scholar Marcus Tullius Cicero [Wikipedia biography] collates an updated version of Plato's [<=386BCE] and Aristotle's [335BCE] writings on rhetoric under the title De Oratore [full text online] [sub-thread continues at next entry ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
54BCE The Psychologies of War [XVI - The Celebration of Victory (Julian Style)]: [Continued from preceding entry] According to his memoirs (written up some four years after the event) Julius Caesar [<=55BCE] now returns to Britain with a larger expeditionary force of five legions and a lot more ships. He wins a number of skirmishes with the native Britons and advances with three legions into the lands of the Catuvellauni [<=60BCE]. The Britons avoid direct confrontation and merely harass the Romans from the woods, where (Caesar complains) they are "familiar with every track and path". Then, by masterly intriguing, Caesar comes to an agreement with the Trinovantes [<=1130BCE (Trojan Legends)], who direct him to Cassivellaunus' stronghold. Thus betrayed, the Catuvellauni have little alternative but to sign up as a tribute paying state. Having thus added Britannia to the map without actually occupying it, Caesar withdraws his forces to more important business, and sets about compiling his campaign memoirs. Modern historians will in the fullness of time observe as follows ...
"Caesar was the historian of his own wars but, as with most memoirs, his writings were less concerned with providing strictly accurate information than with vindicating his actions in the eyes of his contemporaries. In other words, they are essentially propagandistic" (Taylor, 1990, p38).
"Julius Caesar was a master propagandist, equalled only by Napoleon and Hitler in his understanding of meaningful symbols and in his ability to understand instinctively the psychological needs of his audience. He understood the need to use such symbols of power and sophistication as a means of converting subject populations to the Roman way of life. This was far less expensive than maintaining elaborate garrisons ..." (Jowett and O'Donnell, 1992, p39).
"Roman historians certainly never depicted Rome as the aggressor. Rome always defended her interests and conquered foreign peoples to save them from themselves. Prior to any attack, envoys were always despatched in an ostentatious attempt to resolve the dispute in Rome's favour by means other than war, and only when this was refused did Rome declare war [...] Such pretexts (for pretexts they mostly were) enabled Rome to argue the rightness of its cause, not just to its own people but to its allies" (Taylor, 1990, p34; italics original).
We shall in due course be tracking the role played by WW1 memoirs in creating the popular histories (they will, of course, differ from one participant to the next) [e.g.=>1918 (30th November)] [sub-thread continues at 95CE ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS] Jowett, G. S. and O'Donnell, V. (1986/1992). Propaganda and Persuasion (2nd Edition). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
53BCE The Battle of Carrhae: This battle is fought as part of the Roman-Parthian Wars between a Roman army under Marcus Crassus [Wikipedia biography] and an all-mounted Parthian army under Surena [Wikipedia biography]. The outcome is a crushing defeat for the numerically superior Romans and the death of Crassus. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for being essentially a victory of Persian horse-archers (properly resourced with plentiful ammunition) over Roman heavy infantry, unable properly to respond. We shall in due course be tracking the role played by supply logistics in determining the outcome of some important WW1 battles [e.g.=>1916 (4th January)]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
52BCE The Battle of Alesia: Caesar crushes a revolt by the Atrebates, a Gaulish tribe led by Vercingetorix [Wikipedia biography]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
31BCE The Battle of Actium: After more than 20 years' political manoeuvring, the Roman Consul Gaius Octavius [usually just "Octavian"] [Wikipedia biography] defeats his rival Mark Antony and spends the ensuing four years reworking the relationship between the consuls and the Senate. By then approving him the titles Imperator [Latin = "commander, (national) leader"], Augustus [= "illustrious] and Princeps [= "first citizen"] in January 27BCE, the Senate effectively turns the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Again future historians will note Octavian's pre-occupation - like Alexander [<=336BCE] and Julius Caesar [<=55BCE] before him - with his own propaganda, thus ...
"Augustus sponsored poets and writers, Virgil and Horace among them, to help him in his task" (Taylor, 1990, p41).
Again we shall in due course be tracking the role played by contemporary writings of all sorts in creating the popular image of that war. [THREAD = THE MAKING OF WW1 EUROPE] [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
25BCE Around this time Octavian [<=31BCE] establishes the Cursus Publicus [Latin = "public course"], a state-run courier service based on a network of relay stationes for fresh horses and mansiones for overnight rest. Delivery speeds of 30-50 miles per day are routine. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
9CE The Battle of the Teutoberg Forest: The legion-trained German tribal leader Armin [Latin = Arminius; Modern = Hermann] [Wikipedia biography] leads a revolt against Rome's territorial ambitions north of the Rhine. The local commander Publius Quinctillius Varus [Wikipedia biography] responds by leading a force of three legions - the XVIIth, XVIIIth, and XIXth - to punish them. It is all a massive ambush, however, and the outcome is a historical victory for the Germans [fuller story], and the annihilation of Varus' entire army. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - HARKING BACK: This victory will not be forgotten when, in the 19th century, German nationalists seek to be remind their fellows of their former glories - see Companion Resource [scroll to 1812 (Caspar Friedrich)].
WAR CINEMA: Click here for an informative 2009 (second millenial) documentary explaining these events, with much entertaining battle re-enactment.
33CE The VIth Legion is stationed in Judaea at this time, serving as governor's bodyguard to Pontius Pilate. Here they will provide a detachment of legionaries under the centurion now known as (Saint) Longinus [Wikipedia biography] at the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth and two other death-row Judaeans. The Judaean tin merchant (Saint) Joseph (of Arimathea) [Wikipedia biography=>37CE] donates a tomb for the burial. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
37CE In some later tellings of the story (Saint) Joseph (of Arimathea) [<=33CE] leads a group of fugitives from religious persecution into self-imposed exile in Britannia. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE: Little will be heard of this legend until it is written up in the 19th century by the monk-encyclopaedist Rabanus Maurus. See the separate entry [=>822] for the full list of fugitives.
42CE The Early Christian Church: The Apostle (Saint) Mark [Wikipedia biography] founds a Christian School in Alexandria, whose reputation will help the Egyptian Christian Coptic Church develop over the ensuing centuries. Many early sources assert that the Apostle (Saint) Peter [Wikipedia biography], so-called because Jesus had described him as "the rock" upon whom His church would be built, becomes leader of the new church. The Apostle (Saint) James went to Spain ca. 40CE, where he received a vision of the Virgin Mary. He was executed when he returned to Judaea four years later. His remains were then somehow returned to Spain and buried in Santiago [Sant Iago = Saint James], from where he later became the rallying spirit amongst the Christian Spaniards in their fight against the Moors. The Apostle (Saint) Thomas is believed to have preached initially at Edessa, Syria, and then along the Malabar Coast of India, where he founded churches in Kerala, Mylapore, and Goa. This ministry is documented in the Acts of Judas Thomas, an important apocryphal resource. Further background comes from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, another apocryphal resource. The travels and teachings of (Saint) Paul [Wikipedia biography] are well documented in the Bible. He may also have particularly influenced Valentinus, and, through him, the development of Gnosticism. The apostle (Saint) Matthias [came on in the second half as sub for Judas] seems to have preached around (and been martyred in) Colchis, in modern Georgia [different sources give wildly different accounts and may conflate different persons]. Matthias' remains are claimed by St. Matthias Abbey, Trier, having reputedly been brought there three hundred years later by (Saint) Helena [=>326]. The Galilean apostle (Saint) John (the Evangelist) [Wikipedia biography] flourishes about this time as the presumed author of the Gospel of John, the three Johannine Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. The very obscure (Saint) Aristobulus (of Britannia) [Wikipedia biography], reportedly brother of the Apostle Barnabas, is accepted by (Saint) Paul as one of his 70 additional apostles, and given the task of establishing Christianity in Britain. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE - "JOHANNINE" CHRISTIANITY: The work of (Saint) John (the Evangelist) is particularly noteworthy in the present context because the church he founded - "Johannine Christianity" - existed more or less independently alongside the "Petrine Christianity" founded by (Saint) Peter, but as the more "esoteric" of the two (Higgins, 1836, cited in Dunford, 2004 online). Its strongpoints seem to have been Scotland and Ireland where they appears to have arisen a peculiar "Johannine Celtic mythos" (Dunford, ibid.). We shall be hearing a lot more about the eventual clash of the two systems in due course - see 145 (Saint Lucius) and follow the onward pointers.
43CE The Claudian Conquest: The Roman emperor Claudius [Wikipedia biography] sends four legions to persuade the British Isles to contribute more generously to the empire's coffers. The units in question are IInd Augusta, IXth Hispana, XIVth Gemina, and XXth Valeria Victrix, and the result is a clear victory for the Romans. Over the ensuing years British dissidents are taken on tribe by tribe. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: THE NAMING OF MILITARY UNITS: The author lives only two hours' march from Isca Silurum [= "Isca of the Silures" = modern Caerleon], one of Britannia's major legionary bases. It became the headquarters of the II Augusta Legion around 75CE, appearing in abbreviated form on monuments as <LEG II AVG> [image; image] [re-enactment society]. The practice of naming one's units with a "cognomen", or secondary name, is similar to that by which we name each other with personal names, family names, titles, and nicknames. The practice of deriving that cognomen from a unit's past glories reappears often enough to suggest that it must appeal in some deep way to the human psyche. For example, the Xth Legion had been given the cognomen Fretensis [= "of the Straits"] after distinguishing itself in battle in 36BCE near the Straits of Messina. Similarly with the "Diehards" [<=1811 (Battle of Albuera)], the "Desert Rats", and the "Red Devils" [U.S. 5th Infantry Division]. Another method of naming military units records simply the geographical region from which the troops were levied. Thus with the IXth Hispana Legion [from Spain], the Essex Regiment [from Essex], and so on. Yet another method selects some aspect of the unit's professional persona, as with "The Big Red One" [U.S. 1st Infantry Division (their shoulder flash being a big, red, "1")], the Buffs [=>1744], and the Green Howards [=>1744].
50CE? The historically obscure Simon Magus [= "Simon the Sorcerer"] [Wikipedia biography] is reported in the Acts of the Apostles as trying to buy influence in the early church, and is duly cautioned against. Later (but apocryphal) sources place Simon as a native of Gitta in Samaria, and chronicle his use of magic and intrigue in promoting the Simonian sect. He is then reported as having transferred to Rome where his magic seems to have greatly impressed the residents there. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
50CE? Automation, Control, and Artificial Intelligence [III - Early Work (Heron)]: [Continued from 125BCE] Heron of Alexandria [Wikipedia biography=>1589] extends and republishes Ctesibius' [<=250BCE] work on automata, adding steam-powered turbines and primitive pre-programming of response [sub-thread continues at 1206 (Al-Jazari) ...]. [THREAD = WW1 CYBERNETICS, COMPUTATION, AND FIRE CONTROL]
50CE? Led possibly by the Apostles Paul and Luke, the early leaders of the slowly expanding Christian church convene the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem to debate how best to reconcile their beliefs with those of their native Judaism. Were they Christian Jews, for example, or no longer Jews at all? And were non-Jewish converts to Christianity therefore subject to the rules of Judaism, not least the requirement for male circumcision? The resulting Apostolic Decree imposed a watered down version of the Mosaic Law, and left circumcision as a decision of the individual concerned. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
56CE According to some later histories, a British citizen (Saint) Linus [Wikipedia biography] is converted by (Saint) Joseph (of Arimathea) [<=37CE] and, during the persecutions [=>64CE], may even briefly succeed the apostle-pope (Saint) Peter [<=42CE] as Christianity's second pope. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
58CE The epistle of (Saint) Paul [<=42CE] to the Romans is written about this time (although it will not become officially collated as part of the Bible until after the Council of Nicaea [=>325]). [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
59CE The Roman general Gaius Suetonius Paulinus [Wikipedia biography] is appointed governor of Britain. His first campaign is against the native Britons in what is now north Wales, particularly Mona, the modern Isle of Anglesey. While he is away, however, two British tribes, the Iceni under Boudicca [Wikipedia biography] and the neighbouring Trinovantes, stage a lightning attack on the IXth Hispana Legion and put Camulodum to the torch. Suetonius started back but not quickly enough to prevent both Londinium and Verulamium [= St. Albans] suffering the same fate. With their blood up, and heavily outnumbering the remaining Romans, the Britons move to meet the returning Suetonius in the Battle of Watling Street [precise location not yet firmly decided]. At this point, however, they allow their enthusiasm to get the better of them, and dispense (very unwisely) with a regular line of battle. The main source on this campaign is Tacitus' Annals, which takes up the story ...
"The Roman legion presented a close embodied line. The narrow defile gave them the shelter of a rampart. The Britons advanced with ferocity, and discharged their darts at random. In that instant, the Romans rushed forward in the form of a wedge. The auxiliaries followed with equal ardour. The cavalry, at the same time, bore down upon the enemy, and, with their pikes, overpowered all who dared to make a stand. The Britons betook themselves to flight, but their wagons in the rear obstructed their passage. A dreadful slaughter followed [... in which] not less than 80,000 Britons were put to the sword. The Romans lost about four hundred men, and the wounded did not exceed that number" [here - by courtesy of the Internet age is a quick video replay].
RESEARCH ISSUE - "ACCEPTABLE" LOSSES: Roman generals were often interested in war as a means to a political end, and therefore tended to report losses in the most favourable light, downplaying their own and exaggerating those of the enemy. As we shall be seeing in due course, the same thing happened throughout WW1. There is no real science of how many of its sons and daughters need to be killed before a nation deems those losses "unacceptable". Again see the inset on the Pals' battalions [=>1916 (1st July)].
The Legate of the IXth Legion at this time is Quintus Petillius Cerialis [Wikipedia biography]. After putting down the rebellion the Romans gradually push the limes [pronounce as "Lee Mace"] - the limits of Empire - northward and westward into Britain. Cerialis will be appointed Governor of Britannia in 71CE and will remain in that post until recalled to Rome in 74CE. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
64CE [19th July] The Great Fire of Rome: This six-day-long urban firestorm seriously damages large areas of the city. The emperor, Nero [Wikipedia biography] blames the disaster on the Christians, and (Saint) Peter himself [<=42CE] is believed to have been martyred in the resulting wave of reprisals. A young bishop named (Saint) Clement [Wikipedia biography] maintains the functionality of the Roman congregation in the teeth of violent persecution, thereby helping to establish Rome as the de facto epicentre of Christianity [as opposed to Corinth, say, or Ephesus, or any of the other congregations]. [=>96] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
66CE The Great Jewish Revolt: This anti-imperial rebellion is fought out between the Roman army of occupation in Judaea and an army of rebellion whipped up by an extremist group within the already right-wing Zealots, known as the "Sicarii". After sieges at Jerusalem [=>70CE] and Masada [=>73CE], the outcome is that imperial order is once again restored. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
70CE An obscure Cappadocian [= modern Turkey] philosopher named Apollonius of Tyana [Wikipedia biography] flourishes about this time. Little is known reliably about his works although a manuscript fragment concerning sacrifices has a reasonably sound provenance. Nevertheless, much of what we (think we) know about Apollonius comes either from a later biography [=>225 (Philostratus)]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
70CE [??th March] The Siege of Jerusalem: This six-month siege is fought out between the Roman army of occupation in Judaea under Titus Flavius Vespasianus [Wikipedia biography] and the armed Jewry of Jerusalem. The outcome is a predictable victory for the Roman regulars, and a considerable reprisal massacre. The siege is noteworthy in the present context (a) for its successful application of siege engineering, and (b) for a successful surprise night attack. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
72CE The Siege of Masada: This six-month siege is fought out between the Roman army of occupation in Judaea, specifically Xth Fretensis under Lucius Flavius Silva [Wikipedia biography] and Sicarii rebels [<=66CE] dug in atop the conventionally "impregnable" Mount Masada. The outcome is total annihilation of the Sicarii, who commit mass suicide rather than live in subjugation. The siege is noteworthy in the present context as an example of siege engineering on a massive scale - indeed the Roman assault ramp remains a major feature on the modern satellite image of the site [check it out]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
75CE The Romans found a city at Venta Silurum [= modern Caerwent, Wales]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE GERMANIC TRIBES **********
77CE The Roman encyclopaedist Pliny the Elder [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Natural History", the Wikipedia of its age. Our present interest in this work is restricted to his listing of the Germanic tribes in Book 4, Chapter 28 [full text online] ...
THE VANDALI: Comprising the BURGUNDIONES [Wikipedia ethnography], the VARINI, the CARINI, and the GUTONES.
THE INGAEVONES: Comprising some of the CIMBRI, the TEUTONI, and the CHAUCI.
THE ISTAEVONES: The main body of the CIMBRI.
THE HERMIONES: Comprising the SUEVI, the HERMUNDURI, the CATTI, and the CHERUSCI [<=9CE].
THE PEUCINI: Comprising the BASTERNAE and the DACI.
The work does not mention the Saxons or the Angles. [=>98CE (Tacitus' Germania)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
77CE Agricola's British Campaigns: The Roman general Gnaeus Julius Agricola [Wikipedia biography] begins an eight year campaign against the British resistance. Taking over where Suetonius had left off [<=59], he begins with a drive against the Ordovices in modern North Wales, following this up with further campaigns in Galloway in 81CE and Caledonia in 83CE. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
82CE (Saint) Joseph of Arimethea [<=37CE] reportedly dies this year and is buried at Glastonbury. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
95CE The Psychologies of War [XVII - Rhetoric, Geopolitical Identity, and Militarism (Quintilian on)]: [Continued from 54BCE] The Roman scholar Marcus Fabius Quintilianus [Wikipedia biography] collates an updated version of Cicero's [<=55BCE] writings on rhetoric under the title Institutio Oratoria [full text online] [sub-thread continues at 1095 (27th November) ...]. [THREAD = THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS]
96CE The epistle of (Saint) Clement [<=64] to the Corinthians is written about this time (although it will not become officially collated as part of the Bible until after the Council of Nicaea [=>325]. [=>101] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
98CE The Roman politician-historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus [Wikipedia biography] publishes De Vita Iulii Agricolae [in English as "The Agricola"], an account of Agricola's British campaigns [<=77CE]. It is a valuable source of insight into Roman political and military thinking. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE GERMANIC TRIBES AGAIN **********
98CE Drawing in part on the material in Pliny the Elder's "Natural History" [<=77CE], Tacitus [<=preceding entry] also publishes De Origine et Situ Germanorum [in English as "Germania"], an introduction to the tribes of northern Europe. He describes the people as a whole as having no written history, relying for their mythology on "ancient songs", the recital of which is called "barding". Their national father figures are the god Tuisto and his son Mannus. They "transact no business" without being armed, but are only allowed to bear arms from their age of majority, which is at 12 to 15 years of age. In addition to the Cherusci, whom we have already met at the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest [<=9CE], Tacitus names many other German tribes. The following snippets are indicative ...
THE BATAVI: [probably modern Sweden] "... the most famed for valour ..." (p319).
THE CATTI: [modern Hesse, Thüringia, and Franconia] "... distinguished by hardier frames, compactness of limb, fierceness of countenance, and superior vigour of mind" (p320).
THE TENCTERI: "... famed for the discipline of their cavalry [...] Horsemanship is the sport of their children, the point of emulation of their youth, and the exercise in which they persevere to old age" (pp322-323).
THE CHAUCI: "... the noblest of the Germans, who choose to maintain their greatness by justice rather than violence" (p326).
THE CIMBRI: [modern Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein; ancestors of the Normans] "... a small state at present, but great in renown" (p327).
THE SUEVI: Tacitus treats the Suevi as a superordinate tribal grouping, including the SEMNONES and the LANGOBARDI.
THE SUIONES: [modern Swedish archipelago; also ancestors of the Normans] "The form of their vessels differs from ours in having a prow at each end, so that they are always ready to advance" (p337).
THE AESTII: [modern Prussia] "... whose dress and customs are the same with those of the Suevi, but their language more resembles the British" (p338).
THE PEUCINI: [modern Danube delta] Tacitus doubts that these are properly Germanic, noting that "all of them live in filth and laziness" (p340).
THE TREVERI AND THE NERVII: Tacitus rates these unfortunates as Gaulish tribes, rather than Germanic, because of their "effeminacy" (p318)!
As to their military prowess ...
"The cavalry either bear down straight forwards, or wheel once to the right, in so compact a body that none is left behind the rest. Their principal strength, on the whole, consists in their infantry: hence in an engagement these are intermixed with the cavalry. [...] Their line of battle is disposed in wedges. To give ground, provided they rally again, is considered rather as a prudent stratagem, than cowardice. They carry off their slain even while the battle remains undecided. The greatest disgrace that can befall them is to have abandoned their shields. [...] They also carry with them to battle certain images and standards taken from the sacred groves" (pp294-295).
"In the field of battle, it is disgraceful for the chief to be surpassed in valour; it is disgraceful for the companions not to equal their chief; but it is reproach and infamy during a whole succeeding life to retreat from the field surviving him. To aid, to protect him; to place their own gallant actions to the account of his glory, is their first and most sacred engagement. The chiefs fight for victory, the companions for their chief" (p304).
And with an insight worthy of modern socio-economic theory ...
"If their native country be long sunk in peace and inaction, many of the young nobles repair to some other state then engaged in war. For [...] they are unable, without war and violence, to maintain a large train of followers. The companion requires from the liberality of his chief the warlike steed [etc.]. The funds for this munificence must be found in war and rapine ..." (pp304-305; bold emphasis added).
Tacitus also argues that the Germanic tribes deserve to be treated as a superordinate nation because nobody would tolerate their climate unless they somehow belonged there! [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
RESEARCH ISSUE - DANGEROUS BOOKS: Germania was very nearly lost to history when the Roman Empire fell. For the story of the text's re-discovery, and why an Italian author will one day describe it as "one of the most dangerous books ever written", start at 840 (Codex Hersfeldensis) and follow the onward pointers.
101 (Saint) Clement [<=96] is executed by the Romans while preaching in exile at Inkerman, modern Crimea, and buried locally. His remains will be recovered by (Saint) Cyril [=>862] over seven centuries later [Rule #4 applies], divided between Rome and Kiev, and interred as blessed relics in the Basilica di San Clemente [homepage] and the Monastery of the Caves [detail], respectively. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
105 Tacitus [<=98] publishes "The Histories" [full text online], an account of Roman achievements in the years 69-70 [remainder lost]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
117 Tacitus [<=98] publishes "The Annals" [full text online], an account of Roman achievements in the years 14-68 [incomplete]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
122 The Roman emperor Hadrian [Wikipedia biography] authorises work to begin on a major defensive fortification to run the 80 miles across northern Britain [from modern Carlisle to modern Newcastle - see map]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: The WW1 Western Front was 440 miles long. In due course we shall be exploring the problems particular to manning linear fronts of this sort, not least the interaction between terrain and tactics and the sheer logistics of it all.
STUDENT EXERCISE [MIDDLE AND UPPER]: Imagine that you wish to take over your school and keep your teachers and parents out. Use the Internet to print off a map of your school and a 500-meter circle of land around it. Paying due attention to high ground, lakes, rivers, etc., suggest where best to build a line of fortification. Remember that you will need a main gate for the supermarket delivery van to get in and out. Remember also that you will need a sick bay, commissary, etc.
142 Hadrian's successor Antoninus [Wikipedia biography] authorises a second defensive wall to be built a hundred miles to the north of Hadrian's wall to run the 40 miles from the Clyde to the Forth estuaries [from modern Glasgow to modern Edinburgh - see map]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
145 A minor British warlord (Saint) Lucius [Wikipedia biography] possibly flourishes about this time and negotiates with Pope Eleuterius [Wikipedia biography] to become a Christian. Eleuterius obliges by sending two envoys to baptise him and establish a network of early dioceses and archdioceses. The story will not appear in hard copy until Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica [=>731], and will be further embellished by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum [=>1136]. To the extent that it is based on fact [and this might not be that much], it is one of several hints that Britannia was "Christian" in a very particular way at a very early date. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
155 An ageing disciple of (Saint) John (the Evangelist) [<=42CE], (Saint) Polycarp [Wikipedia biography], by now Bishop of Smyrna [modern Turkey] is burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman emperor. An eye-witness account of the event will survive to the present day [full text online (not verified)]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
198 Perhaps the son of a Roman soldier, the Carthaginian scholar Quintus Tertullianus [Wikipedia biography] converts to Christianity. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
200 Around this time an unknown smith builds a rudimentary "shaft furnace" for the small-scale smelting of iron ore at what is now Ashwicken, Norfolk. The remains of this furnace site will be excavated by archaeologists in the 20th century (Tylecote, 1987). [THREAD = THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION]
210 The Roman bishop Hippolytus [Wikipedia biography] falls into doctrinal dispute with Pope Zephyranus [Wikipedia biography], putting his thoughts down in writing as "The Refutation of All Heresies", only fragments of which will survive. His other writings include "On the Twelve Apostles of Christ" and "On the Seventy Apostles of Christ", in which the deeds of the first and second waves of Christian expansion are documented. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
225 [<=firstly 70 (Apollonius)] The Greek Sophist philosopher Philostratus [Wikipedia biography] collates "The Life of Apollonius of Tyana", a possibly one-sided and exaggerated account of Apollonius's achievements and powers. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
250 The Roman emperor Decius [Wikipedia biography] issued the "Decian Edict", requiring all inhabitants of the empire, high- and low-born alike, to make altar sacrifice to the long-established Roman gods, and thereafter to carry a chit confirming that they had done so. This forced sacrifice was designed to marginalise as mere Superstitiones [= "cults"] competing belief systems, such as Judaism and the various forms of Christianity. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
257 The Roman emperor Valerian [Wikipedia biography] outlaws Christian assembly and orders the summary execution of bishops and church elders. The pope at this time is (Saint) Sixtus II [Wikipedia biography] and he, on 6th August 258, is one of the first to be martyred. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
285 The Roman emperor Diocletian [Wikipedia biography] experimentally partitions the administration of the empire between a senior emperor - an Augustus - and a junior emperor - a Caesar. Since this arrangement results in two imperial positions at a time it is known as a diarchy [= "rule of two"]. The following year he passes the Ius Colonatus, a slavery reform law allowing owners of slaves to buy their immunity from military service. It will be argued in modern times that this might not have been such a good idea after all, because it forces the legions to make up the shortfall in recruits by canvassing neighbouring barbarian tribes for young men eager for adventure. [=>293] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
290 In Britain Coel Hen [Wikipedia biography] [still known in modern British nursery rhyme as "Old King Cole"] flourishes as king of the Hen Ogledd [= "old north"] about this time. According to the Harleian Genealogies [<=975], his daughter (Saint) Helena (of Constantinople) [Wikipedia biography] marries Constantius I [=>293] and their son becomes the emperor Constantine I (the Great) [=>306]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE FRANKS ARRIVE ON THE BLOCK **********
292 A new Germanic people - the Franks - starts to make its presence known by threatening the Roman border along the Rhine. [=>358] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - THE TROJAN FRANKS: The Franks, it seems, harbour their own legends of Trojan ancestry [<=1130BCE (Trojan Legend)].
293 Following the successful experiment with the diarchy [<=285], Diocletian now allows for two nodes of imperial administration as well, each with its own diarchy. Since this arrangement results in four imperial positions at a time it is known as a tetrarchy. The tetrarchs are based in whichever of four "tetrarchian capitals" are closest to the prevailing threats. These capitals are Nicomedia [= modern Izmit, Turkey], Sirmium [near modern Belgrade, Serbia], Mediolanum [= modern Milan], and Augusta Treverorum [= modern Trier, Germany]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
293 Constantius I [Wikipedia biography] becomes one of the Tetrarchy's two Caesars, and is assigned responsibility for Gaul and Britannia. He establishes his capital at Augusta Treverorum [= modern Trier]. [<=293] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
295 (Saint) Maximilian of Tebessa [Wikipedia biography] is beheaded for refusing by virtue of his Christian beliefs to do military service in the Roman Army. [THREAD = CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION]
KEY MILITARY VOCABULARY - CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION: In WW1 it made a lot of difference when you decided that it was wrong to kill people in battle. If you decided as soon as you got your conscription papers (and conscription was not introduced until early 1916) then you could probably suffer no more than imprisonment and social ostracisation. If, on the other hand, you waited until your were actually in uniform and in harm's way, then your refusal to fight would be deemed cowardice and you ran the very real risk of being court martialled and "shot at dawn". Much more on all this in due course.
300 A Middle Eastern provincial cleric named Eusebius [Wikipedia biography] becomes Bishop of Caesarea and completes the first edition of Historia Ecclesiastica [in English as "Ecclesiastical History"], in which he asserts, amongst other things, that "the Apostles passed beyond the ocean to the isles called the Britannic Isles". [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
306 The Roman tetrarch Constantius I [<=293] dies, and his garrison at Eburacum [= modern York] proclaim his son Constantine I (the Great) [Wikipedia biography] emperor. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
312 The Battle of the Milvian Bridge: This battle is fought between the Roman tetrarch Constantine I (the Great) [<=306] and his rival Maxentius. The outcome is a decisive victory for Constantine. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for Constantine's reported prophetic vision on his way to the battle that if his troops were to mark their shields with the digram Chi-Rho [check it out] - the first two letters of Christ's name - then they would prevail. He issues instructions to this effect and is rewarded with a conclusive victory. Christianity accordingly moves up a notch in the imperial estimation. [=>313] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
313 The emperors Constantine I (the Great) [<=306] and Licinius [Wikipedia biography] (of the Western and Eastern divisions of the Roman Empire, respectively) sign the Edict of Milan, bringing state persecution of Christians to an end. They also offer the church the Lateran Palace [detail] as a temporary base while a new basilica is erected on Vatican Hill over the hitherto deliberately nondescript tomb of (Saint) Peter. The pope at this time is (Saint) Miltiades [Wikipedia biography], although he will be succeeded by (Saint) Sylvester I [Wikipedia biography] the following year. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE: (Saint) Peter's relics were kept very secret to prevent the Romans from trashing them at the height of the persecution. They were only finally officially identified by the Vatican in 1968.
314 [8th October] The Battle of Cibalae [= modern Vinkovci, Croatia]: This battle takes place between the imperial rivals Constantine I (the Great) [<=313] and Licinius [<=313]. The outcome is a Constantinian victory. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
325 The Council of Nicaea: This council of church leaders is convened by Constantine I (the Great) [<=313] to create a definitive version of Christianity, its core beliefs, and - more importantly - its role alongside politicians and the military in maintaining the Roman Empire. Out of the 1800 or so bishops scattered around the empire, 300 or so attend. Constantine himself opens the proceedings, and one of the most important votes, in which only two delegates demurred, is that a certain Bishop Arius of Alexandria [Wikipedia biography] is wrong to argue that Jesus was only figuratively the "Son of God", a position known as the "Arian Heresy" or "Arianism". The approved truth - namely that God and Christ "are of the same substance and are co-eternal" - will henceforth be known as the "Nicene Creed". [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
326 (Saint) Helena [Wikipedia biography], possibly a daughter of the British King Coel Hen [<=300], possibly born in Camulodunum [= modern Colchester], wife of the Roman Emperor Constantius, and mother of Constantine I (the Great) [<=306] sets off on a mission to the Holy Land to bring back as many Christian relics as can be found. For this she will be elevated to the sainthood as Saint Helena, patron saint of new discoveries. Amongst the relics successfully recovered are "The True Cross", several "Holy Nails", "The Holy Tunic", the remains of the Apostle Matthias [<=42CE], and lesser artifacts. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE - "THE CULT OF RELICS": As far as we have been able to ascertain, (Saint) Helena's is the earliest large-scale expedition specifically in search of relics. It is not clear what put the idea into her head, nor what discussions she had with her son before she set off. We presume that Pope Sylvester I [<=313] decided that because the church already had plenty of martyrs it made good business sense to leverage their sacrifice. Half a century later relics will be well established at the heart of Roman religion [=>371 (Martin of Tours) and 374 (Saint Ambrose)].
RESEARCH ISSUE - THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AWED REVERENCE: Science has no theory to explain the feelings of hushed reverence which come upon you as you visit historically significant places. We shall be returning to this issue in due course.
328 Upon the death of Alexander of Alexandria [<=319] (Saint) Athanasius becomes patriarch of the Alexandrian church. [=>335] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
330 Constantine I (the Great) [<=325] relocates his imperial administration to Byzantium [= modern Istanbul], renaming it Constantinople. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
334 A young (modern Hungarian) Roman Army cavalryman, (Saint) Martin (of Tours) [Wikipedia biography] is stationed at Samarobriva in Gaul [= modern Amiens] and chances one day upon a freezing beggar. In an act of spontaneous kindness he reportedly cuts his cappa [= "cloak"] in half and gives half to the beggar. That night he has a dream visitation by Jesus [<=Rule #5 applies], who praises him for his selflessness, but would rather he was baptised. He converts to Christianity forthwith. [=>350] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
335 The First Synod of Tyre: (Saint) Athanasius of Alexandria [<=319] defends himself unsuccessfully against charges of overenthusiasm in his campaign against the Arians, and exiled. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
336 Bishop Arius [<=325 above] conveniently dies from sudden bloody diarrhoea [<=300 above], but this does not prevent Arianism flourishing for several centuries yet in Constantinople and north of the Danube. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
350 The French scholar (Saint) Hilary is elected Bishop of Poitiers [Wikipedia biography] and devotes the remaining 18 years of his life to preaching against the Arian heresy. He takes on (Saint) Martin (of Tours) [<=334] as an acolyte. [=>361] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
350 Around this time the Romans reorganise their command structures in Britain under three functional commanders, two Comes [pronounce "Co-mace", conventionally translated as "Counts"], and a Dux [= "Duke/Duce/Leader"]. These are (a) the Comes Littoris Saxonici, the "Count of the Saxon Shore", in charge of defending southeastern Britain from seaborne raids by Saxons and Frisians, (b) the Dux Britanniarum, in charge of defending northern Britain against seaborne raids and holding Hadrian's Wall, and (c) the Comes Britanniarum, in charge of the (more manoeuvrable) field army. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
357 (Saint) Basil of Cappadocia visits Egypt and promotes the Eastern Orthodox Church. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
358 The Salians, a Frankish tribe [<=292], are recognised as Foederati of the Roman Empire. [=>451 (Battle of Chalons)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
KEY CONCEPT - FOEDERATI: Foederatus tribes were regional allies of the Romans who sacrificed some of their street credibility as "barbarians" for the security of limited citizenship and military protection. As allies they routinely had to provide levies of young men for service in the Roman Army.
361 Still working with (Saint) Hilary of Poitiers [<=350] (Saint) Martin (of Tours) [<=334] founds a monastery at nearby Ligugé which will grow, in due course, into Ligugé Abbey [homepage]. [=>371] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
********** THE HUNS MAKE THEMSELVES KNOWN **********
370 A nomadic Eurasian people known as the Huns start to migrate westward across the River Volga, thereby threatening the ailing Roman Empire from the east. [=>435] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
371 (Saint) Martin (of Tours) [<=361] is acclaimed Bishop of Tours and sets about dismantling Druidic paganism wherever he finds it. He also founds the Abbey of Marmoutier [arrange visit] at Indre-et-Loire. During this period he performs many miracles [<=Rule #4], including bringing a dead colleague back to life. His cappa - the cloak which featured in his original vision [<=334] - will in due course become one of the most treasured relics of the Frankish kings, and his entire persona will be hijacked by the religious right in France and used as a symbolic focus for national defiance following their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War [=>1871]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE: With Paris under siege by the Germans from September 1870, the French government decamped to Tours, where Saint Martin was not just the nearest saint to hand, but, as the Patron Saint of soldiers, just about the most appropriate. His Saint's Day is 11th November, and the fact that we know this date better as "Armistice Day" is because the 1918 armistice was purposely delayed to coincide with the festival and thus be more heavily symbolic [=>1918 (11th November)].
IMPORTANT WW1 VOCABULARY: While in the treasury of the Frankish kings Saint Martin's cappa was guarded by a priest called a cappellanu [= "cape man"]. Gradually all priests who accompanied their armies to war came to be called cappellani, or in English chaplains, and their small mobile churches came to be called cappeli, or chapels.
374 (Saint) Ambrose is acclaimed Archbishop of Milan and works hard in his ministry to stamp out Arianism [<=325]. He also does much to popularise the cult of relics [<=326 (ASIDE)] by starting work on a basilica to showcase the things. [=>386] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
375 [provisional1] Around this time a number of young (but later famous) Irish monks, including (Saint) Ciaran of Saigar and Ossory [Wikipedia biography], (Saint) Declán of Ardmore [Wikipedia biography], (Saint) Ailbe of Emly [Wikipedia biography], and (Saint) Ibar of Beggerin [Wikipedia biography] are learning their future trade somewhere in Europe, and probably for a time in Rome itself. [=>390] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
1 This date interpolated, given a tradition date of birth for (Saint) Ciaran of 352.
376 The Goths are declared foederati of the empire and allocated lands south of the Danube. However, they soon rebel against the Roman provincial authorities [=>378]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
378 The Battle of Hadrianopolis: This battle takes place between the eastern Roman emperor Valens [Wikipedia biography] and the rebellious Gothic foederati south of the Danube [<=376]. The armies are approximately equal in size, but the Romans are handled so inexpertly that a well-timed Gothic cavalry charge leads to a Roman rout. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
380? The British-born monk Morgan [Latinised as Pelagius - Wikipedia biography], raised in the Celtic version of Christianity, relocates to Rome to continue his devotions. He is famously ascetic - frugal and controlled in person, and eager to condemn the excesses of the flesh. This "holier than thou" stance soon brings him into confrontation with the decadent side of Roman life, and makes him some powerful enemies. [=>396] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
RESEARCH ISSUE - PERSONALITY FACTORS: Asceticism is a personality factor - some people have a lot of it, others not a lot. The word also implies a cluster of other characteristics, such as self-denial, austerity, frugality, etc. The science of measuring personality factors is known as "psychometrics", but none of the main psychometric systems directly recognises asceticism [the 16PF system comes close with its construct of "Rule-Consciousness" - check it out - but the fit is less than perfect]. We shall be returning to this issue in detail in due course. STUDENT EXERCISE [SENIORS]: Search the Internet on the keywords <famous ascetics> and create a summary factsheet of your own under the title "Asceticism in Holy Men and Women".
381 The First Council of Constantinople: Pope Timothy I [Wikipedia biography] convenes the First Council of Constantinople to address a range of issues not covered by the Nicene Creed [<=325]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
382 Pope Damasus I [<=366] invites (Saint) Jerome [Wikipedia biography] to become his confidential secretary. [=>400] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
383 The Roman general Magnus Clemens Maximus [Wikipedia biography] withdraws the bulk of his forces temporarily from Britain to pursue a politically motivated campaign in Gaul. He succeeds in becoming emperor of Britain and Gaul, but will be executed in 388 after attempting to extend his authority across the Alps into Italy itself. Maximus is referred to as Macsen Wledig in one of the Mabinogion legends [<=1382]. Raids by sea-borne barbarian tribes increase while the British garrisons are thus weakened ...
ASIDE - BRITAIN'S DARK AGE NEIGHBOURS: Here is the modern historian Thomas Charles-Edwards summarising the nature of the "barbarian" threat at this moment in time: "In the late fourth century Roman Britain was subject to major invasions mounted by sea as well as by land. One threat was from Ireland, from people called Scotti by the Romans and perhaps also from a little-known people, the Atacotti. Another was from the Picts to the north of the Firth of Forth. A third was from a people whom the Roman historians called 'Saxons', but who appear to have included contingents from several peoples along the North Sea coast, from Frisia, Saxony, and the Jutland peninsula. In the very long run two of these sets of invaders would change the political shape of Britain. From the settlements of the Saxons in southern and eastern Britain would come by 700 a new nation, the English, and, in the tenth century, a kingdom of the English. From settlements by the Irish in North Britain would come, in the tenth century, a kingdom of the Scots, called Alba in the vernacular (the name for Scotland in Gaelic to this day1). The Picts, however, achieved no new conquests and by the tenth century their name would have been removed from the political map. In England, nation preceded kingdom [...]. In Scotland, kingdom preceded nation: the Scots were the Irish settled in Britain" (Charles-Edwards, 2003, p23).
1 Hence Albany, NY, the city founded by James, Duke of Albany, admiral and high adventurer, prior to his becoming King James VII of Scotland.
The southern Welsh kingdoms around this time are as follows ...
Cerniw: Cerniw [often Kernow] is roughly the same as modern Gwent, and includes the cities of Caerwent [<=75] and Caerleon [<=43]; also the iron industry in the Forest of Dean. It will be ruled until 920 as the Kingdom of Gwent.
Glywysing: Glywysing is roughly the same as modern Glamorgan, and seems to have been named after one Glywys [Wikipedia biography]. It includes the modern city of Cardiff and many important early monasteries such as Llandaff and Llanilltud Fawr [=>478]. The realm will be renamed Morgannwg after a later ruler.
Dyfed: This is the modern Pembrokeshire peninsular, situated west of the Teifi estuary to the north and the Tywi estuary in the south. It includes the modern cities of St. Davids, Haverfordwest, and Pembroke. To the Romans it was known as Demetae, and it will be renamed Deheubarth in 920.
Maximus reportedly leaves behind him a short but historically highly significant dynasty of Britons ruling in the Roman style, although the possible genealogies are too obscure to include herein. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
383 The minor British nobleman Padarn Beisrudd [= Padarn of the Red Robe] [Wikipedia biography] is put in command of the Wotadini. [=>406] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
386 The North African philosopher (Saint) Augustine (of Hippo) [Wikipedia biography] converts to Christianity, and begins to preach the values of Christian asceticism [<=380], becoming Bishop of Hippo Regius [= modern Annaba, Algeria] in 395. Further north, (Saint) Ambrose [<=374] starts gathering relics to grace his new Basilica. Further north again, after several years' missionary work in what is now Belgium, the Gaulish priest (Saint) Victricius [Wikipedia biography] becomes Bishop of Rouen. And further north again, the saints Cieran, Declán, Ailbe, and Ibar [<=375] start to found Christian communities across Ireland. [=>431] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
390 The obscure British chieftain Eudaf Hen [Wikipedia biography] flourishes about this time, and is identified in some sources as the father of Elen Lluyddawc [=>420]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: Other sources suggest Eudaf Hen was half-brother to Constantine I, but the dates do not allow this.
· Book I - Selection and Training: This book addresses the practicalities of recruitment (i.e., age, physique, intelligence, etc.) and the development of basic field skills.
· Book II - Legion Organisation: This book addresses such things as order of battle, record keeping, and drill.
· Book III - Legion Manoeuvres: This book deals with such operational requirements as route marching, crossing rivers, defending temporary encampments, and adopting particular formations when going into battle.
· Book IV - Fortifications: This book deals with the making and attacking of permanent fortifications, and includes instructions on how to use siege engines.
· Book V - Naval Operations: This book deals with the particular specialist skills needed for naval and amphibious operations.
De Re Militari will become such a favourite amongst wannabe field commanders that 226 copies will survive from the age of manuscript copying and the work will become one of the first volume sellers once the printing press is invented. [THREAD = WW1 TACTICS]
391 The Roman emperor Theodosius I [Wikipedia biography] declares Christianity the official state religion. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
395 Upon the death of his father, Theodosius I [<=391], the ten-year-old Honorius [Wikipedia biography] becomes emperor and the general Flavius Stilicho [Wikipedia biography] becomes his regent. At the same time unrest breaks out amongst the Visigoths of Lower Moesia [= modern Bulgaria], led by their expansionist king, Alaric I [Wikipedia biography]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
396 (Saint) Victricius of Rouen [<=386] visits Britain. The purposes of his visit are not recorded, but may well have had something to do with the disagreements between Britain and the Papacy over Pelagianism [<=380 and »405]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
398 (Saint) Augustine (of Hippo) [<=386] completes "Confessiones" [in English as "Confessions"], an autobiographical reflection on his early life and the development of his beliefs [full text online]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
398 Stilicho [<=395] spends time in Britain, reportedly helping the Britons against Pictish incursions from the north [<=383(ASIDE)]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE BIBLE IS COMPILED **********
400? (Saint) Jerome [<=382] visits Egypt, where, troubled by the fragmentary nature of the available texts, he compiles and translates into Latin the set of sources which provides the basis of the modern Bible. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
402 The Battle of Pollentia: Hearing that Alaric I's Visigoths are marching on Milan, Stilicho [<=395] returns to Italy to confront them at the Battle of Pollentia. So short is he of troops, however, that he is forced to remove the remaining front-line troops from Britain. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: It is not recorded how many troops were in Britain at this time, nor their breakdown into regulars and irregulars. However it seems reasonable to suppose that all remaining regular infantry and cavalry units now depart, along with a for-the-duration levy of native Britons. The political and economic elite, and the civil service, would have remained, protected by such second-line reservists as could be "called up". They would also have been able to draw on the teulu of friendly local chieftains. KEY VOCABULARY - THE TEULU: In everyday usage, the modern Welsh word teulu [pronounced to rhyme with "daily"] means simply "family". In the Dark Ages, however, a chieftain's family also included a small personal bodyguard of young men trained and equipped for battle.
405 Pelagius [<=380] notes severe doctrinal differences between himself and (Saint) Augustine (of Hippo) [<=386], ostensibly on the ability of human willpower, without divine assistance, to deliver a righteous life [Wikipedia on this theological issue]. This position becomes known as "Pelagianism", and will eventually be declared heresy by the Council of Carthage [<=418] and severely suppressed. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
RULE #4 APPLIES: The cynical interpretation is that the rivalry came first and the disagreement was engineered to bring it to a head. We have to date been unable to establish whether Celtic Christianity subscribed to Roman Canon Law pertaining to the sanctity of altars, namely that they should all have holy relics of some sort built in beneath them.
********** THE GERMANS MOVE WEST **********
406 Encouraged by the Visigoth's success in northern Italy, a major migration of Vandals [=>429] and related tribes such as the Burgundians [=>411], the Alani, and the Sueves, takes place across the Rhine into Gaul. In Britain, meanwhile, an obscure British chieftain named Edern [no convenient biography] son of Padarn [<=383], flourishes in the lands of the Wotadini. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
407 Eager to do something to stem the barbarian advance into Gaul, the Roman general Flavius Claudius Constantinus [Wikipedia biography] is elected emperor Constantine III by the Romans remaining in Britain. He crosses to Gaul, re-secures the Rhine frontier, and establishes a short-lived sub-empire in Gaul, with a capital at Arles. Sadly his troops on the Rhine soon withdraw their allegiance and in 411 he will be captured and executed. According to (the often inaccurate) Geoffrey of Monmouth [<=1136] Constantinus fathered three important Britons who continued his dynasty in Britain after his death. These are Constans II [Wikipedia biography], Ambrosius Aurelianus [Wikipedia biography], and Uther Pendragon [<=460]. [=>430 (Ambrosius Aurelianus) and 460 (Uther Pendragon)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
408 Honorius [<=395] has Stilicho assassinated for being too sympathetic to the Visigoths. His clampdown backfires, however, because 30,000 ethnic Goths in the legions immediately defect to Alaric, encouraging the latter to march on, and lay siege to, Rome. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
410 Rome is sacked by Alaric I's invading Visigoths, and in the resulting power vacuum Europe collapses back into its tribal regions. In Wales alone there are some six component kingdoms, and no legions left to keep the peace. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
411 Under their king Gondahar [modern German = "Gunther"] [Wikipedia biography], the Burgundians [<=406] are granted foederatus status in lands west of the Rhine around modern Strasbourg. Within a couple of years, however, they are abusing this arrangement and raiding further into Gaul. [=>436] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
418 The new king of the Visigoths, Theoderic I [Wikipedia biography], helps establish his people in southwestern France. [=>451 (Battle of Chalons)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
418 The Council of Carthage: This convention of church leaders is called to discuss Pelagianism [<=405]. It finds against Pelagius, declares him a heretic, and exiles him to Carthage. We may presume that he kept up some contact with his home tribe back in Britain because the next pope - Celestine I [=>422] - will take steps to stamp out Pelagianism there also. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
420 The obscure and difficult to date British noblewoman Elen Lluyddawc [no convenient biography], in some sources the daughter of Macsen Wledig [<=383], in others the daughter of Eudaf Hen [<=390] flourishes about this time. She is reported as a follower and promoter of Celtic Christianity, which beliefs she picked up from (Saint) Martin of Tours [<=334]. She will later become a character in Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig [=>1382 (Mabinogion)], earning the cognomen "Helen of the Hosts" by persuading her father to improve communications in the wild and mountainous countryside of North Wales, the better to move his troops around. This results, in due course, in her becoming Saint Helen of Caernarvon [Wikipedia biography], the patron saint of British roadbuilders. Here is the passage in question ...
"Thereafter Elen thought to make high roads from one stronghold to another across the island of Britain. And the roads were made. And for that reason they are called the Roads of Elen of the Hosts" (The Dream of Macsen Wledig, p85).
The WW1 poet David Jones [=>1937] picks up on roads as the key to troop mobility in his (1937) prose poem "In Parenthesis" (p208). [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
422 The Roman bishop (Saint) Celestine [Wikipedia biography] becomes Pope Celestine I [=>429 (Germanus of Auxerre); 431 (Prosper of Aquitaine)]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
428 [10th April] A Syrian bishop named Nestorius [Wikipedia biography] is appointed Bishop of Constantinople. However his views on core Christian doctrine are decidedly at odds with the mainstream church. He preaches, for example, that the attention given to the Virgin Mary as "Mother of God" comes close to worshipping her idolatrously as a goddess. As a result he will shortly be hauled before the First Council of Ephesus to defend himself. [=>431] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
429 Having migrated from the Rhine down into the Iberian Peninsular [= modern Spain], the Vandals [<=406], under their king Genseric [Wikipedia biography], now cross over into North Africa. Here they spread out eastward to Carthage [= modern Tunisia] and beyond, harassing western empire Roman sea routes. [=>470 (Ricimer)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
429 The Gaulish bishops Germanus of Auxerre [Wikipedia biography] and Lupus of Troyes [Wikipedia biography] are sent by Pope Celestine I [<=422] to visit Britain in an attempt to stamp out the Pelagian heresy amongst the British clergy. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
430 A very misty figure named Ambrosius Aurelianus [<=407] flourishes around this time. He is perhaps one of three British sons of Constantine III [<=407], and appears in old Welsh literature as Emrys Wledig, with a stronghold at Dinas Emrys [near modern Beddgelert - map]. [=>446 (Vortigern)] [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
430 (Saint) Augustine (of Hippo) [<=386 and 405] dies. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
430 Possibly liaising with Germanus of Auxerre [<=429], the British chieftain Cunedda Wledig [Wikipedia biography], reportedly grandson of Padarn Beisrudd [<=383] and son of Edern [<=406], leads the Wotadini peoples south from their homelands around Din Eidin [= modern Edinburgh] to re-establish themselves in the territory of the Venedoti [= modern Gwynedd] as a bulwark against Irish raids. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: Chess-piece tribal relocations such as this were very common in ancient times because they rewarded both the tribe concerned and the authorising central power [Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc.]. The downside was that the tribe usually found itself acting as the central power's front line of defence come the next external threat. It will pay to note the historical comings and goings of the Wotadini tribe because in WW1 they will (indirectly) send their best bard to the Battle of the Somme [=>1916 (5th July)].
431 Following Augustine's death [<=430], the Gaulish monk (Saint) Prosper of Aquitaine [Wikipedia biography] meets with Pope Celestine I [<=429] to discuss how best the Roman church might manage its doctrinal differences with the Pelagians [<=405] and other heretical factions. Over the coming 24 years he will divide his time between spreading Augustine's teachings and historical chronicling. At much the same time Celestine I also sends the monk (Saint) Palladius [Wikipedia biography] to capitalise on early work by (Saint) Ciaran and his colleagues [<=390] at Christianising Ireland, and it may well be he, rather than the later (Saint) Patrick [=>480], who ordains Erc mac Dega [Wikipedia biography] as Bishop of Slane. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
********** STORING UP TROUBLE IN THE BALKANS **********
431 The First Council of Ephesus: This council of Christian church leaders is held in Ephesus [= modern Selçuk, Turkey] to consider whether the teachings of Nestorius of Constantinople [<=428] should be condemned as heretical. The case is heard by some 250 bishops from across Europe, and after due discussion the judgement goes against Nestorius, who loses his job and is forcibly "retired" to a monastery. Sympathetic dioceses across Asia Minor and Persia then become alienated from Rome in what will become known as the "Nestorian Schism". This east-west dividing of the church is noteworthy in the present context not just for separating the Roman and "Orthodox" churches within Christendom, but for leaving Asia Minor an ideologically fertile place for Islam when that religion arrives [=>622]. The end result is the Balkans will become the hotbed of ethno-religious hatred which will eventually flash over into WW1. [THREADS = CHURCH HISTORY and THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
436 The Rout of the Burgundians: Assisted by Hun mercenaries from central Europe, the Roman general Flavius Aëtius [Wikipedia biography] descends on the treacherous Burgundians [<=411] and puts Gondahar and many others to the sword. Led by Gondahar's son Gonderic [Wikipedia biography], the survivors migrate southward to settle in the lands around Lugdunum [= modern Lyon]. [=>443] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
440 Palladius [<=431] is shipwrecked on a small island off the coast of Ynys Mon [= modern Anglesey].Thankful for his survival he founds a small church on the cliffs looking out at the island. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
443 Forgiven for their earlier transgressions [<=436], the Burgundians are afforded foederatus status a second time, possibly because the Romans have now fallen out with the Huns, who, under their king Attila [Wikipedia biography], are now mounting a major push southward from the Danube in the direction of Byzantium [= modern Constantinople]. They successfully overrun a number of Roman strongpoints on the way but, when unable to breach the city's defences, they settle instead for a very large peace tribute from the Romans and withdraw. [=>451 (Battle of Chalons)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE ANGLO-SAXONS ARRIVE IN BRITAIN **********
446 The eastern British chieftain Gwrtheyrn Gwrthenau [National Library of Wales image], known more commonly by his Saxon name Vortigern [Wikipedia biography], reportedly hires a band of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries led by Hengest and Horsa [Wikipedia biography] to help him fight off a Pictish incursion. This will prove something of a miscalculation because the guests will decide to outstay their welcome. To start with, however, Gildas [=>560] asserts that the advance party was a mere three ships (but they just kept a-comin'). [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
450 Upon returning from a spell in Rome, the Irish nobleman (Saint) Abbán [Wikipedia biography] founds religious communities at Cell Ailbe and Camross, Ireland. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
450 An unknown scribe makes the latest updates to the military map of the Roman Empire. This work will survive until the 13th century when it will be copied again onto a 20 foot long parchment scroll, and this latter copy will survive to modern times as the Tabula Peutingeriana [in the Austrian National Library, Vienna - see specimen section (ALEMANNIA at the top; Corsica, Sardinia, and North Africa at the bottom)]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - ALEMANNIA OR ALAMANNIA?: The Tabula Peutingeriana actually shows ALAMANNIA, with an "A". Later references to the tribe of that land split about 50-50 between Alemanni and Alamanni. We shall be using Alemanni(a) throughout because it matches the modern French word for Germany, namely Allemagne, a word which the British Army of WW1 corrupted to "the Alleyman" and used in much the same way as "the Bogeyman", most famously perhaps in the soldiers' lament "I Want to Go Home" [YouTube clip].
451 The Battle of Chalons: Led by Attila, the Huns [<=443] now mount a major push westward from the Rhine across the north of Gaul. They are met by a coalition army of Romans under Aëtius [<=436], Visigoths under Theoderic 1 [<=418], and a large force of mercenaries from the foederati tribes, including the Franks [<=292], the Sarmatians [<=460BCE (Herodotus)], the Burgundians under Gonderic [<=443], and the Saxons [<=446]. The coalition is victorious, forcing the Huns to abandon their expansionist programme west of the Alps, and generally raising the status of the foederati. Theoderic dies in the battle and is reportedly buried where he fell. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE MEROVINGIAN FRANKS TAKE OVER IN FRANCE **********
451 Known mainly from the Chronicle of Fredegar some two hundred years later [<=642], a Salian Frankish warlord known traditionally as Merovech [Wikipedia biography] flourishes around this time, and may well have been part of the Frankish presence at the Battle of Chalons [above]. Legendary or not, he will give his name to the "Merovingian Dynasty" of Frankish kings. [=>457] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE BRITONS BECOME WELSH **********
451 The Anglo-Saxons, now well established in the southeast of Britain, take to calling the indigenous Britons Waelisc [Saxon = foreigner/slave; cognate with the modern English "vassal"]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: This is why the modern Welsh word for Wales is Cymru, whilst the Anglo-Saxon word for Wales is Wales. The French, for their part, say Pays de Galles, where the de Galles bit seems to be implying "of (the) Gauls".
455 With family connections to the Sueves [<=406] and the Visigoths [<=418], the western Roman general Flavius Ricimer [Wikipedia biography] expands into the power vacuum left by the death of Aëtius [<=436] and Valentinian III. At around the same time the Roman general and Bishop of Piacenza Eparchius Avitus [Wikipedia biography] becomes Western Emperor. [=>470] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
457 Upon the death of Merovech [<=451], the throne of the Salian Franks passes to his son Childeric I [Wikipedia biography]. Around the same time, the Roman general Flavius Majorianus [Wikipedia biography] deposes Avitas [<=455], and succeeds him as Western Emperor. [=>466] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
458 The Battle of Arelate: In this battle Majorian defeats the Visigoths under Theodoric II, thereby helping to re-establish Roman influence in Hispania. He then gives the same medicine to the Burgundians in the Siege of Lugdunum [= modern Lyon]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
460? According to Geoffrey of Monmouth [<=1136], a British king named Uther Pendragon [Wikipedia biography] flourishes about this time. He is younger brother of Constans [<=407] and Aurelius Ambrosius [<=430], and father of Arthur [=>480]. He is also mentioned in a number of later texts, not least the Pa Gur [=>975 (Harleian Genealogies)] and Taliesin's Marwnat Uther Pen [=>1340]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
466 A son is born to Childeric I [<=457], and named Clovis I [Wikipedia biography]. [=>481] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
467 The Roman general Procopius Anthemius [Wikipedia biography] is proclaimed Western Emperor. [=>472] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
470 Ricimer [<=457] reaches a peace treaty with the Vandals in North Africa [<=429]. Two years later he and (his nephew) the king of the Burgundians, Gundobad [Wikipedia biography], assassinate Anthemius [<=467]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
474 The Roman governor of Dalmatia, Julius Nepos [Wikipedia biography], is appointed Western Roman Emperor. He selects a certain Orestes [Wikipedia biography] as his Chief of Staff, only to be deposed by him the following year, whereupon he flees for his life back to Dalmatia. Orestes declines the vacant throne, preferring to pass it down to his son, Romulus Augustus [Wikipedia biography]. Orestes will be killed in a run-in with the rival general (and Arian Christian) Flavius Odoacer [Wikipedia biography] the following year. [=>476] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** THE FALL OF THE WESTERN EMPIRE **********
476 [4th September] Odoacer [<=475] forces Romulus Augustus to abdicate. Rather than simply step into his shoes, however, Odoacer contents himself with the title "King of Italy" and passes the "Western Emperor" over to the existing Eastern Emperor, Zeno [Wikipedia biography]. He will be a successful King of Italy until the renewed Visigothic invasion of 489-491. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
478 Possibly grand-nephew of (Saint) Germanus of Auxerre [<=429], the Breton monk (Saint) Illtyd [Wikipedia biography] founds a monastic clas at what is now Llanilltud Fawr, Wales (the Catholic Encyclopaedia adds that it is possible he attends King Arthur's court). Another Breton, (Saint) Brioc [Wikipedia biography], founds a community at Llandyfriog, West Wales before returning to Brittany. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
KEY VOCABULARY - CLAS: A clas is a small rural community - literally only a wooden hut or two.
480? A young British princess named (Saint) Tudful [Wikipedia biography], daughter of King Brychain of Brycheiniog, is martyred at the town which now bears her name, that is to say, Merthyr Tydfil. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
480 [<=firstly 431 (Palladius)] A young Cumbrian Briton named (Saint) Patrick is carried off to Ireland as a slave. [=>486 (Patrick)] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE - THE TWO PATRICKS: We shall be following O'Rahilly's (1942) "two Patricks" theory, the idea that history has conflated the lives and works of Palladius [<=431] and Patrick [<=480].
480? The historically famous (but deeply obscure) King Arthur [Wikipedia biography] flourishes about this time, as do the following members of his family and retinue (in alphabetical order): Amhar (son of Arthur/ killed by Arthur), Cei, Bedwyr, Elaine (Arthur's half-sister), Gwalchmai (Arthur's sister Anna's son by Gwyr), Llacheu (Arthur's son), Madog (Arthur's brother), Morgan [usually Morgan-le-Fay - Wikipedia biography] (his half-sister), and Morgause [Wikipedia biography] (his half-sister). [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
ASIDE: Note that there is, as yet, no Lancelot [nor will there be until Chrétien de Troyes' "Lancelot" - »1170], no Camelot [same], no Merlin [see next entry], no Guinevere [not until 590 (Culhwch ac Olwen)], and no Percival [not until Chrétien de Troyes' "Grail" - »1190].
480 Around this time a son is born to an historically obscure Briton named Leudonus [a.k.a. Lot or Loth] of Lothian and his queen Morgause [<=preceeding entry], and named Medraut [usually Morded - Wikipedia biography]. As it turns out, however, the biological father of this child is Morgause's half-brother, Arthur [<=preceeding entry]. At much the same time an historically obscure Briton named Myrddin [Welsh = "of the sea fort"; Anglicised as Merlin] [Wikipedia biography] - or at least the earlier of the two individuals sharing that name - enters British oral history. No clear written history exists for this character, although one account places him as the illegitimate son of the daughter of the King of Dyfed [roughly modern Dyfed - see map]. [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
KEY CONCEPT - THE TWO MERLINS THEORY: It is almost impossible for there ever to have existed a single true Merlin. Instead we have two cater for two possible real people and a largely fictitious legendary person. We recommend Green (2009 online) on this.
********** THE TWELVE ARTHURIAN BATTLES **********
480? Battle of Aberglein: This is the first of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. The precise location of this battle is not known. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
481 Upon the death of Childeric I [<=457] the throne of the Salian Franks passes to his oldest son Clovis I [<=466]. The new king begins a 20 year programme of expansion in the lands of what is now northern France, thereby strengthening the Merovingian Kingdom. [=>493] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: Childeric I was buried in L'Église Saint-Brice, Tournai [their website], along with a substantial treasure horde, including 300 life-sized golden bees. This horde will be discovered during building works in 1653 and ends up in the Royal (later National) Library of France in Paris. It is then stolen when that library is looted at the time of the November 1831 Canut riots [q.v.], and only a few pieces recovered. The two remaining bees are safely back in the National Library of France [museum website].
KEY CONCEPT - THE NATION OF FRANCE: In 1804, when Napoleon was looking for a personal motif to rival the Bourbon's fleur-de-lys, he chose Childeric's bee. Napoleon's bees thenceforth graced his imperial cutlery, drapes, linen, etc. [check some out]. The symbolism then resurfaces in the revolutionary riots of 1830-1848, and is still to be seen in modern France for such purposes as marking national hiking routes [e.g., that section of the Jacob's Way which passes through the Forêt Dominiale de Woëvre, south of Stenay].
484 An Irish nobleman named (Saint) Enda of Aran [Wikipedia biography] founds the first Irish monastery at Killeaney. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
485? First, Second, Third, and Fourth Battles of Dubglas: These are the second, third, fourth, and fifth of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. Little is known of these battles, although it is reasonably certain that Dubglas has to be a river. [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
ASIDE - THE NAMING OF BATTLES AFTER RIVERS: It is historically commonplace for battles to be named after cities or geographical features such as rivers and hills. Amongst the cities we have Har Megiddo, Marathon, and Chalons; amongst the rivers we have the Little Bighorn (1876), the Boyne (1690), and the Don Bend (1942), not to mention WW1 favourites such as the Somme, the Marne, the Scarpe, the Aisne, and the Lys. Amongst the hills we have the WW1 favourites Cote 304 (Verdun), Hill 60 (Ypres Sector), and Vimy Ridge (Arras Sector).
485? Around this time the Thuringii [<=280] start to expand their influence in that area of modern central Germany, around Erfurt, still known as Thüringia. [=>531] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - THÜRINGIA IN WW1: The battleship SMS Thüringen [Wikipedia shipography] was in the thick of the action at most High Seas Fleet encounters in WW1, and as far as we have so far been able to ascertain there were some half dozen Thüringian Regiments active in the land forces, each raising many battalions.
486 Having escaped his Irish captivity thanks to daily prayer and a timely vision, (Saint) Patrick [<=480] returns to his family in Britain and there, a few years later, has a further vision [<=Rule #4] which he records for posterity in his "Confessio" [full text online] as follows ...
"And on another night, whether in me or near me God knows, I heard eloquent words which I could not understand until the end of the speech, when it was said: "He who gave His life for thee is He who speaks in thee"; and so I awoke full of joy. And again, I saw one praying within me, and I was, as it were, within my body, and I heard, that is, above the inner man, and there he prayed earnestly with groans. And I was amazed at this, and marvelled, and considered who this could be who prayed in me."
We shall be returning in due course to the cognitive science of hearing voices. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
490? Battle of Bassas: This is the sixth of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. It may have been near fought modern Glasgow. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
490 Around this time a young Welsh prince named (Saint) Samson (of Dol) [Wikipedia biography] is delivered into the care of (Saint) Illtud [<=478] to be educated, transferring after some years to the monastery at Caldey Island. [=>521] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
491 The Anderitum Massacre: According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles [<=1070] the latest force of Saxons to arrive, under a certain King Aella [Wikipedia biography], sacks a British stronghold in the old Roman fort at Anderitum [= modern Pevensey] and massacres both the garrison and their civilian camp-followers. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
493 With a view to bringing their respective peoples closer, the Frankish king Clovis I [<=481] marries the Burgundian princess Clotilda. [=>496] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
495? Battle of the Celidon Forest: This is the seventh of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. The precise location of this battle is not known, but is routinely held to be somewhere in the lands of the Caledonii tribe [Wikipedia datasheet and map] in north Scotland. [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
496 The Battle of Tolbiac: This battle is fought between a Salian Frankish army under Clovis I [<=481] and the Alemanni. The outcome is a narrow victory for the Franks. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for bringing the tribal Alemanni into the Frankish Empire as the Duchy of Alemannia, a territory which will in due course become "Swabia" and which approximates to east-central Switzerland and southern Alsace. [=>746] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
WAR ART: Check out Ary Sheffer's (1836) "The Battle of Tolbiac" as an example of long-after-the-event nationalist adulation. We shall be discussing this issue as one of the main causes of WW1 in due course.
500 The British monk (Saint) Gwynllyw Farfog [a.k.a. "Saint Woollo"] [Wikipedia biography], descendant of Glywys of Glywysing [<=383] and father of (Saint) Cadoc [=>525], founds a hermitage on Stow Hill, Newport [My, how it's grown!]. His brother, (Saint) Paul (Aurelian) [Wikipedia biography] preaches into Brittany, founding monasteries at Finistère and Saint-Pol-de-Léon. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
500? Battle of Guinnion: This is the eighth of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. The precise location of this battle is not known, but some authorities suggest that Guinnion might be Vinnovium [modern Binchester], a small Roman fortress a day's march south of Hadrian's Wall. If so then it may well have been that the Saxons had been pushing northward of late and had occupied the abandoned Roman fort, and were about to be driven out by a British war party. [THREAD = ARTHURIAN BRITAIN]
505? Battle of Caerleon: This is the ninth of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
ASIDE - ROMAN LEGIONARY BASES IN BRITAIN: Nennius uses the words URBS LEGIONIS - "legionary town" - at this juncture, but Caerleon was only one of four major legionary bases in Britannia. The other main bases were Isca Silurum [= modern Caerleon] (LEG II AVG), Lindum [= Linnuis = Lindesege = Lindsey = modern Lincoln] (LEG IX HISP to around 107AD, whereupon they disappear from the historical record), and Deva [= modern Chester] (LEG XX VAL). WAR MOVIES: To see what might have happened to LEG IX HISP, see Kevin McDonald's (2011) movie "The Eagle" [IMDB factsheet].
507 The Battle of Vouillé: This battle is fought between a Salian Frankish army under Clovis I [<=481] and a Visigoth army under Alaric II. The outcome is a decisive victory for the Franks. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
509 Clovis I [<=481] conquers Cologne to become the first king of all the Franks. His realm extends from the Pyrenees in the south to the Rhine in the north and east, but carefully excluding Burgundia [see map]. Two years later this kingdom will be taken apart again due to the Frankish inheritance practice known as Gavelkind, the distribution of a deceased's estate in equal shares amongst all legitimate sons [as opposed to primogeniture, where it all passes to the oldest son]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
510? Battle of the Tribruit: This is the tenth of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. According to the Pa Gur [=>975 (Harleian Genealogies)] it is fought between Arthur and a force of British outlaws - the "dogheads" - under Garwlwyd (Jacobsen, 2012 online). The outcome is a victory for Arthur. The precise location of this battle is not known, with Crawford (1935) placing it near the shallows of the River Forth [nowadays the "Fords of Frew"- image; SatNav FK83JQ]. [=>next entry] [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
510? Battle of Agnet Hill: This is the eleventh of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. It may have been fought between Arthur and a body of Viking pirates under Edlfled [no convenient biography], and it may have been fought at the hill known as Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh (Jacobsen, 2012 online). [=>516] [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
511 Upon the death of Clovis I [<=481] his kingdom [<=509] is shared out between his four sons, as follows [in descending seniority] ...
· Theuderic I (485-533) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Reims [capital = Metz]
· Chlodomer (495-524) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Orléans
· Childebert I (496-558) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Paris
· Chlothar I (497-561) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Soissons
These kingdoms will be the framework of a succession of territorial conflicts over the ensuing millennium and a half. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
STUDENT EXERCISE [JUNIOR AND MIDDLE]: Imagine that your classroom is a kingdom whose king has just died. Randomly select four students to be the sons/daughters of the dead king. Give these four students paper crowns and start calling them "Your Majesty"! Now divide up the classroom - tables, chairs, cupboards, computers, the other students, etc. into equal fourths, and sit each monarch with their "subjects". Continue for the rest of the week. Kings and Queens - be wise and reasonable, or you may lose your head! [Exercise continues after 524.]
512 A young Irishman named (Saint) Brendan (of Clonfert) [Wikipedia biography] is ordained as a priest, and spends the next 18 years establishing monastic cells at Ardfert and Mount Brandon, Ireland. [=>530] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
516? Battle of Badon (Bath?) Hill: This is the last of the twelve battles identified in Nennius' Historia Brittonum [<=828] as having taken place in Arthur's lifetime. It is fought between the Britons under Arthur and a confederation army of South Saxons under their king Aelle [Wikipedia biography] and Kentish Saxons under their king Aesc (Big Knife) [Wikipedia biography]. The outcome is a British victory. Again there have been many attempts at placing the site geographically, with suggestions ranging from Liddington Hill near Swindon, Bardon Hill in Leicestershire, Bowden Hill in West Lothian, and Badbury Hill in Dorset. We shall side with Geoffrey of Monmouth [<=1136] and those modern commentators who place it at Bath Spa. The British were attempting to raise a Saxon siege of the old Roman spa town, and would have come south along the Fosse Way [map], and then taken up positions on the site of an old iron-age fort atop what is now known as Solsbury Hill [details]. [THREADS = ARTHURIAN LEGEND and THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: For a fuller telling of this story see Jacobsen (2012 online). For an even more obscure thirteenth battle see 537 (Battle of Camlann).
516 The Nursian [= modern Umbria, Italy] monk (Saint) Benedict [Wikipedia biography] founds twelve monastic cells in the region of Subiacco, Italy. [=>529] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
521 The British monk (Saint) Dubricius [Wikipedia biography] is active around this time, ordaining (Saint) Samson (of Dol) [<=490] as bishop, tutoring the young (Saint) Teilo [Wikipedia biography], and founding monasteries at Hentland and Moccas in the Welsh Marches. He is also reportedly ordained Archbishop of Llandaff by (Saint) Germanus of Auxerre [<=429]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
524 The Battle of Vézeronce: This battle is fought between the four Frankish kingdoms [<=511] and the Burgundians under Godomar [Wikipedia biography]. The outcome is a victory for the Franks, although Chlodomer [<=511] is killed in action. The battle is noteworthy in the present context for putting the Burgundians under notice that their days as equals of the Franks are numbered. Following the death of his brother Chlodomer, Chlothar I [<=511] quickly arranges the murder of his children, thus forcing the Kingdom of Orléans to be apportioned amongst Clovis I's surviving three sons. [=>534] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
STUDENT EXERCISE [JUNIOR AND MIDDLE]: [Exercise continues from 511.] Now randomly select one of the four monarchs to play dead, and have the remaining three come together in the middle of the room to argue out how to divide up the vacant kingdom. Kings and Queens - you are allowed to be assertive, but do not go as far as declaring war! Teacher decides the winner (giving credit perhaps for the monarch who best maintained access to the outside world).☺
525 The British monk (Saint) Cadoc [Wikipedia biography] founds a monastic clas at Llancarfan. Around the same time (Saint) Iestin [Wikipedia biography] founds a monastic clas at Llaniestyn and (Saint) Carannog [parish biography] founds a community at modern Llangrannog [here he is gazing down upon his parish]. The Irish monk (Saint) Finnian (of Clonard) [Wikipedia biography] reportedly studies under Cadoc at Llancarfan for a period. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
529 (Saint) Benedict [<=516] now builds a large monastery at Monte Cassino, south of Rome, where he applies what will become known as the "Rule of St. Benedict" [full text online] to monastic life. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
530 (Saint) Brendan (of Clonfert) [<=512] now famously assembles a boat-load of adventurous young followers at Llancarfan Abbey [<=525], including the Wales-born (Saint) Malo [Wikipedia biography] and perhaps also (Saint) Finnian (of Clonard) [<=525], and sets sail in search of the biblical Garden of Eden. The story will be written up as "The Voyage of Brendan" [Wikipedia synopsis]. [=>533 (Saint Malo)] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
530 The king of Gwynedd, Maelgwn ap Cadwallon [Wikipedia biography], reportedly the great grandson of Cunedda [<=430], flourishes about this time. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** SLAVIC MIGRATION INTO THE ČESKÉ ZEMĚ **********
530 Around this time there is a migration of Slavic peoples from the east into what is now Bohemia, Silesia, and Moravia. [=>623] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
531 The Thuringian Campaign: The campaign is fought out between Chlothar I [<=511] and the Thuringii [<=485] for control of Thuringia. The outcome is the downfall of the Thuringian kingdom. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
531 The Hispanic Campaign: This 11-year campaign is fought out between Chlothar I [<=511] and his brother Childebert I [<=511] against the Visigoths for control of the Iberian Peninsular [= modern Spain and Portugal]. The outcome is not an outright victory as such, but rather a zone of enhanced Frankish influence across northern Hispania from Pamplona eastward. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
534 The Burgundian Campaign: After ten years of on-and-off skirmishing, the Franks finally overrun the Burgundians. For his part in this campaign, Childebert I [<=511] adds Macon, Geneva, and Lyon to his kingdom. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - THE BURGUNDIANS: Although the Franks and the Burgundii were both originally Germanic tribes [<=292 and 406, respectively], their fortunes now start to separate slightly. The Franks are destined gradually to become the overarching nation of France. The Burgundians are destined to become one of the most significant dukedoms within that nation. It is difficult to pick a precise date for this divergence but a particularly important Burgundian setback is the defeat of (Saint) Leodegar by Ebroin [<=675].
535 The British monk (Saint) Cybi [Wikipedia biography] starts to establish monastic cells up and down Wales, including Caergybi Monastery. Around the same time (Saint) Seiriol [Wikipedia biography] founds Penmon Priory, Anglesey, and (Saint) Finnian (of Clonard) [<=530] founds communities at Skellig Michael and Clonard, Ireland. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
********** THE THIRTEENTH ARTHURIAN BATTLE **********
537 Battle of Camlann: This highly obscure event is the Arthurian battle NOT included in Nennius' Historia Britonnum [=>828]. Instead it is referred to in the Annales Cambriae [=>975], and is reputedly that in which Arthur was mortally wounded. It takes place late in Arthur's life between the main Arthurian household and a confederation army of Saxons put together by Arthur's estranged half-son Medraut/Mordred [<=480]. The outcome is a nominal Arthurian victory but at the cost of Arthur's life. According to the account in Culhwch ac Olwen [<=590], one of Arthur's knights, Morfran, son of Tegid, apparently survived because he was so ugly that believing him to be "a devil helping" nobody would go anywhere near him! Camlann is one of the "three futile battles" identified in Trioedd Ynys Prydain [=>1275]. Why "futile"? Because it is an internecine struggle between a father and a son, rather than a decisive confrontation between competing powers! [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
ASIDE: Tyler R. Tichelaar [2011 online] provides a detailed account of Mordred's character.
540 The British monk (Saint) Dewi [Wikipedia Biography] and his cousin (Saint) Teilo [<=521] establish a network of monasteries and churches across south and west Wales. At around the same time the Irish monk (Saint) Tathan [Wikipedia biography] ministers into Wales, founding communities at modern St. Athan and Caerwent [<=75]. [=>545] [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE: The list includes St Dewi Clas at Caermarthen, St Dewi Clas at Glascwm, St Dewi Clas at Llanarthney, St Teilo at Llandeilo Monastery, St Teilo at Llandrillo Clas, St Teilo at Bishopston, St Teilo Penally Clas Llanddewi Brefi, Margam Clas, Llandough Clas, Bangor Cathedral, Beddgelert Priory, Newport Clas, St Hyrwyn, Aberdaron Clas, Llanrhaiadr ym Mochnant, Talley Clas, Barry Island Clas, Abergele Clas, Llansilm Clas, Bangor-is-y-Coed, and Gwytherin Nunnery. For such details as have survived see Breverton's (2000) "Book of Welsh Saints".
544 Now safely back from the Island of the Blest [<=530], (Saint) Malo now finds himself at Aleth [= modern St. Malo, Brittany], where he soon becomes bishop. Also around this time (Saint) Samson [<=521] ministers into Brittany, founding a monastery at Dol. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
545 The Synod of Llandewi Brefi: This early council of the British church sees (Saint) Paulinus (of Wales) [Wikipedia biography] persuade (Saint) Dubricius [<=521] to stand down as senior British monk in favour of (Saint) Dewi [<=540]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
545 The Irish monk (Saint) Cieran (the Younger) [Wikipedia biography] founds Clonmacnoise Monastery [tourist website], eventually to become one of the most important centres of Celtic religion. Around the same time the northern British prince-monk (Saint) Caffo [Wikipedia biography] founds Llangaffo Monastery (the modern St. Caffo's Church [Wikipedia factsheet] will be built on much the same site in 1846), while (Saint) Mungo [Wikipedia biography] founds a monastic community at Llanelwy [= modern St. Asaph, North Wales], and one of his disciples, (Saint) Asaph [Wikipedia biography], founds a hermitage in the vicinity of Tegeingl [near Rhyddlan, North Wales]. Likewise the female (Saint) Cwyllog [Wikipedia biography] founds a church at Llangwyllog on Anglesey, (Saint) Peulan [Wikipedia biography] another at Llanbeulan, and (Saint) Tyfrydog [Wikipedia biography] another at Llandyfrydog. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
ASIDE: Likewise with the following [we have underlined those instances where the founder's name survives in the modern parish name] ...
· (Saint) Cyvelach founds Llangyfelach Clas
· (Saint) Cynidr founds Llangynydr Clas
· (Saint) Llonio founds Llandinam Clas
· (Saint) Garmon founds St. Harmon Clas
· (Saint) Tysilio founds Meigod Clas
· (Saint) Curig founds Llangurig Clas
· (Saint) Brynach founds Nevern Monastery
558 Upon the death of Childebert I [<=534], Chlothar I [<=542] becomes king of all the Franks. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
560? Writing in Latin, the British monk Gildas [Wikipedia biography] compiles De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae [in English as "On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain"] [full text online (in English; J.A. Giles 1949 translation)], in which he chronicles the events leading up to the Roman withdrawal from Britain. One of the few people identified by name is Ambrosius Aurelianus [<=480]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
561 Upon the death of Chlothar I [<=511] his kingdom [<=509] is shared out between his four sons, as follows [in descending seniority] ...
· Sigebert I (535-575) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Reims
· Charibert I (537-567) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Paris [but see 567]
· Guntram (53?-592) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Burgundy [capital Orléans]
· Chilperic I (539-584) [Wikipedia biography] gets the Kingdom of Soissons
This arrangement will be modified when Charibert I dies six years later. [=>567] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
563 The Irish monk Calum [Latinised as (Saint) Columba] [Wikipedia biography] founds a monastery on the island of Iona, in the Hebrides, from where to promote Celtic Branch Christianity amongst the Picts [<=398 (Stilicho)]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
********** AUSTRASIA AND NEUSTRIA ARRIVE **********
567 Upon the death of Charibert I [<=561] the Kingdom of Paris is shared out between his surviving three brothers, who proceed to squabble amongst themselves. The extended Kingdom of Reims becomes known as "Austrasia" and the extended Kingdom of Soissons becomes known as "Neustria". Around the same time, a young Visigothic princess named Brunhilda [Wikipedia biography] marries Sigebert I of Austrasia [<=561]. Being a "maiden beautiful in her person" she immediately arouses jealousies in Sigebert's brother Chilperic I of Neustria [<=561], who proceeds to ask Brunhilda's father Athanagild [Wikipedia biography] for the hand of Brunhilda's sister Galswintha [Wikipedia biography]. This in turn raises jealousies in Chilperic's mistress Fredegund [Wikipedia biography], and shortly afterward she has Galswintha murdered. In the meantime Brunhilda bears Sigebert two daughters and a son named Childebert II [Wikipedia biography]. [=>577] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
IMPORTANT VOCABULARY - AUSTRASIA AND NEUSTRIA: Austrasia has nothing to do with Australia or Australasia and little to do with Austria. The apparent similarity comes from an unfortunate linguistic coincidence between the Latin australis, meaning south/southward, and the German öst-, meaning east/eastward. Austrasia comes from the German, and refers to the land of the eastern Franks. Neustria means simply "new land". Although the border between the two Frankish kingdoms will change from time to time, the line of the WW1 Western Front [map] approximates to it uncannily well.
569 The Synod of Victory: This early council of the British church sees (Saint) Dewi [<=545] condemning Pelagianism [<=405]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
569 Presently resident in what will become modern Austria, a Germanic tribe known as the Lombards, under their king Alboin [Wikipedia biography], notes that northern Italy is relatively thinly defended and marches in to establish the Lombard Kingdom. The Lombards will remain a major force in Italian politics for the next two centuries, whereupon they will be integrated into Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire. Their kingdom survives to the present day as the Italian province of Lombardia [their website]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
STUDENT EXERCISE [SENIORS]: Prepare a factsheet for your school website explaining why your county is called what it is.
570? Urien [Wikipedia biography] was King of Rheged [roughly modern Galloway, between Stranraer and Carlisle - see map]. At the Round Dounan in modern Dunragit [map reference] there are ruins of a Dark Age fort which might have been one of Urien's strongholds. Taliesin [<=590] is claimed by some sources to have been his court bard for at least part of his reign, and certainly dedicated seven englynion to him [=>1340]. The Trioedd [=>1275] are equally complimentary. Either way Urien is a major player in the struggle against the Saxons [he is certainly one of the four kings described as such in Nennius - see 828]. Taliesin also describes him as Llyw Catraeth, or Lord of Catraeth [modern Catterick]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
570 The British kings Rhydderch Hael [Wikipedia biography] and Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio [Wikipedia biography] flourish about this time. [=>573 (Battle of Arderydd)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** INTRODUCING SURVIVOR SYNDROME **********
573 Battle of Arderydd: [Spelling variants Arfderydd, Armterid, Erderit] This battle is dated to 573 by the Annales Cambriae [=>975], and then referred to in Llyfr du Caefyrddin [=>1256], Trioedd Ynys Pridain [=>1275], and Llyfr Coch Hergest [=>1382]. It seems to have involved Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio, King of Arderydd, a descendent of Coel Hen [<=400], his cousins Peredur and Gwrgi, and Rhydderch Hael of Strathclyde [<=570], although who was with whom against whom is far from clear. Only Gwenddoleu appears to have been killed. The tale is made more complex by the reappearance of the Merlin figure previously seen a hundred years earlier in the court of Uther Pendragon [<=460]. This Merlin, it seems, lost three brothers in the fighting, whereupon he went mad with grief and fled to the forests, whereafter he became known as Myrddin Wyllt, Merlin the Wild. The location of Arderydd is identified by some authorities as the modern Arthuret, Cumbria [see aerial photograph]. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE - SURVIVOR SYNDROME: Note the dramatic paradigm at work here, namely that we have a battle from which a poet emerges with a broken mind. We shall be learning about the psychological dynamics of this type of trauma when we deal with the WW1 war poets. [THREAD = SURVIVOR SYNDROME]
573 The Gallo-Roman churchman-politician Georgius Florentius Gregorius, more commonly Gregory of Tours [Wikipedia biography], becomes Bishop of Tours and spends the next two years collating Books I through IV of Historia Francorum [in English as "The History of the Franks"] [full text online], in which he details the history of the Frankish peoples to 575. [=>584] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
575 Sigebert I of Austrasia [<=567] is assassinated, reputedly on the orders of Fredegund [<=567]. Chilperic I of Neustria [<=561] then tries to take over but Guntram of Burgundy [<=561] helps the Austrasians push the Neustrians back. Two years later Sigebert's widow Brunhilda [<=567] persuades Guntram [<=575] to adopt her son Childebert II [<=567] as his own. [=>592] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
579 [26th November] Upon the death of Pope Benedict I [<=516] the Papal throne passes to Pope Pelagius II [Wikipedia biography]. [=>590 (3rd September)] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
582 A son is born to Baudegisel II of Aquitaine [no convenient biography], and named Arnulf [Wikipedia biography]. [=>602] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
584 Gregory of Tours [<=573] finishes Books V and VI of Historia Francorum, dealing with the period 575 to 584 of French history. [=>591] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
ASIDE: Much of the Internet history of the Franks [and therefore many of the details offered in the present resource] comes more or less directly, and more or less precisely, from this work and its later extensions, whose accuracy cannot itself be guaranteed.
584 [??th September] Upon the murder of Chilperic I [Wikipedia biography] his throne passes to his as-yet-unborn son Chlothar II [Wikipedia biography], under his mother Fredegund's regency. [=>597] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
RULE #1 APPLIES: The person best placed to benefit from Chilperic's death is his wife Fredegund. ASIDE: This is now the second of the four Frankish kings to die at Fredegund's behest (not to mention Queen Galswintha in 567).
585? At the age of 40 years, the Irish missionary (Saint) Columbanus [Wikipedia biography] gets permission from his bishop to organise a missionary expedition into mainland Europe to preach Celtic model Christianity. Before long he is in the kingdom of Burgundy, where he founds a monastic cell at Voivre and an abbey at Luxeuil [map]. [=>602] [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
590? The obscure British chieftain Gwallawg ap Llenawg [Sacred Grove biography] flourishes about this time. He will be mentioned in the Stanzas of the Graves [<=1340], the Trioedd [<=1275], and the Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin [<=1256] as Gwallog Hir. [THREAD = THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN WORLD]
********** SURVIVOR SYNDROME AGAIN **********
590? The Battle of Catraeth: In an attempt to stem the Saxon advance northward out of their bridgehead in Northumbria, the minor British king Mynyddog Mwynfawr [Wikipedia biography] assembles an army of his own tribe, the Gogoddin [Anglicised as "the Wotadini"], and their allies. The resulting battle takes place at an historically obscure site named "Catraeth" ...
ASIDE - PLACING CATRAETH: Most sources are happy to identify Catreath as modern Catterick, Yorkshire. However the antiquarian John Williams [<=1852] prefers Catraeth as the "catrail", or cad-rhail - a "war fence" fortification running the 12 miles between modern Galashiels and the Kielder Forest in Northumberland [reference details]. A map and discussion of the Catrail and its associated legends can be found in Craw (1923 online).
Here, from a 19th century historian, is a reasonably detailed account of the run of the battle ...
"The engagement commenced on a Tuesday, and continued for a whole week, the last four days being the most bloody. For some time both parties fought gallantly, and with almost equal success; fortune perhaps upon the whole appearing to favour the Cymry, who not only slew a vast number of their adversaries, but partially succeeded in recovering their lost dominions. At this critical juncture a dwarfish herald arrived at the fence, proposing on the part of the Saxons a truce or compact, which, however, was indignantly rejected by the natives, and the action renewed. The scales now rapidly turned. In one part of the field such a terrible carnage ensued, that there was but one man left to scare away the birds of prey, which hovered over the carcasses of the slain. In another, where our Bard was stationed, a portion of the Allied army, owing to the absence of its general, became panic stricken. Aneirin was taken prisoner, hurried off to a cave or dungeon, and loaded with chains. At length a conference was submitted to [... at which Aneirin ...] insisted upon the restoration of part of Gododdin, or the alternative of continuing the fight. The Saxon herald met the proposal by killing the British bard Owain, who was of course unarmed. Such a violation of privilege excited then the whole energies of the Cymru, who rose as one man, and gave the entire scene a more bloody character than it had yet presented. Victory, however, at length proclaimed in favour of the usurpers, and so decisively, that out of the three hundred and sixty three chieftains that went to the field of Catraeth, three only returned alive" (Williams, 1852 online).
KEY MILITARY TROPE - IGNORING CALLS TO SURRENDER: Mynyddog must be reckoned in good company for rejecting the Saxon call for a ceasefire. Leonidas' Spartans had done much the same at the Battle of Thermopylae [<=480BCE], and there will be similar acts of dramatic defiance at the Battle of the Alamo [<=1836], the Battle of Camarón [<=1863], and the Battle of Shiroyama [<=1877]. However perhaps the best known example of them all is that of U.S. General Anthony C. ("Nuts") McAuliffe at the Battle of Bastogne, 1944 [fuller story], an incident which is nicely dramatised in Ken Annakin's (1965) movie "Battle of the Bulge" (Warner Brothers) [see video clip]. Drama theorists such as the [excellent] TV Tropes website [take me there] know these as "Screw Your Ultimatum" situations, but the "over my dead body" mentality is a peculiarly human attribute and has never been scientifically explained. We shall be returning to this issue in detail in due course.
The British bards Aneirin [Wikipedia biography] and Taliesin [Wikipedia biography] flourish around this time, although their works will not become matters of record until compiled into Llyfr Aneirin and Llyfr Taliesin more than six centuries later [=>1265 and 1340, respectively]. Aneirin's is famous for the battle lament Y Gododdin, which he wrote from bitter personal experience as bard to Mynyddog Mwynfawr at the Battle of Catraeth.
ASIDE - Y GODODDIN AS WW1 WAR POEM: As noted previously [<=410 (PANEL)], the Ancient Britons had no written language of their own and maintained an "oral tradition" of history, that is to say, history was passed down from one generation to the next by word of mouth. Y Gododdin is more than just a history, however, because the poet does more than just state the facts. As with Myrddin Wyllt at the Battle of Arderydd [<=573], the poet is reliving his fallen comrades' final moments one by one. Y Gododdin therefore has a major part to play in any analysis of WW1 poetry, as follows ...
· Aneirin was a bard on the field
· He survived
· He cannot clear the memories from his head
· He sings about it for the rest of his life
· Making him the archetypal battlefield survivor-poet
As for Taliesin, the received history holds that he was a highly esteemed court bard, and for our present purposes we shall presume that since Urien of Rheged [<=570] was so often the subject of his poetry that he was also perhaps his main patron. Amongst his works is the Cad Goddeu, later to be translated into English as "The Battle of the Trees". This work is structured as a 237-line riddle in which deeply ambiguous symbolic statements are made about animals, places, plants, and - pivotally - trees. Thus, from lines 67-70 in one of the translations available on the Internet ...
"Alder, front of the line
Formed the vanguard.
Willow and Rowan
Were late to the fray"
So are "Alder", "Willow", and "Rowan" real people, and - if so - what is actually being said about them? Were Privates Willow and Rowan in the audience, perhaps, being ribbed for being late on parade? Was Alder there at all, or was he one of the fallen, to be lamented. Or were the trees just dryads watching on in horror? Was it all just vague poetical allusion?
ASIDE - CAD GODDEU AS PARADIGMATIC WAR POEM: Cad Goddeu will be dealt with 1500 years later by Robert Graves [=>1929] and David Jones [=>1937], both of whom fought in the trees on the WW1 Somme battlefield. Graves, gravely wounded in the Battle of High Wood, devotes an entire chapter of "White Goddess" to it, trying to tease out the core mythology, and even offering his own re-translation of the work. Jones, on the other hand, takes the poem as a text for his first-hand account of the Battle of Mametz Wood - but we shall save that story for later [=>1916 (10th July)].
Another poem which will eventually resurface in Llyfr Taliesin is Preiddau Annwn [in English as "The Spoils of Annwn"], a tale of the British otherworld. The narrator of this work could well be Taliesin himself, who is particularly drawn to an episode in which Arthur is forced to take a hand-picked band of knights down to hell. The dramatic trope concerns Arthur's descent into Hell, yet another event where many went but few returned. Taliesin is also the source of the highly obscure Caer Sidi [= modern Welsh Caer Sidydd = "Fortress of the Zodiac"], mentioning it in two of his songs. It is uncertain whether this is a real location or some sort of poetical "otherworld". [THREAD = ARTHURIAN LEGEND]
ASIDE: The term "Ward Nine" is commonly used by British health professionals as slang for "dead" [as in "He's been transferred to Ward Nine"]; Caer Sidi may have served the same allusive purpose for sixth century British warriors [to be defending the Fortress of the Zodiac, in other words, is to have been killed]. If so, it is an early example of the sort of grim humour we shall see so much of when we get to WW1.
590? The story of Culhwch ac Olwen is set around this time, but will not appear in any surviving document until written down in 1090 in a manuscript which will be subsequently collated into Llyfr Coch Hergest [<=1382] as part of the Mabinogion cycle. It is the oldest of the Mabinogion tales, the oldest surviving work in Middle Welsh, and noteworthy for introducing the character Gwenhwyfar [= Guinevere] as Arthur's consort, and the place-name Celli Wig in Cornwall as the location of his Court. The narrative relates how Culhwch, a cousin of Arthur, must overcome a succession of near-impossible challenges to win the hand of the beautiful Olwen. The problem is that Olwen's father is the giant Yspaddadan Pencawr [Wikipedia biography], a misanthropic ogre. On the plus side Culhwch is assisted by Arthur and six of his best knights, so in the end all the challenges are met and (almost) everyone lives happily ever after. The critical challenge is to fetch back the tusk of Ysgithyrwyn, the Chief Boar. Here is that challenge, as given ...
"... 'There is that thou wilt not get. I must needs wash my head and shave my beard. The tusk of Ysgithyrwyn Chief Boar I must have, wherewith to shave myself. I shall be none the better for that unless it is be plucked from his head while alive.'" (p116).
It takes another 20 pages to catch the boar and get back to claim the prize, thus ...
"And Cadw of Prydein came to shave his beard, flesh, and skin to the bone, and his two ears outright. And Culwych said, 'Hast had thy shave, man?' 'I have,' said he. 'And is thy daughter mine now?' 'Thine,' said he. '[and] it is high time to take away my life'. And then Goren son of Custennin caught him by the hair of his head and dragged him behind him to the mound, and cut off his head and set it on the bailey-stake. Ans he took possession of his fort and his dominions. And that night Culhwch slept with Olwen, and she was his only wife so long as he lived" (p136).
We mention all this because both Yspaddadan and Olwen will in due course be specifically mentioned in David Jones' WW1 memoir, In Parenthesis, thus ...
"No one to care there for Aneirin Lewis spilled there
who worshipped his ancestors like a Chink
who sleeps in Arthur's lap
who saw Olwen-trefoils some moonlighted night
on precarious slats at Festubert,
on narrow foothold on le Plantin marsh -
more shaved he is to the bare bone than
Properly organised chemists can let make more riving power than ever Twrch Trwyth;
more blistered he is than painted Troy Towers
and unwholer, limb from limb, than any of them fallen at Catraeth ..."
(In Parenthesis, p155).
TELLING IT LIKE IT IS - BATTLEFIELD INJURIES IN WW1 POETRY: Note Jones' use of the phrase "more shaved he is to the bare bone ..." to allude to some horrific injury he had witnessed during his hours in Mametz Wood. Jones' own annotation is as follows ...