So, here it finally is: the cover of Edge of Empire. Rome’s Frontier on the Lower Rhine. The book is about the Roman occupation of the Low Countries – say Belgium, Netherlands and northern Germany – and contains every relevant literary text, the more interesting inscriptions, and a lot of archaeological information. Basically, my coauthor Arjen Bosman and I use the archaeological data to illustrate that all sources are prejudiced about the people living on the edge of the earth; at the same time, we try to show that you cannot interpret archaeological finds without a profound understanding of textual analysis.
The book has a history of its own. I wrote it in 1999 and it was published in 2000. The reviews were extremely favorable and it was recommended to university students. However, there was a quarrel within the publishing house, and the woman whose project it had…
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Eight million men in total fought in the British Army during the First World War. More than half of them (5 million) served in France and Flanders on the Western Front.  These men came from the U.K. as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and even the West Indies. Another 8 million soldiers fought for France.  The United States sent 4.7 million to war with Germany in the last two years of the war  and as many as 11 million Germans fought in France and Belgium as well between 1914 and 1918.  Interestingly enough these weren’t the only nations’ armies to have taken part in the fighting there. There were other, smaller, often overlooked contingents to the Western Front that history has largely forgotten. Here are their stories.
When war between the powers of Europe erupted in the summer of 1914, Portugal…
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“A series of one thousand years of crime, weakness, iniquity, and lack of character”: that is how Georg Hegel described the history of the Byzantine Empire. This image still exists – if there is an image at all, because the western world has almost forgotten Byzantium. In our schools, there is hardly any attention paid to the medieval empire, and in our daily conversation “Byzantine” is almost synonym to luxury, decadence, splendor, corruption, and overcomplexity.
One example may suffice: during last year’s primaries, the Republican candidate Herman Cain called for abolishing America’s “Byzantine tax system”. As a matter of fact, the Byzantines knew only two taxes: a poll tax and a land tax. Compared to this, Cain’s own 9/9/9 plan was quite, eh, Byzantine.
My fascination for Byzantium started when a friend took me to the Byzantine Museum in Thessaloniki. Since then, I have visited several other museums, churches, castles…
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Gas was a weapon that will be forever associated with the Great War. First used at Ypres in April 1915, it caused many casualties among the front line troops. But gas did not just linger on the battlefield – it drifted. And in drifting it moved into areas that were used to bring up supplies and ammunition, and as the war progressed, these areas became often as much targeted as the front line.
As the majority of transport in every army during WW1 was horse or mule transport, then these animals became as much affected by the gas as their human masters. Just as gas masks were developed for the troops, masks were equally introduced for horses; this image shows a British soldier wearing a Small Box Respirator, introduced in 1916, checking the gas masks of two horses pulling a service wagon. Gas warfare was a bad enough experience for…
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maps out wars and conflicts around the globe on a timeline from antiquity to the present day . It lists the wars of the day on a global map that functions just like Mapquest or Google . You can zoom in on the terrain , get satellite views and read details of the battles themselves as well as links to outside sources . Very Cool Stuff
On September 28th 1066, claiming his right to the English throne, William, duke of Normandy, invaded England at Pevensey on Britain’s southeast coast. His subsequent defeat of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of a new era in British history.
William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, duke of Normandy, by his concubine Arlette, a tanner’s daughter from the town of Falaise. The duke, who had no other sons, designated William his heir, and with his death in 1035 William became duke of Normandy at age seven.
Rebellions were epidemic during the early years of his reign, and on several occasions the young duke narrowly escaped death. Many of his advisers did not.
By the time he was 20, William had become an able ruler and was backed by King Henry I of France. Henry later turned against him, but William survived…
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Jan Zizka, a 15th century Czech military leader who led a rebellion against the powerful Catholic Church, was a brilliant commander in spite of being totally blind. Even with this considerable handicap, Zizka did have the vision to foresee the invention of the tank 500 years before the advent of modern armoured warfare. As reported previously on this very blog, as far back as the 1420s, Zizka came up with the idea of mounting archers, arquebuses and even cannons on armoured horse-drawn carts and rolling them into battle. He called his contraptions “wagon forts”.  Zizka wasn’t the only one from the distant pass to envision the weapons systems of modern times. There have been a number of military innovators throughout history who developed early versions of some of the more revolutionary fighting machines of today. Here are a few of these remarkable inventions.
History records the…
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These videos are an interpretation of Diogo Gomes de Figueyredo’s Memorial Of the Practice of the Montante. If you open the video on YouTube you can see the text of the lesson the presenter is working through.
Purpleheart Armory sells wood and synthetic montantes. I cannot vouch for their quality.
Simple Rule 1
Simple Rule II
Simple Rule III
Simple Rule IV
Simple Rule V
While researching for a class on Bolognese-Dardi terminology, I looked at this picture. I didn’t just see it, something about it caused me to actively look at it.
Notice how his blade is about 15 degrees from center. Now look at mine:
Pretty sloppy, isn’t it? For literally a decade I thought it was just laziness. But look at his quillions, they are traverse not forward. And his palm is turned forward so that the true edge is to the outside.
Marozzo isn’t just some random master at arms hired to teach peasant soldiers, he is a refined instructor of knights, noblemen, and the upper crust of merchant society. They come to him not just to learn how to use a sword, but how to look good doing so.
They don’t want to walk into a fight looking like they are already worn out. It is ok if…
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Do you know what the cutting drill is? I’ve thrown the name around in my posts maybe once or twice, but have actually neglected to clearly define it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I had described it on this blog at all. Apparently I have – sort of, anyway: Week 1 – Swords Are Heavy. About half-way through that post I start to describe the first version of the cutting drill I learned. Further into the beginner’s course this was expanded on and named the cutting drill (although we still only knew the first half of it). It is an exercise that, as the name implies, is for practicing your cutting technique. We usually spend at least a few minutes on it in the middle of every class.
The first half of the cutting drill can be summed up like this: cut down from the right, cut…
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As said in part 1, it’s time to go beyond the old “cut-cut-cut-cutting drill”. Since we happen to be three beginners and three experienced students, each beginner gets a sort-of personal instructor for this class. The first exercise we do is described below.
The defendant (me) takes the posta di finestraguard. It literally means “window guard”, and I guess I can see why.
This is a funny sort of guard. Instead of having your weight on your front foot you shift it on to your back foot (the right), but you keep facing forward. Your arms are crossed on the right side of your head and are holding the sword up in a horizontal position, so that the tip of your sword stares your opponent in the face. I’ve seen others use this guard, but this is the first time I try it. It takes a few moments…
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Meyer often describes cuts that seem a lot more like plays to me and I believe the sturtzhauw is a two step attack rather than a strike you throw directly. The way I see it the sturtzhauw begins with a scheidelhauw thrown either as a feint or clearing stroke that is followed by a thrust or cut to the face using the short edge to wrap around the opponent’s blade. That’s probably clear as mud in text but it’s a simple, continuous motion when executed… too bad I don’t have a video. Meyer specifically says that the sturtzhauw is mostly used as an opener in both his longsword and dusack sections but it can work when the fur is flying too since the scheidelhauw can often be used as a parry and that will initiate the process.
The sturtzhauw is actually one of the techniques that makes me think…
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War, the gift that keeps on giving. . .
Construction workers in Munich’s Schwabing district [where Hitler hung out as a street artist after his arrival in Germany] uncovered a fat World War II souvenir, an unexploded bomb dropped by the Allies during one of the massive air raids on the Bavarian capital.
Unable to defuse it, officials took the only way out: They blew it up last night, resulting in some spectacular pyrotechnics and lots of broken windows.
From the London Telegraph:
A closer view from Bild:
Another view from OmniaVideo, featuring a lot of cheering at the end.
For our German speaking readers, this video has views of some of the resulting damage and interviews with residents and business owners.
The story from Spiegel, which also has a photo gallery:
Unable to defuse a 250 kilogram (550 pound) bomb found buried one meter (three…
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