My First Book is Out

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the cover of "Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects" (Franz Steiner, 2021)

Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects. Oriens et Occidens Band 32 (Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart, 2021) 437 pp., 8 b/w ill., 4 b/w tables. ISBN 978-3-515-12775-2 EUR 74,– (softcover) (publisher’s website)

My first book is coming out from Franz Steiner Verlag this month. Its the first book on Achaemenid armies since 1992, and the first written by someone who can read any ancient Near Eastern language. I show that most of what we think we know about Achaemenid armies and warfare goes back to classical writers and to 19th and 20th century stereotypes about the east. So many books sound the same because they are repeating the ideas of early authorities in new language. By focusing on indigenous, contemporary sources and placing the Achaemenids in their Near Eastern context- the standard methods in Roman Army Studies and Achaemenid Studies since the 1980s- we can tell a different story.

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New Magazine Articles

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three issues of Ancient Warfare and Medieval Warfare magazine spread out on a textured linoleum surface

The past year has been what it has been, but I have managed to publish a number of magazine articles on ancient warfare and medieval armour. They have siege engines! Military colonists! Tomb-robbing consuls! Late Babylonia! The ones on battering rams and equipping the king’s men have come out since October.

“The Achaemenid Empire’s Jewish soldiers: Serving the Great King,” Ancient Warfare XIII.5 (2020) pp. 34-37 (for sale from Karwansaray BV)

“The Amathus Bowl, ca. 700 BC: World of mercenaries,” Ancient Warfare XIII.5 (2020) pp. 24-25 (for sale from Karwansaray BV)

“Turning Your Back: The Late Reinvention of Backplates.” Medieval Warfare X.4 (2020) pp. 38-41 (for sale from Karwansaray BV) {backplates which span the whole back reappear in Europe in the 1410s after a thousand years of absence, and were not universal for a century more … why does this important area remain lightly protected?}

“Assyrian Battering Rams: A City-Breaching Buddy System,” Ancient Warfare XIV.3 (2021) pp. 14-19

“Equipping the King’s Men: Documents, Art, and Stories,” Ancient Warfare XIV.4 (2021) pp. 34-39 https://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/ancient-warfare-xiv-4.html {if we combine all types of sources, a distinctive new picture of the armies of Darius and Xerxes emerges}

Max Weber vs. Eduard Meyer on Marathon

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For a long time I have been meaning to find the original citations for the great debate between sociologist Max Weber and historian and orientalist Eduard Meyer about the significance of the first two Persian invasions of Attica (the Athenians didn’t like to talk about the third Persian army and fleet which arrived a hundred years later and was welcomed with open arms). Jona Lendering mentioned it in his article on the significance of Marathon but when he was creating his site he was bullied into leaving out citations by teachers who were worried that their students would crib from it. I finally have the passage: Eduard Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, 4th edition (Därmstadt, 1965), Bd. IV.2.3 p. 420 http://www.zeno.org/nid/20002751402 Meyer had just noted that Delos and many other sacred sites in Greece seemed to have a working relationship with the Persian kings by the beginning of the fifth century BCE. I will give the original German and then my translation.

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Sir Charles Oman Almost Understood

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In print and on this blog I have written a lot about how I think the basic debate in the study of Greek warfare from 1989 to 2013 was about whether we should read Greek writers as giving faithful glimpses at a timeless unchanging practice of warfare, or as class and civic partisans whose stories about the good old days were just as wishful as the ones we hear today. People who like to talk about abstract ideas often link the second approach to words like deconstruction and postmodernism and names like Eric Hobsbawm and Jill Lepore. But they were not the only thoughtful people to realize this, and in October I found some similar thinking in an unexpected place.

Back in 1924, Sir Charles Oman revised his history of warfare in Middle Ages after being introduced to the works of Hans Delbrück. Have a look at his new account of the battle on the Marchfeld between Austro-Hungarian and Bohemian forces in 1278, in one of the chapters which he says he specially reworked in response to the German historian.

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Apropos of Nothing

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Early in the pandemic, British History Online was free to access. And I remember reading an Anglo-Norman proclamation from Edward II or Edward III forbidding anyone whatsoever from bringing any daggers, swords, hatchets, bows and arrows, long knives, aketons, plates, steel caps, or other offensive or defensive arms into sight of the palace at Westminister to disturb the proceedings of Parliament. I wish I could find that again but it was not helpful for the specific topic I was researching.

Edit: see Mart Shearer’s comment below with an English translation of one of these proclamations

2020 Decade-Ender, or, the Isidore Option

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a cloudy sky over distant mountains, closer mountains, a small castle in woods, and grassy farmland
The Brenner Pass, Schloss Ambras, and a crossroads downstream from Innsbruck.

So, it is 2020. It has been an odd year in an odd decade. And while I am tempted to just note who was king and the most exciting thing that happened in the heavens, I want to finish this section of my chronicle. The conjunction of Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter in May was exciting but there are other things to write.

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Twelve Early European Fencing Manuals

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reprints of four early European fencing manuals on an ironing board covered with a colourful cotton print

Today anyone who wants to can download photos of almost all the European fencing manuals written before the 20th century, and often buy a convenient reprint or translation. But this makes it difficult to get a sense of the genre as a whole. Which manuals should someone who is just getting interested in the subject read first? How can we decide which texts our readers or listeners are likely to know, so that when we mention them it helps them understand? The last academic monograph on the subject, Sydney Anglo’s The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (2000) is organized by themes so information on any one manual or tradition is scattered across different chapters.

So this week, I would like to give a short list of books which is representative of European fencing manuals before the middle of the 17th century.
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Some Thoughts on “Fuzzy Nation”

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Fuzzy Nation (by John Scalzi: Tor, 2011) is a fun quick read of a novel, and I hope it inspires more people to read H. Beam Piper. The author has the good taste to blog and to focus on what he loves about old science fiction not on proclaiming that he is morally and intellectually superior. But I found one difference between the original from 1962 and this book from 2011 revealing about cultural change in the past 50 years.

The Terro-Human Future History is a world where the United States ceases to exist early in the First Century Atomic Era, and human civilization is rebuilt in Latin America, South Africa, and Australasia. In the 7th century Atomic Era people think of the United States about as often as we think of the Timurids or Srivijaya, and the racial prejudices of the First Century Pre-Atomic have been dissolved by the result of seven centuries of intermarriage amongst the survivors. Piper had a romantic sympathy for the Confederate States of America, but he loved giving characters names like Themistocles M’Zangwe. Fuzzy Nation is set in a world where people go to Oxford and Duke, come from North Carolina, and allude to Andrew Jackson and Star Wars.

Both writers create imaginary cultures which have a few of their own culture’s quirks (Piper’s cocktail hours and tobacco smoking, Scalzi’s environmental impact statements and universal surveillance). But one writer assumed that not just the United States but the whole European great power system would vanish just like other mega-states and power systems have in the past, and the other made sure that the reader knows that in the far future Duke is still a place to go to law school and Oxford is a very prestigious university. I find that, as Mr. Spock would put it, fascinating. One novel tells readers that the customs of their tribe are not the laws of nature, and another promises that there’ll always be Chicago.

Fuzzy Nation is avaialble on Bookfinder (hardcover edition). If you enjoy my work, please support this site.

Cross-Post: FS Geibig Erscheint

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In honour of his retirement from Veste Coburg, a Festschrift for arms-and-armour scholar Alfred Geibig has been published.

Contributions in English and ?German? are by Heiko Berger, Raphael Beuing, Dirk H. Breiding, Heiner Grieb, Heinz Huther, Armin König, Arne J. Koets, Stefan Mäder, Jürg A. Meier, Ingo Petri, Christopher Retsch, Mario Scalini, Tobias Schönauer, Jens Sensfelder, Wilfried Tittmann, Heiko P. Wacker, Roland Warzecha, Herbert H. Westphal, Bob Woosnam-Savage and Joachim Zeune.

Hieb- und stichfest – Waffenkunde und Living History. Festschrift für Alfred Geibig (= Jahrbuch der Coburger Landesstiftung, Bd. 63, 2019), Petersberg 2020, ISBN 978-3-7319-1027-5 (488 Seiten, 29,95 €, erscheint 12/2020)

You can order via email here: sgvcoburg@bsv.bayern.de and read the original German announcement here

What Did the Persians Do For Us?

Younger me would have been ever more excited, his David Macaulay books are coming to life! Repairing the piers of the foot bridge downstream from the Hofgarten on the river Inn, Austria in summer 2019.

The Centre for Ancient Cultures in Innsbruck is a glass and steel building full of carefully catalogued books next to a grain field and a car dealership. A block away on one street is a church, a block away along another is a Chinese buffet. Our building and its neighbourhood embody the heritage of the ancient Near East

Most of the crops and animals which fed and clothed Eurasia until the Columbian Exchange were domesticated in the Near East. Many of the trees in our orchards come from the mountains of central Asia through gardens in Iran. Writing has been independently invented at least four times, but it was Near Eastern Semitic-speakers who turned hieroglyphics into the aleph bet gimmel which became our alphabet. And it was people in the fertile crescent in the first centuries CE who turned Near Eastern texts and customs into the largest single family of religions today, and their descendants who kept the Fertile Crescent a place of great religious diversity until the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

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Another Lovecraftian Revelation c/o Dimitri Nakassis

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I grew up thinking that guff about the ancient Greeks being uniquely rational, creative, free, and so on was as dead as Theosophy. The writers who influenced me as a child, like Peter Connolly or L. Sprague de Camp, either ignored it or mocked it, and none of the teachers and books which influenced me at university took it seriously. But I am watching a talk by Dimitri Nakassis on “Orientalism and the Myceneans” and I am coming to a horrid revelation.

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