Harbour Explosions


, , ,

If you are interested in explosions in harbours, check out:

H.J. Reitsma, “The explosion of a ship, loaded with black powder, in Leiden in 1807,” International Journal of Impact Engineering 25 (2001) pp. 507-514 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0734-743X(00)00067-1

and the SS Mont-Blanc incident on 6 December 1917 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Explosion

That is all.

Cross-Post: Medieval Reenactment Event in Utah, 19-30 June 2021


, , ,

From ‘Jehan de Pelham’ of the Compagnie du Chalis, former holder of the Couter of Chivalry:

My compagnons in the Compagnie du Chalis are minded to hold another Crossroads in Time from June 19 to June 30 2021.

I have begun preparations by conducting a detailed site survey of many campsites east of Cedar City, Utah. I have found many meadows and treed campsites suitable for a medieval re-enactment and living history rendez-vous for up to a hundred or more participants. This will be the fourth such event that we will hold, and I am in communication for a medieval ensemble to provide musical accompaniment for up to four days of the event.

I don’t have his contact information, but I imagine he is on Facebook, reenactors like that site.

A Carefully Worded Footnote


, , ,

A professor in a suit takes aim while a team of volunteers prepares to pull the arm of a trebuchet

Trebuchet test at the University of Toronto Back Campus, 12 April 1991. Figure 1 in W. T. S. Tarver, “The Traction Trebuchet: A Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Siege Engine,” Technology and Culture, Vol. 36, No. 1. (January 1995)

In the early middle ages, Europeans learned about a much simpler technology than the ancient catapult: the trebuchet powered by teams of men and women pulling ropes. This weapon was not so long-ranged or accurate but it had no delicate skeins of rope or expensive metal parts so it suited conditions in a poor and small-scale world. After it entered European history at the Slav and Avar siege of Thessalonike in 597, it quickly became the most popular siege engine in Europe (although it is possible that a few engineers remembered how to make engines powered by giant bows or skeins of rope for long-ranged, accurate shooting). These ‘traction trebuchets’ have not been as often reproduced as ancient catapults, but there have been a few attempts:

In the summer of 1988, after frustrating winter-long attempts to build an arrow-shooting torsion ballista, and having been inspired by Randall Rogers at the Twenty-third International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (hereafter Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo), I constructed a simple traction trebuchet which could throw a fist-sized rock 120 m. [Several larger versions followed culminating in one which the university authorities did not approve of]. In August, it was tested at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Pennsylvania, where a large field beside an archery range was available and where volunteers could be mustered for the trials.

– W. T. S. Tarver, “The Traction Trebuchet: A Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Siege Engine,” Technology and Culture, Vol. 36, No. 1. (January 1995), p. 147 n. 52

I am sure that there were volunteers at Cooper’s Lake in August at any time between 1972 and 2019, and there will be again in 2021!

Cross-Post: Conference on Antiquity and Immersivity, Bristol UK, 29-30 March 2021



From Dr. Emma Cole on Medium:

Immersive experiences represent one of the highest growth areas within the UK’s cultural industries. Their centrality to the creative economy was recognised in the UK Creative Industries Sector Deal (2018), which estimated that the immersive content market would be worth over £30 billion by 2025 and pledged to invest £33 million in immersive technologies to ensure Britain maintains a competitive role within this lucrative market. Yet despite the frequent use of cutting-edge technologies to facilitate such experiences, the idea of immersion is not new but goes back to antiquity. We can find instances of literature facilitating moments of immersion in texts from the Homeric epics through to Thucydides’ History and the speeches of the Attic orators, and can find regular examples of ancient critics and philosophers theorising about the sensation as well.

Given this shared interest in the idea of immersion, it is perhaps no surprise to find that modern-day immersive experiences frequently look back to antiquity, including but not limited to the immersive museum experiences surrounding the ancient city of Pergamon, the immersive video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and the immersive theatrical experiences of dreamthinkspeak, Shunt, and ZU-UK.

This conference aims to bring together an interdisciplinary and intraprofessional group of scholars and artists interested in exploring and theorising the relationship between antiquity and immersivity. It is hoped that the event will foster discussion about theoretical approaches to immersion, for example through cognitive and narratological strategies, and experiential understandings of immersion as it pertains to live experience. The event will highlight the potential for multidisciplinary knowledge exchange to shed new light on research questions about immersion across time.

Contributions are welcome that intersect with the full spectrum of the concept of immersivity including but not limited to:

  • Forms of immersion in the ancient world
  • Methods for analysing instances of immersion in antiquity, including cognitive and narratological approaches
  • The history of the poetics of immersion
  • Antiquity and immersive museum experiences
  • Classical reception and immersive theatre
  • The ancient world and mixed reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality technologies

It is intended that this two-day conference will take place in Bristol, with options for virtual participation available. However, to facilitate a pivot to an entirely virtual conference, should it be necessary, all papers will be pre-circulated. The conference itself will consist of responses and discussion.

Contributions of c. 3000 word papers, shorter provocations, as well as exhibitions and/or demonstrations of prototype experiences are welcome. Contributors should be willing to give a short prepared response to another paper, and should be prepared to pre-circulate their own paper by 1 March 2021. Confirmed speakers include Felix Barrett (Punchdrunk), Prof. Jonas Grethlein (Heidelberg), Dr Colin Sterling (UCL), and the team behind the ARHC project ‘The Virtual Reality Oracle’ (University of Bristol).

To register your interest please submit an abstract of 300 words by 30 September 2020. A limited number of travel bursaries for graduate students, the unwaged, and the precariously employed will be available; if you wish to be considered for a bursary please indicate so on your abstract and include an indicative travel budget.

For further information please contact Emma Cole: emma.cole@bristol.ac.uk.

This conference is generously funded through the AHRC via the leadership fellowship ‘Punchdrunk on the Classics’.

Dr. Emma Cole seems to be a theatre / reception kind of person.

Dis Manibus Kelly Bert Manning



a photo of a short, bearded man in a checkered shirt standing in front of a stone fireplace with a Christmas stocking

My father, Kelly Bert Manning, has died at a hospice in Canada at the age of 66 from complications related to multiple myeloma. He was diagnosed in spring 2016. At that time, my passport was at a foreign embassy; at this time, travel was not practical for other reasons. I am told that the hospital and hospice staff were exemplary despite the current circumstances, and they saved my father’s life in earlier crises in 2016 and 2019 when he was not expected to survive.

My man Epicurus teaches that death is nothing to us, because nothing good or bad can happen to someone who does not exist. He does not have much to say for survivors, except that it would be foolish to suffer because someone else is not. But human beings are foolish creatures.

I hope that I can write a proper obituary later.

In 2014, I took some sorrows and helplessness in my offline life and sat down and wrote what became the first chapter of my PhD thesis. And I poured into it all of my frustrations, and all the lessons that people had not realized they were teaching me, and I made something remarkable. Later, someone told me that some other writers do the same. But I do not know what to do about this and I am tired.

I have a pipeline of posts scheduled until the end of August. After that, I do not know what I will do.

Edit 2020-07-22: We have not yet gotten organized to write something for https://earthsoption.com/tribute/details/2401/Kelly-MANNING/obituary.html We are letting people know directly and we are scattered.

Well Struck!


, , , , , ,

a group of seated people silhouetted against the sky of a cave mouth with an Iranian flag in the background

This is a cave above a valley in Iran. Those who have been there will know what it is, those who have not don’t need to know. Photo copyright D. Dolnig 2016.

For one of my projects on linen armour, I had to quickly check a reference to the memoirs of Usāmah Ibn-Munqidh, a garrulous old pirate with lots of tall tales about fighting and hunting and the barbarous customs of the Franks. As I was flipping through it, I discovered another story which I want to share.

The Ismāˁīlites … attacked the Castle of Shayzar (in 1109 or 1114 CE) … On that day I had an encounter with an Ismāˁīlite, who had a dagger in his hand, while I had my sword. He rushed on me with a dagger, and I hit him in the middle of his forearm as he was grasping the handle of the dagger in his hand and holding the blade close to his forearm. My blow cut off about four inches of the blade and cut his forearm in two in the middle. The mark of the edge of the dagger was left on the edge of my sword. An artisan in our town, seeing it, said, “I can remove this dent from it.” But I said, “Leave it as it is. This is the best thing in my sword.” The trace is there to the present day. Whenever one sees it he knows it is the trace of a knife.

– Philip K. Hitti, An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades: Memoirs of Usāmah Ibn-Munqidh (Columbia University Press: New York, 1929) pp. 146, 147 https://archive.org/details/AnArab-SyrianGentlemanAndWarriorInThePeriodOfTheCrusadesMemoirsOfUsamaIbn-Munqidh-PhilipK.Hitti/page/n155/

Foreigners who are not up on the details of Islamic theology call the Ismāˁīlites the Assassins after the hashish which they were said to consume. Shaizar is at a ford of the Orontes River in Syria.
Continue reading

Dis Manibus Anton Powell


, ,

Anton Powell, Welsh ancient historian and publisher, died on 11 June 2020. As a researcher, organizer of conferences and editor of books and serieses, he helped launch a transformation in understandings of early Sparta away from the moralistic gossip from Roman writers like Plutarch and hoary fables about Lycurgus to focus on what contemporary texts, art, and archaeology revealed. The Council of University Classical Departments, UK has more information.

Dis Manibus Arthur Keaveney


, , ,

Classicist and Roman and Achaemenid historian Arthur Keaveney, retired from the University of Kent, died of covid-19 at the age of 68 on 23 June 2020. Non fuit, fuit. Non est, non curat. You can find testimonies from his colleagues at https://www.kent.ac.uk/european-culture-languages/news/12944/in-memoriam-arthur-keaveney and from his wife at https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jul/10/arthur-keaveney-obituary

Thanks to the University of Victoria


, ,

Good harness, attentive students, and a Gothic podium to profess from – teaching and writing brought different rewards in Giovanni da Legnago’s day (d. 1383). Sculpture in the Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna (possibly slightly later than his death).

This summer, my plan is to publish two posts a month while I enjoy the weather and the slowdown in the pandemic and get some other things in my life sorted out. But with the burst of traffic from Hacker News, and a reminder of a previous life beyond the ocean sea, I would like to thank one of the biggest intellectual influences on my thought which does not get called out in my book: the University of Victoria.
Continue reading

Anachronistic Morality and the Persian Wars


, , ,

a photo of a farm with concrete and chain link fence in a European city centre

rus in urbe, Pradl, Innsbruck, photograph by Sean Manning June 2020

A lot of people are interested in the second Persian expedition to Athens, and in the ethics of that expedition. For some people today, it is about freedom and slavery. For others, it is a clash between two races or nations to determine which is stronger and will absorb the loser. But when the ancients thought about the rights and wrongs of that war, they brought up some other aspects. Lets have a look at the famous story about the Persian heralds who came to Greece to ask the cities to submit to the King’s authority by giving him earth and water.

The Internet loves the image of the tough Spartans throwing Persian emissaries into a pit rather than give them what they had asked for (it makes a great meme). But the ancients knew that this was against the laws of gods and men. So Herodotus spends one sentence on the crime, then five paragraphs on the punishment which befel the Spartans and the Athenians for their crime.
Continue reading