New Magazine Articles

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an issue of "ancient warfare" magazine and an issue of "medieval warfare" magazine on a hardwood surface

So far this calendar year, I have published three articles for money:

In another year I would have posted the bibliographies or some bonus content, but I don’t have the words in me and I should probably be doing something better with my time.

Murder, Rape, and Treason

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Freelance Academy Press, dealer in choice codices and excellent ebooks on history, arms and armour, and martial arts, has some books on sale.

They publish books like Steve Muhlberger’s and Will McLean’s Murder, Rape and Treason: Judicial Combats in the Late Middle Ages (2019), a modern moral criticism of warfare in 14th century France wrapped around a discourse on Geoffrey Charney’s questions about the joust, tournament, and war, and Ellis Amdur’s Dueling with O Sensei: Grappling with the Myth of the Warrior Sage (2016). They also carry Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani’s books on arms and armour in Iran in the Islamic period, and La Belle Compagnie’s beautiful 1381: The Peel Affinity.

I have not had a chance to flip through their publications since 2014 except for the one on Charny, but their books are always well edited and laid out.

Edit: FYI- they are US based, international shipping may be pricey at the moment.

A Tale of Three Knives

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three paring knives (two hand-ground with steel blades and one mass-produced with a stainless steel blade) on a wooden table

Top to bottom: the Ikea VÖRDA, Phl Frazer’s knife, and Tod’s bone-handled knife

As a human being, every day I use edgetools to prepare food. This week I want to talk about three of the ones I use most often, and how much and how little some things have changed over the past 600 years. These were all made by the same modern technique (cutting a shape out of a sheet of rolled homogeneous steel and then grinding away the excess)

Scale-Tanged, Bone-Handled Knife TCP8

Overall length: 21 cm
Grip: 9 cm
Blade: 12 cm
Blade thickness (maximum): 3 mm
Blade width (maximum): 21 mm
Cross section: hollow-ground wedge
Material: Carbon steel with a bone grip riveted with brass tube and brass bolsters where the blade meets the handle

Tod’s knife has a heavy spine, a delicate shape in the blade and the handle, and has a pleasing substance in the hand like a Laguiole without being heavy or bulky.

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Papponymy

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a plaque of a naked woman (or godess) standing with her hands clasped in front of her stomach

An Old Babylonian terracotta in the Louvre, Paris

In the past few weeks I underwent a kind of Inanna’s Descent with the help of some dear friends who were kind enough not to point and laugh as I did what had to be done. Another thing which helped was classical music, and listening to my favourite radio station gave me an excuse to talk about ancient history.

Papponymy is the practice of naming a son after their paternal grandfather, so that names alternate between generations. Many ancient cultures sometimes practiced it, just like Anglos today sometimes name a son after the father. The satraps of Dascyleium / Hellespontine Phrygia included a Pharnabazus son of Pharnaces son of Pharnabazus. If you know to look for papponymy, you can use it as a clue in guessing family relationships and how many generations stand between individuals who happen to be mentioned in surviving writing. If the names are the same, one or three generations are probably missing, if different then two or four.

Listening to that radio station, I learned about a family which practised papponymy in the 20th century:

An ancient historian would call these Dmitri II Shostakovich, Maxim Shostakovich, and Dmitri III Shostakovich (Dmitri I was the composer’s father) because ancient historians value genealogy and umambiguity and have learned about regnal numbers. But in ordinary circumstances, nobody is likely to confuse the grandson and the grandfather.
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Cross-Post: Books on Ancient Warfare 2005-2020

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Over on closed social media, someone asked for books published between 2005 and 2020 which readers of Ancient Warfare Magazine should know about. I thought the list was too interesting to get lost on closed social media, so I copied it here, deleting the things which were published too early and the ones which summoned pushback and ones which cost more than about $150.

A question mark ? notes books which I have not flipped through (or been recommended to me by someone I know and respect), and an obelus † marks books which I could not recommend without warnings.
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Against Seeing Everything as an Identity

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A chart of the frequency of the word "identity," "nationality," "ethnicity," "race," and "performativity" over time ... "identity" becomes fashionable after 1960 and especially 1985

Google ngrams is a fun toy as long as you dont take its dates too seriously! (They refuse to work with librarians to clean up their data or with paleographers to OCR old books more accurately). https://books.google.com/ngrams/

Some kinds of academics like to talk about “identities.” Literally, that means the things which you point to and say “I am.” But many academics use it to mean other groups that people get sorted in to. In chapter 2 of a book I recently reviewed, Guy Halsall calls class, gender, age, nationality (“ethnic identity”), and free or servile status “identities”. My friend James Baillie (who is absolutely not responsible for this essay) uses the term in the same way to describe different kinds of people in the UK today. The blogger and medical doctor Geeky Humanist wrote the following paragraph on “gender identity”

What do I mean by woman? Short(ish) answer: Any adult whose gender identity is female. For purposes of anti-misogyny endeavours such as International Women’s Day, I would also include a) girls (children whose gender identity is female), and b) anyone who is affected by misogyny as a result of having been determined on the basis of genital configuration to be female, even if their actual gender identity isn’t female. … Transgenderism (and cisgenderism, for that matter) isn’t about ‘choosing’ to identify as a particular gender. It’s about the inescapable fact that nearly all of us do identify as particular genders – not because we choose to, but because it’s a key part of us – and that sometimes a person’s gender identity doesn’t match the gender of their body.

Geeky Humanist has some ideas which are strange to me and which I don’t understand as well as I would like to. I don’t think she is saying that a man is anyone who says he is a man, and she definitely does not think it is any person of the male sex, she seems to understand “gender identity” as something more like sexual orientation. I think that calling gender and class and nationality “identities” and just identities confuses people about how power and societies work.
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Cross-Post: Armour vs. Bullet Tests

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The Before Times were good for tests of bows or guns against low-tech armour. I just learned that Sylvia Leever’s tests against two 17th century breastplates is available on YouTube:

Sylvia Leever, For Show or Safety? (2005, posted 3 August 2013)

You can find more information about her project in:

You can see more videos like this:

Enjoy, and when planning your post-apocalyptic raids please avoid Oxford, Long Island, and Delft!

Sword and Buckler Fencing in Ulrich von Zatzikhoven

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two monsters with serpentine lower bodies fighting with clubs and bucklers

I don’t know of any mermen fencing so how about these marginalia monsters? Fighting with clubs instead of swords was popular as a way of managing danger, some of the legislators trying to take control of duelling proposed to allow clubs but ban sharp weapons (Ariella Elema, “Tradition, Innovation, Re-Enactment: Hans Talhoffer’s Unusual Weapons.” Acta Periodica Duellatorum 7.1 (2019) https://doi.org/10.2478/apd-2019-0001). From Besançon BM MS.551 Miracles de Notre Dame folio 87r c/o Manuscript Miniatures

For at least 15 or 20 years, people who attend the right events and drink with the right people have known that much of the fencing jargon in later fencing manuals first appears in French chivalric literature of the 12th and 13th century. In 2015 Olivier Dupuis published an article in Acta Periodica Duellatorum so the evidence is available to everyone. But he overlooked one important source, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet. This was written in German but inspired by a “welsh (Romance-language) book” brought to Austria by one of the hostages for Richard the Lion-Heart named Hugh de Morville. Ulrich was so impressed by it that he translated it into German. We don’t have any one manuscript in French or Norman or Occitan which tells the exact same story. Translating a romance could be a creative process in the middle ages, and ancient and medieval writers loved to disguise fiction as “a translation of a manuscript in a foreign language which I discovered.” But in terms of content Lanzelet is very much a romance of the late 12th century, with strong parallels to Welsh and Irish stories. Fencing appears in three or four stories in this romance.

The first story comes from Lancelot’s education by his guardians in the Otherworld. There were no soldiers or horsemen there and he was still a child so he learned other skills:

At the youth’s request the lady did a wise thing, for he seemed to her a lively boy: she sent for mermen (merwunder) and had them teach him to fence (lêren schirmen: 279). In this exercise he would never give up before he had to. He had also to play prisoners’ base, to jump extraordinary distances, to wrestle strenuously (starclîche ringen: 284), to hurl stones, both big and little, a good distance, to throw darts (he was never wearied by any of his instruction), to still-hunt, to hawk, to chase with the full pack, and to shoot with the bow. The men who came from the sea gave him skill. In all ways was he wise and manly, but about knightly horsemanship (ritterschaft) he knew nothing whatsoever, for he never mounted a horse, and he was ignorant of armour. And so he grew to be fifteen years old in that land.

– lines 275-301 of the Bibliotheca Augusta transcription based on W. Spiewok’s edition from 1997. I have adapted the translation in Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, Lanzelet: A Romance of Lancelot, tr. Kenneth G. T. Webster, ann. Roger Sherman Loomis (Columbia University Press: New York, 1951) pp. 28-29

Ulrich makes fun of his hero when he first gets on a horse and takes a spear in his hand.

The second story comes from one of Lancelot’s indiscretions with his host’s daughter or wife (this time it is his daughter, there are signs that she was his wife in an earlier version of the story like in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). They take great pleasure in each other for the night, but dawn is coming:
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