Cross-Post: Subscriptions to Robin Netherton’s Festschrift


, ,

Until 1 August 2019, Boydell and Brewer are accepting subscriptions for a Festschrift to textile historian Robin Netherton. Subscribers can buy the volume for 40 GBP/70 USD rather than the 70 GBP/135 USD retail price, and will get their name in the book. Chapters will include:

  • Introduction
  • Robin Netherton: A Life
  • Precious Offerings: Dressing Devotional Statues in Medieval England
  • Dressing the Earth: an Eleventh-century Garb in the Exultet Roll of Bari
  • Dress, Disguise, and Shape-Shifting in Nibelungenlied and Volsunga Saga
  • Survival, Recovery, Restoration, Re-creation: the Long Life of Medieval Garments
  • Coping with Connoisseurship: Issues in Attribution and Purpose raised by an Indo-Portuguese “Vestment” in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Refashioning St. Edward: Clothing and Textiles
  • “Dressed to Kill:” The Clothing of Christ’s Tormentors in an Illustrated Polish Devotional Manuscript
  • Semper Ubi Sub Ubi: What Braies Cover and Reveal
  • Treason and Clothing in Sixteenth-Century England: The Case of Gregory “Sweetlips” Botolf
  • The Lexicon of Apparel in the Pastourelle Corpus: Refashioning Shepherdesses
  • The Real Unreal: Chrétien de Troyes’s Fashioning of Erec and Enide
  • Regulating and Refashioning Dress: Sumptuary Legislation and its Enforcement in Fourteenth- and Early Fifteenth-Century Lucca
  • Nuns’ Clothing and Ornaments in English and Northern French Ecclesiastical Regulations
  • Clothing Dependents: Dress of Children and Servants in the Petre Household, 1586-1587

To subscribe, download the order form at

Some Thoughts on Niven’s “A Gift from Earth”


, , ,

Larry Niven, A Gift from Earth (Ballantine Books: New York, 1968)

Larry Niven had a brilliant creative career from his first published story in 1964 to the Tales from Draco’s Tavern and The Integral Trees in the mid-1980s. Since then his star has faded, although his name often appears on covers next to a co-author; I get the impression that he got bored with writing but did not find a new vocation. I recently had a chance to re-read one of his novels which I don’t often return to, and was struck by how good it is.
Continue reading

The Myth of the Heavily Burdened Hoplite


, , , , , ,

How much weight did these warriors carry? Archaeological finds let us give a pretty good estimate. A Corinthian aryballos (oil flask)in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 41.162.157

Today, people with detailed direct knowledge of Iron Age arms and armour in the Aegean describe them as for athletes, as lightweight as the smiths could make them. Most hoplites had just one or two spears, a round shield, some kind of headpiece and some kind of sword, dagger, or cleaver. A hoplite was heavily burdened in comparison to man with a club and a selection of rocks in a fold of his tunic, not in comparison with modern ‘light’ (not motor-borne) infantry who often carry their own body weight in equipment. So where does the idea that hoplites wore 30 kilos of equipment come from? Back in 2010, Peter Krentz laid out the sad story.

Most scholars writing in English today estimate the weight of a hoplite’s equipment as 70 pounds (33 kilograms) or more, a figure that goes back to Delbrück, who took the figure 72 pounds from W. Rüstow and H. Köchly’s Geschichte des griechischen Kriegswesens von der ältesten Zeit bis auf Pyrrhos (1852). These are German pounds, each equal to 500 grams or 0.5 kilograms, as is clear from places where Rüstow and Köchly give weights in both pounds and kilograms. Their original estimate, therefore, was actually about 36 kilograms (79 avoirdupois pounds). Even this lofty figure has been exaggerated— in 1994 Richard A. Gabriel and Donald W. Boose gave the weight of a panoply (a full set of hoplite equipment) as 85–90 pounds (39–41 kilograms). But, as I say, most scholars writing in English today favor 70 avoirdupois pounds, which Victor Davis Hanson describes as “an incredible burden to endure for the ancient infantryman, who himself probably weighed no more than some 150 pounds.” Rüstow and Köchly’s figures do not deserve this veneration. They did not weigh museum pieces or attempt to reconstruct the equipment. As a result, a reviewer, Theodor Bergk, dismissed their figures as “purely hypothetical attempts,” while Hans Droysen justified his decision to ignore them by calling them “arbitrary estimates.” After all the archaeological discoveries of the past century and a half, especially in the German excavations at Olympia, we can do better today.

– Peter Krentz, “A Cup by Douris and the Battle of Marathon,” in Garrett G. Fagan and Matthew Trundle (eds.), New Perspectives on Ancient Warfare (Brill: Leiden, 2010) pp. 188-190

In short, this number persisted because it was the first one on the table, and because archaeologists refused to systematically measure and weigh finds until the 1990s (and when they did, they mostly did so in Greek and German, while the people becoming interested in hoplites only read English). Krentz estimates the weight of hoplite equipment as follows:

  • Helmet 1.2 kg {Extant Late Corinthian helmets}
  • Body Armour 3.6–6.8 kg {Extant bronze cuirasses and modern linen and leather armour}
  • Greaves (pair) 1.3 kg {Extant bronze greaves}
  • Shield 3.2–6.8 kg {Reconstructions based on two extant shields from Italy; for example, the poplar wood shield covered in 0.5 mm bronze sheet in the Museuo Gregoriano would have weighed 6.2 kg/13.5 lbs new}
  • Spear 1.5 kg {Reconstructions based on extant spearheads and buttspikes}
  • Sword, Scabbard, and Baldric 1-2 kg {Parallels with Roman gladii, weight of one damaged original}
  • Clothing 1 kg {Reconstructions}
  • Total (rounded) 13–21 kg

All of his figures are consistent with the weight of kit from other cultures. While modern infantry have to carry more than their body weight over the mountains of Afghanistan or the steppes of upper Mesopotamia, a Greek hoplite carried about as much weight into combat as I hauled to and from school five days a week.

Help my web hosts hold up their load with a donation on Patreon or or even liberapay

Edit 2019-08-03: Corrected the names of the editors of the collection with Krentz’ article

An grave stele from near Athens c. 390 BCE in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, accession number 40.11.23

Datini’s Wares in GURPS


, , , ,

Two soldier crush silverware for easier packing as a comrade throws more loot out a window

Want to know whether helmets of scales like Mr. Red wears were just artists’ fantasies? Check out Medieval Warfare VIII.1. British Library, MS. Royal 20 C VII (painted in Paris between 1380 and 1400)

Last spring I published a two-page article in Medieval Warfare VIII.1 talking about the kinds of concealed armour which were for sale in the Avignon of the Babylonian Captivity. As far as I know nobody else has talked about these sources in any language except Italian, so I hope translating them was helpful! Now, I am interested in the real things and how they were made … if I ever have money I might commission a few reproductions. But what if your interest is in gaming? How might you represent this armour, say in GURPS?

Continue reading

What Device Do You View This Site On?

Some time in the next few months, I will be moving this site from Automattic’s servers to another host which accepts that a website is a website, which customers (not the service provider) own and edit. It seems like the thing to do is first to move to self-hosting WordPress, then consider moving to a simpler, stabler solution such as a static site generator.

I have some idea of trends in traffic and which sites and social media refer people to which pages, but I don’t know what kinds of device people use to view my site. Conventional wisdom is that everyone uses smartphones for browsing, but obviously that depends on who and for what: Instagram probably gets a higher proportion of small-device visits than say Encyclopedia Iranica. I know plenty of people who never got a smartphone, and Darrell Markewitz found data that only 33% of all web traffic in Canada, and only 18% of traffic to his blog, comes from mobile OSes. A lot of talk about technology trends is not really description but magic: the speakers seek to create a new reality with powerful words. So I would really appreciate it if you could fill out the following poll.

Edit 2019-06-06: After a week, 7 votes for laptops or external monitors, 2 votes for smartphones and other small screens, 0 votes for tablets or something unusual.

If I move away from the WordPress software entirely, it might be easier to remove comments from future posts. (I will definitely remove them from the ‘site’ part of this webpage, a list of my articles does not need a comments field but WordPress puts one on every page unless you install a plugin! So yes, to remove a few lines of code from the generator you have to add a separate ‘plugin’ to WordPress! It is sad to watch the comment section of dead friends’ blogs fill up with spam advertising quack pills and fake handbags because nobody can figure out how to disable comments).

What kind of dynamic features of this site such as the RSS feed or pingbacks and trackbacks to linked sites do you actually use? Do you have any other special needs which I should keep in mind? Feel free to comment here or by email.

Maintaining a website is work! Support this site with a donation on Patreon or or even liberapay

Urheberrecht in Österreich


, , ,

A delivery van in Neurum, Innsbruck, Austria

One of the most charming and exasperating traits of small-city Austria is the locals’ casualness about copyright law. From a local plumber whose logo alludes to a popular TV series, to the cafe with a Disney Corp artist’s version of a Kipling character on their sign, to the academics who publish wherever and then stick the PDF on as soon as it arrives in their inbox, they just do what they want as long as large sums of money are not involved. Ironically, Austrian Urheberrecht guarantees creators some privileges which in other countries they can sign away, such as the right to be acknowledged as the origin of a work. But on some other areas, they don’t fuss the details. Also, the Austrian academics I know have mostly moved away from assigning textbooks which are sold for money; they don’t write long tracts about the affordability of education (university in Austria costs about EUR 1600 a year in fees) or wicked commercial publishers charging hundreds of dollars for a calculus book, just put handouts together and share them.

Although I can’t put my finger on how, somehow this feels different than my gamer buddies explaining why they are not willing to pay $40 for a beautiful illustrated hardcover book by a game designer, or Jessamyn West agonizingly debating whether to tell library patrons that DRM can be broken or sci-hub exists. To me it feels more like the way Austrians smoke like chimneys, manage the sex trade, and accept polite corruption and horse-trading. Austria had to put up with the counter-reformation and watch National Socialists rebranded themselves as libertarian (freiheitlich), and quite a few Austrians don’t want to fight for fundamental reform, just quietly get what they want done in the grey areas.
Continue reading

Big Data in World History: Seshat vs. DRH


, , ,

Ancient historians have been in the big open data business for almost 200 years, with Mommsen’s establishment of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum to publish all surviving ancient Latin inscriptions in 1853. Right now there are two competing projects to create an encyclopedia of quantitative data on world religious history which could be subjected to statistical tests: the Database of Religious History at UBC, and Peter Turchin’s Seshat project in the USA. Turchin belongs to a Russian tradition of social scientists such as Andrey Vitalievich Korotayev who want to find predictive, mathematical laws of history, often in the forms of cycles. A recent paper based on Seshat data has provoked not one but two responses only six weeks after publication.

  • Harvey Whitehouse et al., “Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods Throughout World History,” Nature 568 (20 March 2019) pp. 226-229
  • Edward Slingerland et al., “Historians Respond to Whitehouse et al. (2019), ‘Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods Throughout World History'”, PsyArXiv Preprints, 2 May 2019
  • Bret Beheim, Quentin Atkinson (yes, that Atkinson), et al., “Corrected analyses show that moralizing gods precede complex societies but serious data concerns remain,” PsyArXiv Preprints, 2 May 2019

Continue reading

Some Thoughts on “Classical Greek Tactics: A Cultural History”


, , ,

A wall of gigantic rounded stones roughly shaped and placed together with a few smaller stones to fill gaps

Even the most overwhelming project can be completed if you take it one stone at a time! Photo of the Cyclopean walls of Mycenae by Sharon Mollerus, Wikimedia Commons, with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Konijnendijk, Roel (2017) Classical Greek Tactics: A Cultural History. Mnemosyne, Supplements History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity, Band 409 (Brill: Leiden)

Since the 1990s, there has been intense debate about early Greek warfare. Most people agreed that there was something wrong with the versions available in English, but it took time to agree on just what that wrongness was and whether it could be fixed with a few small changes or was more fundamental. This book is another Cyclopean stone in the walls of the current consensus.

Konijnendijk argues that the California School of writers on Greek warfare (John Kinloch Anderson, William K. Pritchett, and Victor Davis Hanson) were basically refining the ideas of Austrian, German, and English scholars before the First World War. The continentals were interested in a comparative history of warfare with the practices of the Prussian army at the top, the Roman army in the middle, and early Greek armies near the bottom, while the English scholars tried to explain why Greek warfare as described by the Prussians was so peculiar. For a long time it seemed like these early writers had solved the problem so little was written on the subject in English. When a new group of scholars in Cold War California became interested in warfare, they launched a flood of research in English which almost erased the original German context of their theories. In short, the ‘orthodoxy’ is really a set of received ideas from 19th century Europe which survived until a group of ‘scientific historians’ began to question them.
Continue reading

Life as a Play


, , ,

A flyer for a business in Innsbruck: "NABU RECORDS: Schallplattn An- und Verkauf.  Exotica - Reggae - Dub - Hiphop - Austro Funk - Soul - Jazz - Rock - Metal - Pop - African - Arabic - Electro - Turntables - Poster"

Deliberate allusion or accidental choice of a name? Just like the river shrine to a certain Lady, parallels with ancient motifs are all around you in Innsbruck!

Epictetus, Enchiridion 17 tr. Manning

Remember that you are an actor in a play, in whatever kind the producer chooses: if short, then short, if long, then long. If he wants you to play a pauper, or a cripple, or a ruler, or a private citizen, you should play it the best that you can. For this is your job, to play the part that is given to you well, but to chose it belongs to another.

Continue reading

Cross-Post: Bronze Sword Workshop, Scotland, 7-8 August


, , , ,

Six unpolished bronze swords laid on the grass

Photo care of Neil Burridge of Bronze Age Swords

Neil Burridge had to give up his annual bronze sword workshops when he noticed his competitors taking them, but he is making an exception this year. These days he holds them at the Scottish Crannog Center near Aberfeldy in Perthshire

Sword workshop 2019 7th – 8th August @ crannog center

I have decided to run a sword workshop exploring Scottish Ewart Park swords at the Crannog Center. I ran one two years ago and really enjoyed it, still have to work out the details and places will be limited maybe 6 and will include an experimental clay mould casting and working on a pre cast Ewart Park blade and wooden handle shells and pommel included or an upgrade to metal pommel

Cost £320 message me if you are tempted

If that sounds like your bell beaker of ale, you can find the original posting by Neil Burridge at {warning: Facebook!} or better yet just email him through his website.

Further Reading Bronze Age Swords