Today is Data Protection Day. I don’t know all of my gentle readers, and I do not give unsolicited advice to strangers, so I won’t nag you to change your habits. There are plenty of people and groups which can give better advice to people interested in data security and privacy than I, including the GNU Project, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Bruce Schneier, and Eleanor Saitta. What I would suggest is that you throw a few dollars or Euros in the pot of some of the free software and online services which you use. Read more
On New Years’ Day I was sorting through some old papers from my time in Calgary and found something which set me to cursing. I was looking for an article which I had ordered while I was writing my MA but never done much with. As it was delivered on paper, and I never typed up the citation, I did not have it in Innsbruck and could not find it again. A.D.H. Bivar’s “Cavalry Equipment and Tactics on the Euphrates Frontier” mentions in passing that:
There is support for the general hypothesis that the so-called “Mongolian draw” was used by the Huns, and from them taken up by the Byzantines, in a passage from the anonymous sixth-century chapter on archery, περὶ τοξείας. (p. 284)
He cited a German translation and commentary with the Greek text attached. I was intrigued because the sources on archery in the Mediterranean which are most often used are written in Arabic and date between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. I now have it in arm’s reach, and it is indeed a treatise on archery, and it does date to the first millennium CE.
I am sick again this week and have not been able to finish a craft project which I wanted to talk about, so I thought I would post half a thought about armour instead. The vase painting above is one of the most famous. Pottery geeks try to assign it to a group of paintings from the same workshop, students of mythology appreciate that Akhilles and Patroklos are labeled, and students of material culture enjoy the details of military equipment. The view of the shoulder-piece springing upwards as soon as it is untied, and of the skirt of ‘feathers’ stopping above the genitals, have shaped many modern ideas about Greek armour. Long ago Peter Connolly repainted it for his Greek Armies.
Although respectable German and French translations of the Gadal-iama contract were available by 1952, they were published in journals for specialists. As a result, many English-speaking readers first encounter this text as quoted or paraphrased in books on other topics. One of the most widely read versions was published in a life of Alexander by Robin Lane Fox and quoted by Paul Rahe in his article “The Military Situation in Western Asia on the Eve of Cunaxa.” But as with some other things in Lane Fox’s life of Alexander, this version is not exactly what it leads readers to think it is:
In one remarkable document, the problems are set out in detail. In 422 King Artaxerxes had summoned his colonists to attack the city of Uruk, but the summons had caught the Jewish owner of a land grant off his guard. Probably because of financial embarassment, the Jew’s father had been forced to adopt a member of the Murasu bank as his son, so that the banker could inherit a share in the family allotment, and as the land grant could only be owned by members of the family, adoption was the one means of evading the king’s law and endowing an outsider. When the father died, the adopted banker held one part of the farm, the true male heirs the rest. … Fortunate in his banking ‘brother,’ the Jew had struck an advantageous bargain; the wild cat bankers would not fancy fighting and so their adopted agent would finance the armour, silver tax, horse and, very probably, the groom, while the Jew would ride out at the risk of his life.
In the joy of his heart, Gadal-Iama the Jew has spoken thus to the son of the Murasu: the planted and plowed fields, the horse land of my father, you now hold because my father once adopted your father. So give me a horse with a groom and harness, a caparison of iron, a helmet, a leather breastplate, a buckler, 120 arrows of two sorts, an iron attachment for my buckler, two iron spears and a mina of silver for provisions, and I will fulfill the service-duties which weigh on our lands.
As the horseman owned no bow, the arrows were presumably to be handed in to the cashier and then distributed to owners of bow and chariot land.
– Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great, The Dial Press n.p. 1974 ch. 11 p. 159
Robin Lane Fox seems to have composed this version on the basis of the French and German translations which he cited. However, it is missing things in both of them, and contains things which neither does. Read more
Travel involves leaving things behind, and the holidays are a time to get reacquainted with them. This week I thought that I would talk about three swords and the different problems which they attempt to solve.
At the top we have a Naue type II by Neil Burridge, the only man alive who has mastered the process of hammer-hardening the edges which was used on Bronze Age European swords. Neil can make bronze swords which would be very hard to distinguish from the originals, and provide them with scabbards copied from Bronze Age graves and paintings and reliefs. But his swords are sharp, and the only hints about how people in the Late Bronze Age used their weapons are the two-faced evidence of art and the weapons themselves and parallels in later martial arts. Burridge’s swords tend to be bought by collectors and museums to display, by archaeologists to experiment with, by reenactors to wear, and by enthusiasts to reap a dreadful harvest of plastic bottles, Tatami mats, and gourds. Read more