Month: April 2016

Month: April 2016

The Great Hall is Ablaze with Bronze

A “Chalcidian” helmet in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. From Nymphaion necropolis, tomb 16, acquired by the Hermitage in 1876. Attributed to the early fifth century BCE. When we look at ancient bronze in museums, we usually see dark, corroded surfaces. Modern sculptors and costumers often deliberately imitate this look, leaving surfaces rough or coating the... Continue reading: The Great Hall is Ablaze with Bronze

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A round, domed wicker shield with a spiked steel boss and a cloth-bound rim.  Three short scimilars hang behind it with their handles up and blades crossed at the middle.
A Turkish target and three Turkish scimitars from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century in the second armoury, Schloss Ambras. Photo by author, October 2015.

(Due to some events in my private life, this post is late and pulled out of my file of drafts)

Gui Minhai, a Chinese Suetonius who did not wait until his targets were safely dead, was disappeared in October 2015. In January 2016 he appeared on Chinese state TV to make a confession then vanished again.

A character sketch of Edward Luttwak, another of those curious American academics-cum-policymakers whom my readers may know for his Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire and Grand Strategy of the Bzyantine Empire.

A watercolour of Innsbruck in 1495 courtesy of Albrecht Dürer. He sat to sketch a little bit downstream from Conrad Seusenhofer’s house.

In December 2015, Steven Payne made a pilgrimage on foot from Southhampton to Canterbury in fourteenth-century kit.

L. Sprague de Camp’s historical novels set in the Mediterranean between the fifth and the second centuries BCE have been reprinted in codex and ePub by Phoenix Pick. One of them imagines the events which might lie behind the very detailed description of an elephant in Aristotle; readers who enjoy stories about the gifting of large animals over long distance might enjoy reading up on the elephant Harun al-Rashid gave to Charlemagne, the elephants Nadir Shah sent to St. Petersburg for Emperess Anna of Russia, or the giraffe which Sultan Faraj of Egypt sent to Samurkand for Tamurlane.

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The Man from Arados

A relief map of the eastern Mediterranean showing Rhodes off the southwest coast of Turkey (ancient Caria) and Arados off the coast of Syria opposite Cyprus
Modified from a map by the Ancient World Mapping Center Version 1 date 22 November 2004

In the time of Antigonos the One-Eyed, an ingenious character named Kallias of Arados came to Rhodes and impressed the city fathers with his knowledge of all the latest engines for defending a city, and some which were so new that nobody had yet turned his sketches and models into a full-sized prototype. Kallias did such a good job of impressing them that they gave him an office in place of a Rhodian and funds to turn his ideas into reality. When Demetrius the Sacker of Cities arrived outside of the walls, Kallias executed his office until the Rhodians found out that his favourite machine, a crane for lifting siege towers as they approached the wall, would never work in full-size as well as it did on a model.

There are a lot of things which could be taken from this story, and a lot of details which could be imagined in turning this fable about the square-cube law back into the story about human beings which lies behind it. The detail which I want to point out is that Arados is an island off the Phoenician coast, whereas Rhodes is an island off Caria.
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The Forces of Madness Gather

Clockwise: Three pounds of cotton, a pound of linen thread, five ells of unbleached linen, two ells of smooth blue fustian, two and a half ells of unbleached linen, assorted silk floss for eyelets and buttonholes, one spool of purple silk thread

Fortification Report: Schloss Ambras, Part 1

A field of ashphault leading up to an impressive stone gateway in a large, plastered wall.
The gate to the lower court, Schloss Ambras. Photo by Sean Manning, July 2013.

Today Schloss Ambras is the sort of castle where lizards scamper across the stones in the sun and wedding parties wander across the lawns looking for the perfect place for some photos. After all, it was converted to a living and hunting castle for Philippine Welser in the sixteenth century, with a beautiful sloped park full of trees, a scenic view down onto a gorge and the Inntal, and plenty of space for hunting. But like some other places, it has a few secrets.
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Heraclitus Sighted in Innsbruck

I am more familiar with this one as πάντα ῥεί but “Alles Fließt” and “everything flows” are perfectly fine translations too. Looking north from the Innsbrucker Marktplatz not so far from Conrad Seusenhofer’s house and the mansions and warehouses turned hotels and souvenier shops, April 2016. Edit 2022-12-26: fixed formatting broken when WordPress introduced the... Continue reading: Heraclitus Sighted in Innsbruck
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