Victor Davis Hanson has lived at least three lives: one as a small-town grape farmer from Selma, California who discovered that it was almost impossible to make a living running a human-sized farm (1980-1984), one as a classics professor who taught large classes and published some very important but flawed work (1985-2004), and one as what Americans politely call a pundit or political commentator (beginning around 2001). At some point he retired from his position at California State University, Fresno, to focus on his third life. However, his biographies online have been scrubbed as clean as the ones which Robert A. Heinlein used to let them print in the back of his books, and they very carefully do not say when he retired. California State University Fresno has the usual gushing lists of honours, publications, and awards; Wikipedia is as useless as you would expect; and the pages announcing his talks and fellowships usually draw on them.
Back in 2004, Rone Tempest at the Los Angeles Times published a piece on him which gives the key dates. He was hired to launch the classics program in 1985 and retired with emeritus status (so he has library privileges, probably a pension, and maybe an office) in the summer of 2004 after only 20 years of teaching. That seems to be the year that he launched his weekly columns in several papers. He received an advance of $500,000 for A War Like No Other around 2003.
I had a post about people being Wrong on the Internet scheduled for this weekend, but last week was a big week in Canada, and it seems like time for something more mellow. So how about a post about another of those studies of early iron from the ancient Near East?
Western Iran is an extremely important area for the history of early ironworking, because in the 9th, 8th, and 7th centuries large amount of iron and bronze were deposited in graves. Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s these have attracted wealthy collectors in rich countries, and almost immediately the locals organized to feed this market: digging up promising mounds, importing old iron to sell under a name foreigners recognized, and casting and forging their own “Luristan bronzes.” This left museums and collectors with drawers full of objects which are interesting as artwork, but hard to use as archaeology. Relatively few sites from this area have been scientifically excavated and published in a western language, and I don’t know of any metallurgical studies of iron from these excavations. In the 1960s Cyril Stanley Smith decided not to wait, bought half a dozen pieces of old iron from dealers in Tehran, and analysed them as best as he could (and while he was working at the dawn of historical metallurgy, that was very well indeed: yes, this is the Cyril Stanley Smith with the Manhattan Project, Theophilius, and Biringuccio on his CV). One of these objects was an akinakes. He guessed that it dated to the 7th century BCE, but I would take that with a pinch of salt.
Fall is almost coming in Tirol … time for some nice cozy wool lined with silk cloth? The Medieval Dress and Textile Society is organizing a conference in London on the theme “Wool: Cloth, Clothing, and Culture” in Europe c. 500-1600 CE. They want the usual 20 minute paper with a... Continue reading: Cross-Post: Medieval Dress and Textile Society CFP
#23: Vna cellata coperta velluto carmesi pilloso cum certis dindinellis racamatis viridis “One sallet covered with plush crimson velvet with certain green embroidered fringes” #25: Quadraginta tres cellate ferri “43 sallets of iron” #124: Triginta stufe a celata “30 coverings for sallets”
That is the oldest reference in Claude Blair, and his book in 1958 was the last book on European armour by someone who spent a lot of time reading medieval documents in the original. In fact, there are another group of references from this time which have not yet been brought into the debate. These are in the Archivio Datini di Prato in Tuscany and were published by Luciana Frangioni in her article “Bacinetti e altre difese della testa nella documentazione di un’azienda mercantile, 1366-1410.” She copied and printed all of the references to armour for the head in this archive, and now I have copied them for you.
from 1406 (ADP, n. 178/15, c. 1t) cappellina d’acciaio celata, buona: s. 18 “celata chaplet of steel: 18 soldi“ celate di ferro, di più fazioni, buone e cattiva, piccole: s. 8 una “celate of iron, of many styles, good and bad, small: s. 8 each”
At Rimini there is an old stone bridge over an arm of the sea called Portocanale. The Riminese say it was built by their emperors Augustus and Tiberius, but I did not see the inscription. The ancient and medieval writers who claim to have travelled the farthest- Herodotus, Marco Polo, Ibn... Continue reading: A Basic Problem in Interpreting Herodotus