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User: Sean

Two Ways of Looking at the Russo-Ukrainian War

the winding road up to a stone fortress with a bridge crossing a ditch between the camera level and the next level
The city-side entrance to fortress Hohensalzburg was designed in the 17th century, but many aspects of a 17th century siege would be familiar to a soldier in the Great War or on parts of the front in Ukraine without many drones

In Spring 2024 there were two ways of looking at the war in Ukraine. One was to emphasize that Ukraine was short of troops and artillery ammunition, that Russian forces were capturing a sunflower field here and a village there, and that US aid to Ukraine may end if the Republicans win the next US election. We don’t hear much about the small Ukrainian operations on the east bank of the Dnipro River any more so perhaps they have withdrawn those few hundred men. Ukraine can’t get enough of its young men in uniform, in part because the officials in charge of exemptions and exit permits accept bribes. In this view, Russian forces will grind down Ukrainian forces and force the Ukrainian government to sign over territory. The ground war is not going well for Ukraine. The other way was to emphasize that Ukraine continues to strike Russian naval vessels and ports, destroys Russian aircraft and air defence systems, and launched a strategic bombing campaign against Russian oil refineries. The air and naval war are going better.

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Hellenistic Diplomacy

a pale mosaic with a red white brown colour scheme of the head of a bug-eyed brown-haired woman with a hat shaped like a war galley, a cloak buttoned at the shoulder, and some kind of tunic or corselet
This Ptolemaic queen of Egypt is decked in a naval crown, an anchor brooch, and a military cloak fastened at the right shoulder. One school of thought is that she is boasting about a victory at sea over one of the Seleukid kings of Asia, because their symbol was the anchor. From,_Ptolemaic_Queen_and_joint_ruler_with_Ptolemy_III_of_Egypt,_Thmuis,_Egypt.jpg

Hellenistic diplomacy, like all Hellenistic rulership, was fundamentally personal: agreements and alliances were not struck between abstract states or nations, but between individuals. When a monarch died, previous agreements no longer stood, and new agreements with the next monarch had to be negotiated. The contemporary purpose of these marriage alliances at the time was to create a direct and personal link two monarchs, symbolized and meditated by marriage to a royal woman. In other words, the marriage of Stratonice I to Seleucus created a direct bond between her husband and her father that, in turn, united their two families.

Alex McAuley, “Weaving the Dynastic Web: Hellenistic Marriage Alliances,” Ancient History 49 p. 22
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Are 80% of Patreon Pledges Hidden?

a screenshot from the Graphtreon website with charts and statistics about total creations and pledges on Patreon
Graphtreon is awesome! Patreon is awesome! But Patreon is also another giant institution which we are are asked to trust but don’t have a way to verify

Patreon is essential for funding many types of digital creations. Patreon is not the best at processing payments or building and running websites. So a lot of us are very interested in them as a business because they offer an alternative to surveillance advertising and creating merchandise or face-to-face services to sell, but they seem kind of flimsy. Because they are a private business, we have to guess a lot. One of the things we have to guess about is whether they are a $24 million / year business or a $120 million / year business. (All sums in this post are in US dollars).

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A Cornice from Pompeii

a piece of plastered and painted architectural ornament with a flower and shell motif painted in red, blue, and green
Some architectural terracotta moulding from the House of the Black Room, Pompeii c/o BBC

There are many things to talk about the excavations at the House of the Black Room in Pompeii, from the awesome Parthian Perseus to the poor bakery workers who may have been locked in their quarters to die when the volcano erupted. Onetime Bookandswordblog commentator Sophie Hay gets to work there! One thing which I like is this piece of terracotta architectural decoration with painting which is colourful but not fussily precise.

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Editing and Translation Services

Do you need a second pair of eyes on that book, paper, or project report? I have been editing business and academic writing since 2013. Aside from ancient world studies and medieval studies, I have experience creating software documentation and a background in academic computer science. Because of my time living in Austria, I have experience with the challenges of writing in a second language or a new field.

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From Syria to Iberia

a statue of a warrior with a helmet and a disc breastplate against a black background
One of the sculptures of warriors from Cerrillo Blanco near Porcuna, Spain. These were probably carved around 450 BCE. Photo from Wikimedia Commons see more photos at TRAS LAS HUELLAS DE HERÓDOTO. . .

One reason why I like Fernando Quesada Sanz’ Weapons, Warriors, and Battles of Ancient Iberia (publisher’s website) is that he looks east to the Punic world as well as the Greek and Roman worlds. Whereas specialists in archaic and classical Greece rarely pay much attention to any kind of barbarians, Quesada Sanz reminds readers that Iberia has been influenced by people who arrived by sea from the east since the 9th century BCE. A good example is what he has to say about the Iberian disc cuirasses.

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An Unusual Obstetic Technique

My interest in linen armour lead me to texts from around the year 1000. Chrétien de Troyes died leaving one of his works incomplete, and sometime around 1190 to 1210, someone wrote the first surviving attempt to fill in the missing attempts. In one of these passages, an Arthurian hero is arming. The narrator mentions an unusual way of helping a woman in labour deliver:

Then they girdled a sword
Such that in all the world there was no woman in labour,
Who when struck on the head
With the flat of that naked sword (1048)
Would not immediately give birth,
As she hung between death and life.

My translation. Text after William Roach and R.H. Ivy, eds., The Continuations of the Old French Perceval of Chrétien de Troyes. Volume II. The First Continuation: Redaction of MSS EMQU. Romance Languages and Literatures, Extra Series, No. 10. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Department of Romance Languages, 1950), 32-33, 485-486, 548-549. There are complete translations of the continuation in Ross G. Arthur, tr., Three Arthurian Romances: Poems from Medieval France (London: Dent, 1996) and Nigel Bryant, tr., Chrétien de Troyes, The Complete Story of the Grail: Chrétien de Troyes‘ Perceval and its Continuations. Arthurian Studies 82 (Cambridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2015), 87; my translation is influenced by this one, especially in the last five lines.
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Shield Making with Theophilius

a wooden shield shaped like a soup plate sitting hollow-up on a linoleum countertop next to a pot of toffee-coloured glue

In April and May I have been making a domed round shield from start to finish. I decided to post a tidied-up version of my lab notes on my Patreon page. If scheduling goes right, my post should be visible here. Part 2 on the gessoing and painting should arrive in early June!

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Ownership History is Hard and Often Does Not Matter

This terracotta statuette from Babylon is one of very few images of a woman in the ‘Elamite robe’ or Faltengewand from the Achaemenid period. Photo of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum, object VA Bab 00405 by Olaf M. Teßmer CC BY-SA 4.0

To establish the ownership history of a manuscript, you need to do archival research in auction catalogues and library catalogues and lists of bookplates and stamps. This history will usually have gaps, because ownership is not a physical property of an object which leaves indelible traces, but a social agreement. People steal books and manuscripts, people sell books and manuscripts which don’t belong to them, people forge evidence that a book or manuscript belonged to someone famous, and people burn the records of grandpa’s used books business to tidy up after his death. Its hard to track the ownership of Greek manuscripts during the fifteenth century for the same reason its hard to track the ownership of antiquities during the 1940s. And if you are using a manuscript to understand the ancient world, the ownership history is not really important. Let me explain.

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