mediaevalist: (Funney!)
As amusing as these all are, as an unapologetic mediavalist, I can confirm that these are actually spot-on for the most part.The thing to remember here is that, contrary to a lot of the Bravo Sierra you'll read about the Mediaeval Period of Europe, Cracked surprisingly finds some good sources and cites them. (I cannot stress citation enough) So even if you want to take the authors's colourful interpretations with a pinch of salt, do check out their citations.

5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe About the Dark Ages (This one explains where the 'Dark Ages' misnomer comes from)
6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes

Remember kids: research is your friend! Even if you think you know something, double-check it anyway!
mediaevalist: (Now THIS=a good feminist reimagining)
The Church Changed the Perception of Rape
Destroying another man’s clothes, injuring his cattle and raping his wife. These three acts, which viewed through modern eyes seem highly different, were all considered vandalism against a man’s property in the early Middle Ages.

Thanks to the Catholic Church, however, this weird view changed during the Middle Ages.

Actually, this was standard practise throughout the rest of the world before the Church gained influence. The fact is that classical paganism was certainly not woman-friendly. While there were laws about women owning property, the thing to keep in mind is that it was assumed that this property was either part of her dowry or compensation for being a widow and having a family to support. But it was not, however, because women were considered to have equal standing with men. Rape was certainly not a crime against an individual, even in ancient Ireland.
mediaevalist: (Philosophy)
Wow, it's been a while. I remember this site from years back. It's gone now, apparently, but just about all the pages are archived for our convenience. Huzzah!

Some of the stuff on general New Age beliefs like Wicca aren't entirely accurate, but the primary function here is historical and cultural preservation. Nothing against Wiccans, but they're perfectly capable of defending their own religion. But there's a number of points on the essay which got me there that I feel need addressing. Kaathryn MacMorgan, while stressing the need to do all the research, trips up and commits that very same mistake when it comes to the Holy Church here. As we like to tell people who claim they distrust "organised religion", our comeback is always "So do I! That's why I'm Catholic!" And we have nothing on Judaism in that regard.

Onward into what's probably just a repeat of anything C. S. Lewis already addressed )
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Violent knights feared posttraumatic stress

Medieval knights are often depicted as bloodthirsty men who enjoyed killing. But that is a completely wrong picture, new research shows.

The knights did not kill just because they wanted to, but because it was their job – precisely like soldiers today. Nor were the Middle Ages as violent as we think, despite their different perception of violence compared to ours.

“Modern military psychology enables us to read medieval texts in a new way – giving us insight into the perception of violence in the Middle Ages in the general population and the use of lethal violence by knights,” says Thomas Heebøll-Holm of the SAXO Institute at the University of Copenhagen, who researches the perception of violence in the late Middle Ages.

“Previously, medieval texts were read as worshipping heroes and glorifying violence. But in the light of modern military psychology we can see the mental cost to the knights of their participation in the gruesome and extremely violent wars in the Middle Ages.”

There's also a cultural note pointing out that people who lived during the Middle Ages were not more violent than people today, so knights were neither violent by culture nor nature. On the contrary, PTSD seemed to be enough of a concern for at least one well-respected knight to write on what we identify as PTSD today.
mediaevalist: (Hatshepsut) has an article which, to me, is a bit old-hat: Niccolo Machiavelli – the Cunning Critic of Political Reason.

The article is a good one, but it's not exactly what I'd call new, even though it presents a more recent interpretation that isn't widely known:

Now that some of Machiavelli’s most infamous ideas have been presented, various interpretations of them and their underlying motivation can be considered. One unusual interpretation comes from the eighteenth-century historian of philosophy William Enfield, who suggested that The Prince was a satire on the unruly and selfish behaviour of political leaders. Enfield declared that, since Machiavelli was an enemy of despotism in his actual conduct, The Prince was intended to ‘pull off the mask from the face of tyranny’. If it really was meant by Machiavelli as a satire, then it has to be the driest, most bitter and most convincing satire ever written, one that has fooled many commentators and leaders alike for centuries.

But even this article from Cracked (authored by Peter Davis and David A. Vindiola ) acknowledges that "[a]ctually, Machiavelli was totally just trolling." Like the bimbo in one of my English classes who was horrified by Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal for advocating eating children in an obviously sarcastic manner, (as anyone with comprehension skills beyond Kindergarten level can attest) most folks completely missed Machiavelli's bitter, cynical, and even sarcastic tone. Or, as Davis and Vindiola put it:

The context in this case is that the Medici family to whom he dedicated his love letter is the same group who personally broke Machiavelli's arms for being such a staunch advocate for free government. He worked for the Florentine Republic before the Medicis marched in, mowed down the government and mercilessly tortured him, and then he sat down and wrote The Prince from his shack in exile, assumedly with some really bendy handwriting (on account of the arms). When you learn about that, it kind of adds a new layer of meaning to the text -- it suddenly sounds like it's dripping with sarcasm.

The article further explores another interpretation of the circumstances:

Another possibility is that, in writing The Prince, Machiavelli was articulating only what he believed that the then-current rulers wanted to hear, so that he could win back their favour. On this view Machiavelli himself might not have believed everything he wrote in The Prince, but he thought that a cold amoral attitude to politics might impress his superiors, thus leading to his reinstatement in government. If this interpretation is true, then he was being doubly cynical by cynically advocating scheming distrust as a method of government, while not fully believing in it himself. The actual circumstances of the composition of The Prince add weight to this interpretation, in that Machiavelli dedicated it specifically to Lorenzo de Medici. It has also been suggested that he composed it quickly, on deciding to take a break from working on the longer Discourses, this apparently coinciding with a period when a new Pope had recently been installed in Rome and a new leader found for Italy. Did Machiavelli hope through The Prince to influence this new ruler? If so this aim was never actually realised, and Machiavelli died without ever regaining his political position.

However, Davis and Vindiola point out that

For centuries, the consensus on Machiavelli's best-known work has been that he was just trying to brown-nose his way back into the government. But a deeper study of his full body of work reveals that this is a pretty absurd ambition, considering not only did Machiavelli repeatedly say that "popular rule is always better than the rule of princes," but after he wrote The Prince, he went right on back to writing treatises about the awesomeness of republics. Considering also that he was no stranger to the literary art of satire, scholars these days are turning to a more likely scenario -- Machiavelli was the Stephen Colbert of the Renaissance.

Admittedly, there's no real way to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Machiavelli's true intentions were. But comparing The Prince to all his other work, I have to say I'm not especially convinced he was sucking up. On the other hand, the evidence for The Prince being a scathing satire is pretty convincing.
mediaevalist: (Whatte the swyve?)
Hey kids! It's time for another...

Bad History Rant!

Today's rant is brought to you by a particular song from Night of Hunters by Tori Amos. Now, given that we should generally take history from pop songs with a whole damned salt mine, "Battle of Trees" perpetuates a steaming pile of New Age cow pattie that was debunked a really long time ago. The problem, then, is that this cow pattie persists and sticks to popular culture.

Bring on the barbecue! )
mediaevalist: (WTS)
Figures that I only remember this blog when I have a bad history rant.

I was linked to this article on Women in Reasonable Armour, which makes me squee in delight, since one of the things that annoys me is a lack of accuracy in lieu of fanservice. That goes for anything, really... there's a fine line between the Rule of Cool and outright ridiculousness. I should not be seeing panty-flashes in the middle of a swordfight.

But this article in turn linked to this, which then linked to this. Now, the blog itself is pretty objective, and doesn't attempt to draw conclusions from an inconclusive article that dryly observes numbers and begins forming theories, and saying nothing about the combat status of these women. But the comments are just... no. Way to jump to fluffybunny New Age wish-fulfilment conclusions, girls.

I've ranted on this silliness before, but I suppose it bears repeating yet again. (I especially like the almost word-for-word recitation of the debunked myth here, which has further been proven false here as well. Never let reality spoil your dreams)

Yet another women warrior rant, you have been warned )
mediaevalist: (Now THIS=a good feminist reimagining)
This journal has a fair bit of dust on it, doesn't it?  Time for some linkage:

Roman gladiator cemetery found in England

Scientists have found 80 skeletons in the "unique" cemetery under the city of York, northern England, since 2003.

They announced their discoveries on Sunday, ahead of a documentary about the site due to air in Britain on June 14. This was one of two big archaeological developments, with Israeli scientists announcing the discovery of a huge cache of ancient religious objects.

They first thought the graveyard might contain the remains of criminals or political purges.

But that doesn't explain the teeth mark.
Did the Crusaders have a Muslim ally in the First Crusade?

A new article is examining the relationship between Islamic states and the Crusader army during the First Crusade (1096-99) and suggests that the Fatimid kingdom of Egypt did attempt to ally with the Crusaders.


Abu-Munshar also questions the assumption that the Fatimids were ignorant of the Crusader's ultimate goals. He writes, "How could the Fatimids misunderstand the crusaders’ aim when we know that the latter started their journey from Europe and took months, even years, to arrive in the east, with the clear aim of regaining Islamic Jerusalem from the Muslims? It is possible that most Muslims, Saljuqs and Fatimids alike, were at least partially aware of the crusaders’ intentions."

Ivy offers protection for historical buildings, study says

English Heritage commissioned a team of Oxford University academics to research the likely effects of ivy on historic buildings. In the three-year project, Oxford researchers analysed the effects of ivy growing on buildings in five different parts of England and discovered that the plant plays a protective role. They found that an ivy canopy was like a thermal shield, combating the extremes of temperature which often cause walls to crack.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
I've already mentioned this in passing, but apparently there are others even more invested in research into the historical King Arthur than I am.

Author David F. Carroll self-published Arturius - The Quest for Camelot and went so far as to bet £1,000 that the "Legend of King Arthur" was inspired by Arturius, the son of Aidan MacGabran, the 6th century AD King of the Scots of Dál Riata. It's been 11 years since The Scotsman reported this, and so far he's had no takers.

Oh, and the book is free. And we all like free stuff, right? So go download it and help history literacy!
mediaevalist: (crossdressing)
Fascinating article in Slate today about the economic causes of witch hunts.  Now, as an archaeologist and mediaevalist, economics really aren't my forte.  But it is precisely what we need to examine to have a clearer picture of history in general and the mediaeval period in particular.

Why it's dangerous to be a witch in a recession )


17 Sep 2008 12:47 pm
mediaevalist: (WTS)
Well, now.  I just found out I'm Jewish!  *cue headdesking*

Once more, because apparently word is still circulating that Samhain itself is a festival (Sheesh, folks...could you actually read the Wiki article on it?  Please?):

(an t-)Samhain(n) is the Irish Gaelic/Scottish Gaelic word for what is approximately the month of November.

The words you're looking for are Feis na Samhna, i.e., 'Feast of November' (Note the declension, kids!)  If you're going to say it the old-fashioned way, at the very least you could make the attempt to get it right.  Otherwise, just call it 'Hallowe'en', mmkay?

But this isn't what has me facepalming the most.  No, what has me in laugh-or-else-I'll-cry mode is that it's been turned into a Jewish observance.  You see, 'sabbat' is a corruption of the Hebrew word Sabbath, derived from the verb shabbat, or 'to cease'.  It's not a celebration: it's the weekly period of rest observed in both Judaism and Christianity.

There's an interesting theory here about how the term 'sabbat' came to be connected to witches, but it really has no historical bearing other than common folklore.  If you're discussing the modern Wiccan/neopagan observance, it's one thing. But use of the term to describe the historical occurrence of Hallowe'en/Feis na Samhna is, well, facepalm-worthy.
mediaevalist: (Funney!)
A sampling of the world's oldest low humour.

The world's oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC and suggests toilet humor was as popular with the ancients as it is today.

It is a saying of the Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq and goes: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."

It heads the world's oldest top 10 joke list published by the University of Wolverhampton Thursday.

A 1600 BC gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru, comes second -- "How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish."

Mankind never really changes, does it?
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
I was sucked back into a fandom that I was involved in (somewhat) about a year and a half ago though -- you guessed it -- an RPG (What a surprise). In consideration of a particular character in said fandom and how the person who plays said character in our RP might be amused to read this, in my infinite mediaeval geekery I hunted down one of the articles from an independent Scottish news/history/culture website I used to frequent daily. 

First Foot - Scotch Mythed: King Arthur

Maybe we do know the 'secret history of Arthur', now that I think about it.


12 Apr 2008 11:37 am
mediaevalist: (WTF)
Protesters in San Francisco seem to have forgotten where the 1936 Olympics were hosted.

Though I wonder if perhaps this is simply an attempt at reminding everyone that the Olympics have been hosted in some rather unsavoury places throughout the years?* If it's simply ignorance...Heaven help us.

* - The 'Free Tibet' crowd (I believe those are prayer flags on the placard, and two other protesters are carrying the Tibetan flag at the rear, so this is probably them) are usually better-educated than this, so my own hypothesis is that this is a deliberate reminder of the 1936 Olympics. At least I hope this is the case.
mediaevalist: (WTS)
One of the problems that general fans of the Middle Ages sometimes fall prey to is this: the inability to distinguish between the historical Middle Ages and the 'Current Middle Ages' as defined by the Society for Creative Anachronism. While this generally isn't a problem within most of the SCA, there are a number of people who confuse 'the Middle Ages as we want them to have been' for the Middle Ages that actually were.

Politically-incorrect historical facts for your perusal )

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