Hopefully this paper can help to answer “what was naval warfare like in the Middle Ages before cannons were widely used?”
Welcome to this tour through early medieval naval warfare and Dark Age maritime activity. Our exhibition will begin with a brief yet formal chronological jaunt along some of the many notable accounts of early Germanic piracy and Anglo-Saxon navy activity. Then we’ll explore Dark Age naval strategy and tactics before we conclude with a broad analysis of the material culture of early medieval naval warfare.
Faith to one’s lord and loyalty to one’s lord can mean the same thing in everyday speech, but like most words “faith” and “loyalty” also have secondary definitions depending on the context. Today, we’ll be exploring these secondary definitions within the context of a hero, warrior or knight in the Middle Ages. In order to examine the differences between heroic loyalty and chivalric faith in this medieval context, we must first clarify the differences between the heroic and the chivalric in medieval literature.
George MacDonald is often credited as being the first fantasy author. Although he was born in 1824 and his works are much older than J.R.R. Tolkien’s or Michael Ende’s, flaunting MacDonald as the founder of fantasy is misleading and doesn’t explain where fantasy really came from. Today I want to talk about the origin of fantasy in a broader narrative, starting with the oral storytelling traditions of the ancients and ending with Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story.
In a time before accurate guns, hawking and falconry were the best means of catching avian prey besides the odd “lucky bows-shot” or trapping, and falconers put many delicacies on the tables of aristocratic families. But because of the cost of equipment and the vast amounts of time needed to train predatory birds for hunting, hawking was deemed an “upper-class sport”. The female falcon was favored over the male hawk or tiercel because they were larger and fiercer. The kinds of quarry peregrines would catch were partridges, pheasants, cocks, ducks, bustards, geese, herons, snipes, cranes, mallards and larger falcons would even hunt rodents such as hares. Also, smaller predatory birds like the merlin were useful for hunting smaller birds like larks, and the lark tongue was a delicacy among nobles and wealthier townsfolk.
In the later Middle Ages, with the rise of universities and cathedral schools in urban areas across Europe, regulated organizations began to professionalize the trade of the surgeon or barber-surgeon (Siraisi 18). In Venice, there was a College of Physicians by 1316 which focused on a wide range of different medical practices (Siraisi 18). Bloodletting, however, was by far the most common medical practice throughout the Middle Ages, especially as it was less painful than cautery, and since all humors were believed to be in the blood, and since it was believed that by “disordered complexion” these humors could transform into unwanted secondary humors, bloodletting, or phlebotomy, allowed these unwanted humors to be removed from the body before the liver could produce more clean, pure blood (Siraisi 139).
Today, dragons are everywhere. Dragons in the Middle Ages, too, were everywhere, but not on cotton T-shirts, video games and plastic cups from the dollar store. The medieval dragon existed in such things as heraldry, aquamanilia, architecture and folklore. Anyone can tell you what a modern fantasy dragon looks like, but do dragons in our society have the same function as dragons in the Middle Ages? What are the different magical and physical characteristics of dragons throughout history? In order to give these questions justice we’re forced to learn a lot about dragons as they were depicted in medieval Europe—learn how to tame them if you will. Then, we’ll have to remove ourselves from Europe to observe the majestic dragons of the East because it could potentially be argued that the dragons that swam and flew from Chinese, Persian and Turkish cultures did more to influence what we think of when we say “dragon” today than the dragons of ancient Greece and Rome. We’ll conclude by taking a look at a few modern fantasy dragons in popular entertainment and nitpick their differences from the dragons of the past.
For anyone who thinks long enough and doesn’t live in the jungle it’s impossible to deny that we’re moving into a new age. All the categories of time we capitalize today such as the Age of Discovery or the Age of Sail are products of humans not waiting for history to happen to them but of humans getting up out of their seats and making history happen to the world. A year ago I asserted that we’re living in the Second Renaissance, and in a newer post I even went as far as to say that we’ll soon be living in a Second Gothic Revival, for, like how classical Greece and Rome was the “golden age” of the First Renaissance, the Middle Ages is the “golden age” of the Second. Bear with me here.
Castles throughout the Middle Ages went through immense evolution, especially their defensive structures. This is because the defensive capabilities of the castle were its main reason for existing, and the castle needed to keep up with siege-craft technology which was evolving just as rapidly throughout the medieval period. In Late Antiquity, the Romans were masters of building defensive structures within several days while on campaign in Gaul and the British Isles. Such structures included walled barracks for the armies to sleep in and watchtowers known as burgus for defending roads and bridges, precursors to the Scottish pele which encompassed the border ‘twixt Scotland and England during the time of Robert the Bruce.
What I’m about to say may seem mad, but it’s also supposed to be entertaining so enjoy. Bring a bucket of salt with some fresh air in it.
Why is there a growing population of people becoming more interested in “medieval” realism in 2019? Why not stone age realism? My short answer is because the “medieval” is central to the Gothic Revival of the 21st century.
Nationality, culture, history and identity are all concepts in which the “medieval” for many plays a key role in shaping what they truly mean, especially in the West. The Second Gothic Revival is a product of the renaissances of the Modern Era.
In the first week of January 2019 I had the pleasure of asking one of grimdark’s rising new authors a series of questions. This interview was designed to allow us, the audience, to learn more about Jordan’s inspirations and, for people who are new to the genre, more about grimdark as well. I hope you enjoy! Also, Jordan has a website where you can learn even more: https://jordanloyalshort.com/
There’s a good reason why pedantic historians and enthusiastic students never cease to ask the question “why is the swordplay in “medieval” Hollywood movies still based off of 19th-century sports fencing and to-the-minute choreography when we have HEMA (historical European martial arts) and HAMA (historical African martial arts) practitioners and theorists promulgating translated combat treatises from the Middle Ages across the internet for the world to see?”
My brain quakes trying to understand why to this day we still don’t have a Hollywood movie that shows medieval sword fighting accurately. Now without mocking any movie that’s already been produced, let’s discuss what movies in the future will look like…
To examine how Venetian seapower grew to become an effective force in the Mediterranean, an examination of how Venice herself came to exist must be conducted. After understanding how and why the Venetian Arsenal was the leading European shipbuilding center in the Mediterranean by the sixteenth century, as well as how and why Venetian shipwrights and artillerists by the fifteenth century were world leaders in artillery- and naval-innovation, conceptualizing the outcomes of the conflicts that Venice played a role in such as the battle of Lepanto will be possible. By covering key medieval Venetian terms of vocabulary, a better picture of Venetian seapower can be envisaged. A picture of medieval Venetian seapower must be clear in order to determine how it has influenced the Mediterranean in the early modern period. To conclude, a theory attempting to scry what the Mediterranean may have looked like by the twentieth century if the Venetian Arsenal never existed will be presented.
Today the word “breakfast” gets shuttlecocked across American streets like coffee. Ah, there’s nothing like a mug of coffee at 4 A.M. with some jazz music. Coffee’s good with breakfast, too. Hey, wait. Is that why breakfast wasn’t relatively prevalent in the Middle Ages?–because they didn’t have coffee? That’s a deep, sociological question. Today, I just want to answer the question “did people eat breakfast in the Middle Ages?”
Lindybeige is my hero, and to celebrate my love for this great genius I have adventured on a quest across the internet with my ten fingers in search of the best Lindybeige memes–the holy dank of the dank! During my derring-do I have come across many afoul memes, but none of them were as dank as these.
Please know I didn’t create these memes myself. I got them from the Facebook group Lindybeige Shirtposting and have compiled them so more gallant people can enjoy them, people whom may never see them otherwise.
While studying for a research paper about galley warfare I’ve come across a medley of interesting historical naval terms, all of which an author of realistic fantasy might find useful. The source for these terms is Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the Sixteenth Century by John Francis Guilmartin Jr, 1974, Great Britain, Cambridge University Press. Note: I have left out a host of terms for different cannons and seagoing vessels for these will be listed in upcoming posts. Here I define the meaning of: arraez, buenas boyas, presidio, azab, ciurmi, guerre de course, forzati, gente de cualidad, ghazi, scapoli, maryol, sipahi & timar.
Your identity and the outer world are in tandem, tugging on each other to shape the perception you hold of yourself. This means that your identity shifts as you steer your focus and concentration on different aspects of the outer world. Compare an American who collects guns and trucks and plays in the NFL to an American who collects books and swords and plays in Swordfish longsword tournaments; now quickly forgetting titular identities, do you think this difference of interest plays a role in their national and cultural identities? Without knowledge of medieval history, you might wonder how France became France and how Spain became Spain. If you know you’re Italian, you might read the works of the stilnovisti and fetch a sense of campanilismo.
Today, ghost stories are shared around campfires and bedsteads as sources of entertainment and have little to do with religion. In medieval times, however, these tales of ghosts haunting the living, though they may have been entertaining for some, revolved heavily around religious belief. Purgatory, a waiting terminal between Heaven and Hell, was where these ghosts were thought to reside. Therefore, to reveal how purgatory and other religious beliefs played an important role in forming the attitudes of medieval people, we may want to explore and analyze the common elements in these ghost stories further.
Whether it’s fantasy book covers, tabletop gaming or cinematography, to ask artists to be realistic let alone historically accurate would take away the very reason why many of these artists enter such beloved trades in the first place–creativity. Now with that out of the way, I still want to argue that there should be more realistic and historically accurate medieval-esque forms of entertainment in popular media for those of us who do appreciate it. Currently there’s very little of this. Non-medievalists mayn’t be able to spot all the inaccuracies but pedantic ones who do might be more entertained by TV shows that get things right.
It’s rather obvious that the classic fantasy wizard trope isn’t realistic, but YES, if done properly, a wizard can be realistic, especially in a story reflecting the Early Middle Ages, a time also known as the Dark Ages, during and after the steady decline of the Roman Empire. How so?
Welcome to my post about used books Victoria BC. Sometimes we can have a strong habit all our lives and not know it’s there until–BAM!–you look at the big stack of stuff you’ve been collecting all these years and realize … hmmm? … “I have a problem!”
From “deshaché” and “esteté” to “decressant” and “bretesse,” I imagine these heraldic terms from medieval coats of arms would be especially useful to the literary grimdark or litHEMA fantasy writer. Though these heraldic words were originally used by French-speaking nobility across Europe to describe the layout of coats of arms or the garnishes of achievements, it’s easy to recycle them to artistically augment today’s literary fiction. I’ve proven this by adding a fictional example to each definition, and while many of these words were originally used as adverbs, it’s easy to restylize them into adjectives, or, when full liberty’s permitted, even nouns. I believe these words would be especially useful in the grimdark or litHEMA genres, as they have the potential to add realism to medieval fantasy. They’d also be extremely useful in historical fiction, as they’d surely add a literary touch if used carefully in the right places (unlike I’ve done with my humorous examples LOL). Each word’s been patiently gleaned from A New Dictionary of Heraldry (1739).
Everything has a polar opposite–everything!–and so if such things as LitRPG, where common sense and practicality are completely ignored, can reach the market of fantasy books then so will such things as LitHEMA, where common sense and practicality are praised. This is inevitable! In other words if I don’t work towards the fruition of LitHEMA then someone else will, and this new fantasy subgenre will win its place in the market by merit whether the vast majority likes it or not.
LitHEMA takes “realism” and “grittiness” one step beyond Grimdark. Like LitHEMA, much Grimdark may also be called low fantasy, dark fantasy or historical fantasy. There is something special about it that keeps certain readers with certain tastes coming back and back again. But what separates LitHEMA from all these similar genres?
Mega swords, super swords and all other kinds of made-up dragon-slaying swords belong where they rightly exist–in fantasy! But why do they belong there, and not in real life? In Earth’s historical reality, the European one-handed arming sword has become a well-known and predictable symbol. But in popular medieval fantasy, whether it be in video games, books, movies or comics, the European sword has become a target for unpredictable creative reinvention!
Before you hit me with “realism in fantasy only means consistency”, consider that ancient and medieval people knew what they were doing and their armor looks the way it does for very important reasons. Here I will be taking a brief look at a few popular fantasy tropes and compare them to historical reality to show you why much fantasy armor is impractical in real life.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Thank you for that great truth, R. Buckminster Fuller, for that’s exactly what I intend to do with my precious time on this blessed earth!
In my quest to paint a perfect image of medieval times for myself, I, with wide eyes, enter such chansons de geste, or “poems of courage,” as that of The Song of Roland and can’t help myself from identifying a few misconceptions about life in the Middle Ages.
Though they may be filled with fantastical magic and myths, these chansons de geste, taking place in the 9th century, portray a much more realistic picture of medieval times compared to the majority of today’s medieval fantasy fiction. In the epic poems of Charlemagne, you’ll find small groups of courageous knights valiantly defending breaches in their towers with their shields against hordes of javelin-throwing Saracens. Sieges last for months, and knights are careful to arm themselves rightly in real, historical armor. But despite all this awesome realism, authors love to boon their storytelling with another sort of awesomeness–the fantasy trope. Aye, the trope, a cliché or misconception added for entertainment’s sake, is even highly abundant in the French medieval epic poems of Charlemagne!
If a masterpiece of artful and amazing prose on the human experience never reaches the public eye, is never praised by academics, never sells a single copy, is it still literature?
Who decides what is literature and what isn’t? Elitist assholes or literary experts? If you wish to skim through this blog post, I’ve bolded the juicy bits for your convenience. If you wish to read normally, please keep in mind that by “literature” I don’t simply mean “literate material,” but Merriam-Webster’s 3rd definition: “writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest.”
What we need to do to understand literary fantasy is make a line between realistic literary fantasy for adults, like A Game of Thrones, and unrealistic literary fantasy for children and young adults, like The Hobbit or Cinderella, because by doing this we’ll notice there’s a middle ground between these two extremes, and, for a reason I’ll explain, this middle ground isn’t considered literature. Bear with me if you can. This is just theory for the mind, so bring a bucket of salt and we’ll have some fun.
Welcome! Military words like danegeld and scutage have been reserved for an upcoming list about medieval laws and crimes. Similarly words like centenar, turcopole and mameluke, aside from a few favorite titles, have been saved for an upcoming list about medieval titles and peerages. Likewise for your patience words like portcullis, trebuchet, loophole and other obvious terms have been excluded. Also, terms like cri de coeur and coup de grâce which are brilliant for military applications have been reserved for a separate list about English terms that are clearly not English. I should also mention that words like caliver and baselard, not to mention many pieces of armor, have of course been reserved for future lists about ancient, medieval and renaissance arms and armor. Again, seafaring terms, castle terms and HEMA terms have all been for the most part excluded for the aforementioned reason.
Millennials are no longer making the same unethical and environmentally-damaging mistakes made by our predecessors in the Industrial Revolution. Thinkers, noticing this change, like to call our current conditioning “post-modern.” They are right to do so because history is never static. She is contently and constantly on the move. We cannot be modern forever. The word, for me at least, conjures images of World War I and II. But on the other hand, “The Second Renaissance,” when uttered, augurs images of green energy and nations working together.
There are hundreds of wonderful channels on YouTube devoted to history and medieval studies. You’ll see the channels here have earned their followers rightly for your academic pleasure. Even though these channels and many others have been branded together as “The Community of the Sword,” each one is very unique. Some channels provide a more in-depth look at traditional fantasy compared to historical reality by commentating on popular movies. Others ignore modern popular culture and teach HEMA and medieval armor at highly professional levels. For your convenience and mine I’ve simply taken the liberty of giving each one an award.
Like any artform fantasy is susceptible to change. Think of 60s rock-and-roll and compare it to modern rock, 90s cartoons compared to cartoons today. Just like how music is changing due to technology, fantasy is changing due to a flux of information on the internet. The re-discovery of medieval combat treatises is putting a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of everyone who works with medieval themes, especially writers. But as things change the more they stay the same.
It’s common for people to confuse magical realism with fantasy, but what, I ask, after understanding their differences, would they look like combined? Combined, would it simply be medieval historical fiction with some magic thrown in or would we be dealing with a whole new genre? You may find my conclusion very interesting.
First let me briefly describe what I find to be the extreme difference between the two genres.
Magical realism uses magic to bring the reader closer to reality, while fantasy uses the same to help the reader escape from it. Magical realism, in other words, brings us closer to truth. Fantasy, by its design, takes us away from truth. This is exactly why much magical realism is considered literature and why much fantasy is not. Literature, for reasons of academic growth, urges us to think in order to understand the meanings behind things in our own real world. Fantasy, though it may provoke thoughts now and then, wants us to escape from reality for reasons of pleasure.
I chose the title for this paper very carefully. A few months ago I might have said “time to begin the Great Crusade against Misconceptions in the Medieval Fantasy Genre,” but I’ve learned that in order to win this holy war we must not fight against what we hate–lies and misconceptions–but rather save what we love–truth!
When we were children it was easy for us to become enchanted by stories and films that were riddled with unrealistic scenarios and outcomes because stories designed for children and the wider audience are for the most part unrealistic on purpose. After all, fairy tales intentionally contain absolutes and one-dimensional characters because they’re important for the growth of our children’s moralities and identities. And many traditional fantasy novels, inspired by medieval fairy tales, continue this pattern of writing for children and the wider audience. If you’ve chosen the path of a medievalist or simply are passionate about medieval living you probably already know how easy it is to be dissatisfied with most medieval fantasy. There are of course gems like The Traitor Son Cycle and A Song of Ice and Fire which are intentionally inspired by actual history rather than fairy tales and these tend to grab a different audience.
I would not be surprised if this list goes through dozens of editions during my reading career. Right now it’s rather small but I can explain this. Thanks to reading auld literature I have recorded many more medieval and archaic adverbs into my Books of Words, but this here’s just a matter of me finding the time to list them on my blog. Eventually I will find the time to share them all. For now, I hope you find one you’ve never used before.
I could just say ‘keep a dictionary by the toilet’ and end this article there but I actually found a very efficient way for everyone to grow their vocabularies at alarming rates. Get ready to impress your friends! Most people unintentionally grow their vocabulary over many years, kind of like how laborers and lumberjacks unintentionally grow muscle mass. So to intentionally grow your vocabulary is very similar to purposely growing a six pack or losing 300 pounds; it takes hard work and dedication. But with the tips and advice you’ll find below, the journey to tripling or doubling your vocabulary in the next year will not only be easier but more fun as well.
I dream of media that presents historical combat as realistically as possible, especially combat in the Middle Ages. Perhaps soon my dreams will come true. Enjoyment from debunking misconceptions in fantasy is a new but rapidly growing means of entertainment, made possible by the discovery of historical combat treatises and expressive historians like Lindybeige and Matt Easton.
FLAP, FLAP WENT the webbed feet of a mother duck up a muddy, arrow-riddled bogside. The planets and stars of the midnight sky rendered the mud a dark, dark blue, but the bog itself was a pit of silky blackness sucking the starlight away.
Quacking desperately, the mother duck pronked back down the slope in fright as a score of screaming horsemen completed a circuit around the bog. Lost in the black water, a train of yellow ducklings answered her with frantic chirps, kicking through the thickness toward her voice. Looming high above them all was a crooked siege tower filled with anguished men. Like a shipwreck on Hell’s shore, the tower was groaning and creaking, taking volley after volley of arrows and bolts from distant castle walls.
I didn’t know or care what a perfect day was until I unintentionally experienced one. It was a day off. I was 24 years old, and my idea of a perfect day has since changed dramatically, but this is my story nonetheless. Like most days away from my fake job, I rose from bed to do my real job. I made coffee and picked up a book.
I read some of Bernard Cornwell’s Harlequin, specifically the last battle at Crécy. I love how Bernard somehow teaches history through light reading. During lunch, I watched my favorite YouTuber’s daily video. It was coincidentally a historical evaluation of the Battle of Crécy. How strange?
Palfrey – a compliable horse for casual riding, especially by women.
Mule, hinny – the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, usually sterile and used as a beast of burden.
Dray horse, draft horse, cart horse, sled horse – a burly and formidable horse for pulling drays, carts, buggies, sleds, etc.
Rounsey, rouncey – an all-purpose horse, able to be trained for war if needed.
Courser – a swift or spirited horse, in any application.
Destrier – a medieval knight’s horse for battles or tourneys.
Warhorse – a big, mighty horse trained for war, whether it be modern or historical.
Mount, steed – a horse being ridden or is available for riding.
Worn over a skirt of maille, a fauld is a piece of armor that sits under a breastplate, corresponding to a ‘culet’ which sits under the backplate on the other side (although in early medieval times, culets were rarely worn as maille over the arse was deemed ‘good enough’). A fauld consists of steel lames connected by strips of leather, albeit other less popular methods were sometimes used to connect them. The leather strips allow expansion and contraction, which is absolutely necessary because the fauld needs to contract when the wearer mounts a horse. Oftimes, additional ‘tassets’ were hinged to the bottom of faulds to hang over the ‘cuisses’ and provide additional protection for thighs.
In my niche, a popular argument is circulating. Should fantasy be more realistic? One side believes fantasy should take pride in being unrealistic because, after all, it’s fantasy.
The other side thinks fantasy is awesome, but the unrealistic armour, fighting styles and architecture makes it not as good as it could be. They believe more realism can make fantasy more believable, and therefore more entertaining. I’m a gamer as well as a medievalist, so in a way I support both sides of this argument, though anyone who’s chatted with me could tell you I support one side more. For the bulk of this spiel, however, I’ll forget my opinion to explain this popular argument more thoroughly, or at least I’ll try to.
I heard two people on the street going on about this subject. One said he thought games were better because a good book was much harder to put down. The other said at least a good book can end and a good game these days never does, which is why they get people hooked. People get a hooked on books, too. Both are fun.
A friend of mine is often volunteering their time in social programs that aid the poor, so it was daunting when they asked what do I accomplish by writing books. This friend has already made the world a much better place. For example, they’ve built homes in third world countries, donated tons of money to the homeless, helped numerous fundraisers do the same, etc. I may have made that list small but that’s all stuff I’ve never done before. I believe it’s important to leave the world better than how you found it, but this question struck me hard at first because I wondered, “Am I just writing books for myself, or am I making the world a better place, too?”
The plow, the ox, the roof and the fool are real sword stances from medieval treatises and historical manuals (check out the famous Solothurner Fechtbuch) and are still used by HEMA students today. These four sword positions are also similar to the basic stances used by samurai in different periods. There are many, and some would say an unlimited number of stances a swordsman can hold, especially if you do LARP or Hollywood choreography (lmao), but these four guards below are the universal, historical ones, and I believe understanding them can empower any novice sword owner. Now I will briefly explain their uses and applications from an outright amateur’s perspective.
A wench was wandering down a wynd when a pauper begging for pence stopped her to broach of the Bird of Wellimgale. The wench surmised it a tact to finagle her, but when the pauper told how the Bird would grant her any wish if she kissed it, she allowed herself to be waylaid by his words. He explained how the Bird lived on a precipice that jutted from an enormous bluff. Then he confided in whispers about a secret crystal-laden tunnel that wormed through the ground to meet it.