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Stanford researchers find clues to the Baltic Crusades in animal bones, horses and the extinct aurochs

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Source: Stanford University

Marienburg MalborkCastle built by Teutonic knightsThe Teutonic Order’s Marienburg Castle, Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, now Malbork, Poland

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By Melissa Pandika

 

Stanford Assistant Professor Krish Seetah and Reading University student Rose Calis analyze animal bones in the basement of Riga Castle, Latvia. (Photo: Aleks Pluskowski)

Stanford researchers have discovered that pagan villages plundered by medieval knights during the little-known Baltic Crusades had some problems in common with the modern-day global village.

Among them: deforestation, asymmetric warfare and species extinction.

According to a research paper published in Science, a project investigating the Baltic Crusades’ profound environmental legacy could yield valuable insight into colonialism, cultural changes and ecological exploitation – relevant issues not only throughout history, but especially in today’s increasingly globalized society.

The researchers, including professors at Stanford and in Europe, are drawing from disciplines as disparate as history and chemistry to analyze their findings, which they’ve already begun synthesizing into a database of unprecedented depth and scope.

Their study spans the years from the 12th century to the 16th century, when the Teutonic Order, a Germanic brotherhood of Christian knights, waged war against the last indigenous pagan societies in Europe in a region that includes modern-day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and parts of Sweden and Russia.

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SPOILS FROM THE SULTAN (part II): Arms and armour captured from the Turks in 1529-1683, in the Military History Museum of Vienna

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Ottoman horsetail-standards (credit: Erich Lessing archive)
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SPOILS FROM THE SULTAN (part I): Arms and armour captured from the Turks in 1529-1683, in the Military History Museum of Vienna

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The chichak type helmet of the Ottoman Grand Visier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha who as a military commander confronted the army of the Habsburgs in 1566, between the two sieges of Vienna (credit: http://www.tforum.info).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The two sieges of Vienna by the Ottomans in 1529 and 1683 and the intermediate wars between the Ottoman Empire on the one side and the Habsburg dominions and the Poles on the other, had been remarkably decisive conflicts for the History of Europe. In both sieges of Vienna and the subsequent battles, the Ottomans were finally defeated leaving behind many dead, prisoners and valuable arms and armourand other military items, while the victorious European side paid a heavy toll in casualties as well. Today the most important spoils captured from the Turks are exhibited in the Military History Museum of Vienna. In these posts I present some images of Ottoman arms and armour in this exceptional museum.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part II): THE BATTLE OF THE SABIS (57 BC)

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RomanWithout wasting any time, the legionaries of Legio X crossed again the river Sabis to help Caesar’s men against the Nervii. Reenactment of imperial era legionaries by the Polish Historical Association Legio XXI Rapax, photo by Cezary Wyszynski.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Caesar marched with his six oldest legions towards the river Sabis sending first a body of cavalry to find a safe location where he would establish his camp. The newly founded XIII and XIV Legions followed at a distance, protecting the Roman supply convoy.
The Roman cavalry corps had crossed the river Sabis to its right bank along with bodies of light infantry and skirmishers in order to oversee the Belgae. However, the Celts suddenly dashed from the forest, screaming war cries and brandishing their swords. Soon they repelled the terrified Caesarian cavalrymen and crossed the river swimming. When they reached its left bank they began ascending speedily the hillside, heading towards the top of the hill where the Roman soldiers were working on the construction of the camp. Caesar found himself in a very difficult situation since he had to act instantly to rescue his unorganized and unarmed legionaries. He had to give orders to sound the bucinae, to raise the red vexillia calling the legionaries to hurry for battle, to gather his men who were cutting trees, etc., all this ‘in just a moment’ as he characteristically writes in his memoirs.
Fortunately for the Romans, Caesar had ordered his officers not to leave their soldiers until the construction was completed; thereby they were able to quickly gather their legionaries. The Romans were additionally helped by the high level of their military training and discipline. When the more isolated legionaries realized the danger of the stormy attack of the Belgians, acted with characteristic collectedness. They did not search for their units; on the contrary they grabbed their arms and armour and ran to the nearest Roman vexillium (war standard) that was lifted up. Thus in an incredibly short time, a battle line was formed. It was a typical manifestation of the robust organization and discipline of the Roman army, one of the many features that made it an unconquerable (invictus) killing  machine.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part I): Preparations and primary Operations of Caesar’s First war on the Belgae

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Romans

Reenactment of Roman legionaries at English Heritage Festival in 2011 (photo by Lichfield Lore). The picture could very well represent legionaries ready for combat in the dense forest of Belgica, but the problem is that the depicted legionaries are of the Imperial era.
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By Periklis Deligiannis

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In 58 BC the campaign of Julius Caesar for the subjugation of Gaul was going on. That year he overwhelmingly defeated the Germanic Suebi (Swebi) who also intended to conquer Gaul under their king Ariovistus. In the next year, the Roman general turned against the threatening Belgae. Many Gauls felt relieved by the destruction of the Suebi who had been threatening their homeland. Others understood that Caesar intended to turn their country into a Roman province.
The Belgae were a large conglomerate of Celtisized peoples mainly of the Northwestern pre-Celtic ethno-linguistic group (pre-Teutonic Germani) as it seems, whom the Germans had expelled from their cradle (in the east of the Rhine), thereby they settled in northeastern Gaul, mostly between the rivers Seine, Marne and the Rhine. However the Belgae included some Celtic proper and Germanic tribes and clans.
After their settlement in Gaul they had almost completely adopted La Tene culture (typical Celtic). Caesar in his ‘De Bello Gallico’ describes them as the most warlike and brave among the Gauls. The Belgians were additionally strengthened due to their long wars against the Germans. The majority of them were fanatically anti-Roman and their leaders and nobles supposedly kept their morals intact without succumbing to the Roman bribe attempts. The Belgae tribes were united in a tribal confederation on the basis of their common origins and culture.
The Belgae realized that Caesar would campaign against them and thus their leaders started to exchange hostages in order to further strengthen the bonds of their union.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part III)

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Side view detail of the helmet found at Vendel , grave I, 7th century.

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A reproduction of the Vendel helmet of the burial XIV (see below) and a Vendel sword and shield by the historical association Wulfheodenas (I suppose).
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By Periklis Deligiannis

MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

The numerous tribes of the Vendel age gradually began to join in larger tribal unions or confederations, usually by force, while most Jutes, Angles and Northern Saxons of modern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein had already migrated to Britain at the beginning of this period (starting at the early 5th century AD, of the pre-Vendel era). The Svear and the peoples of Scandinavia possibly related to the continental Goths – that is to say the Heruli (Heruls) and the Gotar (Gott Gutar and/or Geats) and their branches of modern Gotaland and the Oland & Gotland Islands (in modern southern Sweden) – went on living side by side during the Vendel period (550-793 AD) and the Viking age (793– early 11th century AD). Finally after several confrontations, around the 12th century they joined in a single kingdom, after all not being significantly different in language, origins and culture. Thereby they were both assimilated in the Swedish nation.

In the Viking age, the Danes seem to have absorbed the Fervir, the Bergio, the Jutes and the part of the Heruli tribe that used to live in part of the Sjaelland Isle. It also seems that the total tribe of the Angles had already migrated to Britain, leaving their almost vacant homeland to the Dane newcomers.
Concerning again the Vendel-type helmets, sometimes they are referred as ‘Viking helmets’. In fact, they were mostly helmets of the early Leidang armies, i.e. Nordic armies that were operating inside the Scandinavian homeland. But several post-Vendel types and some Vendel proper helmets survived up to the Viking age (some of them perhaps as family heritage or heirloom) being used by Viking combatants, i.e. warriors of raiding groups or armies that were operating overseas, mostly away from Scandinavia. On the other hand, the Vendel types did spread out of Scandinavia, mainly in Britain and the South Frisian lands (the coasts of modern NW Germany and the Netherlands) by the Anglo-Saxon invaders and through military and commercial interaction with the southern Frisians who were sharing many common cultural elements with the Nordic peoples (some historians – including the author of this article – consider them as almost Nordics).
In the 20th century some researchers used to believe that there is a connection of the place name ‘Vendel’ with the Vandals, the East Germanic tribe who finally conquered Roman Africa and sacked Rome itself, but nowadays this theory doesn’t seem to have many followers.

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TO BE A FRANK: ON THE ETHNIC EVOLUTION OF THE EARLY FRANKS, ESPECIALLY OF MODERN NETHERLANDS and BELGIUM

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A reconstruction of a sword, its scabbard and warrior’s belt of a Merovingian nobleman. Note the common Nordic elements with the cultures of Anglo-Saxon Britain and early Vendel Scandinavia.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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Wikipedia Commons is the source of all the maps in this article.
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The early Franks were not a single tribe but a tribal union (or ‘loose’ federation or confederation) of smaller Germanic tribes emerging in the beginning of the 3rd century AD in the regions north and east of the Rhine. The first members of the Frankish confederation included the Sugambri (or Sicambri), Chamavi, Salii, Chattuarii (Chasuarii), Tubantes (Tuihantii), Ampsivarii, and probably the Bructeri. In the 20th century historiography the Salii (Salians) were believed to have been originally a confederation of Frankish tribes living near the sea (this is the meaning of ‘Salian’), mostly in modern Netherlands. This was definitely the case for the later Salii, being one of the two lesser tribal unions within the greater Frankish union. The other one was the Ripuarii (Ripuarian) Franks, meaning the tribes living by the river, i.e. the Rhine, in the Frankish hinterland, mostly in modern Germany. But the earlier Salii were rather not a confederation but a compact tribe which became the core people for the formation of the Salian Frankish confederation. Their cradle was possibly the region of Salland or Salaland in modern Eastern Netherlands.

HamalandSalland

Hamaland (map on the left) and Salland (on the right) in modern Netherlands were the cradles of two founding members of the Frankish federation, the Chamavi and the Salii  respectively. Betuwe in the map on the left, was the northern region of the land of the Batavi  tribe, another member of the Frankish federation, added to it later. It seems that the Batavi of Betuwe were already incorporated to the Chamavi when the federation was founded, while the rest of the tribe were a part of the Roman province Germania Inferior, south of the Rhine (see map below). In the 4th century, these ‘Roman’ Batavi (renowned auxiliaries of Rome) too were incorporated to the Frankish confederation.

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GERMANICS AND GERMANI (PRE-TEUTONIC): A ROMAN MISUNDERSTANDING?

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GermanenAD50
The Germanic tribes around AD 50. The tribes of the North Sea, the Rhine-Weser area and the Elbe had probably a strong pre-Teutonic (‘Germani’?) ethnic component.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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[NOTE: This article is actually a part of my published  book  The Celts, Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek.]
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…. Apart from the most considerable Boii and Volcae peoples, other important Celtic tribes of central Europe were the Helvettii who originally were dwelling  in the valley of the river Main (modern Germany) before migrating to modern Switzerland, the Vendelici, the Norici, the Ambisontes, the Arabisci and others.
Of course, the Celts were not the only inhabitants of central Europe. In the 20th century, the study of place names and some archaeological data identified a large ethno-cultral group (and possibly linguistic) in the areas of modern Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and northern Germany, between the rivers Somme and Aller, which group did not speak neither Germanic nor Celtic (Gallic). These people possibly descended from the early Neolithic population of the region and they broadly adopted the Gallic culture but not the Celtic language (at least most of them). The people of the Lusatian culture in modern eastern Germany and Poland which was destroyed mainly by Scythian invaders (6th century BC), and the pre-Germanic inhabitants of Thuringia, northern Bohemia and other regions were possibly members of the same unknown ethnic group or groups. It was an unknown people (perhaps pre-Indo-European) who lived in a broad zone between the Celts and the Teutonics (Germanics) and most probably belonged to more than one linguistic group.

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TWILIGHT OF THE VIKING LONGSHIP

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oseberg viking ship

 hansa cog

Τop: The famous Oseberg Viking ship.
Below: A German cog. These  ships
– real floating  fortresses – were the  Nemesis of the Viking longships. Note the high towers on the prow and stern, heavily manned with archers. The marines used to take posistions on the deck of the ship.
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by  P.  Deligiannis

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The Proto-Scandinavian boats, the progenitors of the Viking longships, first appear in cave paintings of Norway around 1500 BC. Millennia of evolution led to the superb Viking longships. Around 600-700 AD these progenitor ships were exclusively oared light, flexible and fragile structures that could not withstand the weight and pressure of the mast and sail. Soon afterwards the Scandinavian shipbuilders imitated the ships of the Mediterranean, adding a long beam (the keel) along the bottom of the ship. The keel made ​​them strong enough to hold the mast and sail. The addition of the keel around AD 700 marked the beginnings of the classic Viking ship and since then it was no longer propelled only by oars. The Scandinavians soon adopted the square sail of the Mediterranean, which allowed them to sail in the seas far away from their homeland.

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ON THE PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE ANCIENT CELTS

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pergamon__dying_gaul

GaulThe  two  more  renowned  sculptures  of  the  Pergamene  School  on  the  Gauls/Galatians:  the  ‘Dying  Gaul’  and  the  ‘Gaul  who  commits  suicide  after  having  killed  his  wife’.

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

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  I have to refer to an old theory on the Celtic physical anthropology, which even today has a great number of supporters although it is based mainly on a misunderstanding interpretation of the representation – especially of the physical type – of the Galatian warriors by the ‘Pergamene sculpture School’, of the reports of the ancient Greek and Latin authors on the Celts and of other secondary data. This theory is influenced by the ‘Teutonic School’ of physical anthropology in the 19th-early 20th centuries (the archaeologist Gustav von Kossinna and the anthropologist Hans Gunther being its last main representatives), which had a kind of obsession on discovering Nordic warrior nobilities as ruling elites on almost all the ancient European peoples, including the Mediterranean peoples, and also on the Iranians, the Indians, the Egyptians and others. According to the theories of that School, the Nordic noble warriors were the real creators of the Celtic, the Roman, the Greek, the Indian and other ancient civilizations.

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ENGINEERING PATIENTLY A GLOBAL EMPIRE: The HAPSBURG EXPANSION-PART II

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 Lepanto 1571

The  Battle  of  Lepanto  (1571)  was  a  great  naval  victory  of  the  Habsburgs  against  the  Ottoman  Turks.

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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Eventually  Joanna  (Juana)  was  left  the  only  heir  to  the  Spanish  throne,  and  she  and  Philip  became  the  essential  rulers  of  the  Spanish  Empire  after  the  death  of  Isabella  in  1504  (her  father,  Ferdinand  of  Aragon,  had  no  formal  rights  to  the  throne  of  Castile,  i.e.  the  bigger  kingdom).  Their  son,  Charles  of  Habsburg,  the  future  Charles  V,  was  meant  to  hold  the  greatest  inheritance  of  thrones  and  territories  in  Europe  and  overseas.  In  1506  Philip  the  Handsome  died,  and  in  1507  Joanna  was  found  unable  to  rule  due  to  mental  illness  and  was  removed  from  the  throne.  Her  father,  Ferdinand,  ruled  Castile  and  Aragon  as  a  regent  until  his  grandson  Charles  come  of  age.  The  two  federated  Iberian  kingdoms  remained  officially  segregated  until  Charles  later  joined  and  assimilated  them  into  the  Kingdom  of  Spain  (1516).  Thus  the  Habsburgs  absorbed  the  Castilian  dynasty  of  Trastamara  (both  Ferdinand  and  Isabella  were  Castilians)  as  it  had  happened  with  the  Burgundian  dynasty.

 Harquebusiers

A  fine  representation  of  Hapsburg  Spanish  harquebusiers  of  the  1st  half  of  the  17th  cent. (copyright:  Adrian G Vzon)

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