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New research on Alfred the Great

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Republished from The Conversation

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Aerial view of the Burghal Hidage site of Wallingford with the Thames in partial flood. Outline of the Saxon ramparts and ‘Alfredian’ streetplan is clear. Image courtesy of the Environmental Agency, Author provided

By Stuart Brookes

Senior Research Associate in Archaeology, UCL

The Last Kingdom – BBC’s historical drama set in the time of Alfred the Great’s war with the Vikings – has returned to our screens for a second series. While most attention will continue to focus on the fictional hero Uhtred, his story is played out against a political background where the main protagonist is the brooding and bookish mastermind Alfred the Great, vividly portrayed in the series by David Dawson.

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Contributions to Slingshot, Journal on ancient and medieval warfare

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[Slingshot 308, September-October 2016]

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Some time now I’m contributing to Slingshot, the research Journal of the Society of Ancients (published since 1964), specialized in ancient and medieval warfare, tactics and wargaming.

Many thanks for this to Paul Innes and Nick Harbud.

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Periklis Deligiannis

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The Medieval Somme: forgotten battle that was the bloodiest fought on British soil

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[Note by P. Deligiannis:  I apologize for the somewhat “mass” republishing of articles but lately I somewhat neglected my blog. I’ll try  to make amends for it]

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Republication from the Conversation

Richard Caton Woodville’s The Battle of Towton.
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Professor of Medieval History, University of Exeter

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A Battle of the Somme on British soil? It happened on Palm Sunday, 1461: a day of fierce fighting in the mud that felled a generation, leaving a longer litany of the dead than any other engagement in the islands’ history – reputed in some contemporary reports to be between 19,000 – the same number killed or missing in France on July 1 1916 – and a staggering 38,000.

The battle of Towton, fought near a tiny village standing on the old road between Leeds and York, on the brink of the North York Moors, is far less known than many other medieval clashes such as Hastings or Bosworth. Many will never have heard of it.

 

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Warhorses

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Republication from Archaeology.org

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Horses Bayeux Tapestry

(Bridgeman-Giraudon/Art Resource, New York)

Bayeux Tapestry, France, 11th c. A.D.

By the mid-second millennium B.C., the use of horses in warfare had become common throughout the Near East and Egypt. This development was made possible by advances both in the design of chariots, in particular the invention of the spoked wheel, which replaced the solid wooden wheel and reduced a chariot’s weight, and the introduction of all-metal bits, which gave chariot drivers more control over their horses. Though chariot warfare was expensive, and its effectiveness was determined by the durability of the chariots and suitability of the terrain, the vehicles became essential battlefield equipment.

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Beginnings of the Viking peoples: The Scandinavian peoples and tribes from the Vendel Period to the Viking Age

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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Dragonhead on the prow of a Viking longship.

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The historical districts of Scandinavia. The following probable tribal districts are noted among others:  Uppland (political center of the Svears) including Vendel site, Ostergotland, Vastergotland, Smaland (small territories of other Gott/Gotar tribes), Gotland Isle (land of the Vagoth or Gutar), Oland isle (land of the Vagoth?), Hordaland (land of the Aerothi?), Ringerike (land of the Ragnaricii), Rogaland (land of the Rugii), Vestfold and Viken (main lands of the Raumarike/Raumaricii), Bohuslan (land of the Wulfings?), Halland (land of the Hallin), Blekinge (land of the Bergio?), Skane and Sjaelland (core territories of the Danes), Angel (cradle of the Angles), Jylland (land of the Jutes), Rugen island (probably colonised by the Rugii),  Nordfrisien (North Frisia).

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The Vendel Culture period of the history of eastern and southern Scandinavia (including Jutland and the Danish isles) is the era before the classic Viking Age. The Viking Age lasted from AD 793 to the early 11th century, while the Vendel Era lasted from the mid-6th century AD to the end of the 8th century and is characterized by princely burials of warlords and warriors with impressive weapons. The later historical period and the homonym cultural conglomerate (Vendel Culture) took their name from the site Vendel at the historical district Uppland in eastern Sweden, north of Old Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Svear kings. The most characteristic cemeteries were found there. It seems that Uppland – where later the important cities of the Viking age Uppsala and Sigtuna were developed – was very important politically during the Vendel period. The area was rather the political center of the tribe of the Svears (Latin: Suiri and Suirones and according to Jordanes: Suehans, Nordic: Svear, Anglo-Saxon: Sweonas, modern Swedes) who expanded to it earlier coming from Svealand, their core territory in the south. Uppland means the upper land, the land in the north.

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Crusader Military engineering: The Templar Fortress of Tartous

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Republication  from Militaryarchitecture.com

6546549Plan of Tartous citadel and fortified city.

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Although largely famous today for its role as a Templar fortress during the time of the Crusades, the site had been equally renowned in antiquity for its strategic and military importance. Tartous was originally founded by the Phoenicians to complement the more secure but the less accessible settlement on the island of Arwad. For a long time it served a secondary role to Arwad, itself a major centre in Seleucid and Roman times. As a matter fact its classical name of Ataradus (meaning ‘anti-Aradus’ or ‘the town facing Aradus’ or Arwad) reflected this secondary role.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE FIGHTING TACTICS AGAINST MUSLIM ARMIES

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Byzantine armor(Dumbarton  oaks)

Eastern Roman/Byzantine  armour (Dumbarton Oaks – cuirasses made by  the  armourer  Dimitris  Katsikis)

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  military  action  of  the  Arabs,  Iranians  and  other  early  Muslims  against  the  Middle  Byzantine  Empire,  was  characterized  mainly  by  rapid  raids  in  Asia Minor,  which  were  carried  out  in  some  cases  by  numerous  troops.  The  scope  of  the  invaders  was  widespread,  reaching  sometimes  Propontis  (Sea of Marmara).  The  Muslim  attacks  were  ranging  from  simple  raids  of  several  hundred  fighters,  to  massive  invasions  of  tens  of  thousands.  However,  most  attacks  were  aimed  at  looting.  The  reported  large  numbers  (in  some  cases)  of  the  invaders,  their  increased  speed  while  advancing  and  their  large  radius  of  action,  although  these  strategic  elements  seem  incompatible  from  the  strategic  point  of  view,  they  were  consistent  without  problems  in  the  case  of  the  Muslims.  This  was  due  to  their  mostly  light  military  equipment,  to  the  presence  of  a  large  percentage  of  cavalry  among  them  (usually  the  majority  of  their  armies  in  this  period)  and  to  the  use  of  numerous  camels  and  horses.

The  camels  carried  supplies  and  people,  and  were  particularly  useful  in  long  campaigns.  The  Arab  horsemen  were  riding  them  in  the  process  of  a  campaign,  in  order  not  to  tire  the  horses.  They  rode  the  horses  almost  only  in  battles.  They  also  used  to  bring  together  large  numbers  of  horses,  in  order  to  change  them  and  thus  the  animals  would  be  rested.  The  camels  had  infinite  resistance  to  hunger  and  thirst  on  long  marches.  They  could  traverse  long  distances  without  stopping  frequently  to  rest  and  eat,  thus  providing  a  significant  strategic  advantage  to  the  Muslim  troops.

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New research on the causes of the Viking Age

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University of York

Vikings

The Viking hit-and-run raids on monastic communities such as Lindisfarne and Iona were the most infamous result of burgeoning Scandinavian maritime prowess in the closing years of the Eighth Century.

These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles.  But Dr Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity.

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TIMUR (TAMERLANE) (part IΙ)

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Turcoman-Iran mail and plate armor1450

Turcoman-Iranian mail and plate armor of rider and horse of the Timurid Era (Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I
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In 1386, Timur invaded the area of Luristan (in western Iran) and then defeated and expelled the Jalayrids from Tabriz, most important city of Azerbaijan. Immediately after that, his army stormed Tiflis (Tbilisi), the capital of Georgia which was also annexed to his realm, thus preventing Tokhtamysh’s expansion in southern Caucasia. In 1387 the latter reacted by invading Azerbaijan, but he was defeated by Miranshah, son of Timur who had sent him to repel the invasion.

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TIMUR (TAMERLANE) (part I)

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TimurTimur’s facial reconstruction from his skull, by Soviet anthropologists.
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By Periklis Deligiannis

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Timur, wrongly quoted in Western literature as “Tamerlane” or “Tamburlaine”, was born around 1336 in Kesh, near Samarkand in Transoxiana (corresponding roughly to modern Uzbekistan). The name “Tamerlane” comes from the Greek-Latin version of Timur’s Persian address as “Timur Lenk’, meaning “Timur the lame”. Timur was a member of the Mongol Barlas tribe (or Barulas) which had been Turkified after settling in Transoxiana in the 13th century AD, following Chagatai (the son of Genghis Khan) in Central Asia. The Barlas with their headquarters at Kesh, had always been allied to Chagatai and his Chagataid successors. During the distribution of the sub-khanates of the Mongol Empire (the Great Khanate) among the Genghisids, namely the descendants of Genghis Khan, Chagatai became the Khagan (Khan) of the Mongol Khanate in Central Asia. The Khanate of Chagatai soon became a Moslem state. Its rulers and their Turco-Mongol followers and fighting men (and ancestors of Timur) embraced Islam in order to tie in religion with the populace of their khanate.

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The last Viking and his magical sword?

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Republication from Heritage Daily and University of Oslo

A deadly weapon and symbol of power – jewellery for a man, with magical properties. The sword gave power to the warrior, but the warrior’s strength could also be transferred to the sword. That is how they were bound together: man and weapon, warrior and sword.

This sword was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold, inscriptions and other ornamentation. The discovery of the sword has not been published until now, when it is being displayed for the first time in the exhibition TAKE IT PERSONALLY at the Historical Museum in Oslo.

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man in the late Viking Age. But who was he and what magic inscriptions are set into the decoration – in gold? Was the owner of the sword in the Danish King Canute’s army when it attacked England in 1014-15?

In the summer of 2011, archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo discovered a Viking burial ground in Langeid in Setesdal in southern Norway. In one of the graves they made a startling discovery.

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