Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘rulership’


“…I’m your Transporteer. Do you know what that means?”

“…No. Will you tell me?”

Tirian nodded gravely. “Of course, zan Vrenn. My duty is to keep you safe while you are aboard any vehicle. If you travel by particle transporter, I will set the controls, that you may be properly reassembled. It may also become my duty to inform you of desirable or undesirable actions while in transit; as my master, you must decide how to act upon this information. Is this explanation sufficient?”

…It was more than sufficient. A Captain lent his life to the one he trusted as transporter operator, each time he used the machine: the one chosen must be of special quality. It was reasonable that an Admiral should have a special officer for the purpose—and a kuve one, who could have no ambition.

John M. Ford, The Final Reflection, chapter 2

Japanese Clans as Primary Social Unit

In structure, each [Japanese] clan consisted of a central, dominating house or family, which gave the clan its name, and various affiliated units known as tomo or be. Other categories of subjects also appear, confusedly, in the records, between those two classes of clansmen and the serfs or slaves known as jakko at the very bottom of the ladder (who bore no family name). All were subject to the power of a headman (uji-no-osa), who was the absolute and undisputed leader and master of the clan….

The clan, as a primary social unit, had achieved self-sufficiency through the cultivation of its own rice paddies and the production of its own artifacts, textiles, agricultural instruments, and, naturally, weapons. From the very beginning, the history of these clans was not one of peaceful coexistence. The archaic weapons found in the mounds and dolmens of the period from 250 [B.C.E.] to 560 [C.E.] indicate that, as was true during every other national age of formation, warfare was the predominant condition….

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 39-40

Kings Glorify State Gods by Conquering

The Assyrian king, like other Mesopotamian kings, was expected to glorify the god of the Assyrians—Ashur—by conquering for him as much territory as he could and by bringing back to his temple (and his kingdom) as much loot as he could. In the 300 years of the ninth, eighth, and seventh centuries [B.C.E.], the Assyrian kings could pride themselves on how much they had pleased Ashur—they were the supreme power of the Near East.

Alfred S. Bradford, With Arrow, Sword, and Spear, p. 41

Kings Depended Upon Their Queens

The [ancient Egyptian] kings had to take their army out every year to punish those who had rebelled and to intimidate those who had not. They trained their heirs to shoot the bow and work the chariot, to become the foremost warrior of Egypt, to command the army, and the professional officer corps. During campaigning season the kings were absent from Egypt and they depended upon their queens (who had the authority to rule but who could not supplant the king) to supervise the vizier and break him if he appeared to be a threat to the king. This system worked as long as the king was strong enough to check the power of vizier, queen, and priest.

Alfred S. Bradford, With Arrow, Sword, and Spear, p. 23

To Argue With Your King

…There was desperation in the man’s face. Terror. And something else Sargon had had no hope of, which drove a common man to put a shoulder between his king and a door and argue with him….

C. J. Cherryh, Legions of Hell, Chapter 11

Less a State Than an Estate

Agamemnon’s kingdom was typical of its times; it was less a state than an estate, that is, it was essentially a big household. The royal palace had grand staterooms but most of its space was devoted to workshops, storerooms, and armories. It was a manor that produced luxury goods for the wanax [an ancient word for king used by Homer] to trade or give as gifts. Raw materials for the workshops were siphoned off the king’s subjects as taxation.

More important, from the military point of view, the palace produced bronze breastplates and arrowheads, manufactured and maintained chariots, and stabled horses. The wanax controlled a corps of charioteers and bowmen and possibly one of infantrymen, too. In any case, as powerful as he was, the wanax probably had no monopoly on the kingdom’s military force.

The royal writ was strongest on the king’s landholdings, concentrated around the palace. The rest of the territory was run by local big men or basileis, each no doubt with his own armed followers. The wanax could muster an army and navy out of his own men, but for a really big campaign he would need the support of the basileis. In short, the wanax was only as strong as his ability to dominate the basileis, be it by persuasion or force.

Barry Strauss, The Trojan War, pp. 32-33

Hunting Served Several Social Functions

Hunting animals was the absolute passion of the medieval upper class, and the only activity recognized as a real recreation. It served several social functions. It confirmed power, wealth, status, and prestige as the king or aristocrat went out with his retainers, horses, dogs, and, sometimes, trained falcons. It brought men of similar social background together and was good training for medieval warfare, keeping men and horses fit. It developed strategic thinking as the men hunted elusive and often dangerous quarries, such as wild boar, bears, wolves, and red deer. Late summer and, especially, autumn were the usual times for hunting, which was often dangerous. Accidents were common, especially among immature, testosterone-driven, risk-taking young men. The Annals of Saint-Bertin reports that in 864 [C.E.] the sixteen-year-old Charles of Aquitaine, the son of King (later Emperor) Charles the Bald

whom his father had recently received from Aquitaine and taken with him to Compiegne, was returning one night from hunting in the forest of Guise [nowadays Cuise-la-Motte near Compiegne]. While he meant only to enjoy some horseplay with some other young men of his own age, by the devil’s action he was struck in the head with a sword by a youth called Albuin. The blow penetrated almost as far as the brain, reaching from his left temple to his right cheekbone and jaw…. He suffered from epileptic fits for a long time, and then on 29 September [866] he died.

Hunting accidents were also convenient ways of eliminating rivals and were sometimes used as plausible covers for assassinations.

Paul Collins, The Birth of the West, pp. 19-20

Medieval People Were Particularly Vulnerable to Weather

Medieval people were particularly vulnerable to weather. They depended on a subsistence economy, had limited storage facilities, and lacked the infrastructure to move food staples around quickly. Severe, destructive weather events could mean the difference between eating and starving, and severe winters, such as those of 873-874 or 939-940 [C.E.], caused high mortality among both humans and animals and resulted in widespread famine.

Paul Collins, The Birth of the West, p. 14

In Personal Terms Rather Than in Abstractions

The Bronze Age was an era that preferred to put things in personal terms rather than in abstractions. Instead of justice, security, or any of the other issues that would be part of a war debate today, the Bronze Age tended to speak of family and friendship, crime and punishment. Near Eastern kings proclaim in their inscriptions that they fought to take vengeance on their enemies and on rebels; they fought those who boasted or who transgressed their path or who violated the king’s boundaries or raised their bows against royal allies; they fought to widen their borders and bring gifts to their loyal friends. A Hittite king says that his enemies attacked him when he came to the throne because they judged him young and weak—their mistake! Allies are royal vassals, obliged to have the same friends and enemies as the king.

Barry Strauss, The Trojan War: A New History, pp. 17-18

Nobles Had Little To Do With Their Children

Indeed the medieval magnates had surprisingly little to do with their children. Almost immediately after birth, they were handed over to the care of a nurse whose duties, as described by Bartholomew the Englishman, included not only the physical care of the child, but also the display of affection which is now considered essentially maternal. According to Bartholomew the nurse’s duties were very extensive. She was ordained to nourish and feed the child, to give it suck, to kiss it if it fell, and comfort it if it wept, and to wash it when it was dirty. The nurse was also to teach the child to speak by sounding out the words for him, to dose him with medicines when necessary, and even to chew the toothless child’s meat so that he could swallow it. The mother must have been a rather remote figure. Discipline was always considered the father’s primary duty. Bartholomew specifically insisted that the father must treat his child with harshness and severity. He should teach him with scoldings and beatings, put him under wardens and tutors, and, above all, show "no glad cheer lest the child wax proud". The old adage of "spare the rod and spoil the child" was firmly entrenched in all medieval treatises on the proper upbringing of children.

Margaret Wade Labarge, A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, pp. 45-46

Money in Medieval England and France

Like everything else about the Middle Ages, styles of money varied from place to place, and understanding the relationship between denominations can therefore be confusing. In fact, in the thirteenth century [C.E.], there was only one type of coin in existence: a small, silver piece known in England as a penny and in France as a denier. In England, twelve pennies equaled a shilling (although there were no shillings minted, you simply counted out twelve pennies into someone’s hand); in France twelve deniers equaled a sous (although, likewise, there were no sous in existence). There were, in England, 20 shillings or 240 pennies to a pound sterling; in France there were 20 sous or 240 deniers to a livre. Once again, there was no actual coin struck representing a pound or a livre; to payoff the debt of a pound the debtor handed the creditor a sack containing 240 pennies; in France, to pay off the debt of a livre, the sack would contain 240 deniers. In England, just to make the concept as complicated as possible, they also measured silver by a weight measure called the mark. A mark was two-thirds the weight of a pound sterling, so a mark of silver was the same as 160 pennies. But if the debt was in marks, you didn’t have to supply pennies, a person could use any silver he or she happened to have lying around the house, like a silver plate, just so long as it weighed the right number of marks. When [King Henry III of England] and [Queen] Eleanor promised to pay the pope 135,541 marks to fund [their son] Edmund‘s campaign for the kingship of Sicily, they were promising to pay approximately £90,812, or nearly three years’ income, some of which, presumably, could have come in the form of the royal dining service.…

Just like today, French money and English money differed sufficiently so as to require a rate of exchange. In France, the quality and fineness of a denier (and therefore of a livre composed of those deniers) varied so much that the coins were labeled by location, which is why some of the French sums mentioned in [this book] were specified as livres toumois (minted in Tours, of high quality) and others as livres parisis (minted in Paris, of much lower quality).… The exchange rate in 1265 [C.E.] between livres parisis and the pound sterling was 90 sous (or 1,080 deniers) to the pound. To make it easier, there were 4½ livres parisis to a pound sterling, and 3 livres parisis to a mark. The annual French royal income of 250,000 livres (most likely livres parisis) was therefore the equivalent of about £55,556, a much larger sum than was available to their English counterparts. Henry and Eleanor only had an average annual income of about £36,000.

Anyone who wants to go deeper into this subject should definitely read Peter Spufford’s authoritative and comprehensive work, Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1988), and its complement, The Handbook of Medieval Exchange.

Nancy Goldstone, Four Queens, pp. 309-10

Emphasis mine.

War As a Lawsuit Before the Gods

The Bronze Age generally thought of war as a divine drama of law enforcement: war punished criminals who had offended the gods. The Hittites gave this conception a twist and imagined war as a lawsuit before the gods, who would favor one of the plaintiffs with victory. To the Greeks, Paris [of Troy] had twice violated the gods’ laws, first by committing adultery and second by abusing his host’s generosity. Menelaus’s fellow rulers had a clear responsibility to avenge the gods by going to war against Troy unless Helen and the treasures were returned. Anything less would expose themselves to divine punishment.

Barry Strauss, The Trojan War, p. 27

Heroic Code Says the Younger Generation Is Inferior

In the Iliad‘s heroic world, the attribute of being superior to one’s father is very dangerous, associated above all with usurpation. Zeus, the king of gods, came to power by overthrowing his father, Kronos—as Kronos had overthrown his father before him. Among gods, a son greater in strength than his father, then, can, and usually does, overturn the cosmic order.

Among men, a central tenet of the heroic code is that the younger generation is inferior to the elder, or to the generation of its fathers. Old Nestor’s authority among the Achaeans rests exclusively upon the fact, which he never tires of proclaiming, that he belongs to the age of heroes of old: “‘I fought single-handed, yet against such men no one of the mortals now alive upon earth could do battle.'” In heroic society, a hero is cajoled, bullied, or persuaded into line by being reminded of the illustrious deeds his father committed. Deference to the tenet that the fathers of old are greater than the heroes of today is part of the moral cement that holds heroic society together.

Caroline Alexander, The War That Killed Achilles, p. 27

Emphasis mine.

Medieval English Currency

In the fifteenth century [C.E.], [the English] one pound sterling (£1) was divided not just into twenty shillings (20s), or two hundred and forty pence (240d), but also into six parts: one sixth (3s 4d) was known as a crown, a third (6s 8d) as a noble and two thirds (13s 4d) as a mark. To give the reader a rough idea of the current values of these sums, I have used figures supplied by the Office for National Statistics, which equate £1 in 1415 with £414 ($666.54) in 1999.

Juliet Barker, Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England, p. xv

Codex Books Supplant Scrolls

In the century before the fall of Rome, the unwieldy 12-foot-long papyrus scrolls of Alexandria had started to cede room on the shelves to a new form of document: the codex book, so named because it originated from attempts to “codify” the Roman law in a format that supported easier information retrieval. The new format boasted a more navigable interface, featuring leafed pages bound between durable hard covers. Not only was the new format more resilient than the carefully wound scrolls that preceded it, it facilitated a new way of engaging with the text. Scrolls, by their physical nature, demanded linear reading from start to finish. They required a commitment on the part of the reader and resisted attempts to extract individual nuggets of information. But with a codex book, readers could now flip between pages easily to pinpoint any passage in a text. As Hobart and Schiffman write, “The codex had the potential to transform the manuscript from a cumbersome mnemonic aid to a readily accessible information storehouse.”

The new technology of the book ushered in a whole new way of reading: random access. A document no longer had to be read from top to bottom; its pages could be flipped, allowing the reader to move around at will. By letting users move freely from page to page, the new book allowed readers to form their own networks of association within a particular text. Scrolls, on the other hand, encouraged linear reading. The book also had one more considerable advantage over the old scrolls: portability. While collections of papyrus scrolls and codex books coexisted in late Roman libraries, the destruction of the empire saw most of the great old library collections burned, plundered, or scattered. The codex book format proved hardier and more portable than the old scrolls; as a result, many scrolls failed to survive the fall of the Roman empire, and a great deal of the literature that lived on did so between the covers of bound books.

Alex Wright, Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages, p. 79

Emphasis mine.

Libraries as Vessels of Political Power

The earliest libraries were first and foremost vessels of political power, consolidating the accumulated intellectual capital of the early nation-states and providing a durable link with the past by invoking religious authority and asserting a relationship to the gods. The gods, by extension, protected the library, and the genealogical relationships of the gods, echoing old folk taxonomies, found a new manifestation in the nested hierarchies of state institutions.

The first libraries existed primarily to support these growing imperial hierarchies. In China, the earliest known library dates to 1400 [B.C.E.]. In Egypt, Rameses II established a sacred library at Thebes in 1225 [B.C.E.]. The first Indian manuscript collections date as far back as 1000 [B.C.E.]. Each of these great imperial civilizations seems to have progressed along a markedly similar (though far from identical) path: Agricultural settlements developed a commercial facility for writing, enabling them to make the transition from tribal societies to nation-states. As some of those nation-states grew into empires, they began producing more varied forms of literature that were eventually gathered into libraries.

The fates of those libraries would prove no less turbulent than the empires that built them. Indeed, the advent of literacy and book making has invariably been accompanied by violence and political turmoil. When the Emperor Shi Huangdi consolidated power over the Chinese Empire in 213 [B.C.E.], he promptly ordered an imperial biblioclasm, commanding the destruction of every book in the kingdom. Soldiers demolished the old royal library, a priceless trove of early Confucian and Taoist texts known as the Heavenly Archives (whose most famous curator was Lao Tzu). After clearing the brush of the prior regime’s intellectual legacy, the emperor created a new library, complete with a new classification system to reflect the new imperial order….

Alex Wright, Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages, p. 55

Written Language and Political Legitimacy

The relationship between written language and political legitimacy stretches deep into antiquity. Just as the earliest literate cultures had invented fables to explain the spellbinding power of the written word, later civilizations would invoke mythologies to assert the bond between writing and the political authority of the state. Ancient Romans attributed the prosperity of their empire in part to the purchase of three divine books by the ancient King Tarquin. According to the story, Tarquin bought the volumes from the Prophetess Sibyl only after spurning her original offer of nine books, six of which she proceeded to burn out of spite. Realizing his mistake, Tarquin quickly came to his senses and snapped up the remaining volumes. Those books would later occupy a place of honor in the Roman forum, providing a tangible bridge from the mythic world to the present, until they were finally destroyed along with the empire during the great sieges. The Assyrians assigned a similar mythological significance to the power of writing in their tale of Zu, a lesser god who steals a divine tablet from the ruling god Enlil and brings it to Assyria. The tablet is said to reveal the fate of the gods, thus granting the Assyrian kingdom a measure of power over the gods themselves.

Alex Wright, Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages, p. 54

Theme of a Warrior Culture

‘Warrior’ and ‘hero’ are synonyms, and the main theme of a warrior culture is constructed on two notes—prowess and honour. The one is the hero’s essential attribute, the other his essential aim. Every value, every judgement, every action, all skills and talents have the function of either defining honour or realizing it. Life itself may not stand in the way. The Homeric heroes loved life fiercely, as they did and felt everything with passion, and no less martyr-like characters could be imagined; but even life must surrender to honour. The two central figures of the Iliad, Achilles and Hector, were both fated to live short lives, and both knew it. They were heroes not because at the call of duty they marched proudly to their deaths, singing hymns to God and country—on the contrary, they railed openly against their doom, and Achilles, at least, did not complain less after he reached Hades—but because at the call of honour they obeyed the code of the hero without flinching and without questioning.

M. I. Finley, The World of Odysseus, p. 113

Emphasis mine.

Persian Spirit, Skill, and Resourcefulness

The basis of the [Persian military and political] system [circa 500 B.C.E.] was the spirit, skill, and resourcefulness of the Persians. An important weapon was the bow, used effectively by both cavalry and infantry. Insofar as possible the Persians avoided close-quarters infantry combat until their foes had been thoroughly disorganized by swarms of foot archers from the front, and the daring onrushes of horse archers against flanks and rear. The Persians were versatile in adapting their methods of warfare to all conditions of terrain. They respected the shock action of the Lydian cavalry lancers, and incorporated this concept into their mounted tactics.

Subject peoples were required to render military service. The garrisons scattered throughout the empire were principally composed of unit from other regions…but always contained a Persian contingent. Imperial expeditionary forces were also multinational. The Persians received a surprisingly high standard of loyalty from these diverse peoples, due largely to their policies of leniency toward the conquered, and of carefully supervised but decentralized administration.

R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History, p. 22

Parthian Feudalism

The feudal system of the Parthians had a Scythian as well as an Achaemenid background, and roughly resembled feudalism as developed in Europe during the “Dark Ages.” Society was headed by seven powerful clans. This upper stratum supported a petty aristocracy of varied socio-economic status who, together with their retainers, enjoyed status well above the peasants and serfs who were native Persians. Loyalty was strongest between the great clan leaders and their small vassals. The king, as a member of one of the clans, could usually command complete loyalty from his own clan and its vassals, less from other Parthians.

Peter Wilcox and Angus McBride, Rome’s Enemies 3, p. 6