Gaspar answers your questions

Gaspar – Gaspar Correia here for Minimum Wage Historian. We’ve received literally threes of letters…um…e-mails asking questions about history. And I, as the most senor historian here, will answer them.

Anna – I’m older by far.

Gapsar – I said, “senor,” not senior.

Anna – I can’t take this. Zach doesn’t pay me enough.

(Anna leaves)

Gaspar – Excellent. Now she won’t be here to spout the lies they tell you in your public schools. First letter is from a “Frank” in Wisconsin. Frank? A Frenchman? Well, he asks, “In the American Civil War, both capitals were so near each other, how did the war go so long without either capital being taken?”

Well, Frenchman, that’s a great question and one with a complicated answer. First off, Lincoln deployed on of the government’s biggest secret, the “Electro-Shield” developed by Benjamin Franklin. When Lee’s army tried to bombard DC from Arlington, but the Electro-Shield stopped all incoming artillery shells.  The South was powerless to penetrate the Shield.

Now, the Confederate capital of Richmond had a different defense. As we know, Richmond is situated on a hill by a river. Very defensible, but not enough to defend against the armies of the North. With their aristocratic tradition of sorcerer plantation owners they managed to form a barricade of stone golems from the hill and water elementals from the river. The supernatural defenses couldn’t move out of their places, but presented too lethal a blockade to the North.

The water elementals were beautiful, but very lethal.

The water elementals were beautiful, but very lethal.

So, Frenchie, I hope that answers your question. The two armies just had to go around each others’ capitals and led to a long, protracted war.

Ok, next question.

This letter…e-mail, is from a woman in Florida. Flowered. Funny name for a place. Well, she writes, “What benefits did Peter the Great do for Russia? Were the stories of his traveling in disguise true?”

This happens to be a subject I know a great deal about. Well, I’ll start with the last question first. Yes, he did travel throughout Europe in disguise.  He had to. As an undead revenant he had to hide his hideous nature as he traveled the world searching out arcane secrets. Not only did he search for ancient spells to prolong his life, but he also searched for the magic machinery that will add strength to his armies and increase food production. He had drained the life out of too many of his peasants and needed more efficiency in the farm work. With the secrets he bought, stole and killed for, he was able to bring Russia to the big boy table of European politics. His armies of undead driven steam mechs marched across the steppes of Russia.

Peter the Great improved the power of Russia, but at the cost of the souls of his subjects.

Peter the Great improved the power of Russia, but at the cost of the souls of his subjects.

Now, a Mr. Sykes from Virginia asked “What if Hannibal of Carthage defeated Rome during the Second Punic Wars?

Nice question! I love me some “what ifs.” Now, as we know, Rome’s victory in the Second Punic War made them the super power in the western Mediterranean. It was their start as the hegemon of Europe. But what if their invasion of Carthage had failed? It had been a gamble. Carthegenian armies were rampaging around Spain and Italy and yet Rome launched a surprise invasion of Carthage. The gamble paid off and Rome razed Carthage and salted the earth to prevent anything growing there.

Romans were vindictive jerks.

But if they lost, things would be different. Carthage would dictate terms to Rome and hold them under their economic thumb. Rome would never develop as a super power. The Greek states would continue in their internecine wars and eventually be swallowed by their powerful Persian neighbors. Carthage would control North Africa and possibly Spain as well. This new eastern Mediterranean state would control trade in the area and possibly have served as a bulwark against the rise of the Islamic Empire. The German tribes would overrun Europe without the civilizing influences of Rome and the Dark Ages would have been far longer and far darker. We’d have the eastern Persians and the western Carthagenians in a duel power struggle with a dark and barbaric Europe playing little part.

History would have been much different.  The Mongol invaders probably wouldn’t have bothered Europe in favor of the richer targets in Persia and North Africa. The language of learning would be Persian or Carthagenian and Europeans would send their best and brightest to the southern universities.

The future would be full of promise and competition between the east and west, though those two terms would then mean something quite different.

The future would be full of promise and competition between the east and west, though those two terms would then mean something quite different.

Now, a Joyce from South Carolina writes: “What was the cause and outcome of the Fourth Crusade.”

Excellent question. I’m sure Zach wants to write about this some more, but I’ll steal his thunder.

The Fourth Crusade as it is in the history books, was a bunch of French knights…what’s with French people today? These French knights wanted to go on a Crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims. But they had no money. So they went to the Venetians to work out a deal for transportation. The Venetians said, “Sure, we’ll take you there, but you have to do some thing for us first.” And they procedded to use the Crusaders to take cities they wanted. Then they found their way to Constantinople, Venice’s chief rival. The situation there was weak and the Venetian doge, Dandalo saw an opportunity. He convinced the Crusaders to attack Constantinople. They proceeded to attack the largest Christian city in the world all for money and power.

That’s what the history books say.

But the truth is far different.

The Venetians knew what know one else did, that Constantinople had been taken over by steam powered robots invented by Archimedes. His creations went on to become self aware. They learned to mimic humans and gained power in Constantinople. They took over the government, military and were poised to launch a marine invasion of Europe. An army of killer automatons were being prepared and if the Venetians could attack before the army was activated they could save Christendom.

The Byzantine Empress in her true form. Hundreds of years old and a burning hatred of humanity.

The Byzantine Empress in her true form. Hundreds of years old and a burning hatred of humanity.

The problem was, the Venetians didn’t have the forces to attack the massive fortifications of Constantinople. Then the poor Crusaders came along and they saw their answer. Yes, they used the Crusaders, but it was for a most necessary cause. The Venetian/robot war was over quickly and the Byzantine Empire was temporarily split between the victors.

We all owe a debt to the Venetians for stopping this mechanical menace.

But now you know the truth.

So, if you have any other questions, shoot me an epistle and I’ll answer you with the cold hard truth that others are afraid to tell.


Gaspar here, just reminding you that Zach wrote a work of fiction, something I could never do. It has something to do with...(reads from paper) a Lovecraftian urban fantasy set in Miskatonic University. Sounds lame but maybe you might like it. Check it out here.

Gaspar here, just reminding you that Zach wrote a work of fiction, something I could never do. It has something to do with…(reads from paper) a Lovecraftian urban fantasy set in Miskatonic University. Sounds lame but maybe you might like it. Check it out here.  



The Thirty Years War 1618 – 48

Stay tuned to find out what's going on with all this craziness.  I'll give you a hint, it's one of the most pointless and destructive wars since the invention of the 20th century.

Stay tuned to find out what’s going on with all this craziness. I’ll give you a hint, it’s one of the most pointless and destructive wars since the invention of the 20th century.

Anna Komnene – Welcome to another exciting episode and we have one of the most horrible and destructive wars in European history.

Gaspar – And that’s saying something.

Anna – Gaspar, what are you doing in Zach’s chair?

Gaspar – Well, he’s busy getting married so I figured I’d fill in.

Anna – Wonderful. Can you believe he didn’t want a traditional Orthodox marriage?

Gaspar – He didn’t want a Catholic one either.

Pine Leaf Woman – Or a Crow wedding.

Olga – Or Russian.

Gaspar – You threatened to have him buried alive.

Olga – Olga is good at weddings.

Gaspar – Yeah, Red Weddings.

Anna – What religion is he? Some heretical cult?

Gaspar – Mor…Mormo’s? Something like that.

Pine Leaf Woman – Mormon, I think.

Anna – So, the Thirty Years War.

Gaspar – The Thirty Years War was a conflict between the cyborg forces of Arch Bishop Rouchelle and Elector Count Von Terwowitzki. The cyborg army tore across northern Italy and besieged Bucharest for thirty years until the Holy Roman Emperor sacrificed all of his necromancers to return all his dead soldiers into…. what?

30 cyborg

Anna – Just stop. Please stop. I’ve never killed anyone and I don’t wish to start now.

Pine Leaf Woman – I wanted to hear what happened next.

Anna – To understand the Thirty Years War, we have to understand how it started. Like WWI, it’s a convoluted mess that doesn’t show humanity’s best side.

Gaspar – this is why we can’t have nice things. It’s a war about religious intolerance, greed and political ambition.

Pine Leaf Woman – So, business as normal for you Europeans.

Anna – Unfortunately. The war took place mostly in Germany and involved armies of ruthless mercenaries that rapped and pillaged their way across the countryside. First, let me explain the Holy Roman Empire.

It was made up of a thousand semi-independent dutchies, lordships, cities and baronies.  Everything from the countries of Austria and Hungary to small towns.

It was made up of a thousand semi-independent duchies, lordships, cities and baronies. Everything from the countries of Austria and Hungary to small towns.

Gaspar – It wasn’t Holy, Roman…

Anna – Shut up.

Anna – Not only were all these semi-independent countries scrambling for political power and being influenced outside powers, they were also divided by religion. There were Catholics, Lutherans and the newcomers, the Calvinists. And they all hated each other. The highest ranking nobles were called Elector Counts and they were the ones that voted for the Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Emperor didn’t have any real power and it was more like a crazy cat lady trying to herd quarreling felines.

As our story begins, there’s a very fragile peace between the different religions. The Emperors were traditionally Catholic and they had a tendency to not let the other religions practice their beliefs. Many of the counts had converted to Protestantism and pushed back against the catholic leaders.

And to add to the confusion, many of the lands within the Empire were owned by the powerful family, the Hapsburgs. This same family also owned Spain and parts of Italy. They owned countries like personal property. The Spanish/Catholic Hapsburgs really did not appreciate that their German cousins allowed different religions to exist in their lands. These same Hapsburgs really wanted to get the Dutch Republic back under their control. They had revolted and another fragile peace existed. Everyone knew the Spanish were just biding time until they could invade the Republic again.

Here's a Hapsburg. You, um...may notice his chin and underbite. Yeah, the Hapsburgs had a habit of marrying close relatives. It didn't go so well for them after a few generations.

Here’s a Hapsburg. You, um…may notice his chin and under-bite. Yeah, the Hapsburgs had a habit of marrying close relatives. It didn’t go so well for them after a few generations.

Pine Leaf Woman – So it went back and forth with the different religions fighting for who would be top dog. Well, as this was going on the Emperor, Matthias would die without leaving an heir…a silly way to run a government if you ask me. So, before he died he named his cousin, Ferdinand as the next Emperor. Three was a problem though.

Gaspar – Ferdinand was vampire. At night he would venture out and create more vampire spawn that would spread across the Germanic countryside. Ferdinand created a new Vampire aristocracy that ran things from the shadows.

Anna – No, he was very intolerant of Protestants.

Gaspar – I like my story better.

Anna – Well, they can’t be worse than Arian Christians. Long story, but Ferdinand was elected as Emperor. The Hussites (remember those guys) in Bohemia were always religious reformers and didn’t like this guy at all even though they were Catholic. In fact, they threw Ferdinand’s officials out a window in a not-so-subtle demonstration of their opinion and soon the entirety of Bohemia was in open revolt.

This was the start of the Thirty Years War.

Emperor Ferdinand just doesn't like life and wants to give up on life because of those pantaloons.

Emperor Ferdinand just doesn’t like life and wants to give up on life because of those pantaloons.

Olga – Oh, good good. The killing begins, dah?

Anna – No, not good. At all. One of the worst, most pointless wars ever is about to occur. The Bohemian revolt only grew and spread to neighboring countries. It was as if all the pent up anger and hatred over religion finally burst. Ferdinand called on his cousin, the king of Spain to come lend assistance.

Pine Leaf Woman – Makes sense. Get into trouble, call your tribe. But then the rebels went looking for allies and found the Protestant Union led by a man that was also in line to be Holy Roman Emperor….you know, that’s a really unnecessarily long name. I’ll just call them the HRE. Anyway, the name of this man was Fredrick V. They promised this Fredrick that he would be king of Bohemia if he helped them in their revolt. The problem was, they promised this same thing to several other princes of Europe and when this became public, support for the rebels went down like Greece’s GDP.

Anna – In spite of this, the rebels did get support from other German countries, mostly in Austria and the rebellion grew.

primitive guns, heavy armor and pikes. All very traditional requiring less training than shield walls and bows.

primitive guns, heavy armor and pikes. All very traditional requiring less training than shield walls and bows but more training in unit cohesion and tactics.

Gaspar – This revolt spread outside of Germany. Elizabeth Stuart in England had people rally to her and in Transylvania a prince with the help of the Ottoman Empire launched attacks against Catholic countries. Frederick went to the Ottomans for more direct support and the Ottomans offered cavalry and attacked Poland which was supporting the Catholic Hapsburgs. Their war went back and forth with no clear winner.

Anna – Thank you, Gaspar for sticking to actual history. Finally the Holy Roman Emperor moved his forces to counter the rebellion. And at the battle of Sablat in 1619 he defeated the Protestant Union. Then the Spanish joined the war along with the Saxons creating an even bigger mess. Soon it seemed all of Central Europe was at war with armies stomping all over peasants’ farms. Instead of tightly controlled field battles where one army forces another army off the field and declared victory, we have the emerging theory of total war. No more honorable lords looking for the enemy general, instead we had armies and bands of mercenaries that were paid by whatever loot they could pillage. They massacred towns and stole entire crops from villages leaving the people starving in famine. Armies got larger, which cost more money and bankrupted entire countries. Also, the larger armies were harder to control which led to more criminal acts and bands of villains roaming the countryside.

Gaspar – Another change in military affairs was that the armies grew more professional. The war lasted so long that government soldiers became an actual profession. The veterans passed down their knowledge and the manuevers grew more sophisticated and complex. The cavalry charges had to strike in conjunction with the gunners and retreat while the pikemen moved forward. All had to be timed just right to work.

They had arquebuses with heavy armor, powder charges and uniforms.

They had arquebuses with heavy armor, powder charges and uniforms. The powder charges reminds Zach of his magazine pouches in Iraq.

Anna – At the Battle of White Mountain, Ferdinand’s armies invaded Bohemia and defeated the rebel forces near Prague. It was disastrous for the rebels and the Hapsburgs ended up keeping Bohemia until they inbred themselves out of existence.

Pine Leaf Woman – That’s kind of sad to have all that power…and lose it all because you married your first cousin.  Well, the Hapsburgs moved in and confiscated property from rebel leaders and Protestants and were basically jerks. Under the thumb of the Catholics it was pretty much the end of the Hussites.

Gaspar – Sad. I kind of liked them.

Olga – I like them too. They shoot many things.

Anna – This begins a new phase of the war. The battles get a little smaller as the Spanish and other Catholic armies try to invade rebel territory. The Dutch enter the war in greater force bringing their highly trained armies.

Gaspar – So, basically we have all these armies going all over the place from Italy, to Austria to the Netherlands.

Anna – A very abbreviated version, but not wrong. This slow grind of a war eventually wore down the Protestant rebellion and at the battle of Stadtlohn they finally broke the rebellion’s back.

Pine Leaf Woman – It should all be nice and peaceful now, right? Wrong. Because you Europeans are allergic to peace, the Huguenots in France decided to rise up in rebellion.

Anna – The previous French King, Henry IV had liked Protestants because he used to be one. The Treaty of Nantes protected people’s rights to worship. But the new king, Louis XIII wasn’t so open minded. Louis began persecuting them and in response the Huguenots armed themselves and formed into militias to protect themselves. They also formed their own military structure and eventually their own government that tried to negotiate with foreign powers.  The leader of the Huguenots was named Duc de Rohan and he wanted open war with the French crown.

Pine Leaf Woman – Too bad that this rebellion was not edifying for either side. Both the Crown and the rebels committed many atrocities and massacres.  When both sides got tired, they drew up a treaty with no winners.

Cardinal Richelieu at the siege of La Rochelle. He wasn't king, but he basically ran everything. He's not impressed with the rebels.

Cardinal Richelieu at the siege of La Rochelle. He wasn’t king, but he basically ran everything. He’s not impressed with the rebels.

Anna – The war in the Netherlands grew hotter as the Spanish troops tried to reestablish control over what they considered a rebel province much like how the modern Chinese consider Taiwan.  Now, though the Hapsburgs and the French were both Catholics, the French didn’t want the Spanish gaining more power, so they began to help the Dutch against the Spanish. It wasn’t about religion, but politics. Even the Scottish sent down troops to fight the Spanish.

Gaspar – And then things got crazier. The Huguenots rebelled again, Poland was at war with Sweden and other rebellions and little wars erupted all over. This might be a good time to mention that the Thirty Years War isn’t one single war, but a whole bunch of smaller connected wars.

Anna – The Holy Roman Empire tried to bully the smaller countries and somehow found itself invaded by Sweden.  The balance had swung in favor of the Protestants/anti-Hapsburgs.

War waged all over Europe and almost everyone was involved. The English, the French, the Transylvania and the Polish. It was a pretty crappy time for everyone.

War waged all over Europe and almost everyone was involved. The English, the French, the Transylvania and the Polish. It was a pretty crappy time for everyone.

Anna – One thing to come out of all this constant warfare was that the Holy Roman Empire formed all the independent armies into one Imperial army. So no more private armies for all their little duchies and lordships.

The Spanish then invaded France and caused tremendous devastation. This part of the war went back and forth for years.

Gaspar – It was a meat grinder but the French then began to win. It was like an arm wrestling match when it goes on even for a long time, but then one man gets tired and it’s over pretty quick. It was one victory after another and France gained land from France on several fronts. The weakening of Spain made the rebels in Spain bolder and they broke out in open revolt.

Pine Leaf Woman – How many revolts have happened so far?

Gaspar – I’ve lost count.

Anna – But then Portugal rebelled and declared independence…supported by France of course. Another ill effect for the Spanish was that they now didn’t have an overland route to the Hapsburg lands in Germany. They were cut off except by sea. This made logistics for the war much harder. (Go the post about logistics and see how important that really is.)

By 1648 the wars were mostly over. (Except the war between Spain and France.)  In this time, Frederick and Louis had both died and their children were leading the countries. The Swedes and Dutch moved into Germany and besieged Prague and even Vienna.

A good idea of how these battles looked. Squares of pikemen with gunners in the middle and cavalry charging in and out of the squares. It had to be tightly controlled or it wouldn't work.

A good idea of how these battles looked. Squares of pikemen with gunners in the middle and cavalry charging in and out of the squares. It had to be tightly controlled or it wouldn’t work.

Anna – The war ground down and since it wasn’t just one war, it wasn’t just one peace treaty. The collection of treaties that ended the Thirty Wars was called the “Peace of Westphalia.”

Pine Leaf Woman – I assume all this fighting and struggle was for something great.

Anna – No. Not really. In fact, many parts of Europe were devestated and even depopulated. There was a massive reduction in population and the countries involved found themselves poor and in debt. Many say that the male population in Germany was reduced by 50%. Thousands of castles were destroyed, many more thousands of villages were wiped off the map and plagues were spread all over the continent.

Pine Leaf Woman – Oh, joy. Sounds like such a wonderful time.

Gaspar – So, Spain was really weakened and had lost Portugal, territory and ships to go over to the New World. The Dutch gained their independence and Bavaria was basically depopulated.

Anna – Hold on, there was one more thing that came out of this war.

Gaspar – Witch hunts.

Anna – No. Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Gaspar – The suffering caused witch hunts.

Anna – Shut up. I’m talking about Nationalism. The Peace of Westphalia established clearer national boundaries and peasant’s loyalties were now more to the central government and not whatever local lord was nearby. Also, everyone was so utterly disgusted with how cruel and murderous the mercenaries were that the countries increased their national armies so they wouldn’t have to use mercenaries again. This was the end of vast mercenary armies marching across Europe, a fact of life that had existed for nearly a thousand years.

Pine Leaf Woman – So, thirty years of untold death and destruction and not much good happened.

Anna – Pretty much.

Olga – Dah, that is very good!

Gaspar – Wait, you are forgetting the most important result of the war!

Anna – Do tell.

Gaspar – The secret society of immortals, the Vashtanti were overthrown by the secret Catholic squad of assassins. With their tyranny overthown, the common people were now free to worship the ancient gods in the forest and open trade with the Dryads there.

The Dryads had waged a two thousand year war against the immortals and with their....what?

The Dryads had waged a two thousand year war against the immortals and with their….what?

Anna – Gaspar, just shut it.

Zach is busy figuring out his whole wedding thing, but he says you should 'check out' his history book and post apocalyptic novel with a sequel coming out soon. And don't forget to friend us on Facebook. We have many meaningful discussions there.

Zach is busy figuring out his whole wedding thing, but he says you should ‘check out’ his history book and post apocalyptic novel with a sequel coming out soon. And don’t forget to friend us on Facebook. We have many meaningful discussions there.

The history of the Roman Empire…in Gifs!

Hello, this is History’s Gaspar Correia here with another thrilling episode of Minimum Wage Historian. I have spent some time in your “modern age” and I have discovered one thing. People communicate exclusively with memes and Gifs. It’s true. I’ve spent long hours on this “Book of Faces” and have seen the true means of communication.

So, I now present to you, the History of the Roman Empire: A history in Gifs.

A long time ago, there was a group of people called the Etruscans.  They owned some land in central Italy including a small village of mud shacks along the Tiber River. This was Rome and the Etruscans taught the local Latins everything they knew. The Latins were ruled by a bunch of Etruscan kings that ruled over the Latins like gangstas.

And they were kind of jerks to the local Latins.

Then one day, the Etruscan king, Tarquinius  already more unpopular than Bush or Obama combined, went in and kidnapped the wife of a local Roman nobleman. This didn’t sit well with the Roman nobility and they rose up against the Etruscan overlords.

The rebellion didn’t get them independence from the Etruscans, but they did set up the Roman Senate and became a Republic. Tarquinius wanted to punish Rome and attacked. During this attack, a hero with one eye named Horatius held off the enemy while his men destroyed the bridge behind him. It still didn’t work and Rome was occupied. They forbade the Romans from owning iron weapons because tyrants like people that can’t fight back. So, Rome figured they couldn’t do it alone and convinced the other Latin cities to revolt against the Etruscans.

And led a serious beat down to the Etruscans.

With their new independence and power as leader of the Latin tribes, they began to expand. They fought Etruscans, other Latins and after conquering and absorbing them, fought the Samnites.

Well, Rome was looking pretty good now.

As they expanded they came across the Greek colonies in Southern Italy and those colonies called to their friends in Greece for help. Enter King Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus comes in and fights Rome. He actually wins all his battles but he can’t defeat Rome because his forces are too smashed up to do much more than limp home. It’s where we get the term, Pyrrhic victory.

Once Pyrrhus hurried back home, Rome moved south and took over the entire Italian Peninsula. They were now big enough to get the attention of Carthage, the major power in the western Mediterranean.  So, they began to fight over who was top dog.

It took three wars including Hannibal’s brilliant but doomed invasion of Italy. While Hannibal was messing around chasing down fleeing Roman legions, the Romans sneaked over and attacked Carthage directly. They burnt it to the ground and salted the earth. Basically, they messed the place up.

Because that’s just how the Romans do.

So, now the Roman Republic has control of the Italian peninsula, North Africa and parts of Spain. Not bad.

But then Greece got uppity again and attacked and Rome beat them back. Then the Seleucid Empire, a successor empire of Alexander the Great, tried to conquer the other two Greek empires in Macedonia and Egypt and they called for Rome’s aid. Rome came in and gladly beat them back into Asia. Then Greece attacked again and Rome beat them back with little effort.

Basically, Rome got tired of the Greeks always starting crap, so they just moved in and split Macedonia into three client states with rulers that would be much more agreeable to the Romans.

Rome went through some growing pains including some revolts and a few slave uprisings. The largest was led by Spartacus. Even that wasn’t much compared to a series of civil wars that tore the Republic apart.

Then came Caesar. He wasn’t satisfied just guarding a bunch of Barbarians along the border in Northern Italy. He was bored.

He took his legions and went up into France to stir some action up.

Well, he got what he asked for and was soon fighting all of Gaul.  He soon had all of France under his control and even invaded Britain a few times just because why not.

Caesar united with two other Roman generals to restore the peace, but guess what, they ended up fighting each other too. General Pompey moved the Senate against Caesar and demanded that he give up command of his legions. Seeing this as the obvious attempt to destroy him he said “No you didn’t” and promptly invaded Rome.

He crossed the Rubicon River and burned the bridges behind him to show his men that there was no going back. This didn’t end the civil wars and Caesar went all over the Republic, fighting his enemies. He went from Spain to Egypt where he hooked up with Cleopatra for a while. Caesar went, saw, and kicked butt. He became the most powerful man in the Republic and the Senate feared this. So they plotted and murdered Caesar.

Well, this led, surprisingly, to another civil war in which a guy named Octavian came to power by beating Mark Antony and Cleopatra. He beat his former friend, Mark Antony like he was making whip cream.

This guy said, and I quote “Enough of this crap. It’s time someone stops all this and takes charge. I think that guy should be me.” He changed his name to Caesar Augustus and became “Imperator”  This was the start of the “Pax Romana,” Roman peace.

Now that he was in charge eh strong armed everyone to do as he said. Instead of elected rulers, it became a matter of succession by birth. There was Augustus who was good for the Empire, Tiberius who was a total scum bag, Caligula who was bat guano crazy, Claudius who was an interesting character and kind of alright, and finally, Nero who was less that stellar. Most of them were, and let’s be fair here, complete losers.

They were followed by more super powerful but horrible people and somehow the Empire moved forward without destroying itself by incompetent leadership.

There was eventually Commodus who was terrible and his rule usually marks the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.

Then there was a time where retirement from being emperor usually meant assassination. Finally, Diocletian, in an effort to stop the madness and decline, gave himself more power than any Roman Emperor had ever had. Up  till this point, a Roman emperor was “First Citizen” and just as human and subject to the law as anyone. (in theory) But Diocletian dressed in lavish robes and jeweled crowns and made his subjects kneel before him like the Eastern rulers did. He froze all wages and prices were they were and made the Empire into basically what we’d call a ‘socialist dictatorship.’

Well, like every other instance of socialism, it kinda sucked and didn’t stop the decline. Eventually the problem was made worse when Barbarians from Germany started moving in. These were people that didn’t speak Latin and held no loyalty to the Empire, but they moved in whether the Romans liked them or not. It turns out that creating small semi-independent kingdoms within the Empire’s borders that don’t like you isn’t such a good idea.

Okay, this may surprise you, but soon the Empire fell into more civil war when the empire was split into three sections to be co-ruled. Yeah, that didn’t work out.  A general in Britain by the name of Constantine was declared emperor by his troops and marched on Rome. There he fought outside of Rome and won.

He legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan. He reorganized the Legions into two types, stationary border guards and rapid moving centralized legions. This was to counter the growing barbarian threats. He also split the empire into two parts, east and west and created the eastern capital on a small Greek town called “Byzantium.” He named the new city “Constantinople,” the city of Constantine.

For a while, everything was good.

The Empire is now in its final stage. Barbarians are encroaching on its territory by the day, the army starts losing major battles and at Adrionople, almost the entire Roman military is wiped out. The power shifts east and the Western half gets left behind. Rome becomes a poor, crumbling place and the capital is moved to Milan and then Ravenna.

(Detroit, BTW)

Well, the Empire kept losing to Barbarians so eventually recruits barbarians into its ranks. These Germanic foreigners held no love or loyalty to Rome, but the knew how to fight so Rome used them. More and more the army became Barbarian until eventually it was the Barbarians with all the military muscle that called the shots.

Attila the Hun came in and Rome had its last big battle at Chalons where an alliance of Romans and barbarians that had set up shop in Gual fought off Attila and barely managed to survive. The Empire limped on, losing Britain, North Africa to the Vandals, Gual to the Franks and soon Italy to the Goths.

It continued on in name only until the Goth general Odoacer got tired of the middle man-emperor and disposed the young Romulus Agustulus.  The Senate and some institutions lived on with the Senate lasting until at least 800 when Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The east continued to thrive for another thousand years and history, for some stupid reason, calls it the “Byzantine Empire.” Though really, it was just the continuation of the Roman Empire.

Oh, I forgot, I like maps. Check out this map of the Roman Empire from birth to death.  It’s pretty rad….what….Rad isn’t an okay word? Too old? Well so am I. I like old school and I say its rad.

Ziss iz Joan D'Arc here telling you to go and buy ze book, Fearless: Powerful Women of History. Quoi?  Iz very nice if you like ze strong women kicking butt.

Ziss iz Joan D’Arc here telling you to go and buy ze book, Fearless: Powerful Women of History. Quoi? Iz very nice if you like ze strong women kicking butt.

Culloden: Scottish Independence Fails Again.

Scottish Highlanders rebelling against the Crown. What could go wrong?

Scottish Highlanders rebelling against the Crown. What could go wrong?

Zach – This week’s post is about the final big fight for Scottish Independence, the Battle of Culloden.  The battle was in 1746 but its causes went back to Hengry VIII. To help us with this topical topic, we have my co-host, Anna Komnene, Buffalo Calf Road-Cheyenne warrior woman. And lastly we have Lord Cornwallis.

Buffalo – Really? Cornwallis? You think he’s going to be unbiased?

Cornwallis – As unbiased as someone who spent their life fighting against a conquering nation.

Anna – I managed to be completely without bias when I wrote the Alexiad.

Cornwallis – (laughs) Of course. Totally unbiased……daddy’s girl.

Anna – What?

Zach – And moving on. Let’s start with the root causes that led to this battle. Well, when Henry VIII decided to take over the church in England, not everyone was on board. The throne went back and forth between pro-Catholic and pro-Protestant and even a brief interregnum with a total joy-kill in charge named Cromwell. Eventually the Protestants won and got their king on the throne. The royal family that remained Catholics, the Stuarts, ran off to Catholic France and waited for an opportunity to make a Travolta-esque come back.

Anna – The guy that led the comeback was named Charles Edward, called by the Scots, “Bonnie Prince Charley.” In 1740 England got engaged in the Austrian War of Succession. In 1745 England lost a big battle in Flanders and the parliament was divided like today’s American congress.  Charles thought the time was perfect.

Buffalo – Yeah, but everyone disagreed with the guy. The King of France said “no way” and even his own advisers said “maybe you should wait.” But Charles, true to character, ignored all good advice and went off to Scotland with no support from anyone.  Stay tuned. You’ll see more of this type of behavior.

Cornwallis - He doesn't represent the best of English aristocracy. Must be the French influence.

Cornwallis – He doesn’t represent the best of English aristocracy. Must be the French influence.

Zach – I’m going to be fair and nonjudgmental about my commentary about Prince Charles and in my studied and scholastic opinion, Prince Charles was a complete tool.

Anna – Very scholarly of you, Zach.

Zach – Just calling it as I see it.  Against all good advice, Charles lands in Scotland where the Catholic supporters were. He was basically by himself but soon gained a small following of 3,000 Highlander troops.

Cornwallis – Let me impose briefly, good chap. Scotland was divided between the barbaric Highlands which remained Popish and the the Lowlands which were generally loyal to England and the Church of England. They were called “Jacobites” Charles wanted to use this division to his advantage.

Buffalo – Yeah, he thought people actually cared about one rich aristocratic family’s right to the throne over another rich aristocratic family’s.  Really, the Scots that went to fight with him just wanted to be free from England’s control. But he managed to scrape together 3,000 of them. With that measly 3,000, he went on to take an undefended city of Edinburgh.  How heroic.

Anna – Hey, its progress. A city is a city. The English sent a small army to put this rebellion down. It was a small army because they were busy doing other things and didn’t take the rebellion seriously. The small army was beaten back and the English didn’t have any more resources to call up before winter.

Cornwallis – Here we have a surprising success of the Scottish uprising due to the English being busy on the continent.  It would take a few months to get forces from the mainland, a few months that Prince Charles could use to strengthen his position in Scottland and recruit even more angry Highlanders.

Buffal0 – Highlanders. I’m so glad Gaspar isn’t here. He’d say something about being only one and sword fighting.

Anna – Yes, we are all glad he’s not here.  Well, Bonnie Prince Charley didn’t do what everyone said he should do and wait and gain power, instead he took his small army and invaded England. By this time he had 5,000, which is still a small number. He believed France would support him and launch an invasion and the rest of Scotland would also rise up. It would normally be a fair bet because by this time England and France had had a bloody rivalry that went back to the Hundred Years Wars. They moved south and some thought he would go to Wales and use the anti-English sentiment there. He was close enough to threaten London but the French weren’t ready and the forces in London were enough to discourage any attack.

Zach – For once, Charles decided to listen to his advisers and retreat back to Scotland. He took shoes from a town, failed to attack a castle and basically didn’t accomplish much at all. However, they did get a small force of French and Irish troops and got some guns. So, that’s a bonus.

Buffalo – Let me stop here and tell you a little about the Scottish clans. The major clans had many lesser families below them in a kind of feudal hierarchy.  The richer clansmen were the landlords and officers and they were the ones with the famous claymores. Most of the rank and file had captured flintlocks.

Cornwallis – They were brigands and ruffians with little training and less discipline.  The English army was of course, comprised of the best trained troops in the world. The Red Coats were the finest musket men and had legendary discipline. Also, the rag tag rebels had little in the way of artillery. In short, the Scots were outnumbered and out gunned.

Buffalo – Well, they also had 5,000 Hessian mercenaries and a bunch of loyal Scots.  I’m sure that helped.

Zach – On the 30th of January, 1746, Duke Cumberland took his army into Scotland to put an end to these uppity rebels.  On the 11th of April the Jacobite forces left Inverness (which has a lovely castle) to meet the British head on. Prince Charles, being the tool he was, chose the battlefield on rough, marshy ground. Here is the problem. The Scotts were short on guns and even shorter on ammo. They would need to rely on their famous Scottish charge if they were to have a chance. The English army relied heavily on long range firepower. See the problem? Charles chose ground that would make his one advantage even harder to pull off. His men would have to charge through marshy ground, slowing them down and making them target practice for the British.

Cornwallis – Do not forget the artillery. The English had plenty of that.

Zach – Of course. Lots of big guns.

Anna – On April 16th, the two armies met.

A bunch of royally pissed off Scotts went out to battle with misplaced faith in their leader.

A bunch of royally pissed off Scotts went out to battle with misplaced faith in their leader.

Red coats vs the Scots. The Scots opened up with what little artillery they had until they ran out of ammo, then the English bombarded them for over an hour.

Red coats vs the Scots. The Scots opened up with what little artillery they had until they ran out of ammo, then the English bombarded them for over an hour. Prince Charles his in safety away from his army until the bombardment ended. What a take-charge-type.

Anna – The two armies faced each other and after a long bombardment by the English the right wing of the Jacobite army charged forward. They couldn’t be held back. They were so eager to get at the English that they detested that they disobeyed orders and ran forward with their swords. It turns out that the marshy, rough ground did in fact slow the charge down allowing the English to pour fire down on the Scots’ heads.

Buffalo – Still, despite that, the Scottish charge still managed to make it to the first line of English troops. There the Red Coats fought with musket and bayonet and for a brief moment lost one of their banners. Go Jacobites!

Cornwallis – Don’t celebrate so soon, my fine Indian friend. The Scots’ fierce charge was enough to send the first line back, but then there was the second line. The second line sent units to swing in from the left, catching the Scottish in a an L-shaped crossfire. The Jacobite left wing tried to advance but the ground was even worse there and they were slowed and mown down by muskets, cannons and dragoons.  Prince Charles’ advisers told him to go in and lead his men directly in battle to rally their spirits. He…gracefully declined.

Zach – After that, the Scottish forces went in full retreat. It was a fighting retreat but many were cut off by English dragoons and massacred. No quarter was given. They weren’t taking prisoners. The Highlanders suffered the most.  They lost almost 2,000 men while the English lost only about 50.

Anna – The aftermath of the battle was even worse. The English cracked down  on the Scottish with a political reign of terror. Nobles were stripped of their land the land given to English nobility. Troops kept order and the Scotland was basically a militarized occupied country. Thousands of Highlanders were deported in an effort to depopulate Scotland. Prince Charles scurried off back to France and never returned to Scotland again.

Zach – Here’s the funny part. Many of those Highlanders were deported to the American colonies where 30 years later, those same Scots and their children fought against the English in the American Revolution.  So, while they didn’t get Scottish independence, they did help earn American independence.

So, to sum up, the brave and angry Scots put their hope and faith in a complete loser who had spend his life in France. He led them to disaster

This is Lord Cornwallis. I thank you for participating in today's discussion about these foul, stubborn Scotsmen. But, if you are so inclined to fantastical tales of the end of civilization, they I bid you try Zachary's novel, "Sins of Prometheus." Or even peruse Minimum Wage Historian's Facebook Page.

This is Lord Cornwallis. I thank you for participating in today’s discussion about these foul, stubborn Scotsmen. But, if you are so inclined to fantastical tales of the end of civilization, they I bid you try Zachary’s novel, “Sins of Prometheus.” Or even peruse Minimum Wage Historian’s Facebook Page.

Lady Fu Hao

A Chinese general, consort, shaman. She's a 15th level fighter/sorcerer with a +4 flaming axe!

A Chinese general, consort, shaman. She’s a 15th level fighter/sorcerer with a +4 flaming axe!

Zach – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian where we have another kick-butt woman for you. Today’s lethal lady is Fu Hao from ancient China. To help me discuss this woman is my co-host, Anna Komnene.

Anna – A pleasure, like always. we also have History’s “least likely to accomplish anything of any real value,” Gaspar correia. Also, we have also have someone to bring their enlightened and non-sexist view of history, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon – Of course, of course. Josaphine told me I had to come. Said it would be “good for me,” whatever that means.

Gaspar – Zach said he’d buy me a 7-11 hotdog, the “Free Bird” of food.

Zach – With chili, too!

Anna – I think I’ll pass. Lady Fu Hao was the princess of a small tribe bordering the Shang Dynasty. Let us give you a little background information on the Shang. The Shang ruled from roughly 1046 BC to about 1600 BC.  The Shang Dynasty was located around the Yellow River. What we know of them come from the ancient manuscripts called the Bamboo Annals and the Records of the Grand Historian,  and also what we’ve managed to find through archeology. Most of it comes through the few tombs we’ve found that included the oldest Chinese writing we’ve found. The writings were on ritualistic bone and shell fragments.

Gaspar – The Shang started off a during a rebellion against a tyrant, kinda like the Romans and Americans and then spread out by absorbing neighboring tribes or making alliances with them. That’s right, they used their good looks and charm to woo the tribes. That’s where our heroine comes in.

Mojo, the Shang had it in spades.

Mojo, the Shang had it in spades.

Zach – That’s where Fu Hao enters the story.  The King, Wu Ding decided to cement his alliances by taking a wife from every tribe. Not the worst way to go about it.  He had over 60 wives and Fu was one of them. But she quickly stood out. She was a capable military leader that lead armies of over 13,000 into battle and even owned her own little fiefdom. The king counciled with her and she was his right hand woman.

Napoleon – I guess I’ll add something. Might as well because you lot are too incompetent to handle History. Under her command were the generals Zhi and Hou Gao who went with her against the tribes of Jiang, Tu, Ba and Yi. In the battle against the Ba, she lead China’s first large ambush. Ha! Such silly things. I could have done much better and conquered the entire continent if I was in charge.

Anna – We know this because of the writings found in her tomb. They were religious prayers of a kind asking for fortune in battle and in governing.

She was a high speed, low drag individual dedicated to serving her king. She also probably looked pretty awesome in combat.

She was a high speed, low drag individual dedicated to serving her king. She also probably looked pretty awesome in combat.

Gaspar – Yeah, she was pretty awesome and was mean with her pimp slap. Can I get a Mountain Dew with that hot dog?

Zach – Sure, why not.

Gaspar – Outstanding. Now, she gave plenty of fools her back hand, but she was also an important shaman and in those days only men could be religious leaders. The king had her perform sacrifices for the good of the kingdom and many of those survive today. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Discovered in 1976 in the Henan Provence, China.

Discovered in 1976 in the Henan Provence, China.

Zach – It’s the only royal tomb from the Shang dynasty that wasn’t ransaked before archeologists could get there. There were thousands of objects including jade statues that were antiques in Fu’s day. Many of the objects were pre-Shang dynasty which means she was somewhat of a collector of antiques. A nice hobby to have when she’s not kicking butt.

I'm not sure what this thing is, but it's friggin' old.

I’m not sure what this thing is, but it’s friggin’ old.

Gaspar – There were also skeletons of human slaves, which means Fu was kind of into human sacrifice at times.

Anna – No one’s perfect. So, we have here a woman general and religious leader in a time that only men could do those things. Yes, she was all kinds of awesome. So awesome that we managed to get through this without Gaspar saying something stupid.

Gaspar - she single handily fought off an army of a thousand terracotta warriors while protecting her fellow generals. Anna - I spoke too soon.

Gaspar – she single handily fought off an army of a thousand terracotta warriors while protecting her fellow generals.
Anna – I spoke too soon.

We're rushing out to by Zach's book, "Sins of Prometheus" on Amazon! You should too!

We’re rushing out to by Zach’s book, “Sins of Prometheus” on Amazon! You should too!

Powerful Muslim Woman Pirate Queen

Anna – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian where, I your host, Anna Komnene will guide you through some remarkable history with the aid of our extremely educated staff.  With us we have Pine Leaf Woman, Cleopatra and Matilda of Tuscany. We have an excellent topic for you today. We’re discussing two powerful Muslim women.

Here is Sayyida al Hurra, a Muslim woman pirate queen. You have to be a whole lot of awesome to be a Muslim woman pirate queen.

Here is Sayyida al Hurra, a Muslim woman pirate queen. You have to be a whole lot of awesome to be a Muslim woman pirate queen.

Pine Leaf Woman – I was invited here by Zach. Where is he?

Anna – I think he’s off finishing one of his silly novels. Don’t worry about him.

Cloepatra – My schedule says that there’s Gaspar and Olga are supposed to be here. I so long to see Gaspar. He took me to dinner last week, but alas, he has not written me since. Have you seen him?

Anna – Haven’t seen him. This is girl’s night.  Anyway, let’s get busy.  The first woman of today’s discussion is a Muslim woman who was a queen and a pirate. Her name was Sayyida al Hurra.  That’s not her name. We don’t actually know her real name. It’s a title that means “Noble Lady.” Hurra is a title that means “queen” and she was the last woman to bare this title. She was a queen that ruled in her own right and also a very successful pirate.

Pine – She was born in 1485 and lived in Granada with her parents.  When she was seven, the Spanish finally finished their “Reconquista” and conquered Granada, the last Islamic hold out in Spain. Her and her family fled to Morocco where they took over leadership.  I guess kicking out the Muslims from Spain cleared Spain’s schedule for coming to America and stealing our land. They’re busy guys.

Matilda – Hey, I had to deal with pushy Germans all my life. So, Sayyida al Hurra found herself in Morocco and her father betrothed her to one of his friends who was thirty years older than her. Her new husband was an important man and was allowed to take over an old city that had been destroyed years before. They got permission from the Sultan of Morocco to rebuild the city and use it to house the refugees from Spain. Sayyida remembered this defeat by the Christians and never forgot.

Tetouan was a port city that she would later use to great effect.

Tetouan was a port city that she would later use to great effect.

Anna – As her husband got busy ruling the city, he made her his chief wife and also adviser. She was included in the running of the government and she learned everything she could from this. Now at this time the Muslim girls were educated and queens were not unheard of.  So when her husband died, she took over. She became a very powerful ruler on her own. She made treaties with the Spanish and traded with them and made her city rich.  But one thing was peculiar. She seemed to hold a special hatred for the Spanish. Now…

(Gaspar Correia enters the room.)

Gaspar – Hey! What are you ladies up to. (Sees Cleopatra.) Oh, hey, Cleo. I was just about to write you so it’s lucky I ran into you!

Cleopatra – We were just discussing our hatred for the Portuguese.

Gaspar – Hey, don’t be like that. I just didn’t want to seem clingy.

Cleopatra – I like clingy.

Anna – (clears throat) So…anyway. Gaspar, now that you’re here, maybe you can tell us a little about the Reconquista.

Gaspar – It was a terrible war. We added the Spanish with our werewolf shock troops. We sent the wild berzerking wolfmen out first to soften up the enemy’s front line while the Spanish troops moved in with flintlocks and pikes.

Anna - Gaspar, that's not a werewolf, that's a shaved bear. Gaspar - What?'s a werewolf from mankind's nightmares.

Anna – Gaspar, that’s not a werewolf, that’s a shaved bear.
Gaspar – What? No…it’s a werewolf from mankind’s nightmares.

Cleopatra – We’ll talk later, Gaspar, over a lobster dinner. Back to Sayyida. Now that she was in charge of tetouan she began to plot her revenge. She started using the money she got from trading with Spain to buy ships and hire crews. She slowly built up her fleet and when she was ready, she launched her fleet of corsairs. Her ships became the scourge of the western Mediterranean.  She even paired up and fist bumped Barbarossa, the most fearsome Pirate in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Spanish couldn't go anywhere without facing these gangsters of the sea.

The Spanish couldn’t go anywhere without facing these gangsters of the sea.

Pine – This wasn’t just about getting money either. Sayyida considered it a war against her arch enemy, the Spanish Christians. They took her home and she was going to make them pay. It was a slow burn, undeclared Jihad. She became so famous that the king of Morocco married her, but he had to go to her city and marry her there. It was the first and only time a king of Morocco had to leave his city to get married. Yes, this lady was a tough woman that fought for what she wanted. I admire her.

Gaspar – I think you do more than admire, Pine Leaf Woman.

Cleopatra – She was my kind of woman. Me and her would have made a great team. We could have beaten those Romans and ruled North Africa without anyone else.

Matilda – I try to stay away from the ocean. I like to stay on land, thank you very much.  But still, I’d invite her over any time. We’ll watch Brides Maids, eat ice cream and I’d take her shooting.

Anna – Maybe we’ll have her on as a guest panelist some times.

Gaspar – Well, that’s it for today. I was going to go have hot pockets with Caesar, but lobster with Cleopatra sounds much more inviting. We’ll see you all next time.

Don't forget to check out Zach's post apocalyptic book, "Sins of Prometheus." Available on

Don’t forget to check out Zach’s post apocalyptic book, “Sins of Prometheus.” Available on





The Gothic War

Zach – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian. We have another exciting episode for you. Today’s topic is the Gothic War!

No, Gaspar, not those kind of Goths.

No, Gaspar, not those kind of Goths.

These are the Goths you're looking for.

These are the Goths you’re looking for.

Anna Komnene – Those infernal Goths! They’re barbarian scum. I’m glad we get to speak of a war that has us Romans defeating their infernal nation.

Zach – At least you’re not letting your personal biases affect your historical opinion.

Anna – Of course not.

Zach – Yes, today we’re talking about the Gothic War. It was an epic plan by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian to reform the entire Roman Empire by recapturing the West. He viewed it as shameful that the Roman Empire didn’t actually have Rome in its borders. It saw terrible destruction all across Italy that did more damage than the barbarians ever did.

Anna – That’s a harsh judgement. Well, to set the record straight we have with us Matilda of Tuscany who is our resident expert in warfare in Italy. Then we have Gaspar Correia our expert in… nothing really. And finally we have Olga of Kiev, our expert in destruction.

Olga – Dah, I am good at this destroying things.

Zach – Let’s get started then. I’ll do a quick history lesson to catch us up. The Western Roman Empire fell in 476AD by the barbarian Odoacer. He crowned himself “King of Italy” and was theoretically under Byzantium’s authority. Both sides held the illusion that Odoacer was there by Byzantium’s consent. It gave odoacer prestige and legitimacy and gave the Byzantines the appearance of not looking quite so weak. But eventually Byzantium grew tired of these barbarians and decided to do something about it.

Anna – There was an Ostrogoth named Theodoric that settled his people in the Balkans and lived under the protection of the emperor. The Emperor Zeno didn’t like a bunch of filthy barbarians living within his territory and he didn’t like those pesky barbarians over in Rome, so he sent Theodoric over to take Italy. He’d let the two barbarians fight it out. So, he gave Theodoric a bunch of important Roman titles such as Patrician and Magister Militum and Theodoric went over and fought several battles against Odoacer and eventually captured Ravenna, then capital of Italy. Odoacer, knowing he was losing, sued for peace and invited Theodoric to a banquet to sign their peace treaty. Theodoric showed up in his best barbarian suit then promptly drew his giant two handed sword and cut Odoacer in half. Shoulder to groin.

Theodoric having a bloody good time!

Theodoric having a bloody good time!

Gaspar – Not the most peaceful of beginnings but Theodoric actually turned out to be a pretty cool dude. He set up shop in Ravenna and kept the local Romans in their positions to keep the government running smoothly. He adopted the Roman way of life, built churches, palaces and theaters.

Here's a church he built covered in gorgeous mosaics. He actually led somewhat of a Golden Age in Italy and everyone kind of liked him.

Here’s a church he built covered in gorgeous mosaics. He actually led somewhat of a Golden Age in Italy and everyone kind of liked him.

They thought he was such a cool dude they bought him this pimped out tomb. In his case the term "barbarian" must be used extremely loosely.

They thought he was such a cool dude they bought him this pimped out tomb. In his case the term “barbarian” must be used extremely loosely.

Matilda – Enough back story. Fast forward to Justinian’s time. Fast forward to 535 and Justinian has sent his genius general, Belisarius, probably the best general since Caesar, to take out the Vandals in northern Africa. With a small task force he rolled in and extinguished the Vandals as a nation. Justinian then sicked his attack dog on Italy and the Gothic Kingdom there. Let me explain Belisarius’s army here. This isn’t the famed Roman Legions of old. No, this was a rag tag force of mercenaries, private armies, Huns and whoever else they could scrape together. But they needed an excuse to invade. Remember, the Goths were supposedly under Byzantine authority so when they killed the legitimate heir and placed someone else on the throne, Justinian used this as his excuse and ordered the invasion.

Okay, Hadrianus, where is this "gelato" you speak of? What's the point of invading Italy if we don't get any good food?

Okay, Hadrianus, where is this “gelato” you speak of? What’s the point of invading Italy if we don’t get any good food?

Zach – For any students of the Second World War, this next part should sound familiar. In order to invade Italy, they invaded Sicily first and took it without much fuss. Palermo was the only place with an real resistance. With that out of the way, the Byzantines invaded southern Italy. Southern Italy had a lot of Greek speakers from centuries before and were pro-Byzantine. They welcomed Belisarius and they marched in with ease. Naples, an important port town then as it is even now, resisted with a long siege which lasted until November. From there they marched north to Rome which threw their gates open to them. the Goth forces were consolidating in the north where their base of power was. The Romans were moving so fast that the Goths were simply unprepared.

Olga – Dah, the Romans sacked Naples. Good times for everybodies, unless you lived in Naples.

Anna – Well, that was the tradition at that time, if a city resisted, they get sacked. But Rome let them in so they were spared the horrors of war. But the Goths finally got organized and launched a counter offensive. They marched to Rome and laid siege to it. Belisarius was greatly outnumbered and didn’t have the forces to fight the Goths, so they help up behind the walls of Rome. Here’s how a siege worked. The city would be surrounded while the attackers tried to dig mines to “Undermine” the walls, bribe gate guards, launch assaults or launch plague ridden animals and body parts over the walls. In turn, the defenders would sally out for rapid strikes against important targets. Us Eastern Romans had a greater knack for cavalry than our Western counterparts ever did and our cavalry was great for these lightning raids against the besiegers. This siege went on for a year with several large battles. Reinforcements from Constantinople arrived. The Roman cavalry sallied out and cut off the Goths from their logistic supply train. For a besieger this is very bad news. It meant that they might run out of food before the people in the city. At this time, Belisarius cut off the aquaducts to Rome to deprive the Goths of water. They were never restored. You can still see those ruined aquaducts today.

The Goths attacking the Castile D' San Angelo, which used to be Hadrian's tomb but was turned into a fort. You can go to Rome and see the walls themselves, still intact after 1,500 years.

The Goths attacking the Castile D’ San Angelo, which used to be Hadrian’s tomb but was turned into a fort. You can go to Rome and see the walls themselves, still intact after 1,500 years.

Gaspar – Then the Romans did something I like to do in computer strategy games, he sent a force to threaten a town near Ravenna, the Goth capitol. This forced the Goths to give up and go protect Ravenna. But then the Goths attacked a Roman controlled town of Ancona and would fall to the Goths if not relieved. So, Belisarius with his c0-commander, sent their secret weapon. The Byzantines had long traded with the Far East and with their group of Ninja, brought over from Japan, they snuck into the enemy camp and killed every one of them in one bloody night.

Anna - Gaspar, Ninja's weren't even around back then.

Anna – Gaspar, Ninja’s weren’t even around back then.

Olga – They should just burn city down. Makes things much easier.

Matilda – One lesson I was smart enough not to have to learn by experience was that it was never a good idea to share command in a war time situation. The last thing an army needs is a divided leadership. Well, Justinian sent the eunuch, Narses with another army to come over and help them out. The two leaders argued. Basically, Narses was a politician that cared more about the cost of blankets than the lives of his soldiers and Belisarius was the best thing since Hannibal.  But Belisarius, realizing that a full rift between them would be disastrous for the campaign, compromised the best he could with the eunuch.

Narses wishes he was as cool as the Spider.

Narses wishes he was as cool as the Spider.

Anna – I think you’re being too harsh on Narses. He was a capable general that won a great deal of victories. In fact, after they fought of the Goths in Rome, they went on the offensive and took many cities.

Matilda – But then Narses refused to help a city under siege. A Roman force was trapped in the city and was starving. Belisarius sent a commander to help the city, but the commander refused to move unless Narses ordered him to go. The city was lost and it was a disaster for the Roman war effort. Even Justinian, in his opaque fog of arrogance realized that having two different commanders probably wasn’t a good idea and recalled Narses back to Constantinople.

Zach – Now that Belisarius was in command again, he moved against the Goths. His goal was to take Ravenna and end the war. He faced off against the Goths across the Po River when suddenly an army of Franks poured into the valley. The Goths thought they were allies coming to help and weren’t prepared at all for the Frankish assault. They were quickly broken and ran off with heavy casualties. The Byzantines put up a fight but retreated. The Frankish army was massive and poised to take all of Italy, but then they all got dysentery and slumped back to France.

Matilda – Where’s Joan D’Arc to defend her French honor?

Zach – She’s watching Ironclad with Mulan. Mulan showed her “Painted Skin: The Resurection” so Joan thought a movie exchange was in order. Tomoe Gozen is cooking karage.

Olga – Is that the delicious chickens Tomoe cooks? I must go.

(Olga runs out of room.)

Gaspar – There goes our voice of reason.  But then it was time for Belisarius to get real. He sent the Imperial fleet into the Adriatic to cut Ravenna off from supply. Then messengers came from Constantinple with very fair terms for the Goths. They’d keep everything north of the Po River and the Byzantines would keep everything south of it. The terms were so lenient that Belisarius considered it a betrayal. He marched into Ravenna and treated the city with generosity. No looting, no destruction and everyone kept their homes and property.  Then Belisarius returned home but he refused a triumph. (Even though I think he earned one.)

He came to kick butt and chew bubblegum. And he was all out of bubblegum.

He came to kick butt and chew bubblegum. And he was all out of bubblegum.

Zach – So peace descended upon Italy, but it was not to last. The Byzantines raised the taxes, the army looted the civilians at will and the government was basically run like a cruel and corrupt government from a bad B movie. Needless to say that this didn’t endure them to the locals. There was a lot of bickering, infighting and assassinations among the Goths but eventually they ended with Totilla in charge. In 542 a plague swept through the Byzantine Empire and wiped out thousands of people. This weakened the Byzantine army and left Justinian sterile and some say, mentally weaker.  Also, Belisarius was off in Persian dealing with a new Persian war and the generals in Italy were…and let’s be polite here, morons. The Goths surged southward and took several cities and besieged Florence. The Byzantines, even though they were numerically superior, still managed to lose because they sucked.

Anna – The barbarian, Totilla led his forces south in lightning fast strikes against weak Roman positions and took town after town. They bypassed Rome and went down to Naples. Totilla also did something my ancestors forgot to do, he treated the people well so that many people surrendered willingly and viewed him as a liberator. When he took Naples, he fed the citizens and let the Romans live. Well, Belisarius made a five year peace with Persia and hurried back to Italy to do what his incompetent comrades couldn’t do. Rome fell before he could save it, but he quickly captured it back.

Matilda – And just in case you thought Justinian was still cool, here’s what he did with one of history’s greatest generals. Justinian was jealous of Belisarius’s popularity, so he refused to send supplies and reinforcements. Outnumbered and unsupplied, the Goths took back Rome. It was a great deal of warfare in the city of Rome and the city never recovered from this destruction.  Justinian then sends back Narses and actually gives him everything he wants. Narses takes back Rome and at the Battle of Taginae, Narses actually managed to kill Totilla.

Zach – Victory was in sight for the Byzantines. The Goths were put in their place and nothing stood in their way.

But then the Franks and Alemani invaded and pushed the Byzantines back to southern Italy where they stayed.

This war didn't exactly have the outcome the Byzantines intended.

This war didn’t exactly have the outcome the Byzantines intended.

Matilda – What did the Byzantines achieve? Rome and its best cities were desolated.  The peninsula was depopulated, Italy fell into a dark age, the Byzantines lost much of its army, most of its money and left them vulnerable to the Persians. Now that Italy was desolated, it provided very little wealth to the Empire.  There are many lessons to be learned of what to do and what not to do. This was a long and draw out war with far more to learn about. I encourage you to learn about it because there’s too much for Minimum Wage Historians to handle.

Gaspar – I also encourage you to look up Zach’s book, “Sins of Prometheus.” It’s a pretty cool post apocalyptic adventure. Tomoe says there aren’t enough sword fights, but I like the guns. Mulan likes the Chinese woman that kicks butt. Give it a try!