King Pyrrhus invades Italy. Learns not to mess with Romans.

Pyrrhic Victory. (n) A victory that is offset by staggering losses.

Zach – Today we’re going to be looking at the origin of the term “Pyrrhic Victory.” Not surprisingly it comes from a guy named Pyrrhus, a Greek king that tangled with the early Roman Republic. We’re going to see a classic Greek phalanx going up against a Roman legion. Clash of the Titans!

Whoa, I want nothin’ to do with this guys. I’m staying outta this. “300″ vs. “Gladiator!”

To help us get to the bottom of this topic, we brought in a panel of historical experts. With me is my co-host, Anna Komemne: Byzantine princess and first woman historian. Then we have Hua Mulan, woman soldier of ancient China. Next we have Gaspar Correia, Conquistador and was voted in his high school yearbook as “least reliable historian ever.” Then we have …what’s she doing here? We have Boudica, Britain barbarian woman warrior. Then we have Charles Martel, Frankish warlord who earned the nickname, “the Hammer.” And lastly we have St. Olga of Kiev, first Russian Christian with a mean streak longer than the great wall of China.
Anna – Let us get started, shall we?
Martel – I say we start with the makeup of the two opposing forces.
Anna – Lovely suggestion. Perhaps you can tell us about the Romans at this time.
Martel – King Pyrrhus invaded Italy in 280bc. At this time the Romans had a republic. The legions were comprised of citizen soldiers and each soldier bought their own equipment. Much of the military was based off of Rome’s former enemies turned reluctant ally: the Samnites. The military was subject to the Roman Senate who elected two Consuls. These were generals that shared command, taking turn every other day. Perhaps not the best system. I could get into more detail but I find the Republic system of authority to be convoluted and confusing. The lower class citizens generally formed the heavy infantry of the legion and the higher class were the “Equites” or “Equestrians” the cavalry. They were the ones that could actually afford the war horses. Each soldier equipped themselves but the general kit for a legionnaire was a helmet with cheek guards, either a round shield or curved oval one, some short javilins, a long spear and a little sword they stole from the Spanish: the gladius.

Unlike a phalanx they fought in smaller, more mobile blocks of infantry and instead of long pikes, they used short swords and thrown “pilum,” short javelins.

Boudica – Amazing. these Roman dogs started off with free citizens that volunteered for one year of service and went to forcing conquered barbarians to do all their fighting.
Gaspar – The legions of the Republic also fought in a checkerboard pattern that we can’t figure out how they did it. We have no idea how they worked with huge gaps in their front line.
Mulan – Gaspar. Stop making stuff up. That makes no sense whatsoever.
Zach – No, for once Gaspar is telling the truth. They fought like that and we have no idea how they did it or way.
Gaspar – It’s simple really. The plasma cannons they used were too dangerous to fire with units to either side of them. the Greeks at this time were using standard laser rifles and death squads of Gorgons.
Zach – That’s better.

Gaspar – One of Pyrrhus’ elite gorgon assassins. The “Medusa Squad” was feared all over the ancient world.
Mulan – I swear. One of these days I’m going to just lose my military mind and break you over my knee.

Olga – These Romans took what worked from bad people they fought? They copied swords, helmets and plasma cannons from enemies?
Anna – Well, not the plasma cannons, but yes. They took what worked and adapted it to their own purposes.
Olga – And these Romans were in small units that moved around quickly like rabbit. And this worked?
Anna – We’re going to find out.

The early Roman Republic was just a local Italian power and nothing to be feared or worried about…yet.

Zach – Mulan, can you enlighten us on the nature of the Greek forces?
Mulan – Of course. The Greeks under Pyrrhus used a more traditional phalanx than Alexander the great. They had large blocks of heavy infantry with heavy shields and very long pikes. They moved as one unit and lumbered forward. The Greeks at this time did have more archers and cavalry than in more ancient times, such as at Marathon. The phalanx fought as a moving wall of spiky death.  With the long fifteen foot long pikes and giant shields, they weren’t maneuverable.  But as long as you’re in front of it, you’re going to die.  As the phalanx moved forward like a bad spiked wall in a spy movie, the cavalry would attack from the sides.  Also, Pyrrus brought war elephants.

But how effective were these war elephants? Hmmm…I wonder.

Zach – The Greek city of Tarentum in Italy was having problems with their Roman neighbors so they asked their Greek Cousin, Pyrrhus for some reinforcements. Pyrrhus, seeing an opportunity to snatch some more land, gladly agreed and sent an army of 25,000 men into Italy. Pyrrhus had the idea that the conquered tribes would join them and rebel against Rome. But when he arrived he found the locals were actually happy to be Romans. (A mistake Hannibal would make.)
Olga – They like not being filthy barbarians!
Ann – Sure. That’s a simplistic way to view it.
Boudica – Some of us prefer to be “filthy barbarians.” Better filthy than enslaved by tyranny.
Mulan – The Romans didn’t like a foreign power moving in on Italy and sent an army to deal with them. This was the first battle of Phalanx vs. Legion.

Raw power vs mobility. Who will win?

Mulan – During the battle near Heraclea, one of the war elephants was wounded and went berserk making the other elephants go crazy, cancelling out any advantage they could have given. That is not satisfactory. Despite this, Pyrrhus sucked it up and won the battle. But he took so many casualties that he could barely call it a victory.
Martel – The Romans were great at one thing in particular: coming back from a huge loss. They sent another army. The Romans trained certain troops to counter the elephants with fire and spears. They also set up in woods to counter the Greek elephants and cavalry. The battle lasted two day and during the first day the Greeks couldn’t dislodge the Romans from the woods. The elephants didn’t see action that day. On the second day, the Greeks managed to force the Romans out by taking the high ground and they fought a huge battle where army lined up against army.
Olga – Elephants! Pyrrhus sent elephants but Romans no stop elephants and elephants run through legion stomping on peoples.
Boudica – Ha! Serves those Roman pigs right! The Roman army broke and fled. I wish I had a few elephants.

Gaspar’s photo of the battle.

Zach – Yes, Pyrrhus won, but he lost too many troops that he couldn’t afford to lose. He was quoted as saying “One more such victory, and we shall be undone.” He won the battles but lost the war. He was eventually forced to go back to Greece. Though Rome was just a small, emerging power, they showed that even in defeat they could lay down a whooping. Pyrrhus offered terms of peace but the Romans said “Forget it, pal! No peace until you beat feet out of Italy!” And the war continued. So the Romans allied with the Carthaginians (who they’d later fight) and fought the Greeks again.
Anna – I do like this part. The town they fought at was called “Maleventum” which meant “Bad Event.”
Mulan – This time the Romans knew how to stop the elephants by wounding them in the sides and causing them to rampage in their own lines.
Anna – The Romans won the battle and renamed the town “Beneventum” which means “Good Event.”
Zach – The Roman Legions adapted and used their superior maneuverability to defeat a superior force. That was the strength of the Legion vs the Phalanx, adaptability. Once a phalanx was outmaneuvered, there was little it could do but be destroyed, a fact that would later be proved when Rome invades Greece later on in history.
Martel – After this, Pyrrhus has had enough and leaves Italy for good, having accomplished nothing. He then said “What a battlefield I am leaving for Carthage and Rome!” Predicting the future conflict between Rome and Carthage.
Boudica – Oh. wonderful. A Roman victory. How joyous.
Olga – Poor little elephants.
Gaspar – Don’t worry. They were cyborg elephants so they didn’t feel any pain.
Zach – This victory over Pyrrhus showed the Mediterranean world that Rome was going to be a player. Their power in Italy was cemented and they leveled up and became a level 5 warlike government.
Olga – Poor Pyrrhus. He won but got butt kicked.
Gaspar – A Pyrrhic victory, huh? He shoulda saw that coming!

Tamar of Georgia

Zach – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. Today’s topic is a powerful woman named Tamar of Georgia.

Anna – Tamar of Georgia. My, I do like her style. Very Roman, wouldn’t you say? Though she is painted in an Persian ideal of beauty. No one’s perfect.

Zach – She was the queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213. But before we get to that, let’s introduce our panel. First we have my co-host, Anna Komemne, woman historian and Byzantine princess. Then we have Gaspar Correia, conquistador and “historian.” Then we have Matilda of Tuscany, woman countess and soldier. Then we have Leif Ericson, Viking explorer who may have been the first European to set foot on North America. (Good thing Buffalo Calf Road isn’t here. She’d probably shoot him.) Then we have Tomoe Gozen, woman samurai and taker of heads.
Anna – Thank you all for coming.
Tomoe – It is honor to be here.
Leif – Yeah, sure. Whatever. Where’s the roast pig?
Anna – We don’t have a roast pig, but we do have bacon cheeseburgers Zach purchased.
Leif – I guess that’ll do.
Gaspar – Show some respect, Viking. Zach had to fight through a dozen trolls armed with only the Toothpick of St. Thomas as a weapon to obtain these bacon blessed delicacies.
Matilda – I think I might stay in this time period for the ease of obtaining bacon alone.
Zach – Yes, bacon is distracting, but let’s get on task here.

Gaspar – Yes, let us return to the….mmmm….bacon. I think I may have just drooled on myself. Just a little.

Zach – Tamar or Tamara of Georgia ruled as queen, second to none. Her father, George III didn’t have any male heirs so he proclaimed her as heir and co-ruled with her for a short time before his death. Then she was left alone on the throne surrounded by advisers and nobles that just wanted to use the young girl for their own goals. In the Georgian language they called her “king” because they didn’t really have a word for a female ruler. She started off with a church council to cement who was boss. She wanted to show that she was a protector of Christianity. Georgia was surrounded by enemy Turks.
Anna – Yes, they were highly influenced by us Romans.
Gaspar – She means “Byzantines.”
Anna – Watch your mouth.
Zach – At this council Tamar said, “Judge according to righteousness, affirming good and condemning evil. Begin with me – if I sin I should be censured, for the royal crown is sent down from above as a sign of divine service. Allow neither the wealth of the nobles nor the poverty of the masses to hinder your work. You by word and I by deed, you by preaching and I by the law, you by upbringing and I by education will care for those souls whom God has entrusted to us, and together we will abide by the law of God, in order to escape eternal condemnation.… You as priests and I as ruler, you as stewards of good and I as the watchman of that good.”
Matilda – I can relate to the next part. The court of nobles chose a husband for her. I hated my first husband. But they chose a Russian noble named Yuri. Yuri was a good soldier and won several victories for the Kingdom of Georgia, but it turns out he wasn’t as great a husband. He was a drunk and an amoral jerk and Tamar shipped him off to Constantinople.
Tomoe – He was dishonorable and deserved exile. I would have cut his head off.
Matilda – I could have used you in my court.
Anna – Anna then cemented her power by bringing the nobles in line. With their help she gathered an army. Georgia hadn’t been expansionist since the days of her grandfather and she was about to follow in the family tradition.

Like its culture, Georgia’s armies were a mix of Byzantine, Russian and Persian influences.

Zach – So, she began by invading all her weaker neighbors, most of them Persian or Turkish tribes that hadn’t been swallowed by the Seljuqid Empire, who were still enjoying their conquest of Turkey.

Map of Medieval Georgia. Yellow is the country, gray is countries Georgia made into vassal states and green is Muslim Empire.

Tomoe – Conquests were good, but this worried Muslim neighbors. They feared Georgia and began to plan invasion. Tamar also planned. The Turkish Sultan sent an emissary to Tamar. This not good because letter say he take Tamar for concubine. This dishonored Tamar and one of Tamar’s samurai…um…nobles, slapped emissary so hard he was knocked out.
Matilda – Good for her!
Gaspar – But their problems did not end there. The Sultan then sent steam and alchemy powered drill machines to dig under Georgian fortresses. Only with the help of their centaur allies did Georgia fight off this subterranean invasion.
Leif – Really? Amazing. I did not see this in my studies. What I read was this: When news of Turkish invasion grew, Tamar sent out more alms for the poor so they could spend less time begging and working and more time praying for safety of country. She went up on a nearby hill and prayed with a holy icon for victory. Like me, she is a good Christian.
Gaspar – Wait, you’re a Christian? But you’re a Viking!
Leif – So?
Gaspar – Never mind.
Zach – The Sultans then invaded Georgia. Tamar frantically assembled an army from her nobles and the lands they gave orders to. They marched south to meet the Turks. The Turkish army made camp and rested for the night. The Georgians saw their chance and launched a surprise attack on the camp. The Turks fought bravely and almost won but in the end, the Georgian army proved too much and overran the camp. In the fighting the Sultan was wounded and had to retreat and then the Georgian army captured the Turkish battle banner, causing panic and flight of the Turkish army. It was a huge victory that told everyone that Georgia was the big boy on the block. This was in 1203

Like other eastern armies, Georgia used a lot of cavalry in the open terrain. They were also used to mountains and had hardened, veteran infantry from their previous wars of expansion. The Sultan’s father had practically ruined the empire and he was trying to rebuild it.

Anna – The next year, the Crusaders attacked and occupied my beloved Constantinople and in the ensuing chaos the Roman Empire began to fall. In this power vacuum, Georgia saw an opportunity. She took her cousin, the exiled Alexios Komemnos, one of my family might I add, and put him on the throne of the city of Trebizond. Tamar created an “empire” but in reality it was a client state of Georgia. It is strange that this Trebizond out lived both the Georgian and the Roman empires.
Zach – This lady was hard core. She managed at a young age to get all the squabbling nobles that wanted the throne for themselves to support her, increased her kingdom’s borders, fought off the Turks and created a successful eastern Christian kingdom on the shores of the Black Sea. Not bad.

I must sincerely apologize, I cannot hear thy words over the tumultuous sound of how awesome I am.

Matilda – This woman ruler created a golden age for Georgia and even now they look back on her as a legend.

The History of Monster Hunting

Gaspar Correia – Welcome to a special edition of Minimum Wage Historian. It’s special because I’m doing it. Today I will speak about a topic that is widely ignored by so-called “scholars” and “historians.” This is a serious issue that needs to be clearly understood and deserves more study. I am, of course, talking about the history of Monster Hunting. I know what you’re thinking already. You’re thinking, “but Gaspar, we already know about monster hunting! What more can we possibly learn?” You may know how to take down a master vampire or an alpha werewolf. Heck, you may have taken out a Cthulhoid once. That’s not what I’m here for. Today I’ll be sharing the history of monster hunting. To appreciate the noble sacrifices of today’s monster hunters, we should…no, we MUST understand the past and learn about their heroes and sacrifices.

Monster hunting is up there in importance with Texas Rangers, Praetorian Guard, Varangians, Spetznaz and Green Berets in terms of skill and dedication.

Let’s start with the earliest examples that my extensive research has uncovered. In ancient Egypt, we have discovered depictions of people (ordered by the Pharoah Hapsetshut) fighting various monsters.

Leapord, crocidile, hippo? Bad news. You see this guy you better hope you’re packing a howitzer. Believe me, I know. Don’t want to talk about it.

Forget what you’ve seen in movies: mummies aren’t just lumbering, moaning idiots. They’re very dangerous and very tough. They were often sorcerers or generals and Egyptian history’s plagued with mummies returning from the grave to usurp power. It’s only through the dedication of these ancient and unnamed monster hunters that world history has been, thankfully, human-centric.
Alexander the Great’s armies encountered monsters during their journeys. As undefeatable on the battlefield as his armies were, a pike formation wasn’t much good against a ticked off Rage Demon. So, Alexander formed a small, but specialized unit to deal with supernatural threats. Many of their stories have come down to us in inaccurate myths, but we can still find the kernels of truth within them.

Theseus was the name of the legendary leader of these Greek monster hunters.

 

Perseus was his right hand man and took over the unit when a revenant finally killed Theseus.

Now, with professional armies, the Romans didn’t use mercenaries and relied on the might of the legions. However, within the Preatorian Guard there was a special unit “Monstrum Venatorum.” For centuries they successfully defended the empire from supernatural evil, but with the unstoppable influx of Germanic and Asiatic monsters into the empire, they eventually were worn down to a few members who separated and went off to different parts of Europe to train more localized units of monster hunters.

One survivor was said to go to England and formed some of what we know as the Arthurian legends. One went to Spain, another Germany, France, Russian and Scandinavia. Two stayed in Italy and three went to Constantinople. There were others but my deep research could not uncover their names nor locations.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Gaspar, how could these ancient warriors fight and kill such dangerous monsters when our modern hunters with guns and high explosives have such a hard time?” They used different methods than us. Let me explain by example. The Frankish king, Charlemagne, understood the threat of supernatural evil. He employed the best sorcerers and alchemists he could find. I know history reports that he went to Rome to be crowned emperor, but the real truth was that he went there to acquire certain holy weapons that could be used to slay evil. The Vatican’s secret arsenal is a wonder to behold. You think Charles Martel was nicknamed “the hammer” after a battle formation? No, he had a warhammer blessed by St. George himself. Alchemy also played a great part. They would make powder and potions to put on armor and weapons and sometimes ingest to make ones self stronger and tougher.

How else could a single man take out an enormous dragon?

The Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Empire were well known monster hunters. These semi-civilized Vikings worked directly for the Emperor. Many of the Nordic sagas come from these Varangians and many tell of tales of fighting trolls, ogres and other such monsters. You think they just made it up? Shame on you.

These were battle hardened fighters that wouldn’t think twice of charging into the den of werewolves.

The Crusades introduced European monster hunters to a score of new threats. Djinn from Syria became a problem as well as golems from Jerusalem.

It took a combined effort of sorcery and alchemy to stop a golem. Swords were no match. Heck, MK-19 automatic grenade launchers have a hard time with golems.

During the Renaisance there was a revolution in monster hunting. Inventors in Florence came up with many interesting solutions to monster problems.

Several hand cannons in one. each bullet blessed by a priest or enhanced by an alchemist.

And so monster hunting advanced and evolved. But as sorcerers and alchemists became less common, hunters relied more on technology and large guns. In the 1800′s with the advent of repeating firearms, it replaced the more mystical means of battling evil almost entirely.
In 1895 what would become the world’s premier monster hunting agency was founded by a man named Bubba Shackleford. This was, of course, Monster Hunter International. It is still run by the Shackleford family to this day.

Here’s a patch from one of Monster Hunter International’s teams.

Modern monster hunting is quite a lucrative business. With government paid bounties, a good team can earn a lot of money. But don’t expect a long, healthy life.

Short life, yes, but it’ll be a lot of fun while it lasts!

Now, you too can enter the monster hunting profession. With the “Monster Hunter International Employee Handbook” you can learn all the tricks of the trade. Learn all about it here.
MHI Employee Handbook.

Zach – Gaspar?
Gaspar – Huh?
Zach – You know that’s a series of books written by Larry Correia, right?
Gaspar – Oh, is it? I had no idea. I wouldn’t break the sacred historian trust with my audience by promoting my descendant.
Zach – Alright, for all of you, check out Larry’s books, Monster Hunter International series and the Grimnoir series. All awesome books. But, they want to produce an RPG but need funding to do it. You can learn all about it here:  Monster Hunter RPG.
Read the books, play the game. You’ll thank me.

Gaspar – And keep an eye out for those squid demons!