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? No...it'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 Amazon.com

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

 

 

 

 

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!

The History of Godzilla

Here to set the record straight on the big G man himself.

Here to set the record straight on the big G man himself.

Anna – I’m not entirely sure what we’re talking about today.

Zach – Didn’t you watch the movie I assigned.

Anna – I tried to. I didn’t understand it very well. Something about a giant monster. I didn’t watch all of it.

Gaspar – (sighs) Anna, if you’re going to be a real historian like me you have to be willing to stare that old monster in the face and say ‘you know, fella, give me your best, I can take it.’

Anna – The last thing I need is a lecture by this troglodyte.

Zach – Let’s get started here. Today we have me, Anna Komnene, Gaspar Correia, Buffalo Calf Woman and Scipio Africanus.

Scipio – I was surprised to say the least at the popularity of such a thing.  There have been 28 Godzilla movies from 1954 to 2004.  That’s more than James Bond.

Buffalo – I thought it was 29.

Zach – We don’t count the Mathew Broderick one.

Gaspar – Nor should we.

Buffalo – I’d like to start with the director. If we’re going to give a detailed history of such an iconic beast, we should start with its creators.  First, Ishiro Honda. he was the director of the original Godzilla 1954. In WWII he was drafted into the army and was taken prisoner. At the end of the war he was released and went back to Japan. Upon arrival he saw first hand the devastation at Hiroshima and was horrified. The scene of a death stayed with him for the rest of his life and as such his films often have a strong anti-war message. This was a man that saw the worst of war and used his talents to fight against it. Yes, he was making sometimes goofy giant monster movies, but he was doing his part to make the world a better place, something we should all try to do.

He basically created a distinctly Japanese genre of movie.

He basically created a distinctly Japanese genre of movie.

Anna – I did research Eiji Tsuburaya. He was the other c0-creator of Godzilla. While Honda engineered the idea of Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya brought the beast to life. He was a special effects artist at Toho studios and was also drafted into the war. Like Honda he hated the war and was a gentle man that loved children. He did not put blood in the monster fights because he didn’t think children should be watching such violence.   During the war he also made propaganda films for the Japanese Empire. One of them got him into trouble.  He made a film about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The American occupation thought he had used real footage and he was blacklisted for a few years. He went on to design Godzilla for the 1954 movie. He wanted something powerful like a gorilla but monstrous like an alligator. “Gojira” is a cross between “Gorilla” and “Whale” in Japanese. Also, the iconic Godzilla roar was created by running a gloved hand over the strings of an upright bass and the sound slowed down.  Very neat. He also used dinosaurs as inspiration, notably the iguanadon…

Gaspar – My personal favorite dinosaur!

Anna – …and the stegosaurus.  He later went on to start his own special effects company and created Ultraman, a Japanese super hero that grows big and shoots lasers.

Gaspar – and he flies. And fights monsters.

Possibly the greatest job in the universe, making giant monster movies.

Possibly the greatest job in the universe, making giant monster movies.

Zach – So they made the movie and it was a message about the horrors of atomic warfare. The destruction Godzilla causes is a vision of Hiroshima that Honda saw nearly a decade before.

Gaspar – Then came the sequel, Godzilla raids again. Next was Godzilla vs King Kong. This set Godzilla up as a superstar.

This was the golden age of Toho monster movies. This was monster suited mayhem at its finest.

This was the golden age of Toho monster movies. This was monster suited mayhem at its finest.

Scipio – This period is called the Showa era of Godzilla movies. This established many of the famous Godzilla monsters

King Ghidorah, Godzilla's arch nemesis.

King Ghidorah, Godzilla’s arch nemesis.

Mothra, a monster that's very popular among women in Japan.  One of Godzilla's sometimes allies.

Mothra, a monster that’s very popular among women in Japan. One of Godzilla’s sometimes allies.

Rodan, a flying monster that helps Godzilla against Ghidorah.

Rodan, a flying monster that helps Godzilla against Ghidorah.

And, Godzilla's other main advisary, Mechagodzilla.

And, Godzilla’s other main advisory, Mechagodzilla.

Zach – Showa series ended with my personal favorite, “Terror of Mechagodzilla.” It was the swan song of the original godzilla series. The series had turned mostly campy and comedic and had lost all of the original meaning and significance. Godzilla had turned from a personification of the atomic bomb to the white hat hero fighting alien monsters to save the Earth.

This was an epic showdown that brought Godzilla back to its golden era of spectacle and awesome destruction.

This was an epic showdown that brought Godzilla back to its golden era of spectacle and awesome destruction.

Gaspar – But then Godzilla returned in 1984 with “The Return of Godzilla” or “Godzilla 1985″ in America. This was the start of the Heisei era. This had many movies with “Vs” in the title. Godzilla vs Biollante, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla vs Ghidorah. Godzilla vs Space Godzilla and Godzilla vs Destroyah to name a few.

Zach – Honestly, most of the heisei era movies kinda sucked. G vs Ghidorah had some appalling plot twists and the lamest android ever. Also, there was like five seconds of action in it. Biollante was filmed in my beloved Fukui and Space Godzilla was an maelstrom of kaiju awesomeness.

Godzilla was kind of chunky in this series. Many of the monsters floated around on wires and not enough action. But at least it started off as an attempt to be serious.

Godzilla was kind of chunky in this series. Many of the monsters floated around on wires and not enough action. But at least it started off as an attempt to be serious.

Scipio – But then Godzilla died in Godzilla vs Destroyah. But do not worry, Godzilla came back in Godzilla 2000. This started the Millennial series. Godzilla 2000 was a great reboot and set the tone for the entire series. Godzilla’s breath attack was upgraded from a tickle spray to a megabeam that blows everything up in a rather impressive display.

He sports a sleeker, spikier look and isn't good nor bad, but a force of nature. (My favorite Godzilla suit.)

He sports a sleeker, spikier look and isn’t good nor bad, but a force of nature. (My favorite Godzilla suit.)

Buffalo – Many of these Millennial movies have a message. For example in Godzilla vs Megagirus, Godzilla is attracted to nuclear power so Japan is forced to go to alternative forms of energy. Sounds nice to me.  Wait, in many Indian religions there is talk of evil serpents with horns that live in the water. I wonder if one if one of these were the first kaiju. I want to see a Cheyenne kaiju kicking an American kaiju’s but! In Giant Monsters all out Attack Godzilla is there to punish Japan for its crimes in World War II. Most movies in this series are unrelated and approach Godzilla like it was a direct sequel to Godzilla 1954.  (Yes, some mention other movies, but in a loose manner. And Godzilla S.O.S. is a sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.) There’s a lot of action, a lot of fun and a lot of cheesy special effects.

Mechagodzilla was the goodguy this time.

Mechagodzilla was the good guy this time. But a very cool looking good guy that goes bezerk sometimes and destroys the city.

Godzilla's the villain in Giant Monsters all out Attack. Look at those eyes and fangs! You know he's evil.

Godzilla’s the villain in Giant Monsters all out Attack. Look at those eyes and fangs! You know he’s evil.

Anna – Okay, hold on…I just read this. The Millennial series ended with Final Wars which was an homage to the Showa era movies with the many monsters battling aliens for the fate of the world. It was the 50th anniversary of the first Godzilla movie. (1954 – 2004.) In Byzantine terms, that’s a very short time. See, I still got it!

This is Olga's favorite monster, the space monster Gigan. Olga likes him because "he has saw on belly."

This is Olga’s favorite monster, the space monster Gigan. Olga likes him because “he has saw on belly.”

Zach – So, this catches us up to present with the release of Legendary’s Godzilla in 2014, the 60th anniversary in which it takes Godzilla back to its “punishment for mankind’s folly by nature” theme. Godzilla is no longer a campy cheese fest, but a terrifying nightmare of destruction.

The news of the new Godzilla movie has me feeling like Godzilla from "Invasion of Astro Monster" one of my childhood favorites.

The news of the new Godzilla movie has me feeling like Godzilla from “Invasion of Astro Monster” one of my childhood favorites.

Boudica here just to remind you to not just go watch Terror of Mechagodzilla, but also to check out Zach's post apocalyptic adventure "Sins of Prometheus." Find it on Amazon!

Boudica here just to remind you to not just go watch Terror of Mechagodzilla, but also to check out Zach’s post apocalyptic adventure “Sins of Prometheus.” Find it on Amazon!

Gaspar – Oh, and lastly, please leave a comment with your favorite kaiju or Godzilla suit.

 

Larry Correia (The True History)

That is not a middle name that runs in the family.

That is not a middle name that runs in the family.

Gaspar Correia here on a personal post. Yes, I stole Zach’s computer but he’s busy playing Warhammer. It’s called that but there are no hammers involved…so, whatever.  Anyway, Larry Correia, the International Lord of Hate has been in the media a lot these days.

Wait, let me see if I can figure out this “link” thing…

http://monsterhunternation.com/

Okay, so Larry, like me is Portuguese, a descendent of people who sailed the oceans in search of plunder.  He’s a writer and makes a living from making stuff up. Recently he said that the Hugo awards was corrupt because they put their own pet causes and politics above the actual quality of the works being judged. He was called a liar. So Larry used their system, nominated people that they’d never vote for and the Hugo people started throwing out bigoted hate filled rants against them, thus showing their tolerance.

I don’t understand a lot of this modern world, but I don’t think any time period would make sense of that.

So, let me set the record straight. I, Gaspar Correia will tell the true and factual account of the life of Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate.

Young Larry began his life like any other child. But when he was only one year old his parents took him on a vacation. They were flying to Peru when their plane went down. Young Larry was the sole survivor. At one year of age he crawled through the rain forest eating berries and bugs. As he grew older he learned to hunt and soon he began wrestling alligators for food. At the age of three he killed a boa-constrictor with his bare hands.

A rare photo taken of the young Larry.

A rare photo taken of the young Larry.

As he grew in strength and powers Larry also learned wisdom. At the age of twelve he discovered the hut of a ancient man. This wizened old man taught Larry to hone his hunting prowess into a living, lethal weapon. He taught him how to use deception with strength. He also taught him the power of the written word. From that day forward Larry had two simultaneous paths, that of the warrior and that of the writer. He would go on to combine these two paths into one steel sword of truth and justice.

When he was eighteen he hitch hiked to New York City where he lived on the streets, using his powers to patrol the streets and fight crime. He stalked through the tall buildings of the city, hunting for predators. After years of cleaning the streets of scum and vermin he caught the attention of a man that was the leader of a syndicate of super powered criminals. This League of Evil Villains sent their best assassins after Larry.

The LEV couldn't complete their evil schemes until Larry was stopped.

The LEV couldn’t complete their evil schemes until Larry was stopped.

One by one Larry fought the LEV assassins in epic battles that sprawled across the city. Frustrated by their failures, the League of Evil Villains developed an anti-matter ray that would destroy the city and Larry with it.  Larry’s Coalition of Good Guy Writers found out about this nefarious plot and assaulted the Evil Tower in downtown New York and fought floor by floor up to the top.

Anna Komnene – Wait, Gaspar, the death ray was on top of a skyscrapper in New York?

Gaspar – Yeah, so?

Anna – Well, if its built in the middle of the city and its going to blow up the city…?

Gaspar – Oh. Yeah. I just remembered. The Evil Tower was staffed only by robot soldiers. The villains themselves were at their lake house in the Hamptons.  So, the Coalition of Good Guy Writers forced their way to the top where a twenty foot tall cyborg with four arms ending in mono-molecular sharp blades waited for them.

This thing was a titanic monster of destruciton

This thing was a titanic monster of destruction

The Coalition of Good Guy Writers attacked. Three of them died at the blades of the robots but they bought Larry an opening. He rushed forward, leapt in the air and with one mighty punch he smashed the cyborg in the eye. The metal beast staggered back and fell off the skyscrapper. Then the Coalition destroyed the death ray and saved the city.

Years later, on the trail of a phantom serial killer, he landed in Utah where he met a black haired super heroine. Together they stopped the murderous phantom and three weeks later they were married.

Larry then tried to lead a normal life in Utah. He tried to blend in but his warrior ways and superhuman strength always made him stand out.

But then one day trouble found him. A giant, evil moose monster attacked his home high up in the mountains. The enromous creature charged at his fortress and beat against the walls but couldn’t break through. Larry had to act or his family would be killed. He shoved off the guise of normalcy and leapt off the roof and elbowed the giant monster on the head. The creature roared and swung at Larry. He caught the beast’s claws with one hand and punched the Moose in the face. He punched and punched but nothing was affecting the giant moose.

Now Larry knew why everyone called the mountain "Moose Mountain."

Now Larry knew why everyone called the mountain “Moose Mountain.”

The monster spewed poisonous bile out if its deformed mouth but Larry was immune to it.

Then Larry remembered something the wizened old man said. Long ago in his hut he told the young Larry that the written word had power beyond the physical.

So Larry took out his pen. He wrote down a quick story how the Moose had a secret weakness, a jewel on the tip of his nose. The jewel appeared, a bright red jewel right on the monster’s nose.

Larry punched the jewel, shattered it and the moose fell down dead. Larry then mounted the Moose over the gate of his fortress and forever called his fortress “Yard Moose Mountain.”

Olga – I like this story.

Gaspar – This is a true and accurate account of the life of Larry Correia. If anyone has any questions or doubts about Larry’s life, just let them read this and all doubts shall vanish.

 

Zach – Zachary Hill here to add my two cents about Larry. When he’s not battling monstrous moose he’s one of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend. Larry is one of the most generous and genuine people I’ve ever met. Countless times I’ve seen him stop in his busy schedule to answer questions to aspiring writers at conventions and give them advice. He treats everyone he meets with respect. If there’s one man who’s recent fame hasn’t gone to his head, It’s Larry Freaking Correia. He’s also one of the most honest. He’ll tell you straight up what he thinks. That’s a problem for some people. His writing is amazing but that’s not why I count him as a friend. He’s just a terrific human being. I’ve seen him defend liberals, communists, homosexuals, Muslims. To him it doesn’t matter.  For all those people saying that he’s a horrible person, you know nothing about him.  I’m proud to call him a friend.

The Battle of Salamis

This was a really big battle that was really important. I'm not going to say it was the most important battle ever, but.........

This was a really big battle that was really important. I’m not going to say it was the most important battle ever, but………

Zach – I’m back from Japan and back in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I will be doing a post about my adventures in Japan, but first we have a topic that was requested: the Battle of Salamis.

Anna Komnene – Very good. My Greek ancestors defending the newly born democratic system, what’s not to love?

Joan D’Arc – Democratic? I do not like ziss thing. We need a king, not ziss…rabble.

Buffalo Calf Road – Nothing wrong with the tribe giving their opinion. Unless you happen to like tyranny. I don’t know. Maybe you do.

Gaspar Correia – Hey, if there’s money involved, I’m okay with whatever.

Olga – What are we talking about?

Zachary – We are talking about a really big battle with lots of fire.

Olga – Oh, good. I will pay attentions then.

Zachary – So, the Battle of Salamis. It’s the largest naval battle in history in terms of men involved. Think about that. Lepanto, Jutland, Spanish Armada, Midway…no other battle had near as many people. This was bigger than the Rebel assault on the second Death Star.

Anna – Also, not as many battles had so much at stake. This was the fate of Greece. If they lost this battle, Persia would have destroyed Democracy. There would have been no Roman Republic, no Byzantium, no Western civilization and no America. Everything we know would have been different.

Joan D’Arc – No France? Goodness no.

Zach – Exactly. So, let’s take a look. Persia, the most powerful empire in the world turned its greedy eyes on the Greek city states. There was no Greek nation, only a collection of fiercely independent city states that usually weren’t on good speaking terms.  They were more incoherent than Congress. The Spartans moved to block the Persian invasion of the Greek mainland at Thermopylae. That’s a whole post in of itself, but let me explain…no, let me summarize. King Xerxes invades Greece with an army of a million men and the Spartans with allies from other city-states, go down to stop them at a small pass where the Persian numbers wouldn’t work against them. And yes, I said “a million.” They held them off for a few days but when they were about to lose, most Greeks retreated but three hundred Spartans stayed behind to hold the Persians off. They died to the man but not without holding the Persians up and buying the rest of Greece time to get its act together.

The Spartans were prepared to die and welcomed it. You know I had to use a picture from 300, I couldn't help it. It would have helped if the film makers actually bothered to learn how the Spartans fought.

The Spartans were prepared to die and welcomed it. You know I had to use a picture from 300, I couldn’t help it. It would have helped if the film makers actually bothered to learn how the Spartans fought.

Anna – An Athenian named Themistocles saw the danger of the expanding Persian Empire and started building a navy. They knew they couldn’t fight the entire Persian Empire so they started making allies with the other Greek states. Two centers of power formed, Athens and Sparta. Sparta focused on land power and Athens focused on sea power. Think of Russia and America during the cold war and suddenly aliens invade. Yeah, they might get together to fight the aliens, but it won’t be a smooth friendship.

Joan – Ze Spartans were killed to ze man at ze Hot Gates. So Persia was now free to invade Greece. Ze road was open to Athens. Zay evacuated Athens and prepared to fall back south. Ze Athenian fleet fell back to Salamis. Athenian allies fell back to ze Ithmus of Corinth, a narrow neck of land. Forts were built to keep Persia out. But ze problem was, the Persians had big fleet so they could go around. Themistocles knew Persia had to be stopped on ze water.

Buffalo – It’s simple. If Persia controls the water, they control the war. Just like how America has air and naval superiority now. Themistocles saw this and prepared his fleet for battle. He wanted the fight to be at Salamis because like Thermopylae it a tight space and gave their smaller navy an advantage.  Xerxes walked into an empty Athens and took it over, burning most of it to the ground. Then he turned his sights on the Greek fleet. Where is Napoleon? I bet he knows what that feels like.

Gaspar - Xerxes, after swearing vengeance against Greece and going on a pilgrimage into the desert, he found a hidden cave where he ascended into godhood and... Buffalo - Hold on! That's from the movie. It's not true, Gaspar. Gaspar - It is so. I swear on my reputation as a historian.

Gaspar – Xerxes, after swearing vengeance against Greece and going on a pilgrimage into the desert, he found a hidden cave where he ascended into godhood and…
Buffalo – Hold on! That’s from the movie. It’s not true, Gaspar.
Gaspar – It is so. I swear on my reputation as a historian.

Anna – Xerxes set up a throne on the hillside overlooking Salamis so he could witness his grand victory. He didn’t realize that he was facing my fellow Greeks!

Zach – Only one of his admirals advised to hold off on attacking the Greeks. Artemesia, Queen of Hilacarnassus. She was a Greek that sided with the Persian Empire.

Artemesia was one of the coolest women in history. She was a queen and professional butt kicker. She was Xerxes right hand woman for years and relied on her to get things done.

Artemesia was one of the coolest women in history. She was a queen and professional butt kicker. She was Xerxes right hand woman for years and relied on her to get things done. (I was going to draw Artemesia, but the movie made her look cooler than I would have.)

Buffalo – Artemesia was a woman after my own heart. She knew how to be “assertive.” She was a warrior that took charge and led men into combat.  So, she told Xerxes not to attack then and there but Themistocles had sent a message to Xerxes saying that he would submit to him and in battle he would turn against his fellow Greeks. This convinced Xerxes to go for it. Xerxes sent his fleet in and Artemesia was probably rolling her eyes as hard as she could.

Zach – The Greeks had 378 ships from various Greek city-states.  The Athenians had the largest number of ships with 180. Sparta supplied only 16. Corinth had the next largest at 40. It was a whole bunch of Greeks that were far more used to fighting each other than fighting other people yet there they were, facing a opponent that outnumbered them three to one. The Persians had about 1,200 ships.  The Persian ships were larger and slower which normally gave them an advantage in open water, but in the close, shallow waters of Salamis, the Greeks had the advantage. They could maneuver around and attack the larger Persian ships like hyenas taking down a lion.

The Greeks had a habit of luring the larger Persian forces into traps. "Are you ever not going to fall for that?" - Loki of Asgard

The Greeks had a habit of luring the larger Persian forces into traps. “Are you ever not going to fall for that?” – Loki of Asgard

It was a fierce battle bigger than anything before or since. All of free Greece gathered in one place to fight off a common enemy. It was desperate and ferocious.

It was a fierce battle bigger than anything before or since. All of free Greece gathered in one place to fight off a common enemy. It was desperate and ferocious.

Gaspar - And this was when the Greeks unleashed their secret weapon, the Colossi! These man-made behemoths were infused by the fire from Vulcan's forge and unleashed terrible weapons on the Persians.

Gaspar – And this was when the Greeks unleashed their secret weapon, the Colossi! These man-made behemoths were infused by the fire from Vulcan’s forge and unleashed terrible weapons on the Persians.

Anna – The Persian navy moved in and was too cramped to maneuver properly. Their numbers worked against them and the Greeks swarmed over them, ramming them in the sides and fighting on the decks. The Persians couldn’t swim and the few that managed to cling on to debris were killed by the local Greeks watching the battle from the shores. Artemesia saw that the Persians were losing horribly and decided to make a hasty retreat. Unfortunately her way was blocked by other Persian vessels. So, she did what any other sensible woman would do and rammed her way out. She smashed her way through Persian vessels and made her escape. Xerxes saw this from his hilltop throne and thought she was sinking Greek vessels. He said, “Our men have become women and our women have become men.”

Joan – How horrible! What kind of barbaric woman iz ziss? Sinking her own allies?

Gaspar – Sounds legit to me.

Buffalo – I guess tyranny doesn’t inspire loyalty. But Xerxes awarded Artemesia after the battle. (She was one of the only admirals that lived and actually did a good job. He didn’t know about her ramming Persian vessels.) He awarded her a set of Hoplite armor as a trophy. I imagine that she put it on and looked absolutely badass.

Zach – The Greeks smashed the Persian fleet in a massively one sided battle that saw the majority of the Persian fleet destroyed. This gave Greece naval dominance for the rest of the war. This did a few things. This kept the Persians from resupplying their armies by sea. (Remember my post about logistics?) It also kept the Persians from landing troops wherever they wanted.  Also, it let the Greeks move their troops freely. It basically lost the Persians the war right then and there. A war so far from Persia couldn’t be supported without the navy. Xerxes was advised by Artemesia to go back to Persia and let the war be continued by his subordinates. The allowed Xerxes to claim victory if they won the war or blame it on his generals if they lost. Either way he came out smelling like roses. The Greeks spent the next few years pushing the remains of Xerxes’ million man army out of Greece.

Anna – After the war the Greeks coalesced into two spheres of power: the Athenians and Spartans. Athens became the center of a massive coalition and those that opposed their power grab gravitated to the Spartans. Then began the Peloponnesian War, but that’s another story.

Thank you for learning about ze Battle of Salamis. Now, if you like ziss, then please look at Zach's book, "Sins of Prometheus." This iz a holy book, yes? Zach - What?  No, it's a post apocalyptic adventure.

Thank you for learning about ze Battle of Salamis. Now, if you like ziss, then please look at Zach’s book, “Sins of Prometheus.” This iz a holy book, yes?
Zach – What? No, it’s a post apocalyptic adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isabella of France

Proof that the French can kick butt.

Proof that the French can kick butt.

Anna Komemne – Isabella of France is another Fearless woman of history.  She should be more well known than she is, but I suppose your so-called modern school systems can’t be bothered.

Buffalo Calf Road – Isn’t Zach supposed to be here?

Anna – I don’t understand the question so I won’t answer it.

Gaspar Correia – Yeah, Zach’s back from Japan. He said he’d be here.

Anna – He’s running late.

Buffalo – Did you take over the blog again?

Hua Mulan – She launched a coup. I thought we were done with this.  What did you do with him?

Anna – I didn’t do anything! I just…maybe…kind of changed his flight schedule. He should be in Korea on a 58 hour layover.

Buffalo – You got to stop these mad power grabs. It’ll only lead to your unhappiness.

Anna – I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.

Gaspar – Well, folks, Anna’s busy with her coup, so I’ll start this off.  Isabella of France is often known as “The She-Wolf of France.”  She was born to King Phillip IV of France and Queen Joan I.  When she was twelve she was married to Edward II of England.

Mulan – So, she was born to the king of France and married to the future king of England. Born with a silver spoon doesn’t begin to cover what this girl had.  Her future was set and it was going to be amazing.

Anna – Her father was a cold, unemotional man and that was a strong king that controlled France with a strong iron fist. This was probably a huge influence on Isabella’s notions of leadership. Apparently there were two rules she learned, kick butt and take names. I’m not sure about the order. Her mother died when she was young so her childhood was spent learning from the tables of the most powerhungry people in Europe. Weakness was not allowed and only strength was worthy of respect.

Her father when he was young.

Her father when he was young.

Mulan – By all accounts she was a very beautiful girl. She was also universally described as charismatic and very intelligent.  Now that’s unusual for this time period. Women were just tools for diplomatic advantage, but Isabella was known for her own merits.

Buffalo – And this beautiful, convincing and highly intelligent woman was dropped into the Royal court of England as the twelve year old bride of Phillip II.  She faced some problems though. For one thing, her new husband was romantically involved with another man, so her chance at true love wasn’t exactly blossoming.  Also, Phillip II was having power struggles with the barons.  While Edward was fighting the Scots Isabella was using her contacts in the French court to find diplomatic solutions. But there was another problem. As queen of England, Isabella was due certain lands, power and authority which Edward was giving to his boyfriend, Gaveston.  This even became public when Phillip sat with Gaveston at the wedding feast and gave all of Isabella’s wedding jewelry to Gaveston. Her family had to intercede to end the public embarrassment.

Gaspar – That doesn’t sound like a very happy marriage situation. But slowly Isabella began building support within the court and even made Gaveston one of her allies. Not bad, I think it was Thomas Edison that said “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”

Anna – That was Lincoln, genius.  And even though her husband clearly liked Gaveston more than her, she put up with it for years while she built her powerbase. But while she was willing to put up with her husband’s rubbish, the barons were not and they began to fight against him.  When Edward launched a campaign against the rebellious Scots he failed miserably. He and Isabella barely escaped but Gaveston was trapped in a castle and captured. The unforgiving barons didn’t really appreciate his hold on the king and executed him.

Mulan – Now that Gaveston was out of the picture, Phillip actually paid a little attention to his wife and stopped giving her the cold shoulder.  This led to their first son and heir, the future Edward III.

Gaspar – They’re not very imaginative about their naming, are they?

Mulan – Well, with Gaveston gone and an heir secured, Isabella had more trust and power in court. She began sitting on councils and even advising the king. But then Hugh Despenser started getting the King’s ear and gaining power and influence. Meanwhile, the barons gained more power under the Lancaster family.  It didn’t help that the Dispensers and Lancasters were lifelong enemies. Phillip became…romantically involved with Hugh and started ignoring his wife again. The problem was, Isabella was giving him really good advice. She wanted him to get rid of the Lancasters but Phillip ignored her. Also, Hugh didn’t become her ally like Gaveston did. Both Isabella and the Barons didn’t appreciate Hugh’s influence with the king.

Gaspar – There was a general named Roger de Mortimer. He did a real good job fighting the troublesome Scots but then Phillip’s BFF Hugh confiscated some of Mortimer’s land and had him arrested. Roger then escaped from the Tower of London by a daring repel down the wall.  He had to fight eighty guards armed only with dagger. Only his expertise with the long forgotten martial arts of the Druids did he manage his escape. Once he got to the Thames, his friends had an alchemical power suit ready for him and he fought the army to make his way out of London and made his way to France.

Mortimer had a nerdy name, but he was a man that knew what needed to be done.

Mortimer had a nerdy name, but he was a man that knew what needed to be done.

Anna – That part about escaping out of the Tower was true. Hugh Despenser began a reign of terror where he punished all his enemies and also their families. He confiscated land and imprisoned old women and children. Some of these people were Isabella’s allies and friends. Hugh was eroding her power. He also began turning Phillip away from her and soon it was back to her being ignored again.

Mulan – Let me report on the military situation. The Scots in the north were humiliating Phillip’s armies and drove further south and Isabella was isolated in Tynemouth Priory. She was there because Edward left her there without thinking about the war. The Scottish army surrounded the priory on land and the allied Flemish navy. Well, raised by a power hungry sociopath Isabella wasn’t one to panic or surrender.  She sent out a group of young squires to delay the advanced Scottish party. It was a cold move that meant the squires deaths or capture. The few knights she had went to capture a ship. They had to fight their way to the docks. Several of the knights and two of Isabella’s ladies in waiting died to get her there. Once aboard they sailed their way through the Flemish blockade and made their way to safety.

No Medieval tale is complete without guys in armor beating each other up.

No Medieval tale is complete without guys in armor beating each other up.

Here's the priory where Isabella was in trouble. a very scenic place to be threatened.

Here’s the priory where Isabella was in trouble. a very scenic place to be threatened.

Buffalo – Well, when she got home she was furious with Edward for leaving her there in the path of the enemy army. Also, Edward had her servants arrested and her children taken away. This ticked her off.  She realized what a loser he was. The barons were revolting, the Scots were pushing south and she was being sidelined. Again, she didn’t panic. What she did was go down to France. There she met Roger Mortimer. The two had a lot in common. They both hated Edward and Hugh and they both wanted to see someone more competent on throne.  Together, they hired a mercenary army and prepared to invade England.  That’s right, she’s going after her jerk husband.

Mulan – Back to my favorite topic, the military. Isabella and her army landed at Orwell with only about 1,500 troops. Medieval armies were small, but this was still pretty small.  With her tiny army she moved inland. Edward hired local militia to rise up and stop her but those levies joined her side. Then barons began joining her side. She marched to London and Edward was soon captured as he tried to flee. He was thrown in prison and soon was conveniently found dead.

It was a quick campaign with little fighting. It was a rapid grab of power from a king that was too weak and stupid to hold it. When you play the game of thrones...

It was a quick campaign with little fighting. It was a rapid grab of power from a king that was too weak and stupid to hold it. When you play the game of thrones…

Anna – So, Isabella, tired of her husband’s ill treatment and stupidity, took the country from him and ruled in his stead.

Mulan – She was a tough chick that knew what it took to gain and hold power.

Gaspar – Isabella was a tough, beautiful, charismatic and intelligent woman.  And she spoke with what I assume was a sexy French accent.

Buffalo – Way to keep it classy, Gaspar.

Gaspar – I do what I can. Also, let me add that Zach’ s book “Sins of Prometheus” is available on Amazon. It’s a zombie-free post apocalyptic adventure about a girl that goes in search of her brother. It’s pretty cool if you ask me.

Get it here. Sins of Prometheus.

 

Pine Leaf Woman

That's CHIEF Pine Leaf Woman to you!

That’s CHIEF Pine Leaf Woman to you!

Anna Komnene – Pine Leaf woman was a Native American Indian woman who became a famous warrior and then a chief.  Also, she was awesome.

Gaspar Correia – I could take her in a shooting competition.

Hua Mulan – I would not put money on that.

Anna – Yes, today we have another Fearless Woman of History here and with me today are Gaspar, Mulan and Olga of Kiev.

Olga – Saint Olga of Kiev, thanks you.

Anna – Of course.  Yes, today we’re talking about a brave Indian woman of the Northern Plains. She was born in 1806 to the Gros Venture  nation. Pronounced like “Gro Vaunt.” I had to look that up though I despise the barbaric language of Gaul. It’s Frankish for “Big Belly.” They were one of many nations pushed into the western Great Plains by the Iroquois Confederacy. (In a similar way to the Arapaho and Lakota.) That means they used to live along the Great Lakes in a settled agrarian lifestyle but when they lost their homes due to “Aggressive Land Acquisition” by the Iroquois, they became nomads and adapted the the harsh lifestyle.

Mulan – Let’s not linger on the Gros Venture because she was kidnapped at the age of ten by the Crow and after that she was counted as a Crow woman. As was the custom of many Native Americans, she was adopted by a man that had lost both his sons.  You may think that Pine Leaf Woman would resent her captors, but in this case the enemy of my enemy…  You see, the Crow were enemies of the Blackfoot. Pine Leaf Woman’s twin brother was killed by the Blackfoot and she had sworn at that young age to not take a husband until she had collected a hundred Blackfoot scalps. So, when she was captured the Crow found themselves with a young girl that didn’t want to play with dolls or do woman’s work, she wanted to fight.

Gaspar – Yes, our little girl had sworn revenge and wanted to use what her enemy feared the most against them and her adopted father became her Obi Wan Kenobi.

Gaspar - Okay, maybe more like Obi and Luke, not like Obi and Anikin.

Gaspar – Okay, maybe more like Obi and Luke, not like Obi and Anikin.

Mulan – Yes, Since she was a young girl she dedicated her life to practicing the art of warfare for the sake of revenge. This may seem… a tad extreme to some. But one must understand that this was her twin brother. I talked to Zach about this and he agreed that he’d go on a lifelong revenge fueled rampage if something happened to his twin brother.

Olga – Dah, I also went on rampage for dead husband. I burned whole city down.

Anna – So, what were the Crow to do? Now, this is where I must explain a few differences with Indian culture and how they thought of Women’s and men’s roles in society. Theirs was a society with set places for male and female roles. Men went out and did the hunting and fighting and women took care of the children and food preparation. It was an orderly society where everyone had a place and a purpose according to which role they played. The difference is, the male and female role had nothing to do with a person’s physical sex. A man could move into a woman’s role and everyone in the tribe would consider him as a woman. Also, a woman could grow up into a man’s role and she would hunt, go on war parties and have wives. For all intent and purpose, she would be a man to the tribe. Many women who were in the role of women also fought with men and went on raids as well, but most of them settled down when they married or had children.  The majority of people fell into the role their biological sex dictated, but Pine Leaf Woman was a little different. She maintained her female identity. She dressed like a woman and acted like a woman, but she did the jobs that the men did. When there was a war party, she’d be the first to volunteer. She became well know for being a good hunter and became skilled with the traditional weapons of hatchet, knife, spear and bow.  She also learned how to shoot muskets and was apparently a pretty good shot.

Gaspar – I could still take her.

Mulan – Yes, like me, this woman trained her whole life to fight. However, as a warrior she didn’t have time to deal with her lodge or prepare her food. She took four wives which shocked the white men that met her. One writer who met her tried desperately to woo her but to no avail. In his book he said he was successful but everyone agrees that it was totally made up because the guy was a douche and all his stories had such romantic inconsistencies… and he was chased out of camp soon after he was rejected.

Gaspar – Face it dude, she was into chicks. Time to move on.

Gaspar - I would tell you how she learned to be such a good fighter, but the first rule of the Warrior Lodge is, you do not talk about the Warrior Lodge.

Gaspar – I would tell you how she learned to be such a good fighter, but the first rule of the Warrior Lodge is, you do not talk about the Warrior Lodge.

Anna – So, our Sapphic heroine slowly gathered warriors around her and her popularity and fame grew. She led her followers on raids where she captured many ponies from rival tribes and nations, counted coup and started a rather impressive scalp collection. Now, counting coup was viewed as more impressive and brave than killing an enemy warrior outright. You had to run up to the enemy in a battle and hit him with a stick. It was a way to show that you weren’t afraid of them. Also, she took an enemy’s weapon during a battle and that was viewed as not only awesome, but also pretty humiliating for the enemy warrior.  In fact, she became so good at what she did, the Crow began composing songs about her.

Gapsar – I imagine them like Heavy Metal songs and the video would have her jumping in front of an explosion while shooting two guns at once.

Anna – You imagine most things like that.

Olga – Instead of pretty ornaments she collected scalps? Oh, I do like this woman, dah!

Mulan – According to one story, the Blackfoot attacked a fort where many Crow and white women and children were. She led the defense of the fort and fought back the Blackfoot. She killed three enemy warriors without a scratch. Having fought in armor myself, I can attest that that’s a difficult feat.

Gaspar – Soon the tribe couldn’t ignore how epic this woman was and offered her a seat on the Tribal Council. There they gave her a new name, “Woman Chief.” She didn’t have time for women’s work, she was too busy killing and taking charge. She was leading war parties like a BOSS. Let me specify: in one raid alone she stole 70 horses and there were 160 warrior lodges in the Crow nation. She was ranked #3 only after two very powerful and older chiefs. Yeah, that’s pretty hard core.

Sorry, Batwoman, Warrior Chief beat you to it by almost 200 years

Sorry, Batwoman, Warrior Chief beat you to it by almost 200 years

Anna – Woman Chief was by no means the only Indian woman warrior. There were many others.

Mulan – Another warrior woman was Brown Weasel Woman, also known as “Running Eagle.”

Olga – Why do Indians get all the cool names?

Yes, I spend an hour on my hair every morning, but then I spend the next eight hours learning how to wreck face. What do you do?

Yes, I spend an hour on my hair every morning, but then I spend the next eight hours learning how to wreck face. What do you do?

Mulan – Brown Weasel Woman was a Blackfoot woman who as a girl, asked for toy bows instead of dolls. She trained as a hunter and warrior and during one battle she saw her father get knocked off his horse. She charged into enemy fire, picked up her father and rode back to safety. To the Blackfoot, knowingly turning your back to an enemy was the ultimate act of bravery. They gave her the name of “Running Eagle” as a reward.

Gaspar - She's like a 25th level fighter with a +5 vorpal sword!

Gaspar – She’s like a 25th level fighter with a +5 vorpal sword!

Anna – But then Running Eagle’s mother became sick and she had to take over the woman’s work of the lodge. She disliked this and wanted to get back to shooting things dead. But after her mother died and her father died in a battle, she took the role as head of the family in order to take care of her brothers and sisters. So now she wore the pants in the family! During her next raid they went deep into Crow territory and and she personally stole eleven horses. With their loot they began to make their way back to friendly lines. During the night she had guard duty and some Crow came to get their horses back. She ran up and grabbed the horses reigns. When the Crow saw that she was a woman they didn’t think she was a threat and continued on. So, Running Eagle shot one of them, grabbed the dead man’s rifle and shot at the other guy who was now running for his life. In another battle she blocked two arrows with her shield and she got to get up during the war camps and tell war stories with the other crusty veterans.

But women cant' be in combat...oh...wait, I guess they can.

But women cant’ be in combat…oh…wait, I guess they can.

Gaspar – So, if anyone out there is looking for inspiration for  some tough, hard hitting women that have their own wives to take names for them because they’re too busy kicking butt, these are the women for you!

Mulan – Also, Don’t forget Zach’s new book, “Sins of Prometheus,” a zombie-free post apocalyptic story. Also, check us out on Facebook. (Leans in and whispers. ) And maybe add Anna as a friend. She doesn’t have very many.

Anna – I heard that!

History for the Fantasy and Sci-Fi writer

Zach – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. I’m doing this from Japan so I’m alone today.  Today’s topic is from a presentation I gave at ‘Life The Universe and Everything,’ a writer’s conference held in Provo Utah. This is from last February where I tried to dispell myths about medieval combat and warfare in general and tried to show how the realities of such warfare are actually very fascinating and could add depth, realism and drama to a fantasy story. Yes, fantasy, by definition can really do anything it pleases, but there still has to be logic behind what they do and this is why I’m here, to bring logic to fantasy (and sci-fi) combat. Too many times I’ve read a fantasy book where the two armies clash in mass blobs, everything gets into a confused mess and somehow the hero and villain end up facing each other.

Yeah, you know you've seen this a dozen times. King Aurther, Willow, Dark Knight Rises, and so on.

Yeah, you know you’ve seen this a dozen times. King Aurthur, Willow, Dark Knight Rises, and so on.

Well, it turns out that battles are actually a little more complex and organized than that. See, there these little things called strategy and tactics.  Think of strategy as the big picture and tactics as the finer details. Strategy is the war, why your army is invading and what they’re after, where are they going and how are they going to win the war. Tactics is what you do in the battle. What units are placed where and how they move and fight. Then there is the weapons and equipment which seldom seem to be done right.

I’ll deal with each in turn. Each one will depend on the nature of the civilization you are writing about. A democratic Elven Republic that uses trade to make itself powerful will recruit, train and use soldiers in a completely different way than a Theocratic Orkish Kingdom that focuses on agriculture.

So, let’s take some examples from history. Ancient Rome. At its height it spread from England to the Mid-East with dozens of vassal kingdoms as allies. Rome recruited soldiers from all over its Empire and sent them to legions far from home. So, a Sarmatian could be sent to serve in a legion stationed in Gaul. A Libyan could be sent to Greece and a Briton could be sent to garrison Jerusalem. Wherever they went, they were trained and equipped in a similar manner so that their unifying culture became the Roman Military. It no longer mattered where they were from, they were all Legionaries now and were expected to devote their (probably) short lives to the Legion. This was quite different from how just a few centuries later, Charles Martel would recruit his soldiers. At that time, France was mostly agricultural and the soldiers were no longer life long professionals. They were farmers that had nothing much to do when they weren’t farming. So, Martel recruited young farmers for his army, but had to send them back home so they could harvest their crops in time. So, Europe developed a “campaign season” based around the harvesting of crops. (And it sucks to fight in bad winter weather.) The Venetians had a completely different way to go about warfare. They were mostly a maritime power and every citizen that sailed was expected to train with the crossbow to learn how to defend their ships.  Warship captains also hauled and sold cargo on the side to earn a profit while at war. Their land battles were mostly done by mercenary armies because the Venetians themselves cared little for land.

Okay, let’s look at a fantasy example. Let’s take (and I’ll just be making this up as I go,) an Elven kingdom ruled by a woman who’s very powerful and has ruled as monarch for centuries.  Hers is an enlightened monarchy and her kingdom has enjoyed peace. Are there other races? Sure, how about some civilized trolls, minotaurs, harpies and some centaurs. Why not. But then the nearby human empire starts expanding and using ork mercenaries to launch raids. Oh oh, time for war. The enlightened ruler refuses to do a mass conscription and instead gives a heart rending speech to her people imploring them to sign up and fight for their land and liberty. (I’m sure it’d make a great scene in the book.)  Many sign up. Many don’t.  So, they get a small but very loyal and dedicated army. They use their tiny core of experienced veterans to train these new recruits in time for the human invasion. They have to integrate the different species as well. They put trolls and centaurs into their own units as heavy infantry and cavalry. Harpies become scouts and maybe light missile tropes.  The human army invades and is looking to take territory, so they start by taking cities. This is a mono-race army of only humans (maybe they’re racists) with little cavalry and many men in heavy armor and long pikes.  They move slowly but unstoppably. So, the Elven kingdom, afraid of a stand up field battle, uses its cavalry and scouts to harass the enemy and try to split them up and only after weakening them do they attempt a pitched battle. They are outnumbered 2 to 1 but they are fighting for their freedom and country and are side by side with their brothers and townsmen. The humans are out for plunder and “three hots and a cot.” They don’t really have a cause and don’t really care. They’re confident because they think elves are weak and haven’t really stood up to fight yet. The two armies clash.

Who wins?  Well, there’s a whole lot to go through before that question can be answered. That was just one example on how culture and civilization effects how a country fights. Does your country have access to a lot of horses? Dedicated war horses take a lot of land and grain to train and a lot of time and money to get the rider trained and kitted out. Medieval Japan did not have a lot of cavalry because they didn’t have the space to do it properly. The Mongols had nothing but open space.  The Byzantines made the space at the expense of their once powerful infantry legions. Even the battles of medieval knights were mostly infantry affairs. What about technology? Does your fantasy kingdom have a tech advantage over their enemies? Do they have siege cannons? Do they have crossbows? Repeating crossbows? Byzantine flame throwers?

The Byzantines used a cheat code and got flamethrowers and laser bears.

The Byzantines used a cheat code and got flamethrowers and laser bears.

What about population? China had a much, much larger population than Western Europe and as such had much larger armies. After the worst outbreak of Black Death in Medieval Europe during the Hundred Years War, we saw large armies shrink down to small raiding parties. Smaller armies also could mean that each man is much better equipped. Massive armies might only afford a shield and helmet for their men.

A feudal kingdom like the Holy Roman Empire was a collection of quarreling kingdoms that sometimes agreed to work together. The Turks used different types of troops from their different parts of their Empire so it was a mish mash of whatever they had.

Religion. Is your religion pacifist in nature? For example, The Byzantines were Christian and as such they actually avoided fighting far more than their Pagan ancestors and relied more heavily on strategy, subterfuge and simply paying their enemies off. Or, is your religion a blood thirsty one that delights in slaughtering heathens? Or is money the root of all happiness in your fantasy religion? Individualism or conformity? Honor or whatever gets victory?

So, do you see how the culture can affect your military? If you’re writing about battles, you have to have your culture fully fleshed out and understand how that changes the way they fight and wage war.

Now, the big picture: Strategy.

Here’s the thing, every battle has a purpose. Every army sets out to accomplish something. If an army sets out to invade a neighbor, what’s the best way to accomplish that? Are the cities fortified? Open? Or are the bases of power castles and forts outside the cities? Is farmland what they’re after or the control of rivers or mountain passes? Maybe islands or other centers of trade? Let’s look at Hannibal’s invasion of Italy. He was arguably one of the greatest generals of all time. He accomplished what so few generals in history have ever accomplished: the complete encirclement of a Roman army. Every battle he fought he completely annihilated the enemy to a humiliating degree. It was so bad that the Roman general Fabian refused to fight him face to face and just ran around Italy avoiding contact with Hannibal. So….why is western Europe speaking Latin based languages and not Cartheginian? Simple, Hannibal didn’t know what to do to win the war. After his shockingly amazing victory at Lake Trasimene the city of Rome, capitol of his enemy, was wide open to attack. There was maybe a couple of inept guards between him and the complete destruction of the Roman Republic. But he didn’t move.  He sat there and waited for the Romans to surrender. Meanwhile, Rome quickly gathered another army, trained them up and sent them out again.

This was an example of how no matter how brilliant you are or how powerful your army, if your strategy sucks, you’ll probably lose.

Here’s the main thing to know about strategy. If you only take away one thing from all of my ranting here, its this: Every army survives on its belly. In fantasy how many times have you seen depictions of vast armies of evil marching from horizon to horizon and everyone you see is warrior in black armor intent on death.

Looks cool, gotta admit that, but slightly impossible.

Looks cool, gotta admit that, but slightly impossible.

There’s a problem with that.

How do they eat? Armies travel on their bellies. Miss one too many meals and your army is either too weak to move or are ready to mutiny. An army that’s so friggin’ huge that it shakes the earth also has to have a baggage train almost as numerous as the soldiers. Armies require a lot of food and a lot of stuff. They’ll need blacksmiths and all that comes with it. They’ll need doctors, blankets, food, carts, tools, laundry stuff, LOTS of FOOD, weapons, armor horses, food for the horses, food, surveyors, accountants, food, money, lots of money, food, shoes, clothing and food. Sure, the initial shock invasion can travel light, but if the baggage train doesn’t meet up with them soon, they’re stranded and either dead or captured. (Examples: Blitzkrieg, Iraq War, Normandy, the First Crusade, etc.)

What I’m trying to say is that your entire strategy will revolve around logistics. The three ‘B’s’. Beans, blankets and bullets. (or blades if you’re writing fantasy.) Most of the time the army that gets the three B’s where they need to be, when they need to be there will win. Why did Nazi Germany focus on U-boat action around England? They wanted to cut off all supplies to starve them out. Why did Grant focus on the Mississippi in the Civil War? He wanted cut off the South’s main supply lines. Why did Lee’s army fight at Gettysburg? They were looking for shoes.

The ironic thing is, the bigger the army, the more vulnerable they are to logistics. A vast horde of unbeatable warriors can be beaten by cutting off their supply lines and leaving them cold and hungry. Look at Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Napoleon was undefeatable. His army could march over any three armies in Europe without pause. But the Russians didn’t have to fight him in the field. They just withdrew and let Napoleon come further in until his supply lines were stretched too thin and left him with nothing to find. This also worked against a certain German leader during the next century. So, in your fantasy book, you have an army of war trolls that the good guys can’t possibly beat in a fight? Starve them out. Burn the crops before them and attack their baggage trains and supply lines.  The three B’s.

Look at Joan of Arc’s first heroic battle at Orleans. Why was that city so important? A novice writer will say, “its an important city” and leave it at that. But the reason Joan knew she had to keep Orleans from falling was that it was a transportation link between the Dauphin’s territories. Cut that link and each part would be essentially cut off from resupply or reinforcements. It was about the three B’s.

I know Logistics doesn’t sound sexy for a fantasy story, but it can add a lot of plot and reasons to fight. Maybe your heroes need a port to allow their navy to resupply them? Maybe they want to stop the enemy from getting their horses so they go take the city where most of their warhorses come from. Maybe the enemy is after the part of the country where most of the good guys’ food is grown.  Maybe the Troll army is running for the granary silos or pig farms and the heroes have to stop them from getting to the food. Either way its a reason to fight instead of “because they’re there.”  It’ll add motive and make the world seem more real.

This is the reason that most of Medieval warfare was based around sieges. It was a cheap way to destroy the enemy. You surround them and wait and see who runs out of supplies or gets sick the fastest. Look through Medieval history and you’ll see that many battles were sieges. They were far more common than most realize and they were often fairly mundane and boring affairs. But if you want a siege that is truly epic, look at the siege of Malta and the defense of the Knights of St. John.

But, Zach, sometimes armies fight just to kill the other army!

Yes, I know, and in those cases, the three B’s get a fourth, ‘bodies.’ The side that will win will the side that can throw the most beans, blankets blades and bodies into the fray. WWI is a good example of this. In that war, the object was to win by pure attrition. Objectives were excuses to maul and wear down the enemy army. Germany lost because they just couldn’t keep the (4) B’s going. They failed to strangle England and then America jumps in with ship loads of the (4) B’s.  This is a particularly brutal and pointless form of warfare and if you want to write a dark, gritty fantasy/sci-fi war, this is an interesting model, but remember, the men fighting at the front are just a part of it. The other half of the war is the flow of food, weapons, supplies and bodies. But you run the risk of making the war seem like the same every day, which it would be. Unless you’re going for some depressing artsy kinda book, I’d stick to a more maneuver based form of warfare where more things than attrition matter. The reader will thank you.

Okay, if done right it could actually be really cool and I'd read the heck out of it. But its tricky to do.

Okay, if done right it could actually be really cool and I’d read the heck out of it. But its tricky to do.

Right, on to Tactics! This is the second most important thing to remember when dealing with battle scenes. What we see in movies and most books is two blob armies facing off, a heroic speech from the hero, then the two blobs crash into each other and everyone is mixed in with everyone and the heroism of the good guys wins out.

Um…no. Not really. Even the most barbaric of barbarians used tactics. Take the Goths that invaded Rome. They didn’t fight in a huge blob. They circled their enormous wagons and placed infantry in between the openings. Then their cavalry would sally out, attack the enemy and retreat back inside their mobile fort.  The Goths that fought in the West adopted Roman styles of warfare very quickly. The Mongols had very sophisticated tactics that required precision timing and communication. Their horse archers would charge forward, unleash arrows and charge back in a continuing circle of raining death. The Byzantines would march their infantry slowly while their heavy cavalry would charge, hammer into the enemy and come back behind the safety of the infantry. They’d repeat this until they wore down the enemy with heavy cavalry charges. (That usually didn’t take very long.)

What tactics your army uses will depend on the type of army which depends on the society. Where they fight will depend on the strategy and logistics of theirs and the enemy’s army. Its all interconnected.

Okay, let’s look at how ancient and medieval armies actually fought.

There was a reason they formed lines of different units and there was a reason each unit was placed where they were. Let’s take a look.

Here's a typical battle formation for two opposing armies. The infantry in the middle where a lot of fighting is going to be. The archers are on the flanks (or sometimes behind) to provide missile support and maybe light skirmishers. The cavalry is places on the flanks so they can move out and attack the weak flanks or other weak spots as they appear. The reserves are there to plug up holes and make sure the enemy doesn't break through.

Here’s a typical battle formation for two opposing armies. The infantry in the middle where a lot of fighting is going to be. The archers are on the flanks/sides (or sometimes behind) to provide missile support and maybe light skirmishers. The cavalry is placed on the flanks so they can move out and attack the weak flanks or other weak spots as they appear. The reserves are there to plug up holes and make sure the enemy doesn’t break through.

Right, pretty simple. Now this is where it gets complex. Once the two armies engage, arrows start flying to cause casualties and expose weak spots. The infantry have to progress in formation and not break the line. Here’s why. If there’s a break, enemy can move through and now they’re free to attack the sides and backs of the infantry where they are exposed. This can cause catastrophic problems and often causes a “roll up” where an entire infantry unit is destroyed or sent running by enemy using a break in their line to enter in where they are weak and basically attack their soft spots.

That’s why you have reserves. In many movies (First Knight, Braveheart, to name a few) the reserves are treated like an extra army you just kinda have waiting off to the side and then as a tactical genius the general says “Send in the Reserves!!” and suddenly that side wins because they had an extra army. No. Both sides would have reserves to prevent those super lethal breaks in the line. If they saw an area faltering, the reserves would charge in and support that weak spot. Or, if the flanks were being weakened by a cavalry charge, the reserves would counter-charge the enemy cavalry and save the flank. If the flank falls, then the whole army is in danger of being rolled up.

At Gettysburg, the battle at Little Round top was defended by Chamberlain so heroically because he knew that the flank had to hold or the whole Union army was in danger. Flanks had to be defended and attacked. If you can get a flank you can destroy the entire enemy army. Alexander the Great preferred to charge right down the center. He broke through the infantry to get to the enemy commander. Daring but risky.

Now, Cavalry vs Infantry. This is something that’s also horribly misrepresented in movies and books.  Movies show cavalry as unstoppable juggernaughts that roll over everything. Not quite. Cavalry can smash into and scatter certain unprepared infantry units. Frankish cavalry charges broke Muslim infantry numerous times during the First crusade. But there’s an easy way to counter a cavalry charge by the fiercest horsemen.

Pikes.

Yes, during much of the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and up through to almost the modern age, pikes were the #1 weapon of choice for infantry. Pikes could keep swordsmen at bay and make cavalry charges useless. A horse charging into a wall of spikes will do nothing but get impaled.

Now, light cavalry was used to scout the enemy positions and movements. An essential job. They were also used to harass enemy archers and supply lines.

Cavalry archers could fire and move away before infantry could ever reach them. They could attack and never be attacked in return. The answer was to have cavalry of your own to chase them down or have better missile weapons than them. An army without cavalry was a sitting duck to cavalry armies, something the Roman legions of the West learned too late. The Eastern Romans adapted and their Byzantine armies emphasized cavalry much more than their destroyed Western brethren.

The Swiss Pikemen were some of the most feared infantry in the Middle Ages for a reason. Heavy armor and long pikes. A running wall of death heading straight at you. Yeah, kinda scary.

The Swiss Pikemen were some of the most feared infantry in the Middle Ages for a reason. Heavy armor and long pikes. A running wall of death heading straight at you. Yeah, kinda scary.

You can’t really have a Medieval army without pikes or spears.

Bows weren’t used nearly as widely as movies suggest. Most armies used crossbows and even then not very much. The English were the exception and they used the famed English Long Bow against the French to great effect.

So, now let’s see how this all worked together.

The cavalry charge forward under the cover of missile fire and advancing infantry. The either fight enemy cav or go for exposed flanks or whatever else looks juicy. If they see reserves coming at them, they high tail it out of there and go back and then return to attack a little while later.

The cavalry charge forward under the cover of missile fire and advancing infantry. The either fight enemy cav or go for exposed flanks or whatever else looks juicy. If they see reserves coming at them, they high tail it out of there and go back and then return to attack a little while later. (Okay, not a pretty drawing, but hey.)

But what if one army has a longer line and tries to envelope the other army? Well, then the other army has to lengthen its formations to keep that from happening but risk thinning their lines too much. Its a fine line of long formations versus thickness. Too short and you get surrounded. Too thin and they’ll break through your center. No easy answer because it’ll depend on the situation. A good general will be able to judge what is necessary.

I hope I’ve given you a better idea about how a real Medieval style battle will go instead of just two blobs running at each other and screaming.

Now, weapons and armor.

Certain kinds of armor stop certain kinds of weapons. There are no universals when it comes to weapons and armor. For example. Chain mail is cheap, easy to make and works very well against slashing weapons. But its weak against piercing weapons like spears and arrows. Its also useless against blunt weapons like clubs and maces. The blows will still break every bone under the chain mail.

Scale/lamallar armor is great, but has one weakness. The direction of the scales. If the scales are pointed down, an upward thrust will go through. The Byzantine cavalry angled their armor scales up in order to protect against infantry.

A Byzantine Cataphract in full, multi-layered armor. Felt, lamallar/scale, and chainmail beneath. He was as armored as you got without using plate.

A Byzantine Cataphract in full, multi-layered armor. Felt, lamallar/scale, and chainmail beneath. He was as armored as you got without using plate.

Felt/wool armor. Yes, I’m serious. This stuff stops arrows like kevlar stops bullets, but is useless against stabby and hitty things. Byzantines would put wool/felt armor over or under their metal armor for multiple levels of protection.

Plate armor. Now, I’ve seen in too many movies where an axe or even a sword goes through plate armor. Just no. Swords will bounce off and axes might dent if if you’re lucky. So, if you’re writing a story and a character has plate armor, he’s basically impervious to most things. The only way to stop someone in plate armor is to get in the cracks like the armpit, the neck or eye slits. (Or groin if you’re not nice.)  Something really peircy might penetrate like an armor piercing crossbow bolt at close range or a really big lance going very fast.

And a suit of full plate was far more maneuverable than one might think. The weight distribution was excellent for a fitted suit of armor and the wearer could get up, roll around and mount horses at will. The idea of the knight being hoisted into their saddle is a Victorian myth.  So, if your plucky thief character comes across a noble in plate armor, he has three choices, get out his dagger and go for a gap in his armor, get a mace and smash him, or run. The first two involve risking fight with a trained warrior and you’ll get one shot. The fourth option is to get a bunch of your buddies and dog pile the person in plate armor.

This is a man who's trained since he was a child in the art of fighting. He's wearing the best armor possible and he's ready for you. Your pluck and dagger won't be enough.

This is a man who’s trained since he was a child in the art of fighting. He’s wearing the best armor possible and he’s ready for you. Your pluck and dagger won’t be enough.

So, what level of technology does your civilization have? That will determine what kind of weapons and armor they have. Do they have simple bows, recurve? Crossbows?  How good is their metallurgy? Sword fights weren’t fights where the two characters bang away at each other’s swords. Swords broke and chipped easily when you did that. They either used shields and tried to get in through an opening or they used their swords more like staves and clobbered each other with the pommel. Against unarmored opponents, sure, hack and slash away, but a fight between two armored foes was a brutal affair.

Also, plate armor is friggin’ expensive and hard to make. Each suit had to be tailored to the wearer with exact measurements or the suit wouldn’t fit or move right and become more of a hindrance.

Samurai armor offered a great deal of maneuverability with moderate protection. They were hard to make because of the complexity of each suit and was handed down through the generations as symbols of prestige.

Three dudes you do not want to mess with. Each one will explode on you with a flash of yelling and sharp steel. These were men that did not take warfare lightly.

Three dudes you do not want to mess with. Each one will explode on you with a flash of yelling and sharp steel. These were men that did not take warfare lightly.

So, have you figured out your society? That will determine what weapons and armor they use? Do they have massive armies with simple to produce but not very protective armor? Elaborate and highly protective armor just for the nobles? Breastplates and helmets for everyone like the did in the English Civil War and colonization of America? The armor will determine the weapons and that might affect how the units behave on the battlefield. Different tactics for different foes. In the Army we had something called “METT”  Mission, Equipment, Time and Terrain. Basically that said that the situation dictates what you do. What’s the mission you have to do? What equipment do you and the enemy have? What factor does time play? Do you need to hurry and get somewhere? Beat them before sundown or hold them off until reinforcements arrive like at Waterloo?  What’s the terrain? Are you on a hill like King Aurthur at Baden Hill or are you caught between the enemy and a lake like the Romans at Lake Trasemene? Do you charge down the hill with bayonets like Chamberlain at Gettysburg?

Confused? I hope not.

Confused? I hope not.

That’s a whole lot to think about when writing your story, but each one adds possibilities to add to your story and add depth and reality.  It forces you to flush out your society which will in turn shape everything around your characters. A battle where they have a definite goal they have to do and fight a certain way, “Hold the line until our allies can join us!” Is much more memorable that [The horde charged and we charged and there in the middle of the chaos I saw Demonitor. And so we started our fated duel! But then Demonitor shouted out, "Send in the Reserves!!" And I knew all was lost!]

So, get thinking and then start writing. And for heaven’s sake, finish it!

Zach’s new book

Anna – Oh, Zach insisted that I mention that his new book, “Sins of Prometheus” is out now and that you should purchase it at your leisure. It’s a ….hold on, I wrote it down here…oh, its a “post-apocalyptic” story.  I’m not entirely sure what that is, but he says that its exciting. A young woman travels across a desolate America to find her brother and faces other survivors of the plague. Some are friendly and others are decidedly not.

You can buy it here. Sins of Prometheus.

Olga - By Zachski's book or I burn you house down.

Olga – By Zachski’s book or I burn you house down.

Princess Theophanu

She took over the Holy Roman Empire and showed those barbarians how to do the whole "Imperial Power" thing right.

She took over the Holy Roman Empire and showed those barbarians how to do the whole “Imperial Power” thing right.

Anna Komnene – We’re back with another great discussion about a topic I chose.  Zach sent us a little history of Fukui, the city he’s currently living in. It had something to do with castles, a son of Tokugawa and a phoenix, but honestly, I didn’t read it all. Why talk about that when we can talk about something actually interesting?

Matilda of Tuscany – Actually, I thought Zach’s information was quite fascinating.

Anna – And that’s why you’re not the host, because you’re boring.

Olga of Kiev – I miss Zach-ski.

Gaspar Correia – Really? You do?

Olga – Of course! He was nice man that wore toga and shouted about hot pockets. I like hot pockets.

Gaspar – No, that was Julius Caesar. Zach had the bald head and goatee and drew the pictures.

Olga – I no remember him.

Anna – You don’t need to.  Now, today we’re talking about something near to my heart.

Gaspar – You have one?

Anna – Why must it be “illegal” to have someone’s nose cut off? This so-called “modern age” is very inconvenient. But yes, we are talking about Princess Theophanu of Byzantium. (Sometimes Theophano.) When a powerful Byzantine lady makes a mark on history, I shall pay attention! But our story begins to the west of the Eastern Roman Empire, we look to Germany and the leader, Otto I. Now, if we remember, the Frankish upstart, Charlemagne united a bunch of barbaric Frankish lands into one large kingdom that covered most of France and Germany and Italy. He was crowned “Emperor of the Romans” in Rome on Christmas day in the year 800 AD.  Well, after his death, his “empire” fractured between rival factions.  Well, his descendents never forgot the Western Roman Empire or Charlemagne’s claim to the supremacy of the Roman throne. So, along comes this Otto fellow who manages to unite Germans into one single empire again and calls it the “Holy Roman Empire.” It would last from 296 to 1806 when Napoleon ended it.

Matilda – Well, there are three things wrong with that title. Holy? Not hardly. Though Otto did finally defeat the invading Magyars and ended their invasion of Western Europe. (They settled in Hungary and became the Hungarians.) And for defeating the pagan Magyars, Otto was called the Savior of Christendom. But still, a political aristocracy that murders to maintain power, I hardly call Holy. Besides, they invaded my beloved Italy and attacked my homeland. So, no. Not holy.

Gaspar – I also must say that they weren’t Roman either. But why claim that name? Simple, they claimed to be the spiritual successor to the might, power and prestige of Rome.  But, the fact was, they were the super power in the west so they could claim that title without dispute.  Now, this didn’t go down well with our Eastern Roman friends, the Byzantines. They saw it as barbarians playing dress up.

Olga – Oh, is my turn, dah? Okay, okay. (clears throat) They no Empire either. They just a big kingdom with many dukes that fight each other for power. Sometimes they listen to emperor, sometimes no. Not Empire.

A fair chunk of land. They spent more time fighting each other than other countries. Though, in their time they did fight off the Magyars, the Turks and the Mongols.

A fair chunk of land. They spent more time fighting each other than other countries. Though, in their time they did fight off the Magyars, the Turks and the Mongols.

Anna – Very good, Olga. You’ll make a great historian one day. So, Otto I has his big kingdom he calls an empire ready to go, but he lacks one thing. He lacks prestige. Sure, he has power and the armies to demand respect, but he needs a link to a real Empire and a real legacy. Well, the only choice he had was to turn to the Eastern Roman Empire, the continuation of the Roman Empire that he so haughtily claimed the title to. So, when he had a son, Otto II, he decided to ask Constantinople for a princess to marry and gain that imperial prestige.

Matilda – There was one problem, the Byzantine Emperor wasn’t too keen on sending his imperial daughter to live with a bunch of upstart barbarians. Otto demanded no less than his daughter, Anna. (Not to be confused with Anna Komnene here.) The Byzantine emperor flatly rejected such a preposterous notion and instead offered Otto the daughter of his brother in law from his first marriage. Not exactly the daughter to an emperor, but Otto figured “Hey, its a Byzantine princess. Good enough,” and accepted.

Byzantine emperor is not impressed by your filthy little kingdom.

Byzantine emperor is not impressed by your filthy little kingdom.

Olga – He sent little niece to nasty Germans? She was only twelve, dah?

Anna – I’m impressed, Olga. You did your homework this time. Yes, she was only twelve but Otto just wanted the connection to the Roman Empire. The rest he didn’t care about.  So, little princess Theophanu was sent to Rome to meet and marry Otto II. The was more than a simple wedding. This was the uniting of the two great superpowers of their day and the pomp and ceremony was unrivaled in Western Europe. She had a huge entourage that included skilled artists and craftsmen from Constantinople. It was a most impressive display.

The wedding document still exists. It was written on purple paper with gold ink. This was as swanky as it got back then. This kind of document was reserved only for the most important of occasions and the birth of an imperial dynasty was one of those occasions.

The wedding document still exists. It was written on purple paper with gold ink. This was as swanky as it got back then. This kind of document was reserved only for the most important of occasions and the birth of an imperial dynasty was one of those occasions.

Here's their wedding portrait. Otto II and Theophanu. Its better than most of the sappy wedding photos I've seen.

Here’s their wedding portrait. Otto II and Theophanu. Its better than most of the sappy wedding photos I’ve seen.

Matilda – They were crowned Emperor and Empress of Rome by the Pope in 972. Not bad. Now, being crowned “empress” was as high as it got. She wasn’t just “wife of the emperor.” No, sir. She was full Empress with legal and political power. also, Otto II’s mother was also crowned empress so, they were on equal footing and the two of them didn’t exactly see eye to eye on a lot of things. Her mother in law, Adelaide, called her “that Greek woman.” But the next year, Otto I died and suddenly Theophano was wife of the sole ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.  Now, she was Empress, yes, but she wasn’t very popular. A Benedictine monk called her an unpleasant and talkative woman. But then again, to a Benedictine monk, maybe most women were talkative and unpleasant.

Anna – Well, those German barbarians just didn’t know how to take culture and sophistication. They claimed she was “decadent” because she took baths every day, wore perfume and jewelry that was finer than anything they had. And one of her worst offenses, and I scarce say this in mixed company for the scandal of it, but when she ate, she didn’t use her hands but a…a fork!

Gaspar – Oh, the humanity!

Anna – I’m afraid so, my fellow historians. Theophanu bathed and didn’t eat with her hands. Horrible, I know.

Matilda – I am shocked!

Anna – Well, apparently their marriage was a somewhat happy one because they had five children. One of them would become Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor. Well, life as Holy Roman Empress was a mobile one. The Germans hadn’t gotten the hang of having a stationary capital, so their court moved around from place to place. She had been trained since birth to play the game of politics and she was smart and very intelligent. She was no passive trophy wife. She even traveled with her husband on military campaigns and signed her name on legal documents.

Matilda – But then in 983, 11 years after becoming emperor, Otto II died suddenly leaving his wife and three year old Otto III in a somewhat precarious position. Theophanu knew that if she did nothing, the German nobles would walk all over her and her son and seize the throne for themselves. So, quickly had Otto crowned emperor and named herself as Empress regent. That’s a fancy term for “My son is the emperor, but really control everything.”

Gaspar - Theophanu also unleashed one of her dowery gifts, the enchanted dragon automatons of destruction. These mechanical behomaths ensured that the German dukes would stay in line!

Gaspar – Theophanu also unleashed one of her dowry gifts, the enchanted dragon automatons of destruction. These mechanical behemoths ensured that the German dukes would stay in line!

Anna – No, she didn’t need giant cyborg dragons, Gaspar, she had something better. She had a brain and the courage to use it. For two years she actually had to share the throne with her mother-in-law. The only thing those two agreed on was the safety and future of Otto III. In that they were united. But then Theophanu took the throne as sole ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. So, think about that for a moment. This 12 year old princess from Constantinople comes Germany as a trophy wife and ends up ruling the whole place. Not a small feat by anyone’s standards.

Matilda – Yeah, the German dukes and barons didn’t like her, but that was because she was more sophisticated and maybe more intelligent than them and they didn’t like being told what to do by a woman.

Gaspar – Hold on, I think I have a picture of one of these barons….

Matilda - Well, that's A baron, not exactly...never mind.

Matilda – Well, that’s A baron, not exactly…never mind.

Olga – So, did Theofa..fa..Theo kill peoples?

Anna – No, she didn’t have to. She ruled by her strong will and quick thinking.

Olga – No burning cities?

Anna – No.

Olga – (sighs) Okay then.

Here's a statue of her in Germany where she's buried. So, the German dynasty has a Byzantine princess to thank for their stable continuance.  Didn't teach that in school, did they?

Here’s a statue of her in Germany where she’s buried. So, the German dynasty has a Byzantine princess to thank for their stable continuance. Didn’t teach that in school, did they?

Olga – Don’t forget to like us and the Bookface, dah? Do it or I burn you house down.

Matilda – Also check out Zach’s history book based off our adventures here at Minimum Wage Historian. Fearless: Powerful Women of History!”