Posts Tagged ‘history’


Sunday, September 30th, 2007

He carried on the war not for the sake of personal gain or power, nor through anger, but for the sake of warlike deeds in themselves; hence he was accounted at once a lover and a master of war. -Cassius Dio

I finished my article on Viriathus for Issue #4-2007 of Ancient Warfare Magazine today. The theme for the issue is “The Roman conquest of Spain 218 BC – 24 BC.”

Viriathus was a Lusitanian patriot who led the confederated tribes of western Iberia against Roman occupation. The heart of the Lusitanian resistance, this gifted tactician and guerrilla fighter fought Rome to a stalemate. In the article, I discuss the rise of Portugal’s national hero; his election as warleader following Galba’s treacherous peace offering ca. 150 BC; his campaigns against Caius Vetilius, Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, and Servilius Cipianus; followed by his death at the hands of Lusitanian traitors in 139 BC. I tried to focus on Lusitanian guerrilla tactics in the face of superior Roman training and equipment, and how the Lusitanian resistance, though doomed, inspired that of the Cantabri to the north, which lasted for another hundred years.

Issue 4-2008 is slated for release on November 26th.

The Urartians

Friday, September 14th, 2007

I’ve recently read through Green Ronin’s Testament, a product designed for roleplaying in the world of the Old Testament (hence, the name). I’ve been thinking about running a couple adventures and drew this up…

Urartu was an ancient kingdom in the highlands of eastern Anatolia. With the decline of Hittite and Assyrian power, the tribes of the mountainous region around Lake Van united in the 9th century BCE to forge a civilization that would stretch from northern Mesopotamia through the southern Caucasus, challenging the armies of mighty Assyria. It was a land with an almost Arthurian atmosphere – terraced and turreted fortresses dominated the land, connected by roads over which troops of well-mounted horsemen road. Urartian visitors came to a land like no other in the ancient Near East – where deep gorges hid the ground below so that the rays of the sun did not penetrate, and raging rivers caused their camels and asses to leap like mountain goats in order to cross.

Some things that make Urartu an interesting and exciting place to adventure:

(1) Urartu was the home of Mount Ararat, where pilgrims would go to see the ark that saved mankind from the judgement of the Hebrew God.

(2) The Urartians, of all the nations in the Old World, seem to have taken a precocious interest in planting vineyards and making wine. The Biblical story of Noah’s drunkenness is traditionally associated with the mountains of ancient Urartu.

(3) Consummate horse breeders, the Urartian mounted archers were feared throughout the ancient Near East.

(4) Unlike their contemporaries to the south, who used reed and mud bricks for construction, the Urartians built their homes and fortresses of stone. Their magestic capital at Tushpa never fell to enemy forces, and even the mighty Assyrian armies learned to give it a wide berth.

Master of None

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

When people find out I used to be a staff auditor at Deloitte & Touche, they are often amused to learn I don’t play golf. “Don’t all accountants play golf?” they ask. My reponse? I have too many other hobbies that take up too much of my time and cost too much money. I can’t afford another.

I’ve been thinking about a couple of these today: RPGs and history.

It would be easy to get sucked into the myriad campaigns that are out there. I could learn about Ghastria (Ravenloft), then move on to Semphar (Forgotten Realms) and Sigil (Planescape), before landing in Rokugan (Legend of the Five Rings). I had to chose one (Greyhawk) to focus on our I’d go insane. Yet, even within the World of Greyhawk, it is next to impossible to have deep understanding of the entire setting. I found myself jumping from researching the Bandit Kingdom of Abbarra to reading up on the Suel Barbarians of the Thillonrian Peninsula; from learning everything I could about Syrul to immersing myself in lore about Wee Jas. As much as I was learning, though, it was all on the surface. So I chose to focus on the Baklunish west–an area that has been traditionally ignored by many developers.

The same has been true for my love of history. I grew up reading everything I could about castles. Then it was on to the Iroquois Cenfederacy, followed by the Sumerians. I loved learning as much as I could about everything I researched, but am frustrated that I haven’t mastered any single region or timeframe. I’m beginning to think I need to narrow my scope of interest, before I go insane. Right now I’m leaning toward the Ancient Near East. I spent a few months reading up on the Parthians, Urartu and reaquainting myself with the Sumerians.

Unfortunately, most of the opportunities for writing about ancient history relate to the Roman Empire. I’m currently researching an article for Ancient Warfare Magazine, but it deals with the history of Spain and Portugal, not the ANE. I wish I knew of a magazine / journal that was looking for submissions and dealt with the ANE. At least then I could focus on one thing, instead of being a “jack of all trades…”

Khan Malamir (831-836)

Friday, July 20th, 2007

When Khan Malamir took control of Bulgaria in 831 AD, he inherited a land in peace. His father, Khan Omurtag, had just concluded a two-year campaign against the Franks. Thanks to Omurtag, Bulgaria was also in the midst of a thirty-year peace with the Byzantine Empire. During Malamir’s rule, he did expand Bulgaria’s holdings in the Upper Thracian Lowland on both banks of the Maritsa River. Philippoupolis (Plovdiv) was incorporated in the Bulgarian state and named Pupuldin (Puldin).

Some have said that Malamir was also an ardent anti-Christian. His father, Omurtag, had been so upset at his first-born, Enravotha’s, conversion to Christianity, that he denied him the throne – instead giving it to Malamir. On being crowned in 831, the new Khan ordered the death of his older brother. It is said that this makes Enravotha the first martyr of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. However, The Lives of the Saints by Theophilactus of Ohrid records the argument between Khan Malamir and his brother Enravotha says: “This faith, in the name of which I am dying now, will multiply in Bulgarian lands. In vain are your hopes to limit it by means of my death. The sign of the cross will be put everywhere, temples of the true God will be erected and pure priests will serve purely the pure God…”. There were priests in Bulgaria at the time, and while Malamir may not have been a Christian himself, it is unclear whether Enravotha’s execution was a question of religious belief or of dynastic expediency. Curiously, in his inscription Malamir addresses not Tangra but God: “Long live together with Isbul for many years”.

After only five years as ruler of Bulgaria, in 836 Malamir was succeeded by his uncle, Pressian.