History & Science Finds

This is a catch-all thread for all kinds of finds in history, science, engineering and related subjects you stumble across and think worth sharing. Articles, books, artworks, documentaries, events, lectures, animated videos, comics, whatever you fancy.

Note that ancient Mesopotamian and similar history stuff directly relevant as inspiration to Chaos Dwarfs tend to get posted in this subforum instead.

Be welcome to share it here! :beer:

Classical Architecture

ClassicistORG is a wonderful Youtube channel to follow on the topic of classical architecture. This particular lecture goes through the principles of classical architecture all across the world, regardless of culture or continent. A couple of highlights on universal human traits:

"Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief. "

“Human eyes crave two things: Order and variety, in delicate balance. If it is too orderly, then it is boring and oppressive. If it is too varied, it is chaotic and unpleasant. Beauty.”

Warmly recommended. Inspiring stuff, and hopefully an antidote to anyone who thinks unornamented minimalism is a sound thing most of the time. :smiley:

I can also recommend Calder Loth’s Foundations of Classical Architecture series.


Just finished stage viking mind lectures now I’m into this. I think you’re starting to plan a whole curriculum for me haha

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We’ll turn you into a frothing berzerker yet! :wink:

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Finished this one! Great watch, what are we learning next Admiral?

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@Reaver : You asked for it! This thread is now an ultra-thread. :smiley:

Viking Mind Lectures by Neil Price

A lovely trilogy of lectures. In fact the best lectures I’ve ever come across. Prepare to be enthralled and horrified by strange burial practices and an ancient worldview brought to life by a master storyteller.

Historia Civilis Caesar Series

This is a tour de force of excellent narrating, where stuff that can often come across as boring is made highly interesting. Watch it! And then watch all of Historia Civilis’ high-quality videos, where coloured squares stand for all the action.

Romerska legionärer bygger läger 01

Overly Sarcastic Podcast: The Ptolemies

OSP is a light-hearted but often very learned channel, whose discussions of ancient myths are their best material. This short video is rather hilarious, because the subject matter is bonkers and the narrator almost breaks down in front of all the convoluted family tree incest of this opulent, illustrious and increasingly insane royal family.

Also, a snippet from an article on Ptolemy II Philadelphus:

All was not perfect, though. By now, the very intellectualism in Alexandria established by the first two Ptolemies had created satirists in the city, and no great man seems to have escaped them. When Ptolemy II married his full sister, the Greek poet Sotades published a lampoon that included the stinging line, “You are pushing the prong into an unholy fleshpot”. This landed him in prison, and later Ptolemy II had him hunted down by his admiral, Patroclus, who drowned him in a lead coffin.

Ptolemeisk tessarakonteres 01

The Legacy of Alexander the Great in Central Asia, Bactria & India

A very interesting video about an unusual subject, but the audio is poor on the professor’s part. Lots of artefact pictures.


This post is a rehash of all manner of finds posted over on old CDO’s Off-Topic section.

Building Trajan’s Column

Anecdote on Eastern Roman Diplomacy

Kenneth Harl of Tulane University gives a lecture here on the western steppe peoples’ and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire during the first half of the Middle Ages.

Early on, he explains why Eastern Roman diplomacy was so complicated. Having survived the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern half drew lessons from the chaos. One lesson learnt was to trust in the extremely well-fortified walls of Constantinople (and lesser, though still very sturdy walls around cities such as Thessaloniki, which became islands of order in the sea of chaos, collapse and depopulation) and to withdraw to within the city walls whenever steppe nomad enemies showed up.

Another lesson was to divide and conquer and never let a strong confederation of tribes arise on the steppe, mastering a daft game of hazard with bribes, gifts, alliances and other subtleties to play off one nomad group against another and never let them coalesce under one overpowering confederacy such as the Huns had achieved under Attila. Keep them fighting among themselves. The Chinese dynasties far to the east attempted to do much the same thing:

It has often been remarked that Byzantine diplomacy is perhaps the most contorted and clever of all diplomacies that anyone has ever created, and it was largely deviced for dealing with steppe nomads. Not so much the people of the Balkans or the great Islamic powers.

And there’s an anecdote that captures the attitude of the steppe peoples themselves to the Byzantines. Particularly Byzantine diplomats who were known as Basilikoi, that is representatives of the emperor (the emperor is Basileus in Byzantine Greek). And one of them, a man named Valentinus, probably in 575 AD, was sent to negotiate with Tardisch [sp?], who was the leader of the western Gökturks. His official title of the time was probably not khan, but yabgu, a subordinate title, and as the envoy approached - and Tardisch had been in contact with the Byzantines before - he saw the Byzantine envoy in his presence and he immediately said:

“Oh my gosh! It’s a typical Roman who speaks ten languages and one lie.”

As for inspiration for Chaos Dwarfs, a little of this kind of thing was used in Up North, and naturally the Chaos Dwarfs would eternally be stomping down nascent Warbosses all over the Dark Lands, with their own arms or by arming the enemies of upcoming Warbosses, or by allying with the threat’s foes temporarily. Keep the Greenskins divided in disarray, and reap the enslavement gains amid the havoc. And make sure you don’t get a Waaagh! headed your way.

Note that Kenneth Harl is a marvellous lecturer, one of the best there is.

Galgacus Speech

From Tacitus’ Agricola, the speech by Caledonian chief Galgacus is usually considered one of the best speeches preserved from antiquity. It has the biting phrase:

“Do you suppose that the Romans will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace?”

And of particular interest for Chaos Dwarfs, especially after Legion of Azgorh was released, this famous description of an insatiable hunger for power and riches:

“Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.”

Here it is in its entirety, if you’re interested:

Tacitus Wrote:

More than 30,000 armed men were now to be seen, and still there were pressing in all the youth of the country, with all whose old age was yet hale and vigorous, men renowned in war and bearing each decorations of his own. Meanwhile, among the many leaders, one superior to the rest in valour and in birth, Galgacus by name, is said to have thus harangued the multitude gathered around him and clamouring for battle:–

  1. "Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succour, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.

  2. "Nature has willed that every man’s children and kindred should be his dearest objects. Yet these are torn from us by conscriptions to be slaves elsewhere. Our wives and our sisters, even though they may escape violation from the enemy, are dishonoured under the names of friendship and hospitality. Our goods and fortunes they collect for their tribute, our harvests for their granaries. Our very hands and bodies, under the lash and in the midst of insult, are worn down by the toil of clearing forests and morasses. Creatures born to slavery are sold once for all, and are, moreover, fed by their masters; but Britain is daily purchasing, is daily feeding, her own enslaved people. And as in a household the last comer among the slaves is always the butt of his companions, so we in a world long used to slavery, as the newest and the most contemptible, are marked out for destruction. We have neither fruitful plains, nor mines, nor harbours, for the working of which we may be spared. Valour, too, and high spirit in subjects, are offensive to rulers; besides, remoteness and seclusion, while they give safety, provoke suspicion. Since then you cannot hope for quarter, take courage, I beseech you, whether it be safety or renown that you hold most precious. Under a woman’s leadership [Boudicca] the Brigantes were able to burn a colony, to storm a camp, and had not success ended in supineness, might have thrown off the yoke. Let us, then, a fresh and unconquered people, never likely to abuse our freedom, show forthwith at the very first onset what heroes Caledonia has in reserve.

  3. “Do you suppose that the Romans will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? To our strifes and discords they owe their fame, and they turn the errors of an enemy to the renown of their own army, an army which, composed as it is of every variety of nations, is held together by success and will be broken up by disaster. These Gauls and Germans, and, I blush to say, these numerous Britons, who, though they lend their lives to support a stranger’s rule, have been its enemies longer than its subjects, you cannot imagine to be bound by fidelity and affection. Fear and terror there certainly are, feeble bonds of attachment; remove them, and those who have ceased to fear will begin to hate. All the incentives to victory are on our side. The Romans have no wives to kindle their courage; no parents to taunt them with flight; many have either no country or one far away. Few in number, dismayed by their ignorance, looking around upon a sky, a sea, and forests which are all unfamiliar to them; hemmed in, as it were, and enmeshed, the Gods have delivered them into our hands. Be not frightened by idle display, by the glitter of gold and of silver, which can neither protect nor wound. In the very ranks of the enemy we shall find our own forces. Britons will acknowledge their own cause; Gauls will remember past freedom; the other Germans will abandon them, as but lately did the Usipii. Behind them there is nothing to dread… The forts are ungarrisoned; the colonies in the hands of aged men; what with disloyal subjects and oppressive rulers, the towns are ill-affected and rife with discord. On the one side you have a general and an army; on the other, tribute, the mines, and all the other penalties of an enslaved people. Whether you endure these for ever, or instantly avenge them, this field is to decide. Think, therefore, as you advance to battle, at once of your ancestors and of your posterity.”

  4. They received his speech with enthusiasm, and as is usual among barbarians, with songs, shouts and discordant cries.

Ancient Middle-Eastern Ceramic Vessel With 2 feet (circa 1000-800 BC)

Something for your Sorcerer-Prophet’s banquet? Mayhap Daemonic even?

Bones Stained Green By Copper Jewelry

Something sometimes encountered by archaeologists, are bones stained green or blue-to-black by metals worn by the dead reacting with acids in the soils. Example the Green Lady of Pompeii:

The Green Lady
 bones of a wealthy woman were stained green from the reaction of the metal jewelry she brought
with the bone (there was a green man with her too – above – was the owner of the cellar)
 Primary Source: bones show she was pregnant

While people with less means were found without green bones, i.e. without metal wealth about them.

Now, this opens up for some oddball paintjobs on Undead skeletons and skeletal remains such as on the Road of Skulls.

To the left a chicken femur stained by copper salts, to the right one stained by iron compounds (starts to look like Diablo II):

A piece of cattle bone stained by copper sulfate:

A piece of skull from Wessex with a green spot where the cranium has been in contact with brass fittings inside the coffin:

A green-spotted bone:

Bones from a wealthy man who died in Pompeii’s suburb Oplontis. One of the bones is green on the left side. The humans which died around him had all at least one or two green bones and lots of coins and jewelry about themselves, while another group of people in the other end of the same cellar had no green bones and no precious metal to speak of:

Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks

The reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan is a famous piece of historical correspondence, which may or may not have happened.

First, the Ottoman letter to the troublesome Cossacks:

Sultan Mehmed IV to the Zaporozhian Cossacks:

As the Sultan; son of Muhammad; brother of the sun and moon; grandson and viceroy of God; ruler of the kingdoms of Macedonia, Babylon, Jerusalem, Upper and Lower Egypt; emperor of emperors; sovereign of sovereigns; extraordinary knight, never defeated; steadfast guardian of the tomb of Jesus Christ; trustee chosen by God Himself; the hope and comfort of Muslims; confounder and great defender of Christians - I command you, the Zaporogian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.

  • Turkish Sultan Mehmed IV

To which the Zaporozhian Cossacks answered… Koshovyi otaman Ivan Sirko, with the whole Zaporozhian Host wrote:

Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan!

O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil’s kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are thou, that canst not slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil shits, and your army eats. Thou shalt not, thou son of a whore, make subjects of Christian sons; we have no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck thy mother.

Thou Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig’s snout, mare’s arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw thine own mother!

So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won’t even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we’ll conclude, for we don’t know the date and don’t own a calendar; the moon’s in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day’s the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!

  • Koshovyi otaman Ivan Sirko, with the whole Zaporozhian Host

Painting by Ilya Repin (1891)

Painting Runestones

The ancients liked colour. Dyes and paints were a luxury, especially so for the most vibrant ones. Rather much of the finer ancient stoneworks were decorated with at least some spots of colour in their heyday. I think we as wargaming hobbyists can sympathize with this: Would you rather have grey plastic or a painted army?

Here are some painted runestones (originals and replicas alike), to replicate how they might have looked like:

Ölsta Stone

Jelling Stone

Uncovered in S:t Paul’s Churchyard, London

From a festival, check out IlmarinenKowal’s gallery

Just something to keep in mind for scenery and Hold Guardian painting. :wink:

Humane Arts Lecture Series

Wes Cecil has shared a lecture series on what allows creativity and art to flourish, one which I warmly recommend in all parts.

The Letter Writing episode, as an example, picks up on aspects of human history which is rarely touched upon, and kills the debate over whether the playwright William Shakespeare could possibly have written his works given his seemingly few years of formal education.

Letter Writng
On Leisure
The Salon and Café
Cultural Milieu

Viktorianskt brev 01

The Letter, painting by Edward Antoon

The Palace Complex of Galerius in Thessaloniki 4th century AD

A 3D-work by Vladimiros Nefidis.

Chariot Toilet from Ancient Rome

More here in general on Roman sanitation:

Roman Dice Tower

Courtesy of @Bloodbeard , who shared this piece of news:

Roman Dice Tower 01

Archaeologist Ticia Verveer wrote:

A Roman throwing tower found at Vettweiß-Froitz-heim in Germany. The sides have been worked open, so that the players could see the dice rolling. Invented to prevent cheating. Text on the back reads: utere felix vivas (‘use it and live as a lucky man’).

4th century

On the front it says Pictos victos hostis deleta ludite securi (‘The Picts have been defeated, the enemy destroyed, play carefree’).

The text refers to a Roman victory over the Picts in Scotland, north of Roman Britannia.

At LVR Museum, Bonn, Germany http://www.landesmuseum-bonn.lvr.de/en/startseite.html

Mutilated Ancient Greek Captives

When Alexander the Great reached Persepolis in 330 BC, he was approached by a large body of released Greek captives. All of which had been mutilated. This sparked a debate, where the maimed ones won out and had their wish granted to be given land in Persia to settle, instead of schocking their beloved ones at home by the sight of their pitiful forms.

Diodorus Wrote:

"about eight hundred in number, most of them elderly. All had been mutilated [ EkrOtEriasmenoi de pantes ], some lacking hands, some feet, and some ears and noses. They were persons who had acquired skills or crafts and had made good progress in their instruction; then their other extremities had been amputated and they were left only those which were vital to their profession" [ auta de mona ta synergounta pros tas epistEmas apeleleipto ]. (Diodorus, 1983 tr. Welles, 1983, VIII: 315, 317). [Greek translit. added]

Curtius Wrote:

"Some had their feet cut off, some their hands and ears. They had been branded with letters from the Persian alphabet by their captors, who had kept them to amuse themselves over a long period by humiliating them. … They looked more like outlandish phantoms [ inuisitata simulacra ] than men, with no recognizable human characteristic apart from their voices." (Curtius, tr. Yardley, 1984, p. 103)

The grotesque spectacle of amputees created out of these prisoners of war at the hand of human cruelty was by far not an isolated event in history:

Independent Living Wrote:

However, the sanction of mutilating punishments, and instances of its implementation on both men and women, are soberly documented from archaeological and textual sources within ancient and medieval Mesopotamia and Persia (e.g. Adamson, 1978; Dhalla, 1911; Driver & Miles, 1935, passim; Gelb, 1973; Pahlavi Texts, Part IV, tr. West, 1892, pp. 68, 74-75; Pritchard, 1969, pp. 175-77, 540), as well as the neighbouring empire of Byzantium (Lascaratos & Dalla-Vorgia, 1997). Sometimes the extreme penalty was probably replaced by a heavy fine. Yet more recent claims to have witnessed mutilating punishments cannot credibly be dismissed without showing contrary evidence. A youthful British witness, Henry Pottinger (1816/1972, p. 214), reported with corroborating detail, from a palace in Eastern Persia where he was a guest, that on 15 May 1810,

Those mutilated had been convicted of murdering a royal servant, so the severest punishment was predictable. Presumably most of them died within days from shock and haemorrhage, if all help was withheld.

“About three in the afternoon, the Prince pronounced sentences on those convicted; some were blinded of both eyes, had their ears, noses and lips cut off, their tongues slit, and one or both hands lopped off. Others were deprived of their manhood, their fingers and toes chopped off, and all were turned out into the streets with a warning to the inhabitants not to assist or hold any intercourse with them.”

Useful reference for Chaos Dwarf conversions of unfortunate slaves and defeated rivals kept around as grotesque trophies (see Drazhoath). Oftentimes even when it would be sounder economically to keep a valuable slave bodily intact for better work performance, cruelty wins out over rational greed. This is not a terribly uncommon phenomenon among slave owners throughout history, and indeed it may be a vicious show of ostentation to waste expensive slave flesh for the sake of one’s own cruel appetites. At other times, the thinking may run along the lines of:

"Damn pest! He only needs one arm to turn that crank…"

Sulphur Slaves in Sicily (1910)

This blog post on history contains vivid descriptions of nightmarish work in Sicilian sulphur mines, the misery of the sulphur carriers (caruso) and the detrimental effects this toil had on their bodies. Good reference for converting and painting e.g. Goblin or Human mine slaves for Chaos Dwarfs, though more likely to be adults than children (the detrimental effects will still be much the same from overwork). Excerpts taken from Booker T. Washington’s The Man Farthest Down.

The original imagery of Hell is in the first instance likely inspired by mines.

Here are a few bits of hobby interest. My emboldenings for modelling and painting reference:

These boy slaves were frequently beaten and pinched, in order to wring from their overburdened bodies the last drop of strength they had in them. When beatings did not suffice, it was the custom to singe the calves of their legs with lanterns to put them again on their feet. If they sought to escape from this slavery in flight, they were captured and beaten, sometimes even killed.

Children of six and seven years of age were employed at these crushing and terrible tasks. Under the heavy burdens (averaging about forty pounds) they were compelled to carry, they often became deformed, and the number of cases of curvature of the spine and deformations of the bones of the chest reported was very large. More than that, these children were frequently made the victims of the lust and unnatural vices of their masters. It is not surprising, therefore, that they early gained the appearance of gray old men, and that it has become a common saying that a caruso rarely reaches the age of twenty five.”

Noted: Deformed bodies, visible signs of early aging, burn marks.

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The Downfall of Leo V the Armenian

Byzantine (Mediaeval Eastern Roman) emperor Leo V (r. 813-820) has been deemed too clever by half by some students of history.

First he toppled the inept reigning emperor Michael I Rangabe by withdrawing his troops in the middle of an open field battle at Versinikia against the Bulgars, a battle that the Byzantines were in the process of winning (for similar reasons of organization and drill that made the ancient Romans excel at open field battles against foes such as Celts, Iberians and Germans). This resulted in a great slaughter of Constantinople’s army, whereupon Michael I resigned voluntarily, Leo seized power and had all Michaels’ sons gelded. The triumphant Bulgar army marched to Constantinople, sacrificing in full view of the city walls and demanding negotiations. The Bulgar Khan Krum entered into a meeting with Leo V, but spotted a sign that betrayed how Leo had filled his retinue with assassins. The attempt at the Khan’s life was botched, and fleeing slightly wounded back to his host, the enraged Khan burnt Constantinople’s suburbs, massacred populations across the southern Balkans and ravaged Byzantine lands. Some years of external peace and internal iconoclam then followed.

In 820, Leo had his former friend and military commander Michael the Amorian arrested on treason charges. Instead of just executing Michael swiftly, Leo concocted a scheme where Michael was to be tied to an ape and cast into a bathhouse furnace, to be either maimed by the monkey or die from burning or dehydration under the heated bathhouse floor. However Christmas got in the way, and Leo delayed with Michael’s punishment until after Christmas, whereupon Michael’s supporters gathered and assassinated Leo V.

Then Michael II ascended the throne as a man who was not tied to an ape and cast into a furnace.

Dungur Palace in Aksum

During late antiquity, Aksum in Ethiopia was a prosperous realm complete with literature (burnt by later invaders, according to tradition), minted coins and imperial conquests overseas in Yemen. Lying on the Roman monsoon wind trade route from the Red Sea over to India, a lot of trade passed by Aksum and filled its coffers, and its kings spent a great deal of energy extracting luxury resources for export within his own borders. Here is a modern reconstruction of how the Dungur palace in the capital of Aksum (built during the 3rd to 5th centuries AD) would have looked like. At a distance, the blockiness of it all is more than a little reminiscent of ancient Mesopotamian architecture, although it differs once you get some closer detail:

The ruins of the palace itself:

Skull Tower of Niš

This Skull Tower in Serbia was raised by Ottoman troops under general Hurshi Pasha following the crushing of a revolt in 1809, where the rebel leader Stevan Sinđelić in the face of certain defeat as enemies flooded the rebels’ position, ignited his gunpowder store and blew his own forces apart rather than face impalement as a punishment for rebellion. The heads of the rebels were then collected by the victorious troops, skinned, stuffed and sent to the capital, and then sent back to Niš. All in all 952 skulls were built into the facade of a mortared tower as a monumental warning to the locals to toe the line and not challenge their distant ruler. Today only 58 skulls remain in the 4,5 m high tower, the gaping sockets remaining in their neat horizontal rows.

Note the horizontal wooden beams, reminiscent of the strengthening horizontal brick or stone bands which occur at regular intervals in Medieval castle walls, inclduing in Constantinople’s iconic Theodosian city walls.

This works as an inspiration for Chaos Dwarf scenery creation. Terror tactics and monuments go hand in hand with our evil midgets, after all! Perhaps skulls, and especially Orcish skulls, could be replicated in rows by press-casting in green stuff?

Turkiskt skalltorn 01

Painted pillars and mosaic columns

In connection to this thread it seemed appropriate to mention that pillars in the real world have sometimes been very colourful and adorned with detailed scenes and patterns. The following are some quick Google catches from around the world, historical and modern. These include a mosaic pillar from Pompeii, cone mosaic semi-columns from Uruk, church interior from Moscow and modern takes on the theme in e.g. Karachi.

Looks ostentatious, and thus of interest as reference for Chaos Dwarf decorations (although ours would of course be more grimdark with skulls and angry bulls):

Highly Interesting Explanation of Ancient Greek Religion

By the learned Quora member Dimitris Almyrantis.

Slave Hunting on the Pontic Steppe

Background: Slavery was an ancient institution which was originally universal to all settled human cultures across the world with high enough population levels. One could be made a slave through debts, or trickery, or kidnapping, or one’s family’s desperate need for food (or worse yet, intoxication…), or by being the victim of highwaymen, or by becoming a prisoner of war. But one of the most common ways to become a slave through most of history was through the feared slave raid. Mounted on horseback, or running on foot, or in chariots, or on camels, or in swift ships did parties of men bear down upon isolated farmsteads and villages or stray people out in the fields. This was a scourge since time immemorial to the common man and woman who did not enjoy a fortified home or who happened to be working outside the palisade when the raiders struck.

Especially mines required a huge number of new slaves to keep operations going in the face of grueling attrition rates in their hellish work environment, and there are signs in archaeology that the Bronze Age Central European copper mines were served by slave hunters who scoured the lands far and wide, or simply by warring tribes who sold on their captured enemies.

Those areas most vulnerable to slavers were always those hardest to defend. For a time, the coasts and rivers of much of Europe became such an exposed underbelly where Viking raiders could strike like lightning and carry off booty and victims at will across the vast tracts facing the sea or the rivers of Europe. And river raiding aside, pirate raids against the coasts have been common from distant antiquity (e.g. Achaeans, Illyrians, the pirates subdued by Pompey, the Veneti) all the way up to the 19th century French conquest of the Barbary states, and the British dismantling of the slaver economy centered on Zanzibar off East Africa’s coast.

However, just like water has always been a highway, so were the vast steppes stretching from Ukraine to Manchuria a violent place for many thousands of years that allowed riders to travel long distances quickly and strike with few natural obstacles in their way (the Songhai and like raiders in West Africa is a parallell). The steppes of Eurasia were a breeding ground for warlike riders who excelled at raiding, and the westernmost quarter of this steppe band, the Pontic Steppe in today’s Ukraine and southern Russia, was famous for its nomads who supplied the urbanized societies further south with a constant stream of slaves for millennia. A succession of Scythians, Sarmatians, Goths, Avars, Pechenegs, Khazars, Kievan Rus, Tatars and still other tribes were the ferocious rulers of the steppe and the terror of all surrounding peoples and all subject populations for untold centuries.

And since the days of Greek colonization on the Crimean peninsula and around the sea of Azov, there existed a number of walled cities who lived in eternal fear of the steppe warriors with whom they had to reach some form of agreement (heavy archers were a novelty for the Greeks here who desperately sought to counter the mounted archery of their foes). The settlers here cultivated the nutritious soil for grain, traded with the inland tribes for such wares as fur, but above all these port cities profited from the Black Sea slave trade, for which they formed the thriving hub.

To get a sense of how perilous life was like for those living on the Pontic Steppe or in surrounding lands, do check out this article by Mike Dash. It deals with the slaver period of the Crimean Khanate and how Finns were an exotic luxury slave goods, yet also resounds deeply with earlier, forgotten centuries. By all means read, and gain a glimpse of how life could be like for those who were not lordly horse archers or coastal city traders in Eastern Europe.

Of particular interest to fantasy readers given Tolkien’s use of this theme in both the First Age (Tuor) and the Third Age (Wainsriders and so on). And of course, don’t forget the Hobgoblins:hob1:

Krimtatarisk slavräd 01

The Early Mediaeval Eastern Roman Army

Realm of History sports a rather good article, in list format, on the early mediaeval Eastern Roman (also known as Byzantine) army. Recommended little read.

Note that the ancient Roman legacy of organized military professionalism (including siege engineering) was carried on in the realm of Constantinople, albeit much reformed over the centuries as the state and army was forced to adapt to new realities. While not on par with the legions in their golden heyday of conquest, the Byzantine army for much of the mediaeval Roman empire’s history was nevertheless a formidable force which, along with heavily fortified cities and a strong navy, managed to stave off annihilation of the empire despite the wave upon wave of enemies that attacked her lands from all sides through many centuries of devastating warfare, and even managed to push back and reconquer lost lands every now and then.

The Varangian Guard

Realm of History have a good article on the famous Varangian Guard of the mediaeval Roman Emperor in Constantinople, in list format. British people take note of the epilogue to the Norman conquest of England being played out on the battlefield at Dyrrhachium in 1081 by Anglo-Saxon exiles in Varangian Guard service.

It should be remembered that despite the devastations and fragmentation from late antiquity onward, the Mediterranean remained as the dominant cultural and economical part of Europe through most of the Middle Ages.

Also, note that the Varangian Guard’s dependability, in comparison to other Imperial Guard units, hinged both on excellent pay, being foreigners with no stake in internal issues of the empire and on their cultural honour code of a warrior’s loyalty to a leader, adherence to oaths and virtual immunity to bribes (the latter described by Anna Komnena), aspects which likewise were crucial in ancient Roman use of Germanic bodyguard units (the original such corps was disbanded by Galba since the Germanic guard unit had remained loyal to Nero to the end, unlike the Praetorians). Writers in both the ancient and mediaeval Roman empire noted these barbaric northerner’s fondness for getting drunk.

Östromerska väringagardet 02

Lectures on Viking Age Scandinavia

Could be fun to listen to while painting & modelling. Please share your own finds! There’s a larger documentary/lecture/audiobook link list which I’ll update in due time with a slew of more videos incl. space race ones, but in the meanwhile, here’s something on a narrower topic:

History of Scandinavia, lectures by Kenneth Harl at Tulane University (Youtube channel receives new videos daily and is worth following):

Ancient Times

Gods, Kings and Heroes I

Viking Invasions


Partially relevant since it goes into Rus:

Medieval Times - The Steppe Kingdoms, by Kenneth Harl.

The Course of Empire

The Course of Empire was a series of five paintings which artist Thomas Cole created during the years 1833-36. More here:

Dan Howard on Scale Armour

As seen here, historian Dan Howard (author of Bronze Age Military Equipment; much recommended) touches on some aspects of scale armour:

Dan Howard Wrote:

Scale armour tends to use plates that are a lot thinner than solid plate armour (c. 0.5mm was typical while plate armour was usually over 1mm), otherwise it becomes too heavy to bear. Plus there are a lot of weaknesses introduced because the scales have to be attached to the backing (every lacing hole is a weak point). Lamellar is a lot more efficient but the lacing is still a huge problem. The mail-and-plates construction was developed as a replacement for lamellar and did away with a lot of problems associated with lamellar lacing. If you want flexibility then use mail. It is lighter and just as protective as scale and lamellar. The problem with mail is that it is the most expensive and labour-intensive type of armour ever developed. The ideal armour is solid plate as the primary defence with mail protecting the areas that can’t be covered with plate. But solid plate has to be carefullly tailored to fit properly and requires a lot of skill.

Sakakibara Kozan’s Chukokatchu Seisakuben presents a good summary of some of the problems with scale and lamellar - problems that re-enactors usually never get to experience.

“When soaked with water the armour becomes very heavy and cannot be quickly dried; so that in summer it is oppressive and in winter liable to freeze. Moreover, no amount of washing will completely free the lacing from any mud or blood which may have penetrated it, and on long and distant campaigns it becomes evil-smelling and overrun by ants and lice, with consequent ill effects on the health of the wearer.”

The following passage from the Arabic Nihayat al-Su’l wa’l Umniyaya fi Ta’lim A’mal al-Furusiyya supports this.

“Every day he must train himself to dismount elegantly so that he does not break or damage it [the armour], and he must keep practising and improving this skill. If, during the winter, the cuirass gets wet or damp from rain, he must examine its leather straps and its connections carefully and wipe off any dampness or mud from its individual pieces and any wetness from its lacing. If he fails to do this, the inside of it will rot and it will become out of shape. Such rotting shows negligence and carelessness.”

All metal armours are highly protective. The problems with scale have already been outlined but have nothing to do with protective capacity.

In other words, the life of an Infernal Guard, or indeed common Chaos Dwarf warrior, might be quite lice-ridden and stinking, particularly when trekking the vast distances of the Dark Lands or when posted far, far away.

Nemrut Dağ

Video spotted by Enjoysrandom : Hobgoblin temple? Wink

Mount Nemrud is the place of a temple built by the ancient kingdom of Commagene in the wake of the Seleucid collapse.

Painted Historical Armour

Of some interest to Chaos Dwarf collectors who wish to get creative with their Infernal Guards’ plate (obviously partial Chaos stars and the like would work on our evil stunties):

Everything flat is a canvas for some humans. Speaking of which, here is a Roman shield leather cover excavated in Egypt:

First World War Body Armour

Linketylink. Some minor experiments with body armour were undertaken during WWI, apart from widespread issuing of steel helmets. None of it was ever universally issued, which might have contributed strongly to the war’s casaulties seeing as how a very large degree were caused by artillery shell shrapnel. Check it out.

Imperial Puppetry Fight From Procopius’ Secret History

This episode is the emperor telling one man: You shall keep your job, whatever happens let no one take it from you! Then to another: This job is now yours. Seize it by any means! So both have contrary letters from the emperor justifying them. No one yields, and so both let their armed guards have a go at each other. Only for the emperor to scoop up a fine at the end. Troll.

One can easily imagine stuff like that in both Warhammer fantasy and 40k. Especially because of the fight


You know what? I knew Roman statues were often painted in bright colours and so had adjusted my imagination to account for this but for some reason I’d never considered that the reliefs would be also (I don’t know why). Very cool

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They painted their minis you know. :wink:

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Of course they did. They were a civilisation after all.

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Considering the state of grey and bare metal in my collection, that makes me an utter savage barbarian wallowing in primitive squalor and raw rustic baseness and uncouth degradation. :hatoff:

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I mean I didn’t wanna mention the severed toes and horses heads …but…:man_shrugging:t2:

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Philonides of Tarentum

King Pyrrhus of Epirus (318-272 B.C.) wrote himself into common speech by winning such costly battles against the Romans in southern Italy that the term Pyrrhic victory was coined after him: “One more victory like this, and we’re lost.”

However, less renowned are the events leading up to Pyrrhus’ involvement in Italy: Of how the rich Greek colony city Tarentum, with its fleet the strongest in all of Italy, signed a treaty with Rome that forbade them entering the Bay of Tarentum. Of how a Roman flotilla broke this treaty, and then was ruthlessly attacked by the angered Tarentines. And of the failed Roman embassy to Tarentum, which ended in disgrace and a declaration of war, whereupon the Tarentines realized that entering into war with the strongest power on land in all of Italy without allies backing them was a horrible idea. Which in turn led them to invite Pyrrhus, who rapidly took full control of Tarentum and drilled its young men for war, much to the Tarentines’ dismay.

As Polybius gives us the flavour of, this was an age boiling with war at every side (my italics):

First, by dint of valour, and the good fortune which attended [the Romans] in the field, they mastered all the Latini; then they went to war with the Etruscans; then with the Celts; and next with the Samnites, who lived on the eastern and northern frontiers of Latium. Some time after this the Tarentines insulted the ambassadors of Rome, and, in fear of the consequences, invited and obtained the assistance of Pyrrhus. [B. C. 280.] This happened in the year before the Gauls invaded Greece, some of whom perished near Delphi, while others crossed into Asia.

Now this particular incident of shaming the ambassadors of Rome is a gutsy one. One deserving of wider fame.

Enter, the work of Appian of Alexandria, whose writings survive as fragments in Byzantine tomes. Pay special attention to part 16:

[15] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] Cornelius went sight-seeing along the coast of Magna Graecia with ten ships with decks. [283 BCE.] At Tarentum there was a demagogue named Philocharis, a man of obscene life, who was for that reason nicknamed Thais. He reminded the Tarentines of an old treaty by which the Romans had bound themselves not to sail beyond the promontory of Lacinium. By his passion he persuaded them to excitement against Cornelius, and they sunk four of his ships and seized one of them with all on board. They accused the Thurini of preferring the Romans to the Tarentines although they were Greeks, and held them chiefly to blame for the Romans overpassing the limits. Then they expelled the noblest citizens of Thurii, sacked the city, and dismissed the Roman garrison that was stationed there under a treaty.

[16] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] When the Romans learned of these events, [282 BCE.] they sent an embassy to Tarentum to demand that the prisoners who had been taken, not in war, but as mere sight-seers, should be surrendered; that the citizens of Thurii who had been expelled should be brought back to their homes; that the property that had been plundered, or the value of what had been lost, should be restored; and finally, that they should surrender the authors of these crimes, if they wished to continue on good terms with the Romans.

The Tarentines made difficulties about admitting the embassy to their council at all, and when they had received them jeered at them because they did not speak Greek perfectly, and made fun of their togas and of the purple stripe on them. But a certain Philonides, a fellow fond of jest and ribaldry, going up to Postumius, the chief of the embassy, turned his back to him, drew up his dress and polluted him with filth.

This spectacle was received with laughter by the bystanders. Postumius, holding out his soiled garment, said: “You will wash out this defilement with plenty of blood - you who take pleasure in this kind of jokes.” As the Tarentines made no sort of answer the embassy departed. Postumius carried the soiled garment just as it was, and showed it to the Romans.

[17] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] The people, deeply incensed, sent orders to Aemilius, [Consul Lucius Aemilius Barbula; 281 BCE.] who was waging war against the Samnites, to suspend operations for the present and invade the territory of the Tarentines, and offer them the same terms that the late embassy had proposed, and if they did not agree, to wage war against them with all his might. He made them the offer accordingly. This time they did not laugh for they saw the army. They were about equally divided in opinion until one of their number said to them as they doubted and disputed: “To surrender citizens is the act of a people already enslaved, yet to fight without allies is hazardous. If we wish to defend our liberty stoutly and to fight on equal terms, let us call on Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and designate him the leader of this war.” This was done.

Now, anyone up for a fantasy diorama based upon the exploits of Philonides of Tarentum? Or a 40k version, for that matter, given Ian Watson’s textual corpus in this setting? :tongue:


Just a small curiosity I stumbled across. I’m sure some of you guys will get a chuckle out of it.

The so-called “Tower Fencing Book” is a medieval treatise on fighting with sword and buckler, written in Latin. It contains numerous illustrations, mostly featuring a “priest” (the teacher) and a “student” engaged in training:

… and at some point, this happens:

The text says: “Here the student has intentionally dropped sword an shield, meaning to brawl with the priest, as depicted below.”

I somehow get the feeling that the guy who wrote the book had had some unpleasant experiences with students getting overexcited in training. :smile:


@Antenor : Haha, indeed! Wonderful find. :smiley:

While reading up on jokes across the world and from all over human history for 40k work, I stumbled upon a delightful surprise: Egyptian humour. Apparently the densely populated and hypersocial Nile valley in Egypt have sported a culture of wisecracks and jokesters for almost five millennia, at the very least.

A short extract from this article should be of interest to history lovers around here.

Making fun of oppressive authorities has been an essential part of Egyptian life since the pharaohs. One 4,600-year-old barb recorded on papyrus joked that the only way you could convince the king to fish would be to wrap naked girls in fishing nets. Under Roman rule, Egyptian advocates were banned from practicing law because of their habit of making wisecracks, which the dour Romans thought would undermine the seriousness of the courts. Even Ibn Khaldun, the great 14th-century Arab philosopher from Tunis, noted that Egyptians were an unusually mirthful and irreverent people.


A fatal beard

There have been many men with prodigious beards, but rarely does a beard cause the death of its owner. Yet such was the fate of Hans Staininger (1508-1567), a high magistrate in the then Bavarian (now Austrian) town of Braunau.

His forked beard, which grew to a length of about two metres, was widely famous. Allegedly, Staininger had it cut several times, but it kept regrowing with singular tenacity. For practical purposes, he used to wear it wrapped up in a bag. The illustrious facial ornament can be seen in all its splendour on Staininger’s epitaph in Braunau:

One story about his untimely demise runs as follows: One night, as a fire was ravaging the town, Staininger got out of his bed and made for the staircase to get out of the house. But in his hurry, he tripped over his beard (worn open for the night), fell down the stairs and broke his neck. (There are other versions of the story, but in each of them he dies in consequence of tripping over his beard.)

The fatal beard, which was cut off before Staininger was buried, has been preserved through the centuries and can still be admired in the town museum:

So to all you bearded guys out there – please stay safe. :smile:

(All pictures from Wikipedia.)


That’s impressive and disgusting at the same time …

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The Course of Empire

Perhaps best that you see for yourself first, but Thomas Cole’s 1833-6 series of paintings are some of my favourites, up there with Malevich’s Black Square and Turner’s “…Ashes of Germanicus”. The Course of Empire is a narrative told in five paintings, all depicting roughly the same physical space as it and the society within it evolves through a cycle of barbarism to empire and on to collapse.

The fascination of European and post-European peoples with decline and fall is symptomatic of our long history and historiography (indeed, tracing back to our establishment of the concept), our many noteworthy indigenous fallen empires, and our pivotal role in the fall of so many outside our native space.
The Course of Empire has a deep Classical frame of reference but, to me, represents the self-consciously precarious view post-Europeans in particular have often had of their own position and survival. By positing the Course of Empire as a fixed cyclical narrative, Cole is observing the transition away from the rural idyll of the pre-Industrial era in which he lived and demonstrating it to be a folly on the level of ancient Rome. Of course, he would never live to see the cycle complete, but his and every subsequent generation of Europeans and post-Europeans has felt that they are the ones on the precipice of collapse.

The paintings therefore serve as a reminder to me that on the one hand, on the surface level, our overmighty era will end someday, and the dominance of the English-speaking peoples shall wane just as that of the Latin-speaking peoples, or the Macedonians, or the Mongols. On the other hand, it reminds me that generations of my own kind have stood where I stand viewing these paintings and thought “truly, I am living through the end of this Empire my forebears built”, and they were wrong. I hope I am too, for the sake of my future children if no-one else.


Not so much a find but a curiosity. A friend shared this on Facebook:

@Admiral @Antenor @chitzkoi you guys may get a kick out of this:

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?
Well, because that’s the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

So, why did ‘they’ use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England . You see, that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And what about the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)

Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature, of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass. And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything…

(Ps me being a nerd here. I think he means more wagons and stuff than chariots. Imperial Romans weren’t really bombing around Britain in war chariots were they haha. Still the point stands!)


Always amusing, if not quite true. Standard gauge was not really the standard for a lot of railways in the early days, although they were nearly all around the same size (a few inches in either direction) simply to replicate the width of a regular carriage. The width a modern train carriage is somewhat larger these days, although the gauge is still the same. Carriage width is more to do with how far apart the tracks are from each other than the rails that make the track (up to a point).

I’d be more surprised that the Romans would let a road become rutted, given how meticulous they were about building and maintaining them.

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