Saturday, April 18, 2009

Carnivalesque 49 -- Ancient/Medieval edition, April 2009

This is my first time editing Carnivalesque, the blog carnival that alternates between early modern (c.1500-1800CE) and ancient & medieval topics (up to c.1500CE). I hope you like my selections, which I've been collecting for a while.

Those of you who missed Carnivalesque 48 may have missed the announcement that medievalist Judith Bennett's History Matters: Feminism and the Challenge of the Patriarchy was to be the subject of a roundtable discussion by a series of feminist historians, with each post touching on some important questions about what it means to be a historian, what it means to be a feminist, and what it means for the two to intersect. The first discussion was hosted by Notorious PhD, and you can follow the now-complete series from there. Don't forget the freestanding comments by Magistra et Mater; the first of six is here. This excellent and substantial blogger has also recently delivered a well-deserved, commonsensical whack to that 18th-century sacred cow, "rational economic thinking."

Speaking of women in history, and neglected ones at that, did you know that Queen Zenobia hath a blog? Yes, the third century rebel against/savior of the Roman Empire in the East? Actually, it is Judith Weingarten who has the blog, Zenobia: Empress of the East, which is about that lady but includes other things as well.

Those of us who study distant but colorful eras (like Zenobia's) find our work all too often completely ignored by a public that would go nuts if they only knew what they were missing. If you write a book called Becoming Charlemagne, as Jeff Sypeck has, you are unfairly doomed to obscurity. Or are you? Go on over to Quid plura? and let Jeff explain to you why his opus should be the next pop-culture TV blockbuster series. After all, there is plenty of precedent; ancient material is very much at home on the Internet, as the alert Jennifer Lynn Jordan at Per Omnia Saecula, among others, have discovered for us.

I am a textual historian myself, but I have a lot of respect for people who deal with the material remains of the past, or reconstruct them. There are some good blogs out there on material culture. Darrell Markiewicz, a longtime blacksmith and historical metalworker talks about his work on a regular basis at Hammered Out Bits. Two of those "bits" caught my eye in the last little while. The first was where Darrell recanted his skepticism about legendary weapons made of meteoric iron. No such of a thing, he thought, until he stumbled across new evidence in the form of a wondrous weapon. I am glad he was honest enough to admit his mistake, otherwise I would never have known! He also put some time into reconstructing one of the first trademarked objects of northern European origin, +ULFBERHT+ swords. Don't miss his discussion of them.

From iron to slate: Jonathan Jarrett over at the excellent A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe reminds us once again that some Visigothic charters were written on stone, even though I don't think Jonathan's ever had the pleasure of handling such document. A good time to bring up hard copy in Iberia; at the other end of the peninsula, the most extensive inscription in the ancient Southwest Script has recently been found, which like all others on this sort was written on slate. Stephen Chrisomalis at Glossographia tells the story and supplies the links.

Will McLean at A Commonplace Book, also working at a bit of a remove from the originals, wants to know what an écranché shield was, what a targe was, and what an ecu was. Will, like me, is interested in late medieval deeds of arms, and for all I know he is building authentic shields as we speak. He is a serious reenactor and has built some amazing stuff in the past. He has worked on texts as well: this time he supplies us with a link to a fine article on German tournament rules of the 15th century.

A tournament/jousting fan? Don't miss the 16th-century Burgkmair Tournament Book at the beautiful and new-to-me booksite, BibliOdyssey. For me, however, it is hard to beat the visual impact of two photos from Kyrgyzstan, where the sports of the medieval nobility survive: Kok-boru (the same game as Afghan Buzkashi) and falconry, if that's what you call it when they use golden eagles instead of hawks and falcons. Both of these come from The Big Picture, the regular news photo blog from Boston.com, one of the treasures of the Web.

One of the joys and/or torments of being a serious student of the farther past, whether as a pro or as a well read amateur, is the opportunity to try to correct popular and journalistic clichés about our favorite times. I say "try to correct" advisedly, because these things never get corrected -- there is an infinitely deep pool of misinformation, and journalists in particular seem to know exactly where it is. However, the effort of correction sometimes reaches the few people who actually care, and sometimes produces witty results.

I, for example, would never have learned about the new medieval datum about the Robin Hood legend if various intelligent bloggers had not been irritated by superficial reports of it. The superficial reports seem to focus on the idea that not everybody loved Robin Hood. no wonder the papers made such a fuss! He must be the only person in history not universally popular. But the blog Medieval News filled me in on the substance behind the writeups, and medievalists.net had even more. Thanks!

And did you know that the hamster wheel was a medieval invention? Well, the people over at ESPN.com do, and surprisingly enough they are right! At least, Carl Pyrdum at the ever-reliable Got Medieval traces it back indeed to late antiquity and Boethius' underappreciated second work on consolation, The Consolation of Owning a Pet Hamster. Even experts in illumination and sixth-century philosophy may be surprised to hear that some striking pictures from this work still survive!

Alas, not all journalistic historical discoveries and popular misconceptions are created equal. Jonathan Jarrett has a rant, a very substantial and entertaining rant on Celtic fonts and interlace. A perfect example of how a good rant can be cathartic not just for the writer for the reader as well.

Myself, sometime in the last while I was tempted to rant or at least poke fun at, costume advertising featuring the Deluxe Barbarian Queen. But then Eileen Joy came along at In the Middle and showed me that I should not; at least not without some thought. In all seriousness it was a moment of enlightenment.

To tie this up, let me mention that Paul Halsall, that benefactor of all humankind, and especially students and teachers of the past, blogs over at English Eclectic. It's usually personal observation, but it's not seldom, well, heaven on earth or something much like it.

And, oh yes! Nokes is back. Now that he has a fully-functional computer, the Wordhoard is Unlocked once more.

3 comments:

  1. Thankyou for the links as ever, much appreciated, and many others to peruse also. Especially pleased to see Prof. Halsall out there still; as you say we owe him a lot... And no, I have never handled one of the slates: I'd be woefully afraid of damaging it though, parchment is more forgiving.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words about my post, Steve. I love your photo for this edition of Carnivalesque, btw. Also, just a really good and thoughtful round-up of posts.

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  3. Eons too late, but thanks for the link! I am slowly coming back to the Internets.

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