A still-wandering warlord

My slow journey to the completion of a MA in history is leading me, this semester, through the Protestant Reformation and its attendant upheavals. As someone who has taken every opportunity offered by his program requirements to focus on the third through seventh centuries, with occasional forays into earlier times, I approached this seminar with a certain amount of trepidation. Here was the far side of the bridge spanning the great, fermenting river that is medieval history. I have spent the bulk of my studies pawing through the silt of that river's near side, marveling over found gewgaws and sometimes pausing to wonder how, or whether, eddies near the shore affected the greater flow of the river. The task of crossing to the opposite bank and appreciating its landscape promised to take me well outside my comfort zone. You might imagine my surprise when, in the midst of Luther's screeds and classic studies of the period , I encountered a man whose mark on the historical re

"There are profane persons here, who obstruct the rites." *

Just stopped by Wikipedia and noticed that the Diocletianic Persecution is subject of today's featured article. * Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors (De Mortibus Persecutorum) 10


One day in June of 594, Gregory the Great had to excuse himself from his daunting daily responsibilities to field a letter from Constantina, Empress of the Romans and still, in theory, Gregory's temporal superior. The Empress was erecting a glorious church for St. Paul in the middle of the palace environs in Constantinople, and she'd made an extraordinary request of the Bishop of Rome: the Apostle's head. Gregory must have found the Empress's letter exasperating. It was only a year earlier that he'd negotiated a fragile truce with the barbarian Lombards (with virtually no help, it must be said, from the imperial administration). Protected from their pillaging, the shrunken, tattered city had finally begun to stabilize under Gregory's tireless ministrations. Now, though, the wife of the distant Augustus, who had never set foot in Rome, sought to relieve the former capital of one of its most precious assets. Gregory's response was carefully worded: Being d

When on Google Earth 28

Welcome, WOGErs, to my lonely, neglected history blog. Thanks to Andrea, the winner of WOGE 26, for presenting me with low-hanging fruit . Below: Something a bit more obscure. First, though, the boilerplate: Q: What is When on Google Earth? A: It’s a game for archaeologists, or anybody else willing to have a go! Q: How do you play it? A: Simple, you try to identify the site in the picture. Q: Who wins? A: The first person to correctly identify the site, including its major period of occupation, wins the game. Q: What does the winner get? A: The winner gets bragging rights and the chance to host the next When on Google Earth on his/her own blog! Two very general hints, for starters: 1. This site is pre-modern. 2. This site is open and easily accessible to the public.


A happy new year to all from greater Philadelphia, where private benefactors have ensured that the local manifestation of a very old pageant will be taken to a characteristically American extreme later today. Our Mummers have long since traded divination rituals for accordion and banjo skills , which is too bad, because most conventional predictions for the year at hand inspire more anxiety than can be assuaged by even the liveliest pavement polka. As usual, history provides some perspective. By about AD 440, it was clear to everyone in southern France that the era of the Roman good life had drawn to a close. Salvian of Marseilles, a Christian bishop, was writing On the Government of God , which laid the blame for the miseries of the Roman people squarely at their own feet. His main theme was their failure to practice the Christian principles they professed, but he made room for some criticism of economic policy: Who can find words to describe the enormity of our present situatio

But manly strength has force to tame the storm*

The current, holiday edition of The Economist has a good read on Fastnet Rock , the southernmost point in Ireland. Little more than a jagged hunk of slate protruding from the Atlantic, the Vikings called it Hvastann-ey ("Sharp-Toothed Island"), while its Irish name is An Charraig Aonair ("The Rock that Stands Alone"). Since 1854, it's been home to two successive lighthouses. The current one has been (sometimes just) standing against the fury of the ocean since 1903. The chief foreman of its construction, a stonemason named James Kavanagh, was singleminded in his devotion to his duty: He lived on the rock continuously for ten to 12 months of each year from August 1896 to June 1903, sleeping on a damp bed of rock close to the landing strip in quarters carved out of the rock face, known to this day as “Kavanagh’s hole”. The project ultimately cost him his life: Seven years of living in a hole in the rock, progress frustrated by maverick tides and his delayed shi

Rome Reborn project on Google Earth

It doesn't seem to be working yet , but it would not be an exaggeration to say that this is something I've been anticipating for years . I'm already wearing out the "Check for Updates" button in Google Earth. Very exciting!