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Joran
2008-06-17, 09:41 AM
Spurred by the thread on Eragon, what common screwups do you see about actually living in medieval times?

Think of this also as a FAQ about what the medieval times were really like. I guess this could also be a primer for anyone who wants to write good fantasy fiction.

1) People with full-sets of teeth: Lack of dental care means that very few people in medieval times had a full-set of teeth.

Hairb
2008-06-17, 09:56 AM
Think of this also as a FAQ about what the medieval times were really like. I guess this could also be a primer for anyone who wants to write good fantasy fiction.


I suggested something like this a while back, and it didn't get such a great response.

To this list I would add really old old people. Life expectancy was a lot shorter than it is now.

Gygaxphobia
2008-06-17, 11:05 AM
Many people thought vegetables were poisonous upto the 17th C or so, so no turnip munching.

TheElfLord
2008-06-17, 11:59 AM
Spurred by the thread on Eragon, what common screwups do you see about actually living in medieval times?


1) People with full-sets of teeth: Lack of dental care means that very few people in medieval times had a full-set of teeth.

Although this can be taken too far. I read an interesting piece once that argued that due to the lack of sugar in past diets, people's teeth would not be as bad as generally thought.

The thing that really gets me is the protagonist with modern ideas. "The class system is unfair, all religions deserve equal respect" etc.

Nerd-o-rama
2008-06-17, 03:08 PM
I suggested something like this a while back, and it didn't get such a great response.

To this list I would add really old old people. Life expectancy was a lot shorter than it is now.This is another thing that can be taken too far, since when we say life expectancy was shorter, we mean average life expectancy was shorter due to massive infant mortality rates. People could still leave well into their sixties or older, rather than dying off at modern middle age as the numbers suggest.

My beef is often with literacy. It was rather uncommon even among the nobility, depending on the precise time and location we're talking about. Assuming I'm not completely misremembering, this was possibly the only plot point in A Knight's Tale that made any actual sense.

Oh, and that's another thing. Treating everything from 500-1500 AD as if it were all the same, with Picts using trebuchets and William's Normans charging in full plate with lances because That's What Knights Do and the kings in big round-towered stone castles in the 10th century... This one goes back at least to the King Arthur oral traditions, which became a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of legendary characters from throughout the entire millenium. That's not even counting T.H. White's Extreme Silly Edition here.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 03:09 PM
2) That arrows are flimsy. Really, being hit by an arrow is really really really nasty, they can drive straight through your body
from
EE

Joran
2008-06-17, 03:49 PM
Many people thought vegetables were poisonous upto the 17th C or so, so no turnip munching.

I thought that was tomatos? What did they eat back then?

I'd assume that meat/game was a rare treat for the common folk, so mostly grains?

They shouldn't be eating tomatos, potatos, or corn/maize because those are from the New World ;)

Terraoblivion
2008-06-17, 04:19 PM
1. Everybody not a noble being an indentured dung farmer toiling under slave-like conditions for feudal overlords. While true in some place in parts of the middle ages, it is not true for the best documented parts and periods of the middle ages, being the 13th century onwards in northern and western Europe. Instead this was a period of independents farmer paying their feudal in a mix of money and produce, with produce being more common in those areas that would later adopt the indentured servitude of dependent farmers.

2. Everything being produced locally. Again in the later parts of the middle ages this is not just true. By the late 14th century, for example, the Netherlands were strongly dependent on Lithaunian, Polish and Ukranian grain. And in the same vein the fabric industry of Europe was almost exclusively centered in Florence, the British Isles and the Netherlands from quite early in the middle ages.

3. Everybody but the clergy being illiterate. As early as the 14th century German farmers would keep written records of their possessions and the movement of their assets. We find written records kept by the local peasants who made up low-level courts at least a century earlier in places as distant as Finland or northern Sweden. Likewise literature written by French and German nobles exists as early as the mid-11th century.

4. Old parents living with their children. With the northern European pattern of late marriages that emerged in the 12th and 13th centuries this is quite unlikely. When people married in their late twenties and had children at about the same age, most old parents would already be dead and those who survived would still work as part of the village community, though likely at reduced efficiency.

5. Social classes being entirely rigid without any possibility for changing your status other than becoming a monk. The rigid legal distinctions between citizens, nobles and commoners gradually developed over the course of the middle ages, but didn't become entirely rigid until the mid-16th century or well into the renaissance. Before that it was entirely common for a succesful farmer to manage to get a weapon and a banged up armor and enter the service of a higher noble as a knight. At the same time it was also common for lesser nobles to lose their status as a noble in order to reenter the world of feudal obligation when times became too tough to scrape by on their own financially. Likewise the cities provided a venue for people to advance their status if they managed to get an apprenticeship or sink even lower if they failed at it.

6. Witches were burnt in large numbers by the Roman Catholic Church and frightened villagers. While the witch hunts did exist in Europe, they didn't happen in the middle ages, they happened in the renaissance and were predominantly carried out by protestant princes with what passed for due jurisprudence in the day. They weren't lynchings, they weren't medieval and they weren't really very catholic at all.

7. The Roman Catholic Church was in general able to control Europe and the beliefs of the time closely. By and large the Roman Catholic Church had to espouse views that were in the interest of the princes in order to uphold the privileged position of the church. Examples of this include the way the king was exalted to hold his own position in the official, catholic theology of the time and the way knights and the warrior codes held as part of chivalry being taken as a formal part of church doctrine. Other examples include of the church being less rigidly in control than commonly believed include the cheapness people got off with adultery and homosexuality in the middle ages, despite the theological arguments of it being the two worst sins. Lithuania being left relatively unmolested and involved in the eastern European politics for the first half of the 14th century despite not yet having converted to Christianity.

8. Nothing ever freaking change. I don't so much refer to how it is a big mash-up of all medieval periods in Hollywood as it is the view that the middle ages were a static period without significant social change. Apart from the evolution of Christian theology and the constant creep to the east of European culture, there was the rebuilding of the European trade network that broke down in late Roman times and the evolution of such typically western concepts as citizenship and monogamous, lifelong marriages as the only acceptable lifestyle. And then comes the technological advances, which, even if we discount the dark ages, ran the span from developing the wheeled plow to creating clockwork and ocean going vessels. Really, the middle ages were a dynamic period as is to be expected for something lasting that long.

puppyavenger
2008-06-17, 05:17 PM
The thing that really gets me is the protagonist with modern ideas. "The class system is unfair, all religions deserve equal respect" etc.

this is especially annoying when they just instinctively feel it's wrong despite that they've being taught it since they were born.

Thiel
2008-06-17, 05:26 PM
1) Swords were heavy and essentially blunt weapons.
I'm not sure where this one originated, but I believe we can blame museum curators (What's going to attract most attention, a battered and unadorned blade or a twenty pound monster covered in gold and glitter?) and a certain amount of Victorian Darwinism can probably be blamed as well.
Anyway, it's untrue and a little thinking reveals why. If a sword, in essence, was a blunt weapon, why go through the costly process of making one when a mace could do the same, only better and cheaper?

Lord Seth
2008-06-17, 05:26 PM
Was I the only one who noticed how many of these Monty Python and the Holy Grail parodied?

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 07:23 PM
The thing that really gets me is the protagonist with modern ideas. "The class system is unfair, all religions deserve equal respect" etc.

ug i really really really hate this one. I mean, i really do. How do people like Eragon come up with these extremly modern morality ethics? Bad form
From
EE

Azerian Kelimon
2008-06-17, 07:39 PM
EE, that's more an Acceptable break from Reality. Many of the medieval ideas would make the characters look like gits or idiots to us, so that's one thing that can be passed up, as it's a general thing, not just from the middle ages.

Terra: On point 8, from a certain point of view, it was actually true. The middle ages were a brutal step back from the roman empire (The Library of Alexandria....How brutal and stupid can man be for religion and political power?), and there was a massive slowdown in the discovery of new things, and the rediscovery of previous ones. That said, it wasn't THAT static, of course. Humans change too rapidly for most things to hold from one century to another.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-17, 08:15 PM
I was talking about change and not progress though, Azerian. And i think it is hard to argue that burning the Library of Alexandria was quite a change from the way things were before for example. The middle ages were a dynamic period, which is not the same as nice or progressive or other positive words we can think of. It just means that there was qualitative change and not ripples in the surface of society.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 08:18 PM
EE, that's more an Acceptable break from Reality. Many of the medieval ideas would make the characters look like gits or idiots to us, so that's one thing that can be passed up, as it's a general thing, not just from the middle ages.
.
Worked in song of Fire and ice, amazing series that really has some good characters and yet still appeals to a modern audience
from
EE

Azerian Kelimon
2008-06-17, 08:24 PM
Worked in song of Fire and ice, amazing series that really has some good characters and yet still appeals to a modern audience
from
EE

Consider this: If we have a protagonist who lives in a mercantile-slaver society, wouldn't it be hard to take said character as a Cape-Ish hero if he supported slavery?

And I wouldn't use SoIaF as an example. Darker than Black settings don't represent reality well, and that's a purely fantastic world.

Terra: Pretty much what I said. Things changed and all, but slower than they did, much like new paradigms emerge faster now than they did in the time of th French revolution.

DraPrime
2008-06-17, 08:24 PM
EE, that's more an Acceptable break from Reality. Many of the medieval ideas would make the characters look like gits or idiots to us, so that's one thing that can be passed up, as it's a general thing, not just from the middle ages.

Still, it's very weird when a protagonist seems to have philosophical ideas several centuries ahead of everyone else in his society. And protagonists don't have to spout their ideas on the class system and stuff like that. George R.R. Martin does this well. While it's obvious that many of the main characters are fairly medieval in their thinking, it doesn't come up so often that it annoys anyone. And when it does, IT WORKS. It doesn't seem annoying. It seems logical, and fits with the setting.

Mr. Scaly
2008-06-17, 08:31 PM
The notion that the world didn't stink.

Seriously, even the big cities like Vienna and Venice didn't have very good sewage treatment system, and filth would be emptied into streets.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 08:35 PM
Consider this: If we have a protagonist who lives in a mercantile-slaver society, wouldn't it be hard to take said character as a Cape-Ish hero if he supported slavery?

Yeah, i'm Southern, i've heard plenty of stories about Nathan Bedford Forest during the Civil War. If the story showed both ideas of the character, and yet still condemned his actions, it would be fine
from
EE

Azerian Kelimon
2008-06-17, 08:38 PM
Yeah, i'm Southern, i've heard plenty of stories about Nathan Bedford Forest during the Civil War. If the story showed both ideas of the character, and yet still condemned his actions, it would be fine
from
EE

As a Cape hero? I can imagine a more humane hero or an antihero promoting slavery, or even a misguided cape who later learns about how bad that perspective is. But you'll have to give me a linky to an idealistic hero that consistently supports slavery and doesn't "grow out" of it.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 08:54 PM
As a Cape hero? I can imagine a more humane hero or an antihero promoting slavery, or even a misguided cape who later learns about how bad that perspective is. But you'll have to give me a linky to an idealistic hero that consistently supports slavery and doesn't "grow out" of it.

1) He is actually shown as a cape hero down there, through for all the wrong reasons
2) By cape hero you mean perfect? They are boring anyways, you need logical flaws
3) General Robert E Lee. Best Southerner in the Civil War (other than Longstreet)
from
EE

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 09:00 PM
Through on the redeemption note, Forest, (an ex slave trader, who was in charge of a total massacre at fort pillow) and one of the founders (or at least initial supports) of the KKK apparently became disgusted and left. So is that actually redeemption?
from
EE
edit
Actually his involvement with the Klan is a bit vague, but his actions with Pole Bearers association might make a good redeemption part in a movie
Sorry, i'll stop changing the subject

DarthArminius
2008-06-17, 09:16 PM
Everyone believed in witchcraft

While superstition was the order of the day, superstition was recorded in the Church as a lesser sin.

Western Europe may have been worse off. Yet, if you believed in superstition you could be ordered to fast and pray for forgiveness.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-17, 09:40 PM
Oh, people believed in witch craft in the middle ages, i don't think anybody is saying that it they didn't. What i am saying is that people didn't go around killing suspected witches very often in the middle ages. All the large witch hunts took place in the 17th century, no matter what side of the Atlantic you look at.

And Azerian i am not sure that things changed faster in Roman times than in medieval times. The changes were different in nature in the two periods, so it largely depends on what kinds of changes you find significant. However, the exact quantity of change compared to Roman times is less important than the middle ages not being static.

Emperor Ing
2008-06-17, 09:58 PM
I wanna know something that's been bothering me for some time.

I'm certain that medieval armor is at least SLIGHTLY more effective than it's percieved to be. So how effective is medieval armor for real?

Solo
2008-06-17, 09:58 PM
Many people thought vegetables were poisonous upto the 17th C or so, so no turnip munching.

But how could you not like turnpis? :smalleek:


Anyways, at the time, the only things most peasants had to eat were vegetiables, grain, and dirt.

I suspect that there was some turnip munching going on.


Although this can be taken too far. I read an interesting piece once that argued that due to the lack of sugar in past diets, people's teeth would not be as bad as generally thought.

The thing that really gets me is the protagonist with modern ideas. "The class system is unfair, all religions deserve equal respect" etc.

Bloody peasant.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 10:33 PM
I wanna know something that's been bothering me for some time.

I'm certain that medieval armor is at least SLIGHTLY more effective than it's percieved to be. So how effective is medieval armor for real?

actually pretty effective, through hard to move around in. Some of the better stuff could block basic bullet (through these were from old fashion guns mind you). Armor made a huge difference in a fight, hence why knights could defeat peasents easily. Knights biggest problem i imagine would be falling over
from
EE

Dervag
2008-06-17, 11:42 PM
ug i really really really hate this one. I mean, i really do. How do people like Eragon come up with these extremly modern morality ethics? Bad form
From
EESome of it isn't "modern" so much as "not normal in medieval Europe." For instance, the pagan Roman empire was very tolerant of religion, provided that you paid appropriate reverence to the specific gods of Rome and the emperor. Christians were persecuted because they refused to regard the emperor as a deity. Almost anything else imaginable would be tolerated quite cheerfully, hence the popularity of a bizarre mishmash of religions such as the cults of Mithra and Isis within the empire.

What killed the tolerance was that the Eastern Roman Emperors of the late 300s and the 400s decided to use Christianity as one of the pillars of their control over the state. Which meant they needed a rigorous definition of "orthodoxy," and that they needed to suppress any religious groups that might drift out from under the control of the central orthodox church. The pattern set by the Byzantines was followed throughout much of Europe during the next 1300 years.

Similarly, other parts of the world often included a variety of mutually exclusive religions coexisting peacefully. Not that there weren't frequent bouts of religious war, or that there weren't lots of kingdoms where the state regarded the church as a vital ally. There were. But it wasn't a universal thing in all parts of the world.

Gender equality, on the other hand, was a very unlikely thing for pre-industrial cultures, but there were specific reasons for that. The reasons might well go away in a world where women are just as capable of generating lightning bolts with a hand gesture as men are, for instance.
_______________________


1) He is actually shown as a cape hero down there, through for all the wrong reasons
2) By cape hero you mean perfect? They are boring anyways, you need logical flawsMake your hero an unsympathetic bastard in the eyes of the audience and a lot of your audience won't like it.

In his articles on gaming on this site, Rich Burlew mentions that you shouldn't let the "logical flaws" of your character become a breakdown point for the entire game. It might be a "logical flaw" for your character to refuse to associate with, say, a thief, once the fact that they are a thief is revealed. But if your character storms out of the game in a huff you've just shot the fun in the head. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure your character doesn't have issues so large it makes it impossible for the group of characters to work together.

A similar argument applies to fictional characters. A character who's a despicable jerk in ways that much of the audience will object to is going to be a drag on the story, especially if the author keeps treating him like a hero. I mean, look at Wesley on Star Trek. Wesley isn't even evil; he's just annoying, callow, and accident-prone. And yet much of the audience hated the character and the way that the writers kept having him save the day.

If you're creating a work of fiction, and you give your 'heroic' character so many "logical flaws" that he doesn't act or think like a person the audience would sympathize with, the audience won't see the character the way you want them to.


3) General Robert E Lee. Best Southerner in the Civil War (other than Longstreet)
from
EEWas he honorable? Yes. Was he talented? Absolutely.

Would he make a good hero for a novel, assuming he remains an unrepentant advocate of secession and slavery? Only among people who thought secession and slavery were really good ideas. And that kind of people is a dying breed these days.

Turcano
2008-06-17, 11:44 PM
Many people thought vegetables were poisonous upto the 17th C or so, so no turnip munching.

This is patently false. Turnips and peas were major staples, and onions, leeks, and early carrots and cabbage were also on the menu, as were various wild roots.

Anyway, one big misconception is that commoners essentially wore burlap; what little archaeological evidence there is suggests that thread counts upwards of 40 were commonplace.

Swordguy
2008-06-18, 12:21 AM
actually pretty effective, through hard to move around in. Some of the better stuff could block basic bullet (through these were from old fashion guns mind you). Armor made a huge difference in a fight, hence why knights could defeat peasents easily. Knights biggest problem i imagine would be falling over
from
EE

Goddammit, EE. That stuff about being hard to move in and falling over being the biggest danger of medieval combat just flat not true. 30 seconds of searching in the RW Weapons and Armor thread could have revealed this. Well, assuming the forums didn't crash while you were searching.

Look, Randomizer, go look at this here: Swordguy's Essay on Japanese Armor (http://www.alderac.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=60685). Understand that European plate is significantly more protective than the Japanese armor detailed in this essay, and not all that much heavier. Modern infantry have been known to go into combat carrying 150+ pounds of weapons, ammo, water, and gear. Full plate generally tops out at 70lbs, and that's generally for jousting plate. Field armor is in the 55-60lb region.

Movement is quite easy - you lose perhaps the extreme 5% of your mobility, and standing up isn't a problem at all. People do cartwheels and pushups in harness all the time, and vaulting over a horse (from side to side) in full plate is something any given trained fighter should be able to accomplish.

Mando Knight
2008-06-18, 12:39 AM
The masses of metal objects. I'm looking at you, WotC and Sam Clemens (AKA Mark Twain)! As mentioned before, swords are 1/2 or 1/3 the weights listed in 3.5e equipment guides, (probably other weapons run into the same problem, but I'm most familiar with the swords...) and a well-made sword felt even lighter, even if it weighed the same, thanks to proper balance. Full-plate armor allowed for remarkable agility, and knights did not require cranes (a la Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court) to lift their heavily armored selves onto and off of their horses, nor were such knights completely helpless if their mounts were cut down.

The Crusades were pointless wars waged by the evil Catholic Church, or that they were fought to reinstate ancient Israel, or that they were all in the Middle East... This one is touching on subjects we don't allow on the forums, so I won't say much more than that the things actually helped Europe to enter the Renaissance and beyond (they opened up trade routes to China to obtain silks and gunpowder tech, for example). The first Middle East crusades were waged to make travel safe for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Lands (a Turk faction had been harassing them), and the Crusader states were mostly a perk for a would-be emperor. The crusades waged in Eastern Europe broke up any hope of a massive, powerful Lithuania that would crush the Holy Roman Empire, Italy, and France. There were atrocities committed by all of the factions in all of the crusades, whether Christian or Muslim. (Oh, wow... I said I wouldn't say so much on this... please don't hurt me!)

European medieval combat was clumsy/undefined/inferior to Asian martial arts. Europe had martial arts, just not Stereotypical-Asian-Fu. The European fighting style focused more on swordplay, archery, and spears, all of which fell out of practice and favor when Europe switched to musketry, though at different times (swords were used on horseback and spears were used by infantry until decent bayonets were developed... though sword-wielding, dismounted men became rarer...). When these fighting styles fell out of practice, they were updated to fencing with saber/rapier, marksmanship with gunpowder, and fighting with bayonets.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-18, 12:39 AM
My beef is often with literacy. It was rather uncommon even among the nobility, depending on the precise time and location we're talking about. Assuming I'm not completely misremembering, this was possibly the only plot point in A Knight's Tale that made any actual sense.

As Terraoblivion points out below your post, this is not true.
As early as the 13th and 14th centuries, the village elders, for example, could both write and do math; after all they were responsible for upholding the local laws, and record the crimes, sentences etc. Besides, in Scandinavia the use of the runes was spread up until the 13th century at least, many people being able to read and write them as well as Latin.

(There is a fine example of this when the peasantry storms medieval Paris during a tax revolt and the first thing they do is to track down and destroy the books with their tax- and crime records so that they can't be identified after the riot is over).

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-18, 12:45 AM
Many people thought vegetables were poisonous upto the 17th C or so, so no turnip munching.

Surely this must depend on where you lived? I have certainly never heard this, and we know for a fact that in the Scandinavian diet in the 10th-15th centuries there were plenty of beets, turnips, spices (mustard, dill, parsley, honey to name the most common), apples, as well as grains.

Mando Knight
2008-06-18, 01:12 AM
and we know for a fact that in the Scandinavian diet in the 10th-15th centuries there were plenty of beets, turnips, spices (mustard, dill, parsley, honey to name the most common), apples, as well as grains.

Aye, I've heard my mother tell me about traditional Scandinavian/Norwegian/way-up-there-in-the-north diets (I had/have ancestors from that region, not living, mind you, I know of no immortals in my family tree, and she does some family-tree stuff... I may be distantly descended from a cousin of William the Conqueror or something...) (...well, that, and my parents spent a few years in Minnesota, and my father's a Lutheran pastor, so she probably knew plenty of descendants of traditional Way-up-there-in-the-North-types in the area... I wouldn't remember, we left there when I was 2) and she told me about such dishes (makes some of them, too, though not so often...).

Also, Swordguy, I read your essay on Japanese armor and katanas. Good job. Also, you ninja'd me while I was typing out my previous (rather long) post.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-18, 01:17 AM
The Crusades were pointless wars waged by the evil Catholic Church, or that they were fought to reinstate ancient Israel, or that they were all in the Middle East... This one is touching on subjects we don't allow on the forums, so I won't say much more than that the things actually helped Europe to enter the Renaissance and beyond (they opened up trade routes to China to obtain silks and gunpowder tech, for example). The first Middle East crusades were waged to make travel safe for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Lands (a Turk faction had been harassing them), and the Crusader states were mostly a perk for a would-be emperor. The crusades waged in Eastern Europe broke up any hope of a massive, powerful Lithuania that would crush the Holy Roman Empire, Italy, and France. There were atrocities committed by all of the factions in all of the crusades, whether Christian or Muslim. (Oh, wow... I said I wouldn't say so much on this... please don't hurt me!)

Ok I bite. But not to hard, I promise not to hurt you :)

First, let me say that the "fake" reasons you line up above I have never heard. I have not heard anyone try to motivate the crusades with "The Catholic church was evil, or to reinstate Israel). The Catholic church was not more evil than any other organization at the time (or the present). Most people are bastards, after all.

Also, when I talk about the crusades I talk about the main ones down to "the holy land". Not the internal Christian wars in Europe (I mean if we count them as actual crusades, then the 30 year war should be counted as well).

1) The Crusades was a way for the Catholic church to focus the mind of the Europeans towards an external threat that was not very strong at all.

2) The Crusades was mostly used a way for the power hungry to get their way. After all, remember that about 2/3 of all killed in the crusades was other Christians, who just happened to have loot, or live in a town in the middle east, or...

3) The last crusade, against what was left of the Eastern Roman Empire and paid for by the Venetians, was just the most openly fake one; the Venetians wanted the competition from the Emperor gone. The Catholic church was not involved in this one, at all.

4) The Muslim majority in the middle east did have all the right in the world to defend their cities from the invaders.

5) The "first crusade" was a failure, because the rabble caught on before the nobles did, and most crusaders was untrained farmers, beggars and others, who just marched southeast and got killed. Lesson learned for attempt no 2, where they tried to focus on rallying the nobles.

Etc.

It's one thing to argue that the result for Europe was in the long run beneficial, and another to justify genocide because of it. The crusades was not in any way needed to protect the Catholic church, or Catholic Europe. They were started as a project of vengeance, to teach the Infidels a lesson. (The Infidels was more advanced than Europe anyway, especially in math, music, art and medicine).

Of course we have to put them into their historical context; for the people of medieval Europe, who were all religious fanatics to a degree (as people tend to be before the invention of science as we know it; the Arabs were just as religious), the idea of tolerating any religion but their own was of course unthinkable for most. In fact most countries and states had it as a death penalty to be a non-catholic.
For the people, back then, the idea of exterminate the Infidels was compelling and the Right-thing-to-do(tm).

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-18, 01:30 AM
Aye, I've heard my mother tell me about traditional Scandinavian/Norwegian/way-up-there-in-the-north diets (I had/have ancestors from that region, not living, mind you, I know of no immortals in my family tree, and she does some family-tree stuff...

Gravad salmon or Pickled herring anyone? :smalltongue:


Btw, speaking about differences:

Remember if we get into arguments about time lines and dates:
The Scandinavian medieval era does not start until the 11th century.
We count the time line as follows:
Early Stone age
Late Stone Age
Early Bronze Age
Late Bronze Age
Iron Age (up to the 9th century)
Viking Age (9th century - 1066AD)

The reason for this is obviously that the Viking culture was so distinctive compared to the rest of Europe at the time, and we were not involved in the whole Catholic Project until after the fateful year of 1066, basically.

EvilElitest
2008-06-18, 09:47 AM
Some of it isn't "modern" so much as "not normal in medieval Europe." For instance, the pagan Roman empire was very tolerant of religion, provided that you paid appropriate reverence to the specific gods of Rome and the emperor. Christians were persecuted because they refused to regard the emperor as a deity. Almost anything else imaginable would be tolerated quite cheerfully, hence the popularity of a bizarre mishmash of religions such as the cults of Mithra and Isis within the empire.

What killed the tolerance was that the Eastern Roman Emperors of the late 300s and the 400s decided to use Christianity as one of the pillars of their control over the state. Which meant they needed a rigorous definition of "orthodoxy," and that they needed to suppress any religious groups that might drift out from under the control of the central orthodox church. The pattern set by the Byzantines was followed throughout much of Europe during the next 1300 years.

Similarly, other parts of the world often included a variety of mutually exclusive religions coexisting peacefully. Not that there weren't frequent bouts of religious war, or that there weren't lots of kingdoms where the state regarded the church as a vital ally. There were. But it wasn't a universal thing in all parts of the world.

Gender equality, on the other hand, was a very unlikely thing for pre-industrial cultures, but there were specific reasons for that. The reasons might well go away in a world where women are just as capable of generating lightning bolts
I"m not talking about religious tolerance, (through the Aeithist elves are weird, but that is just the Author preaching his views. Actually all of the elves are)
I'm talking more about why the empire is evil http://www.anti-shurtugal.com/wordpress/?s=why+is+the+empire+evil



Make your hero an unsympathetic bastard in the eyes of the audience and a lot of your audience won't like it.

Who says you can't sympathize with bad people. When i read history, i can totally sympathize with Napoleon, never mind that he was a power hungry ego maniac. Forest was, for all of his faults, an honorable man who eventually came to terms with his over the top racism. He was possible one of the best Calvary leaders in American history. And yet, he was a racist ruthless bastard, but still a human being

In song of fire and ice, almost everyone of the characters is a bad person in some ways, but you can still sympathize with them. When you make perfect characters, they aren't real, they aren't true, it is like your lying to the audience.


In his articles on gaming on this site, Rich Burlew mentions that you shouldn't let the "logical flaws" of your character become a breakdown point for the entire game. It might be a "logical flaw" for your character to refuse to associate with, say, a thief, once the fact that they are a thief is revealed. But if your character storms out of the game in a huff you've just shot the fun in the head. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure your character doesn't have issues so large it makes it impossible for the group of characters to work together.
Rich is referring to taking logical moral flaws to an absurd extreme, to the point of not being able to play together, which is the point of D&D. But in a novel, you can have some very immoral characters who are still able to be understood. Take Shogun for example, every single character is ruthless and cold in their own way, and yet it is still a spectacular book



A similar argument applies to fictional characters. A character who's a despicable jerk in ways that much of the audience will object to is going to be a drag on the story, especially if the author keeps treating him like a hero. I mean, look at Wesley on Star Trek. Wesley isn't even evil; he's just annoying, callow, and accident-prone. And yet much of the audience hated the character and the way that the writers kept having him save the day.

No that is bad writing. You can make a jerk character and still not hate him, if he is used properly. Or alternatively, you can hate them but you hate them because the writer wants you to hate them as the protagonist does. But Wesley is just a badly written jerk. He is uninteresting, while say, Cordilla and
2 season spike are awful people and yet they are my too favorite character

Heck, edward Elric is a total jerk, and yet he is amazing. Kimblee and Scar are utterly ruthless but still lovable characters


If you're creating a work of fiction, and you give your 'heroic' character so many "logical flaws" that he doesn't act or think like a person the audience would sympathize with, the audience won't see the character the way you want them to.
I disagree. If you make your character a cape, perfect hero, they become uninteresting and unreal. Take Light from Death Note for example. He is an awful person, but a great character, because the writer shows his point of view, but doesn't show it as right instead just lets the reader deiced who is in fact just in the confrontation.



Was he honorable? Yes. Was he talented? Absolutely.

Would he make a good hero for a novel, assuming he remains an unrepentant advocate of secession and slavery? Only among people who thought secession and slavery were really good ideas. And that kind of people is a dying breed these days.

Killer angles. A wonderful portrayal of Robert E Lee that both makes his perspective know (he was actually against slavery, just pro secession) and yet doesn't promote it

Last king of scotland had a very nasty main character who we could very easily sympathize with.

NOw if the book's narration showed Lee's views as right, like the film "Birth of a nation" then you are totally right, but you could make a very good film about Joseph Goebbels life without promoting his view


Swordguy, i'm sorry, i don't mean fall over your screwed in a Roben Hood Men in Tights sort of way. I'm thinking more about the french film Excalabur

Also the who Asian Marshal arts thing drives me nuts with rage
from
EE

Narmoth
2008-06-18, 10:38 AM
actually pretty effective, through hard to move around in. Some of the better stuff could block basic bullet (through these were from old fashion guns mind you). Armor made a huge difference in a fight, hence why knights could defeat peasents easily. Knights biggest problem i imagine would be falling over
from
EE

Actually, it was the bullet proof armour that was so heavy that the knight was unable to get up on his own. Chainmail is relatively light (I've tried it myself, and it's bearable) and 14th century plate armour weren't that heavy either.

Vikingkingq
2008-06-18, 02:06 PM
The thing that really gets me is the protagonist with modern ideas. "The class system is unfair, all religions deserve equal respect" etc.

On the other hand, let's not give the Medieval era less credit than it deserves for the advent of some of our modern ideas. Marsilius of Padua re-invented the concept of popular sovereignty, of the right to govern deriving from the consent of the government, the necessity for the government to be elected, and the responsibility of the state to the people - in 1324. Granted, he only wanted to apply that to the Pope, but it was still pretty cool. Thomas Aquinas wasn't perfect, but his conception of natural law was critical for the 18th century revolutions.

I would also argue that a lot of peasants felt that the class system was unfair (and contrary to the will of God). The English Peasant Revolt in 1381 was couched explicitly in such terms - "when Adam delve, and Eve span, who wass then the gentleman?"

Oh, and my favorite example of peasants actually beating knights is the Battle of Golden Spurs in 1302, when 9000 Flemish peasant militia (and 400 local nobles, to be fair) fought and defeated a French army of 8,000 (2,500 noble cavalry, including knights and squires, 1,000 crossbowmen, 1,000 spearmen and up to 3,500 other light infantry). The French infantry was actually doing quite well before the French commander ordered them to retreat so that the cavalry could win the victory, and the Flemish broke their charge and pursued the French for 10km. More than 1,000 knights were slain - hence the name of the battle, from their collected spurs.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-18, 03:56 PM
The rigid class system and the concept that some people are inherently better than others, isn't really a medieval thing at all. It is more of a renaissance concept, closely tied to the changes in the relationship between princes and the church. It most fully manifested in the 17th century, especially in Denmark. Like i said earlier the middle ages had much more fluid social structures, though with a tendency to grow more rigid in time as wealth got consolidated and the central governments grew stronger. Especially the evolution of the small council in various European monarchies and principalities made this trend firmer as it was the richest nobles getting a clearer legislative role.

rankrath
2008-06-18, 09:40 PM
I've got two:

1: that everyone has a sword. Swords, for the amount of skill, work, and metal needed to make one, and the skill needed to use it, are increadibly inefficent weapons compared to a spear or axe.

2: Siege Warfare. Most media sieges last a day or two, In real life, a seige would take weeks, if not months to reach a conclusion.

Jerthanis
2008-06-18, 11:33 PM
The thing I like most about this thread: Every single point seems to be disputed by a subsequent poster.

I'd like a clarification of The Randomizer's question about medieval armor actually. I understand that medieval plate wasn't overbearingly heavy and unwieldy, but how much protection would they really afford to a knight? Could a guy with a sword hurt someone in plate mail, or would he need a warhammer? What about against spears? How much less effective was chain mail as opposed to plate?

Swordguy
2008-06-18, 11:42 PM
The thing I like most about this thread: Every single point seems to be disputed by a subsequent poster.

I'd like a clarification of The Randomizer's question about medieval armor actually. I understand that medieval plate wasn't overbearingly heavy and unwieldy, but how much protection would they really afford to a knight? Could a guy with a sword hurt someone in plate mail, or would he need a warhammer? What about against spears? How much less effective was chain mail as opposed to plate?

Go read my link on the first page. Pay special attention to the details on kabutowari. Yes...it's about Japanese armor - but it establishes a baseline. European plate will only be better than that.

The short version is that you cannot effectively cut through plate armor. You can pierce it with a very sturdy thrust if you get a straight shot, but the armor is designed to deflect blows so they aren't straight shots. Mass weapons tend to be the best, since they can crush the plate and transfer energy though the medium, or more easily break the surface tension of steel - but mass weapons heavy enough to do a really good job are hard to use properly, because they'll really throw you off-balance on a miss or deflection.

There's a reason why wrestling and the employment of daggers while doing so is a very LARGE part of historical fighting.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-19, 12:58 AM
On the other hand, let's not give the Medieval era less credit than it deserves for the advent of some of our modern ideas. Marsilius of Padua re-invented the concept of popular sovereignty, of the right to govern deriving from the consent of the government, the necessity for the government to be elected, and the responsibility of the state to the people - in 1324. Granted, he only wanted to apply that to the Pope, but it was still pretty cool. Thomas Aquinas wasn't perfect, but his conception of natural law was critical for the 18th century revolutions.

I would also argue that a lot of peasants felt that the class system was unfair (and contrary to the will of God). The English Peasant Revolt in 1381 was couched explicitly in such terms - "when Adam delve, and Eve span, who wass then the gentleman?"

Oh, and my favorite example of peasants actually beating knights is the Battle of Golden Spurs in 1302, when 9000 Flemish peasant militia (and 400 local nobles, to be fair) fought and defeated a French army of 8,000 (2,500 noble cavalry, including knights and squires, 1,000 crossbowmen, 1,000 spearmen and up to 3,500 other light infantry). The French infantry was actually doing quite well before the French commander ordered them to retreat so that the cavalry could win the victory, and the Flemish broke their charge and pursued the French for 10km. More than 1,000 knights were slain - hence the name of the battle, from their collected spurs.

Again, too, this depends on where in Medieval Europe you are.
For two neighbors, the Swedish and Russian feudal systems are the total opposites:
In Russia, we had what was the ultimate feudal system, where all farmers were basically slave workers to the nobles. Most of Europe had this to a large degree, but Russia was extreme.
In Sweden, on the other hand, maybe because all into the 14th century we still elected our kings, there was a feudal state, but with one major difference: To survive politically (and physically too, some times) the king almost always supported himself on the peasant (and later also the merchant) class(es) against the nobles and church. This meant that only a fraction of peasants in Sweden actually was "owned" by the local nobles; most of them were free land owners who paid taxes instead, and could not be commanded to do the kind of things that they could in most other nations.

(The Swedish Law-of-the-Land from the early medieval times actually is a continuation of the Viking laws, and outright states that the Swedes has the right to "Take" king (as in Elect any man they see fit) as well as throw him out if needed. This ended when one noble destroyed or stole the ceremonial stone on where the king should be standing while elected, probably to stop a rivaling family from putting their candidate on the stone. Officially though, Sweden did not become an "Inherited kingdom" until Gustav I declared it so in the mid 16th century)

As for the commoners kicking the knight's ass. Pikes are remarkably easy to use, compared to train as a knight. And besides, if you are clever enough to fight somewhere else than in an open field, you won't even need pikes...

Lorn
2008-06-19, 01:19 AM
As far as the armour thing goes - I don't know about full plate, but chainmail is fairly light. Well, when you put it on. The weight is shared between your shoulders and waist, which helps a lot, and it's possible to do almost anything you can do normally in chainmail, just maybe a bit slower.

Also:

Swords. They were NOT common!

Swordfights. People would NOT swing the thing all over the place, flourish it and everything. In all honesty, swordfights were dull compared to what you see in the media; same with most things like that, really. Trust me, I've tried it, a lot, I know a fair few people who are extremely good with one (I'm not personally, too heavy for me - and not enough practice.)

H. Zee
2008-06-19, 02:18 AM
When a witch was sentenced to death - which was rare - they were hardly ever burnt at stake. They might be hanged and then burnt, but not burnt alive, because of the sheer cost involved. Back then, burning someone at stake cost the modern-day equivalent of £1000 (or $2000), and it simply wasn't worth it. There were a few cases of witches being burnt alive at the stake, but they were very rare.

Also, 1/4 of accused witches were male, a significantly higher proportion than most people seem to think.

Studoku
2008-06-19, 02:48 AM
Boiling oil. Considering the cost and rarity, it would not have been used. Water (either hot or cold) would have been much more common.

Solo
2008-06-19, 03:47 AM
Go read my link on the first page. Pay special attention to the details on kabutowari. Yes...it's about Japanese armor - but it establishes a baseline. European plate will only be better than that.

The short version is that you cannot effectively cut through plate armor. You can pierce it with a very sturdy thrust if you get a straight shot, but the armor is designed to deflect blows so they aren't straight shots. Mass weapons tend to be the best, since they can crush the plate and transfer energy though the medium, or more easily break the surface tension of steel - but mass weapons heavy enough to do a really good job are hard to use properly, because they'll really throw you off-balance on a miss or deflection.

There's a reason why wrestling and the employment of daggers while doing so is a very LARGE part of historical fighting.

Are there any weapons that deal slasing and bludgeoning/piercing damage which, in DnD terms, would fit under the category of a simple weapon?

Manga Shoggoth
2008-06-19, 04:52 AM
The rigid class system and the concept that some people are inherently better than others, isn't really a medieval thing at all. It is more of a renaissance concept, closely tied to the changes in the relationship between princes and the church. It most fully manifested in the 17th century, especially in Denmark. Like i said earlier the middle ages had much more fluid social structures, though with a tendency to grow more rigid in time as wealth got consolidated and the central governments grew stronger. Especially the evolution of the small council in various European monarchies and principalities made this trend firmer as it was the richest nobles getting a clearer legislative role.

It isn't even renaissance. India had a caste system in place way, way back. Likewise ancient China. Likewise...

Turcano
2008-06-19, 04:55 AM
Boiling oil. Considering the cost and rarity, it would not have been used. Water (either hot or cold) would have been much more common.

Or sand, or lime.


Are there any weapons that deal slasing and bludgeoning/piercing damage which, in DnD terms, would fit under the category of a simple weapon?

The poleaxe probably qualifies.

Spiryt
2008-06-19, 05:00 AM
The poleaxe probably qualifies.

Nah, if hammer of pick are martiall weapons, pollaxe too. Wielding it certainly wasn't easy.

Swordguy
2008-06-19, 05:03 AM
Are there any weapons that deal slasing and bludgeoning/piercing damage which, in DnD terms, would fit under the category of a simple weapon?

No. Not "D&D simple weapons", anyway. The closest thing is a halberd, which was used as the basic footman's weapon for a very long time, and can be used quite competently (inside of a mass formation) with perhaps an hour's practice. Using it in open combat is a lot more complicated. The halberd can't do it all at the same time, either. It can do bludgeoning (butt end), piercing (spear tip), slashing/bludgeoning (axe blade), and can hook (the bill hook on the back) - but only one at a time.

Really, a halberd can be argued to be a simple or a martial weapon, depending on whether you're using it in a mass formation or in open-field combat. And, from personal experience, the most effective part of the dammed thing is the bill hook, which catches in plate armor very efficiently, pulls you to the ground, and gives somebody a moment to jump on you and do a stabby-dance with a dagger or stiletto.

But other than a halberd, or similar heavy, 2-handed weapon, I can't think offhand of a good weapon to breach armor. I'd rather grapple the guy and try to employ a dagger instead.

Plate armor isn't fair, historically. It gives a huge advantage on the battlefield, and it's really, really tough to break through or bypass. That's why people wore it - the protective benefits had to outweigh the weight, expense, and maintenance requirements that plate armor demands. This is unlike D&D, where it's really, really neutered.

Let's put it this way - assume a katana is a "bastard sword", and the guy hitting the kabuto in my link is...say Strength 12 (reasonably fit). With that in mind, I'd say that katana in the pictures got enough penetration to reasonably do 1, perhaps 2 points of damage. Since a bastard sword is 1d10, (and it was used to it's maximum potential in that test with the "perfect storm" of conditions for striking, thus doing the full damage), I'd say that a helm (and the attendant plate) should have DR somewhere in the 8-10 point range to have an end result of only 1-2 points of damage after the Str 12 guy hits the armor for maximal damage...in addition to the AC bonus, representing the inherent deflective qualities of the armor.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-19, 05:12 AM
When a witch was sentenced to death - which was rare - they were hardly ever burnt at stake. They might be hanged and then burnt, but not burnt alive, because of the sheer cost involved. Back then, burning someone at stake cost the modern-day equivalent of £1000 (or $2000), and it simply wasn't worth it. There were a few cases of witches being burnt alive at the stake, but they were very rare.

Also, 1/4 of accused witches were male, a significantly higher proportion than most people seem to think.

Sweden caught on to the whole "Witch" thing a little late, but we had our fair share. The procedure usually worked like this:

1) Demented or power-crazy or both kid(s), who has a reputation of being able to spot witches, point out someone (usually someone they don't like, or want to feel supperior to. Sometimes their own mothers).

2) Uneducated idiots believe them

3) Torture ensues

4) Confession-Beheading-Burning (I have not heard of any hangings, probably because of the idea that most monsters and supernatural creatures can survive hangings)

5) Start from 1) again.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-19, 05:15 AM
Boiling oil. Considering the cost and rarity, it would not have been used. Water (either hot or cold) would have been much more common.

I do think the three most common hot ones was water, Tar and Animal Fat.

poleboy
2008-06-19, 05:18 AM
Boiling oil. Considering the cost and rarity, it would not have been used. Water (either hot or cold) would have been much more common.

Okay, I see how being showered with scalding hot water is potentially very uncomfortable but wouldn't cold water make you more clean than dead? :smallconfused:

kamikasei
2008-06-19, 05:31 AM
It isn't even renaissance. India had a caste system in place way, way back. Likewise ancient China. Likewise...

The question isn't when did it first arise anywhere in the world, but when did it gain traction in, basically, Europe, or alternatively was it prevalent in actually Medieval times. It's basically meaningless to talk about "Medieval times" if you're considering the world as a whole.

stm177
2008-06-19, 05:46 AM
Sweden caught on to the whole "Witch" thing a little late, but we had our fair share. The procedure usually worked like this:

1) Demented or power-crazy or both kid(s), who has a reputation of being able to spot witches, point out someone (usually someone they don't like, or want to feel supperior to. Sometimes their own mothers).

2) Uneducated idiots believe them

3) Torture ensues

4) Confession-Beheading-Burning (I have not heard of any hangings, probably because of the idea that most monsters and supernatural creatures can survive hangings)

5) Start from 1) again.

Accused witches are often widowed elderly men or women with property and no children. This is why you get witch scares that kill 20 or 30 people at a time. Some people in the community are taking the witch scare as an opportunity to make some money.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-19, 06:06 AM
Accused witches are often widowed elderly men or women with property and no children. This is why you get witch scares that kill 20 or 30 people at a time. Some people in the community are taking the witch scare as an opportunity to make some money.

Of course, but that does not invalidate the point about most of the accusers in Sweden being kids or young teenagers. It seems to be a power-trip for most of them, when you read the records. Most of them start accusing the odd, the lonely and the strange, but quickly move in on mainstream targets that gives a bigger "power buzz", such as rich people's maids, or even well known community members (again, disturbingly enough, sometimes their own mothers).

Narmoth
2008-06-19, 07:13 AM
On the other hand, let's not give the Medieval era less credit than it deserves for the advent of some of our modern ideas. Marsilius of Padua re-invented the concept of popular sovereignty, of the right to govern deriving from the consent of the government, the necessity for the government to be elected, and the responsibility of the state to the people - in 1324. Granted, he only wanted to apply that to the Pope, but it was still pretty cool. Thomas Aquinas wasn't perfect, but his conception of natural law was critical for the 18th century revolutions.


In Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Poland and those states) the king was elected by the nobles. The king was elected for conquered countries as well in the 11th century and before. The crusader states had all their first king elected.



1: that everyone has a sword. Swords, for the amount of skill, work, and metal needed to make one, and the skill needed to use it, are increadibly inefficent weapons compared to a spear or axe.

In many countries peasants were not allowed to own weapons at all. Therefor the emergence of polearms from farming equipment.


2: Siege Warfare. Most media sieges last a day or two, In real life, a seige would take weeks, if not months to reach a conclusion.

It doesn't make good movie material to show the starving population eating rats


... I understand that medieval plate wasn't overbearingly heavy and unwieldy, but how much protection would they really afford to a knight? Could a guy with a sword hurt someone in plate mail, or would he need a warhammer? What about against spears? How much less effective was chain mail as opposed to plate?

You cut not through the plate, but try to hit the joints, or under overlapping plates.
You cut the straps that hold the plates together or break the metal equivalents.
You try to hit where the back and breastplate are joined, you try to hit between the helmet and the breastplate and so on.


Again, too, this depends on where in Medieval Europe you are.
For two neighbors, the Swedish and Russian feudal systems are the total opposites:
In Russia, we had what was the ultimate feudal system, where all farmers were basically slave workers to the nobles. Most of Europe had this to a large degree, but Russia was extreme.

Actually, the bondsman system that you are talking about wasn't in place before the 16th century, on the end of Ivan the 4th's reign. Before that, the peasants could switch noble once a year.
Before that again (800-1300 at least) the peasants paid tribute to their nobleman overlord, but owned the land themselves.


Boiling oil. Considering the cost and rarity, it would not have been used. Water (either hot or cold) would have been much more common.

I know that large cities, like Constantinople, used oil. Then again, they had greek fire (the historical, not the D&D variant)

Turcano
2008-06-19, 07:24 AM
You cut not through the plate, but try to hit the joints, or under overlapping plates.
You cut the straps that hold the plates together or break the metal equivalents.
You try to hit where the back and breastplate are joined, you try to hit between the helmet and the breastplate and so on.

Or if you've got a lot of time on your hands, you can wait for him under a bridge and then stab him in the nadgers with a polearm.

Spiryt
2008-06-19, 07:43 AM
In Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Poland and those states) the king was elected by the nobles.


In 1573 first time, it's not medieval anymore by any theory.



How much less effective was chain mail as opposed to plate?

It was just as impossible to cut, but that's all. Links could break beacuse of heavy strikes, it was quite reasonably easy to puncture with heavy stab, and most importatly, it offered no resistance to force of any strike. Searchhere (http://www.thearma.org/Videos/NTCvids/testingbladesandmaterials.htm) for "Bastard sword on maile" and "Cut on the Maile". Interesting reasults - some ruptured flesh, even though maile is of course not.

Of course, exceptionaly solid mail could offer protection against thrusts, and even to some strikes, but then it was really heavy. If you wanted to be somewhat better protected against blunt trauma, you had to use really massive gambeson which was rather clumsy thing to wear.

Matthew
2008-06-19, 07:43 AM
*crusade stuff*

I give you an "F" for effort, and advise you (and anybody else interested) to get hold of a copy of The Crusades (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crusades-History-Second-Jonathan-Riley-Smith/dp/0300101287/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213852258&sr=1-1) by Jonathan Riley-Smith. It is an excellent introduction to a complex subject area. :smallbiggrin:

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-19, 08:02 AM
Actually, the bondsman system that you are talking about wasn't in place before the 16th century, on the end of Ivan the 4th's reign. Before that, the peasants could switch noble once a year.
Before that again (800-1300 at least) the peasants paid tribute to their nobleman overlord, but owned the land themselves.

You are right, but they were still worse off than our farmers were.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-19, 08:07 AM
I give you an "F" for effort, and advise you (and anybody else interested) to get hold of a copy of The Crusades (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crusades-History-Second-Jonathan-Riley-Smith/dp/0300101287/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213852258&sr=1-1) by Jonathan Riley-Smith. It is an excellent introduction to a complex subject area. :smallbiggrin:

I prefer the Terry Jones documentary series :smallbiggrin:

Matthew
2008-06-19, 08:44 AM
I prefer the Terry Jones documentary series :smallbiggrin:

Heh, heh. I would definitely recommend staying away from anything purportedly written by Terry Jones. In my opinion, he is an entertaining storyteller, but not a good historian. I watched his crusade series when it first aired over here, and being about fifteen at the time, I believed everything he said. At university, I was gutted when I found out how much disinformation it contained. My first encounter with the unreliability of television history.

I quite enjoyed his more recent Medieval Lives, but being less familiar with the events he portrayed, I cannot speak to the veracity (though I seem to recall noticing a fair number of questionable assertions).

rankrath
2008-06-19, 02:12 PM
<snip>
There's a reason why wrestling and the employment of daggers while doing so is a very LARGE part of historical fighting.

this would make sense if everyone was fully armoured but weren't full suits of plate extremely hard to make, not to mention expensive, meaning that most knights wore a mix of plate over their vitals and maille on the limbs?

Anteros
2008-06-19, 11:08 PM
The misconceptions that irritate me the most? People who read something on the internet, or took one or two history courses and suddenly feel the need to "correct" people with a doctorate or dispute long term, well known facts based on what they have read/heard. The sheer amount of wrong in this thread is staggering.

Joran
2008-06-19, 11:30 PM
The misconceptions that irritate me the most? People who read something on the internet, or took one or two history courses and suddenly feel the need to "correct" people with a doctorate or dispute long term, well known facts based on what they have read/heard. The sheer amount of wrong in this thread is staggering.

Feel free to join the conversation. What exactly have you seen that is wrong?

P.S. I've seen professors with doctorates get stuff wrong. It happens to the best of us.

Anteros
2008-06-20, 02:00 AM
The thread is already full of people correcting each other without my adding anything in. It's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine when people give out misinformation as fact. This is how misinformation spreads.

However, on second thought, I suppose these forums aren't really the place for in depth historical analysis, and people are just trying to enjoy themselves by chatting. I apolgize if I came off a bit rudely before.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-20, 02:46 AM
Heh, heh. I would definitely recommend staying away from anything purportedly written by Terry Jones. In my opinion, he is an entertaining storyteller, but not a good historian. I watched his crusade series when it first aired over here, and being about fifteen at the time, I believed everything he said. At university, I was gutted when I found out how much disinformation it contained. My first encounter with the unreliability of television history.

I quite enjoyed his more recent Medieval Lives, but being less familiar with the events he portrayed, I cannot speak to the veracity (though I seem to recall noticing a fair number of questionable assertions).

Admittedly I am in no way an expert on the Crusades, but what I do know don't really make me feel the need to "correct" common picture of them. As I said above they might have been benificial to Europe, and that we should be glad for, but it doesn't make them any less bloody, or any more morally right.

Sweden's economical, military and cultural growth was accellerated by several 100% by the 30 year war, but I would not argue that clensing the germanic states from Holy Roman Catholics was the right thing to do.

That's all I'm really saying, regarding the crusades.

Mc. Lovin'
2008-06-20, 06:03 AM
Although this can be taken too far. I read an interesting piece once that argued that due to the lack of sugar in past diets, people's teeth would not be as bad as generally thought.

The thing that really gets me is the protagonist with modern ideas. "The class system is unfair, all religions deserve equal respect" etc.

Well they have to have that in for protagonists, because it's the choice between having a protagonist with morals that people agree with, and therefore like, or having the book historically accurate.

Avilan the Grey
2008-06-20, 06:10 AM
Well they have to have that in for protagonists, because it's the choice between having a protagonist with morals that people agree with, and therefore like, or having the book historically accurate.

Also, are we talking about "Real Medieval Story(tm)" or are we talking about "Historical Fantasy"(tm).

EvilElitest
2008-06-20, 09:34 AM
The misconceptions that irritate me the most? People who read something on the internet, or took one or two history courses and suddenly feel the need to "correct" people with a doctorate or dispute long term, well known facts based on what they have read/heard. The sheer amount of wrong in this thread is staggering.

your pretty much doing the exact same thing, feeling the need to correct people who are wrong, when you don't have any qualifications yourself. Only difference, you don't actually correct anyone but still
from
EE

Swordguy
2008-06-20, 02:03 PM
The thread is already full of people correcting each other without my adding anything in. It's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine when people give out misinformation as fact. This is how misinformation spreads.

However, on second thought, I suppose these forums aren't really the place for in depth historical analysis, and people are just trying to enjoy themselves by chatting. I apolgize if I came off a bit rudely before.

We don't mind you saying so, but making the claim without specific quotes, why they're wrong, and the sources to back it up is somewhat annoying.

Jump on in and defend your position!

Eerie
2008-06-20, 04:11 PM
8. Nothing ever freaking change. I don't so much refer to how it is a big mash-up of all medieval periods in Hollywood as it is the view that the middle ages were a static period without significant social change. Apart from the evolution of Christian theology and the constant creep to the east of European culture, there was the rebuilding of the European trade network that broke down in late Roman times and the evolution of such typically western concepts as citizenship and monogamous, lifelong marriages as the only acceptable lifestyle. And then comes the technological advances, which, even if we discount the dark ages, ran the span from developing the wheeled plow to creating clockwork and ocean going vessels. Really, the middle ages were a dynamic period as is to be expected for something lasting that long.

Those things happened over centuries. From the point of view of an individual, nothing ever freaking changed during the Middle Ages and, in fact, all ages but the modern.

Miklus
2008-06-20, 05:00 PM
What annoys me the most is that peasants in movies are alway covered in crap all over. Yes, they may be poor, but surely they would wash their faces once in a while.

Narmoth
2008-06-20, 05:24 PM
No, that's actually right. There are some writings (don't remember the source, but can find it) of some monk in england, where he tells that the native girls prefered vikings to the locals, as the viking traders (not the plunderers) actually washed. :smallwink:

Solo
2008-06-20, 06:15 PM
What annoys me the most is that peasants in movies are alway covered in crap all over. Yes, they may be poor, but surely they would wash their faces once in a while.

http://www.whiskyfun.com/Materialforlog9/Baldrick.jpg

Terraoblivion
2008-06-20, 07:20 PM
Of course they happened over a long period of time, Eerie. What i was in fact referring to is that the media tends to side with the people of the Italian renaissance who claimed that nothing of any importance in the fields of art, science or technology happened in the middle ages. And that is simply not true. Lots of important stuff happened in the middle ages, even if they did at a slower pace than in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. However, compared to most periods before that the middle ages were no more or less dynamic.

Also i chose only to mention major things that would actually seem important as far removed in time from the events as this. The middle ages also had quickly changing fashion trends for example and the exact relationships between tenants and their noble landlords could sometimes fundamentally change several times in the span of a single life. Things also changed on a smaller scale and quite quickly at that, it would just require a lot of documentation to show it because it is small enough that people don't usually pay attention to it.

Spiryt
2008-06-20, 07:33 PM
Generally refering to what Terraoblivion and others are saying the misconception that irritates me is treating medieval people (although it fits almost anything else) like some idiots or something, beacuse, yay, they didn't have fridges. And general judging things that people once do by the standards that are logical in other times (usualy modern times ).

Anteros
2008-06-21, 03:27 PM
We don't mind you saying so, but making the claim without specific quotes, why they're wrong, and the sources to back it up is somewhat annoying.

Jump on in and defend your position!

But I don't need to point out specific examples. The thread is already full of people correcting fallacies. You've done it yourself.

Also EE, I'm actually quite qualified to teach History. At least according to the University of Tennessee. :smalltongue: One of the reasons I get so frustrated by things like this. Half the job of teaching is dispelling people's preconcieved notions about these things. The internet is at the same time the greatest and worst thing in education.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-21, 04:15 PM
I hope none of the fallacious information you refer to is mine, my teacher of medieval history at the University of Aarhus would feel bad. I only need the Chinese part to get my degree in history and Chinese, the history part being comprehensive and designed to give an overview of most basic parts of history, with some topics being a closer focus. The late middle ages in Scandinavia happened to be one of the topics i got as a better focus.

Dervag
2008-06-21, 11:19 PM
your pretty much doing the exact same thing, feeling the need to correct people who are wrong, when you don't have any qualifications yourself. Only difference, you don't actually correct anyone but stillNo, he's not doing the same thing.

He's pointing out that some people with a very narrow range of knowledge about a subject suddenly decide that they are in fact now qualified experts who don't have to take anyone else's opinions seriously.

Often, they don't know enough to evaluate the quality of the information they do have, which only makes things worse.

And he's right. It's irritating the way he put it, but definitely true. I've seen it happen here and elsewhere.

Swordguy
2008-06-21, 11:29 PM
But I don't need to point out specific examples. The thread is already full of people correcting fallacies. You've done it yourself.

Also EE, I'm actually quite qualified to teach History. At least according to the University of Tennessee. :smalltongue: One of the reasons I get so frustrated by things like this. Half the job of teaching is dispelling people's preconcieved notions about these things. The internet is at the same time the greatest and worst thing in education.

The vagueness of your original post called every post in this thread into question, which is why I asked for clarification.

Anteros
2008-06-22, 12:05 AM
The vagueness of your original post called every post in this thread into question, which is why I asked for clarification.

That certainly wasn't my intent. There is actually some very interesting information in this thread, including some things covering topics that I know very little about such as what Terra posted earlier.

I already apologized for the tone of that post once earlier, but I'll happily do so again.

Swordguy
2008-06-22, 12:37 AM
That certainly wasn't my intent. There is actually some very interesting information in this thread, including some things covering topics that I know very little about such as what Terra posted earlier.

I already apologized for the tone of that post once earlier, but I'll happily do so again.

Ah - I missed that, or just plain forgot. No offense intended your way, I assure you. *shakes on it amicably*

factotum
2008-06-22, 12:47 AM
1) People with full-sets of teeth: Lack of dental care means that very few people in medieval times had a full-set of teeth.

Er...that's largely wrong. Mediaeval people may not have had dental care, but they also didn't consume the vast quantities of refined sugar we do these days, so their teeth weren't under anything like as serious an attack (see some primitive tribes for examples). It was the high-class Elizabethans who all had bad teeth due to the combination of massive amounts of sugar in the diet and poor dentistry.

Kojiro Kakita
2008-06-22, 02:45 AM
Presuming we are talking about Europe when we refer to the medieval period as a whole, not just in Europe, then a common misconception is that in Japan, the Katana was the main weapon used in war. If we are to believe first hand sources, (Kōyō Gunkan) Katanas were rarely used in actually combat. The Bow was the primary source of wounds, followed by the spear.

hamishspence
2008-06-22, 07:49 AM
Yes, I believe Samurai way is referred to as "The Way of Horse and Bow"

Gavin Sage
2008-06-22, 08:32 AM
Also EE, I'm actually quite qualified to teach History. At least according to the University of Tennessee. :smalltongue: One of the reasons I get so frustrated by things like this. Half the job of teaching is dispelling people's preconcieved notions about these things. The internet is at the same time the greatest and worst thing in education.

What people are looking for is not your qualifications to dispel false information, but what the false information in this thread actually is. Everything in this thread can't be wrong because we have contradictory statements. Therefore what do you find wrong, and can you quote it?

Spiryt
2008-06-22, 08:44 AM
Presuming we are talking about Europe when we refer to the medieval period as a whole, not just in Europe, then a common misconception is that in Japan, the Katana was the main weapon used in war. If we are to believe first hand sources, (Kōyō Gunkan) Katanas were rarely used in actually combat. The Bow was the primary source of wounds, followed by the spear.

Generally I bet that spear is the weapon that has most victims than any other weapon so far. Especially if we count bayonet on rifle as spear too, although this is kinda stretch.

But swords are just symbol of Medieval I guess.

Gavin Sage
2008-06-22, 08:53 AM
Generally I bet that spear is the weapon that has most victims than any other weapon so far. Especially if we count bayonet on rifle as spear too, although this is kinda stretch.

But swords are just symbol of Medieval I guess.

In a way its funny in that there is no real time the sword is dominant. Especially with armor in the equation. You want to kill someone wrapped in metal you had better get a mace and do blunt force trauma through the armor.

The sword is a weapon for practiced bullies to abuse unskilled peasants with. :smallbiggrin:

Spiryt
2008-06-22, 08:56 AM
In a way its funny in that there is no real time the sword is dominant. Especially with armor in the equation. You want to kill someone wrapped in metal you had better get a mace and do blunt force trauma through the armor.

The sword is a weapon for practiced bullies to abuse unskilled peasants with. :smallbiggrin:

Romans. Killing thousands of poor Celts with their stabby things.

Usage of every weapon depends on circumstances, I guess.

Anteros
2008-06-22, 09:52 PM
What people are looking for is not your qualifications to dispel false information, but what the false information in this thread actually is. Everything in this thread can't be wrong because we have contradictory statements. Therefore what do you find wrong, and can you quote it?

I'd like to point out that I answered this question well before you asked it.

Also just because two statements are contradictory does not necessarily mean that one of them is correct.

Statement One: Elizabeth Tudor was the worst leader of all time.
Statement Two: Elizabeth Tudor can't be the worst leader of all time because George Washington was the worst leader of all time.

Here we have two statements that contradict each other, but neither is correct.

chiasaur11
2008-06-22, 10:38 PM
I'd like to point out that I answered this question well before you asked it.

Also just because two statements are contradictory does not necessarily mean that one of them is correct.

Statement One: Elizabeth Tudor was the worst leader of all time.
Statement Two: Elizabeth Tudor can't be the worst leader of all time because George Washington was the worst leader of all time.

Here we have two statements that contradict each other, but neither is correct.

True.

Everyone knows GHANDI was the worst leader of all time, followed by Grif.

Prophaniti
2008-06-23, 09:46 AM
In a way its funny in that there is no real time the sword is dominant. Especially with armor in the equation. You want to kill someone wrapped in metal you had better get a mace and do blunt force trauma through the armor.

The sword is a weapon for practiced bullies to abuse unskilled peasants with. :smallbiggrin:
Swords have historically been the weapon of the elite. Harder to manufacture, harder to aquire, harder to use. They're beautifully effective weapons in the hands of a master. Now, of course we can't train all our armies to use swords, no time and no resources. So we stick with more basic weapons such as spears and axes, which can be equally effective for a lot less training. There always has been a sort of pride with swords, though. Observe the ban Charlemegne placed on selling swords to Norsemen, as they would then use them to raid his towns. It was too late though, by the time the ban took real effect, the Norse had learned to make swords themselves.

Also, there are swords, especially in european history, that were made to fight armored knights. There was a military manual dug up in Finland, I think it was, that detailed tactics with a two-handed sword. Against armored foes, the strikes were not with the blade, but with the crossguard and hilt, which were designed with flanged heads much like a mace.

As far as misconceptions that bother me... the crane to pick up the heavily armored knight. Plate that heavy was used and manufactured for a very brief period of time, more early renaissance than medieval, when they attempted to make armor that was proof against increasingly advanced firearms. Obviously, this was abandoned fairly quickly.

I've also been bothered with depictions of battling knights as slow and cumbersome juggernauts. These men trained constantly in armor and with their weapons and were by no means slow or clumsy. The slow and clumsy ones would never make it onto the battlefield, let alone survive if they did.

I don't like the depiction of the Middle Ages as a largely static time, either, as someone pointed out earlier. It was, in fact, quite a dynamic period with many political, social and scientific changes. If I recall correctly, windmills (in europe) were invented and refined in the middle ages. That's a pretty big deal, comparable to the invention of steam power during the industrial revolution.

Dervag
2008-06-23, 11:20 PM
What people are looking for is not your qualifications to dispel false information, but what the false information in this thread actually is. Everything in this thread can't be wrong because we have contradictory statements. Therefore what do you find wrong, and can you quote it?Also, qualifications aren't very relevant on anonymous forums. It's more important to provide citations, because a cited fact is valid no matter who states it. You could be a bedridden six year old with attention deficit disorder and it doesn't matter if your arguments are sound. And you can demonstrate that they are sound and are backed up by good historical research with citations.


In a way its funny in that there is no real time the sword is dominant. Especially with armor in the equation. You want to kill someone wrapped in metal you had better get a mace and do blunt force trauma through the armor.

The sword is a weapon for practiced bullies to abuse unskilled peasants with. :smallbiggrin:It's also good for resolving personal duels among the bullies. When the bullies rule the political system, this makes it an important tool.

Also, keep in mind that really good armor, the kind that was almost guaranteed protection against swords in melee, was not invented until extremely late in the age of musclepowered weapons. By that point, its iconic status had already been assured by millenia of battles in which the enemy usually had unarmored or lightly armored body parts that a swordsman could wound effectively.

Even then, it was expensive and rare. Is a modern rifle ineffective just because it won't work in the event that the enemy you need to kill is sitting inside an attack helicopter?

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-23, 11:31 PM
I won't get into the discussion, but I think we should distinguish between movies made to entertain (like A Knight's Tale, Monty Python or Black Knight) and fairly serious movies like Kingdom of Heaven (I have yet to see a complaint against it in this thread).

If a movie is meant for entertainment, it's not really fair to assume the writers would do their research and try to be historically accurate, that's not their point. A few common tropes is usually enough. "People think armor is heavy? Well, let's show knights get onto horses with the help of cranes."

In serious movies, on the other hand... Yeah. But then serious movies, like Alexander (well, serious compared to Monty Python) usually get their history right and mostly make mistakes on details that are in dispute among historians anyway, even if they are really sucky movies (and right back to Alexander).

Turcano
2008-06-24, 06:37 AM
Observe the ban Charlemegne placed on selling swords to Norsemen, as they would then use them to raid his towns.

Considering the quality of Norse swords, that's a lot like California banning wine exports to France.


I won't get into the discussion, but I think we should distinguish between movies made to entertain (like A Knight's Tale, Monty Python or Black Knight) and fairly serious movies like Kingdom of Heaven (I have yet to see a complaint against it in this thread).

Most of the inaccuracies in Kingdom of Heaven are particular to the Crusades, not medieval life or warfare in general (Templars wearing Teutonic crosses and whatnot).

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-24, 01:46 PM
Most of the inaccuracies in Kingdom of Heaven are particular to the Crusades, not medieval life or warfare in general (Templars wearing Teutonic crosses and whatnot).
I wouldn't hold them to it too much... After all, their plot (well, the parts about the main character) were 95% made up. The only thing known about Bailen was that he was a knight in charge of defending Jerusalem from Salah-ad-Din.

Tenadros
2008-06-24, 02:20 PM
....fairly serious movies like Kingdom of Heaven (I have yet to see a complaint against it in this thread).



You mean "Dances with Wolves in Armor"?

I have some complaints.

1) Basic theme of the movie: "Whitey Bad. Brownie Good"

2) Blatantly offensive insinuations: Templars Evil. Hospitalers Happy.


I have strenuous objections to the villification of the "Heterosexual White Male" current in contemporary media. This an especially common theme in period peices.

stm177
2008-06-24, 03:39 PM
If I recall correctly, windmills (in europe) were invented and refined in the middle ages. That's a pretty big deal, comparable to the invention of steam power during the industrial revolution.

Windmills were invented in Persia around the 9th century, and spread to Europe by the 12th century. The Europeans were the "Japanese engineers" of their time, and improved upon the design of windmills in a really impressive fashion.

Oslecamo
2008-06-25, 07:09 PM
When everything is so clean.

Bathrooms were a lost concept during the middle ages except for the upper classes, and people lived side by side with most animals, so everything would be really really dirty.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-25, 07:46 PM
Well, you have to realize it that 1. most actors have really nice teeth, otherwise they simply wouldn't get cast for anything, and 2. most people wouldn't like watching a movie where everyone looks like a hobo alcoholic who just went on a 2 week drinking binge and woke up in a ditch by the road.

Solo
2008-06-25, 08:24 PM
I have strenuous objections to the villification of the "Heterosexual White Male" current in contemporary media. This an especially common theme in period peices.

Heterosexual White Males were, historically, b*st*rds.

Of course, so was everyone else, so I think you should just protest the one sided villification that goes on.

Sotextli
2008-06-25, 09:09 PM
1) Basic theme of the movie: "Whitey Bad. Brownie Good"



I disagree with this. There were a lot of good guys in that movie who were white. It's been a while since I saw the movie, but the film was mostly us seeing through Balien's eyes, and as such we're obviously going to see more "whiteys", and therefore are more likely to see bad "whiteys".

Joran
2008-06-25, 09:23 PM
most people wouldn't like watching a movie where everyone looks like a hobo alcoholic who just went on a 2 week drinking binge and woke up in a ditch by the road.

Pirates of the Caribbean! Uh oh, did I open up another can of worms...?


so everything would be really really dirty.

Were baths a lost art? I can see how a bathtub would be impractical, but since a lot of people would have to live next to a stream or other form of water, would they bathe regularly?

Solo
2008-06-25, 09:40 PM
Were baths a lost art? I can see how a bathtub would be impractical, but since a lot of people would have to live next to a stream or other form of water, would they bathe regularly?

Some people thought tha tbathing was unhealthy.

stm177
2008-06-25, 10:57 PM
I don't know how widespread it was, but there was that saint that didn't bathe for a year. It was mentioned as a sacrifice and an example of his dedication to God. His name escapes me at the moment, but it was the saint that made friends with small animals like birds and squirrels.

I guess my point is that bathing wasn't something people forgot. They didn't have public bathhouses like in the Roman Empire though. Those were closed because of accusations of immorality. That may be true in fact, since at ruins of Pompeii, the mosaics have some pretty graphic sex scenes in the public bathhouse. (For the curious, look them up on Wikipedia).

People probably bathed a lot less especially since running water became pretty rare in Western Europe after the Roman Empire was dismantled. If you have 10 kids, and have to hike water up from a half mile away, you probably only give them a bath once or twice a week.

Dervag
2008-06-25, 11:15 PM
If that.

Hauling bathwater half a mile is enormous, backbreaking work, especially if you live on limited food supplies and don't have immense physical strength. It's also very time consuming, in a society where people had to labor to the point of exhaustion to get urgent tasks done for large parts of the year.

If you bathe, you're likely to bathe in a naturally occuring body of water. Which is dangerous- there are people out there who regard you, personally, as a kind of loot. Being isolated and naked isn't exactly smart in a medieval setting.

Would people try to clean genuine filth, such as excrement or thick layers of dirt, off themselves? I'm sure of it. Would they do anything like what we could consider real washing and bathing? I doubt it.

kamikasei
2008-06-26, 01:06 AM
Can anyone cite actual historical evidence on the bathing issue? I'm leery of supposition, however reasonable the arguments may seem.


I don't know how widespread it was, but there was that saint that didn't bathe for a year. It was mentioned as a sacrifice and an example of his dedication to God. His name escapes me at the moment, but it was the saint that made friends with small animals like birds and squirrels.

Francis of Assisi?

Gaelbert
2008-06-26, 01:24 AM
Considering the quality of Norse swords, that's a lot like California banning wine exports to France.

Hey! Happy wine comes from happy grapes, and happy grapes come from California! Or something like that.

kpenguin
2008-06-26, 01:31 AM
I believe that Bartoleme Sanchez was convicted of heresy for bathing, but I'm unsure.

Anteros
2008-06-26, 01:35 AM
People bathed quite often. In fact there's actual historical evidence that the church would have people go without bathing as a penance. There is even evidence of the existance of public bathhouses in some areas. Although certainly nothing comparing to what the Romans had.

However, there is also historical evidence of the other extreme. We have a quote from the diary of an American woman as late as the 18th century in reference to her first bath in 28 years. She states "I bore it better than I expected, not having been wet all over for the past 28 years." And this was a very wealthy, and well known individual.

Basically, like many things in history...we can't really know the answer for sure. There is strong evidence to suggest that bathing took place, but there is also strong evidence that it was not a priority, even among the wealthy.

kpenguin
2008-06-26, 01:38 AM
Interesting New York Times article published in 1873 on the subject. (http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9E00E0D71539EF34BC4B52DFB1668388669FDE&oref=slogin)

I don't know its accuracy, which is doubtful, but it is interesting.

Querzis
2008-06-26, 02:04 AM
Okay, I see how being showered with scalding hot water is potentially very uncomfortable but wouldn't cold water make you more clean than dead? :smallconfused:

I dunno why nobody answered this one. Of course, cold water woudnt really be a problem in summer. But in winter in many countries in Europe, you are gonna end up frozen solid in a matter of minutes. I didnt read this anywhere and I'm just using my good old logic though so I guess I could be wrong but I'm sure you know why being showered in cold water in the middle of winter while you are pretty far away from any fire means death.

Anyway, I gotta say the medieval protaganist with modern ideas annoy me a lot. I dont get why some people say they have to be or otherwise they woudnt be sympathetic. How can you hate someone just for thinking what absolutely everyone thought back then? Of course, this doesnt apply to fantasy. I dont care if the elf who ride a dragon is against slavery, its another world after all. But the guy in the 10th century of our world? Hes definitly not supposed to be for class and gender equality. And that wont make me hate him just for that. As long as hes not a bastard with his slaves and his wife and treat them well, I really dont see how its supposed to be bad or make the protagonist less sympathetic.


Interesting New York Times article published in 1873 on the subject. (http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9E00E0D71539EF34BC4B52DFB1668388669FDE&oref=slogin)

I don't know its accuracy, which is doubtful, but it is interesting.

It doesnt work for me, I just get a blank page. Do we have to be a member to read this page or something?

kpenguin
2008-06-26, 02:14 AM
It doesnt work for me, I just get a blank page. Do we have to be a member to read this page or something?

Well, I'm not a member and I can read it...

Anteros
2008-06-26, 02:15 AM
It doesn't work for me either.

In regards to the cold water thing...I doubt that would be particularly effective. For one thing, it would likely freeze before they could dump it in those conditions. For another, the areas of the world that were generally that cold were already generally very wet. Any commander foolish enough to hold a campaign in the winter, would undoubtably already be taking measures to combat the cold and the wetness. Finally...although they certainly did take place on occassion...assaulting a citadel in that type of weather is pretty suicidal. Scaling a wall isn't very safe in the best of conditions...much less in icy ones, and most competant captains wouldn't do it anyway. Much better to either wait until Summer, or starve them out.

I'm not saying cold water was never used...but I've personally never seen any reference of it.

Solo
2008-06-26, 02:19 AM
I am in your New York Times, stealing your articles!

kpenguin
2008-06-26, 02:52 AM
Its a PDF...

Try this link. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E00E0D71539EF34BC4B52DFB1668388 669FDE)

Eldan
2008-06-26, 02:55 AM
Considering the bath issue, we in Switzerland have had a few hot springs with bathhouses which were pretty much constantly used since the romans. But mostly for sick people, since it was said to cure all kinds of illnesses.

kamikasei
2008-06-26, 04:32 AM
Basically, like many things in history...we can't really know the answer for sure. There is strong evidence to suggest that bathing took place, but there is also strong evidence that it was not a priority, even among the wealthy.

However, I wonder to what extent people who shunned bathing might nonetheless have been able to keep clean otherwise? Weren't there various approaches to hygeine used in the ancient world and still used in some places which don't require immersion in water?

Vaire
2008-06-26, 08:46 AM
On the swordfighting issue, my husband does live steel combat for tournaments and fairs, and the armor was like anything else, you just had to get used to the weight. I put on the chain mail and can barely move, but he has no problems running in the thing. Same with the plate mail. Of course, he's used to doing PT tests for the army in full combat armor, so I think he might have an advantage over me.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-26, 11:46 AM
While i will by no means call myself an expert on this topic, i have gotten the impression that bathing was actually more common in the middle ages than in the centuries following it. Part of this can be explained by the renaissance drive towards greater religious purity, with bathhouses portrayed as dens of sin to be closed. This is obviously not enough to explain it, if it is indeed the case that the frequency of bathing fell in the renaissance. Another possible reason for why the upper classes got filthier is the simple that they moved further away from the farming roots of European nobility and thus also further from the streams and just as importantly from seeing themselves as people who could bath in streams. And with the expenses for getting a bath indoors until at the very least the 19th century, not even the richest could afford to bath very frequently under those conditions. In fact i believe that it is not unlikely that the commoners would have been cleaner than the nobles under these conditions.

But this is all supposing that people were in fact very dirty in the past, the people themselves that is. Their clothes definitely were, an average Danish farmer in the 16th century would get a single set of clothes a year from feudal lord he served as part of the feudal obligation. Given the amount of hard physical labor performed by these people, it is unlikely they would ever have more than two sets of clothes and with the amount of work washing took they would rarely manage to actually wash them. So people would have dirty clothes by our standards most of the time.

BRC
2008-06-26, 12:41 PM
While i will by no means call myself an expert on this topic, i have gotten the impression that bathing was actually more common in the middle ages than in the centuries following it. Part of this can be explained by the renaissance drive towards greater religious purity, with bathhouses portrayed as dens of sin to be closed. This is obviously not enough to explain it, if it is indeed the case that the frequency of bathing fell in the renaissance. Another possible reason for why the upper classes got filthier is the simple that they moved further away from the farming roots of European nobility and thus also further from the streams and just as importantly from seeing themselves as people who could bath in streams. And with the expenses for getting a bath indoors until at the very least the 19th century, not even the richest could afford to bath very frequently under those conditions. In fact i believe that it is not unlikely that the commoners would have been cleaner than the nobles under these conditions.

Um, if I remember correctly, the renaissance was a move away from religious purity, the rise of secularism and humanism, the rediscovery of Greek and roman culture.

TheElfLord
2008-06-26, 12:58 PM
I dunno why nobody answered this one. Of course, cold water woudnt really be a problem in summer. But in winter in many countries in Europe, you are gonna end up frozen solid in a matter of minutes. I didnt read this anywhere and I'm just using my good old logic though so I guess I could be wrong but I'm sure you know why being showered in cold water in the middle of winter while you are pretty far away from any fire means death.


I follow your logic on why cold water could have been used, but I agree with the person a few posts below about most combat not taking place in the winter time. Additionally, depending on hypothermia to kill your foes seems to be a slow process in the middle of battle. Sure, in 15-20 mins that guy scaling your wall is going to incapacitated, but cold water isn't going to stop him right away. It's like brining a sick person up to cough on men climbing scaling ladders. Inducing hypothermia won't stop an assault in its tracts the way causing massive burns will.

Terraoblivion
2008-06-26, 01:11 PM
And at the same time there was a reaction against the rise of secularism, in the renaissance. The reformation and the catholic counterreformation are both examples of that, protestantism started as a demand for more sincerity regarding the religious rules of Christianity as well as a demand for actual doctrinal knowledge among the lay people. The renaissance was when the black-clad Dutch merchants shunned colors and ostentatious shows of wealth to prove their piety. It was the time of the witch hunts and the Spanish inquisition. Gallilei was tried for his work with the Kopernican world view. The most radical Christian theocracy ever, Calvin's Geneva, was formed and lived its life in the renaissance. And the renaissance ended with the thirty years war, which was by and large fought over religious questions, specifically whether Germany should be Catholic or protestant, the result of which was that each prince could decide for himself what his people should be.

The renaissance, not the middle ages was the time of the religious fervor and oppression we generally associate with the middle ages. This makes sense given that it was in the renaissance and not the middle ages that genuine threats against the ideological position of Roman Catholicism rose, specifically through the sciences and through the teachings of Martin Luther.

And for the rediscovery of Greek and Roman knowledge that is something that can be placed solidly in the middle ages, as can Francesco Petrarch's invention of the term. The 13th and 14th centuries were the age of the rediscovery of the ancient world, not the 16th and 17th century which is when the renaissance was.

BRC
2008-06-26, 01:22 PM
Hmm, That actually makes sense. Thinking back my education on that period mostly focused on places like Florence and more specifically on artists, and the people who directly caused the changes we know as the Renissance. We learned about the backlash against them but I don't recal hearing much about how daily life changed for John Q Peasant, and it makes sense that the church would get stricter when faced with some crazy monk Rudely nailing a complaint letter to the door instead of using the suggjestion/kindling box as was the custom.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-26, 02:29 PM
I just realized something about the sword.

At the time it first appeared, it would have given the wielder a pretty big tactical advantage - in places like ancient Egypt and Assyria/Hittite Empire very few people wore armor (not only because it was rare but also because of the climate). Compared to an axe or a spear, it's if not easier to use, then more effective - you get less tired, you can slash, stab, poke, parry, etc. With other weapon you can only do one or two of these.

Later, as armor developed, swords stayed. Why? Not only because they were still effective against lightly armored enemies, but also because they were a great side arm. They were light and convenient to carry but at the same time could still do quite a bit of damage, even if less than whatever the main weapon was if it wasn't the sword.

And even later, in the middle ages.... Same thing. A knight may fight with a lance or a spear on horseback. But outside of combat, a sword is the perfect self-defense weapon. Not only is it light and easy to carry (compared to a spear which you won't carry with you for a walk around town), it can also deflect blows from things like legs of a chair (the first things that get used as weapons in a barfight :biggrin:). Try doing that with a dagger or an axe. And chances are, unless they're specifically out to hurt you, the people you fight are going to be unarmored.

So the sword happened to be a weapon for nobles because of its convenience and universality in my opinion. Not because it was a good weapon to bully peasants with (you could do that with pretty much anything, even a big club).

BRC
2008-06-26, 02:42 PM
I just realized something about the sword.

At the time it first appeared, it would have given the wielder a pretty big tactical advantage - in places like ancient Egypt and Assyria/Hittite Empire very few people wore armor (not only because it was rare but also because of the climate). Compared to an axe or a spear, it's if not easier to use, then more effective - you get less tired, you can slash, stab, poke, parry, etc. With other weapon you can only do one or two of these.

Later, as armor developed, swords stayed. Why? Not only because they were still effective against lightly armored enemies, but also because they were a great side arm. They were light and convenient to carry but at the same time could still do quite a bit of damage, even if less than whatever the main weapon was if it wasn't the sword.

And even later, in the middle ages.... Same thing. A knight may fight with a lance or a spear on horseback. But outside of combat, a sword is the perfect self-defense weapon. Not only is it light and easy to carry (compared to a spear which you won't carry with you for a walk around town), it can also deflect blows from things like legs of a chair (the first things that get used as weapons in a barfight :biggrin:). Try doing that with a dagger or an axe. And chances are, unless they're specifically out to hurt you, the people you fight are going to be unarmored.

So the sword happened to be a weapon for nobles because of its convenience and universality in my opinion. Not because it was a good weapon to bully peasants with (you could do that with pretty much anything, even a big club).
Oh, nobody said Swords wern't useful weapons, just that they wern't common weapons.

The game Stronghold did a good job of Medival weapons in my opinion, your basic footsolider uses either a spear or a mace (with Maces being tougher). Swordsmen are very expensive units in full plate that are very tough to kill. There is a campaign mission where everybody panics when a few swordsmen start attacking, and they can do a number on your troops before they get taken down. Mind you, later in that mission you get crossbowmen who can take down swordsmen, which is also fairly realistic.

Greyjoy
2008-06-26, 08:07 PM
Medieval people, and generally, people before Columbus, knew the world was round. This fact eludes many, many people. The "Church", as people like Dan Brown call it, never treated it as heresy.

The "Church" did not set scientific advance back. The Dark Ages weren't really dark. They weren't a period of apocalyptic savagery. It's called that because were literally in the "dark" about it, since there are few historical records. There was scientific advancement, of course. Our "Dark Ages" overlap with the Golden Age of Islam.

Guns did not kill the knight. Gunpowder and knights existed together side-by-side for 300 years. Knights were killed by economic reforms of Europe. Knights were replaced by large mercenary armies.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-26, 09:34 PM
Medieval people, and generally, people before Columbus, knew the world was round. This fact eludes many, many people. The "Church", as people like Dan Brown call it, never treated it as heresy.

The "Church" did not set scientific advance back. The Dark Ages weren't really dark. They weren't a period of apocalyptic savagery. It's called that because were literally in the "dark" about it, since there are few historical records. There was scientific advancement, of course. Our "Dark Ages" overlap with the Golden Age of Islam.

Guns did not kill the knight. Gunpowder and knights existed together side-by-side for 300 years. Knights were killed by economic reforms of Europe. Knights were replaced by large mercenary armies.
Source for part 1 please.

zeratul
2008-06-26, 09:54 PM
The rigid class system and the concept that some people are inherently better than others, isn't really a medieval thing at all. It is more of a renaissance concept, closely tied to the changes in the relationship between princes and the church. It most fully manifested in the 17th century, especially in Denmark. Like i said earlier the middle ages had much more fluid social structures, though with a tendency to grow more rigid in time as wealth got consolidated and the central governments grew stronger. Especially the evolution of the small council in various European monarchies and principalities made this trend firmer as it was the richest nobles getting a clearer legislative role.

Now you see this just isn't true. The feudal system permeated the middle ages. Not only in Europe either, It was a huge aspect of Japanese culture as well. The Idea back then was more working for the country and knowing your place. The renaissance gave way to people working to benefit themselves more, and to try to accomplish things, or not as the case may be.

Solo
2008-06-26, 09:57 PM
Source for part 1 please.

The Greeks had mathamatical evidence and observational evidence that led them to believe the earth was round.

Jayngfet
2008-06-26, 10:55 PM
The Greeks had mathamatical evidence and observational evidence that led them to believe the earth was round.

If I remember correctly, they also knew it's general size)give or take a city block).

Dervag
2008-06-26, 11:46 PM
On the swordfighting issue, my husband does live steel combat for tournaments and fairs, and the armor was like anything else, you just had to get used to the weight. I put on the chain mail and can barely move, but he has no problems running in the thing. Same with the plate mail. Of course, he's used to doing PT tests for the army in full combat armor, so I think he might have an advantage over me.Given that full combat armor is quite possibly heavier than chain mail, and that the full modern battle kit is certainly heavier than plate mail, I would imagine so.

Does anyone else find it ironic that soldiers have to carry more weight now than they did when their protective gear was literally made out of big chunks of iron?


Um, if I remember correctly, the renaissance was a move away from religious purity, the rise of secularism and humanism, the rediscovery of Greek and roman culture.That was the first part of the Rennaissance.

Then the next 200 years happened. During that time, all the religious leaders freaked out about all the godless secular humanists with their paintings of nekkid people and their revivals of Greek philosophy that was (horrors) not carefully worked into Church doctrine. Which resulted in some of the fiercest religious wars and sternest sectarian rules in the history of Christianity.


So the sword happened to be a weapon for nobles because of its convenience and universality in my opinion. Not because it was a good weapon to bully peasants with (you could do that with pretty much anything, even a big club).A big club doesn't give you an edge. Peasants are quite capable of picking up a big stick and hitting you with it. If you go into their village with a sword and demand your usual tax of grain in a year when the peasants are on the brink of starvation, they know they might starve if they give you the grain. But they also know you could probably carve several of them into cat meat before they could take you down. Moreover, the sword emphasizes your status as a man rich enough to afford a decent sword (as does your horse and your armor, if applicable).

If you go to the village carrying a club, they will be far more tempted to beat you to death with farm implements. Farm implements are arguably more effective weapons than clubs, anyway.


The "Church" did not set scientific advance back. The Dark Ages weren't really dark. They weren't a period of apocalyptic savagery. It's called that because were literally in the "dark" about it, since there are few historical records. There was scientific advancement, of course. Our "Dark Ages" overlap with the Golden Age of Islam.Yes, but the Dark Ages refer more or less exclusively to Western Europe, so that doesn't really signify. I mean, we could equally well point out that at the same time Europe was going through the Dark Ages, the Mayan civilization was collapsing a third of the way around the world. Or that the Tang Dynasty was emerging in China as one of the high points of its culture. Also a third of the way around the world.

In Europe, the period during which the Roman Empire collapsed in the west and new hostile outsiders like the Vikings, Magyars, and yes Arabs were raiding the periphery of western Europe was actually pretty dark. Scholarship did not disappear entirely, but the infrastructure and legal system decayed. Government went from being bureaucratic and oriented around a legal code to being controlled by a nested hierarchy of warlords.

It wasn't pretty.

What many people are wrong about is not that there was a Dark Age, but that it was more or less over by about 1000 AD. The hostile outsiders had been fought to a standstill, new codes of law were growing up to replace the collapse of Rome, and long range trade was starting up.


Guns did not kill the knight. Gunpowder and knights existed together side-by-side for 300 years. Knights were killed by economic reforms of Europe. Knights were replaced by large mercenary armies.Yes, and the reason the large mercenary armies were so effective was because guns could be used to equip those armies with a weapon that could easily kill armored men (not necessarily knights) who tried to attack them.

As long as weapons were purely musclepowered, the man who could afford the best musclepowered weapons (a warhorse, steel body armor, and the training to use them) had a big advantage. The mechanical advantage of the crossbow was the beginning of the end for that. The cannon and the matchlock arquebus made it inevitable that cavalry with heavy body armor would be on the way out- not that they disappeared overnight, naturally.

Remember, the European guns of, say, 1350-1400 were grossly unreliable. They were at most marginally useful for siege warfare and large scale set piece battles. Thus, they weren't really good at killing any kind of soldier, including armored knights. Once they really started to get effective as battlefield weapons (the 1500s), armored knights had to abandon the field. Pikes and crossbows were bad enough; combining them with cannon and muskets made the situation impossible.

Moreover, cannons guaranteed that medieval-vintage castles would not be able to withstand siege by a well funded army. Which meant that the warrior-lord medieval style knights were doomed. Their castles could no longer protect them from a determined enemy, which meant that the kings of Europe no longer had reasons to respect their privileges.*

*Literally "private law," as in the private laws that made the knights special under the law.

But none of this change could happen until the improvement of gunpowder technology in the 1500s, which was precisely the end of the '300 years of coexistence' you mention. And that's not a coincidence.


If I remember correctly, they also knew it's general size)give or take a city block).That would be a pretty big city, then.

The Greeks' method was great. Eratosthenes was a genius. It's a pity he was second to someone in everything; he deserved to be more famous. But when you're the second best inventor and the second best geometer and the second best philosopher and..., well, you don't get the prestige of being first.

However, because of the limits of their measurement techniques, they couldn't determine the circumference of the Earth to a precision much better than 1%. Their method depended on knowing the exact distance between two cities that were hundreds of miles apart (ancient measurement techniques had [i]at least that much error). It also revolved on taking a number of other exact measurements, again in a society where the measuring tools were only good to about 1%.

1% of the circumference of the Earth is a very large city block, but it's also a marvelous feat of precision calculation compared to anything that came before them.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-26, 11:59 PM
The Greeks had mathamatical evidence and observational evidence that led them to believe the earth was round.
That doesn't mean regular Joe Farmer or Jake Thatcher knew about that or the Eratosthenes's calculations or even who the ancient Greeks were, which is what I'm getting at. Especially since when you look at it, the Earth seems flat and sitting on the back of elephants and a giant turtle.

Also. If a dozen levies can be killed by one guy on a nice horse in nice plate armor with a nice sword but they cost the same to recruit and equip, it makes sense that the knight will fight and the 12 guys will go out and farm.

However, if a guy with a musket has about the same odds of killing the knight as the knight killing him, but costs 12 times less to equip and train, it makes sense for the knight to simply go out and hire 12 guys to fight for him and not risk his own skin.

@Solo below: I edited my post (before I saw your reply).

Solo
2008-06-27, 12:10 AM
The Greeks also believed in gods who lived on Mount Olympus but that's beside the point. People in the middle ages didn't read anything written by Ancient Greeks but they did listen to their priests.

You really do walk right into these things, don't you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_philosophy#Character_of_medieval_philosop hy

The boundaries of the early medieval period are a matter of controversy[5]. It is generally agreed that it begins with Augustine (354 – 430) who strictly belongs to the classical period, and ends with the lasting revival of learning in the late eleventh century, at the beginning of the high medieval period.

After the collapse of the Roman empire, Western Europe lapsed into the so-called Dark Ages, and there was little intellectual activity in this period. Monasteries were the only focus of learning, possibly a result of a rule of St Benedict's in 525 which required monks to read the Bible daily, and his suggestion that at the beginning of Lent, a book be given to each monk. In later periods monks were used for training administrators and churchmen.

Early Christian thought, particularly in the patristic period, tends to be intuitional and mystical, and is less reliant on reason and logical argument. It also places more emphasis on the sometimes mystical doctrines of Plato, and less upon the systematic thinking of Aristotle. Much of the work of Aristotle was unknown in the West in this period. Scholars relied on translations by Boethius into Latin of Aristotle's Categories, the logical work On Interpretation, and his Latin translation of Porphyry's Isagoge, which is a commentary on Aristotle's Categories .

kpenguin
2008-06-27, 12:20 AM
Another thing that bothers me:

Marco Polo DID NOT bring noodles from China to Italy which was then adapted into pasta. The Chinese gave Europe many things. Noodle-based food is not one of them.

Turcano
2008-06-27, 01:14 AM
Another thing that bothers me:

Marco Polo DID NOT bring noodles from China to Italy which was then adapted into pasta. The Chinese gave Europe many things. Noodle-based food is not one of them.

Actually, there are some historians who believe that Marco Polo never actually went to China, but instead collected traveler's reports and such while in India.

Anteros
2008-06-27, 01:17 AM
No. They did not believe the world was flat. Period. End of story.

If you want a source go check out any credible history book ever written.

Solo
2008-06-27, 01:17 AM
Actually, there are some historians who believe that Marco Polo never actually went to China, but instead collected traveler's reports and such while in India.

It seems more likley that he went there, but was not a figure of great importance than for him to have held high offices, at any rate.

TheElfLord
2008-06-27, 01:21 AM
That doesn't mean regular Joe Farmer or Jake Thatcher knew about that or the Eratosthenes's calculations or even who the ancient Greeks were, which is what I'm getting at. Especially since when you look at it, the Earth seems flat and sitting on the back of elephants and a giant turtle.


But no one ever portrays the peasants discussing the world being flat or round. Its always scholars, scientists or sailors who are scared of falling off the edge. This last portrayal is the worst because most sailors would know the Earth was round simply through experience. The sea is the easiest place to observe the curvature of the earth. From the top of a mast looking out to sea the horizon is curved. Also ships can disappear below the horizon without falling off the edge.

While a peasant farmer may not know the earth is round (and probably never gave it a thought either way because it doesn't effect him) people who thought about it or used the sea did.

Solo
2008-06-27, 01:24 AM
That doesn't mean regular Joe Farmer or Jake Thatcher knew about that or the Eratosthenes's calculations or even who the ancient Greeks were, which is what I'm getting at.
You said that nobody read the Greeks in the Middle Ages. This was flat out wrong.

I don't care what a bunch of bloody peasants thought about Plato.

Knowledge of the Greeks existed in the Middle Ages. Fact.

Next?


Especially since when you look at it, the Earth seems flat and sitting on the back of elephants and a giant turtle
How do you see the earth sitting on the back of elephants and a giant turtle?

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-27, 01:52 AM
You said that nobody read the Greeks in the Middle Ages. This was flat out wrong.

I don't care what a bunch of bloody peasants thought about Plato.

Knowledge of the Greeks existed in the Middle Ages. Fact.

Next?

I'm not talking about scientists. Right now scientists are talking about our world having 13 dimensions. Doesn't mean any normal person knows anything about that. Most people haven't even heard the name "superstring theory." And the thing is, according to statistics, most of the world before 20th century were bloody peasants.

Also, sailors aren't the types of people to do a lot of thinking about how the world works, otherwise they would be monks or scientists instead of sailors. And even if a few of them did think about masts and the like, who exactly would they talk to about it? And besides, observations about masts of ships aren't exactly direct proof (such as sailing around the world or seeing a picture of Earth taken from space). They're circumstantial evidence at best. Most people probably assumed it happens because the ships are far away.

EDIT #2 @ below: lol Solo, please wait 5 minutes after you see my posts. I take a edit them 3-4 times sometimes before I'm happy with the way they sound.

PS: Obviously sailors are going to be concerned about falling off the edge of the Earth. It's not a big problem when you're somewhere in Bohemia or Venetia, but when you're planning to sail into lands unknown on an unproven theory against common sense, obviously you're going to be concerned about it.

Solo
2008-06-27, 01:55 AM
I'm not talking about scientists. Right now scientists are talking about our world having 13 dimensions. Doesn't mean any normal person knows anything about that.

When you said "nobody read about the Greeks", I fear you included scientists in your generalization.

Unless you were trying to say "Odysseus read about the Greeks".


And the thing is, according to statistics, most of the world before 20th century were bloody peasants.

So a large portion of the world was irrelevant. Who cares?

Terraoblivion
2008-06-27, 02:01 AM
Zeratul there is no such thing as the feudal system. 8th century Frankish feudalism had little in commmon with 11th century German feudalism or 14th century Swedish land administration, which didn't even have heritable fiefs. Due to widespread and essentially random use of the word feudal it has been robbed of much meaning, with things such as Chinese landlords in the 1930s being called feudal in official Chinese writings. However, no system termed feudalism that was ever in use in the European middle ages held rigidly defined classes or estates the way we see in the years leading up to the French revolution or during the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. While a knight held a different status than a citizen or a farmer or a day laborer, that difference in status was tied to the role he performed in society. If the knight lost the ability to perform that role he lost status as a knight and was forced to revert to paying taxes. If a citizen annoyed the other citizens of his city enough that his citizenship got revoked he had to find a different way to make a living. On the other hand if the son of a farmer managed to secure an apprenticeship and succeeded in also becoming a master, he would become a citizen with the privileges that entailed. If he instead got rich enough to buy a suit of armor and a weapon he could join the ranks of the gentry for the tax benefits that entailed.

The very concept of nobility as a distinct class from the masses was one that gradually developed over the course of the middle ages, the earliest traces being found in the romances of the 12th century. The whole mess with titles and insignias and family mottos developed from there, but did not solidify into a class truly distinct from the masses until the late 15th century. Titled nobility did not even exist below the princes once you got east of the Rhine until well into the renaissance. Before that there were princes, clergymen, people who had achieved privileges on an individual basis and the rest of the population. What you are thinking about and describing is not feudalism, it is the lower levels of absolutism which is not a medieval concept. Economic changes during the late middle ages strengthened the budding nobility, even as it weakened the peasants and the clergy, leading to ever tighter regulations on admission into the ranks of nobility as those already there tried to preserve their privileges. That was where the solid distinction between peasants and nobles came into being as serfdom got widespread in central and eastern Europe, leading to the typical picture of the oppressed peasant that we have today. Medieval peasants were known to travel and engage in trade on a major basis as well as slipping in and out of the ranks of the gentry depending on what would be most financially viable for the individual peasant to do.

And about knights being replaced by mercenary armies. For most of the 15th century the mercenary armies consisted of knights, at least in central and eastern Europe. At least unless my teachers of medieval and renaissance histories are either liars or incompetent. :P

13_CBS
2008-06-27, 02:32 AM
On the whole bathing issue: I don't think Queen Isabela (of Chris Columbus fame) might count as "medieval", per se, but IIRC she prided herself on having bathed only twice in her whole life; at birth and at marriage.

kamikasei
2008-06-27, 02:40 AM
EDIT #2 @ below: lol Solo, please wait 5 minutes after you see my posts. I take a edit them 3-4 times sometimes before I'm happy with the way they sound.

Do not say a thing if you do not wish it to be heard. More to the point, don't criticize others for responding to what you have said in public on the grounds that you haven't had a chance to retract or retcon it.


And besides, observations about masts of ships aren't exactly direct proof (such as sailing around the world or seeing a picture of Earth taken from space). They're circumstantial evidence at best. Most people probably assumed it happens because the ships are far away.
...
PS: Obviously sailors are going to be concerned about falling off the edge of the Earth. It's not a big problem when you're somewhere in Bohemia or Venetia, but when you're planning to sail into lands unknown on an unproven theory against common sense, obviously you're going to be concerned about it.

This seems much more like your own supposition about what sailors in the middle ages must have thought and known than any actual knowledge about what we've learned of the time. Do you have actual, reliable sources saying the belief that the world was flat was widespread? Or are you just guessing?

To my mind, obviously people who make their living by sailing around the world from Europe to Asia via Africa are going to be exposed to the fact that the earth curves. Indeed the version of the Columbus story I've heard (though I can't provide a citation, I offer it only as an example of why "they thought the world was flat" is not the only or most obvious conclusion) is that Columbus was flat-out wrong and his critics were exactly right: both knew the world was round, but Columbus used faulty calcuations that had it smaller than it really is, and thought he could sail west from Europe to Asia, whereas his critics had the right size of the Earth and, neither party knowing of the existence of America, rightly pointed out that he couldn't possibly traverse more ocean than the Atlantic and Pacific put together.

Solo
2008-06-27, 02:47 AM
lol Solo, please wait 5 minutes after you see my posts. I take a edit them 3-4 times sometimes before I'm happy with the way they sound.
Perhaps you could engage in the edatorial process first before letting the publishment of your inner thoughts run its course?

Jayngfet
2008-06-27, 02:53 AM
On the whole bathing issue: I don't think Queen Isabela (of Chris Columbus fame) might count as "medieval", per se, but IIRC she prided herself on having bathed only twice in her whole life; at birth and at marriage.

Why did she pride herself on this?

Spiryt
2008-06-27, 02:57 AM
Why did she pride herself on this?

Bathing weakens the body and the mind.

Jayngfet
2008-06-27, 04:33 AM
Bathing weakens the body and the mind.

Says who???

kamikasei
2008-06-27, 04:57 AM
Says who???

Strong, smelly people.

Or alternatively, small, weak, clean people who want to keep their social and political circles free of the physically superior by convincing them to make themselves repulsive. Diabolical!

Spiryt
2008-06-27, 04:58 AM
Says who???

Dunno, I'm just trying to think like Queen Isabela :smalltongue:

Anyway, I bath every day since I can remember, and it's kinda frustrating how greasy and weird I can feel after few days without bath. Modern man is kinda addicted to bathing, while it's definetly not natural activity.

I guess that rich ladies where somewhat "bathing" part of society, but maybe Queen I, wanted to feel more "though" and "independent " as knights and other guys who weren't treating bathing as something very necessary - and, more importantly, who couldn't take a bath during wars, uprising et cetera.

Dervag
2008-06-27, 07:21 AM
It seems more likley that he went there, but was not a figure of great importance than for him to have held high offices, at any rate.Though stranger things have happened.


Do not say a thing if you do not wish it to be heard. More to the point, don't criticize others for responding to what you have said in public on the grounds that you haven't had a chance to retract or retcon it.The Vikings actually thought the world was shaped like a gigantic bowl with the water in the middle. So while they weren't worried about sailing off the edge they were technically even more wrong than the flat-earthers.

If you don't sail outside of land, or travel entirely on a landlocked sea (as most medieval sailors did), it's quite possible to be a good sailor without knowing anything about the curvature of the Earth.

Greyjoy
2008-06-27, 07:29 AM
Source for part 1 please.

Here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#In_the_Middle_Ages) It's a Wikpedia article, but it cites reliable sources.

Dervag - More effective guns were countered with better armor, to some point at least. I'd say the final nail in the coffin was that fully armoured horsemen became too expensive to maintain.

Vaire
2008-06-27, 08:25 AM
Also, sailors aren't the types of people to do a lot of thinking about how the world works, otherwise they would be monks or scientists instead of sailors. And even if a few of them did think about masts and the like, who exactly would they talk to about it? And besides, observations about masts of ships aren't exactly direct proof (such as sailing around the world or seeing a picture of Earth taken from space). They're circumstantial evidence at best. Most people probably assumed it happens because the ships are far away.


So no one but monks and scientists had a brain and wondered about the way the world worked? Sailors that were stupid didn't live very long. Successful seamen were intelligent and logical. Medieval man didn't have all of the scientific evidence that we have today, but they weren't stupid.

Spiryt
2008-06-27, 08:54 AM
Also, sailors aren't the types of people to do a lot of thinking about how the world works, otherwise they would be monks or scientists instead of sailors. And even if a few of them did think about masts and the like, who exactly would they talk to about it? And besides, observations about masts of ships aren't exactly direct proof (such as sailing around the world or seeing a picture of Earth taken from space). They're circumstantial evidence at best. Most people probably assumed it happens because the ships are far away.

No matter if sailor needed inteligence or not, guy with 150 IQ could be a sailor, just beacuse his dad was too. There was like, few several universitetes in Europe, and not "80 minutes by train from home" for sure. No TV, no Internet.

So the argument that intelligent guy wouldn't be a sailors is completely missed.

Besides, I'm pretty sure that even today some smart guys are sailors, if they you know, like it for example.

In conclusion, some sailors certainly thouhgt about world around. It's natural - if not they would never reach India, America, go round the world and so on.

Gygaxphobia
2008-06-27, 09:28 AM
Unless you were trying to say "Odysseus read about the Greeks".

That was funny.

Ethdred
2008-06-27, 11:04 AM
And at the same time there was a reaction against the rise of secularism, in the renaissance. The reformation and the catholic counterreformation are both examples of that, protestantism started as a demand for more sincerity regarding the religious rules of Christianity as well as a demand for actual doctrinal knowledge among the lay people.

No, no, no, no. There wasn't a reaction against secularism, because secularism didn't exist - it was a product of the renaissance and more especially the Enlightenment that followed it. While the Reformation and Counter-Reformation did lead some people to become more zealous in their religion, it also left a lot of people confused about the whole thing. There's a lot of debate amongst historians about this, but I think the general consensus is that people as a whole were more religious before the Reformation - especially in those countries that became Protestant, because religion became much less pervasive in society (end of saints' days, end of the religious guilds, no more donations for prayers to get you out of Purgatory etc).



The renaissance was when the black-clad Dutch merchants shunned colors and ostentatious shows of wealth to prove their piety.

It was also when the Medici, the Borgias and many other rich families spent huge sums of money on some of the most beautiful art creations in history, and generally on a lot of conspicuos consumption. And a lot of that art was considered shocking precisley because it went against previous conventions about religious art (eg using real models for pictures of Jesus and the saints). A few wierdo puritans (and how many of them were generally pious rather than just following the herd?) don't make up for the a continent-wide fashion show.


It was the time of the witch hunts and the Spanish inquisition. Actually, the Inquisition (which didn't just cover Spain) started in the 13th century.



And the renaissance ended with the thirty years war, which was by and large fought over religious questions. No it didn't and no it wasn't. If the 30 years war was primarily religios why were Catholic Spain and Catholic France on opposite sides?


The renaissance, not the middle ages was the time of the religious fervor and oppression we generally associate with the middle ages. This makes sense given that it was in the renaissance and not the middle ages that genuine threats against the ideological position of Roman Catholicism rose, specifically through the sciences and through the teachings of Martin Luther.

The Crusades were a purely medieval phenomenon - whether in the Holy Land, Spain, Eastern Europe or against the Albigensians. The religious fervour that was at least a partial motivation for these events led to some extreme examples of oppression and mass murder. As I said, the Inquisition was founded in the Middle Ages. There was plenty of religious fervour behind the founding of the Orders of Friars (and other religious orders) and the various persecutions they launched. The persecutions of the Waldensians, Hussites and Lollards (to name a few of the groups affected) were all medieval, and due to the fact that these groups posed a genuine threat to the ideological position of Roman Catholicism.

On the positive side, the medieval religious fervour also led to the building of the great cathedrals and other cultural achievements.

It could also be argued that a lot of the religious excesses of the renaissance period could be blamed on people maintaining a medieval frame of mind and wanting to turn the clock back.



And for the rediscovery of Greek and Roman knowledge that is something that can be placed solidly in the middle ages, as can Francesco Petrarch's invention of the term. The 13th and 14th centuries were the age of the rediscovery of the ancient world, not the 16th and 17th century which is when the renaissance was.


Again, you are just plain wrong. While no-one's saying that people in the Middle Ages sat around wondering who had lived in the place 1000 years before (after all, Aquinas was thoroughly medieval), they simply did not have nearly as much knowledge of the ancient world as came later. The texts did not exist in Western Europe. It's traditionally been ascribed to the fall of Constantinople, but there was a great opening of cultural exchange with the East and the Moslem world which gave scholars in the West access to so much that they had never seen before. They even realised that the Latin they used had been debased over time. This new knowledge kicked off a whole cultural movement in many areas - which is now known as the Renaissance - as people tried to recapture what they realised they had lost from the ancient world.

xxragdollxx
2008-06-27, 02:02 PM
Spurred by the thread on Eragon, what common screwups do you see about actually living in medieval times?

Think of this also as a FAQ about what the medieval times were really like. I guess this could also be a primer for anyone who wants to write good fantasy fiction.

1) People with full-sets of teeth: Lack of dental care means that very few people in medieval times had a full-set of teeth.

never expect much truth from a creation by a creative director with a million-dollar budget.

p.s. BATHING IS HEALTHY AND NATURAL!!!!!! Animals clean themselves all the time and guess what? We're animals too! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WASH YOURSELVES!!!!!!!

Terraoblivion
2008-06-27, 02:03 PM
The renaissance did not create secularism. The trends towards secularism found in the renaissance were continuations of medieval trends, specifically the strengthening of the princes and the nobility their eventual victory over the church in the struggle for who held legitimate claim to Europe. The reformation was the greatest blow against the papacy as it gave the princes a church that insisted that the church should focus on spiritual matters and not secular matters.

However, this does not mean that mean that protestantism was secular. Far from it in fact. Punishment for religious infractions rose following the reformation. Mass started being held in the local language specifically in order to make sure that people learned the scripture. In fact the reason that religious guilds were abolished, saints' days removed and the sale of absolution was abandoned was that protestant theologians thought those practices undermined the spiritual aspects of Christianity. It was not because of a loss of religious feelings among the public, if you look at the writings of the age there is nothing to suggest that such a disappearance.

The black clothes and the paintings by the Dutch masters were also examples of conspicuous consumption. That does not mean the forms of the consumption were not inspired by religious feelings. The reason the Dutch merchants wore black instead of the more colorful clothes of people in neighboring countries, was to show their religious purity and lack of desire to show off their wealth. Most of the great and expensive renaissance paintings in Italy depicted religious scenes and many were donated to the church.
And if you study early classic music you will find that even those pieces composed for consumption by the princes and the nobility had religious motifs.

If you knew anything about the Spanish inquisition you would know that it was a separate institution from the papal inquisition. The Spanish inquisition was an institution under the Spanish crown dedicated to stamping out Judaism, Islam and heretical forms of Christianity. It was formed in the late 15the century by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The papal inquisition on the other hand was as old as you say. However, it was not concerned with Judaism or Islam nor was it the organization responsible for torturing thousands of people to death. It performed relatively few executions and mostly concerned itself with dealing with doctrinal issues closer to the heart of the church and in a less murderous manner. The deeds typically attributed to the inquisition were performed by the Spanish inquisition, which was a different institution from the one established in the middle ages.

Do you know anything about the thirty years war? It started with a civil war in Bohemia over whether the country should be protestant or catholic. Then all of Europe, except for France, eventually took sides in the issuing war over the status of religion in Germany. France on the other hand did act in national interests and not according to religious lines. That does not mean the the cause for the war and the primary coalitions were based on religious affiliation. Wikipedia would also agree with me on my assessment of it being largely religious if you look at the very first line on their article about said war.

Yes there were religious massacres in the middle ages. It was nothing compared to the intolerance and brutality of the renaissance. There were partially religious civil wars in most European countries during the renaissance. The Court of the Star Chamber and the Spanish inquisition operated during the renaissance. The witch hunts took place in the renaissance. The forceful conversion of people outside Christian Europe continued unabated through this period and without the political and strategic necessity of it that had been in the middle ages. And crusades kept going on through-out the renaissance, they were just decidedly weird and have little but the name in common with the ones in the middle ages. Of course none of this was purely motivated by religion, but nothing is causing by a single thing so there is nothing strange in that.

I have a few questions for you. If Greek and Roman knowledge was forgotten through-out the middle ages, how could Dante write about Homer, Vergil and Cicero in Inferno? How could Thomas Aquinas revolutionize Christian theology through means of Aristotle if he had no way of knowing about Aristotle? For that matter what exactly was taught in medieval universities if ancient knowledge was forgotten? I would think it is because it was actually known in learned circles in the middle ages and that is indeed also what i have always been taught. The middle ages was not the big, black pit of ignorance and religious fervor that popular culture would have us believe. Nor was the renaissance a great pinnacle of culture and civilization that pointed straight to modern society.

And so i think we have conclussively proven that the renaissance is serious business. :smallbiggrin:

TheElfLord
2008-06-27, 02:45 PM
I'm not talking about scientists. Right now scientists are talking about our world having 13 dimensions. Doesn't mean any normal person knows anything about that. Most people haven't even heard the name "superstring theory." And the thing is, according to statistics, most of the world before 20th century were bloody peasants.

Also, sailors aren't the types of people to do a lot of thinking about how the world works, otherwise they would be monks or scientists instead of sailors. And even if a few of them did think about masts and the like, who exactly would they talk to about it? And besides, observations about masts of ships aren't exactly direct proof (such as sailing around the world or seeing a picture of Earth taken from space). They're circumstantial evidence at best. Most people probably assumed it happens because the ships are far away.


You don't know much about sailing do you? A ship is a complicated machine. You seem to think that all sailors were lobotomized monkeys.

When sialors are in a tiny wooden ship on the ocean, you can bet they think about how the world works. Winds, currents, tides, reefs, all that information is important. Sailors would be climbing up and down the masts regularly. Any time they could look out and see the horizon was curved not flat.

As for objects going over the horizon just disappearing, again, sailors aren't as dumb as you seem to think. Objects don't just shrink till they are gone; there is a noticeable progression. That's why the first thing you see at the horizon is the top of the masts, then the sails, then the hull. There is a time where you can clearly see part of the ship while the rest is over the horizon, so no, sailors would not presume the ship got so far away you couldn't see it.

TheElfLord
2008-06-27, 02:48 PM
No it didn't and no it wasn't. If the 30 years war was primarily religios why were Catholic Spain and Catholic France on opposite sides?


If you were not taught that the 30 Year's War was a war of religion, then you need to find your history teacher and ask for your money back.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-27, 04:14 PM
Here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#In_the_Middle_Ages) It's a Wikpedia article, but it cites reliable sources.

Thank you! Thank you very much! This link should settle 90% of the "world was flat" argument we're having.

So no one but monks and scientists had a brain and wondered about the way the world worked? Sailors that were stupid didn't live very long. Successful seamen were intelligent and logical. Medieval man didn't have all of the scientific evidence that we have today, but they weren't stupid.

No matter if sailor needed inteligence or not, guy with 150 IQ could be a sailor, just beacuse his dad was too. There was like, few several universitetes in Europe, and not "80 minutes by train from home" for sure. No TV, no Internet.

You don't know much about sailing do you? A ship is a complicated machine. You seem to think that all sailors were lobotomized monkeys.

When sialors are in a tiny wooden ship on the ocean, you can bet they think about how the world works. Winds, currents, tides, reefs, all that information is important. Sailors would be climbing up and down the masts regularly. Any time they could look out and see the horizon was curved not flat.
People who think a lot about how the world works don't become sailors very often. Because there's other jobs to do, for example book-keeping or crafts. Sailing is a menial job just as much as construction. You haul ropes, set sails and do whatever else your captain or navigator tells you to do (these guys ARE likely smart and educated, but they're not regular sailors, chances are they didn't even socialize with most hands on ship, just the first mate, the botswain, etc). So the people who become sailors are the ones looking to do menial work or at least not caring what kind of work they're doing, not contemplate the meaning of life (since for one thing, 90% of people who like to think about stuff don't like menial work, look at this forum for example). And even if they can't find any other work, chances are they're going to settle for something more stable with less chance of crashing into rocks or being taken captive by Moor pirates and sold into slavery, for example construction.

Winds, currents, reefs and stars are learned through experience not a university degree. That's why old sailors were usually respected and valued, at least in their circles.

PS: (not on the world was flat issue): for some reason the Night of St. Bartholomew in 1572 comes to mind...

PPS: when I'm talking about people in general, I'm talking about people in general - farmers, craftsmen, nobles, etc. I'm not talking about monks or scientists. They're not people in general. And they had access to resources regular people would never be able to get their hands on. Just because St. Someone from the St. Someone Else Monastery had a nice collection of works by Virgil, doesn't mean that really interested in history Joe Thatcher could come in and read them. Chances are, he couldn't even afford to buy a book until 1500's or 1600's when printing became widespread.

Arameus
2008-06-27, 04:34 PM
All in all, I think that there's a strong and abiding mentality that you could easily prepare for a trip back to any time between the Crusades and the American Revolution by playing The Legend of Zelda and watching how everything works and runs there and then.

It pretty much follows the inverse law of anime to a tee, that is, that anything represented in that game is the exact opposite of actuality, and yet is often thought to be factual or representative.

It's been pointed out before, but it bears repeating: isn't it funny that, in a thread about misconceptions, pretty much every viewpoint presented is immediately disputed? Makes you think that Hollywood doesn't need to get it right because no one is actually going to know the difference... regardless of whether or not they think they do.

Dervag
2008-06-27, 10:23 PM
Here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#In_the_Middle_Ages) It's a Wikpedia article, but it cites reliable sources.

Dervag - More effective guns were countered with better armor, to some point at least. I'd say the final nail in the coffin was that fully armoured horsemen became too expensive to maintain.Thing is, even the best armor couldn't make you immune to bullets, or even very reliable protection. It would help, but it was no guarantee and it was practically useless against cannons (which were not uncommon). And, again, gunpowder knocked down castles.

So while knights tried to adapt their plate armor to musketry, they never quite managed to bring it off. They could thicken the breastplate until it would stop bullets, but never create the kind of highly reliable protection that would give them a powerful battlefield role again.


No it didn't and no it wasn't. If the 30 years war was primarily religios why were Catholic Spain and Catholic France on opposite sides?Because the French saw an opportunity?

The trigger for the war was religious tension in Central Europe. And religious tension was one of the big things that kept the conflict going on a continent-wide scale. Antagonism between Catholics and Protestants, and the self-righteousness of zealots on both sides, guaranteed that there would always be something to fight about until both sides sat down and agreed not to interfere in each others' religious affairs.

Which didn't bring an end to wars in Europe by any means, but it at least meant that most nations would enjoy peace a large fraction of the time.


People who think a lot about how the world works don't become sailors very often.It's the other way around.

When you're a sailor, you think about sailing a lot. You think about all the things relevant to sailing. You have conversations with your buddies about sailing. And yes, at some point the shape of the Earth may come up. When it does, anyone with half a brain is going to notice the 'disappearing ship' thing.

The world isn't divided into people who think and mindless people who never think. Even the "menial" sailors (who will learn a lot about the theory and practice of shiphandling if they live very long) are going to think about the shape of the Earth if it comes up. Which I rather imagine it would, once in a while.

Moreover, the strong social division between captain and crew was an artifact of the 1600s and later. Medieval ships were much smaller, with smaller crews and less rigid discipline. Captains could not simply ignore ordinary sailors, and there would be a substantial amount of information flowing back and forth. After all, how do you think people came to be captains of ships? To become a captain, one needed to prove oneself able at the handling of ships, generally by showing talent in smaller-scale duties aboard ships.


So the people who become sailors are the ones looking to do menial work or at least not caring what kind of work they're doing, not contemplate the meaning of life (since for one thing, 90% of people who like to think about stuff don't like menial work, look at this forum for example). And even if they can't find any other work, chances are they're going to settle for something more stable with less chance of crashing into rocks or being taken captive by Moor pirates and sold into slavery, for example construction.Which doesn't mean they're so dumb that they never think to ask: "Hey George, why is it I can still see the mountaintop when I can't see the beach?"

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-27, 11:03 PM
Dervag, what I'm trying to get at is that there's two types of people - people who think about how the world (and everything else) works and people who don't care and are instead more preoccupied with the present and the real life. It just happens that sailors are more likely to be the latter.

In the link on Flat Earth that you gave it said that in these times only the scholars knew about Earth's roundness, and
A recent study of medieval concepts of the sphericity of the Earth noted that "since the eighth century, no cosmographer worthy of note has called into question the sphericity of the Earth."[56] However, the work of these intellectuals may not have had significant influence on public opinion, and it is difficult to tell what the wider population may have thought of the shape of the Earth, if they considered the question at all.
Which means it's quite likely sailors likely wouldn't know about it being round in 11-12-13th centuries. And the only thing they have going for them as evidence is the aforementioned example of masts and mountains (by the way it's noticeable if anyone's driven on a plain towards a mountain).

But according to Occam's razor, aka common sense, it's more likely they would make another explanation for it than invent something that's... well, to be honest quite counterintuitive, goes against common sense and doesn't quite fit with all of their other observations about the world.

I'm not saying some didn't think of it, but more likely the idea won't be very popular.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-27, 11:11 PM
On knights - I doubt it's the lack of armor that killed them off. It's just that before, they were a deciding force on the battlefield and could kill a mob of levies or untrained soldiers with little difficulty due to not only armor, but also the shock effect of cavalry and their training.

But with crossbow, and especially the musket, anyone who could hold a gun had a pretty decent chance of killing a knight. And economics say it's easier to find a bunch of guys, drill them for a few weeks and give them guns than create even a small amount of knights since they needed not only expensive equipment and horse, but also a lot, and I mean A LOT of training to use it well.

Knights were also unreliable, since they were in a sense the elite warrior class who often did what they felt like instead of what the king wanted. For kings fielding large armies of musketeers were simply much less of a liability, since they wouldn't suddenly refuse to fight for some weird reason and a prominent musketeer wasn't going to use his support in the army to try to gain the throne for himself.

Vaire
2008-06-28, 09:01 AM
T
People who think a lot about how the world works don't become sailors very often. Because there's other jobs to do, for example book-keeping or crafts. Sailing is a menial job just as much as construction.

I really really hope you live no where near a naval base, marina, or any kind of construction site, and if you do, I'd suggest you please, please not express these opinions to any of the people there.

Your life could be in danger if you do.

(Just in case you misinterpret, I'm being funny)

Gavin Sage
2008-06-28, 10:47 AM
I'd like to point out that regardless of how often medieval folk bathed as a topic of debate reveals our own modern misconceptions about bathing.

Namely about how "dirty" not bathing makes you. I've been in a situation once where I did not have a chance to shower for over two weeks. It was an extended outdoor trip where we didn't have any facilities for washing up like that. And while I won't say I was minty fresh, there comes a point that without some external source like rolling in mud you stop getting "dirtier" and for that matter stop noticing it. For that matter the body adapts to not getting scrubbed and soaped and rinsed everyday, when I was a kid I didn't wash my hair with every bath and only when I started washing it every day did my hair become greasy enough to require washing everyday.

If some doesn't have access to the extreme luxury of warm running water on a daily basis its quite possible to feel worse a day after having bathed once then a week after having so. Sure modern Mr. Clean feels nasty after six hours, but that a self-fufilling prophecy by continually washing away the body's oils.

Anteros
2008-06-28, 03:02 PM
I'd like to point out that regardless of how often medieval folk bathed as a topic of debate reveals our own modern misconceptions about bathing.

Namely about how "dirty" not bathing makes you. I've been in a situation once where I did not have a chance to shower for over two weeks. It was an extended outdoor trip where we didn't have any facilities for washing up like that. And while I won't say I was minty fresh, there comes a point that without some external source like rolling in mud you stop getting "dirtier" and for that matter stop noticing it. For that matter the body adapts to not getting scrubbed and soaped and rinsed everyday, when I was a kid I didn't wash my hair with every bath and only when I started washing it every day did my hair become greasy enough to require washing everyday.

If some doesn't have access to the extreme luxury of warm running water on a daily basis its quite possible to feel worse a day after having bathed once then a week after having so. Sure modern Mr. Clean feels nasty after six hours, but that a self-fufilling prophecy by continually washing away the body's oils.


I'm not entirely sure what your point is. That you can get used to being dirty? I don't think anyone would dispute that. As far as your body "adapting" goes...I highly doubt that your hair produces more grease the more often you wash it as you seem to imply. You just notice it less. And just because you stop noticing how filthy you are, does not make it natural or healthy. Nor does it mean that those around you have stopped noticing.

Eldan
2008-06-28, 03:09 PM
Of course the body adabts. I can't cite any sources, but I had a lecture once where one of the subjects was skin and the professor quite clearly stated that the amount of grease produced increases when it's more often washed away. It just means that there is a certain amount needed on the skin, and if you don't wash it away as often, then not as much is produced.

Spiryt
2008-06-28, 03:18 PM
Of course the body adabts. I can't cite any sources, but I had a lecture once where one of the subjects was skin and the professor quite clearly stated that the amount of grease produced increases when it's more often washed away. It just means that there is a certain amount needed on the skin, and if you don't wash it away as often, then not as much is produced.

This seem obvious too me. After all, even if we assume that people bathed regulary in medieval times, history of bathing will be... 2000 years? 3000 ? It's not enough for big changes in our biology - so geneticaly ec we are just the same as primal people who certainly haven't bath.

And it would be pretty pointless for guy from north Europe to feel greasy and uncomfortable beacuse he doesn't bath (what will be pretty bad for his health in winter/Ice age).

We feel bath when we don't bath just beacuse we bath a lot usually.

Anteros
2008-06-28, 08:03 PM
Mmhmm...do any of you have any kind of sources or research to support that opinion? I'd like to read it if you do.

Now I'm not saying that bathing has no effect on your body's oil production. It certainly would make sense that your body would increase its oil production to replace what you washed away...but you can't tell me that someone who bathes regularly has greasier hair after missing a few days than a person who has not bathed in months.

Oslecamo
2008-06-28, 08:25 PM
Mmhmm...do any of you have any kind of sources or research to support that opinion? I'd like to read it if you do.

Now I'm not saying that bathing has no effect on your body's oil production. It certainly would make sense that your body would increase its oil production to replace what you washed away...but you can't tell me that someone who bathes regularly has greasier hair after missing a few days than a person who has not bathed in months.

I bathe myself diarly, and when for some reason I can't bathe, my hair gets basically soaked in oil in around 24 hours.

Also, there's plenty of evidence that the human body will adapt and change his metabolism to new conditions. Heck, it's the basis behind physical exercise.

If you put a a professional atlete next to the guy who barely moves from his couch the last ten years, I'm pretty sure one of them can endure months of hard work and the other one only a few days.

The most extreme case is that if you leave someone whitout eating for a long period of time, sudenly giving a normal meal may kill them, simply because the body had "forgot" how to effectively digest the food at all. This was recorded during the end of WWII during the rescue of prisioners of war.

Thiel
2008-06-28, 09:08 PM
Mmhmm...do any of you have any kind of sources or research to support that opinion? I'd like to read it if you do.

Now I'm not saying that bathing has no effect on your body's oil production. It certainly would make sense that your body would increase its oil production to replace what you washed away...but you can't tell me that someone who bathes regularly has greasier hair after missing a few days than a person who has not bathed in months.

We're not. The difference between them will, however, be marginal.

Dervag
2008-06-29, 02:01 AM
Dervag, what I'm trying to get at is that there's two types of people - people who think about how the world (and everything else) works and people who don't care and are instead more preoccupied with the present and the real life. It just happens that sailors are more likely to be the latter.It doesn't work quite that neatly in real life; you're oversimplifying the situation. In real life, there are plenty of people who think about how the parts of the world that affect them work. Sailors are affected directly in their professional capacity by the roundness of the Earth. They see the evidence every time they leave port or sight another ship.

A large fraction of human beings are in fact curious enough to wonder why that happens. Enough that the fact will be deduced by any truly intelligent sailor (of which there would be quite a few), and passed around by many more sailors.

It is impossible for me to believe that medieval sailors were so incurious, so sheep-like in their attention to the narrowest possible interpretation of their job, that they'd never even consider that the Earth might not be flat.


In the link on Flat Earth that you gave it said that in these times only the scholars knew about Earth's roundness, and
Which means it's quite likely sailors likely wouldn't know about it being round in 11-12-13th centuries. And the only thing they have going for them as evidence is the aforementioned example of masts and mountains (by the way it's noticeable if anyone's driven on a plain towards a mountain).I gave no such link.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that of the thousands of people sailing around Europe at any given time, some of them are bright and curious enough to either figure it out for themselves or ask someone who knows about it, such as a learned man who's on a pilgrimage on their ship or something. Once some know, word would be quite likely to get around.


But according to Occam's razor, aka common sense, it's more likely they would make another explanation for it than invent something that's... well, to be honest quite counterintuitive, goes against common sense and doesn't quite fit with all of their other observations about the world.

I'm not saying some didn't think of it, but more likely the idea won't be very popular.Do you have any evidence for this?

I mean, your argument seems to boil down to "medieval sailors were too ignorant and/or stupid to care about the shape of the ocean they were sailing around." Do we have primary source evidence on this?

I mean, the Earth being round and big isn't any more sensible or less sensible than the Earth being flat. It's obvious to anyone who realizes how immense the world is (as sailors do better than almost anyone) that whether the world is round or flat, it's so big that you couldn't see the curvature while standing on its surface. So I can't believe they'd just shrug it off with "The Earth is flat; it's common sense."

Besides which, Occam's Razor is itself a concept known only to learned people in the Middle Ages, seeing as how it was invented in that era. People often violate Occam's Razor when using 'common sense', by devising an explanation that includes lots more factors than it needs to in order to explain the situation.


Mmhmm...do any of you have any kind of sources or research to support that opinion? I'd like to read it if you do.

Now I'm not saying that bathing has no effect on your body's oil production. It certainly would make sense that your body would increase its oil production to replace what you washed away...but you can't tell me that someone who bathes regularly has greasier hair after missing a few days than a person who has not bathed in months.I think what happens is that there's some upper limit on hair grease. Past a certain point, the body just keeps naturally replenishing the grease that gets rubbed off when you sleep and stuff like that.

However, your body reacts to something that strips away the protective oils by secreting more oils. So when you have no oil, the rate of replenishment is high, whereas when you have plenty, it is lower. There's some asymptotic limit that you approach where the rate of grease production cancels out the rate of loss.

So if you just stop washing your hair one day, you will steadily get greasier and greasier for a few days quite fast. But after a few days to a week, you're about as greasy as you're ever going to get; new grease isn't produced fast enough to outpace the natural breakdown and loss of old grease.

Again, if this weren't true, then people who didn't wash their hair for months would be dripping hair grease, and they aren't. They may look poorly groomed, but they aren't dripping hair grease.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-29, 02:41 AM
I gave no such link.

Sorry, my bad. It was Greyjoy. Both of you have no avatar (I use them to tell users apart) I kinda got you two confused. Again, sorry. Here's the link again. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#In_the_Middle_Ages)

Back to sailors: What evidence do they have that Earth is round? I'm not calling sailors stupid or ignorant. I'm saying that they have 1 FACT TO GO ON. Yes, some may deduce it. But the idea is never going to find enough support. Especially since until the invention of larger ships like carracks most ships hugged the coast and rarely sailed for more than a few hundred miles at a time. Remember, I'm talking about 11th-13th centuries here, 15th century obviously doesn't qualify since enough people believed the Earth was round to support Columbus's voyage.

But suppose you're a sailor and your shipmate comes up to you:

"Hey, dude (or whatever the appropriate equivalent of dude is), I think I figured out why we see first the masts and only then ships. It's because Earth is round and when we see something tall far away, the roundness is hiding the bottom part when we see the top part." Everything else you know about Earth tells you that it's flat. How are you going to take it without knowing what you know now. 99% of sailors haven't read the works of Greek philosophers simply because those works probably existed in individual copies here and there with monks and rare secular scholars the only ones having access to them.

I'm using Occam's razor here not as a philosophical concept but as common sense - Earth is flat. Making it round to explain a few things that aren't very important anyway is complicating things quite a bit, and I mean QUITE A BIT.

That's pretty much the same thing if someone from came up to you during work (who you know isn't a scientist or a mystic or even a voodoo priest and isn't read on the topic) and said:
"Well, I think I know why we can sometimes tell if another person is staring at us. I just realized that there's this "force" that's kinda like electromagnetism that works through particles in our blood called medichlorians that can detect disturbances in the force caused by someone else experiencing strong emotions that have something to do with us and being close enough for us to feel the disturbance in the force caused by those emotions affecting their medichlorians."

Assuming Star Wars never existed, how exactly is this explanation going to sound to you? I highly doubt that unless 1. you're interested in mysticism, 2. you've given the subject a lot of thought and 3. the exlanations seems logical and reasonable to you, you're going to accept the theory. And even then, there's no direct proof for it except that you can feel it if someone's staring at you so chances are most other people won't go along with it. Of course, 500 years later some people having an astralnet argument could call us either stupid because we didn't think this possible and invented all these weird psychological explanations, or think that, duh, of course we knew because we lived in big cities with people staring at us all the time and we should have thought about this, enough to deduce about the force that binds us together.

PS: it takes a lot of direct evidence to convince people of something that goes against common belief. Evidence like sailing west and coming back from the west all the time going in one direction.

PPS: even now modern science can't explain mirages very well. It just talks about hot air rising up. It's true, it does make it look SLIGHTLY like water. Yet people report seeing actual oases with palms, camels, water, fig trees. Wouldn't seeing a parallel world that really does have an oasis in there or a djinn messing with your head be a better explanation?

kpenguin
2008-06-29, 03:29 AM
Surprsingly, the wikipedia article on Flat Earth has this to say (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth) about sailors and the theory:


The common misconception that people before the age of exploration believed that Earth was flat entered the popular imagination after Washington Irving's publication of The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828. This belief is even repeated in some widely read textbooks. Previous editions of Thomas Bailey's The American Pageant stated that "The superstitious sailors [of Columbus' crew] ... grew increasingly mutinous...because they were fearful of sailing over the edge of the world"; however, no such historical account is known.[61] Actually, sailors were probably among the first to know of the curvature of Earth from everyday observations, for example seeing how mountains vanish below the horizon on sailing far from shore.

Note however, that this has been a source of contraversy as indicated by a lengthy discussion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Flat_Earth#misconception.3F) on the article's discussion page:

It's very interesting to learn that the spherical earth was already contemplated in ancient times. However, the lead reads:

The common misconception that people before the age of exploration believed that Earth was flat [..] is even repeated in [..] Thomas Bailey's The American Pageant, where it is stated that "The superstitious sailors [...]

That statement appears to be POV and apparently it has no cited support. Moreover, it gives the impression that Wikipedia confuses sailors and common people of those days with the learned. I look forward to clarifications Harald88 13:32, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

it is cited: Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me, p. 56).

I meant Wikipedia's claim that it is a "misconception" that sailors were afraid that the earth is flat - that's a POV, which can only be stated as fact if nowadays all experts agree that those sailors were not afraid of falling off a possibly flat earth. Harald88 13:44, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

It is a misconception, and SFAIK there is no-one who meets RS who states otherwise. KillerChihuahua?!? 14:39, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

That it's a misconception is so far the (probably unverifiable!) opinion of that one historian. I would be surprised if any other historian made such claims, and on what grounds. Did they find written evidence of absence of sailor's fears?! Harald88 18:55, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

While I don’t have evidence of "absence of fear among sailors", there is evidence in the article suggesting that not only scholars, but also ordinary people, knew that the earth was spherical during the Late Middle Ages.

Remember that it’s much easier to prove that something existed than to "prove" the inexistence of something. How can you find evidence that there are no real Hobbits or Orcs? You can't. But the fact that there’s no evidence of their existence makes people believe that it is a misconception to assert that they do exist or existed.

I think the right question should be: did they find any evidence of presence of sailor's fears? If they didn’t, they shouldn’t be spreading such myths in history textbooks. --Leinad ¬ »saudações! 21:00, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

That point may be brought up indeed, and I don't know the answer; problem here is that Wikipedia now spreads its own myth here. This must be corrected. Harald88 06:41, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't really understand what your problem is, Harald88. The story used to circulate (in some circles still circulates) that Columbus' sailors were afraid of falling off the edge of the world. That would be very strange if it were true, as the world-view of the society in which those sailors had been brought up did not believe in an edge of the world. Now scholars have researced the origins of the story and discovered who invented it, and what political agenda motivated this. I think that is the point at which it is really not POV to say that this story is a "misconception" - if anything that is a very polite and tolerant way to put it. Something much stronger like "ignorant propaganda" would be fair, but as this is Wiki we will stick with "misconception". --Doric Loon 09:03, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

As far as I know, in those days the world view of educated people differed from the world view of the unlettered. One may just as well claim a few centuries from now that it's untrue that people in the 20th century were afraid of ghosts. What reason did those sailers have to trust with their life that the earth is a globe? I don't know the political agenda of Thomas Bailey, nor that of James Loewen; what matters is the evidence we have. So far I've seen no evidence => we must treat it for the bull**** that it is if it can't be sustained by solid facts.
Happily, that doesn't mean that that paragraph should be deleted; some subtle rephrasing will suffice. Harald88 21:43, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't understand your problem. That the earth is curved in all directions from any point on its surface is not a matter of belief or education to sailors, is it a matter of everyday observation as boats and landmasses disappear and appear on the horizon. It is as obvious to them as the salt in the sea water. It can hardly be imagined that sailors would not be able see that this inevitably leads to the prospect of a spherical earth. Jooler 23:54, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Harald, contrary to what you seem to believe, the assertion that it is a misconception to think that "before Columbus people believed the earth was flat" is well supported by contemporary scholarship. Today, professional medievalists and historians of science agree this misconception was a 19th century fabrication. You may personally find unlikely the expert's opinion to be true, but, according to the current policies, we should not be doing original research in Wikipedia. . . . Moreover "Lies My Teacher Told Me" seems to be a reliable source. It is described in its wikipedia article as an "awarded" and "unusually well sourced" book that is "cited by, and recommended by, a large number of American History professors". Until now I saw no indication whatsoever that James Loewen was telling "bull****" when he criticized Washington Irving or Thomas Bailey. --Leinad ¬ »saudações! 02:50, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

Leinad, contrary to what you seem to believe, the assertion that sailors in Columbus' time had no fear of falling of the earth is so far *not* collaborated by any evidence - it is independent of the question if the idea that "before Columbus people believed the earth was flat" was a fabrication or not. I don't know how to explain that if we have no evidence that something is black, that this doesn't corroborate the statement that it's white, and it's certainly not for Wikipedia to make such a statement. If indeed Loewen made such deduction then his logic should be ascribed to him, and not to Wikipedia. Harald88 21:13, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

As well as "Inventing the Flat Earth" which covers the subject of the fabrication of the Flat Earth belief. KillerChihuahua?!? 13:51, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

As a matter of fact, the sentence: From a European perspective, Portuguese exploration of Africa and Asia in the 15th century removed any serious doubts corroborates the idea that some sailors could have had serious doubts. Harald88 21:13, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

granted, there is room for the possibility that one or more of Columbus' sailors had serious doubts. Now before we add "At least one of Columbus' sailors had serious doubts" to the article, we ask you to provide at least one reference where this possibility is explicitly entertained. Otherwise, we could also add "at least one of Columbus' sailors wore ladies' underwear", since it is unlikely that any known contemporary sources deny that possibility. dab (ᛏ) 21:27, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

Funny, but I have no comments to make on erroneous logic, especially immediately after I pointed it out. Anyway, there is nothing to add: the combined statements that they did not have any doubt because people didn't have doubts AND that people had serious doubts tell enough to an intelligent reader about the reliability of this article's information. Harald88 18:14, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

If there is no evidence that something happened in history, and if that something is historically improbable given all we know about the period of history, and if popular stories that it happened can be shown to have an attestable origin in a much later work of fiction, then the case for the notion being a myth has been made. That is true of Arthur and the round table, it is true of Robin Hood's cocked hat, and it is true of Columbus' sailors' flat earth fears. The burden of evidence lies firmly on the shoulders of anyone who thinks differently to find some shred of evidence that the stories are after all true. So, Harald88, where is your evidence? If significant numbers of people in the 15th century believed that the earth had an edge which a ship could fall off, that idea will certainly be recorded in some document of the period, because we are talking about the Renaissance when vast numbers of texts were written from every known perspective, including the views of the illiterate, who were regularly parodied. If you are right, there must be textual evidence. You find it. --Doric Loon 21:33, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

You also turn things on their head: I insist on the removal of unsustainable claims that Wikipedia makes; in principle Wikipedia is not supposed to make any claim anyway.
Either we:
A. Claim that nobody had serious doubts around that time (as is now the case), AND back it up with cited evidence AND show on this page that there is consensus about its validity among experts; or
B. Claim that people had serious doubts around that time (as is now the case), AND back it up with cited evidence AND show on this page that there is consensus about its validity among experts; or
C. Abstain from making unsustained claims, and instead follow the standard Wikipedia rule to attribute opinions to the originators of those opinions.

Harald88 18:18, 6 April 2006 (UTC)


Precisely. And the first of those three is what we have done. Obviously the absence of something in history cannot be demonstrated by cited evidence, we can only point to the lack of evidence to the contrary. But the scholarly consensus is the important thing. Wikipedia does no original research. We only record what scholars are saying. And there is no debate about this issue among serious historians. Only badly outdated textbooks have the flat earth myth. The question which bemuses and puzzles me is why you have a problem with this. Do you disagree with the scholarly consensus? Do you have information to the contrary which you have not yet shared with us? Or are you just irritated that something you long believed has turned out to be wrong? --Doric Loon 19:05, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

I object to the abuse of Wikipedia for replacements of old myths by new myths, that's all. If something isn't known (specualtion about fear is for psychologists, not historians and certainly not encyclopedias) it shouldn't be claimed. Enough of fairytales, please help keep up Wikipedia's standards. It needs to be clear that it's not Wikipedia's crystal ball.
BTW, where does the citation about the sailor's fear originate from? It appears to be citation, and must thus have been proven to be a forgery - by whom? Harald88 20:36, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

from our article: The common misconception that people before the age of exploration believed that Earth was flat entered the popular imagination after Washington Irving's publication of The 'Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus' in 1828. Still, I agree to suppress any discussion of a "belief" in Columbus' sailors' fears until we have evidence that there even is such a belief. dab (ᛏ) 20:51, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

It's more a matter of presentation than of content. To be constructive: if indeed no historical source can be found for that claim of Thomas Bailey, then that can be stated as fact. For example, the passage that Dbachman deleted may become (if it doesn't contain OR):
The claim that Christopher Columbus's sailors feared they would fall off the edge of the world has no historical basis. Instead the sailors were understandably uncertain about a voyage into the unknown. Moreover, they had reason to worry that food supplies would run out: Columbus did not provide sufficient supplies to reach China or the East Indies, his original destination; and if America had not existed then his expedition might have died of starvation. Columbus believed the Earth to be much smaller than it is now known to be; about the size of Mars.
Similarly the intro can simply state about Thomas Bailey's passage that it's probably a myth. Harald88 21:10, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

It's already well-established that the claim has no historical basis. The question posed by dab was whether or not it's an actual "belief" (as the original paragraph had it) that needs to be debunked. There's no use discussing it if it doesn't exist. The original citation was from an obsolete edition of a textbook. If it can be verified (especially if it still exists in the current edition) we can safely state that this belief is still extant. TCC (talk) (contribs) 21:23, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

If my eyes don't fool me, and contrary to Csernica's thinking, nowhere does the article state that it's already well-established that the claim has no historical basis, thus I'll add that. Apart of that, I think you entirely missed the point of Dbachmann, and which I think to have solved - for him to reply of course.Harald88 21:44, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

I think that the size of Mars or the supplies taken on his voyage by Columbus has no pertinence whatsoever to this article. Columbus may be cited as evidence that by 1492, people were prepared to take the sphericity of the earth for granted, enough to try to reach India sailing west. As long as we have no citation for any "sailors' fears" we are in the realm of urban legend. The issue at present is not whether there were any "sailors' fear", it is rather, are there any claims of such fears notable enough to be debunked at all. dab (ᛏ) 21:53, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

OK, you mean that so far we only have this claim by Bailey... I vaguely remember to have heard that too, so that story seems to be widespread; but I agree that it amounts to OR if we are to establish how widespread that story is. Still, it may be argued to be notable enough because it appears in Bailey's history book which is in turn criticized for it. Harald88 22:06, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

Oslecamo
2008-06-29, 06:13 AM
PPS: even now modern science can't explain mirages very well. It just talks about hot air rising up. It's true, it does make it look SLIGHTLY like water. Yet people report seeing actual oases with palms, camels, water, fig trees. Wouldn't seeing a parallel world that really does have an oasis in there or a djinn messing with your head be a better explanation?

It would be, if you could prove that Djinns exist at all or that desert conditions are more adequate to create portals to parallel worlds. However, there are other explanations wich have much more solid foundations:

1-Lack of water, proper rest and intense sunlight causes body malfuction, including of the brain and eyes. This leads to hallucinations just as sick people will delirate. You can't really trust the report of someone who has got his body and mind damaged.

2-Self lying. People see and hear only what they want to see and hear, it's a proven fact. They spot an illusion of hot air wich looks like water, and the nearby terrain features will look just like palm trees, camels, etc, because you desesperately want them to be there.

3-Survival instinct. You want to live. But if you just stay at one place you're gonna surely die. You gotta get moving. So your subconscious creates an illusion of an oasis just in front of you to make you keep moving forward and hopefully reach a real oasis.

Djinns, on the other hand, are just stories so far, and parallel worlds a very debatable matter, but nobody managed to find them yet.

Hallucinations, self delusions and survival instincts, however, have all proven to be 100% real, and explain the mirage story just as well.

Gavin Sage
2008-06-29, 09:55 AM
Surprsingly, the wikipedia article on Flat Earth has this to say (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth) about sailors and the theory:



Note however, that this has been a source of contraversy as indicated by a lengthy discussion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Flat_Earth#misconception.3F) on the article's discussion page:

It's very interesting to learn that the spherical earth was already contemplated in ancient times. However, the lead reads:

The common misconception that people before the age of exploration believed that Earth was flat [..] is even repeated in [..] Thomas Bailey's The American Pageant, where it is stated that "The superstitious sailors [...]

That statement appears to be POV and apparently it has no cited support. Moreover, it gives the impression that Wikipedia confuses sailors and common people of those days with the learned. I look forward to clarifications Harald88 13:32, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

it is cited: Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me, p. 56).

I meant Wikipedia's claim that it is a "misconception" that sailors were afraid that the earth is flat - that's a POV, which can only be stated as fact if nowadays all experts agree that those sailors were not afraid of falling off a possibly flat earth. Harald88 13:44, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

It is a misconception, and SFAIK there is no-one who meets RS who states otherwise. KillerChihuahua?!? 14:39, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

That it's a misconception is so far the (probably unverifiable!) opinion of that one historian. I would be surprised if any other historian made such claims, and on what grounds. Did they find written evidence of absence of sailor's fears?! Harald88 18:55, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

While I don’t have evidence of "absence of fear among sailors", there is evidence in the article suggesting that not only scholars, but also ordinary people, knew that the earth was spherical during the Late Middle Ages.

Remember that it’s much easier to prove that something existed than to "prove" the inexistence of something. How can you find evidence that there are no real Hobbits or Orcs? You can't. But the fact that there’s no evidence of their existence makes people believe that it is a misconception to assert that they do exist or existed.

I think the right question should be: did they find any evidence of presence of sailor's fears? If they didn’t, they shouldn’t be spreading such myths in history textbooks. --Leinad ¬ »saudações! 21:00, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

That point may be brought up indeed, and I don't know the answer; problem here is that Wikipedia now spreads its own myth here. This must be corrected. Harald88 06:41, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't really understand what your problem is, Harald88. The story used to circulate (in some circles still circulates) that Columbus' sailors were afraid of falling off the edge of the world. That would be very strange if it were true, as the world-view of the society in which those sailors had been brought up did not believe in an edge of the world. Now scholars have researced the origins of the story and discovered who invented it, and what political agenda motivated this. I think that is the point at which it is really not POV to say that this story is a "misconception" - if anything that is a very polite and tolerant way to put it. Something much stronger like "ignorant propaganda" would be fair, but as this is Wiki we will stick with "misconception". --Doric Loon 09:03, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

As far as I know, in those days the world view of educated people differed from the world view of the unlettered. One may just as well claim a few centuries from now that it's untrue that people in the 20th century were afraid of ghosts. What reason did those sailers have to trust with their life that the earth is a globe? I don't know the political agenda of Thomas Bailey, nor that of James Loewen; what matters is the evidence we have. So far I've seen no evidence => we must treat it for the bull**** that it is if it can't be sustained by solid facts.
Happily, that doesn't mean that that paragraph should be deleted; some subtle rephrasing will suffice. Harald88 21:43, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't understand your problem. That the earth is curved in all directions from any point on its surface is not a matter of belief or education to sailors, is it a matter of everyday observation as boats and landmasses disappear and appear on the horizon. It is as obvious to them as the salt in the sea water. It can hardly be imagined that sailors would not be able see that this inevitably leads to the prospect of a spherical earth. Jooler 23:54, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Harald, contrary to what you seem to believe, the assertion that it is a misconception to think that "before Columbus people believed the earth was flat" is well supported by contemporary scholarship. Today, professional medievalists and historians of science agree this misconception was a 19th century fabrication. You may personally find unlikely the expert's opinion to be true, but, according to the current policies, we should not be doing original research in Wikipedia. . . . Moreover "Lies My Teacher Told Me" seems to be a reliable source. It is described in its wikipedia article as an "awarded" and "unusually well sourced" book that is "cited by, and recommended by, a large number of American History professors". Until now I saw no indication whatsoever that James Loewen was telling "bull****" when he criticized Washington Irving or Thomas Bailey. --Leinad ¬ »saudações! 02:50, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

Leinad, contrary to what you seem to believe, the assertion that sailors in Columbus' time had no fear of falling of the earth is so far *not* collaborated by any evidence - it is independent of the question if the idea that "before Columbus people believed the earth was flat" was a fabrication or not. I don't know how to explain that if we have no evidence that something is black, that this doesn't corroborate the statement that it's white, and it's certainly not for Wikipedia to make such a statement. If indeed Loewen made such deduction then his logic should be ascribed to him, and not to Wikipedia. Harald88 21:13, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

As well as "Inventing the Flat Earth" which covers the subject of the fabrication of the Flat Earth belief. KillerChihuahua?!? 13:51, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

As a matter of fact, the sentence: From a European perspective, Portuguese exploration of Africa and Asia in the 15th century removed any serious doubts corroborates the idea that some sailors could have had serious doubts. Harald88 21:13, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

granted, there is room for the possibility that one or more of Columbus' sailors had serious doubts. Now before we add "At least one of Columbus' sailors had serious doubts" to the article, we ask you to provide at least one reference where this possibility is explicitly entertained. Otherwise, we could also add "at least one of Columbus' sailors wore ladies' underwear", since it is unlikely that any known contemporary sources deny that possibility. dab (ᛏ) 21:27, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

Funny, but I have no comments to make on erroneous logic, especially immediately after I pointed it out. Anyway, there is nothing to add: the combined statements that they did not have any doubt because people didn't have doubts AND that people had serious doubts tell enough to an intelligent reader about the reliability of this article's information. Harald88 18:14, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

If there is no evidence that something happened in history, and if that something is historically improbable given all we know about the period of history, and if popular stories that it happened can be shown to have an attestable origin in a much later work of fiction, then the case for the notion being a myth has been made. That is true of Arthur and the round table, it is true of Robin Hood's cocked hat, and it is true of Columbus' sailors' flat earth fears. The burden of evidence lies firmly on the shoulders of anyone who thinks differently to find some shred of evidence that the stories are after all true. So, Harald88, where is your evidence? If significant numbers of people in the 15th century believed that the earth had an edge which a ship could fall off, that idea will certainly be recorded in some document of the period, because we are talking about the Renaissance when vast numbers of texts were written from every known perspective, including the views of the illiterate, who were regularly parodied. If you are right, there must be textual evidence. You find it. --Doric Loon 21:33, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

You also turn things on their head: I insist on the removal of unsustainable claims that Wikipedia makes; in principle Wikipedia is not supposed to make any claim anyway.
Either we:
A. Claim that nobody had serious doubts around that time (as is now the case), AND back it up with cited evidence AND show on this page that there is consensus about its validity among experts; or
B. Claim that people had serious doubts around that time (as is now the case), AND back it up with cited evidence AND show on this page that there is consensus about its validity among experts; or
C. Abstain from making unsustained claims, and instead follow the standard Wikipedia rule to attribute opinions to the originators of those opinions.

Harald88 18:18, 6 April 2006 (UTC)


Precisely. And the first of those three is what we have done. Obviously the absence of something in history cannot be demonstrated by cited evidence, we can only point to the lack of evidence to the contrary. But the scholarly consensus is the important thing. Wikipedia does no original research. We only record what scholars are saying. And there is no debate about this issue among serious historians. Only badly outdated textbooks have the flat earth myth. The question which bemuses and puzzles me is why you have a problem with this. Do you disagree with the scholarly consensus? Do you have information to the contrary which you have not yet shared with us? Or are you just irritated that something you long believed has turned out to be wrong? --Doric Loon 19:05, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

I object to the abuse of Wikipedia for replacements of old myths by new myths, that's all. If something isn't known (specualtion about fear is for psychologists, not historians and certainly not encyclopedias) it shouldn't be claimed. Enough of fairytales, please help keep up Wikipedia's standards. It needs to be clear that it's not Wikipedia's crystal ball.
BTW, where does the citation about the sailor's fear originate from? It appears to be citation, and must thus have been proven to be a forgery - by whom? Harald88 20:36, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

from our article: The common misconception that people before the age of exploration believed that Earth was flat entered the popular imagination after Washington Irving's publication of The 'Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus' in 1828. Still, I agree to suppress any discussion of a "belief" in Columbus' sailors' fears until we have evidence that there even is such a belief. dab (ᛏ) 20:51, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

It's more a matter of presentation than of content. To be constructive: if indeed no historical source can be found for that claim of Thomas Bailey, then that can be stated as fact. For example, the passage that Dbachman deleted may become (if it doesn't contain OR):
The claim that Christopher Columbus's sailors feared they would fall off the edge of the world has no historical basis. Instead the sailors were understandably uncertain about a voyage into the unknown. Moreover, they had reason to worry that food supplies would run out: Columbus did not provide sufficient supplies to reach China or the East Indies, his original destination; and if America had not existed then his expedition might have died of starvation. Columbus believed the Earth to be much smaller than it is now known to be; about the size of Mars.
Similarly the intro can simply state about Thomas Bailey's passage that it's probably a myth. Harald88 21:10, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

It's already well-established that the claim has no historical basis. The question posed by dab was whether or not it's an actual "belief" (as the original paragraph had it) that needs to be debunked. There's no use discussing it if it doesn't exist. The original citation was from an obsolete edition of a textbook. If it can be verified (especially if it still exists in the current edition) we can safely state that this belief is still extant. TCC (talk) (contribs) 21:23, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

If my eyes don't fool me, and contrary to Csernica's thinking, nowhere does the article state that it's already well-established that the claim has no historical basis, thus I'll add that. Apart of that, I think you entirely missed the point of Dbachmann, and which I think to have solved - for him to reply of course.Harald88 21:44, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

I think that the size of Mars or the supplies taken on his voyage by Columbus has no pertinence whatsoever to this article. Columbus may be cited as evidence that by 1492, people were prepared to take the sphericity of the earth for granted, enough to try to reach India sailing west. As long as we have no citation for any "sailors' fears" we are in the realm of urban legend. The issue at present is not whether there were any "sailors' fear", it is rather, are there any claims of such fears notable enough to be debunked at all. dab (ᛏ) 21:53, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

OK, you mean that so far we only have this claim by Bailey... I vaguely remember to have heard that too, so that story seems to be widespread; but I agree that it amounts to OR if we are to establish how widespread that story is. Still, it may be argued to be notable enough because it appears in Bailey's history book which is in turn criticized for it. Harald88 22:06, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

The general verdict there seems to be supporting that people did not believe the earth flat though. Or at least not to the dogmatic level popular culture has been known to claim. And I didn't see anyone citing evidence that sailors seriously believed that they could sail off the edge or the like.

Another small piece in chipping into the notion of the "Dark Ages", which seems at least to me in need of backing up its own points with some evidence.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-06-29, 08:17 PM
Harald is right in that we can't make a claim either way without sources that either specifically state "regular people (i.e. no scholars/monks/scientists) thought Earth was flat" or that specifically state "regular people thought earth was round."

But since there are no sources for either side, I'll leave the argument at that and won't post on the topic of round/flat Earth anymore.



1-Lack of water, proper rest and intense sunlight causes body malfuction, including of the brain and eyes. This leads to hallucinations just as sick people will delirate. You can't really trust the report of someone who has got his body and mind damaged.

2-Self lying. People see and hear only what they want to see and hear, it's a proven fact. They spot an illusion of hot air wich looks like water, and the nearby terrain features will look just like palm trees, camels, etc, because you desesperately want them to be there.

3-Survival instinct. You want to live. But if you just stay at one place you're gonna surely die. You gotta get moving. So your subconscious creates an illusion of an oasis just in front of you to make you keep moving forward and hopefully reach a real oasis.

I was using djinns as an example to make my point but as I've said above I'll leave the argument at that.

#2 is true, #3 is partly true (subconscious doesn't create detailed hallucinations unless the person is mentally ill) and #1 is only true to the point of being a precursor to #2. A person in perfectly good physiological state makes errors in perception just as much as a very hungry and thirsty person (if you want I'll provide links to research on eyewitness testimony and its unreliability... in fact my former social psych prof was doing research like this when I was taking his class). It's more likely the illusion of seeing "water" from rising hot air causes the person's imagination to draw what they want to see.

Joran
2008-06-30, 09:12 PM
It's been pointed out before, but it bears repeating: isn't it funny that, in a thread about misconceptions, pretty much every viewpoint presented is immediately disputed? Makes you think that Hollywood doesn't need to get it right because no one is actually going to know the difference... regardless of whether or not they think they do.

Well, I think one of the largest misconceptions so far debunked by the thread is that the medieval age was the same throughout the world ;)

In that case, many places will contradict each other about what medieval life was actually like.

Renrik
2008-07-01, 12:24 AM
I've got one.

Swords.

What is with the obsession peoplehave with swords? They eren't really a widely used battle weaponfor the standard medeival soldier. The sword is a short-ranged and often clumsy weapon. European straight swords are, if adequate, less than absolutely desirable cutting tools, and the sword is simply not the type of weapon one wants in a heavy combat situation. It is preferable by far to be equipped with something that provides more reach, like a spear, or more power, such as an axe. Indeed, most 'medeival' infantry would have found themselves equipped with spears. Many also would have found themselves having axes. Few would find theselves equipped with swords.

Uniforms and armor. I'm sick of seeing foot soldiers in the King's uniforms, sporting chainmail. Those would be dismounted men at arms, maybe, but NOT the main soldiery of the army. Peasant levies generally did not get to have good armor and nice uniforms.

nagora
2008-07-01, 06:36 AM
Surprsingly, the wikipedia article on Flat Earth has this to say (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth) about sailors and the theory:



Note however, that this has been a source of contraversy as indicated by a lengthy discussion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Flat_Earth#misconception.3F) on the article's discussion page:
That was a nice demonstration as to why WP is useless. The Greeks knew not only that the world was round but what the radius it was to a good degree of accuracy. The reason the Greeks spotted the issue was because they were very big on sailing. Any sailor who doesn't notice that things come up over the horizon instead of fading in from the distance already sitting on it is not spending much time on watch.

My personal bugbear is the "short age" thing. Even the Bible, which is considerably older than the middle ages, expects 70 years of life. The problem is that child-mortality rates drag the average down. Go to any old graveyard in England and you can see plenty of rutal people in the C16th or C17th who lived to 60, 70, and 80 in medical and hygenic conditions not dissimilar to what their ancestors lived through.

A 40-year-old man was not regarded as some sort of "village elder" in, say, C12th Lincolnshire.

hamishspence
2008-07-01, 07:14 AM
"Greek philosophers knew" is not quite the same thing as "the Greeks knew" And their knowledge evolved a bit, from world as cylinder to world as sphere, size fairly accurate.

nagora
2008-07-01, 07:19 AM
"Greek philosophers knew" is not quite the same thing as "the Greeks knew"
Nitpicking. If I said that "we know today that the speed of light is 186282.4 miles per second", would you complain because 99% of people know no such thing?

hamishspence
2008-07-01, 07:32 AM
Yes, but we wouldn't expect average citizens to know it, and the other things that follow on from it. On the other hand, the info might be present, and the scientists extrapolate from the info, but not sure if the extrapolation would filter back.

E.g. Sailors might be expected to know that masts of a ship, peaks of mountains, etc appear before ships/land does. But they might not be expected to know why. They might believe it has to do with warm air haze, in the same way as in hot country everything close to the ground gets blurred.

And the experiments are mostly late Greece:
610-546 BC: Anaximander, cylinder,
384-322BC: Aristotle, Sphere,
270BC: Aristarchus: Sun bigger than Earth, Moon smaller,
240BC: Erastosthenes: first good estimate of circumference.

Not 1200BC, bronze age Greece.

nagora
2008-07-01, 07:42 AM
E.g. Sailors might be expected to know that masts of a ship, peaks of mountains, etc appear before ships/land does. But they might not be expected to know why. They might believe it has to do with warm air haze, in the same way as in hot country everything close to the ground gets blurred.
Bearing in mind that sailors all know that you can see further "over the horizon" by climbing the mast even while the ship and the target are static, I think it's a very simple inference that the sea in between is curved. Certainly, it's not particularly radical, IMO. I doubt that they cared "why" any more than they cared why water is transparent. It just is.

Ancient people were not so stupid as to deny their daily environment or senses just because of a lack of physical theory to support their observations.

hamishspence
2008-07-01, 07:51 AM
According to my astronomy textbook, first theory was cylindrical earth, not spherical, and based on the stars rising further above the horizon the further you go south, and only later was it expanded to spherical earth.

What evidence is there that early period Greek sailors on the Mediterranean did large scale extrapolations? remember the "father of astronomy" Anaximander believed in a cylindrical Earth.

Oslecamo
2008-07-01, 07:59 AM
Ancient people were not so stupid as to deny their daily environment or senses just because of a lack of physical theory to support their observations.

Oh, believe me, they were... There are ancient greek medicine books wich wrongly state the number of teeths on a human being.

Also, my favorite case. Ancient greeks believed that if you throw a projectile, it flies into a straight line untill it runs out of energy and then sudenly falls to the ground in a perfectly vertical trajectory...

Wait, WTF? Were they blind? Is that hard to go out there and look at someone throw rocks/arrows to see how wrong this is?

Luckily, archers and later canon crews quickly realized this was nonsense and that projectiles will fly into an arc, thus shooting upwards would maximize their range.

But still, people kept copying the wrong book theory just because the ancient greeks had wrote it, and to claim that the ancient greek genious may be wrong was borderline blasphemy.

There's even an ancient story of how Pitagoras ordered the death of one of his disciples because Pitagoras claimed that he could represent any number by the fraction of two entire numbers, and the disciple then asked what fraction could represent the squareroot of 2(the diagonal of a square with a side of one). Mind you, squareroot of two is an irational number, wich means you can't represent it by a fraction between two entire numbers, but still Pitagoras prefered to silence the matter instead of further trying to investigate it, because it would screw his personal vision of Mathematics.

Maxymiuk
2008-07-01, 09:17 AM
Well, I think one of the largest misconceptions so far debunked by the thread is that the medieval age was the same throughout the world ;)

In that case, many places will contradict each other about what medieval life was actually like.


Of course. The Europe of yesteryear wasn't some amorphous blob of peasants and nobles living in harmony. You had England and France hating each other because of succession rights. You had Spanish occasionally having a spat with the Muslim. Germany was a bunch of principalities rather than a proper country. Poland didn't exist until the biggest local though guy beat up all the other tough guys and converted to Christianity. Russia was far away, big and Orthodox. Nobody cared about Austria until it became Prussia's little brother. The Ottoman Empire and the Mongols were raiding up and down Eastern and Central Europe. There was interbreeding, inbreeding, alliances, kingdoms being unified, absorbed, conquered, and won back. Guilds rose alongside cities, fighting for independence from nobility, then lost power as cities continued to grow, demanding a less secretive, more efficient industrial base. The concepts of national identity and patriotism were developed rediscovered, aided by reestablishing European trade routes.

Things changed. In different ways in different places. People changed. Cultures changed. Ideas changed. It took longer than it takes today - there was no internet, no TV, not even newspapers (coincidentally, it's scary the way our current - i.e. Western - culture seems to be heading towards a neo-Medievalism, but that's neither here nor there) and information took a long time to get anywhere, but change they did.

/rant


To bring this somewhat back on topic, I dislike the misconception that all of Medieval Europe looked like the English countryside. There are more biomes than rain-soaked rolling hills, people. :smalltongue:

Prophaniti
2008-07-01, 11:25 AM
I've got one.

Swords.

What is with the obsession peoplehave with swords? They eren't really a widely used battle weaponfor the standard medeival soldier. The sword is a short-ranged and often clumsy weapon. *snipped for comment below* It is preferable by far to be equipped with something that provides more reach, like a spear, or more power, such as an axe. Indeed, most 'medeival' infantry would have found themselves equipped with spears. Many also would have found themselves having axes. Few would find theselves equipped with swords.

Swords have already been touched on, but I'll reiterate. Swords have always been the weapon of the elite, historically speaking. They are, in fact, extremely effective weapons in the hands of someone who knows what he's doing. It is true that they are short-ranged, and they were (with exceptions) largely regarded as a fall-back weapon, when in situations where a spear or lance is impractical, but they were still revered and coveted for many reasons. A big one is that they're more expensive and harder to make. More expensive = better, you see this mentality everywhere, even today. There's no reason to doubt people still had it in the past.

It is very true that few on a medieval battlefield would be wielding swords, but this is mostly a matter of the cost and training required to field an effective swordsman, compared to the cost and training of a spearman.


European straight swords are, if adequate, less than absolutely desirable cutting tools, and the sword is simply not the type of weapon one wants in a heavy combat situation.
Calling a sword, any sword, a cutting tool denotes a basic misunderstanding of the many varied and effective uses of a sword in combat. Those who use their swords as 'cutting tools' are pretty likely to be killed by those who know what they're doing. European swords were often not very sharp simply because there was no point. One strike on a target with chain or plate and there goes your perfect edge. A blade does not need to be razor sharp to cut, especially in a fight. Or are you one of those people who believe that european swords are stupid and the only good sword is a Katana?

Uniforms and armor. I'm sick of seeing foot soldiers in the King's uniforms, sporting chainmail. Those would be dismounted men at arms, maybe, but NOT the main soldiery of the army. Peasant levies generally did not get to have good armor and nice uniforms.
This is a pretty good point. Though it would vary a lot depending on who's fielding the army and how much funding they have. Many armies fielded by the stronger kingdoms and empires had matching uniforms for everyone. It's kind of a bragging point and a status symbol when you can field your whole army in uniform. It also helped a lot with morale and telling sides in the heat of battle. The value of a uniform has been well recognized by generals and strategists for a really long time. Yet large armies have fought without true uniforms for just as long, and still do today.

Renrik
2008-07-01, 12:36 PM
Swords have already been touched on, but I'll reiterate. Swords have always been the weapon of the elite, historically speaking. They are, in fact, extremely effective weapons in the hands of someone who knows what he's doing. It is true that they are short-ranged, and they were (with exceptions) largely regarded as a fall-back weapon, when in situations where a spear or lance is impractical, but they were still revered and coveted for many reasons. A big one is that they're more expensive and harder to make. More expensive = better, you see this mentality everywhere, even today. There's no reason to doubt people still had it in the past.

It is very true that few on a medieval battlefield would be wielding swords, but this is mostly a matter of the cost and training required to field an effective swordsman, compared to the cost and training of a spearman.


Calling a sword, any sword, a cutting tool denotes a basic misunderstanding of the many varied and effective uses of a sword in combat. Those who use their swords as 'cutting tools' are pretty likely to be killed by those who know what they're doing. European swords were often not very sharp simply because there was no point. One strike on a target with chain or plate and there goes your perfect edge. A blade does not need to be razor sharp to cut, especially in a fight. Or are you one of those people who believe that european swords are stupid and the only good sword is a Katana?


God, I hate the Japanophiles and their Katana-worship. No, I'm one of those people who thinks pretty much exactly what you just said, that swords, while effective in trained hands, are expensive and should be used as a backup weapon, and that the spear or axe is more effective.

Good point on the cutting tool thing. I was wrong. In retrospect, using a sword as a cutting edge is stupid. If you can't tell, I don't have much experience with swords, for the reasons that
a. They require training to use, and if I want to do faux medeival combat, I'll take a polearm.
b. Swords are expensive, and you can't really practice on live targets these days
c. I live in the year 2008, in the US, and have access to assault rifles and handguns, which, despite what aforementioned Japanophiles think, are, in fact, more effective than swords.

BRC
2008-07-01, 12:55 PM
This is a totally uneducated guess here, but my guess on the whole exxageration of sword use is because the nobility would use swords, proably more as status symbols than anything. Ergo, all the important people in medival paintings would usually have swords. Also, those paintings were commissioned by people who wanted to glorify the winners, so they would have them riding at the front of a group of well-armored, orderly, smiling Swordsmen in clean uniforms. In reality they were proably foul smelling peasant conscrips moving in more or less a mob, tripping over each other, weilding spears and armored with thich clothing, or if they were lucky, leather.

nagora
2008-07-01, 01:18 PM
Oh, believe me, they were... There are ancient greek medicine books wich wrongly state the number of teeths on a human being.
Not many people see all their teeth every day.


Also, my favorite case. Ancient greeks believed that if you throw a projectile, it flies into a straight line untill it runs out of energy and then sudenly falls to the ground in a perfectly vertical trajectory...

Wait, WTF? Were they blind? Is that hard to go out there and look at someone throw rocks/arrows to see how wrong this is?

There is some evidence that this has grown from a misunderstanding of old diagrams which were trying to come up with a theory of why a thrown body ended up where it did without making any attempt to describe the trajectory itself. Basically the greeks were trying to tie the 45 degree angle of fire into the whole "diagonal of a square/sqrt(2)" thing. Later people copied or mistranslated the originals, or so I've heard.

Dervag
2008-07-01, 01:47 PM
Back to sailors: What evidence do they have that Earth is round? I'm not calling sailors stupid or ignorant. I'm saying that they have 1 FACT TO GO ON. Yes, some may deduce it. But the idea is never going to find enough support.Actually, they have several other sources of information. For example, sailors are quite likely to discover the same fact that tipped of Eratosthenes to the shape of the Earth: the sun is higher in the sky on a given day when you're closer to the equator (at southern latitudes). Sailors, even medieval sailors, have ready access to people who know at least something about celestial navigation; and you can't know much of anything about celestial navigation without deducing that the Earth is round. That's another whole list of points.

Likewise, sailors are often in a good position to observe the way that sunlight lingers on high objects (such as hills and mountains close to shore) longer than on low objects- closely related to the fact that you can see those objects from farther away.

The tall bits of things being visible when the bottom bits are not is so obvious and important to sailors, something that comes up all the time, that they're not going to shrug it off. They're going to be very used to knowing another ship approaches by spotting its sails first, for instance.


But suppose you're a sailor and your shipmate comes up to you:

"Hey, dude (or whatever the appropriate equivalent of dude is), I think I figured out why we see first the masts and only then ships. It's because Earth is round and when we see something tall far away, the roundness is hiding the bottom part when we see the top part." Everything else you know about Earth tells you that it's flat.Not really. What everything else I know tells me is that I don't have to walk uphill to, say, stay ten feet above sea level following the contour of a beach. I know that there is no known edge to the world.

This notion of "flat earth" was not so axiomatic in the Middle Ages as you seem to think. If you asked a person who had reason to know, they would say "the Earth is round." If you asked someone who didn't know, they had no reason to make up tales about the Earth being flat.

Your argument seems to be that because the Earth isn't obviously mounded up around the feet of a given observer, that any 'normal' person would assume that it must be flat, perfectly flat, stretching out either to the edge of the universe or to some sort of 'edge' in space.

And yet this is not obviously smarter or better from a common sense standpoint. There was no medieval authority to encourage people to believe this.

Unless you can present some primary sources (actual accounts of real people who, at the time, thought the world was flat or who knew lots of people who did), I don't think your argument is very compelling. It relies too heavily on "common sense" reaching a predetermined conclusion that favors your argument. In fact, usually when you leave a large group to come up with answers to questions using "common sense," they come up with lots of wildly different answers- remember the Vikings, who thought the Earth was shaped like a bowl with the oceans in the middle!


PS: it takes a lot of direct evidence to convince people of something that goes against common belief. Evidence like sailing west and coming back from the west all the time going in one direction.The question is:
1)Was "the Earth is flat" actually a common belief, or was it simply a vague notion that people would cheerfully accept correction by evidence on? I mean, even in the Middle Ages there were lots of subjects where an uninformed person's opinion was likely to be wrong, and everyone would be aware of this.
2)If "the Earth is flat" was in fact a common belief, why do you think it would have been such a common belief among sailors, one of the groups most likely to notice and care about the evidence against the Earth being flat?


PPS: even now modern science can't explain mirages very well. It just talks about hot air rising up. It's true, it does make it look SLIGHTLY like water. Yet people report seeing actual oases with palms, camels, water, fig trees. Wouldn't seeing a parallel world that really does have an oasis in there or a djinn messing with your head be a better explanation?No, there's totally an explanation.

It's not hot air rising up. It's that light travels faster in hotter (and therefore less dense) air. Light moving from a 'slow' medium to a 'fast' medium bends; I can show you the math if I have to. This is a well documented fact and I know several ways to prove it easily.

In deserts, air forms layers at very different temperatures. This creates lensing effects- light traveling away from a distant oasis gets bent back down to the ground at your location even though it's too far away to be in direct line of sight.

The reason this can kill is that you lose sight of the mirage once you get out of the region the 'lens' of air is bending the light into. So you end up running around in circles chasing after distant objects that aren't there.

Incidentally, it is also a well-documented fact that people who are very hungry or thirsty can experience full-blown hallucinations that have nothing to do with reality, again for reasons we understand fairly well.:smallwink:


E.g. Sailors might be expected to know that masts of a ship, peaks of mountains, etc appear before ships/land does. But they might not be expected to know why. They might believe it has to do with warm air haze, in the same way as in hot country everything close to the ground gets blurred.They might. But the Earth being round is by no means an implausible explanation. If you sit someone down to consider why high stuff appears first, the answer "there's a bulge of ground between us" is fairly obvious. If it happens over water, then "the world is round" is a perfectly plausible answer. People would think of it. Maybe there'd be disagreements, but it wouldn't be an unknown idea. And since there are other sources of evidence for the Earth being round, the informed opinion (it's round) would tend to win among groups for whom this is, you know, really important.


And the experiments are mostly late Greece:
610-546 BC: Anaximander, cylinder,
384-322BC: Aristotle, Sphere,
270BC: Aristarchus: Sun bigger than Earth, Moon smaller,
240BC: Erastosthenes: first good estimate of circumference.

Not 1200BC, bronze age Greece.Yes, it was the classical Greeks who nailed down the shape of the Earth properly. However, this does not mean that every ancient Greek thought the world was flat- only that there was no conclusive opinion. Since whatever the Earth was shaped like, the Mediterranean (the world known to the Mycenaeans) was clearly a big body of water surrounded by land, it's understandable that people wouldn't get too worked up about it.

But if you want to sail the Atlantic, or to be really good at sailing the Mediterranean, you need to know these things. The classical Greeks did. It's quite likely that some of their peers in other civilizations had figured it out too; it's just that a lot of ancient cultures did not share the classical Greeks' deep seated impulse to publish.


Oh, believe me, they were... There are ancient greek medicine books wich wrongly state the number of teeths on a human being.

Also, my favorite case. Ancient greeks believed that if you throw a projectile, it flies into a straight line untill it runs out of energy and then sudenly falls to the ground in a perfectly vertical trajectory...

Wait, WTF? Were they blind? Is that hard to go out there and look at someone throw rocks/arrows to see how wrong this is?I think you're mistaking "Aristotle believed" for "the Ancient Greeks believed."

There are several problems with that. One is that we don't have a complete record of the beliefs of ancient philosophers. It may very well be that somebody ran around Athens circa 340 BC demonstrating that Aristotle was an idiot by throwing rocks all over the place. Doesn't mean we'd know about it. Ditto with the tooth-counting thing. Especially the tooth thing. Most people in that era would not have all their teeth; trying to count them would be difficult (especially if no one would agree to let you stick your hand in their mouth).

Another is that it's quite possible that Aristotle, personally, wasn't good about doing experiments even though many of his peers would do them. So when he said "objects have impetus, when the impetus runs out they fall to the ground," he didn't personally go out and check by throwing a rock. But someone else might well say "I don't think he entirely gets this 'impetus' thing."


Luckily, archers and later canon crews quickly realized this was nonsense and that projectiles will fly into an arc, thus shooting upwards would maximize their range.

But still, people kept copying the wrong book theory just because the ancient greeks had wrote it, and to claim that the ancient greek genious may be wrong was borderline blasphemy.Do you believe this was unknown before the time of Aristotle? Archery had been around for millenia; throwing stones had been around since the time of cavemen. Anyone who actually threw things would know they described an arc. The only people who would talk about 'impetus' causing things to fly in a straight line until they crashed to the ground were philosophers who were more interested in coming up with a philosophically appealing set of first principles than with being able to hit the broad side of a barn using arrows or stones.


There's even an ancient story of how Pitagoras ordered the death of one of his disciples because Pitagoras claimed that he could represent any number by the fraction of two entire numbers, and the disciple then asked what fraction could represent the squareroot of 2(the diagonal of a square with a side of one). Mind you, squareroot of two is an irational number, wich means you can't represent it by a fraction between two entire numbers, but still Pitagoras prefered to silence the matter instead of further trying to investigate it, because it would screw his personal vision of Mathematics.So how did it come to be that the Pythagoreans (check spelling) are associated with the proof?

kamikasei
2008-07-01, 02:01 PM
There's even an ancient story of how Pitagoras ordered the death of one of his disciples because Pitagoras claimed that he could represent any number by the fraction of two entire numbers, and the disciple then asked what fraction could represent the squareroot of 2(the diagonal of a square with a side of one). Mind you, squareroot of two is an irational number, wich means you can't represent it by a fraction between two entire numbers, but still Pitagoras prefered to silence the matter instead of further trying to investigate it, because it would screw his personal vision of Mathematics.

Who knows how likely that story is to be true? More plausible, though still possibly apocryphal, is the version I've heard that the Pythagoreans (not Pythagoras himself) killed one member for telling outsiders about irrational numbers because they were number-cultists and this was blasphemously revealing a holy mystery to the unworthy.

Prophaniti
2008-07-01, 08:58 PM
I've heard that version myself, and I love it. "You told them about 0?!" "I - I wasn't thinking. Forgive me, brother!" *stab* "Never!"

Though, actually, zero itself is a mathematical concept with quite the fascinating history.

Oslecamo
2008-07-02, 07:01 AM
Another is that it's quite possible that Aristotle, personally, wasn't good about doing experiments even though many of his peers would do them. So when he said "objects have impetus, when the impetus runs out they fall to the ground," he didn't personally go out and check by throwing a rock. But someone else might well say "I don't think he entirely gets this 'impetus' thing."

Do you believe this was unknown before the time of Aristotle? Archery had been around for millenia; throwing stones had been around since the time of cavemen. Anyone who actually threw things would know they described an arc. The only people who would talk about 'impetus' causing things to fly in a straight line until they crashed to the ground were philosophers who were more interested in coming up with a philosophically appealing set of first principles than with being able to hit the broad side of a barn using arrows or stones.

Yes, basic projectile theory has been around for as much time as people started throwing stones, spears and arrows at things. Wich makes Aristotle statement that much more absurd. How hard can it be to ask someone to shoot arrows up and observe them? And we're not talking about Joe farmer here, we're talking about one of the great greek genious.

It would be the same thing as Einstein stating that the earth is flat.



So how did it come to be that the Pythagoreans (check spelling) are associated with the proof?


Like they said above, they discovered it, tried to keep it secret since it went against their beliefs and somone opened his big mouth.

As for the whole sword matter, well, in the right hands, a sword is a very dangerous weapon. Also, a spear works really bad in close combat. And it breacks easier.

Ancient heros would go inside cramped dungeons where there really wasn't space to swing a spear around, so the big bad cave monster would end up killed with a sword.

Also, when two leaders ended clashing in the middle of battle, the spear would probably be already broken and it would be close combat, so the climatic battle would occur with swords.

And...They're shiny?

As a final note, nobody wonders why fantasy katanas can easily parry bullets, but have trouble parrying other katans?:smalltongue:

Vaire
2008-07-02, 08:04 AM
As a final note, nobody wonders why fantasy katanas can easily parry bullets, but have trouble parrying other katans?:smalltongue:

I think that falls into the same category as the whole scenario of ninjas in a group being easy to defeat, but one ninja alone is nigh invincible.

Dervag
2008-07-02, 09:43 AM
Yes, basic projectile theory has been around for as much time as people started throwing stones, spears and arrows at things. Wich makes Aristotle statement that much more absurd. How hard can it be to ask someone to shoot arrows up and observe them? And we're not talking about Joe farmer here, we're talking about one of the great greek genious.I don't think you understand what Aristotle was trying to do.

Aristotle wasn't trying to construct something like what we now think of as "physics." This came as a surprise to me, too, when I first read Aristotle's essay "Physics." But he was really much more interested in analyzing the causes of events in a philosophical sense than in a scientific sense. Therefore, it would have been a pointless waste of time from his perspective to devise complicated experiments to test the predictions of his theory, because his theory wasn't intended as a system for making predictions about events in the physical world.

Aristotle was more interested in the question "Why are there trees?" than in the question "How do trees work?" If you told him his answer to the first question was wrong because it didn't provide a satisfactory answer to the second, he would think you were a nitpicking sophist.

Also, as others have pointed out, there is very little in the works of Aristotle to suggest that he believed what you claim he believed- that objects fly in straight lines then plummet to the ground like cartoon physics. It's very likely that this result came from a screwy translation in the era when Aristotle's work really was considered sacred by someone. As in, not in classical Greece.


Like they said above, they discovered it, tried to keep it secret since it went against their beliefs and somone opened his big mouth.I don't think so. More likely they discovered it and kept it a secret because numbers were part of their religion. This is another aspect of ancient culture that you may not be familiar with. To the ancients, many things we would think of as morally neutral knowledge were sacred mysteries- things you had to earn your right to know by proving your loyalty to the group that understood them. The Pythagoreans thought exactly this way about mathematics. And so killing someone who spilled the cult's sacred mysteries to the public doesn't necessarily mean that the thing being spilled was something they were trying to hush up because it contradicted their beliefs. After all, the beliefs themselves were just as much a secret as the thing you claim contradicted those beliefs.


As for the whole sword matter, well, in the right hands, a sword is a very dangerous weapon. Also, a spear works really bad in close combat. And it breacks easier.

Ancient heros would go inside cramped dungeons where there really wasn't space to swing a spear around, so the big bad cave monster would end up killed with a sword.Few problems with that.

Spears do break, but not easily when used well. You're in more danger of getting the spear irrevocably stuck in something than of breaking it, and both dangers get less when you're well trained. Also, swords break too; you have to parry with the flat of the blade and that's the ideal motion for breaking a long thin piece of steel or iron.

As for ancient heroes, they didn't spend a lot of time in dungeons. Underground living was not a big part of the ancient world, because without explosives and steam power it is a horrific amount of work to go down into a cave and dig out large amounts of stone by hand.

If you did happen to go after a big fierce animal, you didn't do it in a cave. Caves minimize a human's strengths- endurance and ranged attack. We evolved to hunt prey by either chasing it until it fell over dead from exhaustion, or by pelting it with rocks and javelins. In hand to hand combat, a human is far inferior to most large animals such as bears or lions- mostly because we just don't have the damage resistance of those larger and more heavily built animals. So going hunting after a bear in a cave with a sword would be suicidal compared to, say, rounding up a squad of archers and riddling it with arrows when it comes out to drink.

Finally, if you did fight a big fierce animal hand to hand, you'd do it with a spear. Most animals are reluctant to impale themselves on sharp points, which means that you can fend off an animal with a spear fairly well. This is why, for instance, boar hunting is traditionally done with spears and not swords.

kamikasei
2008-07-02, 10:03 AM
I don't think so. More likely they discovered it and kept it a secret because numbers were part of their religion. This is another aspect of ancient culture that you may not be familiar with. To the ancients, many things we would think of as morally neutral knowledge were sacred mysteries- things you had to earn your right to know by proving your loyalty to the group that understood them. The Pythagoreans thought exactly this way about mathematics. And so killing someone who spilled the cult's sacred mysteries to the public doesn't necessarily mean that the thing being spilled was something they were trying to hush up because it contradicted their beliefs. After all, the beliefs themselves were just as much a secret as the thing you claim contradicted those beliefs.

Yup, this is the version of the story I was referencing. I think I have the book it's from at home - I'll see if I can dig it out and provide a proper citation. I do recall it making that point specifically that the Pythagoreans were very much unlike modern mathematicians or scientists, that their goal was to find things out and then hide the knowledge so that only they could possess it.

Lorn
2008-07-02, 10:17 AM
Finally, if you did fight a big fierce animal hand to hand, you'd do it with a spear. Most animals are reluctant to impale themselves on sharp points, which means that you can fend off an animal with a spear fairly well. This is why, for instance, boar hunting is traditionally done with spears and not swords.
Actually, I think you'll find that this is because a boar is a very heavy, extremely unfriendly, extremely tough, pig with teeth/tusks that it will quite happily use to kill someone.

Boarhunting is done with spears for many reasons.

-It means that the boar is a long way away from you.
-It means you can dodge out of the way more easily then stick it in the side.
-It does NOT involve waiting for the boar to run UP TO you then hitting it.
-Much more power in a spear thrust than in a sword swing - a spear thrust is the weight of the spear + arm strength concentrated into one tiny area, which should pierce a boars skin. A sword, meanwhile, is a slashing weapon more than anything else, and thus is not focussed into such a tiny area - and is considerably less likely to take the boar down in one hit.

There was actually a special kind of spear developed by the Saxons to take boars down. It essentially had a crosspiece just below the spear blade - still on the head, but below the sharp bit. This would stop the boar physically running up the spear and goring you.

It's not a case of fending it off. It's a case of killing it ASAP, otherwise you're sunk and you have a 200-400lb pig with a serious temper problem and, did I mention, TEETH, very close to you and very angry with you. Not a nice situation to be in...

Seriously - anyone attacking a boar with a sword is going to die. It's just horribly impractical; you have to let something that comes up to or past your waist, is vastly heavier than you, is much stronger than you, and will NOT stop if it's running at something until that something is out of the way run at you, then you have to hit it with a sword. Not happening, spears are MUCH more practical due to the length.

Plus, let's face it, something that dangerous - you have a sword, you have money to hire someone else to take it down.

Oslecamo
2008-07-02, 11:12 AM
Few problems with that.

Spears do break, but not easily when used well. You're in more danger of getting the spear irrevocably stuck in something than of breaking it, and both dangers get less when you're well trained. Also, swords break too; you have to parry with the flat of the blade and that's the ideal motion for breaking a long thin piece of steel or iron.

As for ancient heroes, they didn't spend a lot of time in dungeons. Underground living was not a big part of the ancient world, because without explosives and steam power it is a horrific amount of work to go down into a cave and dig out large amounts of stone by hand.

That's because the caves were normally built by gods. "A wizard did it". The medusa, the minotaur, and many other ancient monsters lived in closed spaces built by some divine force.

Also, many times the heros had to go "ninja" and scale walls or crawl to infiltrate some place. In this case the spear is really hard to carry, but the sword not. Swords could also be concealed easier.



If you did happen to go after a big fierce animal, you didn't do it in a cave. Caves minimize a human's strengths- endurance and ranged attack. We evolved to hunt prey by either chasing it until it fell over dead from exhaustion, or by pelting it with rocks and javelins. In hand to hand combat, a human is far inferior to most large animals such as bears or lions- mostly because we just don't have the damage resistance of those larger and more heavily built animals. So going hunting after a bear in a cave with a sword would be suicidal compared to, say, rounding up a squad of archers and riddling it with arrows when it comes out to drink.


That's if you were hunting a real world fierce animal. I was talking about mythical monsters of stories. Of course that to attack an unarmored target like a big animal ranged weapons were much better than melee weapons.

But, in legends, ranged combat is for sissies and cowards. The hero won't hide in ambush in some high place with a bow and wait for the enemy to come out and pepper him with arrows. He's gonna charge at him with some melee weapon and slay it in close combat.

And even today, for some reason, close combat is considered more manly/heroic/brave/cool than ranged combat. Look at modern fantasy. Even in sci-fi, it doesn't matter that you have disintregator guns, people will still fight in melee combat. A lot.

The sword was a symbol status. Anybody had a spear. If you had a sword, you were somebody. Rich. Powerfull. Cool. Looks matter. Simply carrying a sword would send a message to any possible oponents:"don't mess with me if you don't wanna get hurt". Ok, against an animal, it really doesn't help much, but against other humans the simple image of the sword can work wonders.

Just like people think giant humanoid robots are cool, altough there is no pratical sense in building giant humanoid robots.

Flakey
2008-07-02, 11:26 AM
Indeed the version of the Columbus story I've heard (though I can't provide a citation, I offer it only as an example of why "they thought the world was flat" is not the only or most obvious conclusion) is that Columbus was flat-out wrong and his critics were exactly right: both knew the world was round, but Columbus used faulty calculations that had it smaller than it really is, and thought he could sail west from Europe to Asia, whereas his critics had the right size of the Earth and, neither party knowing of the existence of America, rightly pointed out that he couldn't possibly traverse more ocean than the Atlantic and Pacific put together.

An interesting side note to this is not only did Columbus vastly under estimated the size of the world, is that he did know of Newfoundland. Still only a theory, but it been revealed in recent historical searches that Bristol cod fishermen were already fishing the Newfoundland cod banks at the time of Columbus, and trying to keep it quiet, after just recently been pushed out of the Iceland cod areas.

The theory going that he sailed due west to try to sail under Newfoundland, Not realising it was just the northern part of the whole Americas, when the at the time the quickest way to sail to west to Asia, without the knowledge of the Americas, would have been to sail north up to the edge of the ice pack, and then west, until you decide to drop back down south.

Dervag
2008-07-03, 01:09 PM
Actually, I think you'll find that this is because a boar is a very heavy, extremely unfriendly, extremely tough, pig with teeth/tusks that it will quite happily use to kill someone.

Boarhunting is done with spears for many reasons.

-It means that the boar is a long way away from you.
-It means you can dodge out of the way more easily then stick it in the side.
-It does NOT involve waiting for the boar to run UP TO you then hitting it.
-Much more power in a spear thrust than in a sword swing - a spear thrust is the weight of the spear + arm strength concentrated into one tiny area, which should pierce a boars skin. A sword, meanwhile, is a slashing weapon more than anything else, and thus is not focussed into such a tiny area - and is considerably less likely to take the boar down in one hit.I feel that all this works to support my argument, rather than oppose it. All the advantages you list of spears over swords in boar hunting apply equally well to fighting bears, lions, or other big fierce animals.

I may have oversimplified or misrepresented the evidence; I was writing in a bit of a rush. But my basic point is that, for the excellent and compelling reasons you list, spears make better hunting weapons than swords. Swords were developed as weapons for combat between men, which is why we don't see Neolithic attempts to make sword-like weapons except in the Americas, where there were large civilizations fighting each other- and therefore a need for weapons good against other men.

In a fight between two men, a sword may well have advantages over a spear. I don't know. But in a hunt, it almost certainly will not.


It's not a case of fending it off. It's a case of killing it ASAP, otherwise you're sunk and you have a 200-400lb pig with a serious temper problem and, did I mention, TEETH, very close to you and very angry with you. Not a nice situation to be in...Yes, I misspoke. What I meant is that you can stab the beast from far away with your spear. Or, if it is at all cautious, fend it off briefly while your buddy circles around and spears it between the ribs. Swords are no good for either of these things, as you say.

I think we agree with each other on this quite closely; it's just that I did not do an adequate job of representing my reasons for preferring spears to swords as hunting weapons.


That's because the caves were normally built by gods. "A wizard did it". The medusa, the minotaur, and many other ancient monsters lived in closed spaces built by some divine force.

Also, many times the heros had to go "ninja" and scale walls or crawl to infiltrate some place. In this case the spear is really hard to carry, but the sword not. Swords could also be concealed easier.OK. I was under the misunderstanding that you were talking about the real world, and not about mythical events in stories.

If we want to understand why swords are such a popular image, I think we need to look at the real world and not the world of myths. After all, if swords had been useless in real life, it's hardly likely that people would keep featuring them in legends for thousands of years.


But, in legends, ranged combat is for sissies and cowards. The hero won't hide in ambush in some high place with a bow and wait for the enemy to come out and pepper him with arrows. He's gonna charge at him with some melee weapon and slay it in close combat.That depends on the culture. In Hindu mythology, some of the greatest heroes are archers. In ancient non-Greek culture, likewise.

The Greeks were more ambivalent about archery. For example, reading the Iliad you realize that Homer was talking to people who respected archery, but despised archers. In other words, it was fine for a Homeric hero (like Odysseus, or Ajax the lesser) to have a bow, and even to be a great archer. What was not OK was shunning a hand to hand fight because you'd rather shoot arrows. If you were fighting enemies who hadn't closed with you yet, or if your enemy was at the bottom of a wall and you were on top, or if you were hunting, it was totally fine to shoot arrows- but your preferred tactic was supposed to be hand to hand.

Although throwing weapons was totally OK. It amused me greatly, when I read the Iliad, to realize how many Homeric deaths involved someone getting a rock chucked at them.

The Romans adopted Greek myths, and added their own- but the Romans weren't an archery culture, so they didn't promote it either. However, mastering the bow was by no means a dishonorable or irrelevant martial skill in Greco-Roman or medieval culture- it's just that if all you had was a bow you were low classed.

Storm Bringer
2008-07-03, 03:18 PM
Stuff on Columbus

Now, here is something i've been told by a reasonably reliable scource (my old history teacher, on a syllabus subject), but not seen first hand evidence about it:

basically, the europeans (scatch that. some europeans) of the knew that, in theory at least, that it was possible to go around africa and arrive at the Indain ocean. Now, what i was told was that one of the reasons Columbus went for a western approach was that he belived that the Cape of Good Hope was much futher south than it actuallly is, on the order of being in the antarctic circle. I was also told that this was a semi-deliberate piece of sabotage by a rival explorer who intended to send him an a false trail and then claim glory by getting to china first.

has anyone else heard anything about this? or was this just total bull****?


on the flat earth arguement: I think we may be asking the wrong question about this. the question is not 'did the average european person consider that the earth was round or flat' , but 'did the average european person consider the shape of the Earth at all'. personally, I would think that the average deck hand would not really have the inclination to ponder the shape of the earth. I'll agree that the the navvie on the quarterdeck would know that it was round, as he would be invloved in the sort of tasks where knowning mattered (ie trying to navigate over long distance on a sherical object). But the average deck hand didn't need to know, and so likey didn't.

and, to be honest, to 90% of the population, the concept of the world having a shape would be a new one, in that they would never have reason to ever ponder it.

Dervag
2008-07-03, 04:23 PM
On the other hand, a lot of the deck hands would pick it up by osmosis. Even if they didn't care much, it's quite possible that they'd know.

Gavin Sage
2008-07-03, 06:53 PM
and, to be honest, to 90% of the population, the concept of the world having a shape would be a new one, in that they would never have reason to ever ponder it.

Given that most people lived and died their entire lives within a few square miles....

I'm inclined personally to agree, which would back a lack of evidence about any sort of shape. Its like asking the average person today about super-string theory, or what the signifigance of various quarks might be.

Terraoblivion
2008-07-03, 08:25 PM
But people didn't live within a few miles of where they were born in the middle ages, something that makes entirely good sense once you think about it. The amount of farms there was to work was limited and it was not like vacancies just happened as people came of age. When you then factor in the power of war, trade and fluctuations in the agricultural output of any given region it becomes obvious that people would have to travel every now and then with quite a few people making a living based on long distance trade. Danish horse breeders traveling to the Rhine valley to sell horses every summer is a prime example.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-07-03, 09:29 PM
on the flat earth arguement: I think we may be asking the wrong question about this. the question is not 'did the average european person consider that the earth was round or flat' , but 'did the average european person consider the shape of the Earth at all'. personally, I would think that the average deck hand would not really have the inclination to ponder the shape of the earth. I'll agree that the the navvie on the quarterdeck would know that it was round, as he would be invloved in the sort of tasks where knowning mattered (ie trying to navigate over long distance on a sherical object). But the average deck hand didn't need to know, and so likey didn't.

and, to be honest, to 90% of the population, the concept of the world having a shape would be a new one, in that they would never have reason to ever ponder it.
Thanks! A much better way of saying what I was trying to get at.

@Terraoblivion - you keep using rhetorics... What we're saying is that an AVERAGE person doesn't know or care about shape of the earth, and then you go and find exceptions.

Fact remains fact, that until 19th century a vast majority of world population (Europe included) remained peasants and farmers. Yes, they moved around a bit to find work, the were conscripted into armies, displaced by invasions, but they never travelled enough to actually notice anything that could hint them at the shape of the Earth (about the only thing I can think of - how high the sun is at noon, but people are more likely to take it as fact than attribute it to Earth's roundness... for example, I gave this no thought before this thread). And besides, it's much more difficult to notice that Earth is round when you're on land than at see. Even hints like seeing tips of tall buildings first are largely negated by the terrain, trees, etc. And a person rarely moves fast enough to notice the same effect with tips of mountains.

Dervag
2008-07-03, 10:48 PM
But people didn't live within a few miles of where they were born in the middle ages, something that makes entirely good sense once you think about it. The amount of farms there was to work was limited and it was not like vacancies just happened as people came of age. When you then factor in the power of war, trade and fluctuations in the agricultural output of any given region it becomes obvious that people would have to travel every now and then with quite a few people making a living based on long distance trade. Danish horse breeders traveling to the Rhine valley to sell horses every summer is a prime example.True. On the other hand, examining church records and such gives us strong indications that there were plenty of cases where a multi-generation family would have members who lived and died in the same village. Cousin Ulrich might well go off to France because he heard that a plague had cleared off some farmers; Uncle Wilhelm might be responsible for regular runs of the village's produce to a moderately distant city. But you still had quite a few people who really did live and die within a very small space by modern standards.

It's not that they never traveled; it's that a lot of them never traveled very far, and usually came home again. After all, fluctuations in crop yield may cause you to pack up and leave, but you won't want to carry your farm implements more miles than you really have to.


Fact remains fact, that until 19th century a vast majority of world population (Europe included) remained peasants and farmers. Yes, they moved around a bit to find work, the were conscripted into armies, displaced by invasions, but they never travelled enough to actually notice anything that could hint them at the shape of the Earth (about the only thing I can think of - how high the sun is at noon, but people are more likely to take it as fact than attribute it to Earth's roundness... for example, I gave this no thought before this thread). And besides, it's much more difficult to notice that Earth is round when you're on land than at see. Even hints like seeing tips of tall buildings first are largely negated by the terrain, trees, etc. And a person rarely moves fast enough to notice the same effect with tips of mountains.I don't think you understand what we're getting at.

No, the average person did not gather enough information to independently deduce that the world is round. This is still true. You, for example, could probably live your entire life blissfully certain that the Earth was shaped like a taco. As long as no one corrected you on this, you'd probably not notice. Lots of people are indeed like this. I'm not sure I could live the same way, but I'm a very strange person.
________________________

But that isn't relevant.

The point is that in the Middle Ages, people didn't have to independently discover that the Earth is round. There was no "default" belief that the Earth is flat. A flat Earth, as opposed to an Earth shaped like a bowl, a taco, or a ball, is not a uniquely 'common sense' idea. Common sense doesn't tell us that the Earth is flat, because except for very small areas, the ground isn't flat. The ground wobbles up and down with mountains and valleys and the bottom of the ocean.

If you're at all interested in the shape of the Earth- as the crews of ships would be- you can ask people who know that the Earth is round. If you're not interested, you don't develop some powerful superstition that the Earth is flat and you can fall off the edge.

So there's no reason to expect what you describe- superstitious sailors who think that if they sail out of sight of land they'll fall of the edge of the world. Sailors of that era were very brave people, and if they stuck to the coast it's because they didn't know a reliable way to find their way back to shore. Not because they were afraid of falling off the edge of the world. They had no reason to expect that to happen, as opposed to one (or two, or three) reasons to expect the world to be round.

So you could safely divide medieval peoples into three groups:

1)People who knew the world was round. This included most educated people, and anyone interested enough in the question to ask an educated person. Which wasn't all that difficult unless you lived in the middle of nowhere.

2)People who neither knew nor cared about the shape of the world. This would probably include a lot of people. But such people do not default to believing that the world is flat. They just don't know or care. If someone happens to mention that the Earth is round, they may remember that. Or they may not. But they're not going to panic at the thought of sailing off the edge of the world.

3)People who were sure the Earth had some wrong shape, such as 'flat' or 'bowl'. These guys were in the minority in Christian Europe, because anyone with a good classical education or navigation experience could prove them wrong. The only people who would strongly believe the wrong things about the shape of the Earth would be the ones who never dealt with anyone who knew better. And those people were precisely the ones who did not affect things like scholarly debates and the actions of sailing ships.

hamishspence
2008-07-04, 04:47 AM
If there was evidence that "scholarly writers" or sailors believed in a flat earth, it would refute your statement that knowledgeable medieval people did not believe.

Such evidence could take the form of documentation or artwork. Given the power of the religious establishment, religious imagery depicting a flat earth would be relavent.

Or, contraiwise, the presence of medieval globes depicting the land, or maps showing an awareness of curvature, would strongly speak otherwise.

Given that in Victorian times there was indeed an outspoken group of Flat-Earthers, with their own pseudoscientific Zideitic Astronomy, the question is, how did they come about in the first place?

Terraoblivion
2008-07-04, 01:44 PM
I wasn't even arguing about the shape of the world, Julio. I was specifically arguing against people staying put for all their lives.

Also i want to know if you actually know what rhetorics means as i would obviously use rhetorics, just like you do. It just means the way you present your argument. You cannot argue a point without using rhetorics. The question is whether they are good or bad, valid or deceptive. But since i was not arguing what you thought i was arguing i barely see the point in discussing it.

And yes people generally returned home, Dervag. Especially from the renaissance through the early 19th century when the legal tie of people and their land was legally enforced in eastern and central Europe. In fact studies of British church records indicate that over 90% of everyone in the 18th century married someone born less than half a mile from where they themselves were born. That does not mean people never left to come back, especially not in the middle ages where the few records we have indicates that the life of a peasant was more fluid than in later periods, not less. And of course this does not mean that people moved around or traveled with anywhere near the frequency people do today, all it means is that the average farmer not knowing what was over the next hill is a myth as well.

Gygaxphobia
2008-07-04, 03:45 PM
People were very well travelled, perhaps not regularly and they might return home but there is evidence from all over Europe of travel.
The wars in central Europe brought soldiers and mercenaries all over the pace, along with displaced peoples, traders and hangers on.

The Venetians and Genoese were especial in visiting and founding many settlements all around the Med, the Arabs and Persians equally famed explorers.
Also, many people spokes several languages.

The difference in the "shape of the earth" argument is this:
Today we say we know the Earth is spherical (not "round", note, which is incredibly imprecise enough to be incorrect) because science told us so.
We all have some degree of education in science, thus we believe. (How many of us actually understand the math/astronomy involved incidentally, and could reproduce the proof?)

In earlier times, very few people were swayed by science. People were swayed (as they are today) by charisma and persona. If a rich, educated man goes around saying the world is a sphere, people believed him because he was erudite. If a respected ecclesiastical man told them something else, they would respect his view.
They would go away and argue with their friends, using their stories as proof. As we do today, saying "my teacher said this", "Wikipedia told me that". How many of us know it?

R.O.A.
2008-07-04, 03:58 PM
I've been following this thread with interest, and would like to make my tiny imput!

First:
To those who are debating 'World Roundness Apprenhension';
I really wonder if ordianry people thought of the world having a 'shape' at all. After all, if you do not consider the Earth a planet, a seperate thing in rest of the universe, which contains many things, but rather see your whole universe as land, sea and sky, then there is no need for the landscape to come to and end, and be a conclusive 'shape'. It just IS.

Secondly:

Hmm, That actually makes sense. Thinking back my education on that period mostly focused on places like Florence and more specifically on artists, and the people who directly caused the changes we know as the Renissance. We learned about the backlash against them but I don't recal hearing much about how daily life changed for John Q Peasant, and it makes sense that the church would get stricter when faced with some crazy monk Rudely nailing a complaint letter to the door instead of using the suggjestion/kindling box as was the custom.

Actually, nailing your theses to the door was the usual and accepted way of publishing your ideas in those days.

Dervag
2008-07-05, 11:53 AM
all it means is that the average farmer not knowing what was over the next hill is a myth as well.I'd expect that most medievals were quite familiar with all the terrain that they could reach and get home before sunset with a safe, easy walk. Which is to say just about everything within about a five to ten mile radius of home, minus any forests that had dangerous animals such as hungry bears or bandits.


The difference in the "shape of the earth" argument is this:
Today we say we know the Earth is spherical (not "round", note, which is incredibly imprecise enough to be incorrect) because science told us so.I would say that "round" is more accurate than "spherical." The Earth is an oblate spheroid with a larger radius of curvature in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. It isn't quite a perfect sphere. But it's still round.


We all have some degree of education in science, thus we believe. (How many of us actually understand the math/astronomy involved incidentally, and could reproduce the proof?)You'd be surprised. It's not that complicated once you know what to look for.


In earlier times, very few people were swayed by science. People were swayed (as they are today) by charisma and persona. If a rich, educated man goes around saying the world is a sphere, people believed him because he was erudite. If a respected ecclesiastical man told them something else, they would respect his view.
They would go away and argue with their friends, using their stories as proof. As we do today, saying "my teacher said this", "Wikipedia told me that". How many of us know it?But respected ecclesiastical men weren't going around telling everyone the world was flat. They were going around telling everyone that the world was a ball surrounded by planets, the Sun, and the stars, all of which were set into rotating crystal spheres. In other words, their interpretation of Ptolemy's classical astronomy.

Gygaxphobia
2008-07-05, 01:04 PM
I would say that "round" is more accurate than "spherical." The Earth is an oblate spheroid with a larger radius of curvature in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. It isn't quite a perfect sphere. But it's still round.

"Round" could mean any number of things, very few of which imply spherical. Spherical doesn't mean a perfect sphere btw, it means sphere-like. So it has to be more accurate than "round" which could be interpreted to mean a disk or cylinder amongst any of other uncountable possibilities.

hamishspence
2008-07-05, 02:44 PM
A trait people have is tending to see themselves as the centre of everything. Applied to geography and astronomy, people long ago drew maps with their own country at the centre: "the navel of the world" Then, there was the view that the earth was the centre of the universe, then the sun, then the galaxy, which wasn't refuted till fairly recently.

So, its not that implausible, that there might not immediately be the leap to "our area is no different from any other area" geographically, which Sphere Earth requires. Some early maps seem to suggest this kind of thinking: that the Known World is all there is.

Dervag
2008-07-05, 07:37 PM
"Round" could mean any number of things, very few of which imply spherical. Spherical doesn't mean a perfect sphere btw, it means sphere-like. So it has to be more accurate than "round" which could be interpreted to mean a disk or cylinder amongst any of other uncountable possibilities.Are you saying that it is inaccurate to say "the world is round" or insufficiently precise? They're not the same thing. Precision and accuracy aren't the same thing.*

*I will cheerfully explain what I mean by saying this if anyone wants me to.

I would say that it is perfectly accurate to say that the world is round (it is), but that it may not be precise to do so. However, it is precise enough to satisfy the majority of people. "Spherical" is much more precise, but not perfectly accurate.

I'd rather be accurate than precise, if I have to choose. Of course, I am quite capable of describing it with both accuracy and precision (oblate spheroid with larger radius of curvature in its southern hemisphere). But that's a long, windy way of saying something that isn't very helpful. Why not just say "round?"

13_CBS
2008-07-06, 03:50 AM
This is why, for instance, boar hunting is traditionally done with spears and not swords.

Just as a side note, there IS a boar hunting sword (though it really looks like and is used more like a 1 handed spear than a sword), and IIRC Mongols sometimes hunted boars with swords to prove their courage and skill. That could have just been a legend, though.

nagora
2008-07-06, 11:38 AM
If there was evidence that "scholarly writers" or sailors believed in a flat earth, it would refute your statement that knowledgeable medieval people did not believe.

Such evidence could take the form of documentation or artwork. Given the power of the religious establishment, religious imagery depicting a flat earth would be relavent.
Religious imagery is of no help. In a period where the height of a person in a painted scene was proportional to their political/religious importance, it's too much to ask that other images be representiative.


Given that in Victorian times there was indeed an outspoken group of Flat-Earthers, with their own pseudoscientific Zideitic Astronomy, the question is, how did they come about in the first place?
I think they mostly based their arguments on the biblical allusion to "the four corners of the earth".

Dervag
2008-07-07, 02:47 AM
Just as a side note, there IS a boar hunting sword (though it really looks like and is used more like a 1 handed spear than a sword), and IIRC Mongols sometimes hunted boars with swords to prove their courage and skill. That could have just been a legend, though.Well, hunting boar with a sword is borderline suicidal idiocy. So it's exactly the sort of thing that a very rash person who happens to be good with a sword would think of doing.