Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Article: The Failed Rebellion of The Illyrian King Cleitus Against Alexander The Great


(Alexander at the Granicus, painted by Charles Le Brun (1619–1690), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In 335 BCE, Alexander the great campaigned against the hostile tribes along the Danube River in order to ensure the security of his European territory before invading the Persian Empire. Soon after enforcing peace on the Danube tribes, Alexander received troubling news—King Cleitus of Illyria, who submitted to Alexander’s father in 349 BCE, had launched a rebellion against Macedonia. Making maters worse, Cleitus was not alone; the Autariatae tribe gave its support to the Illyrian king, and Prince Glaucias of the Taulantians also raised an army to support Cleitus’ rebellion.
Around the time that Alexander received the news, he was staying with his ally, King Langaros, the ruler of the Agriania. Upon hearing of the rebellion, Langaros offered to personally invade the land of the Autariates, so that Alexander could march against Illyria without any distractions. While King Langaros ravaged the Autariatae, Alexander the Great quickly marched toward Cleitus’ headquarters at the city of Pelium. He made good time (as he usually did) and arrived at the city before Prince Glaucias was able to reinforce the town with his Taulantian troops. Even so, upon the arrival of the Macedonians, the Illyrian forces at Pelium pulled back to the safety of their city and both sides prepared for a siege.
 
Continue reading to see how Alexander the Great crushed this early rebellion against his rule, HERE.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

New Article: The Story Of Grettir And The Undead Glam—One Of The Greatest Medieval Horror Stories

("The Sea Troll" by Theodor Kittelsen  (1857–1914), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

According to the medieval Icelandic text, Grettir’s Saga, an unlucky 11th-century farmer named Thorhall had an extensive farmstead in the Vatnsdal region of northwestern Iceland. His land was called Shady Valley (Forsaeludal) and he had a very grim family—literally, his father and his son were both named Grim. As befitting a grim family living in a place called Shady Valley, Thorhall’s lands were notoriously haunted. His farmstead had such a bad reputation that Thorhall was constantly short on farmhands and herdsmen. Each year he traveled to the Althing, the governing body of Iceland, to beg for farmhands and to seek advice on how to keep his employees around for longer spans of time. Thorhall became so desperate that he sought out the wisest man on Iceland, Skapti Thoroddsson, hoping that the wiseman could find a solution to his problems.
Skapti did not know how to stop the hauntings, but he did know of a Swedish immigrant to Iceland who was hardy enough in strength and skeptical enough of spirits to thrive at Thorhall’s farm. The man Skapti had in mind was Glam, a blue-eyed, grey-haired giant of great size and strength. Glam happened to be at the Althing, so Thorhall interviewed him and determined that he would be a fine herdsman. With the interview over, they arranged for Glam to arrive at Shady Valley in October.
 
Continue reading about the spooky descent of Glam and the story of how Grettir the Strong saved the farm, HERE.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

New Biography: Peng Yue—The Ancient Chinese Swamp Bandit Who Became A King And Ended Up In A Pickle Jar

(Two terracotta soldier miniatures photographed by Historian’s Hut Staff, on top of a Public Domain image of the Terracotta Army via maxpixel.net)

Few people have had or will have as many dramatic twists and turns in their life as Peng Yue, a man who lived in China around the turn of the 3rd and 2nd century BCE. Sima Qian (r. 145-90 BCE), the author of the Records of the Grand Historian, traced the place of Peng Yue’s birth to a region called Changyi. Not much is known about his early years, but by the time Peng Yue reached adulthood, he somehow relocated to the swamps of Juye, where a small troop of bandits pressured him to be their leader. Peng Yue, however, seemed to dislike leadership at that point in his life, and he spent most of his time fishing.
In the inaugural year of the Second Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (209 BCE), a commoner named Chen She began a rebellion in Chu, prompting numerous other disgruntled men throughout China to muster their own rebel armies. Chen She managed to place himself as a hegemon, or commander-in-chief, in charge of the loosely allied rebel forces, and his coalition proved to be more than a match for the Qin army. Peng Yue was still living in a swamp with his merry band of bandits at this momentous time, and the news sent thrills of excitement through the men living in his outlaw community. Still considering Peng Yue to be their leader, the bandits (maybe 100 in number) begged their reluctant commander to join the rebel cause. Peng Yue, however, refused their offer, claiming he would rather watch and wait as the powerful dragons fought among themselves.
It took over a year before Peng Yue was convinced to turn his band of robbers into a rebel army. When his mind was made up, Peng Yue called together his followers and told them that if they wanted to be an army they needed to start acting like soldiers. First of all, he needed to know if his troops could show discipline and follow commands. So, according to Sima Qian, he told the bandits that they would have a meeting at dawn in order to discuss the rebellion. Almost as an afterthought, Peng Yue added that anyone late to the meeting would be executed.
 
Continue reading about Peng Yue's bizzare twists of fate, HERE.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New Article: The Battle For Delium In 424 BCE—Hillside Charges And Giant Flamethrowers


(Hoplite infantry on the Chigi Vase, assumed 7th century BCE, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

424 BCE was a momentous year in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE). Up until that point, the two warring factions, led by Athens and Sparta, had been trading blows for years, and Athens seemed to be gaining a strong advantage. Yet, in 424 BCE, the Spartan side was able to regain a great deal of momentum and morale. The Athenian general and historian, Thucydides (c. 460-400), attributed this shift of power to two men—the Spartan general, Brasidas, and Pagondas of Thebes, the commander-in-chief of the Boeotian League armed forces.

Continue reading about the dramatic battle of Delium in chaotic year, 242 BCE, HERE

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Biography: King Agis IV—The Post-Alexander King Of Sparta Who Wanted To Bring Sparta Back To Its Glory Days


(Lycurgus of Sparta, painted by Jacques-Louis David  (1748–1825), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

When a civilization begins to decline, those witnessing the fall start to question what went wrong. Was it abandoning traditional government, apostatizing from the ancestral religion, or was it a general degradation of morality that brought about the end? And when once-great powers find themselves without strength, they look to the past in search of the specialness that they had lost by the time of their present.

King Agis IV felt these emotions strongly. He took power in 244 or 243 BCE, allegedly at the young age of nineteen. Agis was a member of the Eurypontid line of Spartan kings, one of two co-ruling monarchies in Sparta. His co-king from the Agiad line was Leonidas II, who had been in power since 251 BCE. The two kings had vastly different visions for Sparta and their personalities were bound to clash. It was a classic sociopolitical conflict—the ongoing struggle between the revolutionary and the defender of the status quo.

Continue reading about the dramatic struggle between Agis IV and Leonidas II, HERE.