Thursday, September 27, 2018

New Biography: Árni Magnússon And His Many Chests Of Original Icelandic Manuscripts

(Image of Árni Magnússon (1663-1730), by an unknown artist, combined with the Kringlublaðið [the Kringla leaf], c. 1260, both [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)
 
In the year 1663, Árni Magnússon was born in the region of Kvennabrekka, Iceland. The occupations and status of his family would serve him well in later life—Árni’s father was a local sheriff with some political clout and his grandfather and uncle were familiar with the processes of printing and scribing. As these latter two men oversaw Árni Magnússon’s early education, their love of books evidently affected the young boy’s future interests.
After graduating from the Skálholt School in Iceland, Árni Magnússon accompanied his father on a trip to Denmark in 1683. While there, he enrolled at the University of Copenhagen and found a job as an assistant to Thomas Bartholin Jr., the Keeper of the Royal Antiquities in Denmark. This trip to Denmark was a momentous event in Árni Magnússon’s life, as the Keeper of Antiquities would set the young scholar on a task that would become his lifelong passion. 
 
Continue reading about Árni Magnússon and his life's work, HERE.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

New Article: The Crazy Succession Crisis In Early 9th-Century Denmark

((A scene from the saga of King Olaf, by Halfdan Egedius (1877–1899), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons))
 
Charlemagne came very close to open war with what could have been one of his deadliest foes—King Godfrid of Denmark (also spelled Godofrid, Godefrid, Gudfrey and Godfrey). As early as 804, presumably Godfrid’s first year of rule, the Danish army and navy moved down to the border of Saxony, a region that the Franks held dearly, as they had spent decades crushing Saxon rebellions to stabilize the region. Godfrid wisely did not invade Saxony proper, but he did invade the territory of the Obodrites in 808, a people who were neighbors of the Saxons, and a long-time ally of the Franks. In response, Charlemagne sent forces to defend Saxony against a possible attack.

Continue reading about King Godfrid of Denmark and the turmoil in his kingdom following his death, HERE.

Friday, September 14, 2018

New Biography: The Tragic Tale Of Puncker—A Masterful Archer From 15th-Century Germany


In the 15th century, there supposedly lived a man named Puncker (or Punker), who was renowned as a showman and a warrior in the Holy Roman Empire, an empire that consisted of Germany, Austria and other surrounding Central and Eastern European lands. The life of this legendary or semi-legendary person, interestingly enough, was recorded in the pages of the Malleus Maleficarum, a text on witchcraft and demonology that was published around 1486 or 1487. 
 
Continue reading about Puncker and why a book on whitchcraft was interested in his story, HERE.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

New Article: The Terrible Battle Of Olpae During the Peloponnesian War


Around 426 or 425 BCE, an army from the Peloponnesian League set out to conquer Amphilochian Argos, a city founded on the southeast end of the Ambracian Gulf, and not to be confused with the more widely known Argos in the Peloponnesus. This army, according to Thucydides (c. 460-400 BCE), had around 3,000 heavy infantry hoplites and was commanded by a Spartan general named Eurylochus. In addition to this, a further 3,000 hoplites invaded Amphilochian Argos from pro-Peloponnesian Ambracia, located just north of the Ambracian Gulf. This Ambraciot army was the faster of the two invading forces, so they seized the stronghold of Olpae without Peloponnesian help, and in doing so, gained a strong position just a few miles from Amphilochian Argos.
Eurylochus and the Peloponnesian army apparently did not launch their invasion until after the Ambraciots had already seized Olpae. As a result, the Amphilochians had time to muster their manpower and call for Athenian help. As the Ambraciots waited for Eurylochus’ army, the Amphilochians reinforced their city of Argos and placed scouts at a region called Crenae, in order to watch for the Peloponnesian army. They also successfully contacted, Demosthenes, one of Athens’ craftiest generals—he answered their plea and arrived with twenty ships. His fleet was only carrying a reported 200 hoplites and 60 archers, but Demosthenes’ knack for odd strategies would make up for the lack of numbers. In addition, the Amphilochians also received military aid from Acarnania, a neighboring region that survived a Peloponnesian invasion between 429 and 428 BCE. Demosthenes was appointed as commander-in-chief of this coalition of forces and he marched their united front to challenge the Ambraciots at Olpae.
 
Read about the dramatic battles near Olpae, HERE.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

New Biography: Leucothea—A Mortal Greek Woman Of Myth Said To Have Become A Goddess


(Odysseus and Ino/Leucothea, by Alessandro Allori  (1535–1607), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Among the exclusive club of Greek deities that could claim to have originally been mortal humans was an interesting immortal named Leucothea the White Goddess. She began her days as a proud Greek princess in an important Boeotian city, but, after a life of tragedy and madness, she became a protective goddess of the sea.

Read about this goddess' tragic story, HERE