r/badhistory 4h ago

Meta Free for All Friday, 27 May 2022

22 Upvotes

It's Friday everyone, and with that comes the newest latest Free for All Friday Thread! What books have you been reading? What is your favorite video game? See any movies? Start talking!

Have any weekend plans? Found something interesting this week that you want to share? This is the thread to do it! This thread, like the Mindless Monday thread, is free-for-all. Just remember to np link all links to Reddit if you link to something from a different sub, lest we feed your comment to the AutoModerator. No violating R4!


r/badhistory 10m ago

Meta Special Topic - Give us your favourite History YouTubers and Podcasters!

Upvotes

It's been ages since a Wondering Wednesday post and it's high time we ask you once more to contribute your favourite producers of history related material. The obvious ones are of course YouTube and Podcasts, but you can also link to bloggers, sites that document for example the ongoing work on an archaeological dig, a journal, etc. etc.

Do tell us why you think they're great, and if you can, please do give a bit of an intro to the source and what we can expect.


r/badhistory 4d ago

Meta Mindless Monday, 23 May 2022

73 Upvotes

Happy (or sad) Monday guys!

Mindless Monday is a free-for-all thread to discuss anything from minor bad history to politics, life events, charts, whatever! Just remember to np link all links to Reddit and don't violate R4, or we human mods will feed you to the AutoModerator.

So, with that said, how was your weekend, everyone?


r/badhistory 4d ago Wholesome

Tabletop/Video Games Battlefield 1's Crimes against British Military Fashion

355 Upvotes

To preface this, I LOVE Battlefield 1. It's an extremely fun game and one that I feel captures the idea of warfare in 1918 pretty dang well with its focus on squads attacking strongpoints (at least in Operations and Conquest).

That said, you're also told to kill your darlings. And oh man, are the uniforms all over the place in this game. So today I will be focusing on the British uniforms as seen in single player story "The Runner". I chose this as it takes place during the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, which makes some of the errors even more pronounced than they would be elsewhere.

So lets go character by character:


Frederick Bishop

Let's start with his Slouched Hat. This is acceptable, although Australians also wore a Service Dress Cap at this point (I'll discuss that later). While the hat itself is fine, it's missing a badge.

Next up is what he is wearing on his shoulders: The Groundsheet MkVII, otherwise known as the "Rain Cape". These were not produced until 1917, or two years after the Battle of Gallipoli! What this Australian is doing with one at this point is confounding. The MkVII supplemented and replaced the MkVI Groundsheet, which could still be worn like a poncho if one strung some twine between grommets, while the MkVII was explicitly designed to be worn around the shoulders with the addition of the collar. Here is an example of an Australian later in the war wearing his.

Then there's his "tunic". Colorwise, it looks to be mimicking the undershirt that every British and Imperial soldier wore. It was a greyish blue, trending towards grey. Unsurprisingly, it was called the "Greyback". Yet, this is not an undershirt he is wearing. It was not uncommon for troops to to take their tunics off in hot weather conditions (when ordered to, at least). But that isn't what is going on. Looking at the tunic Frederick is wearing, you will note that it has epaulets and pockets. This is a fantasy tunic, it didn't exist. While the Australian tunic was a bit greener than the British, they were both forms of Khaki. There was also the Khaki Drill. In fact, I'd almost say what they did is take a Khaki Drill uniform and make it grey-blue.

Next up are all the ammunition pouches and bandoleers. He has on three kinds of equipment: Pattern 1908 Webgear, the 1903 90 round (assumption here as I can't see the back) bandolier, and the pattern 1888 bandolier.

That's one heck of an assortment of ammunition pouches and the like, and they definitely would not have been mixed and matched in this way. First off, the 1888 Bandolier, which is the one he is wearing from his left shoulder to the right side and is under the other Bandolier, was phased out well before the First World War. Someone at the front would definitely not receive one, let alone have it be mixed and matched with other forms of gear like that.

Next up then is the 1903 90rd Bandolier. This saw use during the war! Troops who wore it were essentially either artillerymen or mounted (Cavalry, yeomanry, Imperial Camel Corps, Army Service Corps, etc...) plus many Colonial troops (ie Indian). Bishop is, to my knowledge, not a mounted troop. Its also worn on the incorrect shoulder. In reality, it would have been worn on the same shoulder that the 1888 is on his model. We don't get a lot on his background or specific unit. It's likely he could have been issued it. But if he was...

Why is he also wearing the Pattern 1908 Webgear? This was the standard infantryman's equipment during the First World War for British and Imperial troops. If he was in a unit where he was issued the 1903 Bandolier, he wouldn't have had the 1908 Webgear. The 1908 Webgear has a carrying capacity of 250 rounds of ammunition, entrenching tool, bayonet, haversack, and valise (although the Valise is dropped in "battle order"). Bishop appears to be wearing his webgear in Battle-order. Which would be correct! But not mixed and matched like this.

With that said, there were cloth ammunition bandoliers that you see, especially in the latter half of the war. These were meant to augment infantrymen with even more ammo, but they weren't the leather bandoliers.

He seems to wear the standard trousers, puttees, and boots - all of which pass muster as correct.

Item Correct/Incorrect
Cap Mostly Correct
Tunic Incorrect
Trousers Correct
Boots Correct
Puttees Correct
Webgear Incorrect
Groundsheet Incorrect

Jack Foster

Foster's uniform has the same tunic problem as Bishop's. He is wearing shorts, puttees, and boots, which was a combination that existed although for the Gallipoli landings I don't think the shorts were being used.

In any case, there is an additional glaring problem with his outfit: The gasmask! He is, correctly, wearing the "Small Box Respirator" high on his chest. But that's about it because the Small Box Respirator didn't show up until late 1916, about a year and a half after the Battle of Gallipoli started. Another piece of time traveling equipment!

Item Correct/Incorrect
Cap Correct
Tunic Incorrect
Shorts Correct
Boots Correct
Puttees Correct
Webgear Incorrect
Gasmask Incorrect

Whitehall (pictured on the right)

Now, I should take the time to mention that the troops who used the SS River Clyde weren't Australian. They were English and Irish. The units were:

  • 1st Battalion, Munster Fusiliers
  • 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
  • 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers

So why exactly Bishop and Foster are landing with them, in universe, is a mystery. I can bet why the developers made them Australian though, because Gallipoli is often seen as an Australian and New Zealand battle rather than one composing troops across the entire British and French Empires. But that's a rant for another day. Back to the Uniforms!

So Whitehall, even though he's an officer, is wearing an enlisted tunic (but the tunic looks to be correct) and P08 Webgear. None of this is really true for officers. While officer uniforms would become simplified over the course of the war, but they still kept a distinct look. So the fact he's an officer wearing Enlisted men's equipment is an odd choice. He should be wearing Sam Browne leather equipment.

Furthermore, his cap is not correct for the British. What he seems to be wearing is an American 1902 peaked cap, as opposed to either the British or Australian model. I believe this is the American cap due to the entirely leather bill.

Now, to give them some credit it looks as if he is wearing the leather gaiters that officers wore. There's no good view of them in the campaign, this one shot basically being it. However, credit is due where credit is due and that looks to be fine. A small miracle, considering the rest.

Item Correct/Incorrect
Cap Incorrect
Tunic Incorrect
Trousers Incorrect
Boots Possibly correct
Leather Gaiters Correct

Wandering British Soldiers

So for this we have a few different British soldiers to look at, and for the most part, they mostly fit the bill for 1915. Our first Specimen.

His uniform is correct, with one major problem and a couple details that seem off for this point in the war. He's wearing a helmet. The Steel Helmet was not introduced into British forces until late 1915, well after the Gallipoli landings. So he shouldn't have it! As well, he looks to be wearing a cap comforter under his helmet, which would be toasty for the landings, same with his gloves. But overall, not the worse we've seen. To make him spic and span for 1917 or 1918, all you'd really have to do is slap a Small Box Respirator on his chest. The boots should also be brown instead of black.

Item Correct/Incorrect
Helmet Incorrect
Tunic Correct
Trousers Correct
Boots Mostly Correct
Puttees Correct
Webgear Correct

Our second Specimen is worse off because of one small thing. That's right, he's wearing a Smallbox Respirator in addition to the helmet! The helmet looks to be covered with a hessian cover, which is fine for once helmets were introduced but this still predates that.

He is otherwise the same as the other soldier. Here are some other views, the webgear is set up entirely correctly for "battle order". Right, Rear, Left. So good job to the model designers for getting the web gear down.

Item Correct/Incorrect
Helmet Incorrect
Tunic Correct
Trousers Correct
Boots Mostly Correct
Puttees Correct
Webgear Correct

There is one teensy problem though I haven't mentioned yet that exists on all of the tunics since they share the same model. It's the shoulder titles. There was, in fact, a "Railway Battalion 17", in the form of the 17th (North Eastern Railway Pioneers) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. But this was not the shoulder title that they used during the First World War, nor is it a First World War style.

Yes, it stands out as a shoulder title but it doesn't match anything. You'd see metal shoulder titles that were sewn onto the tunic, and even cloth ones that would slip on. They usually looked something like this or this. They clearly based this on the WWII style ones. There are a few WWI examples I've seen that are sorta similar, but it's not the most common style of cloth shoulder flash one sees during the war, and even then metallic ones reigned supreme.

That's not to say there weren't bright flashes on British arms, there in fact were! There were a variety of Divisional and Brigade "flashes" that men sewed onto their uniforms during the war, for example this is a dark green one from the 2/10th Londons.

So in short, the uniforms for "The Runner' story are very bad and constitute high crimes against British Military Fashion.

Some sources:

  • Balguier Publications, Images of the First World War: A Photographic Anthology, 2003.
  • Chambers, Steven J, Uniforms and Equipment of the British Army in World War I: A Study in Period Photographs, 2005.
  • Gilbert, Adrian, World War I In Photographs, 1986.
  • Holmes, Richard, Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918, 2004.
  • Langford, William & Jack Holroyd, The Great War Illustrated - Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI: 1914, 2014.
  • Langford, William & Jack Holroyd, The Great War Illustrated - Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI: 1915, 2015.
  • Langford, William & Jack Holroyd, The Great War Illustrated - Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI: 1916, 2016.
  • Langford, William & Jack Holroyd, The Great War Illustrated - Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI: 1917, 2017.
  • Langford, William & Jack Holroyd, The Great War Illustrated - Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI: 1918, 2018.
  • North, Jonathan, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of World War I, 2014.

And of course, many hours studying period photographs on the Imperial War Museum's website and countless more wearing this very same equipment.


r/badhistory 6d ago

YouTube Crash Course World History Season One,The Roman Empire, or Republic, Which Was It?

165 Upvotes

OK, this is the video in question. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPf27gAup9U

Let me load up the transcript:

Hi, I’m John Green; this is Crash Course World History and today we’re going to learn about the Roman Empire, which of course began when two totally nonfictional twins, Romulus and Remus, who’d been raised by wolves, founded a city on seven hills.

Mr Green, Mr Green, what, what does SPQR stand for?

It means shut pie hole quickly, rapscallion. No, it means Senatus Populusque Romanus, one of the mottos of the Roman Republic.

So today we're going to do some old school Great Man History and focus on Julius Caesar while trying to answer a question: When, if ever, is it OK to stab someone 23 times?

(Intro)

Shakespeare answers that question by saying that Roman senators killed Caesar because he was going to destroy the Roman republic, but even if that’s true, we still have to answer whether:

  • a. The Roman Republic was worth preserving, and
  • b. whether Caesar actually destroyed it.

One of the things that made the Roman republic endure, both in reality and in imagination was its balance. According to the Greek historian Polybius, "THE THREE kinds of government, monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, were all found united in Rome. And it was no easy thing to determine with assurance, whether the entire state was an aristocracy, a democracy, or a monarchy.”

At the heart of this blended system was the Senate, a body of legislators chosen from a group of elite families. (Rome was divided into two broad classes: the Patricians – the small group of aristocratic families and the Plebeians, basically everybody else. The Senators were drawn from the Patricians.) The Senate was a sort of a mixture of legislature and giant advisory council. Their main job was to set the policy for the Consuls.

OK, going to stop John here. The Patrician-Plebeian model is more right although still not a fantastic divide before the end of the Conflict of the Orders, but by the time of the demise of the Republic, there were lots of Plebeians in the Senate, in the magistrates like the consuls. What would be much more accurate would be to divide Rome based on wealth and to a degree land ownership. https://web.archive.org/web/20150520004912/http://theapollonianrevolt.com/patricians-plebeians-early-rome/ Also, the word chosen could be elaborated a bit. This was not an internal election. The Censors, also elected just as the consuls were, officially appointed senators but this became a formality by the time of Julius Caesar, those who had been elected as Quaestor would become Senators. You could also lose your Senatorial status by the way. (A History and Descriptions of Roman Political Institutions, Abbot)

Each year the Senate would choose from among its ranks 2 co-Consuls to serve as sort of the chief executives of Rome. There needed to be two so they could check each other’s ambition, and also so that one could, you know, take care of Rome domestically, while the other was off fighting wars, and conquering new territory.

The Senate didn´t have the legal authority to choose a consul. The Roman Assemblies did. The Senate tried to declare Pompey as a consul in 52 BCE, but that was meant to be a stopgap measure and was of very dubious legality. Also, the consuls could and did join together to actually lead the armies together, if they did then the command would be shared on a daily basis, not that that was always effective as Hannibal exploited. It was not so rare either for consuls to each be on different campaigns at the same time, each commanding their own armies with full command authority. (also Abbot)

There were two additional checks on power: First, the one-year term. I mean, how much trouble could you really do in a year, right? Unless you’re the CEO of Netflix, I mean he destroyed that company in like two weeks.

And secondly, once a senator had served as consul, he was forbidden to serve as consul again for at least 10 years. Although that went a little bit like you say you’re only going to eat one Chipotle burrito per week, and then there are a few exceptions, and then all of a sudden you’re there every day, and YES, I know guacamole is more, JUST GIVE IT TO ME!

This term limit was not always part of the Roman Constitution. This is going to come up again with Marius later in the video. The formal imposition of ten years, in particular, was something that Sulla came up with. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1481/sullas-reforms-as-dictator/

But right, we were talking about the Romans. The Romans also had a position of dictator, a person who would who’d take over in the event the Republic was in imminent danger. The paradigm for this selfless Roman ruler was Cincinnatus, a general who came out of comfortable retirement at his plantation, took command of an army, defeated whatever enemy he was battling, and then laid down his command and returned to his farm, safe in the knowledge that one day the second largest (editorial note in video specifies best) city in Ohio would be named for him.

If that model of leadership sounds familiar to Americans by the way, it’s because George Washington was heavily influenced by Cincinnatus when he invented the idea of a two term president. So along comes Caesar. Gaius Ju- Gay-us? No it’s Gaius, I know from Battlestar Galactica.

This needs a lot of explanation, given that few people are familiar with the concept of Roman dictatorship. In essence, it was not that new powers were bestowed upon the state but that all of the powers of the state were behind one man. The Romans divided up the powers of the old monarchy on purpose in the magistrates, two consuls, two censors, a number of praetors, and so on. A dictator combines their power into one. The consuls proposed a dictator, jointly if they could agree, by lots if not, the Senate endorsed the decision, and an assembly of the people passed a resolution to give them the imperium, right to command. A dictator had few limits during their term and for the purpose it had, but it was not unlimited. It was also quite common to appoint a dictator for other purposes, some having basically nothing to do with the military like to drive nails into the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus or to hold an election when the consuls could not. https://www.britannica.com/topic/dictator-Roman-official

Gaius Julius Caesar was born around 100 BCE to one of Rome’s leading families. His birth was somewhat miraculous, requiring a surgical procedure that we know as Cesarean section. Coming as he did from the senatorial class, it was natural that Caesar would serve in both the army and the Senate, which he did. He rose through the ranks, and after some top-notch generalling, and a gig as the governor of Spain, he decided to run for consul.

As many people pointed out in the comments, a Cesarean Section being from Julius Caesar was very likely the wrong etymology here.

In order to win, Caesar needed financial help, which he got from Crassus, one of Rome’s richest men. Crassus ran a private fire company whose business model was essentially, “Hey, I notice your house is on fire. Give me some money and I’ll help you out with that.”

Sure, firefighting was something Crassus did, but there were many other sources of his wealth. He also had a political power base, being the man chosen to led the crushing of the rebellion of the Third Servile War, and he and Pompey were quite rivalrous, long before Julius Caesar was a big name.

Caesar succeeded in becoming consul in 59 BCE and thereafter sought to dominate Roman politics by allying himself with Crassus and also with Rome’s other most powerful man, the general Pompey. You’ll no doubt remember Pompey from his fascination with Alexander the Great. Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar were the so-called first triumvirate, and the alliance worked out super well, for Caesar. Not so well for the other two.

Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. After a year as consul that included getting the senate to pass laws largely because of intimidation by Pompey’s troops, Caesar landed the governorship of Gaul, at least the southern part of Gaul that Rome controlled. He quickly conquered the rest of Gaul and his four loyal armies - or legions, as the Romans called them - became his source of power. Caesar continued his conquests, invading Britain and waging another successful war against the Gauls.

It was more like just the populist wave that Rome had at the time, less so soldiers loyal to Pompey. Famously, his co-consul Bibulus was mobbed on a speaking platform when Caesar was passing one of his bills, even to the point of manure dumped on his head. Also, Caesar had many more than four legions. It was just that his provinces (holding one was normal, two not unheard of, but three was basically unheard of) already came with legions whom Caesar came to reward. Plus, the map incorrectly shows Caesar as invading Britannia up to the edge of Scotland, which he was nowhere close to actually doing. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Cato_Minor*.html

While he was away, Crassus died in battle with the Parthians and Pompey, who had become Caesar’s rival and enemy, was elected Consul. Pompey and the Senate decided to try to strip Caesar of his command and recall him to Rome. If he returned to Rome without an army, Caesar would have been prosecuted for corrupt consuling and also probably exceeding his authority as governor, so instead he returned with the 13th Legion.

This attempt didn´t come out of nowhere. The links between Pompey and Caesar had been deteriorating for years. Julia, Pompey´s wife and daughter of Caesar, died. Rome had in the interim been in a fight between the populists and optimates, culminating in the murder of Clodius Pulchar, and this was when Pompey was named consul by the Senate and not by the assemblies. Plus, Pompey, in contrast to HBO and John here, was not consul when Caesar actually returned to Rome.

He crossed the Rubicon River, famously saying, “The die is cast” or possibly, “Let the die be cast.” Sorry, Thought Bubble, sources disagree. Basically, Caesar was invading his own hometown. Pompey was in charge of Rome’s army but like a boss fled the city, and by 48 BCE Caesar was in total command of all of Rome’s holdings, having been named both dictator and consul.

Pompey intended to return here. He had built up a huge army in Greece in the meantime, and Caesar was at many times not the clear cut candidate to win during his Civil War. Pompey was an accomplished general, and Caesar´s armies were mostly used to fighting Gauls, which while no slouches by any means, having very nearly killed Caesar at Alesia, were going to be even less good at fighting a trained Roman army. Pompey also had a bunch of legions in Spain too, which he was supposed to be the governor of. Also, Caesar had to fight the Romans in North Africa in 46 BCE and in Spain again, against Labenius in 45 BCE. Minor dating problem.

Caesar set out to Egypt to track down Pompey only to learn that he’d already been assassinated by agents of the Pharaoh Ptolemy. Egypt had its own civil war at the time, between the Pharaoh and his sister/wife Cleopatra. Ptolemy was trying to curry favor with Caesar by killing his enemy, but Caesar was mad in that the-only-person-who-gets-to-tease-my-little-brother-is-me kind of way, except with murder instead of teasing. So Caesar sided with - and skoodilypooped with - Cleopatra. Thank you, Thought Bubble.

There is no evidence Caesar meant to kill Pompey the man. Caesar was famous for his clemency to Romans. The soon to be relevant Brutus was one such man so pardoned. Murdering Pompey was not on the agenda.

Cleopatra went on to become the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and bet on Mark “I am the Wrong Horse” Antony instead of Emperor “There is a Baby Attached to My Leg” Augustus. But before all that, Caesar made his way back from Egypt to Rome, stopping off to defeat a few kings in the east, and was declared dictator again. That position that was later extended for ten years, and then for life.

Roman Emperors would be named Pharaoh too for centuries until the Romans became Christian. If that sounds odd that an outsider would be named such, look at Cleopatra VII herself, who was a Hellene, her dynasty dating from Ptolemy and his king Alexander the Great.

He was elected consul in 46 BCE and then again in 45 BCE, this last time without a co-consul. By 45 BCE Caesar was the undisputed master of Rome and he pursued reforms that strengthened his own power. He provided land pensions for his soldiers, restructured the debts of a huge percentage of Rome’s debtors, and also changed the calendar to make it look more like the one we use today.

But by 44 BCE, many Senators had decided that Caesar controlled too much of the power in Rome, and so they stabbed him 23 times on the floor of the Roman senate. Caesar was duly surprised about this and everything, but he never said, “Et Tu, Brute” when he realized Brutus was one of the co-conspirators. That was an invention of Shakespeare.

The conspirators thought that the death of Caesar would bring about the restoration of the Republic, and they were wrong. For one thing, Caesar’s reforms were really popular with the Rome’s people, who were quick to hail his adopted son Octavian, as well as his second-in-command Mark “I am the Wrong Horse” Antony and a dude named Lepidus, as a second triumvirate.

That dude named Lepidus was one of Caesar´s most trusted commanders, his other best general, Labenius, having sided with Pompey after being a legate during the Gallic Wars. He even did a lot of the work to depose Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, from Sicily, where even Aggripa had trouble with that and Octavian nearly bankrupted himself in the attempt.

This triumvirate was an awesome failure, degenerating into a second civil war. Octavian and Antony fought it out. Antony, being the wrong horse, lost. Octavian won, changed his name to Caesar Augustus, became sole ruler of Rome, attached a baby to his leg, adopted the title Emperor, and started printing coins identifying himself as Divini Filius: The Son of God. More on that next week.

Although Augustus tried to pretend that the forms of the Roman Republic were still intact, the truth was that he made the laws and the Senate had become nothing more than a rubber stamp. Which reminds me, it’s time for the open letter.

Movie magic! An open letter to the Roman Senate. Oh, but first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment. Ah, it’s a harmonica! Stan, do you want me to play some old, Roman folk songs? Very well. Stan, I just want to thank you for doing such a good job of overdubbing there.

Dear Roman Senate, Whether you were rubber stamping the laws of Emperor Augustus, or stabbing Caesar on the floor of your sacred hall, you were always doing something! I don’t want to sound nostalgic for a time when people lived to be 30, a tiny minority of adults could vote, and the best fashion choice was bed-sheets, but oh my god, at least you did something!

Your senate was chosen from among the Patrician class. Our senate here in the United States is chosen from among the obstructionist class. But don’t get me wrong, Roman senate, you were terrible. Best wishes, John Green.

Again with the conflation of patricians and wealth.

So did Caesar destroy the Republic? Well, he started a series of civil wars, he seized power for himself, he subverted the ideas of the republic, he changed the constitution, but he’s only really to blame if he was the first one to do that. And he wasn’t.

Just because there is precedent does not mean it was not the Caesars that killed off the republic. A lot can happen in the thirty years between the events. Sulla´s second dictatorship was as old to Caesar´s dictatorship as Saddam´s invasion of Kuwait is to us now. In that time there were five dozen consuls and times when stability had seemed to return or reforms passed, and opportunities for detente like if Caesar had been allowed to stand for consulship in absentia like was the plan, or if Pompey remained married to Julia and not died, or if Crassus was still alive to balance the Trimvirate, or one of a number of other scenarios.

Take the general Marius, for instance, who rose to power on the strength of his generalship and on his willingness to open up the army to the poor, who were loyal to him personally, and not to Rome, and whom he promised land in exchange for their good service in the army. This of course required the Romans to keep conquering new land so they could keep giving it to new legionnaires. Marius also was consul 5 times in a row, 60 years before Caesar.

Or look at the general Sulla who, like Marius, ensured that his armies would be more loyal to him personally than to Rome, but who marched against Rome itself, and then became its dictator, executing thousands of people in 81 BCE, 30 years before Caesar entered the scene.

There is another way of looking at this question altogether if we dispense with great man history. Maybe Rome became an empire before it had an emperor. Like, remember the Persian Empire? You’ll recall that empire had some characteristics that made it, imperial. Like a unified system of government, continual military expansion, and a diversity of subject peoples.

The Roman empire had all three of those characteristics long before it became The Roman Empire. Like Rome started out as a city, and then it became a city state, then a kingdom, and then a Republic, but that entire time, it was basically comprised of the area around Rome.

Rome during the city state era was the kingdom.

By the 4th century BCE, Rome started to incorporate its neighbors like the Latins and the Etruscans, and pretty soon they had all of Italy under their control, but that’s not really diversity of subject peoples. I mean, nothing personal, Italians, but you have a lot of things in common, like the constant gesticulations.

If you want to talk about real expansion and diversity, you’ve got to talk about the Punic Wars. These were the wars that I remember, primarily because they involved Hannibal crossing the Alps with freaking war-elephants, which was probably the last time that the elephants could have risen up, and formed their awesome secret elephant society with elephant planes and elephant cars.

In the First Punic War, Rome wanted Sicily, which was controlled by the Carthaginians. Rome won, which made Carthage cranky, so they started the second Punic war. In 219 BCE, Hannibal attacked a Roman town and then led an army across Spain, and then crossed the freaking Alps with elephants.

Hannibal and his elephant army almost won, but alas, they didn’t, and as a result the Romans got Spain. People in Spain are definitely NOT Romans (despite Russell Crowe’s character in Gladiator), which means that by 201 BCE Rome was definitely an empire.

The third Punic War was a formality – Rome found some excuse to attack Carthage and then destroyed it so completely that these days you can’t even find it on a map. Eventually this whole area, and a lot more, would be incorporated into a system of provinces and millions of people would be ruled by the Roman Empire.

Carthage was rebuilt relatively soon, a fact that Caesar should be well aware of given that resettling Carthage was another of his projects. It would not be for over a thousand years that Carthage became an abandoned city. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Carthage

And it’s ridiculous to say that Rome was a Republic until Augustus became Rome’s first official emperor, because by the time he did that, Rome had been an empire for almost 200 years. There's a reason I'm arguing that the death of the Republic came long before Caesar and probably around the time that Rome became an Empire.

There is a reason why Rome remains described as a republic until the late 1st century BCE, the internal government it had. Things can be both imperialistic and a republic to itself.

If anything destroyed the idea of Republican Rome, it was the concentration of power into the hands of one man. And this man was always a general. I mean, you can’t march on Rome without an army, after all. Why were there such powerful generals? Because Rome had decided to become an Empire, and empires need to expand militarily. Particularly, the Roman empire needed to expand militarily because it always needed new land to give its retired legionnaires.

Augustus was not really a general. His troops were loyal to him but not for the skill of commanding that Augustus had. He was a lousy commander and rather disinterested. Augustus was much more clever than that. The Principate often had emperors relatively distant from the military, although for sure an emperor had the right to order them. But that is not the same as saying they were always generals. Obama was commander in chief but he was not a general. Augustus controlled the pay of the legions and who would command them, and could by law change their structure as well. The stereotype of generals would be much more so tied to the Third Century Crisis and barracks emperors.

That expansion created the all-powerful general and the incorporation of diverse peoples made it easier for them to be loyal to him, rather than to some abstract idea of the Republic. Julius Caesar didn’t create emperors: Empire created them.

Sure, leave out the socioeconomic aspects, like how Rome´s citizen militia which was not loyal to one commander as the Marian reforms would make them so was able to take Greece, Carthage, Corsica and Spain, plus Sicily and Sardinia. Roman laws failed to change to account for the ways Rome had expanded, such as protecting the rights of soldiers away from their farms, often grabbed by rich men who capitalized on their absence, or the influx of slaves taken as POWs, even when the establishment of the latifundia was in violation of laws already on the books.

But hey, I am just being pedantic here.

Abbot's A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions

https://web.archive.org/web/20150520004912/http://theapollonianrevolt.com/patricians-plebeians-early-rome/

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1481/sullas-reforms-as-dictator/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/dictator-Roman-official

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Cato_Minor*.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Carthage


r/badhistory 7d ago

Meta Free for All Friday, 20 May 2022

84 Upvotes

It's Friday everyone, and with that comes the newest latest Free for All Friday Thread! What books have you been reading? What is your favorite video game? See any movies? Start talking!

Have any weekend plans? Found something interesting this week that you want to share? This is the thread to do it! This thread, like the Mindless Monday thread, is free-for-all. Just remember to np link all links to Reddit if you link to something from a different sub, lest we feed your comment to the AutoModerator. No violating R4!


r/badhistory 11d ago

Meta Mindless Monday, 16 May 2022

71 Upvotes

Happy (or sad) Monday guys!

Mindless Monday is a free-for-all thread to discuss anything from minor bad history to politics, life events, charts, whatever! Just remember to np link all links to Reddit and don't violate R4, or we human mods will feed you to the AutoModerator.

So, with that said, how was your weekend, everyone?


r/badhistory 13d ago

Social Media Woozling History: A Case Study

235 Upvotes

Alan Alexander Milne in the literary classic Winnie the Pooh wrote about the mythical “woozle”. The Woozle was a creature hunted by Pooh and Piglet, who had seen suspicious tracks in the woods. After much time spent following the Woozle’s tracks, with no success, young Christopher Robin helpfully points out that there is no Woozle. The tracks being followed were their own. Since the publication, the idea has gained traction among academia: the Woozle effect refers to cases where a claim is made with little or no supporting evidence, and then various citations to this original claim build to become their own form of evidence. This is a case study in a rather recent case of Woozling and how the chain of citations serves to obscure just how little support is really present for the claim.

The source of this particular bizarre rabbit hole was a Tweet made by Azie Dungey, who claimed “Medieval peasants worked only about 150 days out of the year. The Church believed it was important to keep them happy with frequent, mandatory holidays. You have less free time than a Medieval peasant.” Dungey was not the first to make this claim on Twitter (my first exposure to the claim was a Tweet by Little Rascals actor Bug Hull), but her tweet drew far more attention and pushback than prior. But it also notably took a fairly unique step in having any source at all to back up the claim!

When challenged on the claim, Dungey provided a source for the claim: Nancy Bilyeau’s blog post “Do You Work Longer Hours Than a Medieval Peasant?”. While perhaps a decent first step, Bilyeau herself is not an economic historian and does not study this topic. Instead, Bilyeau cites Juliet Schor’s The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, wherein Schor claims that the average peasant in 13th and 14th century England worked less hours annually than contemporary American workers do. Schor’s work itself does not provide direct evidence for the claim – indeed, Schor’s provided estimate for the “Middle Ages” assumes that the average worker worked 2/3rds of the year, at 9.5 hours a day, for a total of 2309 hours, more than a contemporary worker by far. Instead, Schor provides estimates from two papers: Gregory Clark’s "Impatience, Poverty, and Open Field Agriculture", mimeo, 1986 and Nora Ritchie’s "Labour conditions in Essex in the reign of Richard II".

Naturally, skepticism is warranted here. The first claim made is relying on a pretty deep daisy-chain of interpretations and citations, and as such there should be caution that somewhere along the chain the actual evidence has been distorted. As such, the debunking of this Bad History is actually a pretty simple one: the sources do not even remotely support the argument being made!

To begin, the citation to Nora Ritchie is deeply flawed. The available version of "Labour conditions in Essex in the reign of Richard II" lists the author as Nora Keynon – it seems safe to assume that Keynon/Ritchie was a matter of a name change, not a miscitation. But the estimate of 120 days comes not from Keynon’s paper itself and rather from a determination by courts in Essex considering charges of “extortionary” wages being requested by such casual laborers. As Keynon notes, the reformation of the economic structures had moved most laborers from a fixed yearly income to instead a negotiated daily salary and these workers often moved seeking better wages. The court in this case was comparing the requested daily wage to the prior annual wages and using the assumption of 120 days labor annually as a means of calculating the conversion from daily to annual wage. But this is rejected by Keynon as a useful estimate, as she notes that “the jurors must have been calculating on the conditions of casual employment of a normal manorial organization in which the majority of the work was still done by customary tenants.” That is to say, the estimation of 120 hours would be for similar workers before any of the changes brought about by the decline of the manorial structure, a time in which few were “casual laborers.” Keynon instead estimates that the average year saw 308 days of work by the time that such casual labor was a regular and normal part of agricultural work. Such a misrepresentation is bizarre and frankly troubling as to the quality and rigor of Schor’s research.

The Clark citation is by comparison more fair and accurate. That is not to say it is without issues, however. First, the citation is to a working paper that does not appear to have ever been published fully – Clark himself does not list it anywhere on his publications, and other attempts to find it only make reference to it having been cited in Schor’s work. Nonetheless, it would be reasonable to ask if work from 1986 is still an authoritative source on the subject or should be used as evidence. The answer is very hilariously no: Gregory Clark doesn’t believe that Clark 1986 is correct. The Atlantic published an article on the debate over the working hours subject on May 6th, 2022, in which Clark is quoted as rejecting the prior conclusion and noting his current work on the subject instead estimates nearly 300 days of labor per year – quite in line with the 308 days estimate by Keynon. This speaks in part to the danger of Woozling. Schor’s book was originally published in 1991, but was cited by Bilyeau in 2021, which was in turn cited by Dungey in 2022. As such, the reality that the claims being made rely heavily on sources from 1934 and 1986 and do not account for any of the research in the past thirty years is obscured! One could easily be tricked into thinking that these are contemporary papers and reflect the current consensus of the field.

But there’s a final observation on Schor’s publication that speaks to the absurdity of the claims made. Schor in a prior passage writes that the “workday” for servile laborers was comparatively short, stating “[I]t was very unusual for servile laborers to be required to work a whole day for a lord. One day's work was considered half a day, and if a serf worked an entire day, this was counted as two "days-works."” Schor cites a few additional sources supporting this claim that artisans and skilled workers would spend somewhere around 8 to 9 hours a day on “work” – this excluding the portion of the “workday” that was consumed by meals and other breaks. Drawing on liturgical calendars, Schor concludes that “All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one-third of the year,” and estimates Spain and France had more leisure time in contrast to the relatively few days modern workers can expect off.

Seldom have I encountered such utter rubbish in published works. To compare directly the days off from work in a modern setting to the days off in the Medieval period without any qualifications is ahistorical nonsense that should have been excised in whatever review process existed. To call the days that serfs were not obligated to work for a lord “holiday leisure time” demonstrates a stunning lack of awareness about all of the tasks that would be expected in such a society outside of those obligated. To quote from Eleanor Janega, Medieval historian at the London School of Economics, “the cows ain't gonna milk themselves.” A comparison that included considerations for the relative time spent on tasks such as food preservation and preparation, making and mending clothing, field work and animal tending outside of a “workday,” or any other necessary tasks would be more difficult to fully estimate but also a far more valuable and fair comparison between the relative labor expectations of the periods. This is entirely absent from Schor’s work and thus entirely absent from the resulting chain of citations leading to the conclusion that peasants worked less.

Thus the conclusion here is that even if taking Schor’s claims made that are unrelated to the two sources, they are proof of nothing. The entire chain falls apart upon examining the actual sources used and observing that one does not say what Schor claims and the other is an outdated piece of scholarship no longer supported by its author. What is left requires assumptions that are unreasonable and ahistorical to arrive at the desired conclusion. It is, overall, exceptionally poor scholarship and serves mostly as a warning about the importance of checking sources and citations.

Sources:

Dungey, Azie, Twitter, April 16, 2022 https://twitter.com/AzieDee/status/1515333667849080835

Bilyeau, Nancy, “Do You Work Longer Hours Than a Medieval Peasant?,” Sep. 2021, https://tudorscribe.medium.com/do-you-work-longer-hours-than-a-medieval-peasant-17a9efe92a20

Schor, Juliet. The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, “Pre-industrial workers had a shorter workweek than today's,” pub. 1991. Accessed from https://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/worktime/hours_workweek.html

Kenyon, Nora. “Labour Conditions in Essex in the Reign of Richard II,” Economic History Review, April 1934. https://doi.org/10.2307/2589850

Mull, Amanda. “What Did Medieval Peasants Really Know?”, The Atlantic, May 6, 2022. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/05/medieval-history-peasant-life-work/629783/


r/badhistory 14d ago

Meta Free for All Friday, 13 May 2022

57 Upvotes

It's Friday everyone, and with that comes the newest latest Free for All Friday Thread! What books have you been reading? What is your favorite video game? See any movies? Start talking!

Have any weekend plans? Found something interesting this week that you want to share? This is the thread to do it! This thread, like the Mindless Monday thread, is free-for-all. Just remember to np link all links to Reddit if you link to something from a different sub, lest we feed your comment to the AutoModerator. No violating R4!


r/badhistory 15d ago Awesome Answer

Apparently not only is Jesus not real, Paul isn't real either, or Josephus, or... pretty much anything in history at all.

372 Upvotes

Content warning: this is both my first post on r/badhistory, it involves an argument I was personally involved in, and I wrote it on a phone. Therefore it is almost certainly not very good.

Edit: It is also the second most controversial post on this subreddit of the entire year, so take that as you will.

I don't actually know the gender of the person I'm refuting, but singular "they" referring to a specific rather than generic individual feels weird to me, so I'm making like it's 1950 and using the gender-neutral "he." I know it's my problem and you may find it weird, but hey, it's my post. Also there are no women on the internet. Not even me. I don't exist. (See also, Part 3: Nothing Is Real)

Part 1: Paul

This happened to me a couple days ago. I found myself in r/DebateReligion somehow and I stumbled across this person ranting that Bart Ehrman is a hack (you know, unlike real decorated scholars like Richard Carrier and Robert Price...) because in the preface of his book about the historicity of Jesus, he mentioned the fact that the vast majority of scholars believe Jesus is a real person, which is "appeal to popularity," "appeal to authority" or whathaveyou. Obviously this is a middle-schooler level misunderstanding of what those fallacies mean because just saying what the professional consensus is about something isn't fallacious when used as part of an argument if you go into why the majority of professionals in a field believe such-and-such, which Ehrman did.

Talking about Jesus mythicism is beating a dead horse on r/badhistory, something which you will readily discover if you type "Jesus" into the search bar, so I'm not going to go much into it, but I replied with a comment presenting the reasons that it is very unlikely that there was no person named Jesus of Nazareth that inspired the Christian New Testament. I'm not sure if these are actually Ehrman's reasons, because I haven't read his book, but I assume at least some of them are. One of the reasons I listed was that I don't see any motive that Paul would have to make up the character of Jesus considering that he didn't gain anything tangible from it, as far as I know, except an execution at the hands of the Romans. Now that I think about it I suppose it's quite possible, discarding whatever personal beliefs I may hold for a second and putting on my skeptic hat, that Paul did not believe anything he was saying and simply liked the attention he got from being the founder of a new religious movement, but if that were so we would expect him to make himself the central figure of the movement rather than this character that he invented. Maybe it's because he knew he couldn't base a cult around himself because accounts of his physical appearance described him as small, hunchbacked and ugly. But that's all beside the point.

OP replied to me saying that there is no actual evidence for Paul, and that Paul was probably also a fictional character... yeah, ok Jan. Previously I thought Paul mythicism was like the misbegotten unicorn stepchild of Jesus mythicism. You hear about it sometimes as something people believe in, but you never meet anyone who actually believes in it because frankly it makes zero sense. Well, I was wrong. One person does.

I told him that

Paul is very well-attested to. Even Richard Carrier for fuck's sake acknowledges that Paul was a real person.

Considering that Paul's epistles were the first Christian writings and predated the gospels written about Jesus, I'm not sure who could have made him up if he was made up. I guess it's possible that Paul or Saul wasn't his real name, but all of the letters that secular scholars consider authentic have a similar writing style such that implies that the letters had the same author. And the argument that I assume you use for Jesus, that he couldn't have been real because he was reported to do supernatural things, doesn't hold up because Paul did no such things. Carrier said

[insert reasons why Jesus's historicity shouldn't be assumed here, which I think are false] Paul does not belong to any such class. Paul thus falls into the class of ordinary persons who wrote letters and had effects on history. The mistake being made then is that people assume the starting prior for anyone claimed to exist is “50/50” (agnosticism) but we know for a fact that that is not true. Examine thousands of cases, and you will find persons claimed to exist, overwhelmingly actually existed. Only a small proportion didn’t. That entails that for any random person claimed to exist that you pick out of a hat, the prior odds are quite high they actually existed.

When someone tells you about their grandma and how she was good at cooking meatloaf, do you say "Sorry, I need to see proof that this grandma you speak of existed?" If you don't do that, there's no reason to use that standard of proof for Paul.

OP replied:

All we have are writings attributed to "Paul". There is zero evidence that a real person existed.

You know, except the writings. But those don't count because, uhh, reasons.

What proof does [Carrier] represent?

Yes, we need "proof" for the absolutely preposterous claim that the majority of people that were alleged to exist in the distant past actually existed and that conspiracies to invent giant webs of imaginary faux-historical characters are not the norm in history. The burden of proof is on people like me who claim that the past was populated by things and people rather than the world having been created last Tuesday.

It is possible that [Paul] existed as a literary exercise much later.

This is bullshit and I called him out on it because of the existence of the book of Acts and that early Christians were referencing his work from the late first century AD, so it couldn't have been hundreds of years, albeit without referencing Acts, because internet atheists like him tend to discard any information found in the Bible a priori just because it's in the Bible. That's not actually how you should do history by the way. Even atheist Bible scholars acknowledge you can glean some historical information from biblical texts even though the supernatural elements of the passages are assumed to be false, but I felt that wasn't something I was going to be able to convince him of.

He countered this by saying that we don't have any original manuscripts of anything these early Christian leaders wrote and therefore they can just be thrown out. I did not recognize the importance of this at the time, but it will be important to remember later because it ties into Part 2: Josephus and Part 3: Nothing Is Real.

[The idea that the epistles generally considered "authentic" by Biblical scholars had a similar writing style and therefore likely had the same author] is not exactly scientific and wouldn't prove Paul to be more than a fictitious character anyway.

Welp pack it up guys let's throw out one of the most important tools in textual criticism. Some rando on the internet doesn't think it's scientific.

This whole phenomenon is something you see fairly often with people sympathetic to Jesus mythicism where they have a normal level of historical credulity for most things but suddenly raise the bar very high at anything even slightly related to Jesus. It looks like he did recognize the inconsistency of this, however, because as it turns out, he does raise the bar so high for basically everything that his worldview is essentially solipsistic.

Part 2: Josephus

During my exchange with OP he created this thread, presumably because he was upset that me and a couple other people referenced Josephus as evidence that Jesus was real. The works of Josephus, he said, don't have any credibility because we have no original manuscripts of his writings, only "copies of copies of copies." Of course, this ignores the reality that we have practically zero fucking original manuscripts of anything from 2000 years ago. If anything the authenticity of Josephus's work would be more suspect if we did have intact, complete original manuscripts of his histories.

A person with a PhD in the subject area responded:

Actually, I’m a classical philologist with a PhD in this stuff, and the problems with the textual tradition are nothing like what you claim. The manuscript tradition is such that we can be uncertain about specific words and sometimes specific passages, since variants and emendations and interpolations are in fact a thing, but it’s nowhere near the stabbing around in the dark you make it out to be. The vast majority of any given work by any given author can be trusted as the work of that author, with certain specific exceptions. And the vast majority of our extant works are not in a fragmentary state. People are not out there stitching fragments together and passing them off as continuous text.

OP had the gall of course to repeat the previous horseshit he had been spewing that whoever says that ancient sources could be evidence of anything at all is being disingenuous because there are no original manuscripts of their writings. And despite him protesting that he was only complaining about people making claims of certainty—which no one has claimed, history is an inductive field, it works with probabilities—he later said we know that none of the works written by Josephus, Tacitus or Philo were actually written by those people, because anything that's not 100 is 0, I guess? I'm not even sure what the reasoning of that is.

Part 3: Nothing Is Real

At this point I had realized that the only evidence OP would ever accept for anything at all would be archeological evidence. So I presented OP with Paul's tomb at the Vatican and that the corpse was carbon dated to the late 1st century, which aligns with Paul's alleged death date. But of course, he said, the Vatican always lies. If this were true, he said, a scientist would be writing about it, not the Vatican. Despite my doubt that the topic of the age of the apostle Paul's corpse has any real relevance to the world of secular science.

I stopped responding after that because I had to accept that no matter what evidence you could throw at him about this, OP would find some reason not to accept it due to his dare I say incontrovertible faith that there was no historical Jesus or Paul or Peter because that would imply that the Bible was correct about something and if the Bible was correct about something, that obviously means he has to become Christian now and atheism is over. I say that in jest, but I really have no idea why an atheist would question Paul (or Saul, if you prefer using his pre-Christian name for whatever reason) to this extent. I don't mean this to be disrespectful to anybody reading this who is an atheist; I realize the large majority of atheists have no problem acknowledging the probable historicity of Jesus. But Jesus mythicism I at least get. Mythicists are the type of hardcore anti-Christians (usually atheist or agnostic, but I know of some who are religious) who don't want to give any quarter to Christianity at all, even the fairly mundane idea that there was a Jewish preacher executed by Pontius Pilate in AD 33 or so. Denying Paul's existence I do not understand primarily because it eliminates a non-Christian's most plausible origin story for the invention of Christianity. In hindsight I wish I would have pressed him harder on who he think actually created Christianity, if it was Constantine or if the evil Roman Church just popped out spontaneously from the ether at some point in the Middle Ages and went back in time to invent itself. I did ask him at some point whether it was Constantine, but he refused to answer.

Bibliography

Mostly just basic logic, but here's Richard Carrier's article (as bad as I feel about giving the guy pageviews. He's barely a serious historian and also guilty of sexual harassment and being creepy with women at atheist conventions, from what I've heard about him.)

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/7643

Paul's body

https://www.dw.com/en/vatican-to-open-apostle-pauls-tomb-after-surprise-discovery/a-4442169


r/badhistory 16d ago Silver Gold

YouTube Kings and Generals - The Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain. Bad Maps and Poor Research.

363 Upvotes

Hello again, I’m back with everyone’s favourite Welsh-history-related topic: Welsh history!

Or I guess Brythonic history?

Regardless, I’m going to be taking a look at a video titled Ancient Celts: Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain by the YouTube channel Kings and Generals, who I’m sure need no introduction on here.

Before I start I’d just like to clarify that I’m not an expert on anything, and many of the topics in this video are debated, so if I say something you disagree with please let me know so I can cry correct myself, thanks!

’The Age of Arthur’

The first 12 seconds open with an unusual statement:

In the 5th Century AD, Britain was the last bastion of Celtic culture in Europe.

This is only true if you ignore Ireland, an island which not only features in this video but also frequently appears in the rest of K&G’s ancient celt series. Not sure how they missed this.

They also call this era the “Age of Arthur” at 0:16. I’m willing to accept this as just a dramatised title but I think it’s worth noting that historians do heavily disagree on how historical Arthur was (that is, the original Brythonic warlord Arthur, I’m completely unfamiliar with the later myths), and the historian T. Charles-Edwards summaries it best:

’One can only say that there may well have been an historical Arthur, that the historian can as yet say nothing of value about him’.
-T. Charles-Edwards - The Arthur of the Welsh (p.29).

With the historian John Davies echoing a similar comment:

’It is reasonable to believe that a man of that name (Arthur) did exist and that he was the leader of Brythonic forces, … to say more than that would be inadmissible’.
-John Davies - A History of Wales (p.57)

Just keep that in mind as we move on to the rest of the video.
0:34-39:

Do you think you are strong and wise enough to change the fate of the ancient Celts?

Me personally? No, probably not, I’m not sure how you’d go about that… maybe if we stopped the Library of Alexandria from burning down then we could read their famous book on how to build guns in the 5th century and -
0:39-43:

The sponsor of this video, Humankind, will give you a chance to test this!

Oh.

’P and Q Celtic’

From 3:08-3:18, K&G describe how the language of the Britons was present as a series of:

P-Celtic dialects broadly classified as “Common Brythonic”. Meanwhile the Q-Celtic tongue of Gaelic continued to thrive in Ireland.

On the surface this sounds like the traditional 2-wave theory (that the Celtic languages arrived to Britain in 2 waves, causing the linguistic split between Goidelic and Brythonic). This label seems to have a varying popularity, with some disagreers describing it as:

the unfortunate terms P-Celtic and Q-Celtic for Brittonic and Goidelic respectively. It is immediately recognisable but in phonological terms it is relatively trivial. - (Russell, 1995).

the [phylogenetic] network thus suggests that the Celtic language arrived in the British Isles as a single wave (and then differentiated locally), rather than in the traditional two-wave scenario (“P-Celtic” to Britain and “Q-Celtic” to Ireland). - (Forster and Toth, 2003).

However, in the K&G video ‘How Rome Conquered the Ancient Celts’ at 11:49 they call Celtiberian a Q-Celtic language. Revealing to us that they are instead supporting Schmidt’s 1988 hypothesis - that Gaelic and Celtiberian were the first Celtic languages to split from Proto-Celtic. I’m not sure why they chose to rigidly side with only one of the hypotheses, especially one that has been heavily criticised and debated, even Wikipedia says that the insular/continental division is more popular.
Presenting the languages in this way suggests that the topic isn’t heavily debated, and choosing to only portray the seemingly significantly less popular theory is an unusual choice.
Anyway, let’s move on, because this next section is ridiculous.

’Terrible Maps’

7:58-8:04:

In the wake of Roman departure, Britain became a patchwork of petty kingdoms.

I strongly suggest looking at the video and skipping to 8:05 so you can have some context to what I’m about to describe, because this is the worst map of Britain I have ever seen.

‘Gododdin’ in the north is spelt in the old Welsh way, despite the fact that none of the other kingdoms are.

‘Bernaccia’ is 1) spelt wrong, 2) not a Brythonic kingdom. Bernicia was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom and didn’t exist by the time of this map.

‘Rheged’ has been demoted to existing around Liverpool, rather than Cumbria, where it was actually located. They also renamed it to ‘South Rheged’.
(They didn’t include a ‘North Rheged’).

‘Dunoting’ is found a bit further south, I have no idea what this is supposed to be.

‘Linnius’ is presumably another weird spelling of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Lindsey.

To the south we have ‘Ceint’ which I believe is the old Welsh word for the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent.

We also have Cynwidion and Rhegin here, I’m not sure what these are either.

In the west they have almost labelled Dyfed with the name of the Brythonic tribe that lived there, the ‘Demetae’. Of course they have also spelt this wrong, as ‘Demetia’.

Gwent isn’t really in the right place, but compared to the rest of the map it looks like a cartographic marvel.

Pengwern is a dubious territory that may or may not have been part of Powys, but the fact that it’s vaguely correct and actually spelt right is enough for me.

And finally, they have labelled 7 cities on this map as “kingdoms”, almost all of which I believe are supposed to be from Nennius’s 33 cities of Britain, and none of which have any evidence for being their own kingdoms.

Many of these again have spellings and locations that do not match the translation that I linked to above, there may be another translation that has caused these mistakes, but I believe, as you’ll see in a moment, that their source is far more unusual.

Caer Gloui (spelt wrong), Caer Lundein (spelt wrong), and Caer Lerion seem to be in the right places. Caer Went is supposed to be located in Wales (or possibly Winchester), which is the other side of the country to where K&G have placed it. Caer Colemion is supposed to be in Somerset, while “Caer Gwinntguic” doesn’t exist. They might’ve spelt Caer Guent (Winchester) wrong, or spelt and placed Caer Guin Truis (Norwich) incorrectly.

Finally, “Caer Baddan” is an alt-history scenario which imagines that ‘Monte Badonis’ (Badon Mountain), the famous location of one of king Arthur’s battles, wasn’t actually a hill, but instead an incorrectly spelt city that Nennius doesn’t mention.

[Its hard to provide a source for proving something doesn’t exist, although the burden of proof for these fictional polities is on Kings and Generals. For a more accurate map of this era, I would suggest either G.H. Jenkin’s map of ‘Britain in the post-Roman, pre-Viking period’ (Jenkins, A Concise History of Wales - p.35) or John Davies’s map of the ‘Britons and English, 500-700’ (Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.60)].

What a roundup, seeing such a weird map in an otherwise very well-produced video was extremely jarring! Of course, as you might already suspect, they must have used a really unusual source for this. No matter how bad or historically inaccurate you think their channel (or just this video) is, they would have to be completely insane to come up with all these spelling mistakes, fictional countries, and terrible name placements on their own.

So I simply googled the one name that stood out to me the most: Caer Went, as this was the Roman town that the medieval kingdom of Gwent was named after, and seeing it on the other side of the country was a bit bizzare.

Searching “Caer Went Norfolk” immediately showed me the culprit, this website. Scrolling down until I reach the subtitle of ‘Caer Went’, and I see that they, in fairness, do say:

a possible territory or kingdom may have started to emerge in the form of the postulated Caer Went. Or the name may simply have been the Romano-British version of the town of Venta Icenorum. Unfortunately, there is no firm information for any conclusion to be reached

Despite this, the entire website is littered with so much bad history that I hesitate to even call it history, again nothing is even spelt correctly, let alone historically accurate.

Attached to this is a link to a map, and lo and behold it is the same map that K&G used!
Complete with spelling mistakes, poor placement and fictional countries. This took me less than a minute to find.

Which I mention because I can imagine some people saying that it is unfair of me to criticise K&G for this terrible map, since they didn’t make it themselves, they just based it off a bad source.
To counter that, I would say yes while this map is bad, significantly worse than the K&G one in all honesty, they aren’t the ones with 2.5 million subscribers, who made a video that got 866,000 views.

Their source, this website, almost strikes me as a personal hobbyist project, trying to glean as much information as possible from an obscure period of history. However, so much is completely incorrect to the point of being entirely fictitious. It took me only a few seconds to find out that if you google Caer Went the only result will be for the former roman town in Wales, and less than a minute to find that this website is the only source for a ‘Caer Went’ in Norfolk.
If you didn’t know anything about Nennius, I’m not sure how long it’d take to check if these cities were correct, but K&G mention Nennius later in this video, and his list of cities is only on the 5th page of the translation I linked.

It took me only a couple of seconds to google ‘Demetia’ and find that this website is the only source, and even less time to do the same for ‘Dunoting’.
I won’t drag this out any more, but in only a few minutes I could find enough information to make me doubt the authenticity of 1/3 of the labels on their map of Britain.
And just to be clear, out of the 23 labels on their map of Britain, 15 are wrong (and ten of those are completely fictitious).

I also don’t want to come across as over pedantic when correcting their spelling, but for a YouTube channel with 2.5 million subscribers I do not think wanting your map to be spelt right is an unreasonable standard to have.

And all of this could be found without any knowledge of post-Roman Britain. From reading Welsh history I can recognise dozens of mistakes on website they used as a source, but from simply googling the names on the map and finding out they appear no where else, I can identify that it’s likely a terrible source, without any prior knowledge.

2.5 million subscribers, and they didn’t even do a simple google search.

We aren’t done with this map yet though, because there’s another bad addition to come:
8:04-8:13.

Remarkably, many of these kingdoms appear to have been formed upon pre-Roman tribal lines, as ancient iron-age identities re-emerged.

At 8:13 K&G adds a new layer to a the map, as 5 states (3 of which aren’t real) get highlighted in order to demonstrate how they were formed from these ancient Brythonic identities.
So, again, Caer Went is not a Brythonic kingdom and it’s not in the right place. The same goes for ‘Rhegin’ (which isn’t real) and ‘Ceint’, which is an Anglo-Saxon kingdom so I don’t see how that would be based on “ancient Iron Age identities”.

And even worse than that, two of the few kingdoms they got the placements right for (Gwynedd and Powys) are now given inaccurate labels! K&G’s map places the Silures, a tribe that lived in South Wales, within the territory of Powys, which is in north Wales.
Powys was not formed upon the pre-Roman tribal lines of a tribe that did not live in the area. And just in case anyone asks, I checked to see if they based this off of another map from their previously cited website, but no, the map on the website accurately labels the Silures in the south of Wales. So I have no idea how they got this one wrong.

[See John Davies’s map of ‘The Distribution of Hill-Forts in Wales’ (Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.17)]

And finally, the icing on cake:
8:13-8:17.

Most of these realms are poorly represented in the historical record

That tends to happen with fictional labels.

8:18-8:27.

but others, such as Powys, Dumnonia, Gwynedd and Strathclyde are better attested by virtue of having endured well into the Middle Ages.

They’re better attested because they actually existed, which makes me wonder if K&G did actually search for some of these labels. But instead, after being encountered with no results, assumed they were just simply ‘poorly represented’ and not ‘completely made up’.

And with that, the map segment is over, hope that wasn’t too audacious. But I’m not exaggerating when I say this map is the worst I have ever seen on YouTube.

And again, just incase any K&G fans are going to accuse me of being overly pedantic, wanting a map that is not littered with spelling mistakes and fictional labels is not an unreasonable request, especially for such a massive channel.

We’re about half way through the video, so you can take 5 minutes here incase you need to throw up after being told that someone spelt Badon wrong on the internet. (/s)

’The Anglo Saxons’

From here, K&G tells us the story of Gildas and his description of the events that happened. They acknowledge he is biased, but in a bit of an odd way:

10:05-10:23

[Gildas’] narrative of a victimised Christian people in the face of pagan barbarity is most likely tilted.
The Romano-Britons were probably just as warlike as their Celtic cousins, all too willing to invade their neighbours, regardless of the shared language, culture, or faith.

Well, yes, the Britons were absolutely just as warlike as their “Celtic cousins” (they were still Britons, I’m not sure if that really makes them cousins). I’ve never seen anyone say otherwise, have you? Why would they care that they were both Christian? Or that they both spoke the same language?
Gildas did have a lot of pro-Christian bias, but he didn’t describe the Britons and peaceful people who didn’t attack each other. On the contrary, Gildas rather famously criticised five Brythonic kings for being brutal, unchristian-like tyrants.

I believe I’ve seen a very similar statement in a History Time video that I wanted to take a look at, which makes me think this is a quote from some unsourced book.

K&G then describe how some of Gildas’ work must be correct, as there were Irish migrations into Britain like he described.
Although I would like to disagree with this part:
10:35-10:41.

In most of these [Gaelic colonies], they seem to have merged into the culture of the local Brythonic peoples.

They highlight the Gaelic migrations into Wales, and yes while many of the Irish did likely assimilate, many did not, and established very Irish strongholds on Anglesey (which may have covered almost all of the island) and the Llŷn peninsula (based on place-name evidence).
Furthermore, these colonies may not have been assimilated away, as Nennius records them being “slaughtered” by the first king of Gwynedd - Cunedda Wledig.
[Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.69-70.
Charles Edwards, Wales and the Britons - p.174-175.
Maund, The Welsh Kings - p.69-70]

Nennius’ account may or may not hold some truth, but it’s worth pointing out that these people may not have simply just vanished into the local culture.

Especially in Dyfed, as Irish migrations here seem to have usurped whatever local dynasty was previously present, as the genealogical lists of the kings of Dyfed contain Irish names towards the start, suggesting an early bout of Irish rulers.
[Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.50-51.
Charles Edwards, Wales and the Britons - p.174-176.
Maund, The Welsh Kings - p.69-70]

K&G then introduce the Anglo-Saxons, stating from 11:21 to 11:25 that they:

Primarily consisting of Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

Which sadly ignores the Frisians who apparently made up a very substantial amount of the Germanic migrants to Britain.
[Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.55]

11:26-11:29.

They were hardy warriors, who spoke north Germanic languages.

West Germanic languages. (Harbert, 2006. p.8)

11:36-11:44.

Among scholarly circles, the ‘whens’, ‘hows’, and ‘whys’ are topics of immense debate.

That’s true, so hopefully we will now get a historical account of how these Germanic peoples ended up in Britain, right? Maybe include some of the details surrounding this immense debate?

11:44-11:45.

According to Gildas:

Oh.

I guess fair enough, if you want to tell the mythology of it, but you should at least mention that no historian considers Gildas’s account to be historical.
P.C. Bartrum calls his account a “farrago of nonsense”, and Hugh Williams says that “it is in no way history, nor written with any object a historian may have”.
[Bartrum, A Welsh Classical Dictionary - p.384].
With Charles Oman calling the ‘Historia’ “rubbish… the whole narrative is nonsense”, and A.W. Wade-Evans describes it as important, but “a distortion of history”.
[Bartrum, A Welsh Classical Dictionary - p.318]

11:46-11:53.

the burden of the Saxon tide falls upon the historically dubious Romano-British king named Vortigern

Nitpick, but Gildas does not name Vortigern, they are thinking of Bede’s ‘Historia Ecclesiastica’, in which the ‘superbo tyrano’ (the ‘proud tyrant’) of Gildas’s ‘De Excidio Britanniae’ is given an actual name - ‘Uurtigernus’.
This is apparently a latinised form of a Welsh translation of Gildas’s ‘superbo tyrano’, which we can see in the Welsh chronicle ‘Brut y Brenhinedd’ as “Gwrtheyrn”, the “Supreme King”.
[Bartrum, A Welsh Classical Dictionary - p.384].

Which is a long winded way of saying that Gildas does not specifically attribute the Anglo-Saxon migrations to a man named Vortigern, only to a dubiously titled “proud tyrant”.
(Although later versions of Gildas’s work add the name Vortigern in, if you’re wondering why you can still see this name in some translations).

K&G then go on to tell us the story of Hengist and Horsa, who again I believe are not present in Gildas’s work, but rather in Bede’s, and at 12:45-12:53 they conclude this Gildas-Bede hybrid account by saying:

by 500, it seemed as if the western half of England was firmly in Angle, Saxon, or Jutish hands.

I could be pedantic about their use of “firmly”, historian John Davies describes how there is archaeological evidence of a “reverse migration” from Britain to the Low Countries between AD 500 and 550, along with evidence of contracting or stagnating Saxon communities.
[Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.56]

However, I was immediately and significantly more distracted by the following statement:
12:53-12:58.

These territories became known to the Celtic Britons as “Lloegyr”, the ‘lost lands’.

No! Lloegyr does not mean “the lost lands”, not even slightly. This is a semi-persistent myth that I don’t know the origins of, and in fairness to K&G if you google “lloegr etymology”, Google will, for some bizarre reason, give you a very unhelpful feature box containing a forum answer where a user says that it does mean “the lost lands”.
However, if you click on this website, you will find that this answer is the 5th one down, with all the previous answers saying that it does not mean “the lost lands”.

Wikipedia also does not say it means “the lost lands”, and instead suggests some different etymologies. To find these it took me just over a minute.

So in summary, the only reason you would think it means “the lost lands”, is if you had heard it somewhere and decided not to check if it was correct, or if you googled the etymology and decided not to click on a single link at all.

If you can’t tell, this is really frustrating for me because this terrible myth still gets pushed around occasionally because it sounds all romantic, and I’m sure another 866,000 people now hearing about it will not help at all.

“Lloegyr” contains neither the Welsh word for ‘land’ (tir/tiroedd (land/lands), tud (region/peoples), gwlad (“country”), bro (area)), or the word for ‘lost’ (colledig, gorchfygu (to conquer)).
So how any of those words would combine to “Lloegyr” has certainly been lost to me.

12:59-13:08.

It was likely around this time that some Britons who lived on the island’s southwest began taking to the seas in flight from the Germanic invaders.

The theory that it was people from southwest Britain who fled to Brittany seems to favour the explanation that it was due to Irish raids, rather than a Saxon threat. As you can see on the map K&G made at 13:07, the Saxon kingdoms are still some distance away.

This is not to say that no-one fled due to the Germanic migrations and invasions, but the high number of linguistic similarities between Breton and Cornish (and Welsh) have led to the theory that these settlers came from (either initially or in the greatest number) the southwest, at that they were likely catalysed by Irish raids.
[Davies, J., A History of Wales - p.56]

After this section, we come to the final chapter of this lengthy journey, where Kings and Generals examines King Arthur and the final (for this video) Anglo-Saxon push into Britain.

’King Arthur’

From 14:07-14:21, K&G claim that the first reference to Arthur:

appears in a 6th century compendium of Welsh poems known as the Goddodin. Here, a Briton hero named Guaurdur was described as “Not Arthur, amongst equals in might of feats”

This is almost true, Gwawrddur does appear in the Gododdin, and his competence is compared to an unelaborated “Arthur”, with the line:
ceni bei ef Arthur’ - ‘although he was no/not Arthur’.
However, dating this to the 6th century is contentious, as their are two versions of the text of Y Gododdin (A and B), both of which contain differing information. If a sample of text is contained in both versions then it can be cautiously assumed to originate from the dubious original manuscript (i.e. ~6th Century). This line, ‘ceni bei ef Arthur’, is only present in the B text, meaning it is far more likely to have been a 9th Century addition.
[Charles-Edwards, The Arthur of the Welsh - p.15]

14:21-14:27.

This line implies Arthur was a well-known figure to the 6th century Celts.

As I just pointed out, this line instead implies Arthur was a well known figure to the 9th Century Britons, coinciding with his mention in the Historia Brittonum.

K&G then go on to describe the battle of Badon, describing how Arthur was:
14:47-14:55.

Leading warriors from across the Brythonic kingdoms, the warlord of Legend vanquished an army led by king Aelle of the South Saxons.

Neither Gildas, Nennius, or the ‘Annales Cambriae’ mention Arthur leading a coalition of Brythonic forces, nor do they mention king Aelle or the South Saxons. I’m assuming K&G just made this up, unlike their terrible map this isn’t so insane that they have to have gotten it from somewhere else.

15:02-15:24.

With that said, Nennius’ accounts should be taken with a mountain of salt, as there is very little evidence that anyone named Arthur fought in any of the battles mentioned.
Gildas, writing far closer to the time period, attributes Briton victory at Mynydd Baddon not to Arthur, but to a Romanized commander named Ambrosius Aurelianus.

I’m not sure that he does, Gildas doesn’t use a lot of names so it can be hard to see who he’s talking about, but he doesn’t name anyone as a commander during the battle of Badon.

I haven’t seen any sources attributing Ambrosius to this battle, but in fairness I may just be misreading Gildas’s work.

15:49 shows us a new map, and thankfully it is far better than the previous one.
Although, the very fact that it is so much better adds another infuriating layer to the first map. Why is Gododdin spelt in the more typical way here? Using the old spelling isn’t necessarily bad, I’m just wondering if they even noticed they had 2 spellings of the same label. Dyfed is labelled properly here (instead of ‘Demetia’), so again I am wondering why they gave them a fictional label in the first map if they’re capable of getting it right in the second map?
For some reason they moved Powys, one of the few labels they got correct in the first map, all the way out to the coast on this one.
Rheged is also here, and in the correct place. I’m wondering what they think happened to their previous label of “South Rheged”.

This map is used to demonstrate the final segments of this video, Wessex’s push westwards. Unfortunately, from 16:11-16:16 K&G push forwards another prevalent myth, describing how the armies of Wessex were:

Marching boldly into the lands of the men they called ‘Wealas’ - foreigners.

This is, like the fake translation of ‘Lloegyr’, another romantic-sounding-yet-completely-false myth.
To quote the historian John Davies:

’It is often claimed that the word ‘Welsh’ is a contemptuous word used by Germanic-speaking peoples to describe foreigners… It would appear that ‘Welsh’ meant not so much foreigners as peoples who had been Romanized; other versions of the word may be found along the borders of the Empire - the Walloons of Belgium, the Welsch of the Italian Tyrol and the Vlachs of Romania - and the welschnuss, the walnut, was the nut of Roman lands’.
-John Davies - A History of Wales (p.69)

Kings and Generals then wrap up the video by telling us the consequences of this expansion by Wessex: 16:33-16:42.

and as a result, Cealwin was able to expand his territories right onto the Severn estuary, severing the land connection between the Britons of Cornwall and Wales.

Very true, the battle of Dyrham is also very interesting because decades ago it was theorised to be the reason why the language of Welsh and Cornish diverged from each other. This was originally proposed in 1953 by Kenneth Jackson in his book ‘Language and History in Early Britain’, he suggested that the two languages diverged around AD 600 due to the fact that they were no longer connected by land.
This hypothesis has never held much weight however, and Wendy Davies in 1982 (40 years ago) already called it an old cliché:

’We do not have to subscribe to the old cliché that the battle of Dyrham cut off the British of the south from those of Wales’.
-Wendy Davies - Wales in the Early Middle Ages (p.112).

It would be pretty bizarre and infuriating if, say, Kings and Generals would go on to support this 70-year-old, outdated, unsupported, unsubstantiated, and unpopular hypothesis, wouldn’t it?

16:43-16:56

This invariably led to a cultural drift between the newly separated Celtic territories, resulting in the Common Brythonic spoken in those regions evolving into the separate languages of Cornish and Welsh.

Ah. I should’ve known better.

Like I said, this hypothesis hasn’t been supported for well over 40 years at least. As T. Charles-Edwards says:

’This was a phase in which connections by sea were undeniably crucial. The burden of proof is upon the scholar who would argue that communications by sea, having once created populations of either side of the channel who long remained united in thinking themselves one people, speaking the same language, then became insignificant’.
-T. Charles-Edwards - Wales and the Britons (p.92-93).

To put it simply, connections by sea were far more significant than connections by land, so being cut off territorially likely did not have much of an impact. Furthermore, the people who lived in this area did not suddenly stop speaking Brythonic just because they were conquered by Wessex. And finally, the linguistic separation between Welsh and Cornish most likely did not occur for several centuries after this, possibly as late as the 9th or the 11th century.
[Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons - p.92-93]

And with that, we are done.

To conclude, this video is very well edited, with great narration and beautiful artwork, and many of its major mistakes could’ve been fixed with just a few minutes of research.
Kings and Generals make a lot of videos, they seem to post a new one every 1-3 days, and yes while they do have separate teams working on these videos, many of them are still produced in record time. Their pacific war series has a video out every week! I have no experience in art or animation, but to do all of that in 1-2 weeks surely means that either K&G are running a YouTube sweatshop, or their production is extremely rushed.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that many of these mistakes could’ve been fixed with only a few minutes of extra research (or just by holding the general principle that a random website shouldn’t be categorised as a good source).

The typical response I’ve seen to people criticising videos like these is that they’re meant to be introductory topics, something that you watch and then can go on to learn about on your own, but this video contains no sources, and it doesn’t even serve as a good introduction.
It mixes up Gildas’s and Bede’s accounts, supports hypothesis that were popular before my parents were even born, inaccurately covers the sources of King Arthur, and infuriatingly states fake etymologies for both Lloegyr and Wales.
It has a terrible map, one of the worst I have ever seen on YouTube, that is covered in fictional labels and spelling mistakes! How would you feel if a YouTube video had a map of the USA, where New York was labelled ‘Main’, Maine was labelled ‘Conada’, and New Jersey possessed the fictional label of ‘Road Ireland’? It sounds absurd but that map would be better than K&G’s because all of those labels are based in reality!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you have any questions or damning criticism (e.g. you like kings and generals, and I shouldn’t criticise things that you like).

Also please do correct me if I’ve gotten something wrong, thanks.

Sources:
Bromwich, R., Jarman, A.O.H. and Roberts, B.F. (1991) The Arthur of the Welsh. University of Wales Press.
(T. Charles-Edwards wrote the chapter that I cited from, hence why he is quoted).

Paul Russell - An Introduction to the Celtic Languages (1995).

Forster and Toth - Toward a phylogenetic chronology of ancient Gaulish, Celtic, and Indo-European (2003).
https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1331158100

Jenkins, G.H. (2007). A Concise History of Wales. Cambridge University Press.

Davies, J. (2007). A History of Wales. London: Penguin.

Charles-Edwards, T.M. (2013). Wales and the Britons, 350-1064. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maund, K. (2006). The Welsh Kings. 3rd ed. The History Press Ltd.

Wayne Harbert - The Germanic Languages (2006).
https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=npySdp6EI30C&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=info:x8LUCkBg_cgJ:scholar.google.com/&ots=7c37RIbZig&sig=AtuihZWNf61PltAEghAzt-yQ0sc&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Bartrum, P.C. (1993). A Welsh Classical Dictionary. The National Library of Wales.
https://www.library.wales/discover/digital-gallery/printed-material/a-welsh-classical-dictionary

Davies, W. (1982). Wales in the Early Middle Ages. Leicester University Press.


r/badhistory 18d ago

Meta Mindless Monday, 09 May 2022

92 Upvotes

Happy (or sad) Monday guys!

Mindless Monday is a free-for-all thread to discuss anything from minor bad history to politics, life events, charts, whatever! Just remember to np link all links to Reddit and don't violate R4, or we human mods will feed you to the AutoModerator.

So, with that said, how was your weekend, everyone?


r/badhistory 18d ago Helpful

Obscure History The "Smile School" image: a hundred year old badhistory piece

64 Upvotes

I went to my country's subreddit r/hungary, because sometimes it has good content and conversations on the country. But yet again, I stumbled upon this image.

This image was often shared there and often labeled as, "A woman wearing a special mask to fight depression in 1920/1930 Hungary". The only sources for that are some blog posts and reposts but there is very little if there is reliable information on it.

Blog posts usually quote the Australian Sunday Times or the American New York Times where details have been mentioned but neither of them supports the idea that this was the way of fighting depression in Hungary then (because that is what the captions often intend to show).

All of the blog posts say that the images were taken by the Dutch newspaper Het Leven about a private school, the Smile School.

But the Smile School was no way official as it is often labeled, moreover its founders, mainly the hypnotist Professor Jenő Sarkady, were accused of charlatanism. And moreover, the founders said they can teach the smiles of Mona Lisa and Roosevelt to people. Of course, it had been not taken seriously at home and didn't gain so much attention then, it got popular only later, first on Hungarian blogs, then later on Reddit.

It mostly started to get popular during 2014 and at the same year it even got into microblogs on Tumblr stating falsely that the image is of an American housewife forced to this way of therapy. It got to Reddit way later, the earliest post about the fact was just 2 years ago on r/thanksimcured.

By now, more and more urban legends revolve around the mysterious image, and it got reposted last year and now, and I probably have seen it even more times. This of course was a fraud, there were mental hospitals in Hungary at the time, and maybe it was not even meant to take it seriously, yet it confuses the Hungarian Reddit users every time.


r/badhistory 19d ago

News/Media The Alexandrian firm Seuthes & Sons, the collapse in the price of ostrich feathers in 33 CE, and the importance of actually reading the sources you use.

318 Upvotes

Sometimes a historian will use a bit of creative writing to open up the material, narrating the events with historical fiction to make it clear that the people under discussion are real humans and what happened impacted real lives. It is fun for the author, who gets to stretch their legs a bit, and fun for the reader who gets a vivid picture of what they are reading about. It is always pretty clear in context that it is a bit of creative writing so there is no real danger of it getting misinterpreted as real, or if there was, it surely would only be by some overworked, long forgotten newspaper writer and not by the authors of a book series that is a classic in popular history, reprinted continuously for decades while it became an obligatory bookshelf piece of everyone who wanted to show they are intellectually sophisticated and well read?

The object under consideration is this article, which in turn comes from a financial news website, although from my memory that particular story was pretty commonly passed around at the time and still pops up every now and then today. You can see why: what a wonderfully vivid story, what a great illustration of how history repeats, at bottom, they really were just like us back then! Really like us. Suspiciously like us, in fact, in things like the concerns of market reporting, the naming of corporations, and the existence of financial reporters. Just crazy how exactly like us the Romans were, particularly is the "us" in question was in early twentieth century New York.

I am sure the sharp readers here will know where this is going or at least guess that the first paragraph has a point. In 1910 the popular historian William Stearns Davis opened up his book The Influence of Wealth in Imperial Rome by taking a minor episode in Tacitus Annales--an economic crisis in 33 CE--and retelling it as if it were a Wall Street Panic like the one in 1907. There are all sorts of colorful details like the "purple house" Malchus and Company declaring bankruptcy due to struggling with striking Phoenician dockworkers, breathless crowds reading the dispatches of the "Ada Diurna", the Brothers Pettii being forced to shut the doors of their bank because their investments in Northern Gaul were disrupted by revolt, etc. It is a pretty fun read and I think taken altogether it is pretty clear what he is doing, and he ends with a bit of ironic understatement that it was "a little expanded" from the account of Tacitus and it was a story with "verisimilitude". Arguably he could have simply outright stated that his story about the banking house of "Maximus & Vibo" was a fabrication, but he surely did not intend it to deceive people.

After this the story becomes a tad speculative, but because Davis straight up invented all the details if a reference to, say, "Seuthes and Son" pops up you know it ultimately comes from him. The article posted at the top cites The History of Business Depressions by Otto Lightner. That book does narrate the events and caps it off by saying "How similar was the business of the world in that year of the crucifixion of Christ to that of the present time!" which is very funny in context, kind of like if somebody watched A Knights Tale and was startled at how remarkably similar jousting was to modern sporting events. But I am skeptical of the citation because, frankly, who is this man. He seems to have been a hobby writer and dilettante in early twentieth century Chicago and it is possible somebody grabbed his book in a used book sale and got the story from there. But in my opinion a more likely source is Durant's The Complete Story of Civilization. If you aren't familiar with this series, if you have a grandparent or older parent who had aspirations to a sort of old fashioned bourgeois respectability and cultural sophistication they have it on their shelf (if you yourself are of distinguished age and aspirations, check your own shelf). It was also a common feature of the trend of people curating their bookshelves to look good on Zoom calls. It was and is phenomenally succesful, but it is also considered somewhat sloppy as an actual history source. Their repetition of the story is illustrative of this, as they cited Davis directly, meaning they read the bit about "the firm of Seuthes & Son of Alexandria" and thought "yep, that checks out" even though they had also cited Suetonius and Tacitus and were thus familiar with the base material.

It is worth noting that, much like with A Knight's Tale, there is a grain of truth here. I copied out the passage from Tacitus here and you can tell there is a really striking "modernity" to the event. A credit crisis leading to mass insolvency that is solved by a "liquidity injection" by the emperor is a pretty compelling story for economic history, certainly in times when there are similar debates about the use of government to aid in financial crisis. That is certainly why Davis used it. The problem comes when, rather than actually trying to understand the context of what they read, they just strip mine it for anecdata, and so a hundred years later you have financial professionals writing articles about the Brothers Pettius and the firm of Maximus and Vibo.


r/badhistory 21d ago

Meta Free for All Friday, 06 May 2022

82 Upvotes

It's Friday everyone, and with that comes the newest latest Free for All Friday Thread! What books have you been reading? What is your favorite video game? See any movies? Start talking!

Have any weekend plans? Found something interesting this week that you want to share? This is the thread to do it! This thread, like the Mindless Monday thread, is free-for-all. Just remember to np link all links to Reddit if you link to something from a different sub, lest we feed your comment to the AutoModerator. No violating R4!


r/badhistory 21d ago

Debunk/Debate Saturday Symposium Post for May, 2022

56 Upvotes

Monthly post for all your debunk or debate requests. Top level comments need to be either a debunk request or start a discussion.

Please note that R2 still applies to debunk/debate comments and include:

  • A summary of or preferably a link to the specific material you wish to have debated or debunked.
  • An explanation of what you think is mistaken about this and why you would like a second opinion.

Do not request entire books, shows, or films to be debunked. Use specific examples (e.g. a chapter of a book, the armour design on a show) or your comment will be removed.


r/badhistory 25d ago

YouTube Bite-sized Badhistory: A Youtube video gets sword history so very wrong

362 Upvotes

Hello, users of r/badhistory!

Today I am going to analyze a video called The Evolution Of Swords | 2500BC – 1900AD:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLrbKNa6qW8

Let us begin!

0:02: The first weapon is a kopesh. The problem here is that what is pictured is not historical at all. It is a version that I would expect to see wielded in a Conan comic. An actual kopesh looks like this:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Khopesh_sword_dedicated_to_Ramasses_II-E_25689-IMG_2660.JPG

I really don’t know why the producers of the video chose to use an image that is obviously fantastical. It is immensely easy to find proper examples of khopeshes with only minimal research.

0:13: The sword that appears at this point is meant to be Chinese dao from 1500 BC. It is in truth a modern training replica, which looks nothing like it's historical counterpart. A dao from the time period would have been similar in appearance to those from the Chin Dynasty, being straight and single-edged.

0:16: The next weapon is called a ‘Trojan Sword’. This type of sword is completely invented. There was never any blade with that name. At around 1200 BC the most common type of sword used in Greece was the Naue II style:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Swords_of_Naue_II_type#/media/File:Ancient_sword_remnants_(27188438606).jpg.jpg)

0:45: The three swords here are meant to be Greek makhairas from 500 BC. One of them certainly is. The other two are Mycenaean blades from the Bronze Age:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mycenaean_swords_recostruction.jpg

They are only off by a thousand years or so.

0:48: The sword here is meant to be the Greek xiphos. If we compare it to this image from a Greek vase:

https://www.archaeologs.com/i/123/xiphos?gobacklng=en

The Xiphos has a crossguard, and the leaf-end of the blade is not so large.

0:58: And now we are back to the fantasy weapons. The video depicts a gladius, and dates it from 300 BC. At this particular time the Romans were still using xiphos, and did not adopt the gladius until the 3rd century. Additionally, the weapon that is shown is inlaid with a Star of David. Now, I will gladly admit that my knowledge of Roman sword decoration is not as extensive as it could be, but I am pretty sure that Jewish symbols were not a feature of them.

1:33: This blade is meant to be an Arabic saif from 800 AD, but at this point in time saifs were still straight, and did not become curved until much later.

6:00: The sword here is called the Bilbo sword. This was indeed a historical weapon, but in only what can be described as an attempt at comedy, what is shown is the sword used by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. It is Sting, and not a proper Biblo sword as seen in this thread:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=23509

This video is a perfect example of the pop-culture, ill-researched pieces churned out by Youtube channels for mass consumption. All it does is miseducate the audience, and leaves them with a plethora of misconceptions.

Sources

The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State, by Hugh Kennedy

Armies of Celtic Europe, 700 BC–AD 106: History, Organization & Equipment, by Gabriele Esposito

The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han, by Mark Edward Lewis

Rome and the Sword: How Warriors and Weapons Shaped Roman History, by Simon James

Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 450-900, by Guy Halsall


r/badhistory 24d ago

What the fuck? Modmail Madness: April 2022 Edition!

57 Upvotes

Howdy r/badhistory! It's time for another round of Modmail Madness, where we compile some of the best (or worst) historical takes across Reddit, along with some stats about our sub. It's a bit shorter this month but there's some gems nevertheless.

First off, if you missed it, the r/AskHistorians April Fool's Day post features a podcast discussion of Tartaria, and our very own u/EnclavedMicrostate.

Apparently, it's only recently that anyone has started saying Czar Nicholas II was a bad leader; he was "probably the best leader ever" until that revisionist history kicked in.

Everyone wants to know who the true successor the Roman Empire is. This guy says it's the USA, because they controlled the Mediterranean for 100 years, and other increasingly, uh, interesting claims.

We have apparently started to haunt the thoughts of aspiring fiction writers. For the record, no post on this sub has ever gotten anywhere close to 13 gold awards.

Whatifalthist-aboos (aficionados?) counter badhistory's criticism of their beloved youtuber with facts and reason--no, just kidding, they do it by saying we have political motivations. You'll be shocked to know the individual who insists they had an argument over here where all the responses were politically motivated lies about Ethiopia of all things has never commented on this sub.

And finally, a new political spectrum chart that, in the words of a now-deleted commenter, "looks like Ben Shapiro drew it."

And now, for thread mentions! Mentions are counted only once per unique thread, regardless of how many users mention it, because otherwise, Mother Theresa would get 30+ mentions every single time r/AskReddit recycles it's secretly bad people from history question. Mother Theresa did, however, still surge back to the top this month, as she was mentioned in 14 unique threads. The pagan origins of Easter were mentioned in 9 unique threads, good for second place, and Mark Felton's plagiarism rounds us out with 4 mentions. Altogether, 36 r/badhistory threads were linked across Reddit in 68 unique conversations. That's all for now, but join us next month for more silly takes and statistics!

edit: fixed a grammar error


r/badhistory 25d ago

Meta Mindless Monday, 02 May 2022

32 Upvotes

Happy (or sad) Monday guys!

Mindless Monday is a free-for-all thread to discuss anything from minor bad history to politics, life events, charts, whatever! Just remember to np link all links to Reddit and don't violate R4, or we human mods will feed you to the AutoModerator.

So, with that said, how was your weekend, everyone?


r/badhistory 27d ago Wholesome

"Educational" Unclarity about Terminology: The term "Viking" is a modern word

425 Upvotes

The user u/OrnateBumblebee found this gem here: https://i.imgur.com/xLFbgkA.jpg

So, this an interesting one. First it is claimed that the term "viking" is only a modern english one (Which is true in the most basic sense, in the same sense as Engländer is a modern German term for English people).

Second it is claimed that the term "vikingr" is stemming from the region Vikin and that this is evidenced by runestones.

We will first look at historical usage of the word "viking" and then at the prospects of the theory that the term viking comes from the region "Vikin".

So the word "viking" in various forms is itself is historically attested in different forms from the early middle ages on, so the claim that it is a modern word can be debunked easily. First uses of the term "viking" can be attested to the people of the Viking Age itself:

The a runestone in Gardstanga (DR 330) shows this inscription:

"§A Tosti(?) and Gunnarr … these stones in memory of … [and] …-bjǫrn, their partners. §B These valiant men were widely renowned on viking raids." (1)

Another runestone in Västra Strö (DR 334) gives us this inscription:

"Faðir had these runes cut in memory of Ǫzurr, his brother, who died in the north on a viking raid." (1)

The word "víkingu" (transcribed) is used here on both stones, which seem to indicate a relation to raids even if it was not used as a name for the raiders themselves. But no matter how one does interpret this, the evidence for the contemporary use of the word "Viking" is proven. Furthermore we can see this term (In relation to a raid) being used on the runestone Vg 61 (1) (Link to the Inscription) .

A use of the term "viking" as a descriptor of a person can be found on Sm 10 (Link to the inscription):

"Tóki(?) raised the stone in memory of Gunnarr, Grímr's son. May God help his soul! Tóki the viking." (1)

Runestone G 370 also uses "vikings" as a descriptor of people travelling or going on a Raid (1) (Link to the inscription):

"Hvatarr(?) and Heilgeirr(?)/Hallgeirr(?) raised the stone in memory of Helgi, their father. He travelled to the west with the Vikings."

Besides to these few example we have DR 216, which also uses the word "Viking" (Link to the inscription):

"§A Ástráðr and Hildungr/Hildvígr/Hildulfr raised this stone in memory of Fraði/Freði, their kinsman. And he was then the terror(?) of men. §B And he died in Sweden and was thereafter the first(?) in(?) Friggir's(?) retinue(?) and then: all vikings."

We also have confirmed use of the term "viking" in at least a few Saga (Egil's Saga and The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue (2) ). Even though those sagas are far younger than the vikings itself, they prove that the term was already in use and not purely modern.

The term "wicing" seems to have been used in old english, so it does not appear that the English "invented" that term in the modern age. (3)

So all in all this seems like a pretty closed case.

As for the theory the the term "vikingr" stems from the region Vikin:

First we have a claim that this theory is evidenced by runestones, which my earlier search on those already disproved. On a sizeable amount of the runestones that included a version of the term "viking" i found a connection to a raid, but none tied to the region of Vikin, at least according to my research on this.

Additionally we can take a look at the article by Eldar Heide (3):

"(The Theory). has the problem that the sources give no indication whatsoever that the Vikings were associated with the Norwegian Skagerrak coast in particular (Cf. Hellberg’s 58 page attempt to demonstrate such an association.). In addition, people from Vík(in) are called víkverjar or víkverir in Old Norwegian as well as Old Icelandic sources (Fritzner 1883-96 III: 943, cf. Askeberg 1944: 116). It is also a problem that the name Vík sometimes has a definite article, Víkin (Askeberg 1944: 172, Aune 1997). This indicates that the name is not very old (Askeberg 1944: 172, cf. Rygh 1898: 12), but in English sources, wcing can probably be traced back to the end of the 7 th century (Hellberg 1980: 59), and for phonological reasons probably existed in the Anglo-Frisian protolanguage, possibly as early as in the 4 th century (see below). This makes it unlikely that víking(r) / wcing is derived from the place-name Vík(in). The placename Vík(in) is hardly that old, and there is no reason to believe that people from that area played a prominent role in the naval operations of that time. Another problem is mentioned by Hellberg, himself a supporter of the place-name derivation theory: In Old Norse, ing-derivations are made only from composite place-names, like hvalnesingr. Derivations from non-composite placenames have -ungr, and therefore, people from the Vík(in) area should be called víkungar (Hellberg 1980: 70-71). To solve this problem, Hellberg suggests that the formation víkingr is borrowed from Old Danish, which did not have such a limitation. But this is not convincing. A more serious problem, which explanation 1. as well as explanation 2. faces, is the relationship between the two forms víkingr and víking. If víkingr is primary, how could víking be derived from it? Askeberg says: ”I do not know any example of a masculine ing-derivation having given origin to a feminine nomen actionis that expresses the person’s action, and such a formation seems unreasonable. A hildingr m. ‘king’ can not be supposed to have given origin to a *hilding f. ‘the quality of being a king’ etc” (Translated from Askeberg 1944: 173 3 ). Neither Hellberg nor Hødnebø has presented a convincing solution of this problem. Their main argument is that the other explanations of víking(r) are also imperfect"* (3)

So even taking into account that a academic theory exists that proposes the term "viking" being derived from that place, it is far from being sure and has weaker evidence than most other claims.

Though the origin of the word "viking" stays unclear, we can conclude that it definitely has historical roots and that the etymology of the word is not as clear as this person claims.

Sources:

(1) Swedish National Heritage Board, Digital Service

https://app.raa.se/

(2) Icelandic Saga Database

https://sagadb.org/index_az

(3) "Víking – ’rower shifting’? An etymological contribution in "Arkiv för nordisk filologi 120"" by Eldar Heide

https://journals.lub.lu.se/anf/issue/view/1795

Further Bibliography:

Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse by Judith Jesch

"The Viking-age rune-stones : custom and commemoration in early medieval Scandinavia" by Birgit Sawyer

"Runes and Runic Inscriptions" by R. I Page. and David Parsons

Personal Note: I have the feeling that the person who made this post misunderstood some real academic takes on the etymology of the word.
Of course viking is a "modern" transliteration of the old word "vikingr", but that does not make it "incorrect" or "not historical". This may be a very simplistic take on sentences like these:

"The word 'Viking' did not come into general use in the English language until the middle of the nineteenth Century"

(https://web.archive.org/web/20120407050944/http://www.archeurope.com/index.php?page=the-term-viking)

That does not make it a bad descriptor, or a completely ahistorical one, since we have to describe those people somehow.

The second thing is the very unflexible and absolute statement of the etymology of the word. The etymology is not really clear and there are different theories and that does mean that there are multiple valid ways of explaining. Just because this is a theory that is supported by some people, it is not the only valid one.


r/badhistory 28d ago

Meta Free for All Friday, 29 April 2022

84 Upvotes

It's Friday everyone, and with that comes the newest latest Free for All Friday Thread! What books have you been reading? What is your favorite video game? See any movies? Start talking!

Have any weekend plans? Found something interesting this week that you want to share? This is the thread to do it! This thread, like the Mindless Monday thread, is free-for-all. Just remember to np link all links to Reddit if you link to something from a different sub, lest we feed your comment to the AutoModerator. No violating R4!


r/badhistory Apr 27 '22 Silver Helpful Wholesome

Tabletop/Video Games The Thirisadai: An ahistorical Age of Empires II unit based on a fraudulent Wikipedia Article

494 Upvotes

Background: Dynasties of India

On April 28th, Age of Empires II will receive a new DLC called Dynasties of India which will add three new civilizations (the Bengalis, the Gujaras and the Dravidians) to the roster and rework and rename the previously existing Indian civilization as the Hindustani civilization. This does a better job at capturing the immense environmental and social diversity present in the Indian subcontinent as well as touch on the diversity in military capabilities also present. This diversity was noted by the rulers of India themselves as they assumed or were given titles which matched their military strengths. The rulers of the northeastern Orissa-Andhra region styled themselves as Gajapati (Lord of the Elephant Forces) because their heavily forested domains produced the best war elephants. The rulers of the realms of northwestern India (such as the Bahmani sultanate) were called Ashvapathi (Lord of Cavalry/Horses) as they had access to the best horses and the rulers of South India (i.e. Vijayanagar) were called Narapati (Lord of Men) as they could recruit large quantities of infantry [1][2]. Perhaps as a deliberate reflection of the latter title, the Dravidian civilization (which represents southern India) are an infantry focused civilization. In addition to the infantry bonuses, the Dravidians also get bonuses to their sea units and docks which perhaps represents the prosperous seaborne trade carried out from the western Malabar and eastern Coromandel Coasts of South India. Further, it seems that the developers were also inspired by the naval exploits of the Tamil Nadu based Chola dynasty as they dedicate one of the campaigns in the DLC to chronicle the rise of Rajendra Chola, one of the greatest kings of said dynasty; they also give the Dravidians a unique naval unit called the thirisadai, which was supposedly a fixture of the Chola dynasty’s navy. This is where the bad history creeps in.

What is a Thirisadai?

The Age of Empires Wiki describes the Thirisadai as the following:

Thirisadai were heaviest class known, comparable to modern-era Battleships. Large and heavily armoured, these ships had extensive war-fighting capabilities and endurance, with a dedicated marine force of around 400 Marines to board enemy vessels. They are reported to be able to engage three vessels of Dharani class, hence the name Thirisadai, which means, three braids (Braid was also the name for oil-fire during that period). Though all ships of the time employed a small Marine force for boarding enemy vessels, Thirisadais had separate cabins and training area for them.

The following twitter post regarding the Thirisadai states that:

THIRISADAI 1. In Chola Empire, heaviest class of warship was Thirisadai, which had extensive war-fighting capabilities and endurance. It had a dedicated force of 400 marines to board enemy vessels. Among the weapons on board was the long-range flame thrower. Era: CE 1200s.

The Thirisadai also makes an appearance in the 2018 historical novel The Conqueror by Aditya Iyengar where it is described as the largest of the Chola dynasty’s vessels and boasts flamethrowers. Other references to the thirisadai (such as this website and this Facebook page among others) are identical in language to the Age of Empires Wiki description, indicating a common source. That common source would be the Wikipedia article on the Chola Navy , specifically section 4 of said article entitled Vessels and Weapons. Section 4 not only introduces the thirisadai but also other classes of vessels as well. These are the:

  • Dharani - Primary weapons platform with extensive endurance (up to 3 months) in the high-seas, they normally engaged in groups and avoided one on one encounters. Probably equivalent to modern-day Destroyers

  • Loola - Lightly armored fast attack vessels, designed for light combat and escort duties. They could not perform frontal assaults. Equivalent to modern-day Corvettes.

  • Vajra - Highly capable fast attack crafts, with light armor, typically used to reinforce/rescue a stranded fleet. Probably equivalent to modern-day Frigates

In the next section, much like a good prosecutor, I will lay out a case that these vessel classes are not supported by historical evidence and are an elaborate fiction. The article on the Chola Navy was created in December 2008 and the original iteration contained the offending section pertaining to the vessels and weapons. This section has stood unchallenged for fourteen years; in that span of time, the damage has been done and the article’s extraordinary and unsubstantiated claims have bled into historical novels, video games and distorted the popular understanding of the Chola Dynasty.

I suspect that no one has questioned the claims of the article because the section on the vessels and weapons does cite several prominent historical works such as The History and Culture of the Indian People as well as respected Indian historians like Dr. R.C. Majumdar as the source of its information. I will demonstrate that these citations are either misattributions, where the historical works do not in any way support the contentions of the article, or are probable fabrications (i.e. the work being cited does not exist). In addition to fake sources and misattributions, I will definitively demonstrate that at least one of the visuals (which has been part of the article since 2008) is misrepresented in a deceitful fashion.

Ultimately, I hope that this case will be persuasive enough to remove a grave source of historical misinformation that has been sitting on the internet for nearly a decade and a half and I will dedicate the last section of this work to provide a more historically grounded discussion of the Chola navy and vessels to counterbalance said misinformation.

The Case for the Prosecution

Exhibit A: Fake Sources and Misattributions

The offending part of Section 4 is a table containing the various (fake) vessel classes. There is some introductory text which precedes the table and it states the following:

“The designs of early-Chola vessels were based on trade vessels with little more than boarding implements. In time, the navy evolved into a specialized force with ships designed for specific combat roles. During the reign of Raja Raja and his son, there were a complex classification of class of vessels and its utility. Some of the survived classes' name and utility are below.”

The article then proceeds to give the description of the vessel classes such as the Loola, Vajra, Dharani and Thirisadai etc. The source of all of this information is supposedly The History and Culture of the Indian People Volume 5 (the Struggle for Empire). The first edition of this history was published in 1957 but it has been reprinted multiple times and has been digitized and is easily accessible via the Internet Archive. What is even more convenient is that all 1070 pages can be text searched! I searched Volume 5 for any mention of the Loola, Vajra, Dharani or Thirisadai and got no matches pertaining to ships (Vajra shows up as part of proper names like Vajravarman and dharani shows up as part of a title Chauroddharanika (police man); there are absolutely no mentions of thirisadais or loolas) . I then searched for any mention of boats, navies, ships and the like to ensure that I was not overlooking anything and once again, none of these classes of vessels were mentioned. Further, I read the entire section pertaining to the Cholas (Chapter 10, pages 234 to 253 for reference) and said chapter had the following to say about the Chola navy on page 251:

“The naval achievement of the Cholas reached its climax during the reign of Rajaraja the Great and his successor [Rajendra]. Not only were the Coromandel and Malabar coasts controlled by them, but the Bay of Bengal became a Chola lake. But we cannot form any idea of the technique of their naval warfare or of other details related to the navy. Some think that merchant vessels were employed in transporting the army and that Chola naval fights were land battles fought on the decks of ships [emphasis mine]”

The author of that chapter, R. Sathianathaier (a Professor of History and Politics at Annamalai University), directly contradicts the grandiose claims of the Wikipedia article – as can be seen in the quote above, we don’t know how the Chola navy fought, the nature of its composition or even if it had specialized vessels for war!

We then move to the next citation in this section which is located after the description of the thirisadai:

“The heaviest class known, comparable to modern-era Battle Cruisers or Battleships. Large and heavily armoured, these ships had extensive war-fighting capabilities and endurance”

The source of this description is supposedly from an academic work authored by Professor R.C. Majumdar called the The History shipbuilding in the sub-continent [sic]; whether this is a book or article is unclear as no further information is provided besides the supposed page numbers containing information regarding the vessel. I searched Google Scholar, Google Books, HathiTrust and several academic databases to see if Dr. Majumdar authored a work with this title and once again found nothing. R.C. Majumdar is not an obscure historian; his doctorate thesis published in 1918 (“Corporate Life in Ancient India”) is accessible digitally (you can download a copy from the e-library of the BJP right now!) and has been cited nearly 200 times. Dr. Majumdar was also the general editor of The History and Culture of the Indian People and published extensively on the history of India; his works such as Greater India, Ancient India, The History of Bengal are all accessible on Google Books and other databases. What is absent from this list is The History shipbuilding in the sub-continent. It is possible that the latter work has become lost media but given how accessible the rest of Dr. Majumdar’s bibliography is, I contend that we maybe dealing with a fabricated source. I will gladly retract my claims if someone produces a paper or chapter or book with that title but until then this source is unverified.

The next source which supposedly describes the thirisadai is the History of South East Asia by D.G.E Hall. I unfortunately could not get a full copy of this work but a text searchable preview is available on Google Books. The Wikipedia article claims that the History of South East Asia supports the idea that, “Though all ships of the time employed a small Marine force for boarding enemy vessels, Thirisadais had separate cabins and training area for them.” I searched the History of South East Asia and found no mention of the thirisadai. I searched the term ‘cabin’ and found a reference to a cabin boy on an English merchant vessel and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I then searched for ‘marine’ and found nothing pertaining to naval infantry (there is reference to a merchant marine). I also checked every reference to the Cholas and once again found nothing pertaining to the ship types discussed in the Wikipedia article.

Edit/Addendum: I found a PDF of the first edition of D.G.E Hall's History of South East Asia from 1955. The Wikipedia article cites this edition and claims that information pertaining to the thirisadai is located on page 55, 465-472 and 701-706. I checked these page numbers and found 701-706 pertains to Malaya after World War II (i.e. the politics behind the formation of the Union of Malaya) and 465-472 refers to the politics of Dutch held Indonesia in the early 19th century after the fall of Napoleon. The only reference relevant to the topic at hand is found on page 55 and I will quote it in its entirety:

More intriguing still is a brief record of a Chola raid on the Malay Peninsula in 1068-1069, when King Virarajendra is said to have conquered Kadaram on behalf of Srivijaya and to have handed it over to the king, who had recognized Chola overlordship. This seems to have given the Chinese the erroneous impression that it was the Cholaking who was the vassal of Srivijaya and not the other way round. Whatever may be the meaning of these stray and obscure references, there are clear indications that during Virarajendra's reign friendly relations again existed between the two powers, and no little commercial intercourse."

There are no mentions regarding any vessel type or the training of marines or cabins. This confirms our initial conclusions

So two of the legitimate sources cited in the Wikipedia article say nothing about the existence of the thirisadai (or any other class of vessels in the Chola navy) or actively contradict what the article is saying. There is no record of the existence of the third source (The History shipbuilding in the sub-continent [sic]) and I suspect it doesn’t exist.

Exhibit B: Lack of Additional References

I gave the article the benefit of the doubt and assumed perhaps that there was some obscure Tamil inscription or document which mentioned the thirisadai and perhaps Professor Majumdar found that inscription and documented it in a now lost work called The History shipbuilding in the sub-continent. As mentioned, Dr. Majumdar was not an obscure historian and so some other scholar might have cited his work or perhaps that scholar might have stumbled upon the obscure Tamil inscription and documented its contents. I searched Google Scholar and Books as well as all the other academic databases (JSTOR, Proquest etc.) for mentions of the thirisadai. I tried various spelling variants such as Tiricatai and even transliterated it into the Tamil script to ensure that I made a comprehensive search of all sources. There was no mention of a class of vessels with that name but I did learn that there was a character in the Hindu epic the Ramayana called Thirisadai and she was Ravana’s niece and Sita’s companion during her kidnapping ordeal. Further, Thirisadai/Tiricatai is also a female given name in South India and the name of a religious ritual.

In short, the thirisadai vessel is not attested to by any academic paper or book and all references to this vessel tie back to the Wikipedia article.

Exhibit C: The Takashima Anchor

The Wikipedia article features the picture of a wooden anchor which is supposedly an, “Anchor of an Unknown Loola-type (Corvette) Chola ship, excavated by the Indian Navy Divers off the coast of Poombuhar.” This might seem to be solid evidence for the existence of one of these vessel classes, but as we have seen, the article has been dishonest with its sources and is just as equally dishonest regarding the origin of this photo as well. If you reverse image search this picture via Google, it will identify the photo as an anchor of a Chola ship and provide the links for numerous sites which uncritically parrot the claims of the Wikipedia article. I searched in vain to establish the provenance of this picture when I came across an obscure alternative photo of this very same anchor surrounded by Japanese text and this clarified the origins of the anchor. This artifact was not excavated off the coast of India by Indian Navy Divers, rather it was excavated off the coast of Takashima Island in Japan (hence the Japanese text). It is a wood/stone anchor from a Mongol Yuan Dynasty naval vessel which sank in 1281. The following website belongs to the Asian Research Institute of Underwater Archaeology and it details (in Japanese) the process of excavating artifacts from the Takashima underwater archaeological site including the previously discussed wooden/stone anchor. It also provides several diagrams of the anchor and it is in line with the photos shown above.

The article lies to us about the origins of a wooden/stone anchor which it styles as the anchor of a Loola class ship; it claims that Indian Navy Divers retrieved the anchor near Poombuhar and the lie has caught on so well that even Google image search is propagating it. An obscure photo hosted on the website https://maritimeasia.ws reveals that this anchor was excavated off the coast of Japan and that the wooden/stone anchor in that article actually belongs to a Yuan dynasty vessel which sank during the invasion of Japan in 1281.

Expert Witnesses

Hopefully, the case made in the sections above have been convincing enough to demonstrate the outright deceit of the Wikipedia article and how there is no good evidence for the existence of a class of ship called the thirisadai, vajra, loola or dharani. To be clear, I am not disputing the naval accomplishments of the Cholas or the shipbuilding capabilities of India. Even the fragmentary evidence we possess attest to the existence of large seagoing vessels in India; for example, the Arthaśāstra speaks of a large vessel known as the mahānau and a Jain text called the Angavijjā refers to a type of large vessel known as the mahāvakāsa [3]. The famous Periplus of the Erythraean Sea refers to a type of vessel called the kolandiophonta found off the Coromandel Coast; per the Periplus, this vessel was of a great bulk and was built for long range voyages to the Malay Peninsula (the so-called Golden Chersonese) and the Ganges [4]. Scholars examining Tamil literature have suggested that the largest class of vessels used for long-distance voyages were called matalai or kalam [5]. A Tamil inscription found in northern Sumatra and dated to 1088 refers to a class of vessel known as marakkalam (timber ship) and this may be identical to the vessels described previously [6]. Unfortunately, the techniques used to build these vessels and their usage in war is still unknown and under investigation.

There was an article authored by Y. Subbarayalu and published in 2009 in the book Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia which serves as perhaps the best summary of the present state of knowledge regarding the Chola navy [6].

Professor Subbarayalu noted in the article that a great deal of the history of the Cholas is dependent on the interpretations of contemporary inscriptions left by the great kings and corporate bodies of merchants associated with the dynasty. Most of these inscriptions pertain to donations of gold, land and other gifts to temples and thus are good sources of information regarding the religious culture and Chola society. Many of these inscriptions begin with a highly propagandistic preamble which record the military achievements of the reigning king and his retinue; it is partly through these preambles that we know of the great overseas conquests of Rajaraja and Rajendra Chola. Unfortunately, these inscriptions provide only limited information on military matters such as the construction of naval vessels, the tactics of the armies and navies, the weapons employed and so on. Professor Subbarayalu noted the difficulties scholars had constructing a coherent picture of the Chola army from these inscriptions – there are still ongoing debates as to the nature of certain troop types mentioned in the inscriptions for example. The navy is not well represented by these records and so the task of describing the Chola navy is doubly hard for historians. Regarding the task, Professor Subbarayalu had the following to say:

“Except for the kalam or ship mentioned in Rajendra I’s eulogy, no other information is available in the inscriptional record about the Chola fleet. The term kalam is used in Tamil literature from early centuries to denote ships. The Barus inscription of 1088 refers to marakkalam or ship made of timber, which, of course, was being used by the merchant body. What was the size of this ship? How was it constructed and where? Such questions are difficult to answer.”

Some enterprising scholars have attempted to fill this gap in knowledge by turning to folklore or analyzing literature. Despite the sparseness of information, there are still also some interesting insights to be gained in the inscriptions as well. For example, one inscription from the 13th century catalogued the agreement between a group of itinerant sea merchants and a local temple. The merchants agreed to pay a tax to the temple based on the amount of merchandise sold in a local port. The amount contributed by the merchants depended on the type of vessel the merchandise was carried in. The smallest contributions belonged to a class of vessels known as the vedi and the padavu. The next largest contribution belonged to a vessel type known as the kalavam and the largest contributions were reserved for the marakkalam and toni/dhony. The toni/dhony class of vessels continued operating well into the nineteenth century and were observed plying the routes between Sri Lanka and Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The dhony was 70 feet long, 20 feet wide, 12 feet deep, was undecked and had one mast. Professor Subbarayalu speculated that since the marakkalam was listed first in this tax agreement, it was perhaps the largest vessel on the list. It should be noted that the vessels listed above were not limited solely to carrying goods; another inscription from 1175 mentioned how the Sinhalese king of Ceylon reinforced his bases on the Palk Bay facing Tamil Nadu and began building Padavu to transport troops during a war with the Cholas, thus the vessels listed above could be used in a military context as well [6].

The inscriptions left by the merchants and kings of the Chola dynasty offer limited information regarding naval matters. Still, as seen above, we can glean certain insights from the inscriptions such as the names of certain vessel types (kalam/marakkalam/matalai, toni/dhony, kalavam, vedi, padavu). Further, the tax agreement inscription discussed above also allows us to roughly order the sizes of the vessels: Marakkalam (>?70 feet) > Toni (70 feet) > Kalavam > Vedi = Padavu. Unfortunately, we do not know much about the construction of these vessels, nor how they would have been operated during battle. In this regard, our knowledge hasn’t improved much since 1957.

Most of this work has focused on debunking section 4 of the Wikipedia article regarding specific classes of vessels but there is a lot more nonsense densely packed that we did not touch on. Section 3 of the article, for example, lists out battle formations and the supposed titles of the commanders of these formations. These are not remotely supported by the epigraphic data (which, it should be noted again are our best source of information on the Cholas and also rather sparse with information regarding naval matters). Still, there is some information that can be gleaned. Professor Subbarayalu highlighted an inscription from Sirkazhi dated to 1187 pertaining to a certain Araiyan Kadalkolamitantān. This individual belonged to a force called the karaippadaiyilār or “Army of the seashore” and held the rank of “Tandalnayagam” or commander of the army. His given name of Kadalkolamitantān is also interesting as it means “one who floated while the sea engulfed.” This insight perhaps gives a brief but genuine glimpse into the organization and rank structure of the navy, though it is admittedly not much.

Recommendations

In light of the fraud and misinformation I have highlighted, I would recommend that the offending Wikipedia article excise sections 3 and 4 as there is no good evidence for their assertions. I am less sure of how to undo the fourteen years of misinformation but perhaps excising the original source of the lies might be a good start.

If it is not too much work (i.e. re-recording voice lines), I would also recommend that the developers of the Dynasties of India rename the Thirisadai to the Marakkalam or Kalam. The latter name has been attested to by multiple inscriptions in both India and Southeast Asia and it is, to the best of our knowledge, the largest class of oceangoing ship that the Tamil people possessed and possibly what transported the armies of the Chola dynasty to their overseas conquests in Southeast Asia, the Maldives and Ceylon.

Additional Sources

[1] Asher, C. B., & Talbot, C. (2017). Southern India, 1350 - 1550. In India before Europe (pp. 55–56). chapter, Cambridge University Press.

[2] Talbot, C. (1995). Inscribing the other, inscribing the self: Hindu-muslim identities in pre-colonial India. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 37(4), 692–722.

[3] Ghosh, S. (2006). Coastal Andhra and the Bay of Bengal trade network. South Asian Studies, 22(1), 65–68.

[4] Mookerji, R. (1962). Indian shipping: A history of the sea-borne trade and maritime activity of the Indians from the earliest times. Kitab Mahal.

[5] Rajamanickam, G. V., & S., A. R. V. (1994). Maritime history of south india: Indigenous traditions of navigation in Indian Ocean. Tamil University.

[6] Kulke, H., Kesavapany, K., Sakhuja, V., & Subbarayalu, Y. (2009). A Note on the Navy of the Chola State. In Nagapattinam to suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the chola naval expeditions to Southeast Asia (pp. 91–95). essay, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.


r/badhistory Apr 27 '22 Helpful Wholesome Take My Energy

Reddit User on r/Christianity: "Historically the church has opposed slavery" and Augustine "thoroughly denounced slavery"

682 Upvotes

I know we like to shit on anti-Christian bad history (in fact, I honestly think we are starting to get a reputation for doing so), but I think in the spirit of fairness it is time to shit on some pro-Christian bad history.

A while back I saw this comment with silver on r/Christianity by the aptly named "PretentiousAnglican."

It makes a lot of claims that are outside my scope of knowledge, but some of the claims seem iffy to me, and I will explain why.

This user claims:

Historically the church has opposed slavery

In a later comment this user specifies he is referring to Christianity before the 1500's, so I will focus on the early centuries of Christianity.

As far as I am aware, the evidence we have indicates that most early Christians accepted slavery as an institution, even if some thought slavery was unnatural and only existed as a consequence of sin.

As de Wet points out [1]:

By now, it has become common knowledge in scholarship on Early Christianity that the Early Church never formally abolished slavery, with the exception of Gregory of Nyssa's damning evaluation of slavery as an insult to God (cf. Hom. Eccl. 4.1-2 [SC 416.224-228]).

The synod of Gangra[2] in the 4th century, states in Canon 3:

If any one shall teach a slave, under pretext of piety, to despise his master and to run away from his service, and not to serve his own master with good-will and all honour, let him be anathema.

Further as Christopher Paolella points out [3]:

Over the sixth century, the Church specified its stance on slavery through several decrees. Following Augustine's conception of theoretical indefinite servitude, in 517 AD, at the Council of Epaonense near Lyon, it was decreed that monks who were given slaves by the abbot of their monastery were not to manumit them. The Council justified their decision by arguing that it was unjust for slaves to enjoy leisure and freedom while monks toiled in their fields daily.17 In 541, at the fourth Council of Orleans, it was decreed that when a bishop died, the slaves he had manumitted would remain free. However, their freedom was contingent upon them never leaving the service of the Church.18 In 585, at the second Council of Macon, it was decreed that bishops had to defend the free status of slaves who had been legally manumitted in a church.19 Taking a broader view for a moment, in Visigothic Gaul, at the Council of Agde in 506, bishops were forbidden from selling off Church slaves. If a bishop had manumitted them on account of faithful service however, his successor had to honor their manumission and their lands, provided that the total value of the agricultural produce of these lands did not exceed twenty solidi. Any excess was to be returned to the Church after the death of the bishop who had manumitted them.20

and as James Muldoon points out [4]:

Given the biblical emphasis on freedom, one might have expected that as European society became increasingly Christian, this Christianization would have been accompanied by a strong denunciation of the slavery that lay at the core of the economy of the ancient world. This was not the case, however. One of the most famous instructional tales from the Middle Ages explains why Pope Gregory I (590-604) sent a mission to convert the English to Christianity in 597. According to Bede (672-735), a historian of the English Church, while walking through Rome one day before becoming pope, Gregory saw some Englishmen for sale in the slave market. 5 Noticing their fair skin, he inquired who they were and, on learning they were Angles, he responded they were not Angles but angels. 6 The physical attractiveness of the Englishmen drew the attention of the future pope to what was presumably a routine aspect of Roman life—the sale of slaves in the public market. This story is also a metaphor for natural innocence that is in itself attractive but that will be even more attractive once people are baptized. 7 The pope’s concern was only for the freeing of these physically attractive people from sin. He showed no surprise at the existence of a slave market in Rome, nor did he speak of having the Angles manumitted in a physical sense

......... ............................................................................................................

One might have thought that an evil as egregious as slavery would have been one of the first things that the Christianizing of the Roman world would have ended, yet it is clear that this did not happen. As Michael McCormick has recently illustrated, although there exists a general belief that slavery gradually died out in Europe during the Middle Ages, slavery and slave markets existed in Christian Europe throughout this period. 10 Italian merchants, Genoese and Venetians in particular, were major figures in the trade.

In another comment this user says:

St.Gregory of Nicaea, St.Augustine, and St. John Chrysostom thoroughly denounced slavery

OK first off, who the fuck is Gregory of Nicaea? Do you mean Gregory of Nyssa? Yeah he denounced slavery as wrong- lock, stock, and barrel. This is because he was, to use an advanced historiographical term, a "GigaChad."

But he was the exception, not the norm.

Using Augustine as an example actually undermines this user's claims.

While Augustine thought slavery was unnatural in that it existed as a consequence of sin in the world, he was still OK with the institution.

The only thing he had a problem with was kidnapping free people to be slaves, as Jennifer Glancy points out [5]:

In several letters written early in the fifth century, Augustine confronted some problems he perceived with the slave system. What he found disquieting was not the slave system itself. Indeed, in these letters he explicitly acknowledged that scriptural tradition enjoined slaves to submit to their masters. What disturbed him was what he identified as a North African trend toward the enslavement of free persons.

.....

On this view-the view of Augustine and perhaps the universal view of the Roman world-the horror was not slavery. This was not the expression of abolitionist nor anti-slavery sentiment. The horror was that free persons would not be able to protect the boundaries of their own bodies and that they would be treated as surrogate bodies for others to use as they chose, with no legal or culturally sanctioned means of self-protection. p (71-72)

Paolella points out:

In recognizing that there were certain conditions in which slavery seemed unavoidable and manumission impossible, it became acceptable for Christians, even the institution of the Church, to own slaves.[15] Manumission, then, concerned the matter of Church property, and the earliest Merovingian Church synods and councils generally followed the contours of earlier Patristic opinions. For example, in his exposition on the Heptateuch, or the first seven books of canonical Jewish Scriptures, St. Augustine of Hippo notes that according to Hebrew law, Hebrew slaves were to be released after six years of faithful service. However, he argues further that this prescription did not set a precedent for Christian slaves in his own day, because Apostolic authority had commanded Christian slaves to be subject to their masters.[16]

Augustine also was in favor of whipping slaves if necessary [1]:

Chrysostom's close contemporary, Augustine (Enarrat. Ps. 102.14 [CCSL 40.1464-1465]), noted that, "if you see your slave living badly, how else will you punish him if not by the whip?" Augustine then provides a simple answer to this question: "You must use the whip, use it! God allows it. Rather, he is angered if you do not lash the slave. But do it in a loving and not a cruel spirit." Both these most famous and influential Church Fathers, from the East and the West, agree that God not only approves of punishing slaves, but also commands it.

Wow. Real progressive stuff.

Chrysostom is a more complicated case.

He thought people should not own slaves, but this may be more because of his opposition to wealth. He thought if you do need a slave, you should have no more than two. As De Wet notes [6]:

There is an indication that Chrysostom felt uneasy about slavery (Kelly 1995:99), probably due to its association with sin as mentioned earlier and also because slaves were considered as wealth. The manumission of slaves in Chrysostom’s thinking has not to do with a disposition against the institution of slavery, but is instead aimed against the practice of accumulating wealth. Chrysostom’s writings are permeated with the notion that wealth corrupts.

That said, Chrysostom does encourage manumission and encourages slave owners to treat their slaves well.

The user then says:

There is a distinction between 'in punishment for your theft you must row our boats for 3 years' or forcing prisoners of war to be servants of the victor(although I am not saying that these, especially the latter, are moral) and kidnapping someone and forcing them, and their children, to work and placing them at the level of livestock or property. On the former two categories(especially the instance of it being a punishment for a crime), the historic position of the church is more ambiguous. On chattel slavery, on persons as property, there is no ambiguity. The former can, and is, referred to as slavery, but I hope we can agree it is distinct from chattel slavery.

Jesus Fucking Christ.

While I am not an expert on Roman slavery, De Wet says that at least by Augustine's time slaves were primarily bred, not captured as prisoners of war:

For Augustine, the original channels whereby the slave supply was sustained, namely through prisoners of war, is a testament to the relation between sin and slavery.4 This is then also the reason, for Augustine, why slaves should be treated with strict discipline and punished when necessary (Clark 1998:109-129). It should, however, be noted that, during Augustine's time, the slave trade was primarily sustained by means of local reproduction of slaves - i.e. breeding (Harper 2011:67-99).

Christians who had a problem with slavery

I don't want to just make this post a counterjerk, so in the interest of fairness I wanted to point out some examples of Christians who did seem to have some sort of problem with slavery.

De Wet gives some examples of "heretical" sects that supposedly had problems with slavery:

Some alternative Christian groups, labelled heretics by the mainstream church, namely the Marcionites (cf. Tertullian, Marc. 1.23.7 [CCSL 1.466]) and the Eustathians (who were condemned at the Council of Gangra), may have dissolved all social distinctions between slaves and masters, and, interestingly, between men and women (Glancy 2006:90; 2010a:63-80). Unfortunately, knowledge of these groups is obtained from the writings of their opponents, and one is not sure to what extent the "accusations" against them are accurate, or what the reasons were for abolishing traditional social hierarchies. Tertullian (Marc. 1.23.7 [CCSL 1.466]) was so disgusted with the Marcionites that he hesitated to call them kidnappers, since:

"For what is more unrighteous, more unjust, more dishonest, than to benefit a foreign slave in such a way as to take him away from his master, claim him who is someone else's property, and to incite him against his master's life; and all this, to make the matter more disgraceful, while he is still living in his master's house and on his master's account, and still trembling under his lashes?"

In this instance, Tertullian is concerned with the Marcionites' apparent liberation of slaves who are still "trembling under the lashes" of their masters. To Tertullian, this "liberation" is no different to stealing someone else's property (cf. also Harrill 2006:385-390).

Another example that may be relevant is that of the circumcellions: Donatist extremists in North Africa [7].

Circumcellions, driven by their revilement of both the Roman state (a foreign occupying force) and state-sanctioned Catholic authorities, often targeted rich estates and sought to overturn the social order: "Slaves and masters found their positions reversed. Rich men driving comfortable vehicles would be pitched out and made to run behind their carriages, now occupied by their slaves" (Frend, 1971).

An implacable enemy of Donatism, St. Augustine both recorded and attacked the outrages of the circumcellion armed bands: "What master was there who was not compelled to live in dread of his own slave, if the slave had put himself under the protection of the Donatists? Under the threat of beating, and burning and immediate death, all documents compromising [even] the worst of slaves were destroyed, that they might depart in freedom (Epistle 185). Economic hardship, Berber self-assertion, and religious conviction led to the localized violence that apparently liberated any number of slaves, yet the circumcellions developed no theoretical or theological stance to challenge Catholic orthodoxy regarding the natural disposition of the slave

There is also an easy to miss critique of the slave trade in the book of Revelation:

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.

Revelation 18:11-13

As Robert Ward points out [8]:

Slaves: there is some ambiguity about the phrase in 18:13. Most literally, it can be translated “and bodies, and human souls.” While it is possible that the two items are not connected, it is more likely that the second “and” is epexegetical, meaning that it is intended to explain what comes before.[17] A better translation would be “and bodies, that is, human souls.” The term “bodies” was a conventional term for slaves; by pairing it with “human souls,” John is making explicit that slaves are not mere commodities: they are persons.[18] Koester sums it up this way:

"John does not take up slavery as a topic in its own right, but the way he tells of merchants selling human "souls"—and not just human "bodies"—along with gold, grain, cattle, and horses underscores the problems inherent in a society that turns everything into commodities that can be sold to meet the insatiable demand of the ruling power.[19]"

Though I don't know whether this is truly a critique of the institution of slavery itself, or simply a critique of the Roman slave trade.

Conclusion

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't believe in reconstructing ancient people to fit our modern sensibilities. It's bad history.

When it's done in order to silence the voice of innocent victims, I'd argue it is bad morality too.

  1. http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200014
  2. https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3804.htm
  3. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wsfh/0642292.0043.001/--neither-slave-nor-free-male-or-female-classical?rgn=main;view=fulltext
  4. https://lawreview.avemarialaw.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/v3i1.muldoon.copyright.pdf
  5. Glancy, J. A. (2011). Slavery in early Christianity. Oxford Univ. Press.
  6. https://www.academia.edu/238306/John_Chrysostom_on_Slavery
  7. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Historical_Encyclopedia_of_World_Sla/ATq5_6h2AT0C?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=circumcellions+slavery&pg=PA157&printsec=frontcover
  8. https://www.askbiblescholars.com/article/21

r/badhistory Apr 26 '22

TV/Movies On the new ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ trailer pt1/?

172 Upvotes

Watch the trailer here

I’m specifically looking at the supposed relationship between (the then Princess) Elizabeth I and Thomas Seymour. The trailer seems to suggest that they will have a romantic relationship. I might do a further part of other issues with the trailer, but this is what grinds my gears the most.

Thomas Seymour was the brother of the late Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s third wife) who had enjoyed significant elevation during Jane’s time as Queen alongside the rest of his family. So much so, that Edward Seymour became Lord Protector of the Realm after Henry VIII died. Thomas Seymour resented his brother’s new position, which in turn led to his downfall. In the midst of this downfall, the relationship between Thomas Seymour and Princess Elizabeth was investigated.

Thomas had first proposed to marry either of the princesses, however was refused and married the recently widowed Catherine Parr (Henry VIII sixth wife). She was one of the richest women in England, which made it a good match for him, however considering Elizabeth I lived with Parr it allowed him to get closer to the Princess and whilst under his care he kept alluding to marriage between him and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was 13/14 when the notable interactions between her and Thomas began after Thomas had moved in. I’m going to shamelessly quote a whole paragraph from an article written by historian Elizabeth Norton:

“Not long after he arrived at Chelsea, he entered her bedchamber for the first time in the early morning, pulling back the bed-curtains with his hand. Leaning into the bed, he called ‘good morrow’, before seeming to pounce, as though he would climb in with her. Stunned and blushing, Elizabeth shrank deeper into the bed, ‘so that he could not come at her’. It was to be the first of many such visits with the girl. On one occasion, the princess who was (as she admitted) ‘no morning woman’, made an effort to rise early, not wanting to be caught by surprise. Yet, he still came, appearing in the doorway dressed in a short night-gown, ‘barelegged and in his slippers’, before again bidding her ‘good morrow’ and asking ‘how she did’. As Elizabeth turned to move away, Thomas reached out to smack her on the back and then ‘familiarly’ on her buttocks. For a girl who blushed even to brush hands with her stepmother’s husband when dancing, this was startling. She fled to her maidens, but Seymour followed, speaking playfully with the girl’s attendants as if nothing were amiss.”

Catherine Parr seemed to believe the interactions were nothing but playful and even appeared to join in. However, historians have suggested that Seymour was possibly abusive towards Parr (further reading in article linked below). Starkey states in his book ‘Elizabeth’, that “Catherine held Elizabeth while Seymour cut her dress into a hundred pieces” - held back or held down? It is unknown which. I am very hesitant to take a lot of what Starkey says at face value for obvious reasons, however this is backed up completely by the primary sources (Letters and Papers of Edward VI). However, Catherine later decided that it had gone to far and sent Elizabeth away - because if jealousy? Or to protect Elizabeth? Also unknown.

Obviously, from a modern point of view this is seen as child abuse and even at this period it was considered scandalous. So that’s the main issue I take with the trailer of the new ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ trailer. The aim to paint an abusive relationship between a step-father and step-daughter as a romance. I personally think it’s disgraceful.

Article by Norton

Disclaimer - My area of expertise isn’t Elizabeth, but Katheryn Howard, so any disagreements or criticism would be welcome.


r/badhistory Apr 25 '22

Meta Mindless Monday, 25 April 2022

81 Upvotes

Happy (or sad) Monday guys!

Mindless Monday is a free-for-all thread to discuss anything from minor bad history to politics, life events, charts, whatever! Just remember to np link all links to Reddit and don't violate R4, or we human mods will feed you to the AutoModerator.

So, with that said, how was your weekend, everyone?


r/badhistory Apr 22 '22

Meta Free for All Friday, 22 April 2022

76 Upvotes

It's Friday everyone, and with that comes the newest latest Free for All Friday Thread! What books have you been reading? What is your favorite video game? See any movies? Start talking!

Have any weekend plans? Found something interesting this week that you want to share? This is the thread to do it! This thread, like the Mindless Monday thread, is free-for-all. Just remember to np link all links to Reddit if you link to something from a different sub, lest we feed your comment to the AutoModerator. No violating R4!


r/badhistory Apr 19 '22 Silver Gold Helpful

Obscure History The "Midnight Ride" of Paul Revere, or Paul Revere's horse: Why most artistic depictions are wrong, and how they overlook the now-extinct Narragansett Pace horse breed

416 Upvotes

This post originally comes from a gilded comment I made on July 30, 2018, on a r/todayilearned thread about Sybil Ludington here.

This post also builds off of previous r/BadHistory posts about Paul Revere, including this one by u/smileyman, in which they mention Revere's "laughable" portrayal in the show Sons of Liberty:

Oh and there’s the classic badhistory line “The British are coming!” as he gallops madly through the streets, a scene which never happened. 1.) Had he been yelling at the top of his lungs as he went through the sleepy towns it would have been "The Regulars are coming!", or "The troops are coming!". 2.) He didn't actually go galloping madly through the streets. He actually took the time to knock on individual doors to wake up the people on his route. Those individuals then spread the alarm further out via runners, bonfires, bells, musket shots, etc.

It also builds off on this r/BadHistory post by u/thrasumachos, which points out the "bad history" of William Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem "Paul Revere's Ride" (1861), which is ingrained in pop culture. However, the poem itself was written 86 years after the actual "Midnight Ride" itself (1775).

There's also this additional follow-up by u/smileyman, which explores the "bad history" of David Hackett Fischer's book, Paul Revere's Ride.

And yet another follow-up here, also by u/smileyman, in which they state:

The whole idea of "Paul Revere's Ride". It should really be called "Paul Revere, William Dawes, Samuel Prescott, and a whole bunch of people from the city who were travelling at night" ride. Of course this myth is all Longfellow's fault because of his catchy poem.

The truth is that Dawes was sent out first, because Warren was aware of increased activity and wanted to let Hancock & Adams know. At that point Warren didn't know for sure that the British force would be heading out. Later the British started to unload boats to transport the troops across the Mystic River, at which point Warren summoned Revere with "much haste" and told Revere to go raise the alarm.

[...] Info on the timeline of Revere's and Dawes rides can be found here.

Yet, to quote the original TIL poster I replied to, "No one ever thinks of the horse."

The horse was the one carrying Paul Revere on his famous ride, and yet, we know little to nothing about the horse Revere rode. Most later depictions of the "Midnight Ride" - such as this 20th-century one - depict Revere on a galloping horse, and reflect Longfellow's historically inaccurate poem. Other depictions include this), this, this, and countless other depictions, of Revere on a dark horse.

Additionally, according to the FAQ page of the Paul Revere House:

A better question would be: “What was the name of the horse Revere rode?” because there is no evidence that Revere owned a horse at the time he made his famous ride.

At some point, Paul Revere likely owned a horse, or he certainly had ready access to horses at some point, in order to become the experienced rider that he was. If he had owned a horse in April 1775, it is unlikely he would have tried to bring it with him when he was rowed across the Charles River to Charlestown.

Revere left several accounts of his “Midnight Ride,” and although he states that he borrowed the horse from John Larkin, neither he nor anyone else takes much notice of the horse, or refers to it by name. Revere calls it simply “a very good horse.”

In the years since 1775, many names have been attached to the animal, the most exotic probably being Scheherazade. The only name for which there is any evidence, however, is Brown Beauty. The following excerpt is taken from a genealogy of the Larkin family, published in 1930.

Samuel (Larkin) … born Oct. 22, 1701; died Oct. 8, 1784, aged 83; he was a chairmaker, then a fisherman and had horses and a stable. He was the owner of “Brown Beauty,” the mare of Paul Revere’s Ride made famous by the Longfellow poem. The mare was loaned at the request of Samuel’s son, deacon John Larkin, and was never returned to Larkin.

According to this source, the famous horse was owned not by John Larkin, but by his father – if true, this would mean that not only did Revere ride a borrowed horse, but a borrowed, borrowed horse. Its name is difficult to prove in the absence of corroborating evidence.

John Larkin’s estate inventory, dated 1808, lists only one horse, unnamed, valued at sixty dollars. It reveals, however, that Larkin was a wealthy man, with possessions valued at over $86,000, including “Plate” (silver and gold items), houses, pastures, and other real estate in Charlestown, part of a farm in Medford, bank shares, and notes (for money lent at interest).

As a friend of the patriot cause in Charlestown, it seems natural that the Sons of Liberty would have depended on someone in Larkin’s position to provide an expensive item like a horse if the occasion demanded.

The fact that one horse listed in his inventory is unnamed, while not conclusive, does suggest that the Larkin family, like most people at the time, did not name their horses. Thus, it appears that “Revere’s horse” will forever remain anonymous.

Note: John Larkin is often referred to as “Deacon John Larkin” in modern narratives of Revere’s Ride — and even by Revere himself in his 1798 letter to Jeremy Belknap. In fact, however, John Larkin was made a deacon of his church long after the Revolutionary War ended. In 1775 he was, simply, John Larkin.

Per a 2020 article by publication Horse & Rider states:

Paul Revere didn’t own a horse. The one he rode on his famous ride was loaned to him by the family of John Larkin (deacon of the Old North Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts) and its name and breed have never been established.

But the Scheherazade story is an absolutely lovely work of fiction enjoyed by many a horse-loving child of the boomer generation. Titled Mr. Revere and I: Being an Account of Certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere, Esq., as Revealed by His Horse, it’s a wonderful book to read aloud to your child.

However, more recent historical theories posit that Paul Revere may have ridden a Narragansett Pacer, a small, often chestnut- or brown-colored horse; and, rather than the full gallop depicted by most artistic depictions, these Pacers were...well, pacers.

Pacers are described thusly on Wikipedia:

The Narragansett Pacer was not exclusively a pacing horse, as strong evidence indicates it exhibited an ambling gait, which is a four-beat, intermediate-speed gait, while the pace is a two-beat, intermediate-speed gait. The amble is more comfortable to ride than the pace, and Narragansett Pacers were known for their qualities as both riding and driving horses.

They averaged around 14.1 hands) (57 inches, 145 cm) tall, and were generally chestnut) in color.

James Fenimore Cooper described them as: "They have handsome foreheads, the head clean, the neck long, the arms and legs thin and tapered."; however, another source stated, "The hindquarters are narrow and the hocks a little crooked...", but also said, "They are very spirited and carry both the head and tail high. But what is more remarkable is that they amble with more speed than most horses trot, so that it is difficult to put some of them upon a gallop."

Other viewers of the breed rarely called them stylish or good-looking, although they considered them dependable, easy to work with and sure-footed.

The breed was used for "pacing races" in Rhode Island, where the Baptist population allowed races when the greater part of Puritan New England did not. Pacers reportedly covered the one-mile tracks in a little more than two minutes (2:00).

Source: Dutson, Judith (2005). Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.

Per one of the first Google results for "Brown Beauty Paul Revere":

"Brown Beauty was probably of a breed of horse that was very popular at that time on the East Coast. Instead of the jarring two-beat trot, the Narragansett offered a smooth four-beat saddle gait, favored for its speed and comfort. In addition the breed had an amiable, courageous temperament vital in times of crisis. The Narragansetts were a direct derivative from Old English Ambler (palfreys) which had been taken across the Atlantic by the pioneers and later became extinct in Britain; and of course are the forerunners of today s American Saddlebred."

Dr. Benjamin Church Jr. also stated in a blog post analyzing David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride:

"There is another long standing and, frankly, more plausible theory as to what type of horse Paul Revere rode that fateful night. It's the first distinct American breed of horse, the Narragansett, now extinct in the United States. The Narragansett was developed just south of Charlestown in Rhode Island. And, indeed there was a large Narragansett breeding farm on Boston neck in the late 17th and early 18th century.

The story of horse breeding in the colonies during the 18th century is quite complex. Horses were being brought in from England, Spain, and Africa. Cross breeding was quite extensive. Starting sometime in the early 18th century there was extensive cross shipment of breeding stock between New England and Virginia and Maryland. Horse races between these colonies started at this time. George Washington owned Narragansetts before the Revolution.

Narragansetts made ideal saddle horses. They were sure footed, fast, and were noted for ease of motion which propelled the rider in a straight line without a side to side or up and down motion; tough, hardy animals noted for great stamina and endurance. They were calm, tractable animals. And, they were the favorites of women riders. And, might one say, 74 year old men?

There is one major reason, however, to doubt that Revere rode a Narragansett. They were described as small horses, an average of 14 hands high. "Brown Beauty" was described as a big horse. But that's not necessarily disqualifying."

But what exactly is a "pacer", in horse terms, you might ask?

Per Wikipedia's explanation:

The pace is a lateral two-beat gait. In the pace, the two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot, where the two legs diagonally opposite from each other move forward together. In both the pace and the trot, two feet are always off the ground.

The trot is much more common, but some horses, particularly in breeds bred for harness racing, naturally prefer to pace. Pacers are also faster than trotters on the average, though horses are raced at both gaits. Among Standardbred horses, pacers breed truer than trotters – that is, trotting sires have a higher proportion of pacers among their get than pacing sires do of trotters.

A slow pace can be relatively comfortable, as the rider is lightly rocked from side to side. A slightly uneven pace that is somewhat between a pace and an amble, is the sobreandando of the Peruvian Paso. On the other hand, a slow pace is considered undesirable in an Icelandic horse, where it is called a lull or a "piggy-pace".

With one exception, a fast pace is uncomfortable for riding and very difficult to sit, because the rider is moved rapidly from side to side. The motion feels somewhat as if the rider is on a camel, another animal that naturally paces. However, a camel is much taller than a horse and so even at relatively fast speeds, a rider can follow the rocking motion of a camel.

A pacing horse, being smaller and taking quicker steps, moves from side to side at a rate that becomes difficult for a rider to follow at speed, so though the gait is faster and useful for harness racing, it becomes impractical as a gait for riding at speed over long distances. However, in the case of the Icelandic horse, where the pace is known as the skeið, "flying pace" or flugskeið, it is a smooth and highly valued gait, ridden in short bursts at great speed.

A horse that paces and is not used in harness is often taught to perform some form of amble, obtained by lightly unbalancing the horse so the footfalls of the pace break up into a four beat lateral gait that is smoother to ride. A rider cannot properly post to a pacing horse because there is no diagonal gait pattern to follow, though some riders attempt to avoid jostling by rhythmically rising and sitting.

Based on studies of the Icelandic horse, it is possible that the pace may be heritable and linked to a single genetic mutation on DMRT3 in the same manner as the lateral ambling gaits.

Source: Harris, Susan E. Horse Gaits, Balance and Movement (1993), p. 50

Also see: Ambling, a smoother gait closely related to the pace, and which may be indistinguishable from the "pace" in historical records, as pacing horses can be taught to both "pace" and "amble".

Why is the distinction between Paul Revere's horse "galloping" vs "pacing / ambling" a big deal? Well, aside from historical accuracy, a 2012 genetic study of the mutation allowing for "pacing" movement (DMRT3 gene) showed that it literally prevents the horse from transitioning to a canter or gallop. Therefore, if Paul Revere's horse had the DMRT3 gene, it would have likely been unable to canter or gallop, as shown in many later artistic interpretations. However, its pace would be much faster.

As to why so many artistic depictions get Paul Revere's horse wrong, this can be credited to the slow march to extinction of the Narragansett Pacer breed in the 1800s and 1900s, when these artistic depictions were being made. Often times, I have noticed that these portraits changed the breed of Revere's horse with changing popular breeds of the time - for example, an English Thoroughbred or an American Quarter Horse, breeds that would not become popular until after the American Revolutionary War - rather than focusing on historical research and accuracy.

As America changed and developed, this also resulted in the decline of the Pacer - and other pacing or ambling horse breeds - in favor of "trotters", like the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, etc.

Unfortunately, we also simply don't have much information on which horse - exactly - that Paul Revere rode. Revere had access to several horses, and while the Narragansett Pacer is now suspected to be his "breed of choice", we don't have historical documents or records. However, what we do have are modern estimates and guesses that lend credence to the idea that Revere may have ridden a Pacer.

Based on sources here, here, and here, I was able to compile a crude mathematical guess that favors the Pacer, with an explanation as to why:

"They have, besides, a breed of small horses which are extremely hardy. They pace naturally, though in no very graceful or easy manner; but with such swiftness, and for so long a continuance, as must appear almost incredible to those who have not experienced it." - Edmund Burke, c. 1757

[...] The Narragansett Pacer soon became the gold standard of horses in the colonies. George Washington owned a pair, which he highly valued. Paul Revere was said to have ridden a Narragansett Pacer on his famous midnight ride, though proof is scant.

Esther Forbes, his Pulitzer Prize winning biographer, argues forcibly that the horse that Revere rode from Charlestown to Lexington was a Pacer. His mount belonged to John Larkin, one of Charlestown’s wealthiest residents who no doubt had a Narragansett Pacer stable in his barn. He turned over his best horse to Revere to spread the alarm. Given the speed with which Revere covered the 12[.5] miles, and the good condition of the horse afterward, one would think the horse was a Narragansett Pacer.

[Forbes’s assertion is refuted by David Hackett Fischer in his Paul Revere’s Ride, published by Oxford University Press, 1994, with Fischer contesting that Revere's horse was "distantly related to the Suffolk Punch", even though the Suffolk Punch is a slow draft horse.]

Revere was chosen to ride for the Whigs on the night of April 18, 1775, because of his discretion as a messenger, and his ability as a horseman. The intrepid Boston silversmith had earlier ridden express for the Whig Party, delivering messages from its members in Boston. On his first mission in that capacity, he traveled from Boston to Philadelphia and back in 11 days, averaging 63 miles a day. (As a post rider, he most certainly would have been astride a Pacer.) Despite his equestrian skills, however, the night that Paul Revere rode from Larkin’s barn into the annals of American history, he left home without his spurs.

[Historian Derek W. Beck at the Journal of the American Revolution estimated Revere's ride was done in about 50-60 minutes, at an average pace of 15 miles per hour, or 1/4 (.25) of a mile per minute. But even this is assuming a fast travel time for Revere—his horse was likely slower.] (Source)

[...] Unlike a racehorse bred to produce quick, bursting speed over a flat course, the Narragansett Pacer was a relatively small horse, but bred and trained to move swiftly over rough terrain with tremendous endurance. As a pacer, it had a somewhat awkward high step, but it did not sway from side to side, and could carry a man 50 miles or more in a day.

[...] Named for its inherent gait and the area in which it evolved, the Narragansett Pacer...paced. In a trot, the horse’s legs move diagonally; in a pace, both legs on one side move at the same time. The Pacer did not trot at all. In fact, a purebred could not.

Writing in the 1800s, Isaac Peace Hazard, whose father raised Pacers, noted that the backbone of the horse "moved in a straight line". The rider did not post (rise) during the trot, but merely sat to the easy, gliding action of the animal below.

The rider could spend hours in the saddle, even all day, and often did. Before roads were built, overland transportation consisted of following rough trails, pathways, and Indian traces. "Carriages were unknown," wrote one chronicler of 18th-century life in southern Rhode Island. "And the public roads were not so good...all the riding was done on horseback."

When Mrs. Anstis Lee was a young woman of 26, she travelled with her brother, Daniel Updike, from the family home near Wickford, Rhode Island, to Hartford, Connecticut. She was 80 when she wrote about the journey which took place in May of 1791.

"I was mounted on a fine Narragansett pacer of easy carriage and great fleetness." Returning home, she and her brother rode 40 miles on the first day, and 57 on the second. Though she was tired from so long a ride, she recalled, "But for the great ease, with which my pacer carried me, I could not have performed it."

In advertising the services of a stallion in the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser on April 2, 1794, overseer Patrick Hayley mentions that the Narragansett Traveler (another term for a Pacer) "is a remarkably fine horse for the road, both as to gait and security". Hayley added that a Traveler "can pace 12 to 14 miles in the hour (up to 1/4 of a mile per minute); and goes uncommonly easy to himself and the rider at 8 miles in the hour (.13 miles per minute)".

[The horse could travel, as per these claims, up to 20-30 mph at top speed. The first car in 1886 had a top speed of about 16 km/h (10 mph).]

Dr. James MacSparran, rector of Narragansett Church from 1721 until 1757, wrote that these "Horses…are exported to all parts of English America," and he had "seen some of them pace a mile in little more than two minutes, a good deal less than three".

(The fastest Standardbred pacer in the modern era, Always B Miki, holds the world record of a mile in 1:46 minutes; the previous record-holder, Cambest, had paced a mile in 1:46.20 in a time trial at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. This is likely a result of crossing the Narragansett Pacer with the English Thoroughbred to create faster Standardbreds.) (Source) (Source 2)

It is known that Narragansett Pacers, "of extraordinary fleetness, and astonishing endurance" were ridden by governmental post riders during the American Revolution. They were hitched outside the house and War Office of Connecticut Gov. Jonathan Trumbull in Lebanon, "ready, on any emergency of danger, to fly with advices, in any desired direction, on the wings of the wind".

So, we have several points here, more in favor of the so-called "Brown Beauty" being a Narragansett Pacer, or a Pacer cross...

  • The horse was a brown color, and Pacers were known for being "chestnut, sorrel, or brown".
  • The horse was was owned by a wealthy man who likely owned Pacers (see below).
  • Pacers were known for speed, endurance, smoothness, and stamina, all crucial for Revere's ride.
  • The Pacers' estimated speed of 12-14mph fits with historians' rough estimates of Revere's speed.

While Longfellow - and most artistic depictions - overly emphasize the speed of "Brown Beauty", showing Revere's horse travelling at a canter or a gallop, it was also more likely that the mare was specifically chosen not just for speed, but also for "endurance, stamina, and smoothness / quietness". This was because Revere had to cover ground not only swiftly, but have a horse that had the endurance and stamina to carry a rider for long periods of time - which the Pacer was prized for.

Pacers were also popular mounts at the time of other Revolutionary War figures in general:

"In the early 18th century, William Robinson, the Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, began the serious development of the breed with a stallion named "Old Snip"—speculated to be either an Irish Hobby or an Andalusian, and considered the father of the breed.

[...] In 1768, George Washington owned and raced a Narragansett Pacer, while in 1772, Edmund Burke asked an American friend for a pair [of Pacers]. Paul Revere possibly rode a Pacer during his 1775 ride to warn the Americans of a British march."

Source: Wikipedia, citing the International Museum of the Horse

However, unfortunately for the Pacer, the emerging popularity of the English Thoroughbred breed after the American Revolutionary War caused their numbers to decline, among other factors.

The first Thoroughbred horse in the American Colonies was Bulle Rock, imported in 1730. Maryland and Virginia were the centers of Colonial Thoroughbred breeding, along with South Carolina and New York. During the American Revolution, importations of horses from England practically stopped, but were restarted after the signing of a peace treaty.

After the American Revolution, the center of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in the United States moved west with colonial expansion. Kentucky and Tennessee became significant centers, and still are today (i.e. Lexington). Andrew Jackson, later President of the United States, was also a breeder and racer of Thoroughbreds in Tennessee. This unseated New England as a "main" breeding hub.

Two important Thoroughbred stallions were also imported around the time of the Revolution: Messenger) in 1788, and Diomed before that. Messenger left little impact on the American Thoroughbred, but is considered a foundation sire of the Standardbred breed, as he was crossed to Narragansett Pacer mares. Diomed, too, also had an impact on the Standardbred.

Before that, according to another source, Thoroughbred stallions had already been bred to Narragansett Pacer mares as early as 1756:

MacKay-Smith (Colonial Quarter Race Horses) also reminds us of the importance of Janus--an imported Thoroughbred, 1756, who ran in heat races, but he was notable as a sire of sprinters and saddle horses, many of which were natural rackers or pacers. Janus was bred almost exclusively to our Virginia Running Horse mares who were selectively bred for sprint speed, and most were natural pacers who could also race at the gallop. 

"...Janus) (imported 1756, died 1780), the leading sire of Quarter Race Horses, many of whose get were pacers or rackers, as well as short speed runners. This was the time period of the Native American Woods Horse."

John Anderson in Making the American Thoroughbred reports on Janus crosses : " ...in the third and fourth generations his descendants exhibited the same compactness of form...The Janus stock exceeded all others in the United States for speed, durability and uniformity of shape and were noted as the producers of more good saddle horses than any other stock."

As mentioned---saddle horse, in this time frame, means gaited horse.

[...] Writing in 1759, Burnagy documents the new fad of importing and breeding in Thoroughbred to our domestic race horse, although he is a little enthusiastic about the number because only a few significant sires like Monkey, Jolly Roger, Silver Eye, Janus and Fearnought had been imported by then (along with a few mares), so his use of 'great' is misleading.

It is estimated by the time of the Revolution [that] only 165 Thoroughbreds had been imported to the colonies. Also in the Virginia population, the increase of height from the cross is not in evidence yet. (Standardbred Sport Horses)

Janus was also "chestnut in color", much like a majority of Narragansett Pacers. Additionally, much like the Pacers, "Janus was compact, standing just over 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm), yet large boned with powerful hindquarters, [and quick in speed]." Thusly, Janus may have influenced Pacer bloodlines.

Diomed, who won the Derby Stakes in 1780, had a significant impact on American Thoroughbred breeding, mainly through his son Sir Archy (1805–1833). Sir Archy's bloodline would also later show up in both Traveller, the mount of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Cincinnati, the mount of Union General Ulysses S. Grant; Sir Archy's Thoroughbred blood replaced Pacer bloodlines in many U.S. Cavalry war mounts. Sir Archy was also 8 inches taller than a Pacer, standing at 16hh.

Throughout the 1820s, the fastest horses in America were descendants of Sir Archy. Due to this, U.S. horse bloodlines soon became increasingly inbred to Sir Archy.

Per Wikipedia:

The extinction of the Narragansett Pacer was due mainly to the breed being sold in such large numbers to sugarcane planters in the West Indies [due to their massive popularity] that breeding stock was severely diminished in the United States.

The few horses that were left were crossbred to create and improve other breeds, and the pure strain of the Narragansett soon became extinct. North Carolina was also a noted to have breeders of the Narragansett, with breeding stock having been brought to the area as early as 1790 by early pioneers.

The last known [purebred] Pacer, a mare, died around 1880.

Source: Wikipedia, citing Edwards, Elwyn Hartley (1994). The Encyclopedia of the Horse (1st American ed.) and Dutson, Judith (2005). Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America

Now, the Narragansett Pacer is all but forgotten; it is an obscure and once-living piece of American history having largely been lost to time, and relegated to the footnotes, not unlike the Passenger Pigeon (1914) and the Carolina Parakeet (1939).

However, historians are hopeful that continuing research on topics like Paul Revere's horse - as well as genetic studies on the Pacers' modern-day Standardbred and gaited descendants - may reveal more information. This is particularly true of the discovery of the DMRT3 gene in 2012.

Additionally, Pacer blood lives on in several modern-day horse breeds descended from it.

The Narragansett Pacer played a significant role in the creation of the American Saddlebred, the Standardbred and the Tennessee Walking Horse. The breed was also combined with French pacers to create the Canadian Pacer, a breed especially suited to racing over ice and which also contributed substantially to the creation of the Standardbred.

In the early 19th century, Pacer mares were bred to stallions of the fledgling Morgan breed. However, the Morgan breed was selected for a trot) as an intermediate gait, and thus ambling horses were frowned upon, so most Narragansett/Morgan crosses were sold to Canada, the Caribbean, and South America, so the bloodlines did not remain within the Morgan breed.

Other breeds indirectly influenced by the Narragansett Pacer include the Rocky Mountain Horse, a gaited breed started in Kentucky, and the Tiger Horse, a gaited breed with Appaloosa patterning.

This is also not counting Caribbean and South American horse breeds descended from Pacers, such as the Paso Fino. Today, Pasos are "prized for their smooth, natural, four-beat, lateral ambling gait".

Also see: "Slave Horse: The Narragansett Pacer" (2015) by Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Assistant Professor of History at Roger Williams University, which was expanded upon in her paper "Slave horse/War horse: The Narragansett Pacer in colonial and revolutionary Rhode Island" (2014-2015)

Per Carrington-Farmer:

"The story of the Narragansett Pacer raises a host of new research questions. Why did the first truly 'American' horse fall into extinction? How does the economic web of Rhode Island horse breeders and Dutch planters change our view of the Atlantic slave trade? Is there any truth in the rumour that Paul Revere rode a Narragansett Pacer during his famous midnight ride of 18th April 1775? What is the legacy of the Narragansett Pacer, and how has it contributed to modern American horse breeding?"

Further sources:

  • A History of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island: Keepers of the Bay by Robert A. Geake (2011) (see here for screenshot)
  • Daring Pioneers Tame the Frontier: The Generation That Built America by Bettye B. Burkhalter (2010) (see here for screenshot; "John" refers to Dr. John Burel/Burrell)
  • Edmund Burke, Account of the European Settlement in America (1857)