Happy Leap Year Day!

Veni, Vidi, Vici

It is I, Gaius Julius Caesar. I am here to remind you that you can thank me for today. That’s right. I made today possible. It was I that created this calender. It was I that made February 29th! Yes, Yes, I know I’m awesome.
Buffalo Calf Road – You know, the Mayan calendar was more accurate.
Caesar – But theirs ends this year. Mine doesn’t. Thus, mine is more awesome. For Leap Day…or whatever you “modern” people call it, I will reward myself with a Wendy’s Frosty. Suck it Mayans.

Besides, who wants to try to figure out where their friends birthdayis on THIS thing??


Who are the Byzantines?

Zach – Welcome back to History HQ and another episode of Minimum Wage Historian!
Anna Komnene – We’re working on expanding the History HQ every day. We’re researching new topics and looking for those dusty corners of history that have been forgotten by others.

I have more Imperial blood and more fashion than you do, so listen up.

Buffalo Calf Road – And we have a new kitchen! (takes a bite out of a microwaved burrito)
Caesar – Which means more Hot Pockets for Caesar!
Mulan – And more room for Mountain Dew.
Jane Austen – And an expansive reading library.
Napoleon – Reading library? Pah! You have a Kindle! You need no library!
Matilda of Tuscany – And a shooting range behind the HQ. I’m still working on getting a better shot group than Joan D’Arc. She’s cheating though; she has that new Broadsword by Crusader Weaponry. That thing is too accurate to be natural.
Buffalo – Figures she’d use a gun called a Broadsword made by a company called ‘Crusader.’ I prefer my Henry Lever action and Beretta Px4 in 9mm.
Charles Martel – I like my Russian SVD.
Henry VIII – And the game room! We must not leave out the game room.
Zach – Yes, yes, we have expanded a great deal. I won’t bore the readers with how we did it.
Napoleon – By selling antiques we bring with us from our times.
Zach – Shut up, short stuff. Remember that whole ‘don’t tell about…’ Never mind.
Napoleon – I am not short! Tomoe is shorter than me!
Tomoe Gozen – But I carry a very large sword.
Zach – Hey! We have a panel here. Everyone not involved, please go find something else to do.
Tomoe – I’m trying out this ‘hot tub’ with the hopes that it is as relaxing as the hot springs of Japan. I’ll go see if Empress Theodora is here. She seldom is, but I’ll ask if she would care to join me.
Jane Austen – I shall join you as I read.
Napoleon – Um…I too shall join you!
Tomoe – Girls only.
Napoleon – But Genghis is hoarding the X-Box.
Zach – That’s what Genghis does; he hoards.
(All leave except for Anna Komemne, Mulan, Charles Martel, Buffalo Calf Road, and Julius Caesar.)
Caesar – So, what’s today’s topic again?
Zach – You were supposed to read up on this.
Caesar – Caesar was occupied.
Mulan – He was playing Saints Row 3 on your X-box.
Caesar – That is a horrible accusation! I demand that you take it back!
Anna – No, you were definitely playing that all day.
Buffalo – Today’s topic, Caesar, is… Maybe Anna should introduce this one.
Anna – Today’s topic is (drum roll) The Byzantine Empire!
Zach – Yes, indeed! You’ve heard of the Byzantine Empire many times from me in the past. It’s time we get down to it and finally discuss just what it is.
Martel – I’m still waiting on your third installment of the Venetian history.
Zach – Oh, yeah. I’ll get to it eventually. So, the Byzantine Empire. By raise of hands, who has heard of it? (besides from me) Then, raise your hands if you know a little about its history. Now, raise your hands if you’re wondering WTF is a Byzantine Empire?
Anna – This makes me very sad and very confused.
Zach – Well, western historians have basically ignored the Byzantine Empire for hundreds of years. It’s the German’s fault. How can there be a Holy Roman Empire if the Eastern Roman Empire was still around? So, they invented the term “Byzantine” and treated it like a separate and unrelated empire.
Buffalo – Those lousy Germans.
Anna – As Zach mentioned, the Byzantine Empire, my home, was the eastern half of the Roman Empire. When the Western half fell (see previous post about that) the eastern half continued on for another thousand years. That’s quite an achievement by anyone’s standard!

Here’s a map of the Empire around Anna’s time.

Mulan – Meh.
Caesar – Mulan, remember, your Chinese government was not continuous.
Mulan – (Shrugs.) Depends what you mean by continuous, I guess.
Zach – The Eastern Roman Empire was mostly Greek speaking, with Greek being the language of trade and eventually the government. They were strongly connected with their ancient Greek past and the classics of Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and especially Homer.
Anna – Oh! I love Homer! “Words are potent in debate, deeds in war decide your fate.”
Zach – And it wasn’t just Ancient Greece they followed, they were also very well connected with their more recent Roman heritage. When Constantine recreated the small Greek town of Byzantion into Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire and largest city in the world for centuries, he brought in Roman noble families, and even Roman street people to fill the streets with an authentic Roman vibe.
Mulan – That’s one way to do Feng Shui.
Anna – Caesar, you’d be interested to know that our generals read your works over and over again. Our armies trained from Roman military manuals.
Zach – Constantine moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople for a few reasons.
Mulan – One; to get away from paganism. He wanted a new capitol free from old, corrupt influences. Another was that he wanted a capitol that was actually in an important place. Rome is no where important so once the government moved away, Rome became a backwater. Constantinople was set at an important place between Europe, Asia and the Mideast. It straddled the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Caesar – Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but a city alone doesn’t decide the fate of an empire. What about their legions?
Martel – My armies that I used to defeat the Moors were inspired by the Legions, but I’m afraid the legions vanished from Byzantium.
Caesar – Then how did they wage war?
Martel – They fought very different than the western Romans. They had heavy infantry, but that wasn’t their main fighting arm. That was their cavalry. They got stirrups from the Sarmatians and Western Europe got stirrups from Byzantium. (See previous post about Byzantine cavalry.)

Russians copied a lot of their sense of style from the Byzantines. (The long sleeves were Turkish style though.)

Anna – That wasn’t all we had. We also had Greek fire!
Zach – Flame throwers! They fended off a Viking invasion with a few barges and flame throwers. Then when the armies of Islam came to the walls of Constantinople, they defeated them again with flamethrowers.

Flame throwers in the Dark Ages? Isn’t that like using a cheat code? What next? Byzantine “God Mode?” Well, their Cataphract cavalry were kinda like juggernauts.

Buffalo – I guess advanced technology gave them an advantage over their enemies. Technology overcoming numerical disadvantage. Go figure.
Mulan – And they were almost always outnumbered. They kept their armies small but well equipped and well trained.
Buffalo – Okay, I have to ask because you Europeans have…funny ideas about women. How did the Byzantines treat their women?
Anna – Well, Wealthy women had access to the best education in Europe. I was taught grammar, rhetoric, the classics, science, and philosophy.
Mulan – But you had limited freedom, yes?
Anna – Well, we generally weren’t allowed in public without an escort. But we did have several women Empresses that ruled on their own. Zoe and Irene are two examples. We also venerated many women saints. Mary was the patron saint of Constantinople.
Caesar – So, what happened to the Eastern Empire after the West fell?
Martel – They tried to get the West back.
Caesar – How did it go? I assume they were not as successful. Shame they did not have a general as genius as I am.
Zach – Actually, they had a general that was more brilliant than you.
Caesar – Impossible!
Zach – His name was Belisarius and they say he’s the most brilliant general since Hannibal. With a small and insufficient force he managed to conquer and permanently wipe off the map the Vandal kingdom of North Africa. But that wasn’t enough. No, sir. He then went and invaded Italy. This was known as the Gothic War. The Goths controlled Italy and had set up a pretty decent kingdom there. They were Romanized barbarians and copied the art, culture and government of the Romans.
Caesar – So, they took back Italy for the Empire?
Zach – Indeed they did, at least, for a short time. It’s a long and very cool story. I’ll do a post about it later on. They fought up and down the Italian peninsula for years. The destruction caused by this war crippled Italy for centuries to come. The aqueducts to Rome were permanently destroyed during this war. Then they set up their Italian HQ in Ravenna.
Buffalo – Oh! That’s where they have all those pretty stone pictures!
Anna – Stone pictures?
Zach – The Mosaics. Yes, I’ve seen the mosaics there. They’re absolutely stunning and that’s not a word I use very often.
Anna – Yes, our Icons were inspiring.

A mosaic in Venice done by craftsmen from Constantinople.

A mosaic portrait of Empress Theodora in Ravenna, the capitol of Byzantine Italy. (This mosaic is breathtaking in real life.)

Byzantines didn’t buy into that “minimalist” crap. This gives you an idea of the sensory overload a typical Byzantine church inspires.

Martel – The West ignored Byzantium until the times of the crusades. The Byzantine emperor…
Anna – My father!
Martel – Yes, Anna’s father, Alexios I, called for some military aid from the West, so the Pope sends an entire crusade!

Is my daughter behaving herself? Tell her to stop texting me every five minutes. I do have an empire to run.

Mulan – The Crusade was a filthy barbarian horde. I hate filthy barbarian hordes.
Buffalo – But what were the people like? Were they like Caesar here?
Anna – No, not really. The Byzantine character was very religious. Common people would debate in the streets about the duel nature of Christ or the role of Icons. We were far more mystical than the rational, practical Latin Romans. We also didn’t enjoy war like the Latins did. Instead we’d buy off our enemies and have them attack other enemies. We preferred to avoid war if it could be avoided and often paid mercenaries to fight for us. We’d rather attend religious ceremonies, read, debate and wonder at the beauty of art.
Martel – And their government relied much more on the person of the Emperor than the West did. For example, Venice, a former Byzantine protectorate, followed the Roman Republican system. They HATED cults of personality and didn’t ever want any one person to gain too much power. Or the Holy Roman Empire was more of a collection of barons that debated and voted than a true Empire.
Zach – That reminds me. We need to get a German on the panel.
Martel – No we don’t. Us Franks and Germans don’t get along very well.
Mulan – I don’t think the Franks get along well with anyone.
Buffalo – The Huron and Iroquois.
Caesar – I’m sure we can find one good German. I mean, what have the barbarians of Germany ever done wrong?
(There’s an awkward silence for a while.)
Caesar – What?
Mulan – Never mind. We’ll, um, we’ll discuss all that later.
Buffalo – A thousand years of history is a lot to talk about. I’m hungry.
Anna – I can talk of this subject all day.
Caesar – You should write a book about it then.
Anna – I did. The Alexiad.
Caesar – Never read it.
Anna – You should. I talk a great deal about war.
Caesar – I’m currently reading the “Golden Cord” by Paul Genesse. What a fantastic read! I want to go hunt dragons now!
Anna – Dragons aren’t real.
Mulan – Says you. I’m reading “Spellbound,” by Larry Correia. Now that’s good stuff.
Martel – I’m reading Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson.
Buffalo – Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. I want to jump around like an allomancer! (makes ‘whooshing’ sounds)
Zach – There’s so much Byzantine history that it’s impossible to even do any kind of justice to it in such a short period of time. It’s an Empire that blends, Greek, Roman, Christian, and Eastern influence all into one. Their history is filled with civil wars, rebellions, assassinations, plots, heresy, riots and wars. Also, they had style!
Anna – Yeah, we’re pretty cool.
Zach – But why should we care?
Anna – Why? For numerous reasons. Remember that little thing you westerners call the Renaissance? Well, that was birthed when Byzantines fled the dying empire with copies of all those Ancient Greek classics that had been lost to the west. Those books of learning fueled the westerners to see the world differently and want to learn more.
Next; they saved Western Europe from the invasions of the Islamic Empire. After the death of Muhammad, the Islamic Empire expanded and kept expanding as far as they could reach. Their goal was to surround the Mediterranean completely. Their target in the 700 and 800’s was Europe. They invaded Byzantine territory over and over again but Byzantium held them back, thus allowing Western Europe to grow until it could stabilize and defend itself.
Martel – I stopped them in France!
Anna – But only after they took all of Spain. Europe would be a very different place if Byzantium hadn’t stopped them. Also, we were responsible for Christianizing the Slavs of Eastern Europe and Russia. Moscow was supposed to be a third Rome. Russia looked to Byzantium as their religious forefathers. The Crimean War was fought because Russia wanted to invade the Ottoman Empire and recreate the Byzantine Empire. Catherine the Great had that vision of a unified Eastern Orthodox Empire.

Here’s the Russian saint, Olga, being baptized a Christian. Thank the Byzantines for that…oh, and the Cyrillic alphabet the Ruskies use. Also a Byzantine invention.

Zach – And the stirrup, fork and Justinian’s Code of laws.
1. Renaissance
2. Saved Western Europe from Arab domination
3. fork
4. stirrup
5. Christianization and civilization of Slavs and Russia
6. Unified system of laws
7. Style

Zach – As you can see, they equal out to be pretty dang awesome.

When you have Viking’s working for your Empire wearing armor like this; yeah, you know you’re pretty awesome. (more on Varangians to come!)

Lost Colony of Roanoke

Zach – Welcome once again to Minimum Wage Historian! Today we will be discussing the Lost Colony of Roanoke! (ominous music plays in the background) With me is my co-host, Anna Komemna.
Anna – Glad to be hear. I can’t wait to get started. I’m curious as to what happened my self.
Zach – Patience my Byzantine noblewoman. We will unravel this mystery.  Next we have …yes, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Napoleon – I need no introduction you silly man. Everyone knows who I am.
Buffalo Calf Road – You’re the short guy with the big hat, right? The Ka’evé’ho’e
Napoleon – Why you…! I am not short! I don’t know what that savage word means, but I know I should punish you for it!
Buffalo – I just called you a short white man.
Zach – And next we have famous Cheyenne warrior woman, Buffalo Calf Road!
Buffalo – Thank you, thank you. Hahoo!
Zach – And then we have Hua Mulan, woman general from Ancient China. She can kick your butt with kung fu.
Mulan – I just saw that cartoon called “Mulan”. It was swine dung.
Zach – If you thought that was inaccurate, wait till we talk about Pocahontas. But I digress. (not this episode.)
Napoleon – Are you sure you have time for this, Zach Are you not writing your silly little book?
Zach – Why, yes, I am writing a book. It’ll be my…I lost count of how many books I’ve written. You wrote, let’s see. Oh yeah, ONE and it was crap. Should I have Jane Austin come back and slap you with a literary pimp hand? She’s got the Bronte sisters as back up. They roll together.
Napoleon – I am not afraid of this woman!
Zach – Jane? Can you come in here a minute?”
Napoleon – No, no! Let us move on, yes? We have much history to discuss.
Zach – Very well. You’re lucky Jane’s showing Caesar and Matilda her “accomplishments with the cello”… and by cello she meant my bass guitar.
Anna – In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave permission for Walter Releigh to establish a permanent colony in the new world. Sir Releigh did not go himself to create this colony, instead he sent Phillip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to go do all the work for him.

You have seven years to get that colony up and going, you pirate! We have to outdo Gingrich’s plan for a colony.

Mulan – Why would they be interested in a small settlement clear across the ocean? Seems inefficient to me.
Napoleon – They wanted to use it as a base to go forth and act like pirates to the Spanish. Unlike in my time, the Spanish here are the ultimate sea power.
Mulan – The term was…privateers, right?
Anna – Yes, privateers are government sanctioned pirates. As long as they attack the enemies of the country that hired them, they were under full protection of that country.
Buffalo – They didn’t come just to start a base for pira…privateers, but they also wanted to loot, steal and take whatever riches the New World had. I’m sure there was some nobility in there somewhere.
Zach – Well, they sent an expedition to go take a look and they brought back (willfully) two natives who told Releigh all about their homeland. This got them interested in a second expedition to set up a permanent colony.

Why, I am no pirate! How dare you…okay, I can’t say that with a straight face. I’m totally a pirate. Pirate pride!

Mulan – We Chinese also sent expeditions to North America but I do not think they ever planned on staying.
Anna – After their ships got separated in a storm, they met near Puerto Rico where they set up a small fort and then promptly abandoned it. Then they sailed north to what they called Roanoke Island, off the coast of North

Here’s Releigh’s ship. It’s not that big at all. It was an econo-model.

Carolina. They met with some of their lost ships, one of which left dropped off their colonists and hurried up to Newfoundland to do some privateering.
Buffalo – Are all your explorers pirates and swindlers?
Napoleon – No, the Spanish were fanatical plunderers.
Buffalo – And all you French seemed to care about was fur trapping. What strange priorities you people have.
Zach – So they find the island and set up shop. They make a little fort like the one they abandoned and begin to make friends with the local natives.
Anna – See? They’re not so bad.
Buffalo – Zach, let me tell this story.
Zach – Be my guest.
Buffalo – The English set up their little colony and begin making friends with the locals. One of the villages they befriended was called Aquascogoc. One of the settlers lost or misplaced a cup and claimed that it must have been stolen by an Indian. Because Indians cared so much about such things. So, as payment for the cup, the colonists go and burn down the entire village. The colonists were then surprised that the natives suddenly turned hostile towards them. Imagine that. Who would have guessed?

What the Indian villages looked like around that area. Obviously it had to be destroyed.

Anna – Yes, so relations with the locals weren’t going very well.
Buffalo – Stop burning our villages and stealing our stuff and maybe we can be friends.
Zach – Short on supplies and the relief fleet no where in sight, they decide to send a ship back to find out what was going on with that pizza they ordered. This return voyage would bring back potatoes and maize to the Europeans.
Buffalo – And the Indians attacked the fort.
Zach – Yes, the colony had a few PR hang ups.
Anna – England sends another fleet to go and establish another colony in the Chesapeake Bay and their orders were to stop by Roanoke first, pick up all the colonists there and bring them along. But when they got there all they found was an abandoned fort and a skeleton.
Mulan – So they went up north and established the new colony in Virginia?
Anna – No, the fleet commander kicks all the colonists off the ship and tells them to reestablish Roanoke. Mulan, isn’t building your home near a mysterious place of death bad feng shui?
Mulan – It’s not generally considered a good thing…in most cultures.
Buffalo – According to the Navajo you can get “ghost sickness.”
Napoleon – What is this ghost sickness?
Buffalo – It’s when a creepy girl comes out of your TV and kills you.
Mulan – You just made that up.
Buffalo – Yeah. I watched the Ring last night. But there such a thing as ghost sickness.
Anna – The English then set up a new colony where the other colonists disappeared. They try to reestablish relations with the Croatans and other tribes, which I imagine was somewhat awkward because the tribes didn’t even want to talk to them.
Napoleon – Maybe because they were still picking the colonists from their teeth?
Buffalo – They weren’t cannibals, távo’eéh!
Mulan – Surrounded by enemies they send a man named White, one of Releigh’s friends, back to England to beg for help, but while he’s home a war breaks out between the English and Spanish. This is the war where Spain sends the Armada up to invade England. So England needs every ship available to stop the Spanish and White can’t find a ship to return to the colony. There are some complications and failed attempts, but to make a long story short, White doesn’t get to return until after three years.
Buffalo – White also had a granddaughter there, Virginia Dare. She was the first English person born in the New World. Unfortunately, not the last.
Zach – The only ship he could charter was a…you guessed it, a privateer ship that he convinces to make a brief stop there. When he arrives he finds the place deserted. Everything was carefully packed up and the houses were disassembled showing that it wasn’t a hasty departure. Also, they had a signal that if they had to leave the colony forcefully, they were to leave a Maltese cross as a sign. No crosses were found but they did find the word “Croatoan” carved in a tree and “Cro” carved in another tree. Croatoan was another nearby island.

“Look sir! Beneath this strange word it says, ‘for good time call…”

Anna – But before he could go looking for them, a giant storm came and they had to leave.
Napoleon – Ha! It wasn’t until twelve years later that Releigh got off his fat, lazy English backside and tried to find out what happened to the colony. He sent his little expedition but they never made it to the island because another storm. These English are afraid of a little weather!
Buffalo – Soooo, what happened to them? They had to have gone somewhere.
Napoleon – I have a theory that is not my own.
Buffalo – I can’t wait to hear it.
Napoleon – Cannibals.
Zach – So, anyway, what other theories are out there?
Anna – The most prominent and most likely is that they moved in with local tribes. They probably weren’t self sufficient enough and had to either submit to the surrounding tribes or made some sort of bargain. The theory goes that the Chowanoke tribe took them in but another tribe attacked that tribe and took all the survivors as trophies and slaves. There are reasons to believe this. When Jamestown was settled, one of their missions was to find out what happened to the Roanoke colony. They found evidence of two story stone houses that the natives said white people had taught them to make. Also there were several reports of European slaves among different tribes in the area. One report said that there was an English maid among them. Some believe that this was Virginia Dare due to the age of the reported girl. Also, some of the tribes that used to live near Roanoke told the Jamestown settlers that they had white ancestors.
Anna – After that there were many reports by English colonists of grey-eyed Indians. Some French Huguenots later came across Indians with blond hair and blue eyes. In the late 1880s, Hamilton McMillan, a North Carolina state legislator, found that a local Indian tribe claimed to be descended from the Roanoke colonists and that some of the words in their language were similar to old, out of date English words and that some of their family names were similar to the names of the lost colonists. He made the “Croatan bill” that proclaimed them descendants of the lost colonists. There were also many reports of English colonists meeting groups of Indians that spoke English and knew about Christianity.
Mulan – That is one theory. I have one. When John Smith asked chief Powhatan about the lost colony, he said “oh, sure, they were chilling with an enemy tribe so we wiped them all out. Here, I have some English helmets we looted. Take a look.”
Zach – Sorry, I wrote that quote. I paraphrased.

No, that’s pretty much how I said it.

Mulan – But the essence is true. According to that legend, he took credit for destroying the colonists and had proof.
Buffalo – Or maybe they tried to make it back to England and sunk or starved to death. Or, here’s an interesting one, maybe the Spanish did find them and destroy them! The Spanish do have a history of attacking forts and erasing evidence that there was a fort. They did it before at Ft. Charles and tried it at Jacksonville Florida on Ft. Caroline.
Anna – Seems to me like the colonists were either captured, assimilated or killed by the Indians.
Zach – But there is one possibility that we haven’t discussed.
Anna – What?
Zach – Zombies. That would explain why there are no bodies. Once killed, they got back up and walked away. No wonder Powhatan had to kill them.
Anna – And on that fascinating note, we end it here and leave you to come up with your own conclusions.
Buffalo – They made babies with the Indians!
Anna – Their OWN conclusions.
Buffalo – But they did!
Zach – Zombies.

Napoleon – Cannibals!

Mulan – You all have it wrong.  It was old man Withers with a mask trying to scare the kids away from the Spanish gold at the bottom of the lake.

Mystery solved!