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The Bayeux Tapestry: Sticking it to the man since 1066

Zach – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian, I’m your host, Zach and with me is my lovely and super intelligent co-host, Anna Komemne!
Anna – It’s good to be here but I must say that preparing for today’s topic was a bit…tedious. I’m not usually one for talking about art.
Zach – That’s right, today we’ll be discussing the Bayuex tapestry, the most famous work of medieval art.
Anna – But it’s not really a tapestry.
Zach – Shhh. With us today we have famous Samurai warrior woman: Tomoe Gozen!
Tomoe – It is honor to be here.
Zach – Next we have Countess Matilda of Tuscany! She was a military contractor for the Pope and fought the German emperor.
Matilda – How long is this going to take? I have three gun tournament today.
Zach – And next we have the killer of Custer, Cheyenne female fighter, Buffalo Calf Road!
Buffalo – The buffalo burgers will done in a few minutes! The intern’s watching the oven.
Tomoe – She had better not burn buffalo burger or I cut off her head.
Buffalo – Um…maybe I should go check on that. (Buffalo hurries out of room.)
Zach – Yes, lets not kill any interns here. Next we have Napoleon who….spent all last week in his room playing strategy games on line.
Napoleon – But I won! Apply the basics and the rest is simple.
Matilda – How about the basics of a bath? What is that orange powder on the front of your shirt?
Napoleon – Cheetos. The spicy kind.
Zach – Okay, let’s get started. The Bayeux tapestry is basically a really long strip of cloth that was embroidered with what we could call a comic strip type of story.

As you can see, it's pretty darn long.

Anna – Embroidered? Zach, you’re increasing your vocabulary!
Matilda – It’s a comic? Like a graphic novel?
Zach – Pretty much.
Matilda – I like the New Avengers and the Thunderbolts.
Tomoe – I like Battle Angel Alita, Gunslinger Girls and Perfect Girl Evolution.
Napoleon – I like Superman.
Anna – You would. He’s on a power trip and has no personality.
Zach – The story that this “tapestry” tells is the Norman conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. For centuries everyone, including the Normans, thought it was a political piece of propaganda by self congratulating Norman occupiers
Matilda – Perhaps we should explain the two sides? The Normans are Vikings that settled in Northern France because they wanted to. It’s hard to say “no” to a Viking.
Anna – And the English were Saxons that had invaded England when Rome Fell about five centuries prior.
(Buffalo returns with a tray full of buffalo burgers.)
Buffalo – I brought everyone buffalo burgers! Get it? They’re made from Buffalo and my name’s…
Anna – Yes, we get it. Thank you.
Napoleon – We appear to be one short. Where is mine?
Buffalo – We’re short one? Oh, dear me. How ever did that happen?
(Napoleon watches as everyone else eats, delicious, juicy buffalo burgers…with bacon!)
Zach – Okay, that was frigging excellent.
Tomoe – So good.  Brings much honor to you.
Matilda – I’ve never seen a buffalo before, but by Christendom if this isn’t delectable!
Anna – Let us dive into the heart of the matter then! We will start at the beginning of the tapestry and follow the history that it teaches us. We will tell you the traditional explanation for what we see; the Norman version of how things happened, but then we’ll tell you what it’s REALLY saying.
Buffalo – So, where’s the beginning? Wait, i think I found it. It’s this picture here, right?

It's written in Latin. It says "Edward Rex - King Edward. Then 'Where Harold, Duke of the English..."

Zach – King Edward the confessor is king of England, but he doesn’t have any children. This is a problem for a Medieval monarchy because now they have to find who will be king next.
Buffalo – That’s a pretty silly system. How many useless wars did you all fight over this?
Anna – Most of them, I think. Not counting Turkish invasions.
Matilda – Or the Holy Roman Emperor trying to take power from the Pope.
Zach – Here we have a meeting with the King, Duke Harold and an adviser. So, the childless Edward sends Harold off somewhere. We’ll get to “where” exactly a little later.

"...and his soldiers ride to Bosham." Eclesia ="Church" Then it shows Harold partying it up with his noble buddies in a palace. But where is he going? Hmmm....

Anna – The Norman and traditional interpretation say that Edward sent Harold off to Normandy to find Duke William to declare him the heir to the English throne. Now, as we go through, we’ll look and see if the story the tapestry tells is the Norman version or something else.
Matilda – We can see a servant interrupting the feast to tell them that the ship is ready.

See? Now they're getting into their ships. The Latin says "Here Harold sailed across he sea." Then "And with the wind full in his sails he came to the land of Count Guy."

Napoleon – Look at the little English men! Ha! In this so called “tapestry” you can see that the English always have long hair and little mustaches!
Zach – That is an excellent point. Yes, the English will always be shown with long hair and mustaches and the Normans and French (not the same thing) will be clean shaven with short hair.
Buffalo – Also, their ships look like Viking long boats.
Anna – Well, England’s been under the thumb of the Vikings for a while and Normans are just Vikings that speak French.
Matilda – And I’m a German that speaks Italian!
Buffalo – Europeans are confusing. Why can’t you all just stay in one place?
Tomoe – Is this Harold an honorable man or no?
Zach – Good question. The traditional Norman view says that Harold was an upstart that tried to steal the throne from the rightful heir, William. That Harold came to tell William that the throne is his but then steals it. We’ll see how that plays out.

"Harold" Then it says "Here Guy seizes Harold."

Anna – Harold’s ship goes off course in a storm and lands on the territory of Duke Guy. Guy owned a small little dukedom and he got his money by seizing noblemen and ransoming them back to their kingdoms.
Tomoe – That is not a very honorable way of living.
Zach – No, no its not. But Harold finds himself captive of this Guy character. Keep in Mind that Harold is the top contender for heir of the throne, so basically Guy just won the lottery.

"And led him to Beaurain and he held him there." Guy takes his prize home.


"Where Harold and Guy confer." Basically, Guy says, I'll treat ya good, but remember who's in charge! But...who's that sneaky little guy that seems to be listening in? More mystery!


Then, like a scene out of Pulp Fiction, two of William's thugs show up and tell Guy to hand Harold over to William or they'll wreck his face. William is not a man to tick off. (There's a dwarf there names Turold. He's a jester of sorts.)


Now we flash back to earlier. The two thugs are burning asphalt to Guy's pad. We see a messenger telling William about Guy's new prize, so he sends his two men to Guy. "Here a messenger came to Duke William." Was this the guy that was listening in on Guy and Harold?


"Here Guy brought Harold to William, Duke of Normandy." Yeah, Guy did as he was told.


"Here Duke William comes to his palace with Harold."


William on his throne talking to Harold. (I'll get to the lady and priest in a moment.)

Tomoe – Wait a second. What are they saying?  This is big meeting?  Here Harold tells William he is heir to England?
Zach – Exactly! According to the Normans this is where Harold tells William that he will be heir. But look, the tapestry says nothing of the kind.
Buffalo – So…what is going on?
Zach – Look what Harold (the guy standing and gesturing) is doing. He’s pointing the man behind him. The mysterious man has long hair and a mustache. He’s English. At this time, William held as hostage two of Edward’s nephews and according to the English, Harold was sent to secure the nephews’ releases.
Tomoe – Does not look like Harold is telling William anything about throne, but begging for nephew’s release.
Matilda – Wait, this tapestry wasn’t made by the Normans, was it?
Anna – Nope. Normans didn’t make embroidered art like this. Only the English.
Matilda – So, English people made this for their conquerors?
Zach – Yes! But they couldn’t come out and say their side of the story. Going against the Norman conquerors was considered treason. So they hid their story in plain sight.
Napoleon – Who is the lady?
Zach – The Latin says “Where a Cleric and Aelfgyva…”
Buffalo – Where a Cleric and Aelfgyva what?
Zach – Exactly. Look at the bottom decorations. See the little naked guy? He’s mimicking the priest and looking up the lady’s dress. They think this lady was mother to a Viking king that also laid claim to the throne. This says that he was conceived in a scandal and so doesn’t have any actual claim.
Buffalo – Ooookkaaayyyyy…..

"Here Duke William and his army came to Mont-Saint-Michel." Now that Harold is William's hostage, he takes him on a little military campaign but first stops at a famous monastery, built by Edward. Why would a piece of Norman propaganda emphasize this? Hhmmmm


"And here they crossed the river Couesnon. Here duke Harold pulled them out of the sand." We see Harold heroically saving men from the treacherous sand. If Harold was a villainous usurper, why show him as a hero? Funny.

Anna – We see William’s army attacking a rebellious city. Harold is taken along and fights along side William. That was normal. In fact, his two hostage nephews are also fighting for William. It beats sitting in a cell.

"Rennes" They attack another city of the rebellious Duke.


They attack this city. You can see the underminers trying to burn the walls of the city down. The rebel gives William the keys to the city at the end of a spear.

Anna – But look! It also says “Here William gave arms to Harold.” Basically that means that Harold is now under Williams authority.
Tomoe – Why would he do that? If he is heir to English throne, why would go under William’s authority?
Naploleon – Simple! William made him! If Harold didn’t agree, William would never let the poor wretch go home!
Zach – Correct. William wants to be king and if he could get Harold to proclaim him king, he wins.

Here William makes Harold swear on sacred relics to make the "deal" binding.


"Here Duke Harold returned to English soil."


Here's Harold's meeting with King Edward. Look at how whimpering Harold looks and how old the king looks since last we saw him. "Boy, you done messed up real good! You let William boss you around??!!" (rough translation.)


"Here King Edward in his bed addresses his faithful followers and here he has died." We see him sick in bed (top) where his wife massages his feet. On the right it says "Here they gave Harold the Crown." Notice it doesn't say he steals the crown or anything like that. Not what the Normans would say.


The Normans considered Harold to be a pretender and never counted him as a legit king it says "Here sits upon the throne Harold, King of the English."


"Here an English ship came to Duke William's land." (to tell him Harold went back on his "promise" and accepted the crown for himself."


William gets pissed and begins building an invasion fleet
Napoleon - Ha! I tried this thing once. It did not work well for me!


more war preparations, yo can see them hauling armor on the right.


Even more preparations.


A reverse D-Day. France invades England.


more of the fleet.


Invasion! The Normans are sacking towns for food.


They have a barbeque.


Bishop Odo (a Norman) throws a feast. Odo, William and a nobleman named "Robert" chill before battle. Odo was a fighting bishop. Many bishops back then would get in armor, pull out their maces and charge into battle like D&D cleric.


Normans fortify their position on the left and Harold gets word of the Norman invasion.


Normans burn a house and we see a woman fleeing with a child. On the right the Normans set out and head North to face Harold. (what isn't shown is that Harold is fighting off a viking invasion at Stamford Bridge.)


Norman cavalry heading into battle.


William - Dude, you've seen this punk Harold around?
Vital - Sure did! He's over yonder!


soldier 1 - Awwww crap! Here come them Normans!
Soldier 2 - Game over man!


Soldier - Um...Sir? I think the Normans are right behind us.
Harold - That's not a good thing, is it?
Soldier - No sir.


Normans charge into battle!
Buffalo - They're managing better than Custer did.


And the climactic final battle begins!


Normans vs English! Now the decorative borders are filled with dead bodies.


Here are King Harold's brothers dying in battle. I have brothers I care a great deal for and I can't imagine what that would be like. I went to Iraq with my twin twice and loosing him would have been worse than dying myself.


"Here English and French die in battle." It no longer matters what side they're on. In death they're all equal. Here we see that there's nothing glorious or great about war. It's simple carnage and misery.


The English are defending a hill. The Normans pretend to retreat and the English come down from the hill to give chase. The Normans then turn around and slaughter the English.


Everyone thinks Harold is dead but he raises his helmet up to show that he's still alive.


And here Harold takes an arrow in the eye and dies.

Buffalo – Sad.
Tomoe – I don’t care what Normans say, Harold fought bravely.
Napoleon – I wish I had half of William’s luck.
Matilda – That one battle changed English history forever. The nobility spoke French and the Kings of England were technically vassals of the French King.
Anna – Which would lead to the Hundred Years war later on.
Zach – Duke William became “William the Conqueror, King of England” and he ruled with an iron fist. There’s so much more to this story and to the tapestry. But I hope you’ve seen that for once, history was written by the losers who dared insert their story into a monument for the victors. They may have lost but they didn’t give up.
Tomoe – They stuck it to the man.
Buffalo – I can always respect resistance.
Anna – For more of this story, check out “1066: the Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry” by Andrew Bridgeford.

Conquistadors get the longest killing streaks and unlock mad perks.

Aside from murdering thousands and destroying empires, Conquistadors love gold and what you could buy with gold. And power you could...

Zach – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian. I’m taking a break from writing books and painting Gundam models to talk about a subject that is just too butt kickingly awesome and absolutely horrible to not talk about.
Anna – That was weak, Zach.
Zach – Hey, I’m making it up as I go. I don’t stress over every sentence like you do.
Buffalo – Can we get a little solidarity?
Anna – But of course.
Zach – So, as I was saying…what was I saying?
Cornwallis – I do believe that you were about to discuss the nature of today’s conversation.
Zach – Yes, of course. Today my panel of historical guests and I will be discussing the Conquistadores!
Anna – We’ll be discussing both the Spanish and the Portuguese and their bloodthirsty bid for gold and power.
Buffalo – Good one.
Anna – That’s how you do it, Zach.
Zach – Whatever. We have a new panelist with us, Olga of Kiev!
Olga – Is good to be here darling. I so glad you accepted my request to on panel.
Zach – Well, it’s not like we could really deny you.
Olga – Not unless you want house burnt down.

Just kidding.
Zach – (Nervous laughter.) Right. Of course. Um…so…we have Me, Anna Komemne, Byzantine historian, Buffalo Calf Road, American Indian female warrior who fought Custer. Lord Cornwallis, General of British army that fought George Washington and Olga of Kiev, Russian leader who converted to Christianity and killed everyone that ticked her off.
Olga – (laughs) Da! I lack great patience and I no turn so called “other cheek.”
Zach – First, let’s talk about the New World.
Buffalo – New world? That’s so silly.
Cornwallis – It’s new to us, my dear.
Buffalo – Is arrogance genetic?
Zach – Okay…let’s talk about the Aztecs then.
Anna – The Aztecs were a society that ritually murdered thousands of people to their false gods. In one day they killed 40,000 people for one temple dedication. They had rotating teams of priests that would kill the victims and kick them down the stairs. That was greater than what the industrialized mass murder the Nazis were capable of. They would get these victims as tribute from their conquered “allies.” Every city and town they beat in their ritualized wars had to surrender children to the Aztecs.
Buffalo – Like Hunger Games?
Cornwallis – Worse my dear.
Zach – I wouldn’t imagine that the Spanish viewed this mass murder with a lot of tolerance.
Anna – Not at all. They thought they had come across a land of devil worshipers.
Buffalo – It’s not like these conquistadors were saints either.
Olga – I am saint.
(Buffalo looks around nervously.)
Buffalo – Yes. Of course you are. Ha ha…. Well, these conquistadors only cared about two things; converting or killing the Aztecs and gold.
Zach – Right then, let’s talk about the conquistadors. (If you can’t figure out what “conquistadors” means then you either need to use bablefish or hide in a hole somewhere.)
Anna – At first glance, the conquistadors appear to be mindless, brutish, savage, merciless killers. This is only partially true. They weren’t mindless. Far from it. They were actually quite intelligent. It is true that Spain at this time was he most fanatical Christian nation in Europe but there’s an explanation for that. They had just spent the last few hundred years liberating Spain from the Moors. Also, they were fighting to Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean. This produced generations of hard core, religious, hard hitting veterans with little upward mobility in Spain. So they began to seek their fortunes elsewhere doing the one thing they knew how to do, killing in the name of God.
Buffalo – Isn’t that a Rage Against the Machine song?
Anna – And to top it off, they were huge fans of the Inquisition. They went after Muslims, Jews, protestants, protestants’ dogs, and Catholics that just weren’t Catholic enough. Before battle the conquistadors would have mass and confession with the small army of priests that they brought along with them.
Zach- These weren’t the kindly “Father O’Malligun’s playing bingo tonight” kind of priests, these were warrior monks that figured “if we can’t convert these heathens, it’s better to just kill ’em.”

Your typical, friendly Spanish Inquisitor.

Cornwallis – I do say! I imagine that upon viewing the blood thirsty sacrifices of the Aztecs they grew rather cross.
Anna – That’s a slight understatement.

An Aztec sandwich shop. After they cut out the still beating heart, they flayed the skin, wore it like a psychotic cape, and ate the rest. The conquistadors didn't like their version of "tapas."

Zach – When Cortez was surrounded and outnumbered in a desperate situation in the Aztec capitol of Tenochtitlan, he had the cahones to demand that the Aztecs throw down their pagan idols!
Olga – I like these Conquistadors! They have priorities straight. Russia during the so called “Great War” had priests and icons for every unit.
Anna – Spain became a repressive, xenophobic, war-like society that saw enemies everywhere it looked and showed mercy to none of them.
Buffalo – In short, the Aztecs happened to have their first meeting with the absolute worst Europeans they could possibly meet.
Zach – It was a perfect storm of fanaticism, aggression, experience, greed and intelligence.

Buffalo – And don’t forget “evil.”

And they were just all round bad A's that took crap from no one!

Buffalo – They were after gold, but for gold’s sake. Gold could buy them status. Gold could be sent to Spain to buy guns and ships to fight the Ottomans and Moors. Gold could decorate their churches. To them, gold was power. But here’s my question. How fanatic were they? I mean, the Aztecs fought whole wars just to get human sacrifices and believe Cortez to be Quetzalcoatl, the white bearded god that promised to return one day. How were they compared to the Aztecs?
Anna – There’s a difference between the two cultures. Both were highly religious and violent, but Spain had a long Western tradition of reason, logic and rationality. They had many myths and legends, but the Spanish were very much rooted in the real world. The Aztecs viewed the world in supernatural terms. When confronted with something new they either feared it or worshiped it. The Spanish on the other hand tried to figure out what was really going on and how best to exploit it. When they saw Aztecs doing horrible human sacrifices, they did not think “those must be devils!” No, they knew they were just men. The Aztecs on the other hand took months and months to finally wonder “Hmm…maybe they’re not gods and maybe those centaurs might just be men on a strange animal.” The Spanish had a tradition of rationalism that dated back to the Romans. Cortez was also educated and could read Latin and read the works of Julius Caeser.
Cornwallis – It seems we could have used the expertise of both Martel and Caesar. I do say that we British did not seek to exterminate the locals like these Spanish did. Our British colonies came seeking freedom of religion, not as missionaries with swords. The French merely wanted to trap fur and we British wanted to colonize. The Spanish just wanted to exploit and rule the locals.
Buffalo – Ha! Let’s not go there Corny! I can talk about that all day.
Anna – Another tradition the Spanish brought was that they debated, even with Cortez. Common soldiers could propose ideas and talk to their leaders. No such freedom of thought or access to the leadership was available to the Aztecs.
Olga – Cortez allowed minions to question him? This is strange, da? I would never allow men to question me!
Zach – Alright, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. I’ll make a long story short. The Spanish came into Mexico, fought, explored and made alliances with the locals. They got to the Aztec capital and were greeted like gods. Gods that demanded all their gold. Some Aztecs thought that these strange white gods must eat gold. Well, their divine visitors soon wore out their welcome. Destroying shrines, temples, and killing your people might do that. Eventually the Aztecs said, “That’s enough of this basura! Let’s get these pendejos! There’s 100,000 of us and only 500 of them!”
Buffalo – Where do you get your quotes?
Zach – My notes.
Buffalo – Where do you get your notes?
Zach – Somewhere.
Buffalo – Anyways…I’d get sick of a bunch of strangers coming into my home, killing my people and stealing our land. But that would never happen. No sir. Never. (that was sarcasm, btw) Well, understandably, the natives got ticked off and surrounded the Spanish in the palace. They would shoot arrows into the compound constantly and try to bash the doors in.
Anna – Cortes knew they couldn’t stay there for long. Tenochtitlan was larger than any European city at the time, cleaner, and had bigger buildings. They called it the Venice of the New World. It was made on an artificial island in the middle of a lake and had causeways (long bridges) that led to the city.

A view of Tenochtitlan. Mostly a man made island. They called it the Venice of the New World. The destruction of this city is one of the greatest crimes in history.

Tenochtitlan. I wanted to see exotic Aztec Empire... the crown jewel of Central America. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill!

Cornwallis – The Spanish were besieging there for months and after all food and water ran out, they realized that their situation was unsustainable. They had some choices before them. They could wait and starve to death. They could wait for the Aztecs to break in and swarm them with numbers, or they could fight their way out. They chose the latter.
Zach – Now, here’s an example of conquistador ingenuity. They used the wood from the palace and built mobile fortresses that they could stab and shoot out from in safety. They’d sally out of the palace in these wooden tanks and clear the streets. One night, when they thought the streets were clear enough, they muffled their horses hooves and they all snuck out. They carried transportable bridges to make it over the canals and to the nearest causeway that led to shore. But, a few hundred Spanish wearing armor and carrying weapons weren’t the stealthiest bunch and soon the whole city was in alarm and coming after the. The lake filled with their war canoes and attacked the Spanish from the sides as other attacked from behind. They would club the Spanish and drag them away to be sacrificed later. They seldom attacked to kill.

The more aristocratic you were, the fancier your warrior costume. Unfortunately, fancier doesn't equate to "more lethal." It was however, a great sign to the Spanish saying "I'm an officer! Shoot me first and my men will run!" Not what you want to say in a battle.

Anna – And that was a weakness of them! Cortez himself was clubbed and almost dragged away but was saved by his men.
Buffalo – And woman. Let’s not forget Maria De Estrada! She was the only Spanish woman on Cortez’s expedition. She fought on horseback and led several cavalry charges. Yes, she’s an imperialist European, but we warrior women have to stick together.
Olga – See? Never show mercy to enemy. It’s how I live so long.

Tenacity, bravery and luck were their skills. Also, Aztecs were deathly afraid of horses, dogs...and guns...and mean words...and...

Zach – The Spanish fought their way out of the city and onto the causeway that was broken in places. So, like a bad 8-bit Nintendo game, they had to jump from platform to platform while wearing heavy armor.
Anna – But their heavy armor also saved their lives. The Aztecs use weapons of stone and wood. They had nothing that could penetrate their armor or even their thick clothing at times. For every Spaniard they lost, they killed hundreds of Aztecs. It was like some ridiculous Anime.

Conquistador Shamploo. (if you don't get that reference then you're missing out.)

Zach – They cut a bloody swath through the Aztecs. When they finally reached shore there was only a few hundred Spaniards left. They had lost most of their guns and all of their cannons. They only had a few horses left, most of those belonging to Cortez’s right hand men.
Buffalo – And woman.
Cornwallis – At this point the Spanish were scattered and disorganized. If the Aztecs had pressed their attack they would have finished off the Spanish easily. But instead they took their captives and ran them back to their temple to celebrate their “Victory.” They let the leader and his crack troops escape. I would hardly call that a victory, but I suppose that is the difference between European and Aztec ways of war. We fight to destroy the enemy’s means of resistance. The Aztecs fought to prove bravery and collect sacrifices. I would never have made such a fundamental mistake.
Zach – So the Spanish retreated all the way back to the coast and stole, bought and bribed the Spanish there at Vera Cruz for more men and supplies. Then Cortez said “This just got real.” He spent the next year gathering allies, destroying the Aztec’s allies and means of supply to the island city and finally surrounded Tenochtitlan. They made battle barges that they hauled across the mountains and launched onto the lake. These boats had soldiers and cannons. With the boats protecting the causeways, they marched their army up the causeway with their cannons. Then began one of the most systematic and ruthless destruction of any city ever. When the Romans defeated Carthage, they left some of the more impressive parts alone. Not the Spanish. Block by block they progressed, demolishing every house and wall to make room for more troops and cavalry. They were destroying what was possibly the largest and most beautiful city in the world. Aztecs made pyramids larger than the Egyptians. Cortez didn’t care. He wanted his gold and his revenge in that order.
Anna – This was no easy task. It took several months to progress through the city, fighting the whole way. When they finally captured the Aztec emperor, their victory was complete and the Aztec nation ceased to exist.
Buffalo – Not counting the plagues they brought, they were estimated to have had a kill ratio of over a thousand to one. But we can’t ignore their native allies. They simply could not have done it in only two years without the thousands of natives fighting and working at their side.
Cornwallis – But their allies could not defeat the Aztecs without the Spanish.
Zach – Now let’s talk about the Portuguese conquistadors for a bit.
Anna – The two Portuguese we’ll be talking about are Vasco DeGama and Gaspar Correia. Vasco was the leader of an expedition. The Portuguese more on the side of explorers than say…bloodthirsty maniacs. Vasco went around the Horn of Africa and all the way to India where he set up shop. Along they way he had his official historian Gaspar Correia write down everything that happened. Well, Gaspar wasn’t as concerned with accuracy as I was when I wrote the Alexiad. When Gaspar didn’t know something, he would simply make it up. He would see a far off land from the ship and if they didn’t stop there to find out what was there, he would just make it up. He’d write about flying people with two heads or fantastical monsters.

"But senior Correia said that there were tentacled devils that eat souls and flying unicorns that cry golden tears. Could it be that he exaggerated some?"

Zach – It so happens that Larry Correia, author of the Monster Hunter series, the Grimnoir series and the Dead Six series, is a descendant…probably…of Gaspar Correia! He’s a novelist that…um…makes up stories about monsters and such for a living.
Olga – Must be in the blood, da? Like conquistadors, comrade Correia is also trained in so called killing arts.
Anna – We have a living conquistador with us today!
Zach – So, there you have it: conquistadors Vicious, brutal, merciless, greedy and insanely clever. Steel armor trumps stone weapons and it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
Anna – That was lame, Zach.
Zach – I know. Believe me, I know.
Olga – Do better next time or I cut out tongue.

Anna – In all seriousness, these were horrible, evil men that loved to slaughter people, sometimes for no reason.  They destroyed one of the most beautiful cities in the world along with almost all of their historical records.  If the destruction of the library of Alexandria  irks you still, imagine the knowledge lost at the hands of these butchering zealots.

Olga of Kiev

She's wondering who to slaughter next.

She’s looking around wondering who needs a good killin’.

Zach – Welcome back to another episode of Minimum Wage Historian! (applause) Today me and my co-host, the lovely and highly intelligent Anna Komemne, have a very special guest for you.
Anna – Special and prone to violence.
Zach – Now, now, she’s a saint in your own church. Be nice.
Anna – Don’t get me wrong, I love our guest! Just don’t make her angry.
Zach – I’ll try to remember that. Our guest is St. Olga of Kiev!
(Zach and Anna stand up as Olga walks out on stage. They shake hands and Olga sits down on the chair closest to Zach’s desk.)
Olga – It is…how do you Americans say? Fantastico. Yes. Is fantastico to be here. Da!
Zach – Well, Olga, tell us a bit about yourself for our readers that may not know you.
Olga – Not know me? This is silly thing. Of course they know me! I first Russian to conv…converge? Convert! Yes, I first Russian to convert to Christian faith.
Zach – That’s not all you’re known for. You also embarked on a Kill-Bill style revenge fueled rampage.
Olga – Da, I had many enemies that would not have the courtesy of dying. I had to help them with the dying.
Zach – And help them you did. But before we get into that, let’s talk about where you came from.
Olga – I from Pskov, city in Russia. I was born in 879. My father was Oleg of Novgorod. He from a Varyag family. Favorite color is the purple.
Zach – What’s a Varyag?
Anna – In Constantinople we called them “Varangians.”
Zach – Ah! Vikings! Yes your family was descended from Rus, the man that gave Russia its name. The Vikings sort of took over leadership in what was to become Russia.
Olga – Da, Zach. Norsemen they sometimes called.

I get my sunny disposition from my Russian blood and my peaceful nature from my Viking side

Zach – So, then you married a nobleman by the name of… (Flips through notes.)
Olga – Igor of Kiev. Very noble family. Many Tsars.
Anna – You got “Tsar” from us Romans! (sighs) Or Byzantines as you may know us. You came down to Constantinople and were so impressed by our ceremonies and the glories of Hagia Sophia, that you felt you needed to emulate us.
Olga – Yes, we look for new religion. We need to be closer to other countries. Countries that weren’t trying to kill us. I saw…what is word? Like Edward.
Anna – Sparkling?
Olga – No.
Zach – Glittering?
Olga – Yes! Glittering pictures in churches. Very beautiful. I want Kiev to be like Constantinople.
Anna – Mosaics.

The splendor of Hagia Sophia, the church of Holy Wisdom. No wonder Olga was impressed and demanded to be baptized.

Olga being baptized. The emperor was so impressed by her that he baptized her himself.

Olga – We look at Jewish religion, but they no eat bacon. We look at Islam, but they no drink. Ever hear of Russian that does no drink? Nyet! Impossible. We invite Latin Catholics in, but they not as Edward as Orthodox in Constantinople so we send them packing. Maybe kill a few in process.
Anna – Glittering.
Olga – Da? Is what I said.
Anna – No, you said…never mind.
Zach – So, you went down to Constantinople and were so impressed that you decided to convert. Did you convert during your visit or after?
Olga – In Constantinople. But that was late in life. But Emperor Constantine VII and wife liked me very much. Constantine said (imitating manly voice)”You are fit to reign in this city with us.”
Anna – Amazing. It takes a great deal to impress a Byzantine.
Zach – So, your blood soaked vengeance came before you converted?
Olga – (laughs) Da. I was young and my husband went to collect monies from the Drevlians, another tribe of Russians. He go there and they kill him. After they kill husband, they send twenty men to Kiev to propose marriage with Drevlian prince! They see woman on throne and think she weak and need man to protect her! Ha!

We’ll kill her husband and then ask her to marry me! This won’t end badly for us at all! She’ll be flattered. What could go wrong?

Anna – They killed your husband and then sent a proposal of marriage? That goes beyond barbaric and is just plain inhuman.
Olga – They want Kiev for themselves. They came by boat. I was angry. You can imagine, da? But I no act angry. I say “Great men, this proposal is good thing. My husband is dead and I need new one. But I want to give you great honor. Walking or riding horse is too good for you, da? So my people will carry you in boats to my palace in morning. Men waited to next morning and my people carry them in boats. They sit in boats with puffed chests and much pride. During night I had people dig trench in my palace. When people arrive carrying boats, they dump men and boats into trench! (laughs) I bend down at trench and say “You find this honor to your taste?”
Anna – That’s horrible!
Olga – Isn’t it? Next I send letter to Drevlians saying I accept proposal but my people no let me go unless you send you greatest, most important men to escort poor Olga to Drevlian city. They send greatest nobles they have and when they arrive I send them to big bathhouse. We Russians like three things; drinking, baths and…I no think of third one. Maybe just two. But important men go into bathhouse and my men close and lock doors. Then I burn bathhouse down. Men still inside of course.
Zach – Anna, please remind me to never piss off Olga of Kiev.
Anna – I’m writing that in my notebook right now.
Olga – So, then I go to Drevlian city. I send word to have feast ready for me with lots and lots of mead! We throw mourning feast for dead husband and I cry and cry while begging Drevlian men to keep drinking.

Olga sees body of husband and plans to bury him. Then she plans on burying many more bodies.

They keep drinking and all get very drunk. While men too drunk and pass out, I order my men to go and kill everyone. We kill…(counts on fingers) Five thousand.
Anna – You killed five thousand people?!
Olga – Da. Then I go home to Kiev and gather army. Drevlians send word that they want to talk. They give me anything so I no destroy their city. I go to Drevlians with my army. I no ask for gold or furs, I ask for three pigeons and three sparrows from each house. I say “You people too poor now. I no ask much.” The Drevlians celebrate my kindness and gladly bring me three pigeons and three sparrows from each house.

Surely this Olga will be reasonable and forgiving, yes?

During night I have soldiers attach fire brands to each bird and let them go. Little birds go back home to nests, da? When they go back to homes they catch thatch roofs on fire. No house escaped. Fire everywhere all at same time. Whole city burned down! People flee and army catches them. I kill leaders, give others as slaves, leave rest to pay tribute.
Zach – Wow…I guess times were rough back then. You should listen to a Prodigy song called “Fire Starter.” You might like it.
Olga – I no like people killing my family. (shrugs) So, I rule for long time until baby son grow up.
Zach – But he didn’t convert to Christianity, did he? But your grandson did. It was him that converted Russia to Orthodoxy, right?
Olga – Da, Grandson converted Russia. That other story. Not my story. When he was king he off fighting or hunting so much that I rule kingdom, not him.
Zach – But you’re the first Russian Orthodox saint and for that they gave you the title “equal to the apostles.”
Olga – Title fits, da?
Zach – (slightly afraid) Yes! Yes, indeed it does. Very much so.
Olga – Anna, we should have lunch sometime.
Anna – Of course! (also afraid) Whenever you want.
Olga – Good, good.
Zach – Well, that’s all we have for you today. Remember, sometimes history can be stranger than movies and Russian saints have different ideas of being saintly.