Alexios I Komnenos ( or “preserverance can trump skill and genius.” )

Zach – Welcome to another episode of Minimum Wage Historian! Today’s topic is –
(Anna pushes Zach out of the way.)
Anna – Today’s top is is the best topic we’ve ever had. We’ll be discussing the most noble, most courageous, more intelligent Byzantine emperor ever! My father, Alexios Komnenos!
(Anna starts clapping.)

A portrait done by LordShadowblade on Deviant Art. Alexios rarely has time to pose but he did this time.

Zach – Yes, um. so, time to introduce our panel! We have with us today, Joan of Arc, maiden warrior of God. Napoleon….yeah, you know. Buffalo Calf Road, warrior woman of the Cheyenne. Next we have Gaspar Correia, Portuguese conquistador and “historian.” And last and certainly not least or she’d burn my house down, we have St. Olga of Kiev! Thank you all for coming today.
Napoleon – I had nothing better to do. My schedule is usually much to busy for such petty little things like this.
Zach – And we love having you too. If it weren’t for Josephine I wouldn’t….um…moving on.
Buffalo – So, today’s topic is Anna’s father? Why’s he so special?
Anna – You say that as if you doubt it? Have you never hear of the great Alexius I Comnenus? (English spelling of his name.) The slayer of the Seljuck? The defeater of the Normans?
Buffalo – Um, nope, doesn’t ring a bell.
(Anna’s mouth drops open.)
Olga – Yes, yes, I love Roman history. We Russians like Constantinople very much. I know this Alexios. He killed Frenchies and then kept crazy Crusaders from destroying house.
Anna – Thank you Olga! I knew there was a reason I liked you besides dire threats of forced cremation.
Olga – Olga has you back, darling!
Joan – He killed my fellow countrymen??
Zach – Well, to be fair they were invading his empire.
Joan – Then they must have had a God given reason to do so!
Napoleon – It is called ambition my dear Joan.
Zach – So, let’s get started. First we need to explain a little of who this Alexios person is. He was a Byzantine Emperor…
Anna – No, you must start earlier than that! Let me do this. (clears throat.) Alexios was an important military man at a young age. Almost since childhood he had been fighting in wars against the enemies of the Romans. He was born in 1056AD and rose through the ranks to become a general in the army. He fought to put down several rebellions.
Gaspar – This is the time when Alexios traveled to the alternate universe and trained in the powers of Dark Energy to use against his enemies and had implanted a cybernetic eye that could see in infra red and x-ray.
Anna – (Glares at Gaspar.)
Napoleon – Yes, he learned the arts of war. He became very skilled. (Waves hand dismissively.)
Anna – But that is not all! He showed compassion as well. When he captured a rebel by the name of Roussel, he needed to make sure he couldn’t rally support, the usual means was to have the traitor blinded. But my father showed compassion and pretended to blind him.
Buffalo – I didn’t know Medieval Europeans knew what compassion was.
Joan – I do like him already! Clearly a righteous man.
Olga – Boring.
Anna – But then he became emperor and…
Napoleon – Hold on, hold on. It wasn’t that easy as I recall. Wasn’t it a bit of a…how do I say this? Coup? Rebellion? An usurper?
Anna – That is not fair! The previous emperor, Nikephoros III, was destroying the empire with his negligence. My father had to do something. When he finally got hold of the reigns of the empire he found an empty treasury, no military and enemies cutting away at the empire’s territory.
Zach – It was a bad situation for the empire. It’s borders had shrunk, it was bankrupt and its reputation as a super power was down the toilet.

The Roman (Byzantine) Empire used to cover all of Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Serbia and even parts of Italy. Note it was just a little more than Greece. Alexios saw this and said “Oh noez. This don’t fly with me!” And set out to single handily restore the Empire to glory.

Anna – However, my father didn’t have much time to work on bringing back prosperity because as soon as he became emperor he had to deal with invasion.
Joan – I don’t like other countries thinking they can go in and take over other countries.
Napoleon – But, my dear Joan…
Joan – Don’t call me “dear.”
Napoleon – Instead of the English, it was we French that were invading. The Normans under a man named Robert Guiscard invaded in full force.
Zach – He was the Duke of Lombardy and did a total D-Day style aquatic invasion. He landed with thousands of Normans and Italian mercenaries and began taking over towns and cities. Alexios looked at his army and saw a hand full of town militia, one unit of full time but green cavalry….and that was about it. He really had no army and no money to pay for mercenaries. But wait, that isn’t all.
Anna – Also, the Turks were storming over Anatolia (Turkey) and taking over huge areas of territory. He faced two simultaneous invasions with no way to stop them.
Buffalo – Oh, dear! He was doomed then!
Napoleon – I would suggest asking for terms.
Olga – Nyet! Alexios would not give up!
Anna – Indeed he did not! My father was one to face a crisis with determination. With what few troops he had, he sailed them over to Turkey and began hit and run raids at night. They would sneak in, kill and destroy as much as they could and retreat before the Turks could launch a counter attack. They did this over and over again, pushing the Turks back. As they grew in confidence and strength they began hitting larger targets, launching day attacks and eventually full battles. People began to flock to join in order to kick the Turks out. Soon the Turkish leader asked for peace and my father was only too happy to oblige.
Buffalo – I like Alexios! He fights like an Indian!
Olga – He no give up. I like this.
Gaspar – He also gave his troops the invisibility amulets of Nyrulth the Unspeakable. Though dark magic, it helped his troops to fight superior odds.
Anna – Now that the Turks were dealt with he turned his attention to the west where Robert was ravaging up and down the Balkans. With his army, now confident and stronger, he set out and met Robert in open battle.
Napoleon – It did not go well for him, no?
Anna – No, it didn’t. The Roman army was completely defeated and my father had to run for his life. He was chased down and one man took a swing at him and he managed to duck by quickly leaning backwards on his horse.

Alexios did receive a small cut on his face from this sword, like a cool anime cut on the cheek or something.

Anna – Then he was surrounded by nine Normans who stuck him with spears. But his heavy catophract armor stopped all six spears and his horse bolted and he managed to escape.
Napoleon – “Horse bolted.” Please.
Joan – Surely God was with him.

Discretion is the better part of valor, right? Hey, it takes a man to realize when the odds are ridiculously not in your favor.

Anna – Thus my father escaped with his life and, not being one to rest, immediately began forming another army. When he had enough he set out and faced Robert again. Now he knew the Normans’ tactics and placed wagons in front of his position to break up the Norman cavalry charge. But the Normans attacked on the flanks and Alexios’s army was defeated again. Also, he barely managed to escape again and gathered what remnants of his army he could.
Napoleon – Twice he was soundly defeated. (Shakes head.)
Anna – What? Would you give up and go sulk on some remote island?
Napoleon – Well…I…Um…
Anna – Thought so. My father wasn’t deterred and asked for more recruits to build up another armor.
Buffalo – Third time’s the charm, right?
Anna – So he took his new army and this time he laid caltrops, sharp iron spikes, all over the battlefield where the invincible Norman charge would come from.
Buffalo – Oh, this will do it! Go Alexios!
Anna – But the Norman cavalry came at them from different directions and soundly defeated them again.
Olga – So much for so called “third time charm,” yes?
Napoleon – This is getting embarrassing. I think it’s safe to say that your father is no military genius. Yes, he won several battles, but look at this! Three humiliating defeats when his country is under attack. What a loser.
Zach – Loser? What did you do when you lost in Russia? Retreat and go home to snuggle with your teddy. What did Alexios do?
Gaspar – Even I admit that I’d be having second thoughts about this whole war thing.
Zach – Most people would probably give up after four humiliating defeats. But Anna’s father wasn’t discouraged and began making plans for an offensive. Now, as some may know, the Byzantines have a reputation for being sneaky and underhanded. Well, it was time to go Byzantine on their backsides! Alexios paid the German Holy Roman Emperor (who was no fan of Robert) to go invade Lombardy. This caused Robert to rush home to defend his home. He also began paying the Cuman nomads to come join in the war on the Roman side.

Alexios called his friendly neighborhood barbarian nomads for help! Not caring who they fought, the Cumans were glad to come along!

Anna – And this was not all. He also began paying of Roberts’ mercenary captains to demand pay or leave. He knew Robert’s son (who was left in charge while he was away in Lombardy) couldn’t pay, so some mercenaries began going over to the Roman side.
Buffalo – Good! When faced with a superior enemy, attack from behind and weaken them slowly.
Olga – Yes, but this no fun. I want battles and big fires!
Anna – Then hold on for a second. Alexios then thought of a plan. Instead of fighting the Normans head on, he planned something sneaky. He set up his army with his imperial tent in plain view. When the Normans came, they did a direct attack against the Roman center where the imperial tent was. Then the Roman army retreated and the Normans thought they were winning. Then my father, with a small but crack unit of cavalry, came out of hiding and attacked the Norman rear. Then he sent his Cuman and Turkish horse archers to attack the Norman heavy cavalry, making them aim for their horses. This caused a lot of confusion in the Norman ranks and so much dust was kicked up that they couldn’t tell from what direction the attacks were coming from. Gaita, Robert’s wife who often fought in the battles while dressed in full armor, tried to rally the troops. But the battle was lost and the Normans retreated.
Buffalo – Yay! Finally!
Napoleon – He may not be a military genius, but he was tenacious.
Gaspar – He’s like a honey badger going against a bear!
Anna – But this was not all. My father then convinced the Venetians to join in and the Venetians began a naval war against Robert’s forces. The Venetians won a battle, but then lost horribly. However they came back and won another victory, one that almost saw Robert and Gaita, his wife, captured. The Venetians prevented Robert from launching another offensive against the Empire and while this naval war was going on, Robert got a fever and soon died. With him dead, the force behind the invasion vanished and the threat was over.
Napoleon – So, Alexios did not defeat him in battle, but simply…waited him out?
Joan – He preservered. He fought and though he did not win, he kept the fight going strong. he outlasted his enemy because he did not give into despair and he did not quit. Though he fought against my noble kinsman, Alexios is to be honored.
Anna – After the threat of Robert Guiscard, Alexios pushed his borders back to how they used to be and began filling his treasury again. He brought a new golden age to Constantinople. He brought an empire on the brink of collapse back to a position of strength and honor.

See? Alexios got back large parts of the Balkans and Anatolia. Not bad for being broke and completely surrounded by enemies.

Joan – I would be honored to kill English beside your father.
Buffalo – He even knew how to fight a guerrilla war against superior enemies.
Olga – What?! No cities burned? No big fight?
Gaspar – Olga, rest assured that Alexios and Robert did have a final duel. Alexios snuck aboard Robert’s ship and they fought one last battle. Alexios’s Dark Energy was no use against Robert’s Fire crystal. So Alexios lured him in while feigning being wounded and as Robert came for the killing blow, Alexios stabbed him with the poison bone dagger of Xu’Chi-Ling. That is how Robert “died of a fever.”
Anna – For once I like your version better.
Zach – So, maybe Alexios wasn’t a brilliant tactician like Hannibal or a daring commander like Alexander. But he was what his Empire needed, a man that wouldn’t give up no matter what and fought against all odds to make his home safe and secure against a world full of enemies.


Evolution of Armor

Joan of Arc, the Maid of Lorraine will be your instructor for today. She expects you to be on your most pious behavior.

Joan D’Arc here, and I welcome you to Minimum Wage Historian.  Zach is busy trying to get one of his novels ready for submission. I don’t understand it but he feels it is important.  I’ll let God judge.  First I will start with a prayer and a few hymns. (Edited for time by staff.) There, now that that’s…did you edit that out? Don’t shake your heads at me. I know you did. God will punish you for lying. But time is short so I will continue on, trusting that the Lord will guide us.

Our topic today is very interesting to me, Quoi? The evolution of armor. As you know, I fought wearing a sophisticated suit of full plate. But, how did we arrive at a point where we fully enclose a soldier in a skin made of metal? How long was that the case. I understand that many of you in the 21st century have a somewhat romantic and inaccurate notion of what warfare was like in the middle ages. Many have a vague idea of knights in full plate saving damsels in distress for a few hundred years. No so. For one, chivalry had more to do with not killing and instead ransoming knights than being kind to women. But, back to the topic, what did knights wear? How long was the era of the “knight in shining armor?”
Let’s start at the beginning.

NOOO!! Not THAT beginning! (shakes armored fist at staff.)

This is one of the earliest known suits of armor. As you can see it is quite heavy looking and not very mobile. It was made for the nobility riding on chariots. Not the armor of an infantryman.

The Greeks also used body armor, helmets and large shields. But let us go to the Romans. We’ll mainly be discussing European arms and armor, so we will look to the Romans because Western ideas of military come from the Romans.
The Romans managed to mass produce on a scale that had never been seen before, a plate mail body armor for the average soldier. It was made of rings that formed segments like an insect. It was called “Lorica Segmetata” and has come to symbolize the Roman Legions.

Here we see the Lorica Segmentata from the ancient catalog “Calvinus Klienus” Mass produced, heavy armor that also offered great mobility.

But, was this how it was?

The Romans also used a great deal of other types as well such as mail (seen above) scale and llamalar. Scholars like to argue back and forth about what percentage of troops actually used segmentata and it was only around for about 200 years.

The Romans could have developed heavier armor but they preferred mobility. However, there are examples of Legions using heavier armor in addition to the segmentata.

Here we see a Roman soldier with his arm covered in flexible metal plates. Could the Romans have developed full plates like I wear? Sure. Did they choose to? No.

As has been stated in previous posts, the legions evolved into something else, something more…Medieval for lack of a better word. Let’s look at armor at the end of the Empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Many of the heathen barbarians that overtook Rome copied Roman equipment and ways of war and the Romans also copied barbarian equipment and ways of war so that at the end, they became one and the same.

Here is an Alan warrior. Shave his beard and cut his hair and he would pass for a Roman soldier at the time. Chain mail shirts (inferior to segmentata but easier to produce.) The helmets became simplified conical shapes that were more robust and offered better protection than legionary helmets of the segmentata, but were also easier to make.

Here’s a Goth warrior. Conical helmet, yes indeed. Chain mail shirt? Yes. Round shield? Yes. This is a style that will last quite a long time as you shall see.

Now we move on to the sixth century.

Here is one of my beloved…Frankish soldiers. Not much had changed in terms of arms and armor from the last century.

In western Europe, amid the ruins of the Empire, the armor remained principally the same. So, let us look further east to some variations of armor at this time.

The surviving Eastern Romans took an entirely different route and produced very heavily armored cavalry and lightly armored infantry, almost foreshadowing what would later occur in Western Europe.

Over in Eastern Europe, the Slavs had their own style as well which was similar to both Western and Byzantine forms and would parallel the Byzantines for the most part.

Now, on to the 7th century!

This most noble Frankish knight is wearing chain armor that goes further down the legs to the knees and also now has a hood that goes under the even more simplified conical helmet. (No more chin pieces for the helmets.)

Here is a 7th century helmet clearly meant for a very important person. It is fully enclosed. Very rare type of helmet for this period. Similar to what Viking nobility would wear.

Now the 8th!

Western Europe hasn’t changed so we look to the Ummayads in Egypt. Oh, my. What do we have here? Chain shirts and conical helmets. Where else might we find this style that has so far lasted four hundred years?

Here we have an Indian warrior. Chain shirt, but the helmet is not quite the same, though there are examples of conical types. Could there have been exchange of military ideas from France all the way to India? (the answer’s yes, by the way)

On to the 9th Century!

Still the same with some minor geographical differences. Here is a German soldier. Not only does he have a hood, he also has chain armor to cover his face.

Where else might we see chain armor covering a face?

The Byzantines loved to have fully covered faces for their Catophract heavy cavalry.

Let’s see what happens in the 10th century.
Oh…well…still, not much has changed, so we’ll look at the Byzantines. Anna will yell at me if she hears me calling them “Byzantines.”

Not heavy like the catophracts, but still similar in function to what the Franks, Italians and Germans were using.

On to the 11th

Still the same but now the helmets have nose guards and they carry larger shields.

In the 12th things finally start the change, mostly due to the Crusades. They came in contact with different cultures and different ideas and began adapting and changing.

Here is a 12th century Tuetonic Knight. Now the chainmail covers the arms and legs, but the helmets have grown as well! This is a “great helm” and covers the entire head.

Here is an Italian “condottiere” or mercenary. Different styles of helmets are appearing.

In Japan the armor was large and elaborate. Their armor would grow smaller and more simplified as time goes on and even adapt western styles to it. (Look at Tokugawa armor at the Battle of Sekigahara for an example of this.)

The 13th century things really start to change. Armor starts to become more substantial and helmets more elaborate.

Not only is the knight covered head to toe in mail, he’s also wearing a more refined great helm and more protection around the torso.

We also see the start of this bird helm style of armor. Note the use of metal plates covering the limbs. The torsos have the Brigandine armor that has a leather facing lined with metal strips. The armor is becoming more protective and more sophisticated.

Over in China they were also using chain mail but sometimes with extra plates sewn in for added protection. The use of helmets was also common. (But with a stylish flair of red!)

Now to the 14th!

Here we still have the bird type helmets but now we see full plate for the first time.

Here are more 14th century knights. Not quite full plate, but getting warmer.

Let’s now go to my century, the 15th, the second century of the Hundred Years War.

Fully evolved full plate armor. This was a suit used for battle. Simple and unadorned like mine! It is tailor made to fit the individual to allow the greatest fit and mobility.

Here is full plate from Milan. The two great centers for armor making were Italy and Germany.

Here is a decorated suit of German Gothic armor. Keep in mind that these full plate armors were far more agile and maneuverable than you might think.

And here is a repulsive suit of English armor that is fit for the pigs that the English are!

In the 16th century armor takes a different turn. The armor becomes heavier to deal with improved firearms, but also begin to cover less of the body.

Still full plate and often articulated even more than the previous century, but it’s starting to ignore the legs and face. The torso is tapered like so to hopefully deflect projectiles.

Even heavier looking, more finely made, more refinement, but less often used.

17th century

Here are three types of 17th century armor. Now it is heavier but mostly in the torso and head only. Rare occasions of heavy cavalry would wear a very heavy and costly armor. (the middle one.) But that was not what the common knight, man at arms or soldier would wear. The advance of fire arms is slowly making armor obsolete. (and making the nobility more flamboyant in civilian dress to compensate for their lack of battlefield panache!)

And the 18th century.

In the eighteenth century, only the Polish Hussars would wear full plate. Most of Europe considered it terribly old fashioned by then but the Polish hussars turned it into a psychological weapon and would be terrifying as they charged.

See? Very terrifying. I would be terrified but I am French! Why are the staff laughing. I don’t understand.

So, the time of men and women fighting in suits of metal armor came to a close. Full plate lasted only a couple of centuries and for most of the Dark and Middle Ages it was chain mail and conical helmets. So, no more body armor.
But is it the end?

Oh! What is Zach wearing there? Helmet, shoulder protection and hard body armor! We have come back to the theory of the Lorica Segmentata and the Roman Legions. Hard, protective, mass produced body armor that allows great mobility. My, how things have changed.

This has been your host, Joan D’Arc, closing with a mass, a few prayers and a few hymns. We’ll start with…(transmission cut due to technical difficulties.)


Gaspar Corriea here for a reminder to look at Zach’s book. (looks at card) It’s a post apoca..apoclypse..something or other adventure about a girl that heads out across a wasteland America in search for her brother.  Olga says it didn’t have enough burning things in it but it does have lots of shooting so I liked it. Give it a try! Available for paperback and Kindle.





Pirates come in all shapes and size…and cultures and times…

Zach – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian. Our topic for today is something that has been requested and we always listen to the will of the people.
Anna – I’m a princess of the Roman Empire based in Constantinople. I do not listen to mobs.
Zach – Okay, the rest of us listen to the people.
Olga – Nyet, I do not.
Zach – Most of us…
Caesar – I don’t even listen to the Senate!
Zach – Never mind.
Gaspar – I listen to my stomach.
Buffalo – I listen to the spirits.
Zach – Enough! Just…let’s get on with it. Today we have with us my co-host, Anna Komemne, first woman historian. Then we have St. Olga of Kiev, um…very smart and dangerous lady. Next up we have Buffalo Calf Road, Cheyenne warrior woman who fought Custer. Then we have Gaspar Correia, Conquistador and historian. (sort of) Then we have Hua Mulan, fierce woman soldier of ancient China. And lastly we have Julius Caesar, dictator of the Roman Republic. Thank you all for coming.
Olga – I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And flamethrower is in shop.
Anna – Today’s topic is that of Pirates. A frightening topic if I say so myself.
Mulan – I do not like pirates, they are like filthy barbarians, but on the water.
Caesar – I dare say that I had a run in with pirates before.
Gaspar – You are lucky they were not Portuguese, you would not be here today.
Caesar – No, they were Cilicians, natives of southern Anatolia.
Zach – That’s Turkey, btw
Caesar – They captured me and asked for twenty talents of gold. Can you believe that? So I told them that I’m worth at least fifty! The nerve! When I was finally released, I gathered a fleet and went and wiped them all out.
Gaspar – Did you get your fifty back?
Caesar – And more.
Mulan – That is an appropriate response to pirates.
Anna – First, let’s talk about the early history of pirates. Ever since man took boat to water there has been piratical activity. The Egyptians were terrorized by the raiding “Sea People” and in Ancient Greek times the Balkans were known as a hot bed of pirate activity. They raided the western Adriatic so often that the area became impoverished.
Zach – That’s a good point to bring up. When we think of pirates, we think of giant man-o-wars dueling each other with cannon broadsides. However, much pirate activity actually consisted of land raids. They’d swoop in on their ships, dismount and attack a helpless town. Though you wouldn’t think of them as such, Vikings made great pirates. They even sacked whole cities. Moorish pirates sacked Rome even. So, just because pirates had boats, don’t assume they always stayed on them.

Pirates heading to work. They had villages to pillages.

Olga – Many of my fellow Slavs were pirates, da?
Zach – Yes they were. They were famous for sacking towns and capturing vessels and selling the victims into slavery, thus we get the name “Slav” because they were slavers. They were a constant source of problems for the Venetians and Byzantines. In 870 these pirates captured a bunch of Catholic bishops as they were returning from important meetings with the Byzantines. In typical Byzantine fashion they didn’t end the problem by sending out huge war fleets, though they did do a little of that as well.
Anna – We solved it in the way we know best: we converted the Pagan pirates into honest Christians!
Mulan – Not the way I would have done it.
Buffalo – Alright, but how mean were these pirates really? They have a fearsome reputation, but is it earned?
Gaspar – Absolutely. Haven’t you heard how the Barbary pirates would kidnap young maidens and by heathen magic, turn them into unstoppable, berzerking monsters that they’d set loose against their enemies?
Anna – That’s a total…
(Gaspar glares at her, challenging her to call him a liar. Anna smiles and sits back in chair.)
Zach – Yes, some pirates were very cruel. They’d sack a town and those they didn’t kill they’d send off to sell into slavery. Very nice people.
Buffalo – Sounds like General Custer to me.
Mulan – Yes, he was a douche bag.
Anna – In fact, piracy has always been a great problem in the Mediterranean. Moors, Ottomans, Slavs, even Goths. The Romans fought them, the Venetians, the Ottomans, even the American Marines! Why, it was one of America’s first foreign wars. The US was tired of paying extortion money to the Barbary Pirates so they sent the Marines to deal with it. It is in the Marine anthem, “from the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.”
Mulan – Simper Fi.

Even as a small, young country, you don’t want to mess with a handful of Marines.

Caesar – Of course, my legions would have done better.
Zach – I’d like to see them try.
Gaspar – Gentlemen, this issue has already been resolved. Do you not remember when the US Marines, during their invasion of Tripoli, stumbled across a Roman legion that was lost in the desert?
Olga – I think this thing is impossible.
Gaspar – But true nonetheless! The two sides fought a fierce battle and only intervention of the Knights Templar on their dragon steeds ended the hostility.
Zach – Umm…yeah, I don’t remember reading about that.
Olga – Did pirates loot and burn places and kill many peoples?
Zach – That they did.
Anna – But, there was also a somewhat respectable side to piracy. Many countries created what they called “privateers.” These were vessels that engaged in piracy, but only against enemy countries. A famous privateer was a man by the name of Benjamin Hornigold.
(Olga starts laughing.)
Anna – What’s so funny?
Olga – Name! Very good for pirate.
Anna – I don’t get it. Anyway, Benjamin was an Englishman who had a small fleet of ships that he’d use to attack the Spanish ships along the eastern coast of North America and the Caribbean.
Caesar – Ah! Now we get to the great age of pirates. In the 16 and 1700,s, the age of sail. Pirates roamed the Atlantic fighting for gold and loot.
Zach – In 1717, Benjamin had a sloop with thirty guns which allowed him to outrun and outshoot any other ship in the region.
Buffalo – I’m not up on my nautical terms. Prairie nomad and all. What’s a Sloop?
Zach – Sloop has had a few definitions over time. It might be a single masted ship, or a fast ship or it’s called a sloop because of the rank of the captain. But basically, in this time period, a sloop is a fast, light ship that pirates stuffed a bunch of cannons on.

Here’s a typical sloop that a pirate might use. Sometimes they were long and skinny with up to three masts, go figure.

Anna – This Benjamin Hornigold (Olga laughs) goes on for three years as a successful pirate, but then England offers a pardon for every pirate if they give up piracy. Benjamin takes the deal and becomes a privateer for the Queen. Unfortunately his men didn’t follow the same path. One of his captains, a man named Edward Teach, decided that he rather enjoyed being a pirate and continued to raid and capture ships. He captured one large French trader ship and renamed it “Queen Ann’s Revenge.” This pirate was also known as Blackbeard.

Like Rob Zombie, Blackbeard purposefully invented a frightening image of himself. He’d have lit wicks in his hair to give himself a demonic appearance. He made himself so scary that most people would surrender without a fight, which was how he liked it.

Zach – Blackbeard gathered a coalition of pirates and began hitting larger targets. They blockaded the entire city of Charlestown South Carolina and ransomed everyone in it.
Caesar – I like this man! He has audacity!
Olga – Did he burn city down?
Zach – No.
Gaspar – But he did use the ancient transporter stones of Ur’ell Kell to summon cruel blood beasts into the city.
(Anna groans)
Zach – Then the governor of Virginia, Lord Spotswood, goes out to capture Blackbeard.
Buffalo – Hold on a second. Why’d he call his ship, “Queen Ann’s Revenge?”
Mulan – Because Edward Teach was a veteran of the “Queen Ann’s War” which was a part of the War of Spanish Succession. And England and Spain fought many battles. Some of them in the New World.
Buffalo – I guess that’s where he learned to fight. But where’d he come from?
Zach – Teach was an Englishman and probably from a wealthy family. Teach wasn’t his real name because pirates often used fake surnames so their families wouldn’t be disgraced by their chosen profession.

I once saw an American patrol of Humvees in Iraq flying this flag. Very classic and different from the traditional skull and cross bones. Every pirate worth his grog had their own flag.

Anna – Despite his piracy and fearsome image, there is actually no account of him murdering anyone. Teach’s lieutenant was arrested by Spotswood and brought to trial in Williamsburg. However, the pirate had accepted a pardon earlier on and had technically done nothing wrong. So, that pirate sued them for wrongful arrest and got off scott free!
Zach – This made Spotswood angrier and sent his men to hunt down Blackbeard. Teach had accepted the pardon as well and for a while was a privateer, but soon fell back into bad habits. Spotswood send Lt. Maynard with some ships to go stop Blackbeard.

Here’s Maynard giving his men the typical “Fight for freedom or whatever!” speech that every movie seems to have.

They caught Blackbeard unprepared with only a skeleton crew. Still, Blackbeard put up a fight. He sailed his ships in between two of the British vessels and broadsided them each, damaging one so badly that it couldn’t fight anymore. Having lain the smack down thus, he sped out of there as fast as he could. But Maynard’s ship was faster and caught up with them. Blackbeard used cannon launched grappling hooks and grenades to board the English ship but found it empty. Suddenly the British charged out from below deck and took Blackbeard’s men by surprise. In a scene fit for any action movie, Teach and Maynard face off. They draw their pistols and fire, but both miss. Then they draw their cutlasses and begin to fight.
Gaspar – The fight ranged all over the ship. They fought on the mizzen, they fought on the main mast. Blackbeard pulled out a 7.62mm Gatling gun and raked the deck. Maynard took cover and used the breather to prepare of energy ball of chi power. He launched his fireball while shouting the name of his kung-fu master. The ball struck Teach’s chi- force field. You may now continue.
Zach – Thanks, Gaspar. Well, yes, the fight was pretty awesome. But eventually Teach found himself surrounded and they ganged up on him and killed him. His men were brought back to Williamsburg and put on trial.
Mulan – Good riddance, barbarian filth. Was this the end of pirates?
Zach – Afraid not. Even now they’re fighting pirates down near the horn of Africa. It’s still going on and probably always will.
Olga – I like these pirates. They have fun, da?
Gaspar – This reminds me once when I was a privateer and…
Anna – Well, that’s all the time we have! Gotta go. See you next time!

D-Day anniversary

Today is the anniversary of one of the largest invasions ever to take place. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides fought in what the allies called “Operation Overlord.”

I was a part of the 29th, a unit that took part in the invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. This was not a move that was guaranteed to succeed. Men were crammed in small, dangerous landing craft and ran a gauntlet of mines, artillery and machine gun fire just to get to the beach where the doors would open up exposing the troops inside. There was no where to go but forward. I cannot imagine the sacrifice these men went through. My little battle in Iraq was nothing compared to what these heroes suffered. Nothing I can do can show sufficient gratitude for what they accomplished. These men pushed through France, freeing it from the Nazis and on to Germany where they liberated death camps. War is never a good thing, but in this case it was necessary.
“You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.” – General Eisenhower. He also had a statement ready to read in case the invasion failed.

American, British, Canadian, Scottish and French troops all took part. There are so many stories from this day, the day of days, that I couldn’t begin to tell them all here. There was Captain Winters from Band of Brothers, French nuns who tended the wounded, nameless men who helped their fellow soldiers get off the killing beaches, the men who fought and died, each with a story to tell. An estimated 12,000 allies died that day, each one was a brother, son, or husband to someone else. Each one is my hero.

I’ll end with a quote from Winston Churchill about what was at stake this day.
“If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their Finest Hour.’

Olga’s soviet propaganda

It is I! St. Olga of Kiev, your lovely and very nice to talk to host for today, yes?

Welcome little peoples! This is Olga! Zach not here right now so I on computer. I know, he say something about pirates, but he not here. I am. I guessed password. Easy thing this. Today we be looking at Soviet propaganda from Mother Russia! I no Communist, they don’t like the God or Church, no? But they still Russian! And propaganda makes Olga laugh.
Laugh, yes. Good laugh. But propaganda is important to history! Everyone does it! Egyptian art, Propaganda for Tzar…er..Pharaohs.

See? Ancient art, little more than political propaganda. Yes, yes, we worship you mighty Pharaoh….NOT!!

Romans very good at propaganda. Lets looky!

Great art, but symbol of mighty state.

I know what you say, “but Olga, what about the Renaissance master art things?” I say, ha! Look here!

The mighty “David” by Michelangelo. One of greatest arts ever, yes? But…propaganda! David was symbol of Florence. Little city state Florence felt picked on by bigger countries like Holy Roman Empire and France. They small David fighting giants!

Okay, okay, on to Russian propaganda! Yes!

No, no, no evil capitalist pig. Laugh out louds, yes?

This asks “you volunteered?”

This is Motherland asking for you to fight Facists. Fighting Facists always good thing. Fight TSA…oh, I repeat myself.

I like this one. Says in Soviet Union, many new schools. But in USA they close schools all the time. So sad. That is what Olga looked like as little girl.

Oh! Russian killing Nazi! We love killing Nazis! Who doesn’t?

Oooh! Russians in space! You must admit, Russia very stylish, yes?

Very simple, stark and graphic. Now, where have I see something like this lately? Olga wonders….

In similar style, yes? Why use this? Because simple catches eye. Effective. Please, this no comment on politics, only style of graphic art. Olga no wants to argue politics. Because then Olga have to burn down you house. Cover of Twilight? Black with red apple, yes? Simple. Effective. Russia propaganda style, still alive in modern world. Because it works and is snazzy.

Here’s one from Olga’s personal collection…wait. This not it. This was house I burned last thursday. Olga got wrong file from camera. Very sad. Still, house went up like torch! Very fun for Olga.

So, this was Olga’s introduction to Russian propaganda! I love stuff. Very …how you American’s say? Groovy, yes. Must go. Hear Zach pounding at door. Wants in. Angry with Olga.

Tech update!

Okay, some people have had problems with the website being unresponsive and not letting them post comments and such. Well, that’s all been fixed so you may post comments to your heart’s desire! (And, unfortunately, so can Napoleon.)