You may have noticed some shuffling above in the menu area.
I’m pleased to share the first iteration of my research into the recreation of Hittite women’s dress! Visit the Clothing: Hittite Page above to learn more!
You may have noticed some shuffling above in the menu area.
I’m pleased to share the first iteration of my research into the recreation of Hittite women’s dress! Visit the Clothing: Hittite Page above to learn more!
over the next few weeks, I will be taking some of my classes and making them available as webinars, which I will upload to Youtube.
As of this point, I am taking a step back from the SCA for a duration of time yet to be determined. I will still show up at some events, but current politics, coupled with exhaustion due to drama and other issues has driven me out.
I am happy to continue to field questions and will be actively monitoring my site until I feel fit to return to my research for the society’s purpose. Until then, I am going to be focusing on my mundane research for upcoming conferences, and consider moving forward with my PhD.
This is definitely more of an aristocratic tradition than a lower class tradition, though I assume that well-to-do merchant class Byzantines may have had a tiered wardrobe.
While doing research, you may find annotations or information for clothing known as “undress”, or “court undress”. Before you think you need to get nekkid, look at the context. It’s somewhat antiquated, but the concept of “undress” is the lowest level of acceptable dress. Not really your pajamas, but something you could be comfortable being seen in, while out for a meal in the palace with friends, or maybe the emperor if the occasion is not a state one.
Basically, court undress is your business casual, while full court dress is your best of the best ceremonial-grade garments. In between could be half-dress, your “cocktail hour” attire, or something you would wear to a weekly liturgy at your local basilica, a gathering at the palace, or a less formal court. Coronation? Easter? Christmas? A marriage? Get your good stuff on, non-optional.
It’s no secret that I love garb. I sew a lot, and probably own way more than I actually need to. My reasoning, or at least, what I tell people, is that you really can only get better and learn to understand new patterns and shaping if actually get the needle out. Another reason, is that stratifying my Byzantine collection is important. I’m still working on it, and developing more “undress” for myself as an aristocratic woman.
For example, my 12th Century outfit? This is not for everyday wear. This only gets trotted out for special occasions, namely coronations, and fashion shows because it’s just so extra. This is court dress. The propoloma elevates it.
But then, you have my 11th Century set which I made for my thesis. Is this court dress? Well, the mantle certainly kicks it up. But it’s not the highest ceremonial dress. Why? I’m not wearing a propoloma, I’m in a fakiolion instead. Could I wear this to court? Yes. Probably not for a coronation, or for Easter/Pascha ceremonies. But this would be acceptable for an event where fine dress is required. It could even be undress if I lost the mantle. That is more or less adding an air of piety to cover my shoulders for the divine liturgy. If I added a propoloma to this, it would be court dress without question. This is a good example of half-dress.
True undress? Probably more along the lines of this look. I’m in a minimally decorated wool delmatikion, with a plain white veil. I still have jewelry on, as I am aristocratic and need to wear some wealth, but this was Festival of the Rose out in Caid in February of 2017, and not a major event like Coronation or Crown Tournament. I was comfortable and completely dressed, I just don’t have a full body picture.
A good source for a woman in aristocratic undress would probably be the Theodore Psalter, which Tim Dawson references for similar reasons in “By the Emperor’s Hand”. Here, the woman pictured in well dressed, but not weighed down by ceremonial accouterments. This is something more along the lines of what I should be wearing regularly (when it’s not as hot as the surface of the sun outdoors.)
I do have a couple older linen delmatikioi I should try wearing more beyond Pennsic when I’m not melting down here.
Another level, though I am unsure if this is truly an aristocratic woman or not, is from this miniature in the Menologion of Basil II. I like this because it doesn’t have the long angel sleeves, and clearly has a short-sleeved esoforion beneath it. However, I’m not sure, exactly, who she is. Is this the empress in her “casual” wear because of the red boots? Is this a middle class woman? Either way, it’s another form of undress. My guess if she is aristocratic, or the empress, it’s very much of a “It’s warm out, and I’m keeping to myself” type of clothing. It’s still pretty ornamented, and red is not a cheap color. Of note is the fact that it is clearly an emergency situation with the “bad omen” in the sky, and her head is uncovered outdoors. Lots of questions!
Anyways, I hope this post helps people think a bit more about building a tiered wardrobe. It’s definitely something I need to put more thought into working on for myself.
On our previous, “Why do I live where the sun melts my face” episode, I designed the Archaic Chiton and Archaic Himation for those that needed less fabric than Roman could provide, but still look glam. I’m pretty much kicking most of my Roman pieces to the curb for this. I feel more at home as an Archaic Greek for an alternate summer persona. Probably because it allows me to be more of a peacock in line with my Byzantine primary work when those heavy layers are unsuitable. This gives me time to work on my academic work with Byzantine dress, while keeping cool with simple sewing projects I can bling out extravagantly with trim and bezants.
When it became clear that the weekend of Trimaris Memorial Tourney was going to be facing record breaking heat, I wondered how little I could wear, and still look put together. I feel like my Iron Age peploi/bog dresses/war tubes are just not okay enough outside of running around the field at Pennsic or working around camp. When my husband, who is known for his gingerness, is packing his Roman tunica and shorts and bottles of sunblock instead of his usual two layers of linen, you know what’s up.
Amenhotep Sa Amenemhat has been pretty inspiring with his work in the Bronze Age, predominately his impression of a New Kingdom Egyptian priest of Amun. He suggested I take a look at Egyptian, and I sort of sneered a bit. Really, the most common Egyptian look that women in the SCA attempt is the strappy sheath dress. I have no issue with it, because I’m a fan of supportive garments, I just have my own body image issues that are stopping me from tailoring my own. When Caid announced that their upcoming reign would be Egyptian, my friends from Calafia got in contact with me for sources, so I jumped onto the SCA Egypt group on Facebook and browsed through the files section, which I found out was pretty comprehensive on options outside of the strappy look.
I openly admit to not looking too deeply into Egyptian textiles. It’s not really my “thing”, though there’s quite a bit of overlap between that and some Bronze Age Greek I’ve been reading up on. When a book I have out on Interlibrary Loan, Ariadne’s Threads: The Construction and Significance of Clothes in the Aegean Bronze Age by Bernice R. Jones, cited images and contemporary extant pieces from Egypt that looked to be well-fitted tunic dresses of sorts versus the straps, or the oversized bag-tunic, I decided to look closer, and followed through to Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, where a fast skim was able to make the idea of a bag tunic more doable for my personal tastes.
The bag tunic itself was worn by both men and women, and there were a variety of cuts and pleating styles done with it. Most artwork shows women wearing slim fitting clothing, in reality, this may not have been the case. The bag tunic could have been quite wide, and when belted under the bust, created the wide top. I’ve played this game with wide Roman chitons that required double belting. No thank you. I want part of the “less is more” idea, here. I had a remnant of 27″ wide natural colored linen and a free afternoon. Why the heck not?
The construction is exactly the same as a Roman man’s tunica, or at least, the way I make them. I folded the fabric in half the short way, and formed holes for the arms on the sides. The neckline is based on the bag tunic found at Tarkhan, where it is nothing more than a vertical slit, versus a Roman boatneck style. Other tunics show keyholes, so there was some good variation going on. This image from University College London gives a good diagram, and also shows the inclusion of fringe. I did not fringe my linen, though I was seriously tempted to do so.
I finished the hem of my garment with a slit for walking, and an inkle trim that has been sitting on my loom for the better part of two years. It reminds me of pieces found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, and was given the thumbs up by Amenhotep when I asked for advice.
When I initially tried it on, I was first a bit twitchy about the low cut of the neckline, but had to remind myself that this was far from a modest society. That wasn’t as much of the issue as it wanting to slide off of my shoulders, though. This was rectified by adding a tie to the back, which Vogelsang-Eastwood mentions in her book as a technique done on women’s clothing.
I also tossed together a necklace with some beads I had in my stash, mostly leftover from my previous Bronze Age foray into Mesopotamian garb. The turquoise is ceramic, but not real faience. The red is genuine carnelian, and the cowries are also real, and took a bit of finagling with jump rings to turn into viable pendants. I stacked this with a carnelian necklace I made for my Mesopotamian project and still have, because it’s all real stone and worth a pretty penny.
The finished look on my dressform:
Of course, I still needed to cover my hair. What better than the quintessential Egyptian kerchief? A wig was not going to happen in this heat, and I’m a fan of veiling and covering when out in the sun, because scalp sunburns are awful. This gives the added bonus of protecting the back of the neck as well. It’s basically a half-oval with trim used for ties. Based on ones found in Tut’s tomb. The blue is accurate to one of the finds.
And here I am all put together at Trimaris Memorial Tourney, Jeff takes bad pictures, so I found if I make terrible faces, they come out better. While I normally don’t put on makeup when it can melt off, I felt like the application of malachite-green eyeshadow and some black kohl eyeliner was necessary to complete the look. Both are non-toxic modern alternatives to the period cosmetics. Please, do not rub real malachite or lead galena on your eyes when we can fake it safely.
– One layer and you’re done.
– Throw your hair in braids, pin them up, cover, done.
– Totally non-gendered. Men could wear a shorter tunic if desired.
-The v-neck style can be adjusted a bit to allow for more to show in the back or front. This allowed me to control cleavage, and give my back more “venting”, this was nice and let the usual back sweat evaporate out and cool that spot nicely. It also allowed me to wear a normal t-shirt bra, instead of a bandeau which is what I opt to in my chitons so there are no visible straps.
– Excellent use of a remnant that was otherwise going to just become another Greek chiton. 27″ was plenty wide for me. But this won’t work for everyone.
-Kerchief can be re-configured on your head for a Norse look. I did that later in the day when I was cooking and eating dinner in our camp.
– It doesn’t feel much like, “me”. I got that vibe when I was making it more than wearing it. Though I got a ton of compliments for how put together it looked and the simplicity for dealing with the soaring temps.
-My Egyptian-ish sandals are in bad shape and made me gimpy.
– Not a lot of “peacocking” options outside of bling. The Egyptians didn’t really have dyes that worked on linen, so natural and bleached is the way to go.
Conclusion: Will I wear it again? Yes. I may even make another to add into my Pennsic/hot event rotation that has the waist seam. It will be good for waterbearing on the field, especially with the turban covering my head, and me avoiding the need for a floppy hat that usually just gets in the way. I also really want to try one of the super pleated long sleeved tunics with the waist seam. I figure I can easily sun-dry some pleats into wet linen on a hot enough day here in Trimaris, especially with how dry the summer is shaping up to be. Obviously, this technique would would better in Caid, but hey, we take what is given to us. Will I go for the full on crazy wrapped kalasiris look? Eh, that remains to be seen. I’m happy being Greek. 😉
I’ve already decided that my next stop on the Anna and Amenhotep’s Bronze Age Revue will be Hittite, but that will probably have to wait until after Pennsic once things cool down a smidge. Climate between Anatolia and Egypt were pretty different.
I left the East Kingdom on Memorial Day weekend in 2016 for Caid.
I left Caid for Trimaris in January of 2018.
Three kingdoms in three years, and not without scandal.
I normally don’t post dirt or personal feelings much on this blog. I prefer to have it reserved exclusively for my research and helping others. But sometimes, helping others and performing a service isn’t just steering them down the path of Byzantine goodness, it’s also helping them navigate this crazy life that is the SCA, because as Yoda said: Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.
A hobby is not much of a hobby if it starts controlling your life.
Here’s the rub: This isn’t going to be a pleasant post for me to write, but I’m at the point where I need to play SCAdian Kool-Aid Man and bust through a wall. Much like it wasn’t easy last year for me to come forward about my battles with mental illness and the SCA, I need to come forward and discuss how the last year has taken a toll on myself, my marriage, and my want to participate in the SCA.
We had front-row seats to Caid’s “Trimgate” when we were leaving for Trimaris. Our last event was the coronation with the ill-woven trim. I didn’t see the blatant swastikas until after pictures were posted, because the day was rather joyous. The newly-crowned royals were well loved and it seemed like we were going to miss something fun. And, here I was, driving across the country when the hivemind went into overdrive, and those I knew from other Kingdoms were pinging me directly for the dirt. I admit, at first I got sucked right in. I was driving to a place I didn’t want to live. I was miserable and tired. I had no furniture and replied to Facebook posts via phone. I posted things, and then I backed up. I got reminded by others that I needed to focus, and I did. I stopped answering DMs, I started dispelling false accusations that were flying across my feed so fast I couldn’t stay on top of the fact-checking, and I slipped away from conversations that were getting heated and allowed the kingdom I was leaving to take matters into their own hands, which they did with grace, and without me getting in the way or being some weird third wheel to satisfy the hunger of a pack of wolves half the world away chomping at the bit for juicy drama. When all was said and done, that debacle was all and all a result of bad theater. Yes, go ahead, get mad at me: Bad. Theater. Bad choices were made, bad answers were given, bad accusations were being made. None of which, by the way, deserved death threats in response. I hate that knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been at the receiving end of them before in my mundane line of work and it’s usually the ultimate show of immaturity and lack of class. And, also a great way to get the FBI on your ass.
So, that’s how my 2018 started. I shook that off, and tried to make the most of being in Trimaris. I still should have made my husband make a hard turn back at Albuquerque.
I’m not going to go into the entire saga that was last year’s summer reign in Trimaris. I’m not even going to post names so that search engines pick it up, but, like the Caid Coronation, I had front row seats, again, to the very religious Trimaris Coronation, which used the same ceremony structure as I did for the Eastern Coronation that same month. The words for how I felt watching that train wreck don’t exist. I wanted to chalk it up to Inter-Kingdom Anthropology, but when you get warnings on people the first week you live in-kingdom, the Spideysense tingles a bit hard, and I should have seen all this coming.
Anybody who is friends with me on Facebook, knows I’m actually some sort of fire elemental with a temper like Mt. Etna and enough heartburn for everybody. I also have zero tolerance for BS.
It was -my- Facebook page that his former majesty of Trimaris decided to use as his proving ground for baseless Nazi “jokes” a year ago. And I woke up to a barrage of DMs that made me wonder if somebody I knew died. Seriously. I was asleep the entire damn time, and it was my non-SCA friends who were in the fight.
Sure, blame it on them for instigating all you like, which I got, from a lot of people. Hell, I was victim-blamed enough myself, even from people I thought were my friends. And while I have a lot of friends that run the gamut of political opinion, I’m not a fan of the current hard right. When you start “joking” about treating liberals like Holocaust victims, I don’t care what kingdom you’re from, what your job is, or even if you’re Her Majesty Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you’re toast. I am going to nuke you from orbit, and rightly so.
And sure, you may come in here with your whataboutism and go “But Anna, what about the Alt-Left, they’re all ANTIFA and COMMUNISTS, AND SOCIALISTS AND-” And I will knock you down with every book on my shelf in the form of Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition citations.
…So now’s a good time to talk about what I do. I’m a historian. A real one. Not just a hobbyist. Some of my projects from my previous employer have involved working directly on the cause and effect of fascism and anti-fascism movements in 1920s-1930s Italy and Germany. So when somebody plays the wingnutty crap on my social media, I tend to get a wee uppity. I can also go into a lengthy discussion on the differences between Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, and other examples of Communist regimes because that comes part and parcel with this whole focus on mid-20th Century history that I was doing for a while. (Hilarious for a Byzantinist, I know, but research and historical method don’t change. I also had excellent courses on this period as an undergrad that allowed me to have a springboard.) This is something I know A LOT about, and I also know that it hasn’t been communists sending me death threats.
What this king said was bad. What he was posting on his own account was bad. I didn’t even remember friending him, or why he decided to target one of my threads that specific day. It’s over now. And then Pennsic happened, and then the BOD did their thing, which is still a contended issue.
And then I was nominated to the Board of Directors, and am currently sitting on the list of other nominees wondering if my time is going to come around. It’s a thankless job, and people will hate me for it. I know I can’t go in there with an agenda, and nor do I plan to, but if my voice can be the slightest hint of change, then so be it.
Gieffrei and I refused to attend a single Trimaris event from then on out. We spent our entire last spring prepping for Pennsic as our only SCA involvement, which worked out, because I’m also a member of other clubs and it was nice to see something else for a change. I was reached out to by many Trimarian peers, and while they are all wonderful people with the truest intentions in mind, our hearts were broken. We wanted to be done. We wanted to get our citizenship back in the East, and go forth with that.
Our minds were actually changed at Pennsic by the then-heirs to Trimaris, who heard about my issue, and took the time to hear us out. We’d go to Fall Coronation, and see how it went. Honestly, I really enjoyed the break we had. I was gung-ho active in Caid for 2 years, and I needed a nap.
Jeff, on the other hand, being fresh off of a sea duty, wanted to hit everything he could before he got back to a boat and I didn’t see him again for another 3 years. I obliged him. I decided that we could start reentry by checking out the baronial chancery. I could get back into scribal, and he could meet others. This ended up getting him into scribal extremely hardcore, and he went from painting blanks with my gouache to taking off with my dry pigments and making his own paints for use on pergament in the span of about 2 weeks. My head spun.
We treated ourselves to a trip back up to the East Kingdom for Birka this last January, and it was a nice, fun, change of scenery. But I also found it made me dreadfully homesick upon coming back down to Trimaris after a scant 2 nights away in the frozen north. Jeff fulfilled his dream of chartering the Royal East Kingdom Moneyers Guild while living 1500 miles away, and I enjoyed catching up with friends.
Inter-Kingdom Anthropology between the East and Trimaris is pretty substantial, way more than I experienced in Caid. Every event down here is pretty much the same: you go to one of the three most commonly used sites, and there will be cabins/tents, fighting, fencing, something A&S, and a feast, so the scenery doesn’t really change. This is what works best for Trimaris, and I’m simply making my observation as an outsider. Coronation and Crown are 4 hours from where I live in the kingdom, and are at the same site, so you’re guaranteed to make that haul 4 times a year. My parents live 2 hours from site, so we’ve been able to work from there for a day trip until this weekend when we actually camped it. It’s a nice summer camp site, but provides little opportunity for the populace to bust out their good garb for coronation. If the climate won’t make you want to die in it, the dust will destroy it. It’s a minor detail for those that have lived down here their whole SCA career, but for someone like me with a closet full of fine silks and wools just waiting to be moth bait, it’s depressing. This isn’t anybody’s fault but my own, of course. It’s my wardrobe, and my variety of experience. It’s the price I pay to be a Navy spouse, you could say, but it doesn’t make me any less homesick if anything for the ability to wear something other than linen I can throw in the wash from my Pennsic wardrobe. Hell, even using the term “homesickness” is somewhat ironic in this sense, considering I grew up in Florida.
We were very much welcomed this weekend at Coronation, and apologized to frequently for last year’s explosion. But I still feel distant, and foreign. I’m not sure if the pilgrimage to Birka did this, or not. I think it was the concurrent ongoing of East Kingdom Coronation and getting those notifications popping up across social media at the same time I was elsewhere that may have done it. It’s hard to watch my friends assume the thrones of the East when we’re not in striking distance enough to help. When we can’t go to the events we were so accustomed to, and were looking forward to attended again before the Navy invested me as Baroness of the Alligators. It’s not that we’re not having fun, we are, and simultaneously can’t wait to leave in order to form the strangest collective of feelings one can feel at once. The folks we’ve fallen in with here in Castlemere are our kind of tribe, so at the very least, if we don’t make it down to the Crown site again, we can still have a good time up here.
I’m sure a lot of this is exacerbated by my inability to find work, my daily struggle with depression and anxiety, and my new friend fibromyalgia, who moved in several years ago, but didn’t get a name until recently. It’s making camping suck, which for me is horrid, beause I love camping events, I love our tents, and now I’m dreading being a physical burden on my husband and household at Pennsic should I have a kicker of a flare. I felt like hot garbage for a fair chunk of coronation, but did my best to not let it show. Nothing some Tylenol and a few cups of magic grape juice couldn’t at least distract me from.
I also feel that the political climate being what it is, the upheavals across the society being what they are, are also a driving factor in my exhaustion. It did me little good to have last year drudged up again at Coronation, though I wholeheartedly accepted each and every apology given to me, because it is right to do so.
As a historian, I am beyond aggravated at these internet memes and “alternative facts” that support and drive white supremacy and Nazism into Medievalism. I want them out of my game and my life. Period. We’re always told that we should let peers do the work of dealing with such affronts, but I say, in this regard, that we’re all peers when it comes to striking down hate and dragging it out of our lives and our game. When we see something, we DO something. Period. We stop bad theater before it starts so nobody gets hurt making a bad choice, we catch bad behavior in action and deal with it accordingly before they ascend to the throne. No more casting the job off on somebody else based on a hierarchy that will get us a latte at Starbuck’s for $5. It is not “social justice” to want a club that has diversity and inclusion, especially when the periods we are representing WERE diverse. (HELLO The Byzantine Empire had an “Office of Ritual Brotherhood”, which may have been same-sex marriage, AND allowed and accepted transgender individuals to join their calling in the orthodox clergy and FFS there were African blacks in Europe that were NOT SLAVES.) There is enough counter-offensive on the internet now with sufficient documentation from us pros in the history biz to stop this cassarole of Nazi nonsense. I have a hard enough time taking them seriously when they show up dressed like Homer Simpson with tiki torches, but I’d be damned as hell if I let my grandparents’ bones turn in their graves further or the legacy of my husband’s career be diminished by allowing them to walk all over my hobby. We are an educational group, are we not? We do what we need to do in order to blare our ZERO TOLERANCE neon sign from on high and nip this junk in the bud before it blooms.
Despite my own exhaustion, I’m not leaving. I’m not going to quit and let the SCA turn into Uncle Hitler’s Charm School for Wayward Jaded White Men. I may be in pain, but I still have a lot of fight left, and if I gotta go, I’m going colorfully, and with lots of company. I’m sick of reading posts by other members who have had their hearts broken.
If my nomination to the BOD goes through, great. I will do what I can to make the SCA a better place. If I’m ever elevated to peerage, great, I will do what I can to make the SCA a better place, but my work should not be limited to if I achieve those positions.
This is going to take a village, a populace, and a knowne world.
Never Again. And not in my SCA.
I field more emails and more online questions about the Varangian Guard than I do actual Byzantine personae. I lifted most of the information below from my Byzantine Personal Basics page above, but I’ve included a bibliography to hopefully help those on the path find what they’re looking for.
I’m going to preface this by saying that I have nothing against Varangian personae, but I’m about to be very blunt: Varangians are not Byzantine.
The Romans viewed them as barbarians and outsiders, and despite the fun tales from the Norse Sagas, chances are, they weren’t well liked in the City. The truth of the matter is that there are currently more Varangians in the SCA than there ever was serving an emperor at one point in time due to the fact that it gives Norse personae an excuse to wear lamellar when it’s hot (which is fine, we don’t need anybody dropping dead at war, please). Not everybody could show up at the Blachernae Palace steps from somewhere up North and demand they be admitted into service to the Purple. It was a bit more complicated than that, and each emperor had different requirements. Not to mention, Varangians were only predominantly Norse for a short period of time in the mid 11th Century if we assume what the Sagas say is true.
The first Varangian Guard was not established until the late 10th Century (around 980) when Basil II was given thousands of Kievan soldiers in exchange for marriage of a Byzantine princess to the Prince of Kiev in order to defeat the Bulgarians. The Kievan Rus were not Norse, they were Slavic, potentially with Norse ancestry, but the term “Viking” itself is a particular Norse occupation. The “Viking Age” was pretty much over at this time. We do have record of plenty of Norse travelers coming to Constantinople prior to this, but the “Viking raid” in 860 was actually Rus that had come down into the Black Sea from what is now Ukraine.
To further screw things up, the term “Varangian” itself was used by both the Romans and the Rus to refer to Norse Vikings prior to the 10th Century. So, if this is the route you desire to go, determining if you’re just a Norse traveler from early period, or an actual member of the Emperor’s elite guard is important.
If you do decide to go Varangian GUARD, here is a list of “waves” of ethnicities that served at specific times. This is by no means set in stone, but it provides a guide for those that want to pinpoint a specific time period that suits their goals:
988 – 1020ish: Kievan Rus
1020-1070ish: Scandinavian (Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish) Bolli Bollason and Harald Hardrada served at this time.
1070-1204ish: Danish and English (Anglo-Saxon). The term “Danes” comes up in Byzantine literature often to describe the Varangians, and the English were escaping Norman rule in England at this time. This is documented in the saga of Edward the Confessor. Siward Barn served at this time. Normans were NOT permitted to be apart of the Varangian Guard, but some may have served as mercenaries in other capacities.
The Fourth Crusade has probably some of the best documented accounts of the Varangian Guard in action protecting Constantinople. After the retaking of Constantinople and re-establishing the empire, however, there didn’t appear to be as formal of a guard unit, and those that were a part of it, had fully assimilated into the Roman culture. It is unclear if the Varangian Guard really remained a thing until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
There are a lot of myths surrounded what they actually wore, especially in the SCA. The “red is for the Emperor’s service” and “green is for the Empress’s service” is totally a SCAdianism as far as I’ve found. It looks like the on-duty color for the guard was blue or red, while off-duty, you see them in nothing more than plain tunics and slim-fitting trousers or hose, which was typical for men’s casual wear throughout the empire. Earlier travelers would have continued to wear the clothing of their culture, versus picking up stuff along the way. Clothing was expensive and difficult to carry and launder, so the other SCAdianism of having a diverse wardrobe boasting the latest fashions of every exotic port of call you visited is also inaccurate. They would, however, assimilate over time if they decided to stay put in an area. This does not include trade goods, but items that were exchanged in business were not necessarily the same as the clothes you wore on your back.
As far as religion goes, during the period of the active guard, most serving were already Christian, or converted to Orthodoxy from a later, heavily modified and somewhat hodgepodged version of Arian Christianity which was more common in Eastern Europe and the Scandinavian countries very early before the Western Church started coming in with missions. Please, remember that Arianism IS NOT THE SAME THING as Aryanism. Mind your i’s and y’s! Either way, the idea of your persona dripping in lovely Asatru regalia would be incorrect as a guardsman, but as a very early Norse traveler to Constantinople, still possible.
I totally just ganked these images off of Wikipedia since I know they’re there, but you can check out the Madrid Skylitzes here: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/10625/
And for those that want to actually do homework, here are the goods:
Of Aguilers, Raymond. Historia Francorum Qui Ceperint Jerusalem. Translated by John H, and
Laurita L. Hill. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. 1968; Medieval
Sourcebook, 1997. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/raymond-cde.asp
Choniates, Niketas. O City of Byzantium. Translated by Harry J. Magoulas. Detroit: Wayne State
University Press. 1984.
de Clari, Robert. The Conquest of Constantinople. Translated by Edgar Holmes McNeal.
New York: Columbia University Press. 2005.
of Edessa, Matthew. The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa. Translated by Ara Edmond
Dostourian. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms. 1972.
Komnene, Anna. The Alexiad. Translated by E.R.A. Sewter. London: Penguin Books. 2009.
The Laxdaela Saga. Translated by Muriel Press. London: The Temple Classics, 1899. The Online Medieval and Classical Library, 1996. http://www.omacl.org/laxdaela/
Porphyrogénnētos, Constantine. De Admininstrando Imperio. Translated by R.J.H. Jenkins.
Budapest: Pázmány Péter Tudományegyetemi Görög Filológiai Intézet. 1949-1962.
——. De Ceremonii. Translated by Ann Moffatt and Maxeme Tall. Canberra: Byzantina
Psellus, Michael. Chronographia. Translated by E.R.A Sewter. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1953; Medieval Sourcebook, 1999.
The Saga of Edward the Confessor. Translated by George Dasent. 1894.
Sturleson, Snorri. Heimskringla (Saga of the Kings.) Translated by Samuel Laing. London: 1844;
The Online Medieval and Classical Library, 1996. http://omacl.org/Heimskringla/
de Villehardouin, Geoffrey. Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and The Conquest of
Constantinople. Translated by Frank T. Marzials. London: J. M. Dent. 1908; Medieval
Sourcebook, 1996. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/villehardouin.asp
Books and Articles
Blöndal, Sigfús. The Varangians of Byzantium. Translated by Benedikt S. Benedikz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1978.
D’Amato, Raffaele. The Varangian Guard: 988-1453. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. 2010.
Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. 2006.
Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Decline and Fall. New York: Knopf. 1995.
Queller, Donald E. and Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1999.
Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades. 3 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1987.
Dawkins, R.M. “The Later History of the Varangian Guard: Some Notes.” The Journal of
Roman Studies Parts 1 and 2. 1947. http://www.jstor.org/stable/298453.
Doxey, Gary B. “Norwegian Crusaders and the Balearic Islands.” Scandinavian Studies.
Madden, Thomas. “Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade.” The International History Review.
Pappas, Nicholas C. J. “English Refugees in the Byzantine Armed Forces: The Varangian Guard
and Anglo Saxon Ethnic Consciousness.” De Re Militari.
Shepard, Jonathan. “The English and Byzantium: A Study of Their Role in the Byzantine Army During the Later Eleventh Century.” Traditio Vol. 29 (1973): 53-92. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27830955.
I just uploaded my paper and Powerpoint presentation from the 2018 Fordham Medieval Studies Conference on Dress and Identity in the Middle Ages to my Academia.edu account.
Feel free to download them for free here (Though you will need an account on the site, which is also free): https://unh.academia.edu/AngelaCostello/Conference-Presentations
This is both an abridged version of my Master’s Thesis and an expansion of sorts. It focuses solely on Kale’s garments and her inventory as such demonstrating her changing identity from noblewoman to nun. The Powerpoint has photos of my attempt at ecclesiastical dress and some dramatic poses for fun.
The publication of my thesis as a Compleat Anachronist (#177) is still available from the SCA Stock Clerk, here: https://members.sca.org/apps/#Store
Continuing on my “I have all these ridiculous topics I’ve written about” side quest, additional digging into the bowels of my external hard drive has produced this gem.
Note that this one delves into the more complex nature of religion during the Byzantine period, but does little to define them for folks that are unsure of how the early church dealt with heretical sects. It’s not something that you see a lot of in the SCA side of things, because it’s incredibly dense material, and my paper only discusses them briefly. If this isn’t something you are familiar with, don’t be afraid to visit Wikipedia or other open source site that can help you understand these terms better. Hell, even my brain starts melting out of my ears when it comes to this level of study. My professor who taught us the basis for heresy in graduate school had gone to divinity school, and STILL couldn’t fully grasp it. This is some heavy stuff.
Again, any citations needs to be done from the paper directly, not my blog. Academia.edu link:
Prokopios’ conspiracy theory: Justinian versus the Heretics.
The religious reforms of Emperor Justinian I would continue to resonate through the Byzantine Empire well after his time, with his fingertips still reaching into the modern doctrines of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. His combative stance against paths of Christianity labeled as heretical was notable, and his increased support of the Chalcedonian doctrine is what no doubt elevated him to Orthodox Sainthood. Though the eyes of the controversial 6th Century writer, Prokopios, a glance of Justinian’s attempts to win over the opposition can be seen, and blame is cast directly on the imperial monarchs for exacerbating the situation beyond control, perhaps for nothing more than to legitimize their rule.
Justin I’s reign presented a struggle in returning the doctrine of Chalcedon to the forefront of Byzantine Orthodoxy. It was clear that his successor, Justinian, would follow in these footsteps and continue the pro-Chalcedonian rhetoric from the throne, despite stiff opposition from outlying areas such as Egypt and Syria. Even before his ascension to the throne in 527, it was clear that the Chalcedonian doctrine was a cornerstone in his policies. Despite evidence in that his wife, Theodora, may have been a follower of the anti-Chalcedonian school, and that he was willing to work with opposing doctrines as a way to find peace, the ultimate goal of Justinian was to appease the Pope in the west, not only to legitimize his rule, but also to create a smoother transition as he pushed to regain the lands lost once belonging to the Classical Roman Empire, and unifying his New Rome with Old Rome once more.
The anti-Chalcedonian doctrine perceived the embodiment of Christ as being one person, one hypostasis, and one nature that was entirely divine, whereas the embodiment as codified by the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 421, stated that Jesus had two natures: one divine, and one mortal. Another idea, Nestorianism, which is described as the true antithesis of Monophysitism, believed that Christ was even more complex by having two forms of hypostasis, mortal and divine. This view was rejected by Chalcedon, but many Monophysites believed that it was this Nestorianism that had won in the council. This was incorrect, and Justinian did attempt to correct this misunderstanding as an attempt to coax the anti-Chalcedonians into accepting what he was asserted the true orthodox doctrine. This failed, and the emperor was forced to save face and appease the Pope in more desperate measures.
Justinian’s marriage to Theodora may have been used as a method of reaching out to the anti-Chalcedonians. Prokopios, found this to be an appalling technique of policy when writing his Secret History. He claims that Justinian and his heretic wife did nothing independent of each other, but he believed that by pitting the opposing doctrines against each other in rival circus factions, that they may have deliberately prolonged the controversy, and created the illusion that the struggle was far direr than it appeared. Surely, a marriage to a Monophysite could have and should have helped the tension between the opposition dissolve, but that was not the case, at least according to what Prokopios claims to have witnessed not just with the in-city violence between factions, but also in the alleged persecutions that the emperor performed against heretical sects. He paints the picture of a blood-thirsty demonical tyrant, out for the accumulated wealth of these practically backwater churches, for no reason but to attempt forced conversion, and the joy of spilling blood. However, Prokopios contradicts his own views here within his Wars, were he expresses his dislike of the heretical doctrines, and also accepts them as false. He never gives his support of the emperor’s alleged violence against these groups in Wars, but in Secret History, Prokopios seems to believe that it was all constructed by Justinian for his own benefit to legitimize himself on the throne. By pushing the doctrine of Chalcedon even in the most violent way, Justinian could effectively show the Pope that he was doing right, and perhaps as previously mentioned, regain control of the Italian peninsula with greater ease.
A point that may support Prokopios’ idea that Justinian and Theodora played the game of opposing each other for furthering their agenda would be Theodora’s own outreach to her fellow Monophysites in Constantinople. John of Ephesos, a Monophysite who according to Anthony Kaldellis in footnote 80 of his translation of The Secret History, was actually a missionary for Justinian sent to preach against Jews, heretics, and pagans, wrote a volume known as The Lives of the Saints, in which he praises Theodora for her good works in protecting Monophysites within the imperial capital of Constantinople. If Justinian was so adamant on crushing these anti-Chalcedonians as virulently as Prokopios claims, why would he have allowed his wife to give sanctuary to heretics within the capital of his empire? In the same chapter, John of Ephesos states that Justinian continued to look after these Monophysites in the capital after Theodora’s death. Prokopios in that case may be correct in assuming that such consistent head-butting between the imperial couple was deliberate, and that Justinian overall did not generally oppose the idea of anti-Chalcedonians living safely, but was simply creating the illusion that actions were being taken to quash the heretical theories.
Prokopios’ views on Justinian’s actions against the anti-Chalcedonian heresies of the 6th Century may contain evidence that strife between the opposing Christian doctrines were deliberately escalated by the ruling heads of Byzantium in attempt to legitimize what the author felt was a farcical rule. By creating the illusion of consistent struggle against the heretics, Justinian could appease the Pope in the West, prove to the Chalcedonians that he was working in their best interest, and be successful while creating his own struggle with his anti-Chalcedonian empress in attempts to prolong the fight.
Prokopios, The Secret History with Related Texts. Translated by Anthony Kaldellis. Indianopolis: Hackett, 2010.
Prokopios, History of the Wars Books III and IV. Translated by H. B. Dewing. Cambridge: Harvard, 1916. Project Gutenberg Edition 2005. Accessed September 30, 2015. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16765/16765.txt
Maas, Michael. Editor. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian. New York: Cambridge, 2005.
 Patrick T. R. Gray, “The Legacy of Chalcedon”, in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, ed. Michael Maas. (New York: Cambridge. 2010), 228.
 Ibid. 229.
 Prokopios, The Secret History with Related Texts. Trans. by Anthony Kaldellis. (Indianopolis: Hackett, 2010), 10.13, 48.
 Ibid, 11.14, 52.
 Secret History, 53, and page 145 in “related texts” of same volume.
 Secret History, 148.
I have a treasure trove of weird, short papers I’ve done throughout my academic and professional career. Every now and then, I revisit my folders to find a source, and run into an occasional gem of an essay that was either an assignment, or a way for me to start additional research that I never followed up on.
My persona is most definitely not Merovingian, nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve spent more time reading Salic Law than I want to admit. This article is a very short paper I wrote examining the use of insults to incite feuds. After Pennsic, I think I’m going to revisit this topic and expand it into something more suitable for publication in an SCA context, because insults!
If you are interested in citing this, I’ve posted a version of it on Academia.edu here for access, please do not cite my blog:
Insult “Culture” and Violence in Early Merovingian Gaul
Gregory of Tours made his opinion of the Merovingian rulers quite clear throughout his Historia. These Frankish kings and queens were nothing more than brutish, blood-thirsty, and revenge-driven maniacs who turned a blind eye to the Church and its teachings, much to the chagrin of the bishop holding the pen. Gregory’s words were rather scathing, but in between the lines of disdain toward the violence inherent in the line of Long Haired Kings, the Bishop of Tours provides other clues as to what was going on to bring about such ensanguined entropy. The paper will argue that intense gossip and insults may have been used as a tool to provoke feuds, and incite violence in aristocratic Merovingian society.
Salic Law, during which the first draft was composed under Clovis I around the year 500, has an entire section devoted to insults, and the fines (wergeld) that they carry. These insults range from being rather base by accusing somebody of homosexuality, or accusing them of being an informant or calumniator. This speaks a great deal of how strongly an insult was taken in the Frankish kingdom for it to have been codified in law. If these accusations were strong enough to incite the paying of wergeld to the victim, then what would the odds have been that such pejorative phrases would incite violence as a response, and that the laws were conceived in attempts to stop this response?
Autumn Dolan explores this avenue in her paper on the topic, “’You Would Do Better to Keep Your Mouth Shut’: The Significance of Talk in Sixth-Century Gaul.” Dolan states that the social ramifications of such things could have gravely damaged reputations more so than a sword could. Dolan herself focuses more on just the culture of verbiage that is evident in Salic Law, but also reverts back to Gregory’s histories. Gregory served up the tale of Firmin, the Count of Clermont, and Caesaria, his mother-in-law, in Book IV of his Historia, during which Firmin was “offered serious insults” by Chramnus, and forced to seek sanctuary in the cathedral with his mother-in-law. Chramnus then orders to have them taken from the cathedral, and does so by send a man to basically lie to them in attempts to get them to leave. As soon as they were within arm’s reach of the open cathedral doors, they were taken into custody violently, and sent into exile.
Dolan uses this as only one example of how insults could be dangerous, but fails to mention that the use of the insults, and subsequent lying to coax the two from the church, was a gateway to a violent end. Using the insults here was a catalyst, not the be-all-end-all technique to scare somebody away. Firmin and Caesaria were not just told to go away, they sought sanctuary because they knew that they were in immediate danger due to the defamation of their character. Since the insults were from the mouth of the king, versus anybody else, the idea of receiving compensation went just as easy as they were plucked from the door of the church. In the end, Chramnus got what he wanted. It is possible that if Firmin had taken the insults and immediately fled into exile, that they would not have been pursued, but the fact that he chose to stay in Clermont meant that he believed there was a sliver of a chance for a fight, either legal or physical, but in the end it took nothing more than the bishop to turn his back, and devious lies to draw them back into danger.
The laws pertaining to certain infractions against women may also demonstrate how such attacks could be taken not just as defamation against the woman in question, but also to her family. Dolan alludes to this in her paper as well, and offers a quote from Gregory, when Chilperic exclaims that the “slander of my wife is considered my shame.” Referring back to Salic Law, an interesting excerpt involves the releasing a woman’s hair from its restraints. This would cost the assailant a wergeld of thirty solidi, no small fine by any means. It would seem obvious that, with the law written in such a way to discourage violence, that heavy fines were put into place in order to discourage this behavior knowing that the shaming of an aristocratic woman could result in subsequent bloodshed in the form of a feud. This of course doubles back to the chapter on insults.
Laws are written for a reason. With dedicated chapters on insults in Salic Law, and Gregory of Tours’ interesting accounts of violent happenings in sixth century Gaul, it appears that an actual culture of shaming individuals as a way to spark feuds may have been a common occurrence in what Gregory described as a violent society. Whether it be a way to get under the skin of a political rival, or a backhanded attack by pulling a woman’s hair, the Merovingian’s certainly had a dark way of dealing with their business.
Gregory of Tours. “History of the Franks”. In From Roman to Merovingian Gaul. Edited and translated by Alexander Callander Murray. University of Toronto Press: Toronto. 2000.
Gregory of Tours. “History of the Franks”. In The Internet History Sourcebook. Edited by Paul Halsall. Translated by Ernest Brehaut. https://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregory-hist.asp. Accessed November 22, 2015.
“The Salic Law (Lex Salica.)” In From Roman to Merovingian Gaul. Edited and translated by Alexander Callander Murray. University of Toronto Press: Toronto. 2000.
Dolan, Autumn. “‘You Would Do Better to Keep Your Mouth Shut:’ The Significance of Talk in Sixth Century Gaul.” In Proceedings from The Western Society for French History 40 (2012.) http://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wsfh/0642292.0040.001?view=text;rgn=main. Accessed November 22, 2015.
 “The Salic Law (Lex Salica.)” In From Roman to Merovingian Gaul. Ed. and trans by Alexander Callander Murray. (University of Toronto Press: Toronto. 2000.) 552.
 Autumn Dolan, “‘You Would Do Better to Keep Your Mouth Shut:’ The Significance of Talk in Sixth Century Gaul.” In Proceedings from The Western Society for French History 40 (2012.) http://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wsfh/0642292.0040.001?view=text;rgn=main. Accessed November 22, 2015.
 Gregory of Tours. “History of the Franks”. In The Internet History Sourcebook. Ed. by Paul Halsall. Trans. by Ernest Brehaut. https://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregory-hist.asp. Accessed November 22, 2015. Located on page 308 in the Murray edition, however it is abridged. The Internet History Sourcebook has the complete chapter.
 Dolan, 5, Gregory of Tours, VI.49.
 Salic Law CIV 1-3, as noted by Dolan.