The First Round of “Ask Me Anything” Answers!

Sorry this took a bit, I was hoping to get a few more, but this is a good start.

I think I did myself, and everybody, a great disservice by saying I would help with general medieval information. I sat here and derped pretty hard, so, for future questions, please keep them limited to Roman/Byzantine only for my own sanity, and for the sake of the querents getting a decent answer. Questions can be sent to syrakousina -at- gmail.com. (remember to remove -at- and replace with @, no spaces.)

 

Libby: Do you know of a survey of band weaving finds from 13th century and earlier?

I’m afraid I do not. Since I don’t weave more than an inkle band here and there, it’s just not something I look for. If somebody else sees this, hopefully they can chime in down in the comments to get you where you need to go. You honestly will have better luck in a weaving group on Facebook than I can find you in 3 minutes of google searching.

 Nicola: I am a fan of your blog and enjoy seeing your research and the work you do for your SCA persona and the community as a whole. I’m a LARPer over in the UK and was wondering how you keep the veils and layers of headdresses in place. The persona I’m currently playing is from medieval times but practical hints and tips would be very interesting to read about, if you’re willing to write about something a little more off topic.

You need to use bands, and pin the veil to the band. This is a period method, and you can really impress your LARPer friends. I’ve used this guide now for years: http://www.virtue.to/articles/veils.html Now, I’ve made some adjustment since my hair was so short for years, but now I’m growing it out. I’ve found that in a pinch when my hair was in a pixie cut, white cotton headbands you can buy at the drugstore do the job since they really aren’t going to slide anywhere. Now that I have shoulder-length hair, I cap it up first. You can see it a bit here with my 11th Century veil. The cap beneath my veil holds back all of my hair, and then the silk veil is pinned over it, allowing my coronet to just sit on top and not have to be shoved onto my head, or cause more weight. The gentlewoman to my right in the veil is also wearing a cap beneath hers, and you can see the pins better.

 

Dyonisia: So I have been fascinated with hoods for a while now. I make them and end up giving them away. But i also want to get research information on them. My focus is from 1000-1600.  I also am looking for any embroidery that are on those hoods. Any help would be wonderful.

I am also interested in shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at what was shipped and where they were going. I am looking at 1200-1600. Any resources ect. would help.

This is a really really REALLY broad topic that I feel could benefit from narrowing down into a specific time and place so you aren’t overwhelmed. Fashion changes a lot over the span of 500 years, and since you did not give a location, I’m going to tell you what I know regarding my area of expertise. I recommend breaking down your project and focusing on one hood from one place at a time, otherwise, you’re going to be overwhelmed and find nothing.

Disclaimer: I’m not an embroiderer, and as far as my personal scope of research goes, you won’t find much at least in the Byzantine area. They were more into woven designs that were appliqued on. As far as if this applied to hoods, I’m not sure. The Byzantines were not “hood wearers” like you see in the western part of the continent. The one hooded garment that you see commonly is called a “paenula”, a very simple hooded poncho that goes back to Roman times. After the 6th Century, you don’t see it too much outside of iconographic interpretation, which makes me think that maybe it fell out of style in the cosmopolitan areas during the early centuries, but maintained part of the traditional imagery we still have today. The climate in the Eastern Mediterranean is different than say, France, so hooded garments seemed to be pushed to the wayside for turbans, veils, and other headwear. Seeing gold work on turbans was common. The type of design is referred to as “grammata” in the original Greek, so basically golden letters, possibly pseudo-Kufic script. Of course, paenulae may have still been used in the countryside as a functional garment, but most depictions of working class Byzantines show little to no embellishment. Who the heck wants to clean mud off of expensive, time-consuming embroidery?

On the subject of your interest in shipping, again, you need to narrow this down. You have a 400-year timespan, and no specific culture or ports in mind. From 1200-1400, the crusades dominated the Eastern Mediterranean as well, with the Fourth Crusade wrecking the commerce of the Byzantine Empire for the remainder of its existence.

I do love your enthusiasm, but let me give you some helpful research tips to make your massive interests work a bit smoother in your favor. I feel like you really don’t know where to start, which is why you’ve asked me such broad questions, and that’s okay, we all have humble beginnings.

 A good rule of thumb is: if your Google search isn’t coming back with anything, narrow it down until it does. “Medieval hoods 1000-1600” is going to probably give you a Pinterest, while “extant medieval hood” is going to give you images of stuff that is still around from museum databases. “Hoods worn in medieval France” is going to give you better answers. Head right to the Met or British Museum websites and look up their collections, they’re here to help! Same with your interest in shipping. This is where getting into the fun journal databases will be a huge advantage. You can even pop over to JSTOR and put in some search terms. I found this article first shot just typing in “medieval Mediterranean shipping”: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1kgqt6m Chances are, you have friends with JSTOR or library access that can help you get the material. If this is something you really want to focus on, it may be worthwhile to invest in an account. Who knows, you could end up getting enough material to write your own Compleat Anachronist! Good luck!

Marc: I found your blog via a search on Byzantine costuming – and noted that you’re up to answering questions about same.

Well, I have a perhaps atypical one: I’m finishing in the details of a story set in early 14th Century Trebizond, and I haven’t been able to put together visually a wedding dress for one of the legendary Trapezuntine princesses. I have some vague piecemeal ideas, shoulder panels covered with pearls, etc. and I can draw a little from Pisanello’s St. George and the Princess of Trebizond, but I really can’t imagine what a wedding gown at that level of Byzantine society would look like – particularly the colors.

 You’re actually in luck, because Maria Parani has written a great article on this, and it’s available for free on Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/578063/_Byzantine_Bridal_Costume_in_%CE%94%CF%8E%CF%81%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%B1._A_Tribute_to_the_A._G._Leventis_Foundation_on_the_Occasion_of_Its_20th_Anniversary_Nicosia_2000_185-216  

Hopefully this gives you the answer you’re looking for. I could cite it, but having the whole article in your face is probably better than whatever I could blab. Good luck with your novel!

Ask me anything!

So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.

Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history  questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.

If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.

Got a question for me?

Hit me up at syrakousina at gmail.com.

The Importance of Mantles in Middle Byzantine Fashion

This is a very short disorganized blurb, and I apologize, but I wanted to get some notes down from what I’m exploring as far as my thesis goes.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my master’s thesis is exploring the last will and testament of Kale Pakouriane from 1098. I’m going into her inventory and trying to reconstruct her life from her material culture. One thing that really sticks out is the amount of mantles she has.

There are three different words for “cloak” or “mantle” in her will: mandyas, which I’ve already written up as the semi-circle one last year. The sagion, which was evidently shorter, apparently knee-length versus ankle-length, this is something Parani points out in Reconstructing the Reality of Images, and then the one line where my translation was getting extremely confused because of words is a garment that was allegedly called the thalassa, or “sea”. It was another type of cloak, but according to Dawson in his article within Varieties of Experience, there’s only a few mentions of it in written history, namely De Cerimoniis, where Constantine Porphyrogennetos refers to it as a gift for royalty, and in Kale’s will. He’s not sure why it’s named this, but narrows it down to having to do with a particularly luxurious fabric that could vary from a specific shot silk from the Arabian peninsula, or a blue/green/gray dyed COTTON from Persia or Hindustan. We just don’t know, and may never know.What this does mean, however, is that it was particularly luxurious.

What this project has taught me so far was that these mantles were a way to show off wealth and probably protect your equally luxurious clothing. Kale had an impressive wardrobe. I just ordered the French translation of the will and the scans of the actual Greek document. $200 later. Academia is stupid.

I know this is going to raise a lot of questions, but I don’t have all the answers yet. Please be patient while I work on this. My mundane life and graduate degree must come before anything SCA. I just wanted to get this information out. These little nuances will greatly change how we should project ourselves in 11th Century Byzantine clothing.

How to Upgrade: Byzantine Style.

Yesterday, their Majesties of the East sought to award me the title of Baroness of the Court. Not only am I greatly humbled by this, but it really couldn’t come at a better time research-wise.

20789642116_9cfac7bb16_o

Myself, as well as Ioannes Dalassenos from Ansteorra, and Konstantia Kaloethina, currently Gold Falcon Herald of Calontir, are in the process of compiling alternate titles that may better suit the Byzantine persona with the ultimate goal of approval through the College of Heralds. Once the research paper (yes, paper) is ready, I’ll make a special tab for it here on my blog so it’s always easily accessible, but until then, here’s a little sneak peek.

The Eastern Roman Empire (As well as the Holy Roman Empire, which as all of us REAL ROMANS know, was not Holy, Nor Roman, and questionably an Empire) did in fact bestow honorary court titles like we do the court barony in the SCA in lieu of the landed titles. In the case of Byzantium, they were still using the classic titles of consul and proconsul, only, you know, in Greek. In this case, hypatos and anthypatos, hypatissa and anthypatissa respectfully for the feminine form. Some records show that the title of hypatos (consul) was given honorarily, and that anthypatos was used for governors over themata, or states within the empire.

So, as far as the SCA structure goes, a court baron/baroness could totally use the titles hypatos/hypatissa while they’re landed counterparts could be anthypatos/anthypatissa!

We really can’t wait to share this research with everybody, and hope that the new ideas catch on. Using titles actually from the periods we are portraying are one of the little things we can do to help up the authenticity of our game. Everybody should give it a shot.

In service,
Hypatissa Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina. Say that sucker 3x fast.

angjeff_equestrian
I’m so classy, the culprit of coronet crafting: Lord Geoffrey, is sitting behind me.

Further reading:

Bury, John Bagnell (1911). The Imperial Administrative System of the Ninth Century – With a Revised Text of the Kletorologion of Philotheos. https://archive.org/details/imperialadminist00buryrich

Kazhdan, Alexander P., ed. (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium.

“All I wanted was a cloak!” Part I: The research.

Really, that’s it. A cloak.

I mean, I have one, it’s a basic generic black wool with a lined hood and shoulder seams. I made it about 10 years ago and it’s still going strong. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s also not any particular period. Since I’ve been digging into Byzantine outerwear, I’m trying to discover what my persona would have worn, as well as other options in cloaking and coating for both men and women. It does snow in Constantinople, not a lot, but it does, as seen in this modern photograph of the Hagia Sophia from Wikipedia:

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire:

10923207_10152797109563143_6536709114114551622_n
This is actually the balcony of my apartment after the 2nd snowstorm this month. Today we’re getting the 4th foot+ blast. I want to cry.

Outerwear is important, just as much then as it was now. I plan on keeping my first cloak for outside use when the weather is exceptionally foul, but to have one for nicer occasions outside in the cold or inside cold venues will help complete my look as a properly dressed 11th Century Eastern Roman woman.

This post serves as a cautionary tale into how looking for a simple garment can turn into a whirlwind of research that you didn’t expect. This is the method to my madness.

First I picked up the Byzantine cloak clasp offered by Raymond’s Quiet Press, you can buy your own by clicking on the pic.

In addition to some wool and trim, I had the materials necessary to get started.

I never intended on this to become any sort of research project, I just wanted a cloak. So a fast search on the internet came up first with what I always refer to as the paludamentum in Latin, or a chlamys in Greek, a male cloak fastened at one shoulder, such as in the mosaic of Justinian and his entourage at Ravenna, but the women in Theodora’s mosaic are wearing wrapped shawls,  EXCEPT for the Empress herself, who is also in a chlamys. I haven’t seen too many images from the 11th Century in which these are worn by anybody other than the imperials. It seemed to have evolved from daily wear of even lower office holders (for men!) into ceremonial dress for high court functions.  This theory is supported by Maria Parani in Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, which I was able to snag on interlibrary loan to begin preliminary research on my Master’s Thesis.

Michael VII Doukas wearing the chlamys, while his attendants wear mandyas, or front closed cloaks. From Coislin 79, f. 2r. Shown in Parani, page 11.

Parani discusses briefly in her chapter on the Imperial Costume that the empress was invested in the chlamys, but probably did not wear it otherwise.[1] So as tempting and shiny as the garment is, unless you are the queen of your SCA kingdom and it’s your coronation, or some extremely important court event, you probably should avoid wearing this garment. Even for men, if you’re middle period (10-12th century) Byzantine and not a king, I’d skip this. It’s just too presumptuous.

Moving away from this idea, there’s the paenula, which is the traditional Roman hooded cloak that dates from antiquity.

JME_Paenula
Image found in a search online with the search page Hedgy.com, but it would not load.

 

The only time you see this worn by a woman in any art is by the Virgin Mary and other ecclesiastical women in icons. Avoid this one too. Not only was it out of style pretty early on for both genders, and you wouldn’t want to commit the sin of wearing such an outdated fashion, but the Romans had a very high regard for their iconographic imagery, and this is another one of those things you should just avoid wearing.

Timothy Dawson argues that the practicality of such a garment would be useful, but evidence of its wear in period in scarce[2]. I agree with him here, though I assert that the reason for such scarcity would be the connection to the Virgin, and therefore making the garment a symbol of her own connection to the past. For women who wish to cover their heads in a simple, demure fashion both indoors and out, a veil or wrapped shawl/palla works just fine.

Moving away from the chlamys and paenula, the other option would be the half-circle cloak.

The same images on Dawson’s website over at Levantia.com.au are also in his article within the Varieties of Experience book cited above. So went to myself, “Oh look, there’s a cloak. Sold.”

Finally, a design that was easy and period, and above all, not being presumptuous in rank, all I really need. It’s not like I wanted to put in more research that I really needed for a cloak, but I do like to check the primary sources to get ideas for embellishments and the like. So Plate 10 in “Woman’s Dress in Byzantium” matches the same that he has on the page for “A Typical Middle Byzantine Outfit” here: http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/reddress.html.[3] This is where my confusion set in. On his page, Dawson refers to this as a mantion, and cites a page from the 1839 edition of De Ceremoniis for the source on this. Fair enough.

I dig up the ebook on Google Books, and begin translating the ecclesiastical Latin of Reiske’s commentary on the page cited, and found that there was nothing of the sort there, in fact, it’s about pyrotechnics, Persians,  and contains a great deal of commentary on a primary source in Arabic. It is unclear from Dawson’s footnote if this is volume one or two, and since two is the only one I can ever find copies of, I went with that. Just to be sure, I searched the document on Google Books for the Greek spelling of mantion, μάντιον, as Dawson suggested on his page, and found nothing. So then turned back to “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” and found that his research was inconsistent in the section where he discussed cloaks and mantles on page 48. In the actual printed article, the word “mantion” isn’t even mentioned, and instead he uses “mandyas,” and supports this through several citations of manuscripts. The book may be a few years older than the webpage, which was last modified in November 2013 according to the page info, but I’m still not 100% sure on why Dawson changed the name between publications. If I can locate the correct supporting evidence in De Ceremoniis, I will know for sure. Until then, I’m chalking it up to a simple error in the footnote that is leaving the source vague. Parani supports the use of mandyas as the correct term.[4]

Now, a mandyas I know is the modern ecclesiastical cloak of the same cut. It’s basically a half circle ornamented in a variety of ways, draped over the shoulder and pinned in front. That’s it. The design is frankly, timeless.

I did some searching for Dawson’s cited manuscripts and couldn’t locate most of them online. This is a common hurdle, as not all libraries have been digitized yet, but fortunately for all of us in the future, they will be. Even the Vatican is digitizing their manuscript library. Even though my initial searches were fruitless, I did find some neat sources for future perusing. I did have some luck with the Menologion of Basil II, which does have its own Wikipedia page for those seeking instant gratification, and found a couple of images, including the empress in a chlamys and a sainted nun in a paenula. What I needed though was evidence of women of aristocratic status wearing it, and folio 98 delivered. Both Dawson and Parani cited this image, and Parani included it in her book.[5]

Melania_the_Younger,_nun_of_Rome_(Menologion_of_Basil_II)
St. Melania the Younger from the Menologion of Basil II. To me it looks like she’s in a paenula.
theophano_himation
Empress Theophano from the same manuscript. Notice how her chlamys is fastened on her right shoulder. A women wearing this in artwork signifies the empress.
ag-Pelagia
Folio 98 of the Menologion of Basil II, featuring St. Palagia before and after she is called to God.

This image above shows both a saint and a laywoman. The haloed saint Palagia wears the hooded paenula, while the woman in the middle, whom I’m assuming is Palagia repenting her sins before converting and devoting her life to God, is secular dress, and, tada! Wearing a mandyas.

Another image that supports the wearing of this style of mantle is one that I’ve previously shown during my research of the propoloma are the donor frescoes of Irene Gabras, and Anna Radene in its full form. The one of Radene shows the traditional thick trim outside, as well as an elaborate lining  behind the magnificently large sleeves of her red 12th Century delmatikion.

NK2HVE00
Irene Gabras, image borrowed from 1186-583.org.
radene-full
Anna Radene from the church of Sts. Anargyroi in Kastoria, Macedonia. Image found on Surprisedbytime.blogspot.com, but the church also has a smaller image here: http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/img_C252a.html

 

These three sources span the period from 1000-1180, so it’s safe to say that this garment was very much in style for probably a fair portion of the 10th Century, the duration of the entire 11th Century and into the 12th. All three are featured within Parani’s book.[6] Since my persona is a woman who could have served as a zoste patrikia such as the likes of Radene, it is safe to assume that wearing the mandyas in her style would not be presumptuous, and therefore the route I should take.

Now, I have already been asked, “What makes a mandyas different from a chlamys?”

This is a good question.

Both historians I have cited, primarily Parani as she has focused on the differences in both imperial and aristocratic dress, agree that the chlamys is absolutely imperial only. Descriptions lead me to believe that the broaching at the right shoulder, as well as the addition of the traditional ornamented panel, the tablion, are the single most important things one needs to pay attention to when making cloaks for  themselves.[7] It was extremely ornate, and not practical in any sense of the word for wearing outside of high court ceremonies.[8] So in theory, this thing was probably so heavily laden down with jewels and metals that not only was it out of the price range of anything but the imperial family, but also its sheer weight was probably enough to keep the wearers indoors. I also believe that since the Roman paludamentum, which is essentially the same garment as the Byzantine chlamys, was trapezoidal (think rectangle with the two bottom corners cut off) and not semi-circular, that the imperials would have preferred to maintain the ancient shape, versus the easier to cut and trim half-circle counterpart.[9]

Note: If you see an icon of an angel or saint wearing a chlamys, remember that these figures are often in imperial ceremonial dress, as that is to be expected of all divine beings.

Here are patterns I just cooked up to give a better understanding:

cloakpatterns

 

As for how these can be embellished, if Anna Radene is any indication, the aristocracy did not slouch when it came to blinging their accoutrements. In Dawson’s article, he discusses the will of an aristocratic lady by the name of Kale Pakouriane in which she discusses her clothing items, including heavily embellished mandyai with silk, pearls, and gold bands.[10] Parani brings up this same document for different reasons, so now it’s on my “MUST FIND” list, so that I too, can get a glimpse into the belongings of a high ranking lady of this period.

 

Anyways, I’m cooked. This just goes to show you how much you can find about one garment in just 2 monographs and an afternoon to kill looking for images and writing a blog post. I will be planning and making my own mandyas this week.

 

….all I wanted was a cloak. Seriously.

But at least I didn’t want a Pepsi.

free-mike
If you don’t get this, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoF_a0-7xVQ

 

 

Bibliography (image sources cited within text):

Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo. London: Oxford. 1830.

Dawson, Timothy. “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, edited by Lynda Garland. Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.

Goldman, Norma. “Reconstructing Roman Clothing.” in The World of Roman Costume. Edited by. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.

Parani, Maria. Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries. Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.

 

[1] Maria Parani, Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, (Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.) 17-18.

[2] Timothy Dawson, “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, ed. Lynda Garland, (Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.) 48.

[3] Dawson, “Woman’s Dress in Byzantium,” 73.

[4] Parani, 73. Here she’s citing the will of Kale Pakouriane, a lady of the middle Byzantine period who discusses clothing in her will. She also discusses it as being an alternative garment worn by the Emperor on pages 16 and 17.

[5] Parani, plate 80. Vat. Gr. 1613, f. 98 depicting St. Pelagia the Harlot

[6] Ibid, plates 80, 81, 84.

[7] Dawson, 49.

[8] Parani, 12.

[9] Norma Goldman, “Reconstructing Roman Clothing,” in The World of Roman Costume, ed. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.) 233.

[10] Dawson, 49.

Award of Arms scroll for Lady Petra de Cilicia

I’ve done some translation before for scribal work, but I never really get the chance to play wordsmith. So when the husband of a friend receiving her AoA at Birka this last weekend asked me and the other ladies of the house to help, I got excited. Her persona is Spartan, which makes things surprisingly difficult as written Spartan anything is scarce. There’s only 2 recorded Spartan poets, and they were entirely chronicled by later authors. In this case, I was able to find some Tyrtaeus quoted by the Roman author, Plutarch, in “The Life of Lycurgus” from The Parallel Lives, and some snippets of awesome from his section on Spartan sayings in Moralia.

This is what I was able to come up with, with notations in brackets:

Phoebus Apollo’s the mandate was which they brought from Pytho, [Pythian Apollo was a  Spartan patron god.]

Voicing the will of the god, nor were his words unfulfilled:

Sway in the council and honors divine belong to Edward and Thyra, [King and Queen of the East.]

Under whose care has been set Sparta’s city of charm;

Second to them is one, Petra de Cilicia.

Who swift in foot, aides our Hoplites of Eastern Shores,

Supporting the armies, and the love of her husband unwavering

and thus, the understanding that a helmet is for personal protection,

but the shield is common good for all. [The court laughed a lot here, I wish they didn’t. The quote is serious.]

And by this duty, our king, our queen, and council

Name on this day, Lady Petra, and award her arms for her to bear alone.

Duly confirming by vote this unperverted decree

Declared six days before the month of Eleusinios, [Eleusinios is approximately the Spartan month of February, named for the Eleusinian Mysteries, another cult that the Spartans revered.]

Before the great council at Market Day at Birka, [Spartans were huge into councils.]

Koino̱nía Étos Forty-Nine. [‘Koino̱nía Étos’ is Greek for the Latin ‘anno societatis’ or, ‘in the year of the society’.]

For anyone interested in Spartan society, I highly recommend the above sources by Plutarch, and also Herodotus’ Histories.

Linkage:

Plutarch: “Sayings of the Spartans” from Moralia:
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Moralia/Sayings_of_Spartans*/main.html

Plutarch: “Life of Lycurgus” from Parallel Lives:
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Lycurgus*.html

Herodotus’ Histories:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2707/2707-h/2707-h.htm

A review of FutureLearn’s course on “Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier”

Readers of my blog will probably recall a post I made not long ago, well, six weeks ago to be exact, on my beginning of a course on FutureLearn. I reblogged a post “Who built the wall?” when the course started, and now I feel urged to share a poem by Rudyard Kipling, “The Roman Centurion’s Song”. It’s that feeling you get when you finish a good book, that emptiness that comes with completion. I guess I didn’t expect to feel this way, but that’s a good thing! That means that FutureLearn and Newcastle University have done their jobs. For a free online course, it was OUTSTANDING.

A little bit about the breakdown of the course:

Each week had about 20 short sections to complete. They ranged from short videos, to articles, and quizzes. The quizzes don’t count against your grade, they were just a learning tool. Every 2 weeks there was an actual test, culminating with the final test at the end of the 6th week (That one had some curveballs in it.) My favorite part were the little forensic challenges that happened every other week or so. You would be given an archaeological find of bones, and then try to determine cause of death, gender, etc from the clues given in an article. It was a great insight into the grim world of forensic archaeology.

The Vindolanda tablets were totally awesome. I had heard about them before, but never actively went seeking them. I really suggest taking a look at them here. Learning a bit more about the religious syncretism that occurred at the wall and methods of worship was also incredibly fascinating.

In addition, the discussions that were had were also great. Each section has a discussion area that functions like a social media platform, in which one could post an answer or topic of discussion and receive answers, sometimes even by the staff at the University, who was actively engaging with the MOOC the entire time.

Here’s Newcastle University’s blog of their experience: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/numoocs/

I do believe you can still check out the course. Go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall/ and see for yourself. I may have also totally taken the bait, but Newcastle University may be on the list of schools I look into for my PhD. But that’s a ways off yet, let me finish my MA first!

Thank you to the staff at Newcastle University and FutureLearn for offering this experience. I’ve already enrolled in an upcoming course, also through FutureLearn, on the archaeology of Portus which is being given by the University of Southampton, another UK school. I look forward to checking that out in January. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Who Built the Wall?

I’ve signed up for a free online course on Hadrian’s Wall via FutureLearn, offered by Newcastle University in the UK. Not that I don’t already have enough to do with my own graduate studies at the University of New Hampshire, but I figured that I would reblog a site that came up on Twitter, and link to the course itself. It started Monday, but I believe there is still time to sign up. Please join me in learning about this really cool part of Roman History!

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall
#FLHadrian is the hashtag, find me under @ang_costello on Twitter for discussion. 🙂

Per Lineam Valli

The legions

A legion was around 5,000 heavily armed and armoured men who were, by the 2nd century AD, even more of an anachronism than the rams that still adorned the prow of every Roman warship in their fleets. Organised into ten cohorts, each of around 480 men, they were extremely effective in open battle, especially when complemented by their attached auxiliaries. Legionaries (never, please, ‘legionnaires’) were nevertheless unsuitable for garrisoning a province and all-too-easily wrong-footed by even the most basic of insurgencies (as all technologically dependent armies tend to be).

Britannia was to turn out to be a troubled (and troubling) place. It needed four legions until the end of the AD 80s and right up until the beginning of the 2nd century AD it still had three (II Augusta, IX Hispana, and XX Valeria Victrix). Then something happened, and at some point between…

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