Hey all! This week is going to be a gap week; I have quite a bit of teaching related work along with several projects all coming together at once and something had to give. With luck, next week we’ll start a series on the principles of fortifications. In the meantime, of course, I wouldn’t leave you without things to read, so here are (briefly!) some of the things of note recently:
Our helpful narrator has continued making audio versions of ACOUP posts, complete with accessibility features like image descriptions and so on. The newly audio articles are (links direct to the audio):
- How It Wasn’t: Game of Thrones and the Middle Ages (all three parts) (text)
- Elective Monarchy and the Future of Westeros (text)
- The Preposterous Logistics of the Loot Train Battle (text)
- The Preposterous Tactics of the Loot Train Battle (text)
- How Fast Do Armies Move? (text)
- That Dothraki Horde (all four parts) (text)
- That Dothraki Charge (text)
- Meet a Historian: Michael Taylor on Why We Need the Classics (text)
So check them out!
Over at Foreign Policy, Lauren Teixeira compares the history underneath the Mongolian and Chinese music scenes. Notionally the essay is looking at why Mongolian music has been more successfully exported, despite Mongolia’s small population, compared to the Chinese music scene, which of much more vast but less successful outside of China. What I think is more interesting here – I am certainly not qualified to compare either music tradition for quality or reach (though I do quite enjoy The Hu), the discussion of the impact of events in the political realm on the arts is interesting.
Over at War on the Rocks, I thought “Schrodinger’s [sic] Military? Challenges for China’s Military Modernization Ambitions“1 put some specifics to a general point I’ve found myself mulling over a fair bit: the degree to which the actual strength and capabilities of many of the world’s militaries right now are effectively unknowns. Armed conflict always functions as a ‘clarifying spasm of violence’ in that there are invariably surprises in terms of how militaries and their equipment function under pressure (the inherent unpredictability of war, which is to say, friction, is one of the things that leads Clausewitz – DRINK! – to remove its conduct from the realm of calculations of reason into the realm of ‘genius’) but this is perhaps more true now than at any time in the recent past. One hopes that awareness of that unpredictability will inspire greater caution among leaders but I think experience tells us that such zones of uncertainty, leaders often ‘hope for the best’ and gamble, frequently with catastrophic results.
Meanwhile, over at Peopling the Past, they’re spending October talking to classicists who work on the theme of monsters. They also have a video talk with Dr. Chandra Giroux about the nature of the Athenian democracy and Plutarch’s take on it which is really worth listening to both if you want a primer on how the Athenian democracy worked and also if you want a primer on who Plutarch is and why he is such an influential source. If you are interested in what exciting new work is being done in the study of the ancient world, you really need to put Peopling the Past on your regular reading.
And that’s that. Next week (time permitting) we’ll start looking at some of the basics of how fortifications functioned in the past, beginning with a look at the ancient siege ‘toolkit’ from the attacker’s perspective.