Yearly Archives: 2011

Were the ancient weapons influenced by the acceptable battle practices or was it all the way around?

26 December 2011 Comments (0)

The evolution of weaponry is a fascinating progress to follow. Our computer games are straining to invent all kinds of new weapons, to dispense with boredom and make the games more attractive to us. But the reality overpasses the imagination.

How the most popular ancient weapons had developed?

Were they dictating the way the battles were fought? Or were they just adjusting?

Take a sword for example.

We are all aware of the benefits of the Roman short Gladius. Not as heavy as Celtic long bladed sword, it allowed the legionaries to hold on in long battles without getting tired. They were not even required to raise it high, but would simply trust their Gladius toward the loins or the lower belly of the opponent. Well, maybe they did get tired a little as the battle progressed and the time ran by and the sun would near the horizon. A good Roman general, while planning a battle, would take into an account the angles of a rising or a setting sun, so it won’t blind his legionaries.

Gladuis was an efficient weapon, mostly fitting the organized battle formation

But would a Samurai like to be a part of the Roman square? The values in ancient Japan were different and so was the evolvement of their sword. Wonderful affair of razor-sharp, long steel, the samurai’s long sword, Katana, fitted perfectly their favored hand-to-hand combat. Even when fighting as organized forces, each samurai would always seek out a duel with a worthy opponent.

The knights of the Middle Age Europe were also fond of duels, so the blades of the  famous knights’ swords were long and wide, sometimes double-edged, designed for a honorable hand-to-hand.

While Yataghan, a Turkish sabre, was curved and single-edged, made of harder steel at its cutting edge, with a very particular two-winged handle

But how about a sword that was not made of steel?

Not every continent had an access to all kinds of metals. In Central America they did wonders with cooper, silver and gold, but none of those metals were hard enough and could rival the cutting qualities of the good old obsidian. So thus the average Aztec sword, Mahuahuitl, would be a long affair, more of a wooden club, adorned with plenty of obsidian spikes around the cutting edge.

The warriors of the region were very fond of a hand-to-hand, or in other words, they would never agree to fight in an organized formation. Besting your enemy and, if you are lucky, taking him a captive, was a matter of extreme importance and could not be interfered by one’s peers.

In North America the obsidian was less obtainable and cooper they were working with was even softer than gold. So the flint would have to do. Around the Great Lakes a club with a sharp flint edge was undeniably popular. Those warriors were also adhered individualist.

In a future post I’ll refer to other warriors’ equipment.

In a meanwhile, would you like to see the dramatic differences between a male and a female warrior outfit?

If you can trace your ancestry to the Sun God himself, you should choose your mate carefully

20 November 2011 Comments (11)

The ancient largest North American city deserved to be ruled by no less than a deity, or a descendant of it, so the purity of the bloodline was of paramount importance. The Cahokian Royal House went to great pains in order to preserve it.

And it was not an easy task. Who could prove beyond any doubt that the son of the mighty Ruler was, indeed, the progeny of his divine father? After all, no DNA tests were invented just yet.

Well, those Cahokians did not go quite as far as the Ptolemies of Egypt by marrying the royal heirs to their full-blooded or half-blooded sisters. Nevertheless, they’d found a way to ensure the required purity. The full-blooded princesses were useful in more than one way, as it turned out.

The precious blood could be diluted, but to a certain extent. So the royal heir would be married off to whichever mortal noblewoman took his fancy, permitted to make children and live happily forever after. But his children would not ascend the throne, however frustrated they may have been feeling about it. No mortal woman, as chaste as she might appear, could be trusted with delivering a pure blooded next ruler. Women were too difficult to guard throughout their fertile years. There was no way to ensure the paternity of her child.

So was the Cahokian ruling class frustrated? Not at all! The solution was simple, as long as the royal family did not run out of princesses. Only a son the full-blooded Cahokian princess would be allowed to ascend the throne.

And so the ruler would rule contentedly while his sons knew that no amount of intrigue would place them upon the throne atop the glorious, ten-storey-tall Cahokian Mound. And all this time the lucky son of the Ruler’s Sister would rub his hands, getting ready to take the burden of governing upon his dear Uncle’s, sometimes hastened, death.

An excerpt from “The Cahokian”, Pre-Aztec Series, book #4.

The Cahokian leader squatted comfortably upon his mat, unimpressed by the food, but sipping from the exquisite pottery goblet with enjoyment; the locally made nectar of the gods was of an excellent quality.  Absently he watched the city, stretching beneath the low mound.

“The nephew of the Great Son of The Gods does not rule Cahokia anymore. He has joined his godly ancestors before the end of the last moon.”

The local ruler spread his palms, startled. “May his time among the gods last for many lifetimes!” He shifted uncomfortably. “Who is ruling Cahokia now?”

“As our ancient tradition determines, the nephew of the previous ruler has become our current Son of The Gods.” The visitor’s fingers tightened around an exquisite pottery cup and it seemed that the fragile item would crack and break into thousands of little pieces.

“But isn’t he just a young boy?”

“He has good advisers.” The warlord’s face was no more than a stone mask, but again something shadowy lurked in the depths of the dark eyes. “Of course, his mother, the sister of the previous Son of The Gods, is an exceptionally wise woman. Her guidance will prove priceless, for the empire and its new ruler alike.” His hollow gaze strayed back toward the buzzing plaza, while the disturbing silence prevailed.

The ruler studied his haughty guest thoughtfully. “What is the purpose of your delegation?” he inquired after a while, deciding it was time to bring this Cahokian back from his dark daydreams. 

The Rise of the Aztecs Part I, were they always that powerful?

1 November 2011 Comments (2)

Once upon a time, if you would ask the powerful Tepanecs who had dominated the fertile Mexican valley around Lake Texcoco up to the mid 14th century, the Aztecs were no more than pushy newcomers, coming out of the southwest, poor and semi-nomadic, bringing along nothing but trouble.

The lands of the Mexican Valley were amazingly rich, dotted by large city-states, with Azcapotzalco, the Tepanec Capital, the most powerful of them all. Of course, there was the aristocratic Toltec Culhuacan, sprawling upon the southern side of the lake, as influential and as strong, even if Azcapotzalco’s Tepanecs refused to admit it.

The densely populated region was well under control. Still, the unabashed newcomers streamed in, managing to find themselves a relatively favorable piece of land on the western shore of the lake, fertile and abounded with streams. There they began to flourish, while the suspicious mood of their powerful neighbors grew proportionally. Those Aztecs would not be contented with a small role of another city state, could see the elders of Azcapotzalco. And nothing more would be tolerated.

The tension grew and, toward the end of the 13th century, Azcapotzalco rulers had expelled their troublesome new neighbors. But for the rulers of Culhuacan, it could have been the end of it. For reasons unknown, Culhuacan had decided to allocate the expelled Aztecs a little land at the empty barrens of Tizaapan. Maybe they wanted to keep an eye on those fierce groups of foreigners, to make sure they would not grow too strong. Azcapotzalco’s people were doubtful, united in their suspicions. The further those troublesome newcomers would be drove off, the better. Yet they did nothing, as the rivalry between the two powerful cities went back generations. If one decided to expel a nation, the other would support it, even if halfheartedly. So they watched carefully as the Aztecs seemed to be assimilating into the Culhuacan’s way of life.

Then the unspeakable happened! A few decades later a scandal washed the Texcoco Lake’s shores. The new ruler of Culhuacan had given his daughter to the Aztec’s ruler to marry. Or so he thought. The Aztecs promised to make her a goddess – a fate great enough even for the haughty Culhuacan princess. Well, the cultural differences showed when the princess was sacrificed in order to assist her reaching the promised status by joining the other deities. It was said that the priest, wearing her flayed skin as a part of the ritual, appeared at the very festival feast her father had honored by his presence.

The Culhuacan ruler and his nobles were not amused. The roaring declaration of war could be heard in the distant southwestern realm of the dwindling Anasazi, it was said.

Azcapotzalco’s Tepanecs shook their heads. Had the Culhuacan Toltecs really thought they could tame the wild beast? But now they had their own dilemmas to contemplate. Should they side with Culhuacan, or would they better stay neutral? Or maybe, just to spite their old rivals, they could actually assist the despised troublemakers, as those faced a certain defeat and banishment?

The warriors’ leaders argued in favor of destroying the Aztecs once and for all, even if it would result in helping Culhuacan. The rulers, on the other hand, found it difficult to miss the opportunity to sneer at the old insult, when just a few decades ago, Culhuacan had sided with Aztecs against Azcapotzalco’s better judgment. Why not let them eat the meal they’ve been serving their old neighbors and peers?

What will the Tepanec Empire do?

An excerpt from “At Road’s End

She shook her head with amusement. “Why are those Cul-hu-a-can people so arrogant, if they are living in your city? Are they warriors also?”

“Like us, some of them are warriors. The rest do their trade or work the land, do crafts or worship the gods. They have their own city. Culhuacan is situated on the northern side of our lake. They are arrogant bastards with no common sense. They always have to make all the mistakes. There were those pushy newcomers, from your regions by the way, but definitely not your people. Very fierce warriors. Azcapotzalco expelled them in the summer I was born. But Culhuacan? Oh no, they had to find them a piece of land, to spite us of course. And now, twenty summers later, those newcomers Mexica-Aztecs with no finesse, sacrificed a Culhuacan princess. So it means war, and it only took them twenty summers to understand what we saw in the very beginning. Stupid, isn’t it?”

“They had sacrificed a princess? You mean they killed her?”

“Oh yes. The priest showed up wearing her flayed skin in the middle of the celebratory feast. The Culhuacan ruler, her father, and the rest of their nobility did not take it well.”

Sakuna gasped. “Wearing what?”

He turned to watch her, amused. “Insane, isn’t it? They promised to make her a goddess, but Culhuacan nobles didn’t think they meant literally to introduce her to the realm of the gods.”

“And to such a place you were offering to take me?”

“No, of course not. Those were the wild Aztec barbarians. Azcapotzalco priests are not flaying their sacrificial offerings, and they would never touch a princess or any irrelevant person. Our gods receive nothing but the captured enemy warriors who answers all the criteria. We are completely civilized.”

She seemed as if shrinking as he talked. “You kill captured warriors? Why? And what if you get captured?”

He banished the unwelcome memories. “A good warrior doesn’t get captured. But should it happen, to be sacrificed would be the only way to redeem one’s honor. By dying honorably, offered to a mighty god, the warrior restores his good name. The more difficult the death, the more the honor. People worship such man and name their children after him.”

“Can’t you just try to escape?” she asked in a small voice.

He straightened up, startled, wincing at the sharp pain in his leg. “You are not asking this seriously, aren’t you?” She seemed as if shrinking against the warm stones. “To escape, to run away, would be beyond any contempt. No warrior would do this, however cowardly he might be inside. Such a man would never be accepted, never! Such a man would place himself beyond the law of human beings, he would be hunted and killed, and his name would be spat upon.”

He exhaled loudly. What a horrible thought! How could she even think about something like that, let alone say it aloud? She was a peasant all right. A beautiful, reliable and very courageous, but a farming girl nevertheless. It has something to do with the upbringing, he thought. You have to be brought up in the right class to understand a proper behavior.

If you can trace your ancestry to the Sun God himself, you should choose your mate carefully

2 October 2011 Comments (3)

The ancient largest North American city deserved to be ruled by no less than a deity, or a descendant of it, so the purity of the bloodline was of paramount importance. The Cahokian Royal House went to great pains in order to preserve it.

And it was not an easy task. Who could prove beyond any doubt that the son of the mighty Ruler was, indeed, the progeny of his divine father? After all, no DNA tests were invented just yet.

Well, those Cahokians did not go quite as far as the Ptolemies of Egypt by marrying the royal heirs to their full-blooded or half-blooded sisters. Nevertheless, they’d found a way to ensure the required purity. The full-blooded princesses were useful in more than one way, as it turned out.

The precious blood could be diluted, but to a certain extent. The royal heir would be married off to whichever mortal noblewoman took his fancy, permitted to make children and live happily forever after. But his children would not ascend the throne, however frustrated they may have been feeling about it. No mortal woman, as chaste as she would appear, could be trusted with delivering a pure blooded next ruler. Women were too difficult to guard throughout their fertile years. There was no way to ensure the paternity of her child.

So was the Cahokian ruling class frustrated? Not at all! The solution was simple, as long as the royal family did not run out of princesses. Only a son the full-blooded Cahokian princess would be allowed to ascend the throne.

And so the ruler would rule contentedly while his sons knew that no amount of intrigue would place them upon the throne atop the glorious, ten-storey-tall Cahokian Mound. And all this time the lucky son of the Ruler’s Sister would rub his hands, getting ready to take the burden of governing upon his dear Uncle’s, sometimes hastened, death.

An excerpt from “The Cahokian”:

The Cahokian leader squatted comfortably upon his mat, unimpressed by the food, but sipping from the exquisite pottery goblet with enjoyment; the locally made nectar of the gods was of an excellent quality.  Absently he watched the city, stretching beneath the low mound.

 “The nephew of the Great Son of The Gods does not rule Cahokia anymore. He has joined his godly ancestors before the end of the last moon.”

The local ruler spread his palms, startled. “May his time among the gods last for many lifetimes!” He shifted uncomfortably. “Who is ruling Cahokia now?”

“As our ancient tradition determines, the nephew of the previous ruler has become our current Son of The Gods.” The visitor’s fingers tightened around an exquisite pottery cup and it seemed that the fragile item would crack and break into thousands of little pieces.

“But isn’t he just a young boy?”

“He has good advisers.” The warlord’s face was no more than a stone mask, but again something shadowy lurked in the depths of the dark eyes. “Of course, his mother, the sister of the previous Son of The Gods, is an exceptionally wise woman. Her guidance will prove priceless, for the empire and its new ruler alike.” His hollow gaze strayed back toward the buzzing plaza, while the disturbing silence prevailed.

The ruler studied his haughty guest thoughtfully. “What is the purpose of your delegation?” he inquired after a while, deciding it was time to bring this Cahokian back from his dark daydreams. 

Cahokia – the cherry upon the icing of the Mississippian cake.

31 August 2011 Comments (0)

It was settled around the 7th century, gradually evolving into a great urban center, populated more densely than London of the same time. For decades thousands of workers had shifted more than 55 million cubic feet of earth, building a great network of mounds and ceremonial plazas.

Over 120 mounds spread through the busy, bubbling, noisy city, with its crowded neighborhoods, smelly marketplaces and the multitude of different-size pyramids, some ridge-top for the burial purposes, some flat, platform-top for the ceremonial ones. The deceased rulers would be buried there, placed in a bed of the thousands marine shells, arranged sacredly in a form of this or that deity, with a treasure of many valuables – arrowheads, copper jewelry and, sometimes, a pile of sacrificial victims.

Wooden stockade, fortified with watchtowers, enclosed the important, ceremonial center of the city, separating the nobility from the lower classes. The neighborhood of the elite has to be kept quiet, cherished and protected. The royal Great Mound, ten storey tall, spacious and terraced, hosted main temples and the large dwelling of the ruler, who was tracing his dynasty to the Sun God himself. In order to protect the purity of the bloodline, the throne would always pass from the Ruler to his nephew, the son of his blood sister. No mortal noblewoman, married to the descendant of the Sun God, chaste as she might appear, could be trusted with delivering a pure blood next ruler.

Artificially made, adjacent Grand Plaza of almost 40 acres served for ceremonies and games, along with the smaller plazas, encircling the Great Mound. And, of course, astronomical observations were have to be conducted, in order to appease the gods properly. To the west of the Great Mound, Woodhenge – a circle of poles – served to track the movements of the major stars, marking mainly the solstices and the equinoxes.

Cahokia declined toward the 14th century. It may have begun with the climate changes that have, probably, affected the whole region, up to the west coast (approximately around this time, Anasazi had also abandoned their Great Houses in Arizona and Colorado canyons). It may be that the Cahokians themselves helped to affect the climate, deforesting the area unmercifully. Or maybe in such a large, densely populated urban center (up to 40,000 residents at its height) the diseases began to spread, thinning the population out.
Whatever the reason, Cahokia was no more, long before the first contact with the Europeans was made.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2