Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On Thalassocracy, II: Diana in the Reeds

Art by Jeffach: Deviantart Page; Pinterest; Tumblr

Great is Diana of the Ephesians!

Ephesus is an abandoned city three kilometers from the town of Selcuk in Turkey's Izmir Province, on the shores of the Aegean Sea. Once capital of the realm of Arzawa under the name of Apasa (at least in the Hittite rendering),

Ephesus was reconceived in Classical times as a colonial settlement of Athens, founded by Androklos, son of King Codrus, or by Ephos, Queen of the Amazons. I take this to be a fictive refounding, aimed at wedging Athens into the Ionian Games, and, later, justifying the Delian League, but the Wikipedia version wedges a refounding of the city into the Dark Ages of the 10th Century. (Compare the recent treatments of Miletos by Greaves and Gorman.)

In either case, Ephesus took the Mother of the Gods as its special patron, and then associated the Phrygian Kybele with the Greek goddess Artemis, or the Latin Diana, the name mob invoked when it rioted against the preaching of the Apostles. 

It has been suggested that the mob might have had some less-than-exalted motives, as the Artemis Temple of Ephesus was a major tourist attraction. Rebuilt at the expense of Croesus, the Man of Lydia, by the Cretan architect Chersiphron of Knosssus, it was counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. As completed in around 550BC, it was 115 meters long and 46 meters wide, with peripteral columns some 13 meters high above a 2.4 meter terrace built to raise the site above regular flooding, and which incidentally preserves archaeological remains of sacred sites rating back as early as the Bronze Age, and what is said to have been the first Greek temple surrounded by colonnades, the earlier foundation of c. 700BC.

Understandably, given its erection in the middle of a marsh, little remains of it today. 

A six-year search, eventually funded by the British Museum, found the pavement of the Artemision under twenty feet of silt, on the last day of 1869, and a single twelve ton marble drum excavated. Perhaps not surprisingly for such a "dark and dismal place," it was found to be decorated with an obscure but clearly chthonic scene from myth, with Hermes Psychopomp appearing to an unidentified woman in the company of a Thanatos, an angel of death.  

The decision to build such a grand structure in the middle of a marsh is a ....striking one. It is very definitely intended to make a statement of some kind, and, as you may have guessed by now, this post plunges back into the water margin and the tall reeds. It's a mystery, it needs resolving, and that solution is going to bear, pretty directly, on "thalassocracy."

Source: Joybilee Farms
Air Arthur John Evans (1851--1941) might well have the worst faith middle class identity opener on Wikipedia. We are told that he was the son of John Evans and Harriet Ann Dickinson, his employer's daughter, and that while John Evans came from a family of educated men, they wre "nevertheless undistinguished by either wealth or aristocratic connection." 

Arthur, of course, was also born to the daughter of the colossally wealthy founder of Messrs. John Dickinson, the pioneering paper mill company (see, reeds! Er, plant fibre, anyway). That is why his father latterly enjoyed an idle life of amateur archaeology, numismatics and geology, and why Arthur was able to take his father's pursuits to the next level, purchasing the site of Knossos to give himself the freedom to excavate and restore as he liked. It will probably surprise no-one to learn that while John Dickinson's Wikipedia entry identifies him as the inventor of a mechanised continuous papermaking process, it turns out that there were various French and even English precursors (including the actual builder of Dickinson's Nash Mills plant), and that Dickinson received invaluable support and backing from George Longman, while his father was Director of Transport at Woolwich, which was also a major early customer, for cartridge paper and then forgery-proof stamp paper. 

But enough (for today!) about how "invention" and "patent" can be cover for naked influence peddling and nepotism. Intellectual property is a good thing. The point here is that Arthur Evans, excavator of Knossos, was born hugely wealthy, which we already knew, was a Harrovian, which we might expect, and an Oxford man. 

Well, barely. He enrolled in Modern History, a new major, and in what I imagine to be a reverse on the usual Young-Man-Pursuing-The-Coming-Thing narratives, chose to study classical history and archaeology, instead. Fortunately, he knew the Secret Liberal Handshake, and persuaded examiner Edward Freeman to pass him. 

Edward Augustus Freeman, historian of the Normans, and hipster. He was only a Unionist ironicallly.
Arthur being expected to do something with his life, he eventually settled for being Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, which needed a reson to exist, and settled for being an archaeology museum, a project that required something to exhibit. I am reminded of this documentary. 

Meanwhile, there was this island of Crete. Taken from the Venetians by the Turks in 1669 (actually not until 1715, details, details). At some point before the troubles started, it was populated by the usual Aegean-Adriatic mix of "Latins," "Greeks" and, per my Eleventh Edition Britannica, "Mussulmans," but after insurrections against Ottoman rule in 1821, 1833, 1841, 1858, 1866-68,  and 1878, with risings in 1889 and 1896 yet to come, it contained 205,00 Orthodox Christians and 71,000 Muslims. 

The obvious resolution of the insurrections, union with Greece, was strongly resisted by two of the island's main communities, and by the Great Powers, which tended to the opinion  that the Balkans should stop being so exciting. The final revolt thus ended with a colourful constitution in which the crown prince of Greece was the secular ruler under the sovereignity of the Turkish sultan, with a communal constitution granting each ethnic minority power in its region. Of course, the moment the Great Powers weren't looking, the Greeks landed troops, launched an ethnic cleansing, and took over the island. 

But all of that lay far in the future when American photo journalist William James Stillman was shown the remains at Knossos while covering the 1874 insurrection. At the time, Gortyn, to the south in the Messara Valley, seat of the titular Roman Catholic Bishop of Knossos, claimed to be the site of the ancient city, and an underground quarry outside the city was exhibited as the site of the Labyrinth. Minos Kalokairinos, owner of Kephala Hill, where numerous Roman coins issued by the city of Knossos were found. Kalokairinos was eventually stopped from excavating by the Cretan government for reasons that would probably be a fascinating research subject, but not before finding some items inscribed with an unknown, heiroglyphic script, associated with the cult image of the double axe, then best known for the sanctuary of Zeus Labrys (Zeus Labraundos), near Halicarnassus,. That sanctuary, built to house a golden double axe given by Gyges, King of Lydia, to the Carians, was another lowland sanctuary built up on terraces, on the coast of the Aegean,. Just to complete the uncanny parallels with the Artemision, it was refurbished and largely reubuilt by Mausolus, the Man of Caria, who was later entombed in the Mausoleum, another of the Seven Wonders. 

Evans arrived in Crete in September of 1898, just as the last Turkish troops witndrew, to be replaced by British troops in an effort to prevent ethnic cleansing and Greek annexation. Evans prom,ptly set himself up as a press critic ofo this "Turco-British regime," making sure that the people of Britain were kept up to date on the latest sectarian massacres and that they were fully informed of the corruption of the new regime. 

By the oddest of coincidences, the government in London was then opposed to Evans' Liberals. 

I am a little torn about how far to go into British politics here, but it strikes me that if we're going to crucify Arthur Evans on charges of letting his personal views get in the way of his archaeology, we have to start and end with his core commitment to Liberal political journalism and activism. So let us see how brief, and, at the same time, useful, I can be about this.

William Ewart Gladstone was one of the fixtures of British politics of the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. You'll generally hear about it in terms of a rivalry with Benjamin Disraeli. (Who was a converted Jew, not that there's anything wrong with that. Just thought I'd mention it. We always do at this point. For no reason. What reason would there be? No,  I'm not making a big deal of it. You are.) 
Retrenchment, Reform and the third one! I always forget the third one. Please don't look at me like that.
Gladstone lasted a long time in politics. Arguably, too long. He resigned in 1874 after losing an election at the age of 67, which is the kind of thing that normally ends long and successful political careers, but Gladstone evidently couldn't get enough, because he returned to the fray in 1876 on the basis of a campaign against Turkish atrocities in the Balkans, in which Arthur Evans served as a willing foot soldier, bringing back press stories about the atrocities of the Bashi-bazouks. You see, in those days, Liberals were quite different from Liberals today. They were in favour of free trade, against unions, and couldn't see a "humanitarian crisis" unfold in distant places without imaging ways in which to use military power without getting troops involved on the ground..

The upshot is that Gladstone and his crack team of political operatives ran a model election in 1879--80 and returned to power. This government was unfortunate, and climaxed in a dramatic failure of humanitarian intervention in the Middle East which was to discredit the idea of using miltiary advisors and modern reforms to bring peace to these troubled regions forever.
I'd make a crack about not losing your head over it, but it's probably too soon

Not taking the hint, Gladstone formed a voting alliance with the Irish Nationalists and returned to power on a platform of Irish Home Rule. In way of a subtle hint that his day might have passed,  Joseph Chamberlain (yes, he is) led the Whig MPs of the Liberal party onto the opposition benches, with Lord Hintington doing the same in the Lords. (Notice that by using his courtesy title, we can avoid knowing that this hugely important political leader of the late 1880s was a Cavendish. Bourgeois democracy, everybody.) Home Rule failed to pass the Commons, and the Liberals would be in opposition for twenty years, until led back to power on the old principles of retrenchment, reform and the third one, after the Boer War, and the Kaiser's Telegram, and the collision of HMS Victoria and Camperdown and all that he-man stuff. (The up and coming President of the Board of Trade and his cronies were also in favour of unions and social spending, and some have argued that this was more important to the electorate than boy's toys, but I think we can all agree that more entitlement spending is not what the country needs right now.)

Having obliquely referred to Gladstone's decision to contest a district in Scotland, to the importance of Ireland, to a certain "Welsh magician,"  and late-life Liberal Unionist Edward Freeman, I want to draw out one more strand here: established religion. The Liberal party would increasingly, as the years went on, become a party of the "Celtic fringe," relying disproportionately on Ireland, Scotland and Wales for its electoral support. There are a number of ways you can parse this, including a racial analysis, which, while trite enough that it is hard to believe anyone ever took it seriously, seems to have been given somer weight; and religion. 

To take the tritest first, the racial argument that I am familiar with from having it endlessly explained to me by C. G. Grey of The Aeroplane  essentially makes the Celts romantic, ungovernable and unrealistic, the "Anglo-Saxons" freedom loving and practical, and the "Anglo-Normans" the natural aristocracy. However, the taxonomy can be simplified into a distinction between Celtic Britons and Germanic English(/Scotch). Now let's hold up on that one for a second.

The second angle of "fringe" versus "core"  turns on the conflict between Established Religion and Noncomformity. I have an argument ready to go about why the Churches of England and Irelandare socially and economically important in a way which is very hard for 21stcenturians to grasp, but let's not and say I did, taking the argument as given, okay? Scotland is against the established churches for one reason, Wales for a second, and Ireland for a third, but within the heartland of the Church of England, there is potential for a split that can deliver votes to the Liberal Party, that between the "High Church" and the "Broad[/Low] Church." 

I had us holding our horses at the distinction between Celtic Britons and Germanic English for a reason, which is that this argument can come back to us here. One can, if one wishes, see the Prussian kingdom's "coordination" of the state's two Protestant churches as a model for a Broad Church future for the Church of England. In other words, you can draw a tangled skein of threads into a tight ball of yarn in which Prussophilia, the Anglo-Saxon revival, Liberalism, religion and the emerging "science" of race is tied together. 
Needs more irony, stat!

So I've moved, at a very fast gallop, to the moment when it became possible for the Liberals to regain office, in a stunning winter, 1906 electoral upset for the ruling Conservative-led coalition of Arthur Balfour. (Notice that by using the family name, we can avoid noticing that Balfour is the nephew of Lord Salisbury, and that by using that courtesy title, we can avoid noticing that a Cecil was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1900.) 

What factors led to the victory of 1906? There were many. Joseph Chamberlain had embraced protectionism, which was interpreted as a threat to the poor due to an expected rise in the price of food. However, as I suggested above, matters military were also at issue, and I want to pay close attention to them, because the too-easily lost thread of this posting is not "Edwardian politics," but rather "thalassocracy."

First of all, the Boer War had sparked concerns about the army, which was, it was supposed, ill-led, reactionary, and technically backward. Most of the arguments that the reader will conjure up with reference to World War I were, actually, in full play by the end of the disastrous first year of the Boer War. 

You might think that the navy would have been able to steer clear of troubles due to a land war, but not so. The war had also increased tensions with Germany and led to a perceived naval race with Germany. Confronted with rapidly rising naval estimates --and, I would argue, more worringly since less amenable to a financial solution--, of a "Vote A" pushing at the limits of British manpower. Balfour took a pretty daring and statesmanlike approach to this, I would argue, appointing a First Lord and First Sea Lord of daringly vision. Enormous controversy was sparked by reforms at the Admiralty, which included a massive scrapping of obsolescent warships, a dramatic scaling-back of overseas stations in favour of concentrating the fleet at home, and the building of a fleet of "Dreadnoughts" and "battlecruisers" that represented an all-out attempt to "fail forward" into a technological future in which Britain's strategic problems were solved by, as it would become common place to say in 1944, "research and development."

I do not, however, want to focus on that, because I have done so elsewhere and for other reasons. Rather, I want to emphasise a particular mode of response to this, which was that the appropriate response to a perceived German threat at home was not to risk losing the Empire by retreating from foreign commitments, but rather to build up a larger army for home defence and continental intervention. Field Marshal Lord Roberts, a national hero, began promoting a militarisation of British society through the "volunteer movement" while still the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and began speaking in favour of continental-style national conscription once retired. In my previous post on this I referenced, perhaps too obscurely-by-half, the Primrose League, a pro-conscription national lobbying association which was to become an important element of Tory democracy. Once conscription became conservative, sea power was at least potentially open to Liberal appropriation. Admirals not being noticeably more left-wing than generals, this might be seen as a difficult case to make, except that by publicly contemplating protectionism, the Liberal Unionist/Conservative coalition seemed to be repudiating free trade. You do not have to make "sea power" synonymous with "free trade," but you clearly can.  
Have I been brief enough? Snarky enough? It's hard to tell with these things. The takeaway is intended to bring us back to the conjuncture of 1896, to Lord Salisbury sending troops to keep Crete --something, to a Liberal Party nine years yet away from power in England, and to a long-drawn out excavation process, upon which Arthur Evans would begin to report in some detail in 1905. What we have here is nothing less than an extended and painful discussion of how "Minoan thalassocracy" comes back to, and is entangled with, Edwardian political concerns. 

One of Evans' key points that Knossos lacks walls. A revisionist can go a long way picking Evans apart --or, rather, the bowdlerised version of Evans that we actually owe to usual suspects ranging from Robert Graves to Will Durant to Poul freakin' Anderson-- but it is pretty hard to do so when comparing the cyclopean walls of the eminence of Mykenae and the modest tell by the river that was Knossos. They are, obviously, very kinds of  sites. It is just that our view of this difference should not begin with the storm-beaten,. weathered ships of the Minoan Navy, keeping the island free of foreign aggression. Whatever we make of the prevalence of Minoan ('Minoanising') remains spread over the southern and central Aegean --but not to the north, and certainly not further afield-- it is not going to be a story about "seapower." 

So here are two things which the mystery of Diana of the Reeds suggests that it might be:
Seriously, Amenemhet. Were you even trying?

i) Hawara. Hawara, here, refers to the mortuary temple complex associated with the pyramid of Amenemhet III, just south of Crocodilopolis. The extended descriptions of this complex by Strabo and Herodotus make it clear that the complext was very impressive (more impressive than the Great Pyramid to some), still a major tourist attraction fifteen centuries after it was built, and pretty clearly and baldly associated with the centralising politics of the Twelfth Dynasty. It was specifically laid out, the tour guides/priests told their visitors, to accommodate delegations from each of ancient Egypt's provinces, who were brought together to conduct a combined religious ceremony/festival, instead of being permitted to celebrate it in their individual regions. 

That's certainly interesting to historians of the early state, but it doesn't have any marshland in it. Let's go get some!

As you can see, Hawara is at the mouth of the Fayyum Depression. Is it still an oxbow lake if the source river does not really curve? The depression used to be a large, marshy lake in a depression that was filled by spillover water from the Nile. Then, beginning, per Wikipedia, in 2300BC and in the reign of either Amenemhet III (1860--1814BC) or his father, Senusret III (1878BC-1839BC), so, give or take five centuries, pretty much the same timeframe, the imaginatively named Great Canal lwas dug, a massive waterwork 16 kilometers long and 1.6 kilometers wide, blocked b a dam and inclined to the Fayyum from the Nile at 0.01 degrees (gradians?) slope. This canal was used to fill the vestigal lake to the north of the Fayyum Depression into Lake Moeris. The canal irrigates the Fayyum, and the dam allows the lake to be used as a sacrificial zone during Nile floods, greatly reducing their impact. 

This is the second, and more relevant point about Hawara. It signifies the fact that the Twelfth Dynasty, which pretty much makes up the core of Egypt's Middle Kingdom, is all about flooding, reclamation, and marshes. The pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty buit their pyramids of mud-brick, and located them in the midst of the Fayyum or at its entrance for a reason. The dynasty was all about the Fayyum.  

The years would come and go. The office, and power of Pharoah, the Hawk, the Overseer of the Two Lands, the Son of the Sun, originated in Abydos, near Thebes, far to the south of the Fayyum, where the Nile is constrained in a narrow valley, and takes a wide swing to east and to west to intercept the Forty Day Road, probably the reason that Abydos is the site from which Upper Egypt was unified in the first place. When power went north, it more normally went to Memphis, at the site of modern Cairo, the place where the Nile breaks free of its straits and enters the wide and watery chaos of the Delta. Having done its work, and won vast lands and wealth, and that much more flood security for Egypt, the dynaty of Fayyum had had its day. 

Which is not to say that it was forgotten. When Herodotus visited Egypt, a visit to the temple of Senusret III's son's great mortuary complex was only one aspect of the Twelfth Dynasty  that his informants were eager to share with him. The sacred charisma of Hawara was one thing. Presenting the Egyptian past as equal in glory to the Persian present was another. So, of course, the priests told Herodotus of the great campaigns of Thutmose III and Ramesses II, right? 

No, they did not. They told Herodotus about Sesostris, who, in ancient days, had led an army north across Asia Minor, passed over into Europe, defeated the Scythians and Thracians, and, returning home, left colonists of their nation at the river Phasis in Colchis.  If we are correct to think that Herodotus is building a case that the Persians' hubris in transcending the natural limits of the continents in invading Europe, this either implies that Sesostris is an impious king, due for a tragic fall, or that he has somehow made things right with the gods. I'm going to go with the latter, although I'll admit that I can only wave at the classicists. I have no idea how they'd make that argument out of the Histories. 

The point I will let stand here is that, out of the twenty-five centuries of history to which the Egyptian priest-historians have access to, it is to the Twelfth Dynasty that they turn to reconstruct an alternative past that will salve Egypt's wounded pride at being repeatedlly conquered by the Persians. 

So what makes the Twelfth Dynasty a big deal! The Fayyum! Of course, by this time, the work in that depression is old, old news. The Iron Age has seen Egyptian civilisation taking on a much more ambitious project, the gradual reclamation of the Delta. The "Libyan" dynasties don't get a lot of credit for this long and drawn-out battle at the water margin, but I at this point I am going to point to the temples-in-the-marsh. 

The significance of Diana-in-the-Reeds is the growing power of human society to conquer marshland and put it to productive agricultural work. Knossos is not one of these sanctuaries, by location or in terms of time, but it does speak to the point that there are multiple ideologies and purposes to the founding of sacred sites. If later analogies are sought for Knossos, my suspicion is that the best one is with the Treasury of the Delian League, or the Panionium

That's a pretty weak point to end with, but I'm not done! I have suggested that "seapower" is not the concept we're looking for. The basic reason for this is that galleys aren't battleships. I do not know of a better treatment of this basic point than John Guilmartin's book on the changing technology of galley warfare in the sixteenth century, Gunpowder and Galleys, but good luck getting your hands on a copy of that. Fortunately, Professor Guilmartin has an Angelfire site. (No, seriously; you can go and  see for yourself. Who says that archaeology is dead?) Which does not appear to have the information I'm looking for. 

Never mind, because the basic point is made by the Wiki article on triremes. Awful as it is (IMHO), the basic point of a war galley is that it gets a lot of men out to sea on the oars in order to get bring as much weapon system to bear with as little drag as possible. Small ship, large complement, heavy military load. this does not leave a lot of room for provisions, while reducing seaworthiness to the minimum feasible level. The range of a trireme between waterings might be in the range of several hundreds of kilometers, but when the water is exhausted, the fleet has to beach and rewater. Forget any idea of triremes "controlling" the sea. They cannot keep the sea! 

Here's an illustration from Guilmartin that I am very glad is on the Internet, since it makes me feel less stupid about not getting one of my own while I was in the Austrian War Archives:

Guilmartin is illustrating here the evolution of the galley as a gunpowder weapon system, an evolution which he sees as ending about 1600. (He's wrong about this. It goes on into the 1700s through incremental weight reduction.) The "gun platform" at the galley's bow goes from carrying a single, large, wrought-iron breach loader firing a carved stone ball for maximum low-velocity, maximum impact-area structural damage to a more "modern" and conventional mix of lighter guns firing grape for antipersonnel work and larger iron balls for structural damage. The ever-increasing weight forces galleys to bring on more oars, or work them harder, or sacrifice provisions, and in any case reduces their operational range. At the same time, all of this heavy metal forward is very hard on the structure of these long and lightly built vessels. 

What is striking here is the interactionof range and firepower. Why the tradeoff? N. A. Rodger, discussing the development of larger political entities in the Western Isles, of all places, puts his finger on it. For all their usefulness against other ships, the purpose of this massive gun armament is not for sea fighting.

It's for sieges. The rising power of Scotland in the Western Isles was, in, the 1400s, held in check by rebels and rivals who could take refuge in untakeable forts from which they would sally at will in their galley fleets. The development of the gunpowder galley allowed the kings of Scotland to blast these sea-lairds from their fastnesses. 

It's at this point that we can come to see the ever-increasing awkwardness of the gunpowder galley as a response to an intensification of great power warfare in the Mediterranean. Specifically, if your rivals are building castles and forts to command watering-places, there is no point in increasing the range of your galleys. They will have to advance, step-by-step, reducing the strong places as they go. This is why the siege of Candia dragged on for decades. It was possible for the Turks to get an army to Crete, and for the Venetians to reinforce their fortress at Heraklion, because neither state usuefull had seapower. The Venetians had a fortified sea base, and that meant that they had Crete, until such time as the Turks dislodged them from it. 

Just to sum up, I have a problem with the idea of a "Minoan thalassocracy," which is ulimately technological. Even if, as is likely, a polity based at Knossos  had some claim to sovereignity, however ideologically conceived, over overseas dependencies in the central Aegean with which it also traded, galleys are not to be understood as "instruments of seapower."

So what is going on here? Well, we have anomalies, or, rather, a set of anomalies. First, there are the great sanctuaries in the marshes. (I could have brought up "pre-Socratic philosophers," temples surrounded by columns, and an interpretation fo the columns as stone forests/marshes, inspired by Egyptian examples and the vehicle through which Egyptian geometry reached Greece, but it seemed a bit much to throw out here, especially since it would seem to demand more library time than I can devote to the subject right now, because the "call number" search function in the UBC library catalogue has apparently been crippled by automatic truncation to a single page return. For God's sake, people!) Second, there are the many references to state building and state sovereignity. Which, so far, big deal, because you can't have navies without states. 

And goddesses. And marshes. I guess I've kind of telegraphed where I'm going with this, with the reference to flax, but it is to sails. 

This is Dragon Harald Fairhair

Unlike the Olympias trireme, this 2004 reconstruction of the legendary vessel of a probably legendary king (specifically, an invented "apical ancestor" for Harald Hardrada) is a real and functional vessel. Which it should be, given the amount of maritime archaeology which has gone into it and a century of earlier Viking ship replicas. "A hundred and fourteen feet of crafted oak, twenty-seven feet on the beam," it is a twenty-five room ship, which is to say, this is how many structural transverse frames it has. Each "room" is taken to include a rowing bench, giving it twenty-five pairs of oars, although the builders, following the logic of traditional boat building, ended up with oars so long that they take "at least" two men to row them efficiently. This will give the vessel a crew of at least 100 oarsmen and 30 sailors, and probably many more than that. (So it is hardly surprising that we see it under sail. You try hiring that many rowers for your hobbyhorse.) 

Reconstructing, as best he can, King Alfred's "answers" to this ship, N. A. M. Rodger ends up closer to 400 in Safeguard of the Sea. These are ships which, in general, are about as big as we are expected to believe triremes were. The form is clearly different from that porposed for the trireme. The 27 foot beam allows this longship to carry a ship's house that will lift the fighting platform well above the height of rival vessels. If we understand medieval naval warfare correctly, height was pretty much the decisive combat advantage. If what we are told about Classical marine warfare is correct, this might not be the case, and the trireme might be a bit different. It suffices to point out here that Dragon Harald Fairhair spreads 3,200 square feet of sail.

That's a lot of sailcloth. According to the Sail-Cloth Manufacturers of Great Britain, a piece of single canvas is "spun by Girls of 10 Years old and upwards, of which a Spinner will spin three in one Week, and her Wages will be 9s 9d." The Sail-Cloth Manufacturers presumably expect you to know that the Admiralty standard size of "piece of canvas" is 24 inches wide by 38 yards long, or 228 square feet, so that a Lanchashire Spinner will spin enough canvas duck to make the sails of the Dragon Harald Fairhair in a little less than six weeks. (Assuming that mythical kings of Norway will settle for single warp.) To cut the laborious reconstruction of exactly how much women's work would have been required to outfit such a grand vessel, Anders Winroth uses the reconstruction of a 14 meter, broad-beamed cargo ship recovered from an marine context, the Skuldelev II, to calculate that it would have taken 27,000 hours of manly he-work, hewing oak with axes and then carpetering it together, and another 13,000 hours for the more servile work of making iron nails and weaving ropes and sails and such. This, however, is for a mere 90 square meters of sail. 

To put this in perspective, the Sail-Cloth Manufacturers suppose that, in the Year 1791, England and Scotland between them (Ireland? That's an offshore bog, right?) produced a total of 150,000 Pieces of Cloth, that is, sailcloth, well under 2 million square feet of sail cloth, or 200,000 square meters, if my mental conversion is correct. This is after growing all of that flax is taken into account. 

So? So, this: you want a thalassocracy, you have to get the ladies on side. A lot of ladies. It is not to be argued that there weren't sailing ships, and perhaps large numbers of them, in the Late Bronze Age Aegean. But having them implies being able to run an industrial economy at a significant scale.

It implies it, even more forcefully, for the Viking Age. Anarchy, raiding, violence, burning? Yes, or, at least, yes, perhaps. But somewhere behind it, "women's places" working all-out to make that sailcloth. 

No state order, no maritime disorder. 


  1. I've read Guilmartin, and he is convincing. But ancient sea warfare was very different tactically and strategically from early modern galley warfare. Guilmartin is right that early modern galley warfare was an amphibious affair. The galleys provided transport, the guns siege weapons, the rowers labour and the soldiers an assault force. But the galleys were larger and more heavily built, and so dependent on ports as bases for provisioning. Still, they had cruising ranges of a week or more.

    Ancient galleys were very light - so much so that they preferred to beach each night to dry the hulls. They could be pulled up stern-first on any beach. The rowers (170 for a trireme) were skilled labour, but little military use ashore. The fighting force was a small number of archers/javelin-men and 20 or so hoplites. Height was critical unless you had a marked advantage in seamanship (when ramming came into play), because it allowed domination of the enemy deck. Endurance was 3 days absolute maximum.

    So ancient warfare was about basing a fleet right next to some key point (usually just by drawing up on some convenient beach), posting look-outs and controlling the immediate sea-space. A strait - as at Euboea or the Dardanelles - was good, as were headlands around which coastal traffic had to pass (eg Kythera, Amphipolis). I agree this does not amount to command of the oceans.

    By the way, Ephesis may not have been a marsh in ancient times. Deforestation and silting will do that. And i believe that the capital of Arzawa has yet to be identified.

  2. Well, it was flooding that destroyed the first two Artemisions, which takes the problem back to the Iron Age at least...

    As for the identification of Apasa, the "city of Arzawa," with Ephesus, a little googling-about finds this:

    One BAMMER wants to move Apasa to Ilcatepe, an "unexplored site with Cyclopean walls" at Classical Philadelphia. Any hypothesis that might serve to get shovels in the ground at an "unexplored site" of that calibre deserves all the promotion it can get.

    Gates, the author of the linked PDF, has an additional reason to kick the Arzawans out of Ephesus. He wants to make the LBA Aegean a unified cultural space, for which purpose he wants to move the heartland of the "Ahhiyans/Achaeans" to the Asian shore, promote Miletus into the capital of "Mykenae," and hand Ephesus over to these proto-East Greeks to bulk up their territory.

    It's an idea that would certainly serve to revise our understanding of contact influences between Anatolian and early Greek!

  3. Some Soviet linguists noted very early borrowings from Caucasian languages into Greek (eg, word for "wine"), and, together with the earlier dating of Ionian Greek cities than mainland ones, proposed that Greeks came to the area through Asia Minor rather than from the north. Intriguing but not widely accepted.

    The Hittite records suggest fairly close contact between Hatti, Arzawa and Mycenean Greece, with various embassies, letters and treaties. Be nice if the Arzawan archives turned up!

  4. It sure woud be. Though "Soviet linguists" and "Caucasian languages" always rings a bell for me.

  5. It should ring a pleasing tone: this was an area where Soviet research was leading edge (eg paleo-linguistics, early language relations, Mayan text decipherment, efforts at deciphering Harappan script). The linguists in question were often Caucasian.

  6. Dene-Caucasian? Here, let me drop something from Wikipedia:

    "In 1998, Vitaly V. Shevoroshkin rejected the Amerind affinity of the Almosan (Algonquian-Wakashan) languages, suggesting instead that they had a relationship with Dené–Caucasian. Several years later, he offered a number of lexical and phonological correspondences between the North Caucasian, Salishan, and Wakashan languages, concluding that Salishan and Wakashan may represent a distinct branch of North Caucasian and that their separation from it must postdate the dissolution of the Northeast Caucasian unity (Avar-Andi-Tsezian), which took place around the 2nd or 3rd millennium BC."

    So Algonquin is not related to the hypothetical superfamily of American Indian languages. (Because why would it be?) It is, rather, more closely related to Dagestani than Dagestani is to East Circassian. (Assuming that I'm parsing the alternative names of the various "Northeast Caucasian languages" correctly.)

    Does anyone else find this a little less than intutive? It would be unfair to lump all the work of Soviet-era historical linguists together, but the lack of rigour shown in these grand reconstructions does seem to me to justify a measure of skepticism, even before we read about Starotsin's later days at the Santa Fe Institute. (Relationship status: "It's complicated.")

    In the case of "Harappan," for example, it remains controversial that the Indus Valley "script" is even a writing system. The Wikipedia article on "Mayan Scripts" makes interesting reading, establishing the ideological effort to appropriate the undoubted successes of early Soviet researchers, in much the same way that Evans' originally quite reasonable speculations about Linear A and B came to be wrapped up in de-Nazification.

    In general, people find these ideas endlessly romantic, and I would imagine that they do a serious disservice to actual, scientifically rigorous historical linguistics, which is still working on, for example, the fine details of the decipherment of Hittite.

  7. It's easy to see the overt ideological bias at play in Soviet writing (easier than in, for instance, much western pol sci), but it wasn't all ideology. I'm not an expert, but my expert archeologist friends tell me that Soviet archeology was of a pretty high standard. Likewise, a lot of the paleo-linguistics has been absorbed in to the mainstream (see Greenberg). AFAIK statistics and low-temperature physics are another two areas.

    No-one has or had a monopoly on sweeping assertions and odd-ball hypotheses.

  8. Hey! I never said I did!

    I'm not sure that I'd call Greenberg "mainstream," either. Paleo-linguistics, in general, seem to me to contradict my understanding of how language change and acquisition work. And while I'm totally half-baked as far as linguistic science goes, I do work in a place where you can routinely hear Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Russian, Punjabi, French, Arabic and German spoken. I know whereof I creatively misunderstand in a convergence towards shared meaning.

  9. are you trying to carlyle Dreadnought and the first welfare state?

  10. I do honestly think that they're related --and I'll throw in industrial relations for a third.

    Here are, to my mind, the main problems facing the new Liberal government: peace, retrenchment, and reform. Each has a nexus with the other.

    i) Peace-reform: is Germany a threat, or not. the Manchester Guardian's editorial on Lord Roberts' anti-German statements of 1908 puts it as basically as possible. Gernans are like north-of-England Liberals. That surely doesn't mean that they're free traders. To the contrary! It goes, in my mind, to religious politics. The Prusso-Germans are, like north-country Liberals, broad churchers. Fixing the country's social welfare net means movement on the Established Church front. The anti-German sentiment can be seen as a concession to High Church interests, and one that produces an ugly nexus between the Crown, with its relationship with the armed forces, and the High Church. Some means of settling Germany down is needed, and since engagement isn't working, let's try an alliance-that's-not-an-allliance with France!
    ii) Peace-retrenchment: Retrenchment, that is, cutting government expenditures, is the necessary prerequisite to, in this case, social reforms. By far the largest public expenditure is military. Taking Army spending as under control, the need is to build fewer battleships --while maintaining overwhelming naval superiority. That's your Dreadnought, right there.
    iii) Retrenchment-reform This is where Dreadnought and the new welfare state converge. Obviously, a lower naval estimate means more money for social reform. But the working class is not impressed. Look at the rise of Labour! There needs to be some movement on the wage front. As we understand it right now, the big problem is that certain classes of workers are distorting the larger wage economy:puddlers and stokers do work that most people aren't physically capable of, and get wages commensurate with that work. This pushes wages up in the economy in general, and that's ---that's bad, I'm getting. For reasons that actual, living Liberal politicians think that they can get the working classes behind, somehow. (Cost of living? Something like that. Ideological delusions are funny that way. If this seems unsatisfactory, remember that the scheme isn't so much to get rid of the stokers as to transform them from beer-swilling, vice-ridden working class men into sober, upwardly mobile members of the English social sandwich, saving their souls through education and like that.)

    If the puddler problem might be resolving itself, but the stoker problem is very much in the hands of the Navy to fix. Oil and turbines bring us to a day when a stoker is a skilled technician (who goes to a school to learn to be rather than a shoveler.

    The phrase "English social sandwich," here, by the way, for those not familiar with the metaphor, makes the religious politics side of this story even more complicated. The idea is that, on an upward trajectory of social mobility, an English family passes from being lower-class Church of England, to middle-class "Nonconformist," or member of one of the "evangelical" Protestant denominations, to being an upper class CofEr. Liberal support is strong amonst the evangelicals, who are also more interested in state-directed welfare initiatives, and who are, in this distant day, more inclined to technocratic education.

  11. interesting. there's a significant difference in the persistence of city location from late antiquity to the medieval era in Britain vs France:


    Engineered water is involved!

  12. I saw this, and I honestly don't know what to make of it. On the one hand, the logic is seductive. The French cities, fixed in place by their enceintes, or their bishops, or even by the light of recorded history, are forced to develop in suboptimal locations (those silly Romans), while English cities, liberated in the darkness, shift down the road to a better location, near the docks.

    Okay, maybe. But I grew up in a landscape of ghost towns and abandoned farms, many of them so completely lost that even the road has abandoned them.

    Sure, you can say that this is North America, all anarchic, big hats, revolvers in holsters, cowboys turning into truckers on the open road; but then you've got English cathedral cities,all those Roman 'chesters, and for that matter rotten pocket boroughs and church bells sounding from beneath the waves.... Okay, that last, I guess I'll grant that France or England, if your town is drowned by the sea, that's a clue from God that you need to move the downtown up the road a bit.

    If there's a logic here --and there's the data, so there probably is-- I expect it has more to do with the market and fair laws.