Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Nose in a book...

I spent most of yesterday curled up reading Nation, by Terry Pratchett. What a wonderful storyteller that man is.

That reminds me; I need to get the newest Discworld novel, Unseen Academicals.

Also, this two-part article on the Bronze Age Collapse, which I found linked at Western Rifle Shooters, was fascinating. It's a slice of history about which we are still learning a lot, and if you don't find the systemic collapse of civilization from the Balkans all the way to the Nile delta fascinating, then you're not much of a history buff, are you?


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

10-20 years ago, I'd say the Bronze Age wasn't my 'thing'. As I go along there is little in history that doesn't peak my interest.

Thanks for the tip!

Wolfwood said...

Very interesting article, and certainly one with a relevant warning for today.

As I read it, the first thought that came to my mind was that nuclear weapons may be the iron of today, although with destruction, not occupation, being the result. American-Soviet Cold War managed to last without global annihilation, but rogue states that can't be bought off are still a problem.

What I would've liked to see the article talk about more (and it did come to this a bit at the end) is the problem of the elites giving up restraint. The defenseless palace of Pylos and much of what we hear from Hollywood about just doing what feels good are symptoms of the same problem.

It seems to me that our challenge is not to avoid this eventual upheaval (cue Global Warming simile) but to try and mitigate it by actually learning from the past.

Anonymous said...

I surely wouldn't argue against the idea that complacency is alive and well. It's seen daily on CNBC or pMSNBC.


Peter said...

Unfortunately for at least part of the author's premise, iron swords aren't found in the LHIIIB/C horizon. That's Late Helladic IIIB (Trojan War) to LHIIIC (the catastrophe). The first iron swords of the Naue Type II pattern are found 85-100 years after the collapse.

The point (no pun) here is that the people involved (mercenaries from most notably Italy: Shardana=Sardinia, Shekelesh=Sicily) were first employed as unorganized infantry to support the chariot forces, which were the only game in town at the time. While learning how to defeat chariot forces, they developed a successful bronze sword that could be used for slashing as well as thrusting, and then it was party time. The Naue II sword was so good that it hardly changed for 500 years. In Greece it was only replaced by the development of hoplite warfare, for instance.

The other weakness was that there were no standing armies. When there wasn't a battle to be fought, the charioteers were usually employed as palace guards, which should give you an idea of how small those forces were. It wasn't an accident that the kingdoms that had infantry troops survived the Catastrophe just fine.

The moral of the story isn't disaster at the hands of new tech, it's the inability of the Establishment to adapt and overcome both a technical improvement and new tactics.

Tam said...

Dammit, Peter, you spoiled the ending for me. I'd just finished Part One last night and was saving Part Two to read over dinner today. :p

LabRat said...

Nation was just lovely. I was shocked to realiize it was intended as a YA novel; not because it doesn't work as one, but because it was so engrossing even aimed at a little less sophisticated audience than Pratchett's usually gunning for. I cried a little bit at the ending.

Unseen Academical's sitting on the coffee table, looking all shiny and alluring. Haven't decided when I'll give up the 24-hour block to allow it to seduce me.

Peter said...

I apologize, your Tamness!! :)

The notion of Dorians weilding them new-fangled eye-ron weapons is outdated, and it distracts from the thrust (heh) of the article.

There is a theory floating around the LBA Agean community that the Trojan War was instigated by the Dorians (Danaan), as trade-wise they were another link in the shipping trade, and the Trojans were squeezing them, and that was cutting into their profits with the palace-based kingdoms in the south of Greece (Pylos, Athens, Mycenae, etc.), a/k/a the actual market for those goods. Particularly the high-aresenic tin that made a harder bronze suited for weapons and other cutting tools.

By all means read Part II. He references Hesiod and other writers which is helpful as a starting place.

His biggest problem is an overreliance on The Iliad, which is a political founding document designed to delineate "Greekness" to a society that shared a language and homeland but had different origins, and not really a history despite keeping some Mycenaean words and a badly remebered use of chariots.

Robert Drews' "The End of the Bronze Age" (Princeton, 1993) and Margalit Finkelberg's "Greeks and Pre-Greeks: Aegean Prehistory and Greek Heroic Tradition" (Cambridge, 2005) are really good books on both the Catastrophe and the myths that date from before and after the Catastrophe.

Darrell said...

Thank you, Tam, that was excellent.

Anonymous said...

Drews is a good read.

No scholar me, but snagged his book "The End of the Bronze Age -- Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe CA 1200B.C. at a used bookshop last year.

...and waded in. Fascinatin' stoof, myte!! Even works in some auld Hebrew tribal remembrances.

Thanks for the additional links.

My 'newbie' is Jacques Barzan "From Dawn to Decadence" 1500 to present. Not so sure we'll get along, him.

John, the Red

Anonymous said...

"In its complacent self-absorption, a beneficiary generation can become flagrant in the ostentation of its affluence."

Evidently the author not only hasn't read of Strunk & White - he has waged open war on them.

Anonymous said...

"In its complacent self-absorption, a beneficiary generation can become flagrant in the ostentation of its affluence."

'beneficiary gen'...and they just elected a President,too.

J, t R

'scrop'-- as yet unused dialect & 'phedim' -- even mo' bettuh.