Lucian the King

Gone are those cynical, intelligent dialogs.

Yep! I finished the book of Lucian of Samosata containing many of his Dialogues.

Fantastic, truly fantastic, like anything else I have read from him. People should read him nowadays, indeed.

I am also finishing Julian, by Gore Vidal. Pretty cool. After it, will I read Stephen Pressfield's Alexander? Gisbert Haefs's Alexander? Or will they spoil the joy of reading Scott Oden's Memnon (see my links bar to reach Scott's blog) which is scheduled to be released in August?

Dilemmæ... In the meantime, I may start reading Manfredi's one, or maybe Aristophanes's plays... And I have that big Goths book by Wolfram to read through, or the new one about Ghengis Khan... Ah, so much to read, so little time...

Spain'll be on holidays, due to the Bona Dea festivity. Okay, it's actually because of Bealtaine. OK, not really, but May 1st is an important workers' day. It's also one of the most sacred days in the whole year for quite a lot of (neo- and arqueo-)pagan religions, so the joyer... :-)

I'll probably be away, a trip to Segovia, with its famous Roman aqueduct. I'll try to get some pics, of course! I'll let you know, anyway...

And as an update, the Vesi embassy has just arrived to Constantinopolis, but, alas, Flavio Valens Augustus is on Antiochia ad Orontem, and therefore some sailing is in order... I'll probably skim over this part, or the book will get unbearably boring, and move ahead to the cross of the Danube a couple of months later (September-October A.D. CCCLXXXVI), and the fun will start... *insert evil grin*

Have a great, wonderful weekend, and may the Gods bless you all in such a special date.



Merry Day of the Book!

April 23th... Cervantes, Shakespeare...

OK, I didn't get any book by those monsters. But I got:
  • A couple of little books for documentation: "Late Paganism and Julian the Apostate", and "The Times of the Valentinians and Theodosius", by Spanish scholars, published by Akal, they are thin, but a great introduction and quick look-up guides to have around when writing.... Pretty handy. :-)
  • Lucian of Samosata, I adore him, a collection of the Dialogs of the Gods, Dialogs of the Dead, Maritime Dialogs and Court Dialogs (titles as a direct translation from Spanish, so they will surely be different in English). After reading his Voyayes, how could I not get these? I was looking for this book, but last time I checked they didn't have it at my main bookstore. Joy! :-)
  • Aristofanes, a classical author I've been meaning to read. Clouds, Lisistrata and Money. I've read he's really funny, so I expect to have a great time.
  • Earth Conference One, with interventions by James Lovelock (of Gaia Hypothesis fame), Carl Sagan (of Cosmos fame, great Astronomer, Science vulgarizer and SF writer, he was cool), Dalai Lama (of, well, Dalai fame), Mother Teresa (of her fame), R. Panikkar (of I don't know which fame) and others... I expect to learn a great deal from this book. I'll let you know (if I understand anything).
  • Genghis Khan, by John Man. I've been meaning to learn something about this man (more than I know, that is, from some light reading and Total Wars: Shōgun, Mongol Wars extension...) :-) Actually, it looks it will be a cool reading, and, all of a sudden, I am jumping almost 1,000 years ahead! Yeah, I know I will eventually get to those things... How was it called? Newpapers? Hmm...
So, I'm happy, yeah... :-)



Antiochia ad Orontem per maria

Ah, the joys of naivety...

Yesterday I wrote about walking to Antiochia, for our noble Embassadors.

Today, I have made some calculations if they took a ship at Constantinopolis. Silly me.

There are about 870 nautical miles (about 1000 miles) from Constantinopolis to the harbor of Antiochia, the town of Seleucia Pieria. A fast merchant ship, could maintain a sustained speed of 4 or 5 knots, and with good, favorable wind, reach 6 knots, while courier ships, basically light galleys, could maintain much higher speeds.

Anyway, considering my familiarity with Mediterranean navigation after writing the adventures of a fleet of 200 Greek trierei (triremes) for The Libyan, I feel confident about the following numbers:

Let's consider our Embassy arrives in Constantinopolis and is assigned or simply gets a fast merchant ship (which is somewhat logical, as an unwanted, unsolicited Embassy wouldn't be favored by a military vessel).

Here's the rough travel plan, in yellow the sea part, in blue the land path, so you can compare. The original picture was taken by the NASA and it's used here with implicit permission. Visit the Wikipedia entry for the original picture if you want.

The first 200 miles are used to get through the Strait of Dardanelos and to enter into the Adriatic Sea. Maintained speed for 10 hours a day, considering the chaotic currents, etc, 4 knots. Partial time: 5 days.

Next we get favorable, North winds that push us in open sea (as we aren't really merchanting anything, we don't have to go to harbors, and so on, except for water or food, which we are carrying in good quantities anyway), we sail the next 400 miles until we get close to Chiprus at an average speed of 5.8 knots for 11 hours per day (even when we could also sail by night, but it's always dangerous!). Partial time: about 4.5 days.

Finally, we move at a very comfortable speed of 5 knots bording the coast of Chiprus and directly until Seleucia Piaria, 250 miles, 11 hours per day. Partial time: 4.5 days.

Total time from Constantinopolis to Seleucia Piaria: 14 days.

Even considering delays, harbor stops, and the like: 20 days.

Definitely, we are going by sea!

Now, how will we return? Will Flavius Iulius Valens Augustus allow us to use the cursus publicus? Will we return by galley (remember, opposing winds this time) and then rush through Thracia, Moesia, and Dacia?

Stay tuned!



Blue Danube

As I write this lines, probably millions of eyes are carefully watching the waltzing river, afraid of its waterline and the floods that are trashing Romania, Moldavia, Bulgaria and other countries in the Danube water basin.

Almost the same difficulties would have found the Vesi tribes (Tervingi Goths and others) had they tried to cross it near the delta. Therefore they headed accross the Pyretus (Prut) and Hierasus (Siret) rivers, both important tributaries to the Danube, and then South, for some 200 kilometers following the Danube until they arrived to Durostorum, nowaday Silistra, in Bulgaria.

Now, let's follow, for a moment, the embassy Alaviv ad Fritigern sent to Valens Imperator, who was staying, getting ready for a Persian summer campaign, in one of the most important cities in the Eastern Empire, Antioch-on-the-Orontes, in nowadays Antakya, in Turkey (right in the frontier with Syria). This is actually what I am writing at the moment. (Not exactly right now, mind you :-)

I have actually calculate the path with modern day facilities, just to have a good idea. While transport means have changed a lot, the pathways are usually simply the old ones, recycled (you'd be surprised how many modern facilities use the same path as the Roman Way XIX (roughly from Emerita Augusta to Braccara and to Brigantium): motorway, high tension electrical wires, gaseoduct, oleoduct, scouting trails, and so on...)

We start moving South from Durostorum, and pass through Marcianopolis, we will have a fight against the Roman the next year. Next, Cabyle, then we pass pretty near Hadrianopolis (ah, what'll happen two years from now!) and head Southeast, for some more kilometers, until we arrive to the uia Egnatia and easilly arrive in Constantinopolis. Ah! Wonder of wonders! We have burned the first 450 miles or so!

Now, we cross the Pontus Euxinus, and cross the Roman Provinces Bithynia (partly the old Paflagonia), enter into Galatia (old Phrygia, where is modern Ankara, capital of Turkey), Cappadocia, Cilicia (and the city of Tarsus) and finally the province of Syria, and Antiochia ad Orontem, where Apollo tried to mate poor, young Dafne, and where Aléxandros III of Makedonia stopped to drink some water, and Seleucus I Nicator founded one of his odd-teen Antiochia, in memory of one of his relatives (he founded four cities with names of his relatives, weird him, uh?).

Total distance: about 1,100 roman miles (or some 1,010 miles, about 1,670 km)

Average walking speed for a healthy, not rushing, Human being: 4 km/h (about 2.5 miles per hour)

If we walk an average of 11 hours a day, at that speed (even in mountain ranges, and so on), we would need almost 38 days to cover that distance.

38 days to go. Fast.

38 days to return. Fast.

n days waiting for Imperial reception by Flavius Julius Valens Augustus.

Now, you have to stop sometimes, buy some food, hunt, some little fight here and there, and a host of other things that happen during such a trip. Actually doubling the time to go can be too much, but it's not too much. Let's say, about 60 days.

Return can be faster, because you are leaving with a paper from the Emperor. Maybe you are even using the cursus publicus which would be much, much faster (and cheaper!). Let's say 40 days to return. And at least a week in Antiochia. That makes it 110 days.

110 days. More than 3 and a half months.What a trip just to get the 'yes, but...' from Valens.

OK, the Vesi were already waiting to cross. And they surely walked from their places between the Prut and the Dniester while the Embassy was on its way. At least this is what I am writing. Until I thought how long would it take them to get the Antiochi and back, I thought: 'they crossed the Danube by the end of the Summer. And three months, you will get into the Winter! They must have to move while the EMbassy was on its way. They didn't wait for Valentis accept!'


Heh, I even think in Greek sometimes... Fancy, uh? ;-)

OK. Tourism is nice. I will be able to describe Antiochia in some fancy, nod... Antakya'ya istiyorum. "I am going to Antakya".

(yes, I am learning Turkish as well (slowly), heh... Why do you think I am writing soooo slowly? :-)

OK, let's hope that our modern day Goths will soon get some relief from the wrath of the waters of the Ister river...




I was at Alicante last week, during the Christian holidays, and took up the chance to visit my family and do some tourism as well.

I had, however, a nasty cold, which I still have, and despite the sunny weather, it was cold and windy to my (sick) taste. So, when I went to the beach, I basically sat myself where there wasn't too much Sun or Wind...

I took the chance, however, to go visitng Lucentum, the archaeological remains of a II-II Centuries Iberian, and I-II-... Roman town, which served as nexus between Cartago Nova (currently Cartagena) and the northern towns of Dianium (currently Dénia). The place is still pretty well preserved, despite all that has happened, and I think there are many places still to be excavated, we will see.

Lucentum and the MARQ (Archaeological Museum of Alicante) released a book, which I am holding in the picture on my left hand, with lots of interesting information about it, I think you can try to get it, it's written in Spanish. Try visiting their web site: MARQ (warning, Flash needed).

And a picture of myself, taken by my nice fiancée, with the Sun shining all over the place, and a roman domus (OK, its remains) as background... I may publish more pictures later, I just wanted to let you drool by envy... ;-)

Also, I took the chance of a really nice picture of the Castle of Santa Barbara when I was at the beach (and almost half the people was basically naked while I was shaking on my green jacket, argh). For more info, see, for example, Alicante Castillo.

Now, back to writing my novel. Gotta try to find a way to calculate how many mules, oxen and carts, and cattle, the Tervingi would have had with them during the migration... Any documents or books about wealth distribution of IV Century Germanic tribes? Thanks! :-)



Goths: Moving Whole Populations (part II)

OK, I posted my last entry in the Allies & Enemies of Rome forum at R.A.T. (Goths: Moving Whole Populations) and I got a handful of very useful comments and insights.

This is a modified form of my final post over there, and the basis of my next calculations, etc... More comments or help will be welcome!


Yes, I guessed the Huns would just be the warriors and maybe their slaves. If the Alans were also just warriors, then the group of Alatheus and Saphrax would have a higher ratio of warrior-to-civilians... I didn't thought about the selling of slaves and children to the Romans after the crossing of the river, though, good point.

Before crossing the Danube, the Tervingi would have a ratio close to 20% (the deaths of warriors against the Huns would be compensated by the death of the elders and some children due to Winter suffering in the Carpatos).

Let's, for the sake of simplicity, deal with the lowest estimations (some 20,000 Gothic warriors at the Battle of Hadrianopolis, half of whom were Tervingi).

This roughly means some 50,000 Tervingi.

We know many of the elders and weaklings were left behind. They account for some 3% of the population, let's suppose half of them were left behind, so we have some 49,000 Tervingi. Call this number T.

Now, let's try to get an account of what's going on: the roughly 20% of warriors would be among the free men, but let's simplify including all able men, including slaves.

In 'young' populations, age pyramids show that about half the population is under the 15 years old age, so we get as many children as adults.

A familiar core would be comprised, in average, of mother, father, some 4 or 5 sons, one grandparent and a slave or two, although this would vary wildly depending on the economic and social status (the higher the status, the more slaves and the lesser children, in order to avoid heavy fighting for the power).

In average, anyway, we have a familiar core of some 10.5 members. This means that the Tervingi was formed of some 4,666 family cores. Call this number F.

Now, once on the other side of the river, they started to get too hungry and started to sell slaves and sons to keep the rest fed and alive. How many sons per family would have been sold? We can only speculate.

The richer families would have had gold and slaves to avoid selling their younglings, or probably one of the younger girls, while the poorer families would have sold families up to all their sons except the first one (maybe two if the first one was a female, but undoubtly)... It also depends on how much food they got from the sellings, and how long would it have served to feed the rest of the family.

Anyway, we know it was bad enough for people to be at unrest but not as bad as to force them to rebel right away, so I'd say that an average of one to two sons per family would be a realistic number (let's say 1.5).

That means the total population now is close to T - 1.5F ~ 42,000 of which 10,000 are warriors (per the 20% rule before starting to lose civilians).

Now, if the 42,000 Tervingi were able to provide some 10,000 warriors to Hadrianopolis, led by Fritigern, then the rest of the 10,000 were provided by the fleeing Greutungi led by Alatheus and Saphrax, and their Alan and Hun allies.

Let's say that the number of allies wasn't greater than the number of warriors the Greutungi were able to muster, in case of a mutiny. That would put the maximum number of Alans and Huns at 5,000.

Now, in this case, we know that the Greutungi had suffered heavy losses against other Hunnic and Alannic tribes the previous two years. And we know that most if not all of the Greutungi were forced to abandon their lands, so we must expect a big number of population. The Tervingi only decided to leave Athanaric, but we know he kept many retainers on the Carpatos, although we can only especulate. They were enough to allow them to survive against the smaller Hunnic bands, but not so many as to allow them a huge victory. Considering 3,000 would be a big army, I'd say a maximum of 2,000 (about 4 comitives) which would throw some 10,000 more Tervingi, or roughly the 16% of the total Tervingi population (and we aren't taking into account the losses of several skirmishes against the Huns because we are told that Athanaric was pretty good in retreating without heavy losses).

So we have that the total Greutungi population, if of somewhat similar size to the Tervingi, would be some 60,000 people, of which some 12,000 would, originally, been warriors. Heavy losses were to be expected when an army lost some battles, but considering they managed to be fighting for some years, that would mean that either they had the ability to replenish their ranks faster than others, or that they were able to keep their losses relatively low.

Now, the final number should be about 5,000 or bigger, or they would be at the mercy of their allies if they decided to defect them. Let's say the Greutungi suffered heavy losses, about half their warriors.

That would mean the total Greuthungi population would be of 54,000 people, of which 6,000 were warriors. And so we have about 4,000 for the Alans and Huns. Now, before jumping on conclusions, we will take half the civilian population from the Greuthungi, who fell under Hunnic power precisely because they had been let without warriors (simple, I know, but it's a rough estimation).

So, we get 24,000 civilians and 6,000 warriors, about 30,000 Greuthungi.

Summing all this up we have, for the aftermath of the rebellion at Martianopolis, when the Tervingi and the Greuthungi united, but before the battle of Ad Salices in 377:

* 42,000 Tervingi, with 10,000 able warriors.
* 30,000 Greuthungi, with 6,000 able warriors.

Later, about 4,000 Alans and Huns joined in as well. And later on, Athanaric's Goths crossed the Danube and joined the Goths in Illiricum, when they signed the foedus with Theodoric. The proportion of populations are 14 Tervingi to 10 Greuthungi, almost 3 to 2, which would justify the leadership of Tervingi over the whole population later on (first Fritigern, then Athanaric, then who-knows until Alaric is raised reiks and judge in 395 (specially since the kings were elected by the warriors).

All this is, as you can see, highly especulative, however I think it seems reasonable. I have supposed that, as the Goths didn't have siege experience, they weren't able to recover their sons or slaves from their Roman buyers.

So, approaching the Battle of Hadrianopolis, we have a grand totale of 76,000 people, of which 20,000 were soldiers, and about 55,000 were women and children of both sexes.

Now, do these numbers make more sense? I hope that the process I have followed is, if a bit especulative, at least plausible enough, considering the lack of data we have.

The main points are: Tervingi and Greuthungi populations were of similar size before the arrival of the Huns, the Tervingi suffered heavy civilian losses after crossing the Danube, while the Greuthungi suffered heavy military losses before crossing it, and only about half of them managed to escape the Huns.

If we follow this process for the 25,000 highest number of warriors, we would roughly get the following numbers:

* 53,000 Tervingi, with 13,000 warriors
* 36,000 Greuthungi, with 7,000 warriors
* 6,000 Alans and Huns

And a total of 95,000 people, of which 25,000 would be warriors.

Best regards!


Numbers that Astonish

It really is astonishing, but, sometimes, you must do the Math just to start believing it...

Tervingi. About 100,000 children, women and men, plus mules, oxen, etc. led by chiefs/kings Alavivus and Fritigern.

They walked to the Danube, then they walked to Marcianopolis before starting to walk around Dacia and Tracia for a while. A Roman road allowed a two oxen cart to move comfortably (depending on the road, some were wider than others). The same way would allow for 4 people to walk tighly packed in formation, so let's say some 3 people moving with some equipment around in a loosely civilian formation, with about 1 meter of separation in between. The same road would allow for two horses (and mounted knights or walking by their side) and maybe 3 mules, although I'll use two as an average because people would put different weight on the animals, depending on their belongings, and therefore they wouldn't walk in a tidy formation. As for a two oxen cart, I'd say it would be some 6 meters in length, counting the animals.

Let's make the numbers, then, to some reasonable estimates:

  • 100,000 people, where some 10,000 would be warriors.
  • 90,000 men, 3 men-row(meter) ~ 30,000 meters
  • 10,000 warriors => 9,000 infantry in 4 men-per-row ~ 2,250 meters
  • 100,000 people, 10 people-per-family ~ 10,000 families, and about 1 cart per 4 families:

    • 2,500 carts, 7 meters per cart ~ 17,500 meters;
    • and about 5 mules every 4 families (at least 1 per family) => 40,000 mules, 2 per row, ~ 25,500 meters more.

And about 1,000 cavalry, which we can put on the sides of the train for protection of some kind, but which by itself would take some 2,000 meters.

Putting this all together, we have: 30 + 2.25 + 17.5 + 25.5 = 75.25 km (~ 46.75 miles)

A possible distribution of this would be:

* 1,000 men as scouts
* 9,000 civilian
* 4,000 mules
* 250 carts

totaling: 7.5 km

and approximately 10 times, to allow for adecuate defense to each clan or family (after all this is not an army on the march!).

Now add to this some extra "tributaries", like some Alans, Baltics and other Germanic tribes that could have moved alongside the bulk of Tervingi population. That could reasily reach some 100 km.

And, to make things funnier, add a similar size for the migrating Greutungi plus Alans, led by Safrax and Alateus.

At the time of the battle of Hadrianopolis, when all the Goths were united (all Tervingi, Greutungi (plus associated German tribes) and Alans), the numbers were well over 200,000 men, and the migration train, moving through Roman territory, using Roman roads, would be somewhere around 200 or 250 km long (say 140 miles long).

I'll save you the logistics nightmare that must have been!

(now, do you understand why I am writing this novel? :-)



By Any Other Name...

I've been reading a lot as of late (so much that I haven't yet started to write for my April Fool's Challenge!) and I got thinking... What's in a name?

Alareiks is ala(kjo) reiks, all's king (in modern English, well, kind of), which is the name of my starring, and which, as names go, looks suspiciously a title as well.

I mean, when he was acclaimed and raised on the shield by the chief warriors of the tervingi, vesi, greutungi, and other tribes that were hanging around in Illyricum, was he named King-of-All, or was that his name ever since he was a child/man?

Because it sounds like a title-name, one you adopt when you are raised to the rank (like, for example, nowaday Catholic popes, or kings and queens in the Western monarchies)... I have found no information at all, but then sources are usually elusive, and in those times one enters into History when the Roman source mentions you, usually because you become king or a famous warrior or politician.

My hypothesis is that Alaricus was named so when he was raised as king of all the Goths in Romania, and that before that, he had a different name, one he was given (or chose, do we know how naming conventions for the Goths/Germans worked out by then?) when he was born, passed into manhood, or whatever...

Following the 'tamdem-like' costume of having kings with complementing names, and considering Athaulfus was the next king and obviously a wolf, I am thinking a name of the kind of 'Wolf's Fang', which must sound cool...

Any Germanic-speaking/knowledgeable takers? My guess, based on Gothic language (as shown in dictionary www.oe.eclipse.co.uk) and Old Icelandic words for wolf (got. wulfs, o.ice. vargr), claw (got. etymologically reconstructed as rampa, o.ic. kló), paw (got. et.recons. pauta, o.ic. lámr) and tooth (got. tunþus, o.ic. tönn), I'd suggest: Wulfis (strong masculine name, genitive case) tunþus > Wulfunþus.

Ok, it doesn't sound really cool (Wulfispautos? The Paws of the Wolf?; Wulfiskló? grrr...)

What about Brother-Wolf (like his brother-in-law Attawulfs, Father-Wolf)? That would be Broþarwulfs, a bit too ugly, really.

What about a bear? A strong animal for the Goths, undoubtedly... Baira (weak masc.) sounds really nice... (where 'ai' was probably the diphtong [ai], but could be [ɛː]). So what about Swarts Baira, Swartbéra => Black Bear... sure it sounds powerful enough to me!!!

I'll thank your advice...


PS- old icelandic paw (lámr) is very similar to irish hand, 'lámh', and Gothic has 'atta' as father, the same wat Irish has 'athair', both lost the initial p-/f-, interesting...