Monday, August 31, 2015

Huge Ancient Greek City found underwater in the Aegean Sea

Ancient Origins

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs has announced that remnants of a massive Bronze Age city have been discovered submerged in the Aegean Sea. The settlement, which dates back approximately 4,500 years, covers an area of 12 acres and consists of stone defensive structures, paved surfaces, pathways, towers, pottery, tools, and other artifacts.
The discovery was made by a team of experts from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, University of Geneva and the Swiss School of Archaeology at Kiladha Bay on the Peloponnese Peninsula south of Athens, while they were searching for evidence for the oldest village in Europe. While they were hoping to find traces dating back at least 8,000 years, the finding of the ancient city is no less significant.
The Ancient Greek City was found at Kiladha Bay on the Peloponnese Peninsula south of Athens.
The Ancient Greek City was found at Kiladha Bay on the Peloponnese Peninsula south of Athens. (Wikipedia)

Ancient Fortifications

Spero News reports that researchers identified a series of huge horseshoe-shaped foundations next to a wall line, which are believed to have been towers used to defend the city. However, the structures are unique and have not been seen before during the Bronze Age period to which the ruins belongs. Professor Julien Beck of the University of Geneva said the foundations are of a “massive nature, unknown in Greece until now”.
"The importance of our discovery is partly due to the large size. There must have been a brick superstructure above a stone foundation. The chances of finding such walls under water are extremely low. The full size of the facility is not yet known. We do not know why it is surrounded by fortifications," Beck added.
A paved area that is believed to have been part of a fortified wall
A paved area that is believed to have been part of a fortified wall (Spero News).

A Plethora of Artifacts

Beck explained that the discovery of the ancient city is important because of the quantity and quality of the artifacts that were retrieved, including pottery, red ceramics, stone tools, and obsidian blades dating to the Helladic period (3200 to 2050 BC). In fact, it was pottery fragments seen during training at the nearby Lambayanna beach that eventually led them to discover the city as they followed the trail of artifacts.
In total, more than 6,000 artifacts were pulled up from the ruins, which Beck has called an “archaeologist’s paradise.” The obsidian blades are believed to have come from volcanic rock sourced at the island of Milos in the Cyclades archipelago, inhabited since the third millennium.
International Business Times reports that the research team hopes the artifacts will enable them to “learn more about trade, shipping, and day to day life from the period”.
Weathered pottery sherds found at Lambayanna beach in the Pelopponese Peninsula of Greece
Weathered pottery sherds found at Lambayanna beach in the Pelopponese Peninsula of Greece (Spero News).
“The walls that were found by the team are contemporaneous with the pyramids at Giza that were built around 2600-2500 B.C., as well as the Cycladic civilization (3200 to 2000 BC), at the first Minoans on the island of Crete (2700-1200 BC),” reports Spero News. “However, they precede the first great Greek civilization, the Mycenaean (1650-1100 BC), by one thousand years.”
The researchers hope that further investigations at and around Lambayanna may provide new insight into a dense network of coastal settlements spread throughout the Aegean Sea.
Featured image: A diver exploring the newly-discovered Greek city in the Aegean Sea (Spero News).
By April Holloway

History Trivia - King Henry VIII of England excommunicated

August 31

651 St. Aidan died. A monk at Iona, Scotland, Aidan became the first bishop of Lindisfarne.

1056 Byzantine Empress Theodora became ill and died suddenly a few days later without children to succeed the throne, thus ending the Macedonian dynasty.

1535 Pope Paul II deposed and excommunicated King Henry VIII.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

History Trivia - Treaty of the More signed

August 30

 1181 Pope Alexander III died. He is noted in history for laying the foundation stone for the Notre Dame de Paris.

 1525 Treaty of the More signed between Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France. England agreed to give up some territorial claims on France. In return, France was to pay a pension and was to prevent the Duke of Albany from returning to Scotland.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lucky treasure seeker unearths 1,000-year-old Viking coin hoard in Wales

Ancient Origins

About 1,000 years ago an unlucky soul apparently buried his treasure—a cache of Viking coins—in a field in Wales and never dug it up again. Perhaps the medieval person died before retrieving it or forgot exactly where it was buried. The treasure may also have been part of a burial. Whatever the case, the apparent bad luck of the medieval hoarder turned out to be good luck for a Welshman with a metal detector.
The hoard includes coins and coin fragment and ingots going back to the time of King Cnut the Great. Treasure hunter Walter Hanks of Llanllyfni was using a metal detector in Llandwrog in March when he got a hit, reports Wales Online.
Llandrwrog is in Gwynedd, which was a Welsh kingdom around the time the coins were buried.  The find will help scholars build a better picture of the 11th century economy of Gwynedd, said Dr. Mark Redknap of the Department of History and Archaeology at the National Museum Wales.
“Canute Reproving His Courtiers,” an etching by R.E. Pine, depicts a legend told about Canute that says he thought he could stop the tide from rising, but when he could not he hung his crown on a crucifix and never wore it again.
“Canute Reproving His Courtiers,” an etching by R.E. Pine, depicts a legend told about Canute that says he thought he could stop the tide from rising, but when he could not he hung his crown on a crucifix and never wore it again. (Wikimedia Commons)
Found among the collection of coins were fragments of three or four pennies with the visage of Cnut, all likely from the Chester mint. Cnut or Canute was king of England from 1016 to 1035. He also ruled over Denmark, Norway and part of Sweden from 985 to 1035.
Redknap told Wales Online:
‘There are three complete finger-shaped ingots and one fragmentary finger-shaped metal ingot. Nicking on the sides of the ingots is an intervention sometimes undertaken in ancient times to test purity, and evidence that they had been used in commercial transactions before burial. At least four hoards on the Isle of Man indicate that bullion retained an active role in the Manx economy from the 1030s to 1060s, and the mixed nature of the Llandwrog hoard falls into the same category. As such it amplifies the picture we are building up of the wealth and economy operating in the kingdom of Gwynedd in the 11th century.’
The hoard includes 14 silver pennies minted in Dublin under the Irish-Scandinavian king Sihtric Anlafsson, who ruled from 989 to 1036. Archaeologists say such Irish coins are rarely unearthed on the British mainland. Eight of these coins were dated 995 AD and six were thought to be from 1018.
The treasure found by a Welshman with a metal detector includes silver pennies and coin fragments from the time of King Cnut of England and Scandinavia.
The treasure found by a Welshman with a metal detector includes silver pennies and coin fragments from the time of King Cnut of England and Scandinavia. (Wales Online photo)
Researchers told Wales Online they think the coins were deliberately buried. The Wales Online story does not mention any human bones or remains found near the coin hoard.
The cache has been declared treasure by northwest Wales Coroner Dewi Pritchard-Jones. The National Museum Wales did not give a value for the coins, but the museum wants to buy them with financing from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The coins and ingots will be taken to the British Museum for safekeeping in the meantime.
“The independent Treasure Valuation Committee, will commission an expert valuer to offer their view on current market/collector value and the committee will consider this, before making their recommendation,” said a museum spokesman. “Finders and landowners are consulted and are able to offer comment or commission their own valuations, if they wish. Usually what happens is that the value is split equally between the finder and the landowner with each getting 50% of the current market value.”
Featured image: The treasure found by a Welshman with a metal detector includes silver pennies and coin fragments from the time of King Cnut of England and Scandinavia. Credit: Robin Maggs
By Mark Miller

History Trivia - Treaty of Picquigny signed

August 29

70 The Temple of Jerusalem burned after a nine-month Roman siege.

1350 Battle of Winchelsea (Les Espagnols sur Mer): The English naval fleet under King Edward III defeated a Castilian fleet of 40 ships. Between 14 and 26 Castilian ships were captured, and some were sunk, while 2 English vessels were sunk and many suffered heavy losses.

1475 The Treaty of Picquigny ended a brief war between France and England. Louis XI of France paid Edward IV of England to return to England and not take up arms to pursue his claim to the French throne. Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), opposed the treaty and refused the pension Louis offered.


Friday, August 28, 2015

History Trivia - Third Crusade - Siege of Acre

August 28

 476 the western Roman Empire founded by Augustus in 27 BC ended at Ravenna, where Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed by the barbarian leader Odoacer (Germanic chieftain).

1189 Third Crusade: the Crusaders began the Siege of Acre under Guy of Lusignan.

1296 After the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Dunbar, Edward I had the Scottish land owners, churchmen and burgesses swear their allegiance by signing the The Ragman Rolls.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Archaeologists discover Mycenaean palace and treasure trove of artifacts in southern Greece

Ancient Origins

Greek archaeologists have discovered a pre-classical era Greek palace at Aghios Vassilios hill dating from the Mycenaean Age, which some researchers believe is the long-lost palace of Sparta. Important archaic inscriptions found at the site may help to shed light on the political, administrative, economic and societal organisation of the Mycenaean society around Sparta where the discovery was made.
The Greek Culture Ministry said that the palace, which had around 10 rooms, was probably built around the 17th to 16th centuries BC, in a statement reported by the website. The archaeologists also discovered a number of important artifacts at the site, including objects used for religious ceremonies, clay figurines, a cup adorned with a bull’s head, swords and fragments of murals.
New excavations at a site near historical Sparta may have uncovered the lost ruins of a Mycenaean Spartan palace. Among the treasures found at the site was this bull's head.
New excavations at a site near historical Sparta may have uncovered the lost ruins of a Mycenaean Spartan palace. Among the treasures found at the site was this bull's head. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture
Excavations in the area, conducted since 2009, have revealed inscriptions on tablets, written in the Linear B script, relating to religious practices and also names and places. Linear B is the oldest script to be discovered in Europe and first appears in the historical timeline in Crete from around 1375 BC. It took until the mid-20th century for experts to decipher it properly.
The palace was probably destroyed by fire at some point in the late 14th or early 13th century, according to available evidence.
A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Aug. 25 shows an excavation site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.
A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Aug. 25 shows an excavation site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.
The Mycenaean era was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece and is characterised by palatial city-states, works of art and writing. It was at this time that the city-states began to become established, including Pylos, Tiryns, Midea in the Peloponnese, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens and Iolcos in Thessaly. The most prominent of them was Mycenae in Argolid which was the influence for other settlements in Epirus, Macedonia and on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant and in Cyprus and Italy. Mycenaean Greece collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age and the most popular theory concerning its demise places the blame of the mysterious ‘people of the sea’ (or Sea Peoples). Other theories focus on the Dorian invasion or on natural disasters and climate change. Much ancient Greek literature is based on heroes and deities from the Mycenaean era, the most notable of which is the Trojan Epic Cycle.
Homer writes that the Mycenaean era was dedicated to Agamemnon, the king who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. The Mycenaean’s were keen traders, establishing contacts with countries across the Mediterranean and Europe. They were also excellent engineers and are also known for their characteristic ‘beehive’ tombs which were circular in shape with a high roof, consisting of a single stone passage leading to a chamber in which the possessions of the tomb’s occupant were also laid to rest.
Grave circle and main entrance of the citadel at Mycenae, one of the major centres of the Mycenaean civilization.
Grave circle and main entrance of the citadel at Mycenae, one of the major centres of the Mycenaean civilization. (Wikipedia)
Mycenaean craftsmen produced distinctive items of pottery and bronze, as well as carved gems, jewellery, vases made from precious metals and glass ornaments. Oil and wine were among the major commodities traded by them.
Not much is known about the religious practices of the time, but it is likely that the Mycenaean’s practiced ritual animal sacrifice and enjoyed communal feasting. Images of the double axe in art suggest links with the Cretan Minoan culture. Robert Graves also drew much of his inspiration for his books on the Greek Myths, and later on The White Goddess, from the Mycenaean culture, casting a more romantic slight on the period. It was during this period that the tales of deities such as Dionysus, Hephaestus, Poseidon, Artemis, Hera and Potnia began to emerge. The later Greeks regarded many of the deities in the Mycenaean pantheon more as heroes or demi-gods rather than powerful gods and goddesses in themselves and so undoubtedly there were many interesting tales that were lost to history as a result.
"Tradition tells us that Sparta was an important site in the Mycenaean period," Hal Haskell, an archeologist who studies the ancient Mycenaean culture at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, told Live Science. Yet no palace had been unearthed in the Spartan plain. Haskell believes the new site could be that lost Spartan palace.
Featured image: A handout photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture shows the excavations site with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period, bearing important inscriptions in archaic Greek, discovered near Sparta in the Peloponnese region of Greece. Image credits: Greek Ministry of Culture
By Robin Whitlock

History Trivia - Battle of Plataea. - Persian forces routed

August 27

 550 BC Confucius, famous wise man of China is believed to have been born around this date.

479 BC Greco-Persian Wars: Persian forces led by Mardonius were routed by Pausanias, the Spartan commander of the Greek army in the Battle of Plataea.

410 The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths ended after three days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Greek Palace Near Sparta

A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on August 25, 2015 shows an excavations site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.
Greek Ministry of Culture 

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered the ruins of an ancient palace with important archaic inscriptions dating back to the Mycenaean Age, the culture ministry said Tuesday.
The palace, likely built around the 17th-16th centuries BC, had around 10 rooms and was discovered near Sparta in southern Greece.
Photos: Greek God Hermes Featured in Ancient Mosaic
At the site, archaeologists found objects of worship, clay figurines, a cup adorned with a bull’s head, swords and fragments of murals.
Since 2009, excavations in the area have unearthed inscriptions on tablets detailing religious ceremonies and names and places in a script called Linear B, the oldest script to be discovered in Europe. It first appears in Crete from around 1375 BC and was only deciphered in the mid 20th century.
Ancient Greeks Used Portable Grills at Their Picnics
The new discovery will allow for more research on the “political, administrative, economic and societal organization of the region”, and provide “new information on the beliefs and language systems of the Mycenean people,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to the culture ministry, more than 150 archaeological excavations were have been carried out in Greece so far this year, “demonstrating the importance of the archaeological wealth and cultural heritage of the country.”

Archaeologists in Scotland investigate the mystery of the Rhynie Man

In 1978 a farmer ploughing his fields discovered a 6 foot (1.8 meter) high carved stone depicting a man carrying an axe. The monumental carving turned out to be an ancient Pictish artifact which was given the name ‘the Rhynie Man’ by local people after the name of the village nearby. However, since the discovery of the stone, archaeologists have largely remained mystified about its origins and history.
The six–foot boulder depicts the a man clad in a sleeved garment. He seems to be walking and carrying an axe. The art is believed to date back to about 700 AD.
The six–foot boulder depicts the a man clad in a sleeved garment. He seems to be walking and carrying an axe. The art is believed to date back to about 700 AD. Credit: Rhynie Community Facilities Development Charitable Trust
Detail, The Rhynie Man stone.
Detail, The Rhynie Man stone. Credit: University of Aberdeen
Fortunately, a team of archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen is leading a dig to discover more about the stone in the area where it was originally found, at Barflat. Near the site is the Craw Stane, another Pictish standing stone.
The "Craw Stane", a Pictish symbol stone depicting a salmon and an unknown animal.
The "Craw Stane", a Pictish symbol stone depicting a salmon and an unknown animal. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
It’s believed that the stone dates from the fifth or sixth century. The figure depicted on the Rhynie Man stone is bearded, has a large pointed nose and wears a headdress.
“We did significant work at Rhynie in 2011/12 and identified that the area was a high-status and possibly even royal Pictish site” said Dr Gordon Noble, a Senior Lecturer in archaeology at the university. “We found many long distance connections such as pottery from the Mediterranean, glass from France and Anglo-Saxon metal work with evidence to suggest that intricate metalwork was produced on site. Over the years many theories have been put forward about the Rhynie Man. However, we don’t have a huge amount of archaeology to back any of these up so we want to explore the area in which he was found in much greater detail to yield clues about how and why he was created, and what the carved imagery might mean.”
Some people think that the Rhynie Man may have been a depiction of Esus, a Celtic god associated with trees and forestry. Some of the Pictish stones in the area also have ogham inscriptions on them. Later stones, dating from the sixth to ninth centuries were carved as Celtic crosses, remnants of the time when the Picts converted to Christianity.
Image of Esus, a Gaulish/Celtic god, on the Pillar of the Boatmen.
Image of Esus, a Gaulish/Celtic god, on the Pillar of the Boatmen. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Picts themselves were a mysterious people about whom not much is known, despite occasional references in works by classical scholars. They have gained a popular reputation as savage and wild warriors, but when the Norse peoples occupied the northern regions including what is now Scotland, the Picts had already long passed into mythology as part of Celtic ‘fairy’ lore. As with another mysterious indigenous group, the Druids, the Picts never wrote anything down, which means there are no written records to assist archaeologists involved in investigating them.
However, the Roman orator Eumenius wrote that the Britons regarded the Picts, alongside the Irish (the Picti and Hiberni), as enemies and that they went into battle semi-naked. It is more likely that the word Pict derives from a blanket term applied by the Romans. Its literal meaning is ‘painted people’ on account of the Pictish tradition of tattooing their bodies or painting themselves with blue woad warpaint.
A Pict looking out to sea as depicted in a 19th century book
A Pict looking out to sea as depicted in a 19th century book (Wikimedia Commons)
Pictland was never a unified region but was more likely formed from a series of kingdoms or federations, each with its own ruler.
The team of archaeologists have been excavating the site since August 20 and will present previous finds at a public open day on August 29, as well as discuss some of their initial ideas about the site. The Rhynie Man may have stood at the entrance to the fort but the archaeologists want to try and identify the exact location in the hope it will provide some insights into what exactly the role of the stone was.
One clue is that the type of axe that the carved figure carries is of a type that has previously been linked to ritual animal sacrifice. This means the stone may have been the focus of ceremonies and rituals at particular events held for high-status individuals. This in turn may help to provide some further clues about the imagery.
According to Aberdeenshire Council Archaeologist, Bruce Mann, the investigation is also helping people to learn about the history of Aberdeenshire including what part the Picts may have played in the early development of the area.
Featured image: The countryside of Scotland, formed originally by the joining together of a number of smaller kingdoms – such as those of the Picts, Dalriada, Strathclyde and others. (Arjayempee, Flickr/CC BY 2.0). Detail, The Rhynie Man.
By Robin Whitlock
Ancient Origins

History Trivia - Julius Caesar invades Great Britain

August 26

 55 BC Julius Caesar and his Roman Legions invaded Great Britain.

 1429 Joan of Arc made a triumphant entry into Paris.

1498 Michelangelo was commissioned to carve the Pietà.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

History Trivia - Battle of Crecy - English victorious

August 25

357 Julian Caesar defeated the Alamanni (alliance of German tribes) at Strousbourg in Gaul.

1346 Edward III of England defeated Philip VI's army at the Battle of Crecy in France.

 1549 Kett's Rebellion was a revolt in Norfolk, England during the reign of Edward VI. The rebellion was in response to the enclosure of land. It began in July 1549 but was eventually crushed by forces loyal to the English crown when the Earl of Warwick attacked and entered Norwich on August 25.

Monday, August 24, 2015

United States Navy Band - Selections from Jersey Boys

The Diane Turner Show on More Music Radio - 23-08-15

9 weird medieval medicines

Anatomical chart of the human body, from 15th-century Tractatabus de Pestilentia (Treatise on Plague) © The Art Archive / Alamy

History Extra

Just as we do today, people in the medieval period worried about their health and what they might do to ward off sickness, or alleviate symptoms if they did fall ill. Here, historian Toni Mount reveals some of the most unusual remedies commonly used…

Medicines in the medieval period were sometimes homemade, if they weren’t too complicated. Simple medicines consisted of a single ingredient – usually a herb – but if they required numerous ingredients or preparation in advance, they could be purchased from an apothecary, rather like a modern pharmacist.
Although some medical remedies were quite sensible, others were extraordinarily weird. They all now come with a health warning, so it’s probably best not to try these at home...

1) St Paul’s Potion for epilepsy, catalepsy and stomach problems

Supposedly invented by St Paul, this potion was to be drunk. The extensive list of ingredients included liquorice, sage, willow, roses, fennel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cormorant blood, mandrake, dragon’s blood and three kinds of pepper.
Although this sounds like a real witch’s brew, most of the ingredients do have some medicinal value: liquorice is good for the chest – it was and continues to be used to treat coughs and bronchitis; sage is thought to improve blood flow to the brain and help one’s memory, and willow contains salicylic acid, a component of aspirin. Fennel, cinnamon and ginger are all carminatives (which relieve gas in the intestines), and would relieve a colicky stomach.
Cormorant blood – or that of any other warm-blooded creature – would add iron for anaemia; mandrake, although poisonous, is a good sleeping draught if used in small doses, and, finally, dragon’s blood. This isn’t blood at all, and certainly not from a mythical beast! It is the bright red resin of the tree Dracaena draco – a species native to Morocco, Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. Modern research has shown that it has antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-viral and wound-healing properties, and it is still used in some parts of the world to treat dysentery – but I’m not sure it could have done anything for epileptics or cataleptics.

2) A good medicine for sciatica [pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the back of your pelvis, all the way down both legs]

A number of medieval remedies suggested variations of the following: “Take a spoonful of the gall of a red ox and two spoonfuls of water-pepper and four of the patient’s urine, and as much cumin as half a French nut and as much suet as a small nut and break and bruise your cumin.
Then boil these together till they be like gruel then let him lay his haunch bone [hip] against the fire as hot as he may bear it and anoint him with the same ointment for a quarter of an hour or half a quarter, and then clap on a hot cloth folded five or six times and at night lay a hot sheet folded many times to the spot and let him lie still two or three days and he shall not feel pain but be well.”
Perhaps it was the bed rest and heat treatments that did the trick, because I can’t see the ingredients of the ointment doing much good otherwise!

3) For burns and scalds

“Take a live snail and rub its slime against the burn and it will heal”
A nice, simple DIY remedy – and yes, it would help reduce blistering and ease the pain! Recent research has shown that snail slime contains antioxidants, antiseptic, anaesthetic, anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral properties, as well as collagen and elastin, vital for skin repair.
Modern science now utilises snail slime, under the heading ‘Snail Gel’, as skin preparations and for treating minor injuries, such as cuts, burns and scalds. It seems that medieval medicine got this one right.

4) For a stye on the eye

“Take equal amounts of onion/leek [there is still debate about whether ‘cropleek’, as stated in the original recipe, in Bald’s Leechbook, is equivalent to an onion or leek today] and garlic, and pound them well together. Take equal amounts of wine and bull’s gall and mix them with the onion and garlic. Put the mixture in a brass bowl and let it stand for nine nights, then strain it through a cloth. Then, about night-time, apply it to the eye with a feather.”
Would this Anglo-Saxon recipe have done any good? The onion, garlic and bull’s gall all have antibiotic properties that would have helped a stye – an infection at the root of an eyelash.
The wine contains acetic acid which, over the nine days, would react with the copper in the brass bowl to form copper salts, which are bactericidal. Recently, students at Nottingham University made up and tested this remedy: at first, the mixture made the lab smell like a cook shop, with garlic, onions and wine, but over the nine days the mixture developed into a stinking, gloopy goo. Despite its unpromising odour and appearance, the students tested it for any antibiotic properties and discovered that it is excellent. The recipe is now being further investigated as a treatment against the antibiotic-resistant MRSA bug, and it looks hopeful.
The ancient apothecary was right about this remedy, but it was one that needed to be prepared in advance for sale over the counter.

The apothecary's shop. From Johannis de Cuba Ortus Sanitatis, Strasbourg, 1483. © Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

5) For gout

“Take an owl and pluck it clean and open it, clean and salt it. Put it in a new pot and cover it with a stone and put it in an oven and let it stand till it be burnt. And then stamp [pound] it with boar’s grease and anoint the gout therewith.”
Poor owl! I can’t think that this would have helped the patient very much either…

6) For migraines

“Take half a dish of barley, one handful each of betony, vervain and other herbs that are good for the head; and when they be well boiled together, take them up and wrap them in a cloth and lay them to the sick head and it shall be whole. I proved.”
Betony [a grassland herb] was used by the medieval and Tudor apothecary as an ingredient in remedies to be taken internally for all kinds of ailments, as well as in poultices for external use, as in this case. Modern medicine still makes use of the alkaloid drugs found in betony for treating severe headaches and migraine.
Vervain’s glycoside [a class of molecules in which, a sugar molecule is bonded to a ‘non-sugar’ molecule] derivatives too are used in modern treatments for migraine, depression and anxiety, so once again the apothecary knew what he was doing with this recipe!

7) For him that has quinsy [a severe throat infection]

“Take a fat cat and flay it well, clean and draw out the guts. Take the grease of a hedgehog and the fat of a bear and resins and fenugreek and sage and gum of honeysuckle and virgin wax. All this crumble small and stuff the cat within as you would a goose. Roast it all and gather the grease and anoint him [the patient] with it.”
With treatments like this, is it any wonder that a friend wrote to Pope Clement VI when he was sick, c1350, to say: “I know that your bedside is besieged by doctors and naturally this fills me with fear… they learn their art at our cost and even our death brings them experience.”

8) To treat a cough

“Take the juice of horehound to be mixed with diapenidion and eaten”
Horehound [a herb plant and member of the mint family] is good for treating coughs, and diapenidion is a confection made of barley water, sugar and whites of eggs, drawn out into threads – so perhaps a cross between candy floss and sugar strands. It would have tasted nice, and sugar is good for the chest – still available in an over-the-counter cough mixture as linctus simplex.

9) For the stomach

“To void wind that is the cause of colic, take cumin and anise, of each equally much, and lay it in white wine to steep, and cover it over with wine and let it stand still so three days and three nights. And then let it be taken out and laid upon an ash board for to dry nine days and be turned about. And at the nine days’ end, take and put it in an earthen pot and dry over the fire and then make powder thereof. And then eat it in pottage or drink it and it shall void the wind that is the cause of colic”
Both anise and cumin are carminatives, so this medicine would do exactly what it said on the tin – or earthen pot. The herbs dill and fennel could be used instead to the same effect – 20th-century gripe water for colicky babies contained dill.
This remedy would have taken almost two weeks to make, so patients would have bought it from the apothecary, as needed.
Toni Mount is an author, historian and history teacher. She began her career working in the laboratories of the then-Wellcome pharmaceutical company [now GlaxoSmithKline], and gained her MA studying a 15th-century medical text at the Wellcome Library. She is also a member of the Research Committee of the Richard III Society. 

History Trivia - Mount Vesuvius erupts burying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum

August 24

 49 BC Julius Caesar's general Gaius Scribonius Curio was defeated in the Second Battle of the Bagradas River by the Numidians under Publius Attius Varus and King Juba of Numidia. Curio committed suicide to avoid capture.

79 Mount Vesuvius erupted. The cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae were buried in volcanic ash Pliny the Elder died of asphyxiation at age 56 while witnessing the scene from the coast.

410 Alaric, leader of the Visigoths, sacked Rome, but spared its churches. This was first hostile occupation of the city since the fourth century BC.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mr. Chuckles bumped into Sheffield author E.L.Lindley when stirring The Wizard's Cauldron

The Wizard speaks:

One of my favourite people in Indie is back today - Sheffield's finest E.Lindley. E is well known on the circuit for the long running Georgie Connelly series, which combine the thriller genre with character and comedy.  E is also developing a reputation for punchy, angry, claustrophobic short stories about real life (some drawing on her experience as a teacher), on her blog -stories I highly recommend.

Her novels have a real BBC quality, dramatic and talky, more like plays than novels in parts, and I thoroughly enjoy mentally casting her characters, because, as you will see today, E's serious passion is cinema - if you ever need to know what a new film is like, drop E a line, because it is odds-on that she's already seen it. 

I caught up with E on the Wizphone - naturally, she was off to the flicks! Here's what she had to say.

You can find and read E's first visit to the Cauldron here, on the Wizard's Cauldron Index

Read the entire interview

History Trivia - Mount Vesuvius begins to stir

August 23

 79 Mount Vesuvius ( a stratovolcano on the Bay of Naples, Italy) began to stir, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

  406 Battle at Florence: Stilicho's Roman army beat Radagaisus' Barbarians. Radagaisus King of the Goths (East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin) was captured and executed.

 686 Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, was born.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

In case you missed it... Treachery: what really brought down Richard III

History Extra

David Hipshon, whose book on the controversial Yorkist monarch is out now, has a new perspective on the reason for Richard’s death at the battle of Bosworth in 1485

On 22 August 1485, in marshy fields near the village of Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire, Richard III led the last charge of knights in English history. A circlet of gold around his helmet, his banners flying, he threw his destiny into the hands of the god of battles.
Among the astonished observers of this glittering panoply of horses and steel galloping towards them were Sir William Stanley and his brother Thomas, whose forces had hitherto taken no part in the action. Both watched intently as Richard swept across their front and headed towards Henry Tudor, bent only on eliminating his rival.
As the king battled his way through Henry’s bodyguard, killing his standard bearer with his own hand and coming within feet of Tudor himself, William Stanley made his move. Throwing his forces at the King’s back he betrayed him and had him hacked him down. Richard, fighting manfully and crying, “Treason! Treason!”, was butchered in the bloodstained mud of Bosworth Field by a man who was, ostensibly at least, there to support him.
Historians have been tempted to see Stanley’s treachery as merely the last act in the short and brutal drama that encompassed the reign of the most controversial king in English history. Most agree that Richard had murdered his two nephews in the Tower of London and that this heinous crime so shocked the realm, even in those medieval days, that his demise was all but assured. The reason he lost the battle of Bosworth, they say, was because he had sacrificed support through this illegal coup.
But hidden among the manuscripts in the duchy of Lancaster records in the National Archives, lies a story that provides an insight into the real reason why Thomas, Lord Stanley, and his brother William betrayed Richard at Bosworth during the Wars of the Roses. The records reveal that for more than 20 years before the battle, a struggle for power in the hills of Lancashire had lit a fuse which exploded at Bosworth.
Land grab
The Stanleys had spent most of the 15th century building up a powerful concentration of estates in west Lancashire, Cheshire and north Wales. As their power grew they came into conflict with gentry families in east Lancashire who resented their acquisitive and relentless encroachments into their lands.
One such family were the Harringtons of Hornby. Unlike their Stanley rivals the Harringtons sided with the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses and remained staunchly loyal. Unfortunately, at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, disaster struck. The Duke of York was killed and with him Thomas Harrington and his son John.
The Stanleys managed, as ever, to miss the battle. They were very keen, however, to pick up the pieces of the Harrington inheritance and take their seat at Hornby, a magnificent castle that dominated the valley of the River Lune in Stanley country.
When John Harrington had been killed at Wakefield the only heirs he left behind were two small girls. They had the legal right to inherit the castle at Hornby, but this would pass to whomever they married. Stanley immediately sought to take them as his wards and to marry them as soon as possible to his only son and a nephew.
John Harrington’s brother James was equally determined to stop him. James argued that his brother had died before their father at Wakefield and so he himself, as the oldest surviving son, had become the heir, not John’s daughters. To make good his claim he took possession of the girls, and fortified Hornby against the Stanleys.
Unfortunately for Harrington, King Edward IV – striving to bring order to a country devastated by civil strife – simply could not afford to lose the support of a powerful regional magnate, and awarded the castle to Stanley.
However, this was by no means the end of the matter. James Harrington refused to budge and held on to Hornby, and his nieces, regardless. What’s more, the records show that friction between the two families escalated to alarming proportions during the 1460s.
In the archive of the letters patent and warrants, issued under the duchy of Lancaster seal, we can see the King struggling – and failing – to maintain order in the region. While James Harrington fortified his castle and dug his heels in, Stanley refused to allow his brother, Robert Harrington, to exercise the hereditary offices of bailiff in Blackburn and Amounderness, which he had acquired by marriage. Stanley falsely indicted the Harringtons, packed the juries and attempted to imprison them.
Revolt and rebellion
This virtual state of war became a real conflict in 1469, when, in a monumental fit of pique, the Earl of Warwick – the most powerful magnate in the land, with massive estates in Yorkshire, Wales and the Midlands – rebelled against his cousin Edward IV.
The revolt saw the former king, the hapless Henry VI, being dragged out of the Tower and put back on the throne. Stanley, who had married Warwick’s sister, Eleanor Neville, stood to gain by joining the rebellion.
There were now two kings in England – and Edward was facing a bitter battle to regain control. In an attempt to secure the northwest, he placed his hopes on his younger brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III.
This had immediate consequences for Stanley and Harrington, for Richard displaced the former as forester of Amounderness, Blackburn and Bowland, and appointed the latter as his deputy steward in the forest of Bowland, an extensive region to the south of Hornby. Even worse, from Stanley’s point of view, the castle of Hornby was in Amounderness, where Richard now had important legal rights.
During the rebellion Stanley tried to dislodge James once and for all by bringing a massive cannon called ‘Mile Ende’ from Bristol to blast the fortifications. The only clue we have as to why this failed is a warrant issued by Richard, dated 26 March 1470, and signed “at Hornby”.
It would appear that the 17-year-old Richard had taken sides and was helping James Harrington in his struggle against Stanley. This is hardly surprising as James’s father and brother had died with Richard’s father at Wakefield and the Harringtons were actively helping Edward get his throne back. In short, it seems that the Harringtons had a royal ally in Richard, who could challenge the hegemony of the Stanleys and help them resist his ambitions.
The Harringtons’ support for Edward was to prove of little immediate benefit when the King finally won his throne back after defeating and killing Warwick at the battle of Barnet and executing Henry VI.
Grateful he may have been, but the harsh realities of the situation forced Edward to appease the Stanleys because they could command more men than the Harringtons and, in a settlement of 1473, James Harrington was forced to surrender Hornby.
Richard ensured that he received the compensation of the nearby property of Farleton, and also land in west Yorkshire, but by the time Edward died in 1483 Stanley had still not handed over the lucrative and extensive rights that Robert Harrington claimed in Blackburn and Amounderness.
A family affair
One thing, however, had changed. The leading gentry families in the region had found a ‘good lord’ in Richard. He had been made chief steward of the duchy in the north in place of Warwick and used his power of appointment to foster members of the gentry and to check the power of Stanley.
Only royal power could do this and Richard, as trusted brother of the King, used it freely. The Dacres, Huddlestons, Pilkingtons, Ratcliffes and Parrs, all related by marriage to the Harringtons, had received offices in the region and saw Richard, not Stanley, as their lord.
When Richard took the throne he finally had the power to do something for James Harrington. The evidence shows that he planned to reopen the question of the Hornby inheritance.
This alone would have been anathema to Stanley but it was accompanied by an alarming series of appointments in the duchy of Lancaster. John Huddleston, a kinsman of the Harringtons, was made sheriff of Cumberland, steward of Penrith and warden of the west march. John Pilkington, brother-in-law of Robert Harrington, was steward of Rochdale and became Richard III’s chamberlain; Richard Ratcliffe, Robert Harrington’s wife’s uncle, was the King’s deputy in the west march and became sheriff of Westmorland. Stanley felt squeezed, his power threatened and his influence diminished.
With Richard at Bosworth were a close-knit group of gentry who served in the royal household: men like John Huddleston, Thomas Pilkington and Richard Ratcliffe. They were men whom Richard could trust, but they were also the very men who were instrumental in reducing Stanley’s power in the northwest.
By Richard’s side, possibly carrying his standard, was James Harrington. When Richard III sped past the Stanleys at Bosworth Field he presented them with an opportunity too tempting to refuse.
During the 1470s Richard had become the dominant power in the north as Edward’s lieutenant. He served his brother faithfully and built up a strong and stable following. The leading gentry families could serve royal authority without an intermediary. The losers in this new dispensation were the two northern magnates, Henry Percy and Thomas Stanley.
Richard challenged their power and at Bosworth they got their revenge. When Richard rode into battle, with Harrington by his side, loyalty, fidelity and trust rode with him. Like the golden crown on Richard’s head they came crashing down to earth.