Welcome to the March 2 edition, here we go visit Troy and the Battle of Hastings.
Traditionally, the Trojan War arose from a sequence of events beginning with a quarrel between the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Eris the goddess of discord, was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, and so arrived bearing a gift. A golden apple, inscribed "or the fairest". Each of the goddesses claimed to be the "fairest", and the rightful owner of the apple. They submitted the judgement to a shepherd they encountered tending his flock. Each of the goddesses promised the young man a boon in return for his favour. Power, wisdom, or love. The youth, in fact Paris, a Trojan prince who had been raised in the countryside, chose love, and awarded the apple to Aphrodite. As his reward, Aphrodite caused Helen, the Queen of Sparta, and the most beautiful of all women, to fall in love with Paris.
The judgement of Paris earned him the ire of both Hera and Athena, and when Helen left her husband, Menelaus, the Spartan king, for Paris of Troy, Menelaus called upon all the kings and princes of Greece to wage war upon Troy.
Menelaus' brother Agamemnon King of Mycenae, led an expedition of Achaean troops to Troy and besieged the city for ten years because of Paris' insult. After the death of many heroes, including the Achaeans, Achilles, Ajax and the Trojans Hector and Paris, the city fell to the ruse of the Trojan Horse. The Achaeans slaughtered the Trojans, except for some of the women and children whom they kept or sold as slaves. They desecrated the temples, thus earning the wrath of the gods. Few of the Achaeans returned safely to their homes, and many founded colonies in distant shores. The Romans later traced their origin to Aeneas, Aphrodite's son and one of the Trojans, who was said to have led the surviving Trojans to modern day Italy.
The Achean Greece, or Mycenean civilization was a major Bronze age power alongside Egypt, Assyria, Phoenicia and the Hittites. The rise of this militaristic society, and the development of Greek armour and weapons would eventually grant the Greeks immortality through the literary preservation of their great conflict of the Trojan War. Normally swords are viewed as ubiquitous military armaments, but were not initially common during the early Bronze Age. Large scale close quarter conflict rarely occurred, and ritualized duels involving armoured warriors may have formed the main part of dispute resolution. Swords used large amounts of valuable bronze and were also useless for hunting due to a lack of reach. The introduction of the sword as an object designed specifically for use against other humans marks the growth of conflict as a part of society.
Spears are perhaps the most common weapon type in human history and have been used in hunting since the palaeolithic era. Boars were hunted for their tusks, used in helmets, and lions were hunted as a noble pursuit and to teach agility and discipline. The famous "Lion Hunt Dagger" from a grave in Mycenae depicts such an event. In hunting these dangerous animals, the spear was invaluable due to its flexibility and long reach. In Bronze Age warfare the spear was important, as it used much less bronze than large bladed weapons such as swords and double edged axes. This meant lower class citizens could be armed with a spear, which meant it was easier to equip large bodies of men in times of war.
Longer spears would be wielded two handed and used in a thrusting motion (visible in frescoes from Pylos). The longer reach would have been invaluable if fighting against, or from the Bronze Age war chariots. Shorter spears were used one handed with a shield and could also be thrown, not dissimular to the later Classical Greek phalanx.
Shields have become one of the iconic images of Mycenean Greek armies, due to their size and depictions on frescoes and pottery. Early Bronze age soldiers seem to have used rectangular tower shields, which are visible on numerous frescoes from 1600 BC, and equipment such as the "Lion Hunt Dagger". Since these shields were very large, covering most of the body of the warrior, they were therefore believed to be attached to the bearer's shoulder, by a leather strap. There were two main types of large shields depicted, the Tower Shield and what is known as the "Figure of Eight Shield".
The large rectangular and figure of eight shields held next to each other would have presented an armoured wall covering the whole battle line from neck to ankle. This would not only render the front ranks almost invulnerable to missiles, but would prevent many missiles from passing into the rear ranks. The size of these shields may thus suggest a considerable missile exchange before contact.
The bow as a hunting weapon was well established, and arrows were effective in piercing bronze armour. As illustrated on the "Lion Hunt Dagger" and other frescoes, it seems common for archers to be combined with tower shield spearmen as a strong defensive unit, especially to withstand early chariot warfare.
In such massed formations, the 12ft long spear would be far from impractible, and would have been a perfect weapon for levelling against an opposing line of infantry, or for defence against chariots.
The death of King Edward the Confessor of England in January 1066 had triggered a succession struggle in which a variety of contenders from across north-western Europe fought for the English throne. These claimants included the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire, in England on 25 September 1066, between an English army under King Harold Godwinson and an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada and the English king's brother Tostig Godwinson. After a bloody battle, both Hardrada and Tostig along with most of the Norwegians were killed. The battle has traditionally been presented as symbolising the end of the Viking Age,
Harold's victory over the invading Viking army was short-lived. Three days after the battle at Stamford Bridge, on 28 September, a second invasion army led by William, Duke of Normandy, landed in Pevensey Bay, Sussex, on the south coast of England. Harold had to immediately turn his troops around and force-march them southwards to intercept the Norman army. Less than three weeks after Stamford Bridge, on 14 October 1066, the English army was decisively defeated and King Harold II fell in action at the Battle of Hastings, beginning the Norman conquest of England
Many different weapons were created and used in Anglo-Saxon England between the fifth and eleventh centuries. Spears, used for thrusting and throwing, were the most common weapon. Other commonplace weapons included the sword, axe and knife.
Weapons also had symbolic value for the Anglo Saxons, apparently having strong connections to gender and social status. Weapons were commonly included as grave goods in the early Anglo-Saxon burials. The vast majority of these weapons were buried in graves of men, but they were also buried in the graves of women. In a non funerary context, weapons were occasionally deposited in the ground or near rivers.
The establishment of a literate Christian clergy in Anglo Saxon England resulted in the production of several textual sources that describe weapons and their use in battle.
Artistic depictions of soldiers bearing weapons can also be found in some Anglo Saxon sculpture. Depictions also appear in manuscript illustrations and of course in the embroidered Bayeux Tapestry. However, the artists may have been following artistic conventions concerning the depiction of warriors and weapons rather than accurately portraying the use of such items in their society.
It is accepted that Anglo Saxons primarily used the bow to hunt, and therefore it is believed that most men would have been skilled in its use.
Examples of Anglo Saxon archery equipment are rare. Iron arrowheads have been discovered in approximately 1% of early Anglo Saxon graves, and traces of wood from the bow stave are occasionally found in the soil of inhumations.
Although rarely found in graves, bows appear more frequently in Anglo Saxon art and literature. On the eight century Northumbrian Franks Casket, an archer is shown defending a hall from a group of warriors.
There are 29 archers depicted on the eleventh century Bayeux Tapestry. Only one of these is an Anglo Saxon archer, the remainder are Norman.