Thursday, June 30, 2005

First Sack of Rome

Around 390 B.C., Rome was still a young city that was beginning to extend its power. However, it was still just a city-state with a strong controll over the nearest lands, few would have thought that it would later conquer the Mediterranean world. At about this time Celtic warriors had invaded Italy from the north and were settling into the land. One particular tribe, the Sennones, was engaged in a war with the Tyrhenians, one of the many Italic peoples living on the peninsula. The Romans sent ambassadors to gather information on these Celts, who had come very close to the city. These ambassadors then decided to fight in a battle between that was taking place between the Celts and Tyrhenians. One of them managed to kill an important noble of these people and this angered them. The Celts demanded the Roman Senate to give this ambassador up, this the Senate voted on and decided to do. Unfortunately, the father of the wanted man was a tribune of Rome, winning the support of the people, he managed to save his son from the Celts. This caused further anger.

When Brennus, the Celtic leader, was given the news he ordered a march on Rome at once. When Rome heard of this it armed everyone who was of the age at which he could fight and sent them to meet the barbarians. The following battle took place on the bank of the river Tiber that was farther from the city of Rome. Somehow, the weakest flank of the Roman line ended up facing the strongest Celtic troops. Soon these Romans were routed causing a domino effect that led to the entire Roman army to collapse. Those who survived this tried to swim across the river. Many more were drowned by the current or the hail of arrows and javelins that the Celts were firing. It was said that the river ran red. Those few that survived this then fled to the town of Veii, which the Romans had not long ago captured.

The news of the defeat sent a wave of fear through Rome. The Senate conferred on what to do, they decided that those of them who were able to fight should fortify the Capitoline Hill and one of their more important religious sites. All else, including the walls and the rest of the city, should be abandoned and all supplies should be sent to the strongholds. Most of the people then left the city, although many of the relatives of those defending the strongholds decided to join those. The elder Senators, in an act of remarkable courage, decided that since they were too weak to fight and that their time was already up, they should stay at their homes. Thus almost all the city was abandoned and the gates were left open for the imminent arrival of the Celts.

After some days the Celts lead by Brennus arrived at the city. Fearing some kind of trap when observing the unguarded walls and open gate, they camped outside the city for some time. When they finally decided that there would be no harm they entered the city. As they realised that there were only two places in the city where there was any resistance, the Celts soon began to loot the homes and buildings. After a little of this they returned to a forum where they all gathered. There they encountered the elderly nobles who were calmly seated in front of their homes. One of the Celts went close to these men, and was struck on the head. This put the Celts in a fury and they killed all the old nobles, then proceeded to completely pillage and then destroy the city.

To be continued

Monday, June 27, 2005

Language Tree

All languages spoken by humans can be mixed, you can try to immitate or copy a word or sound of another language or dialect, maybe you won't get it exactly right, but you can try. Extensive mixing or isolation of languages can create a new language or dialect. But why is this. For now I can think of two reasons:

1. All languages originated from one ancient mother tongue or a group or very closely related tongues that eventually spread across the world. Therefore, they all must have some kind of very basic grammatical or phonetic foundation, that allows languages to mix.

2. Since all humans are one species, it may be genetic or physical characteristics that allow languages, no matter how long separated by time and distance, to still be able to blend.

Probably for this post I will work on studying these. First, let us look at some laws we can all aggree on. Note: All my linguistic posts will be about natural languages, unless I say so.

1. Languages change, no matter how slightly, over a period of time the spoken language will change.

2. Practically all modern languages were once dialects of a larger, more general language. English and Frisian from West Germanic, Indian and Bengali from Sanskrit, etc.

3. All languages can mix, I already explained this.

4. Any kind of event that influences people, politic, economic, or military, can also have an impact on the language(s) of those people.

5. Spoken language precedes written language, therefore, we can assume that most changes happen first in speech, then in writing.

That's if for now.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Pre-urban life

Again, I know my posting is irregular. I hope you still just drop by a day to check up.

When humans built started living in more or less settled and packed shelters and, usually, picked up agriculure, society was changed radically. Their needs, responsibilites, and priorities were altered as they turned to a different form of living.

Nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes were mainly concentrated about sustaining and keeping order among the members. There were numerous bands largely scattered across the Earth doing mainly this. Even in seemingly abundant places people would have to move around constantly. Their technological advances had already given them the ability to meet, and maybe go above their food needs. This significantly shifted things in nature as it meant even a small group needed a large and constant supply of food. Moving around all the time was a good way to limit their impact on an environment.

A nomadic life still meant hardships. And people devised means of dealing with them. Perhaps part of culture started off as different peoples used different ways to deal with their surroundings. This in itself represented a major break from nature, since now one environment could create people with very different forms of life. In a nomadic life it became increasingly important to have some form of leadership which would that could make a decision for a tribe. Human populations were getting larger and it was becoming less possible for everybody to decide. As a result, leaders emerged.

To call them rulers wouldn't be right, but the pieces of society were forming. Leaders may have been chosen based on several different ways. They may have had a record of good decisions and actions in the past and thus generally picked, without an actual election. Or there may have been contests or a trial period in which leaders were singled out. Remember, by now humans were well separated from other animals, and had to devise entirely new means of living and staying together.

I am kinda tired now, and it seems the more I write the more questions I come up on. I'll be back later soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Roman Republic, was it really a good one?

I have seen several books and essys that describe the beginning of Julius Ceasar's dictatorship as the time freedom and liberty in Rome fell. Some put this date earlier to the beginning of the war between Ceasar and the Senate (headed by Pompey). I feel some things need to be made clear.

The choice Ceasar was given was an impossible one. He could either become an enemy of Rome, or he could set aside his governorship of the territories he conquered and come back to Rome with virtually no military power. Here, let me explain to you how "democratic" the Roman Senate was.

The Senate was corrupt, period. Many of the Senators thought themselves above the ordinary commoners or plebians. Sometimes they even became afraid of the unpredictable plebs, the same ones who were voting for them. There was the threat of mass riots against a senator if he did something to anger the plebs. But truly, things were happening in Rome that the commoners barely knew of. Threats, blackmail, power, force and money were more important. A man who became immensely famous through conquests, battles, and good governorship often became feared by the Senate.

The Senate had ordered it Ceasar to give up his territories to another Roman and return as a regular politician. This was driven at least greatly by fear of the man. It was considered a way to disarm a threat to the Senators' power and wealth. The people liked Ceasar, but those who represented them were afraid of him. Sound familar?

And here's another thing, only Italians could vote for Senators. Yet Rome controlled lands all around the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, not too long ago it was only the people of the city of Rome itself who had suffrage. It was Ceasar's uncle, Gaius Marius, who fundamentally changed the entire military structure of Rome, and gave the vote to all Italians. This finally satisfied the rebellious Italic tribes. However, these changes were so great they were a part of the reason for the civil war that happened in Rome between Marius and Sulla, who were once co-consuls.

Marius's reforms would deeply affect the history of Imperial Rome. It gave much of the responsibility of managing and paying the costs of legions in the hands of the generals. Thus to the troops their general often became their heroes, and they were ready to follow him anywhere.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The American Civil War

The American Civil War combines some of the most crucial questions of politics and war. Does a state have the right to secede? Does everybody have the right to nullify national laws? Is war an excuse for the government to cancel basic rights? How far can the military go when waging war on the enemy? Are there rules of war countries must abide by?

This war touched everybody, and brought to the surface the deepest recesses of politics. It showed the truth of things.

Here's some irony, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address talked of the deeds of the founding fathers "four score and seven years ago". Strangely, those founding fathers were fighting for a government that would prevent exactly the same kind of war Lincoln was fighting.

Who failed?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Beginning of the Crusades

From now on, the majority of the posting will be of the Crusades. Probably one of the most influential series of events in all of history. It involves a lot of things. The people, places, and actions together make up a truly epic period. It really did affect all of Europe, the Islamic world, the Byzantine Empire, and more. The events it set off were magnified and now affect nearly everything. Perhaps it is interesting to note that the crusaders' cross worn by the first of the soldier-pilgrims was the same cross on the sails of the ships of Columbus.

For other things that I will post on: Look at Mesoptamian culture, centering on their laws, rise of the cities and urbanisation, and how grew and faded, and grew again in power.
Continuation of linguistic studies, focusing on how languages develop, and patterns in this development.
The Italian republics of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. They were the real European political powers until crushed by the Ottomans and the Spaniards from two different sides.
Great sieges of major cities in history, some are pretty interesting.

Arab political situation at time of First Crusade: by this time, the unity of the Muslims had been fractured. Different sects, dynasties, and cultures had broken up the old unity. In the North Muslim Anatolia was controlled by the Rum Seljuks, an offshoot of the old Seljuk Empire, it was ruled by Kilij Arslan I. To the south Aleppo was under Radwan, and Damascus under Duqaq. To the East Kerbogha was atabeg of Mosul, in present-day Iraq. Further to the south were the Fatimids in Egypt, they had just recently recaptured Jerusalem from the Turks. There was no solid friendship at all among these countries. Each of the indiviudal rulers were more interested in expanding his own territory.

Chronicle: In early 1095 Emperor Alexius I of the Byzantine Empire sent a request to Pope Urban II of Rome to help drive off the Turks. In November of 1095, Urban gathered the religious leaders, lords, and nobility of all France together in the Council of Clermont. Here he gave the speech that would change the course of history. Urban told the people that instead of the constant infighting of the Christians, they should unite and war against their common enemy, the non-Christians. The Holy Land was a rich place where people could rise from the bleakness of Europe and enjoy prosperity. All who took part would be able to get cleansed of their sins. At the end of the speech, cries of "God wills it" rang throughout the council.

The pope himself and the clergy under him spread the call to arms throughout Europe. An unofficial response was begun with the People's Crusade. Most of the 100,000 partakers were not real soldiers, just peasants who were captivated by the Pope's message. There even were women and children. It's first battles were with Christians in Europe. After fighting its way to Constantinople, Emperor Alexius took them over the Strait of Bosporus, into Anatolia. There they were eventually cut to pieces by the Turks.

The First Crusade set off in August, after a long and treacherous march it finally reached the Holy Land. The story of that will be in the next Crusade post.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bloggers' Block

I either can't find a good new topic to blog about, or can't remember any. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Patterns of Language

In many ways, languages develop in similar patterns as discussed in the biological evolutionary theory. Isolation causes them to become different, hybridization can mix to languages into something that is both similar and different to their "parents". On the other hand, languages develop in far more different ways. How does a language change, how do the changes come in the first place, how is language related to the people who speak them? These are just some of the question of the study of historical linguistics, and linguistics in general.

Each and every person pronounces each and every word in a slightly different way, this pronunciation is based on genetic and environmental characteristics. In a way, these differences are passed down. The genetics part from parent to child. The environment part is determined by whoever the person is around. So now we know how individual differences in pronunciation and speaking occurr, but this doesn't explain why we have such major changes in language.

Lingual change can involve particular ways of saying something somehow become more different than the original and spreading quickly. This could occurr through some time of mass media, the famous doing it, or something else. According to my Linguistic Punctuated Equilibrium (LPE), these things would have to occur in quick strong bursts. However,the probability that a major and rapid change happens due to this is small. In old times mass media was not as influential, and it was not until the Crusades ended that the feudal powers really started losing control, shifting power more from rural to urban areas.

The other cause is simply external influence. This type of influence is more compatible with LPE as it can increase and decrease in its amount. At the same time, we can see astonishing proof. Old English would have started with the enormous mix of the Germanic languages, together with Celtic and Latin influences, and later even the Vikings. All of this mixing would have created a tremendous explosion in the richness of the culture, and the language. Middle English started at about 1100. Two major events at that time had an impact on England, the direct one was the Norman invasion. The Norman rulers, with their different language, definitely had an impact on the English language. The more long-term but far greater impact was the beginning of the Crusades. Now the doors to the East were opened, and pretty soon came a tsunami of goods, ideas, and words. Finally, we come upon the 15th century with the rise of Modern English. The reason for this change were the gradual shifting of power from eastern Europe to the west, the rise of a stable series of empires over the East-West routes, and the world exploration that was slowly starting.

Now we'll discuss how foreign influence can lead to actual lingual change. For the first stage, the invasions of the Germanics into England. The Latin and Germanic and Celtic cultures were very different from each other. With such close contact and overlapping, the three created a new culture that took things from all three and blended them. To cooperate in day-to-day activities and to administer the people properly, they would have to know each others' languages. But how would this lead to a new language? The answer can be found thousands of miles away in Hawaii.

During the early 20th century the population of Hawaii became increasingly diverse. Immigrants from Asia, Europe, and the Americas migrated to this island group, often to work as farm laborers. These mixed with the native Hawaiians and the settled Whites. Obviously, this would have created a complex patchwork of different peoples. What happened next, linguistically, happened among the children of Hawaii. Since these different people were more or less evenly spread out, their children often played together. In this constant interaction, these children actually created a whole new language that was a mix of the original ones. Linguists who studied this language labeled it Hawaiian Creole. They were astounded by how quickly a whole new language could emerge in just one generation, only a few years.

This quick rise of a language not only backs up my LPE theory, it also explains how the English language originated. It is possible that what happened in Hawaii happened in England in the mid 1st milenium AD, only on a much larger scale and perhaps taking a few more generations. Children, who can learn languages must faster, and do not distinguish as much between words of one language and another, can really act as a blender of words. The same can happen anywhere where there is about an equal number of differnt cultures spread about in one area.

Since I already have taken so much space, I will look at the reasons for the rise of Middle and Modern English later. And of course, there is the question of how grammar changes.

Back Again

I am very sorry for posting so irregularly, I keep finding distrations that keep me from actually posting. For those of you who have continued to check up, thank you.

Long long ago I posted a theory on linguistics, I called it Linguistic Punctuated Equilibrium. Perhaps it is already known, but it is worthwile to know that many languages seem to make great and sudden shifts between periods of relatively little change. If you have time, please read it.

It is known that language changes in recognizable patterns, but how? One example of the change is that in predominantly Germanic languages the p in latin is often turned into an f or v. As in the Latin pater turned into the father in English and vader in Dutch. But why did the p change into these words. A possibility is that the new Latin words were mixed up with the existing Germanic words. Perhaps in the original Germanic language the word for father started with something that sounded like an f or v.

Another possibility is that people might have just started changing the sound itself, a lot of time did pass, and we cannot be sure that the Germanics learned Latin perfectly in the first place. But even then this change would have to be specific to Germanics. Romance languages have preserved the p, as in the French pere for father. In my opinion, it doesn't seem reasonable that this change of sound could come arbitrarily in all and just the Germanic languages. I am not sure of how much we know about the ancestral language of the West German language group, even less certain about the main ancestor of all Germanic languages.

The Germanics themselves did not extensively colonize the lands they conquered. As they moved in warbands of 80,000, they could not make large-scale settlements. Therefore, the languages of Italy, Spain, France, and Romania are more or less direct descendants of Latin. The Germanics however are different. First of all, it is obvious that there has been an extremely heavy influence of Latin on these languages. A major challenge is sorting out when each word entered the languages. The first great mixing of Latin into ancestral English would have been as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes started settiling into the British Isles. Their direct contact with the Latinized people there and mixing with them would have caused a great Latin impact. One Latin impact that probably affected all the Germanics was political. Germanic rulers saw the value of learning Latin, and maybe even considered it a possible diplomatic tongue. They encouraged a literati of those who learned the language. Now how they learned it and how well may not be clear, probably through natives. Either way, as the literati learned the language, it may have eventually spread to commoners, where it could have mixed.

On my next post, hopefully today too, I will look into language "family trees".

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Pet peeve

All too much great stories or novels get degraded by time to lowly places. Take Gulliver's Travels for example, what really is a major political satire has somehow been degraded to a children't story about some guy meeting weird people. Ask people what places Gulliver traveled to, and they can only think of the lands of the midgets and the lands of the giants. Why? So many people are simply too stupid to notice any symbolism in a work. They can only understand the superficial layer of what the author is directly saying. What the heck are our schools teaching? Maybe we should tell kids stories that are not just about bunies and squirrels where everything ends happily. People just aren't thinking about what they see, read, or hear. They just believe what is directly being told them.

Friday, June 10, 2005

European Military in Pre-Crusades

The feudal structure created a military system centered around independent knights who had sworn allegiance to a lord. The lord would pay for the equipment and supplies, in return the knights had to follow the orders of the lord. Younger sons of a noble did not get much of a share in inheritances, with little money they used their rank to get a lord to recruit them. Basically, these soldiers were not really part of a al army. A king would tell his nobles to gather their troops, these soldiers would then follow their lords and together form a motley mix of troops. They were supported by some squires, non-knight horsemen, foot soldiers called sergeants. and archers. Still though, the knights were considered to be the cream of the crop.
The Arab armies were what would be called professional armies. The Mamluks were slave warriors who had been bought by the monarchs when they were children. These were then brought up to be warriors of Islam, and they were good ones at that. The Mamluks were personally owned by the monarch. Even though they were still considered slaves, they had high social statuses. The Mamluks were the standing army of the Muslims, always ready to fight.

These two armies would meet in the crusades, they were almost completely different, in how they fought, how they were structured, and what they fought for. They had completely different ideas of the world, and these would meet in the Holy Land.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Feudal Beginnings

In the years before the Crusades, much of Europe was encased in the yolk of feudalism. Basically defined, it puts power in the hands of the land-owning nobility who swear loyalty to a monarch and assist during wars, but who is allowed to have much control over his estate. The noble allowed others to use the estate, usually for farming; in return they had to give a portion of their crop or something else. These people also would have to make up the majority of the foot soldiers in an army. The monarch had little power, much depended on the consent of the landowners.

Feudalism is generally believed to have started in northern France and then spreading out. In my opinion, it really became dominant in a time when the previous Germano-Latin political and social structure was turning into a more modern European one. The constant expansion of the kingdoms was slowing down as people were rushing to get some political stability. However, the practice of rewarding long-term service continued. Since there were no new conquests, the monarchs had to give out existing land. Since towns were of diminished and agriculture was key, land was power. This practice was common in the Frankish kingdom, the main power in Europe after Rome fell. It was spread into England by Norman conquests. What really pushed it further were the Viking raids. Because they were so numerous and local, and seemed to be happening all over the place, the monarchs could not move fast enough to meet them. Thus they decided to leave it in the hands of local lords to take care of. In return for this the nobility gained even more power.

The monarchy could see this growing strength and tried to curb it. Charlemagne of France attempted to make Nobility a rotating position instead of permanent. But the efforts were not enough. Incursions by the Vikings to the north, Magyars to the east, and Saracens to the south increased political instability during a time when Europe was still recovering. In this time semi-independent local feudal governments seemed to be best off. Gradually the land-ownership positions turned from lifetime to inherited. A permanent aristocracy had developed.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A little break for now

Since I have to study and all, my blogging will probably be absent for this week-end. I hope to come back next thursday maybe, 'till then I will try to spend the time studying. I could still visit your blogs though.

Some Announcements

Sorry I haven't been posting lately. Finals are now at school and the schedules are changed. I think I'll be back later today but I'm not sure. Thanks if you are still checking up.

P.S. HBG site is now

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

For now

Okay, the link to HBG should be correct here, look around, should be interesting.