Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Bit of This And a Bit of That

Everyone knows the Germans gave up their signature spiked helmets years ago but the tradition lives on, in South America. So if you're in the mood to see the infamous pickelhaube (point cap) in action, head over to Colombia or Chile.

Likewise, you're probably wondering about Imperial Roman standards, their Signa and famous Eagles. None of these have survived fully intact, though a gilded eagle (aquila) has been found in Romania. 

Remarkably, a cloth standard (vexillum) has come down to us. This square flag was discovered in Egypt and dates from the third century AD. It features the Goddess Victory but lacks unit designation. 

Vexillum experts tell us the flag would have represented a cavalry or auxiliary force or possibly the subdivision of a Legion, and was a significant if lesser emblem than the illustrious Signum or Aquila.

Speaking of which, it's said that the imperial standards lost at the disastrous battle of Adrianople (378 AD) were recovered by general Belisarius in his war against the Vandals. They were then paraded before Emperor Justinian in 534 AD at Constantinople's Hippodrome during the last Roman Triumph. So too were the treasures of the Jerusalem temple, looted by Titus and Vespasian and brought to Rome, only to be looted again by the Vandal King Gaiseric in the mid fifth century.

As Gaiseric's defeated son Gelimer was led in shame around the Hippodrome under the gaze of thousands of cheering Romans, he quoted scripture, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity." But Gelimer wasn't strangled per the custom of old Rome, instead the vanquished Vandal was awarded estates in Galatia. He died in 553 AD.

I find this interesting unlike, say, the bogus impeachment spectacle taking place in the Senate.




LL said...

It's a much better spectacle than the impeachment hoax currently underway.

Ed Bonderenka said...

That IS more interesting.

LSP said...

LL, the ongoing hoax is too bizarre and stupid to watch, are they trying to lose in the Fall? So I turned instead to the remnants of Prussia and Justinian's reconquest.

Did you know that Belisarius ultimately defeated the Goths in Italy with, I think, some 7000 Roman regulars? Not sure about aux units/mercenaries but still. Says something about: i.The Goths ii. The quality of trained Roman troops and iii. Belisarius himself.

Of course Italy was ravaged by the war(s) and Rome itself depopulated to a shadow of its former self. But even so, for a moment in the mid sixth century it must have seemed as though the glory of the empire was about to reassert itself. Again, Constantinople, New Rome, controlled the Western Med, Italy, the African provinces and was even establishing itself in Spain. Gaul would have been next.

Who would have known that Islam, like a scourge, would arise out of the desert in the space of less than century and proceed to wipe it all away.

LSP said...

Ed, I find late antiquity fascinating, I really do. Of course it's a useful backdrop to gauge ourselves against and there's plenty of parallels. But curiously the treasure of the Temple, and it was immensely valuable, worth thousands of talents in gold, was taken to Jerusalem and left with various churches. At least according to Procopius. Where did it go?

Perhaps the Persians took it when they drove against Constantinople after Justinian in the early seventh century? Perhaps it was hidden or taken away for safe keeping in the face of heathen invasion or taken and melted down by a cash hungry, besieged empire.

I'd like to think it's out there, somewhere.

Old NFO said...

Agreed, history is both interesting and frustrating. Frustrating that we actually know so LITTLE...

Jim said...

Thanks for the history lesson. I do enjoy learning things about the past. Too often people repeat the mistakes of the previous eras.

RHT447 said...

Another +1 for the history. Love this stuff.

Continuing your opening topic about the Germans and South America, I rather enjoyed this video--


I watched it recently to refresh my memory. Many years ago I helped a widow find homes for her late husband's guns, one of which was a model 1909 Peruvian Mauser, as clean or cleaner than the one in the video. At the time I was tempted, but all my guns are shooters, and so it would have meant loading dies, bullets, and brass in 7.65 Argentine just for that rifle. I also had (and still have) a Brazilian Mauser in 7 X 57mm. So, I passed on the Peruvian. Yep, yep, just couldn't stand the prosperity.

The rifle I did buy from the same collection was an Argentine Remington rolling block in .43 Spanish. Dies? Brass? Bullets? Hahahahahah! Thank goodness for 'Track of the Wolf'.

LSP said...

We just have glimpses, NFO, sometimes they're good ones though. Imagine the scene as tens of thousands cheered Belisarius' triumph in the Hippodrome. Classical antiquity and its civ was almost over, but not quite yet.

LSP said...

Remarkable point in history, Jim. Think, by the end of Justinian's reign the Western emprie was almost brought back under control, only Gaul and Spain remained. With a bit more horsepower they could've had it and, perhaps, Islam would've been stillborn in the East. As it was, different story.

LSP said...

RHT, I'd forgotten about Athens. What a story! Have the Democrats learned nothing? Apparently not.
.43 Spanish? Neat little carbine. Oh well, perhaps there's some secret supply of ammo, somewhere?

RHT447 said...

Oops. Got my YouTube links mixed up. This is the Mauser video I meant to include in my comment--


The Athens story is a good one to remember. I used it to comment over at LL's place.