I have just discovered that the sports teams of the University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho) are known as the Vandals. I like it! Everyone knows about the Michigan State Spartans and the USC Trojans. Around here we have the Berry College Vikings. In the world of rugby there exist the Barbarians, the Saracens, and the Huns (from Austin, Tex.). Queen’s University of Kingston, Ont. are the Golden Gaels. I think there should be more ancient and medieval European warrior people resurrected as team names, now that Indian tribes are off-limits. How about the:

Saxons (actually the name of England’s second-string rugby team)
Stormin’ Normans

Unsolicited Advice

Something amusing from The Toast (excerpts):


Unsolicited Advice For The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Working Within Their Social Parameters And Not Suggesting They Just Invent Feminism Because That’s Anachronistic

Catherine of Aragon

I don’t know what to tell you, frankly. You were married to Henry for twenty-four years, which apparently wasn’t enough time for you to learn his personality, which was easily irritated and soothed. Are you allergic to noticing which way the wind is blowing? Because that’s the only explanation I can think of for your self-destructive behavior. Henry was a simple man: he wanted literally everyone to love him without reserve or criticism, and he believed God created him to rule England and have sons. That’s it. That’s all you had to get about him. Half the time someone in his court was scheduled for execution, if they managed to get an in-person audience with him, he’d call the whole thing off and reduce their sentence to exile. Give the man what he wants! You’re not in Spain! You have no bargaining chips to speak of and the only thing your queenly pride got you was a drafty castle near I want to say Coventry and an early, lonely death. He loved you, probably, for a while. That’s as good as it gets, with Henry. Take what you can and get out.

Anne Boleyn

Annie! ANNIE. What is there to say to you, one of the greats? You came so close, my love. You were an incredible mistress. Superlative…. And it’s not your fault that Henry’s jousting accident happened on your watch and (probably) destroyed his brain. Plus, you know…Elizabeth. Elizabeth! Without Good Queen Bess, what would Cate Blanchett have done in 1998? Joseph Fiennes’ career would be right out. I honestly don’t know what you could have done differently, except have had a son. Everyone likes to give you a hard time for fighting with Henry and reading Tyndale, but let’s be honest: no one would be talking about your “forceful personality” if you’d just had a son. Henry would have forgiven you everything. (Which, I know everyone wants to blame Henry for nowadays, the no sons thing, but look at Bessie Blount!)

Anne of Cleves

Catherine of Aragon, are you listening to this? Anne of Cleves not only accepted Henry’s dismissal with gracious good humor, she happily conceded his claims that she smelled bad, had saggy tits, and didn’t ‘look like a virgin,’ whatever that means. That is oceans worse than being asked to say you were the King’s rightful sister! And she did it with a smile on her beautiful German face.

Catherine Howard

I don’t know how to instruct you. Was it fair that by the time you got Henry, he was gouty and irritable and about thirty years older than you? Absolutely not.

But you were sixteen when Anne Boleyn died. You know the drill, or should have. You know what happens to queens who don’t produce sons and irritate the King. I’m grading you on a curve because you were only twenty when you got married and honestly, I would have cheated like hell on Henry in your position too.

Medieval Nicknames

We’ve dealt with Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, Charles the Bald, and Antigonas the One-Eyed in HIS 111 this semester, but here, courtesy of my friend Peter Fleming, is a list of even better nicknames:

Medieval kings and rulers often got nicknames. If you were lucky, you would be called the Good, the Great, or the Hammer (honourable mention goes to John II, Duke of Cleves, who got nickname the Babymaker for having fathered 63 illegitimate children). Those monarchs who didn’t perform as well might get the name the Bad, the Cruel, or the Mad.

However, a few men from the Middle Ages had rather unusual nicknames, and probably ones they really didn’t want. Here is our list of the top ten worst nicknames given to medieval rulers.

Alfonso the Slobberer

Alfonso IX, King of León and Galicia – he was a fairly successful ruler of the northern part of Iberia during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, managing to stay on the throne for 42 years. However, the North African scholar Ibn Khaldun noted that he was called Baboso or the Slobberer because he would foam at the mouth whenever he got upset.

Bermudo the Gouty

Bermudo II was another King of León and Galicia, ruling from 982 to 999. His campaigns against Islamic state of al-Andalus had some initial success, but Muslim armies eventually captured many of his most important cities and even sacked Santiago de Compostela in 997. Meanwhile, Bermudo suffered from gout, a medical condition that can cause severe inflammation of the foot, particularly around the big toe. By the last year of his reign, Bermudo’s gout was so severe he could no longer ride on horseback and had to travel around on a litter.

Constantine the Name of Shit

Constantine V was the Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775, but his harsh stand against the use of icons in the Christian church earned him many critics. They gave him the nickname Kopronymos, which means ‘Name of Shit’, allegedly because when Constantine was an infant he defecated in the baptismal font.

More at the link.


Brought to you by the Letter I

From Adomnán’s Life of St. Columba. May we all have copy-editors this good:

One day Baithéne came to St. Columba and said:

“I need one of the brethren to help me go through the text of the psalter I have copied and correct any mistakes.”

The saint said to him:

“Why do you bring this trouble on us when there is no need? For in your copy of the psalter there is no mistake – neither one letter too many nor one too few – except that in one place the letter I is missing.”

So it was. Having gone through the whole psalter, it was found to be exactly as the saint predicted.

Japanese Art

From my friend Gen Kanai, on Quartz: “150-year-old images reveal what Japanese artists once thought about exotic American visitors

Inspired by the dress and habits of visiting Americans, artists in 1850s Japan once dedicated themselves with an ethnographic intensity to the study of exotic Western newcomers. Today, the artwork provides Americans with a novel perspective on their ancestors, described in portrait titles like People of the Barbarian Nations – Americans, and Americans’ Love for Children.

This particular genre of woodcut is known as Yokohama-e, and was produced in the small fishing village of Yokohama, today one of Japan’s most international cities. Yokohama was one of the first ports that Japan opened to foreign trade, at the insistence of the American government. The US made several failed attempts to get Japan’s attention throughout the early 19th century before finally forcing Japan out of isolation in 1854.

And from i09, something sillier: Japanese fart scrolls prove that human art peaked centuries ago.

Approximately 200-400 years ago during Japan’s Edo period, an unknown artist created what is easily the most profound demonstration of human aesthetics ever committed to parchment. I am referring to He-Gassen a.k.a. 屁合戦 a.k.a. “the fart war.” In this centuries-old scroll, women and men blow each other off the page with typhoon-like flatulence. Toss this in the face of any philistine who claims that art history is boring.

Gassy competitions weren’t limited to the scenes of He-Gassen (which is hilariously named in retrospect). Fart wars were also used to express displeasure at the encroaching European influence in Edo Japan — artists would depict Westerners being blown home on thunderous toots.

I shan’t reproduce the art; you’ll have to click the links.