transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Browsing through an interesting books, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (1994), which has quite a wealth of information about gay life in old New York City, although my attention was mostly on the chapters about the hustlers, the male prostitutes. What was it like to be a hustler in Depression-era New York City around the time Bucky and Steve were coming of age, in the late 1930s and early 1940s?

  • Male prostitutes were called 'fairies', 'cocksuckers', or 'punks' (specifically teenage prostitutes, 14-17) and the johns were called 'wolves', 'jockers' and 'husbands'.

  • There were brothels called 'slides' where johns could meet cross-dressing prostitutes

  • This is a bit early, but police records from 1921 indicate that of the men arrested for prostitution, Italian and Irish immigrants made up the bulk of those arrested (with Italians outnumbering the Irish two-to-one), but there were also Jews, black men, etc. Some of the johns were African-American men picking up white men for sex.

  • Times Square and also the benches at Battery Park were popular places to pick up male prostitutes. Some were also arrested for soliciting around subway stations.

  • Going-rate for sex acts with a male prostitute in 1931: 50 cents for oral, 75 cents for anal, plus the cost of a room (about a dollar).

transemacabre: (Rose Red)
This is an interesting account of a two powerful historical women that deserves to be better known.

Padishah of Kerman's grandfather had been smart enough to pick the winning side when the Mongol khan Hulagu invaded and conquered the empire of the Selcuk Turks. Hulagu made Padishah's grandfather the ruler of Kerman, and in due time his daughter (Padishah's mother) Kutlugh Turkan inherited Kerman.

Padishah's father died when she was young, and her mother, Kutlugh Turkan, as we have said, was governing Kerman. Padishah had been raised as a boy, but she grew into a beautiful and talented young woman, noted for her skills at poetry and calligraphy. The Mongols, as was their custom, demanded that Padishah be handed over to be married to Abaka Khan, the son of Hulagu. As far as I'm aware, this royal marriage is unique in all the medieval world -- the bride was a Muslim and the groom was a Buddhist! Muslim women aren't supposed to marry outside the faith, but if the Il-Khan of Persia tells you to hand over your nubilest daughter for him to marry, you damn well hand her over. Anyway, Abaka had many wives but it seems that Padishah was his highest-ranked wife.

In 1282, Siyurghatmish, a son of Padishah's father by a concubine, was old enough to start causing trouble in Kerman. At this time, Abaka Khan drank himself to death and his brother and sons began fighting over control of Persia. Abaka's brother Tekuder supported Siyurghatmish, but Tekuder was soon deposed and executed by his nephew Arghun, Abaka's son. Arghun had Siyurghatmish arrested, but later relented and released him. Siyurghatmish married a Mongol princess named Kurdujin; Padishah meantime had remarried, in accordance with Mongol custom, to her stepson Ghaikhatu.

This is one of Padishah's poems:

From the apple I receive secretly from your hand,
I savor the aroma of eternal life,
Because it comes to me from your hand and from your palm,
To remind me of your friendship.
My heart opens like a pomegranate from the joy I feel.

Arghun died and was replaced by his brother Ghaikhatu. Padishah was pissed that her brother Siyurghatmish had usurped her place in Kerman, and complained to her husband. Ghaikhatu seized Kerman and Padishah retook her city in triumph. At first she allowed her brother to rule by her side, but these two just could not get along. Suspecting that Siyurghatmish meant to depose her, Padishah had him arrested. His faithful wife Kurdujin smuggled him a coil of rope in a water skin into his cell, which Siyurghatmish used to escape, but he was speedily captured and strangled on his sister's orders.

A year later, in 1295, Ghaikhatu was murdered and his cousin, Baidu, came to power. Baidu married Shah Alam, the only daughter of Siyurghatmish and his grieving widow, Kurdujin. Shah Alam and Kurdudjin prevailed upon Baidu, who obligingly gave them an army with which to march into Padishah's territory, seize her, and put her to death in revenge for the death of Siyurghatmish. The poet Hamidullah wrote these verses on this occasion:

If thy cross be thorns, verily thou hast sown them;
If it be China silk, verily thou thyself hast spun it.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Did some research on the family of Stefan Dragutin, a thirteenth century king of Serbia, because it ties into my Fourth Crusade obsession, and HOLY CRAP I'm just mind-boggled at the short generation gaps in this family. The thing is, its all quite well-documented, so we're pretty sure Person Y was the mother of Person X. It's just, even for a medieval royal/noble clan, the immediate ancestors of Stefan Dragutin got married young and had kids young.

Cut for lots and lots of medieval-ish detail )

So yeah, by the time Marguerite de Courtenay died in a convent in Luxembourg, she had great-grandsons who were hell-raising warrior princes and future kings of faraway Serbia, and she may have been a great-great-grandmother (the birthdate of Dragutin and Katalin's son Vladislav is not known, but he could easily have been born about 1269/1270). The physical, generational, and cultural gulf between Marguerite and her Serbian great-grandsons is incredible.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
I'm reading through an interesting book, The Slave Girls of Baghdad: The Qiyan in the Early Abbasid Era, which is concerned with the slave trade in the 8th-13th century Abbasid empire (which spanned, as its height, from Tunisia to the borders of the Hindu Kush), specifically the lives of the slave women, or ama. I found it fascinating because there's really not been enough work done on the historical Arab slave trade. The cultural mores and expectations are really interesting to contrast with other massive slave empires, such as the Romans or even the Antebellum Deep South.

For example, the slave women most valued during the Abbasid period were the saqaliba -- what we know as Slavs-- but others were fancied depending on a man's taste. The caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan preferred Berber women to be the mothers of his children and Persians for their good behavior. Dananir, a poet, slave, and favorite of Harun al-Rashid, was black, as was Maknuna, who al-Mahdi bought for the sum of 100,000 dirhams; she became the mother of the poetess 'Ulayya by him. Ibn Butlan, an 11th century physician, left an auction catalogue of slaves that gives us an idea of what was expected of slave women in the bustling slave markets of Baghdad:

Indians: Good figures, very beautiful, dark complexion, tendency to age early, faithful and good-natured
Berbers: Most of dark complexion; obedient, faithful, and energetic
Abyssinians (Ethiopians): Slender, delicate, not talented at dancing or singing
Turks: Beautiful, white-skinned, small eyes, sullen
Byzantine Greeks: Light-colored hair, blue eyes, obedient and good-natured
Armenians: Very healthy, good-looking but for their legs (?!)
Zanj (a catch-all term for all black Africans): The darker, the less valuable

If a girl were especially pretty, or promising, she would be given an Arabic name, taught singing, dancing, the Quran, and the oud, and be bought and kept by a wealthy man, perhaps even the caliph himself. If she became the mother of a son by him, she would be an umm wallad and might even hope to be freed by him in time. Almost all the caliphs were born to slave mothers.

Al-Mansur, second caliph, son of Sallama, a Berber
Al-Hadi, fourth caliph, son of Khayzuran, a Greek
Harun al-Rashid, fifth caliph, son of Khayzuran, a Greek
Al-Ma'mun, seventh caliph, son of Marajil, an Afghan
Al-Mutasim, eighth caliph, son of Marida, a Turk
Al-Wathiq, ninth caliph, son of Qaratis, a Greek
Al-Mutawakkil, tenth caliph, son of Shuja, a Persian
Al-Muntasir, eleventh caliph, son of Habashiyya, an Abyssinian
Al-Musta'in, twelfth caliph, son of Mukhariq, a Slav
Al-Mu'tazz, thirteenth caliph, son of Qabiha, a Slav
Al-Muhtadi, fourteenth caliph, son of Qurb, a Greek
Al-Mu'tamid, fifteenth caliph, son of Fityan, a Persian
Al-Mu'tadid, sixteenth caliph, son of Dirar, a Greek
Al-Muktafi, seventeenth caliph, son of Jijak, a Turk
Al-Muqtadir, eighteenth caliph, son of Shaghib, a Greek

However, there is some evidence that pure-blooded Arabs looked down on their mixed blood kinsmen in this period; at least al-Nafs al-Zakariyyah, a descendant of Muhammad's uncle Abu Talib, could write to al-Mansur and boast, "I am not one of the sons of the divorced, nor one of the sons of the accursed, nor was I carried in the womb of slaves." The politian al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf likewise bragged to caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan that "in my lineage down from Adam there is no slave woman except for Hagar." The caliph dryly retorted, "Were it not for Hagar, you would be a cur among curs."
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
In my ongoing study of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, I face the difficulty of making heads and tails of Anseau de Cayeux -- well, namely, how many Anseau de Cayeuxes there were, because there was definitely more than just one. This is my attempt to summarize what I have found and put these Anseaus in their proper places, both in historical context and in their family trees.

Anseau de Cayeux the Crusader, whom I will call Anseau de Cayeux I, was a grown adult when he embarked on the Fourth Crusade and took part in the conquest of Constantinople in 1204. He was a younger brother of Guillaume de Cayeux, lord of Boulaincourt, a veteran of the Third Crusade, and was signing charters with his brother in 1195, so not born after 1180 or thereabouts. Anseau's career is well-attested by Villehardouin, Robert de Clari, and Henri de Valenciennes; Villehardouin tells us
that in 1205, Henry of Flanders, then regent for his captured brother the emperor Baldwin I, left Anseau in charge of the city of Bizye, with 60 knights.

Akropolites describes a raid of Theodoros of Epiros on some Latin towns, during which Anseau de Cayeux was badly wounded in the neck but saved thanks to the skill of Greek doctors, although his neck was rendered immobile and his voice forevermore harsh. From context, this incident seems to have taken place c. 1225. It seems Anseau I retired from active duty after this incident, as another Anseau de Cayeux, whom I call Anseau II, appears to come to prominence.

The Continuator of William of Tyre records the marriage of Anseau de Cayeux to the daughter of a Kuman chief, likely soon after the Kumans began arriving in the Latin Empire as they fled the Mongol invasion in 1237. The Continuator adds that Anseau, the "son of a valiant man", served as regent for the Empire during the period (1236-1239) that the emperor Baldwin II was abroad trying to drum up support from the kings of Europe. I believe this is Anseau II, and that he is the now-adult son of Anseau I; the reference to his father being a "valiant man" seems odd, given that Anseau I's paternal relations are very obscure and nowhere else remarked upon, while Anseau I himself was a prominent baron and well-known to the Latin chroniclers.

The Kuman wife must've died or been repudiated at some point, as Anseau de Cayeux is next married to Eudokia Laskarina, daughter of Theodoros Laskaris of Nikaia and at one point the betrothed of the Latin emperor Robert de Courtenay. Anseau had left his wife in the city of Tzirallon (now Çorlu), believing that Ioannes Vatatzes of Nikaia wouldn't be so ungallant as to beseige his own sister-in-law (he was mistaken). This is dated to 1247. Ephraim tells us that Eudokia married Aseldecao Italo dynastæ, which is interesting as the first Anseau de Cayeux was clearly French. Either Ephraim is mistaken or possibly the Anseau who married Eudokia had some Italian relations. It is tempting to theorize that Anseau II might've had an Italian mother; Anseau I could've made a marriage to an Italian woman between 1202-3, when the Crusaders were in Venice. If so, Anseau II could've been born about 1204 or so.

In 1253, Anseau married again, this time to Maria Angelina, a granddaughter of the deposed Byzantine emperor Isaakios II Angelos. Happily, Pope Innocent IV was kind enough in his dispensation to clearly name Anseau and his wife and her parents as Anselmum de Keu ac Mariam atam Matildis dominæ de Posaga, natæ comitissæ Viennensis...Maria, nate quondam Calojohanni... imperatore Constantinopolitano, eiusdem Matildis avunculo. (ie. Maria, daughter of Kaloioannis Angelos, lord of Srem, by his wife Mathilde von Vianden, a cousin of the emperor Baldwin II).

An Anseau de Cayeux entered the service of Charles I of Sicily, but he was the son of the aforementioned Anseau de Cayeux by his marriage to Maria Angelina; Anslaus de Kayeu fieus et hoirs Ansiel de Kayeu appears in a church document along with Marie me dame et me mère in 1276. it seems Anseau II and Maria Angelina also had a daughter, as in 1269 their daughter Eve was betrothed to Dreux de Beaumont (see Geanakoplos, "Greco-Latin Relations on the Eve of the Byzantine Restoration: The Battle of Pelagonia -- 1259", 1954). The name Eve was quite unusual in this time period, much more so than Anseau! (Once again, one wonders if she could've been named for a paternal [Italian?] grandmother.) In 1280, Charles of Anjou granted travel documents to Maria, wife of Anseau de Cayeux, so she may travel with her son from Apulia to Serbia to visit "her sister the queen of Serbia" (Helena Angelina, wife of Uroš I of Serbia). In 1281, Maria Angelina appears as the widow (relictam) of Anseau II in another document issued by Charles of Anjou, so it seems Anseau II died sometime between her trip to Serbia and her return the following year.

Anseau III seems to have returned to France, where he and his wife Marie donated land to the abbey of Valoires in 1283.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
It rather amuses me that the recent reconstruction of Richard III's face, based on his skull, means that Aneurin Barnard of The White Queen is likely the most accurate Richard III, at least looks-wise, in media history.

More obscurely (and unjustly so), the emperor Heinrich IV was the closest thing the medieval Holy Roman Empire had to a Caligula. He was memorably described by the chronicler Ekkehard as "arch-pirate and heresiarch and apostate and persecutor of souls". Bishop Erlung of Wuerzburg also tells us that he had "piercing" eyes like that of a lynx; all the more striking a detail when you consider what a Eurasian lynx's eyes look like:

Although rare, humans can have amber eyes of similar color, like so:

We also know, from analysis of Heinrich's skeleton and skull in 1900, that he stood at least six feet tall, had broad shoulders, an athletic body, "a sharpely chiseled, narrow face", large eyes, and "a finely-shaped mouth"; together with those eyes, he must've been a handsome man. No wonder Matilda of Tuscany and Pope Gregory VII wanted to see him grovel before them half-naked! Heinrich's mother Agnes of Aquitaine was from a good-looking family -- her brother was Eleanor of Aquitaine's great-grandfather -- so likely he inherited his looks from her.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
I've been doing some research on the intermarriage policies of the Mongol Empire, based on the work of Zhao Qingzhi, and all I can say is whoa~. The Chinggisids were almost as inbred as latter-day Habsburgs. Here's a very rough cut that should give you a basic idea of what we're working with, here.

Read more... )

Oh, and that Anchen guy who's name keeps popping up? Anchen was the brother of Borte, Genghis Khan's chief wife and the mother of his most important offspring. Everyone in this list is descended from him in what seems like five ways.

Here's something kinda cool, though. Due to the Mongol exogamous intermarriage policy and tendancy to install their princes and princesses, cuckoo bird-like, in subjugated nations, there were nobly-born descendants of Genghis Khan from one end of the empire to the other. Therefore, Chungseon of Korea and the princes David and Konstantin Feodorovich of Yaroslavl were born thousands of miles away from one another and possibly never knew of the other's existances. But David and Konstantin were third cousins twice removed to Chungseon, thanks to a common descent from Genghis Khan and Borte (or just Borte if you want to be a pedant about it).
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
I'm embarrased to admit that I missed the 1,302nd anniversary of the death of arguably the most badass Roman/Byzantine emperor of them all, Justinian II, this past December. Well, it's the thought that counts.

Unfairly overshadowed by Justinian I (who is very notable but for very different reasons), Justinian II was an individual of particular talents, which may be summarized in a Wikipedia way, or the Badass of the Week way (btw, yours truly suggested his inclusion to the BotW staff, who immediately said "YES MA'AM WE WILL GET ON THAT"):

Justinian II (Greek: Ιουστινιανός Β΄, Ioustinianos II, Latin: Justinianus II) (669 – 11 December 711), surnamed the Rhinotmetos or Rhinotmetus (ὁ Ῥινότμητος, "the slit-nosed"), was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711. Justinian II was an ambitious and passionate ruler who was keen to restore the Empire to its former glories, but he responded poorly to any opposition to his will and lacked the finesse of his father, Constantine IV.[1] Consequently, he generated enormous opposition to his reign, and it resulted in his deposition in 695 in a popular uprising, and he only returned to the throne in 705 with the help of a Bulgar and Slav army. His second reign was even more despotic than the first, and it too saw his eventual overthrow in 711, abandoned by his army who turned on him before killing him. -- Wikipedia.

Emperor Justinian II of Byzantium wasn't a brilliant military strategist, a capable ruler, a benevolent dictator, or even a fucking half-decent human being. He was a ruthless, merciless motherfucker who crushed all who opposed him, brutally eliminated his enemies, and let nothing stand in the way of his insane, over-the-top, possibly-misguided mission to stomp the lower intestines of anybody ballsy enough to think they could screw with him for any reason. His entire existence was dedicated to one incredibly badass mission: Live for Revenge -- Badass of the Week.

What you may have gathered from these is that Justinian II was in no way a lovable human being, but he most definitely deserves his props, if only because if you were foolhardy enough to screw with him, Justinian II would FUCK YOU UP. It wouldn't matter how far you exiled him, how hideously you mutiliated him, or how many assassins you sent after him, he would hunt you down and FUCK YOU UP. All you could hope was that you died of natural causes in the intervening time period, because Justinian II was utterly without mercy, and even IF you died before he could get his hands on you, he'd probably fuck up your wife, your kids, your homies, your college roommate, your neighbors, and anyone else that got in his way. I think we should all appreciate that level of dedication to badassery, and MARVEL BEFORE HIS BEHEMOTH DICK.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Discovered a fascinating tale, told by the Iraqi poet and qadi al-Tanukhi (died 994 AD), which contains not only a sort of zombies (?!) but also a lurid tale of incest, and I thought, Self, the people on livejournal need to know about this.

Incest appears frequently in medieval story-telling; there's a 300+ page book, Incest and the Medieval Imagination (2001) by Elizabeth Archibald, which is just about the theme of incestuous desire in medieval literature. All this proves to me is that medieval people were every bit as kinky as their modern-day descendants on lj, just that they didn't have kink memes back then so had to disguise it as a good morality fable.

One night I (the narrator of this story) looked out of my house towards the cemetery [of al-Khayzuran], as I usually do when I cannot sleep. And look! The tombs opened up, and their occupants came out, with disheveled hair, dust-colored, barefoot, and naked, and they gathered in one place there. In the end there was no tomb left occupied. They made a lot of noise, crying, praying and beseeching God not to have that woman buried with them who was to be buried the following day.

Why has the zombies of Baghdad in such a tizzy? Well, the recently-deceased woman had, by means of a trick, slept with her own son, conceived a child, and then killed it at birth. Not satisfied with what she had done, the wicked woman slept with her son again, and conceived another child, a girl who was so beautiful that she could not bear to kill her. So the mother/grandmother arranged for the baby to be brought up by a poor family, and then brought her into her household at the age of nine and passed her off as a slave. After more stratagems, the brother-father married his sister-daughter, who gave birth to more children.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Genealogical fun fact for fans of Showtime's The Borgias, Renaissance Italy, or art: Paul Gauguin was a descendant of Pope Alexander VI via the pope's illegitimate son Juan Borgia. You may remember Juan from the delightfully trashy TV series; he's the one who talked to his penis. Anyway, here's how the descent goes:

1. Pope Alexander VI, born Rodrigo Borja, had illegitimate issue by Vanozza dei Cattanei, including:
1.1. Juan Borgia, duke of Gandia, married Maria Enriquez de Luna [descended from Alfonso XI of Castile], and had issue including:
1.1.1 Juan Borgia, duke of Gandia, married Juana, illegitimate daughter of Alonso, archbishop of Zaragoza [himself the illegitimate son of Fernando II of Aragon by his mistress, Aldona Ruiz de Ivorra) by his mistress, Ana de Gurrea. They had issue, including: St. Francisco Borgia, duke of Gandia, canonized 1670. He married Leonor de Castro Melo e Menezes [descended from Alfonso IX of Leon and Sancho IV of Castile] and had issue, including: Isabel Borgia, married Francisco Gómez de Sandoval Rojas y Zuñiga, marquis of Denia and count of Lerma, and had issue, including: Leonor Gómez de Sandoval Rojas y Borja, married Lope de Moscoso y Castro, count of Altamira, and had issue, including: Pablo de Moscoso y Sandoval, married Maria Tamariz y Verdugo and had issue: Juan Santiago de Moscoso y Tamariz, married Maria Gómez-Butrón y Calderón and had issue, including: Juan Elias y Gómez-Butrón, married Petronila Zegarra y de la Cuba, and had issue, including: Gaspar Moscoso y Zegarra, married Petronila Pérez y Oblitas, and had issue: María Mercedes Moscoso y Pérez, married José Joaquín de Tristán y Carassa, and had issue including: Mariano de Tristán y Moscoso, brother of the last Spanish Viceroy of Peru, Juan Pio de Tristán y Moscoso, and friend of Simon Bolivar. He went through an invalid marriage ceremony with Anne-Pierre Laisney, and had issue: Flora de Tristán, feminist and author of The Emancipation of Women, married André Chazal [brother of the painter and engraver Antoine Chazal] and had issue, including: Aline Chazal, married Guillaume Clovis Gauguin, and had issue: Paul Gauguin, artist.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Found an English translation of this document, dated January 19, 1235. Ramon de Penyafort was a canon lawyer who worked under Pope Gregory IX; this document, composed by himself and the pope, was meant to clear up some issues the Latin Christian community in Tunis was having at the time. It's an interesting glimpse into what was going on in the Catholic communities in North Africa: talking about everything from whether it was okay to sell nails to the Saracens to whether or not you could stay married to your spouse if they converted to Islam. I'm just going to quote a few of the most interesting responses here -- credit to John Tolan for the translation.

7. Also, some capture Jews or Saracens, especially women, and take them into the lands of the Saracens, by force or not, and make them declare to the Saracens that they are Christians; they then sell them, as Christians, to the Saracens. We ask whether such people are excommunicated for the insult they proffer to the Christian name through this kind of sale.
We respond: they are not excommunicated, but they sin mortally.

9. Also, certain Christian captives, men or women, live with Saracens who have infant children. We ask whether we can advise such Christians to secretly baptize these infants, without the knowledge, will or consent of their parents, in the hope that, should some of those thus baptized die before they reach the age of discretion, they may be saved. For we may presume that those who have been so baptized, once they reach the age of discretion, would be displeased if they were to learn that they had been baptized in this way.
We respond: let them be baptized.

11. Also, if one person in a married couple sinks into heresy, whether the one who remains in the faith may communicate or cohabit with him.
We respond: he can, if he wishes, as long as it is without insult to the Creator, and if it does not lead him into mortal sin. Yet, by the authority of the Church, it is safer that he refrain from such cohabitation.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Okay, for those not in the know, the debate has raged for some years within the history geek/academia circles as to how gay, if at all, Richard I of England was. Yes, that Richard, he of Lion-heart fame, from the Robin Hood stories. After a few years of quite a few people thinking he might've been gay/bisexual, the pendulum has swung the other way and now people are loudly insisting that there is no good evidence that he was queer in any way, shape, or form.

Here's the thing. Unless we find some incredibly authentic letters in his own hand talking about how much he loved cock, or invent a time machine or something, we will never know for sure if Richard was gay or not. We have theories, we have debates, we have wishful thinking, but we will probably never know for sure. That being said, the next big question is: does it matter? Maybe its not crucial for the big picture, but obviously people find it interesting, and fuck it, that makes it worth researching. In all honesty, you'd probably find more folks interested in Richard's sexuality than in his fiscal policies, and plenty of people write long-winded research papers on fiscal policies and no one questions that.

Another big question is, is there any evidence one way or another? Well, there's contemporary writings that suggest there was something going on, but no one ever comes out and says that Richard liked mansex. He was accused of things that we would probably consider sexual sadism today, and I find it bizarre and in a sick way almost amusing that people are so quick to "defend" Richard from charges of homosexuality, when I personally think the charges that he committed and/or abetted rape and coerced sex of womenfolk are a lot more damning. Anyway, right here is usually when people tell me something along the lines of, 'If Richard had been gay it would've been a major slander; the chroniclers wouldn't have been quiet about it, his enemies would've used it against him. It wouldn't have been hinted at.'

Here's where I think our own experiences color our expectations. In the world I grew up in, the world most of you probably live in or have living memory of, being called a homosexual is one of the worst things someone can be called. There are people who kill themselves not because they ARE gay, but because they're straight but CALLED gay. So we assume it was the same for medieval people, that Richard being gay would've been even worse back then and that of course everyone would talk about it and he would be infamous.

But here's the thing. In the medieval time period, people didn't have the same concept of sexuality that we do today. To put it very basically, homosexuality was an act, not a state of being. While some people surely knew they were different, if they committed a homosexual act they could repent and do penance. If you did it again, repent and do more penance. Moreover, I found a couple other examples from the medieval time period of prominent individuals being accused of homosexual acts in an almost off-hand manner, and while it wasn't hardly meant to be complimentary, nor does it come across like the accuser thinks this is some unparalleled obscenity.

1) The notorious emperor Heinrich IV was accused of homosexual acts, blatantly by his contemporary Manegold of Lautenbach who says Heinrich took part in "the uncleanness of sodomitical filth" (sodomitica colluvionis immuniditia). Isidore of Seville says as much as well. But that charge ranks in their books right alongside Heinrich's other vices of banging concubines, fathering illegitimate children, and committing "incest" -- this last one probably referring to the charge that Heinrich's son Konrad made that his father had offered to share his second wife (Konrad's stepmother) with him. If even half the charges about Heinrich IV were true, he was without a doubt one of medieval Europe's kinkiest monarchs.
2) The relationship between the Byzantine emperor Michael III and his companion and successor (and murderer) Basil I is well-attested by, among others Luitprand of Cremona, Genesios, and Theophanes Continuatus, none of whom actually explicitly say they were humping. You'd have to be really determined to believe otherwise, or really naive or something, to think they were just hetero dudebros. Maybe the part where Luitprand describes how Michael first saw Basil after a wrestling contest, all sweaty and glistening and muscular, and was like, I need some of that in my life! will clue you in. Luitprand in particular makes it as obvious as possible as to what he's talking about; you can almost feel him elbowing you in the side while going "Eh! eh!". It wasn't politic at the time to just say it, as Basil's dynasty lasted for a couple more generations and it generally isn't a great idea to immortalize the emperor's grandpa in print as a male hooker.

So my point is we do have evidence that other medieval monarchs either committed homosexual acts or were at least accused of them, but the charges seem to have ranked alongside other types of adultery. It wasn't thought of as the atom bomb of sins. Whatever Richard was up to, if some kind of queerness or homosexuality was involved, it doesn't surprise me so much if it was considered part and parcel with his other 'vices'.
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Because I love shit like this, I posted my predictions about what an active fandom for the Plantagenet dynasty of medieval England would look like, in some alternate universe in which history!fandom is a thing. For those who don't wanna go to FFA, here's the meat of the post:

Henry II: Popular with shippers, either with Eleanor or Thomas, with a small but vocal Rosamund contingent.
Richard I: Almost entirely slash, mostly with Philippe II, Saladin, insert-random-troubadour-here, or one of his brothers. Rough trade/sexual predator characterization.
John: Totally gets the Loki/Draco in Leather Pants treatment. Actually, I could easily see his entire character being taken wholesale from fanon!Loki.
Henry III: Ignored.
Edward I: Portrayed as The Devil. In some particularly OTT fics he may even sexually abuse his son/Gaveston/both/everybody.
Edward II: TONS OF FIX-IT FIC. Anything that isn't fix-it fic is coffee shop or university AUs where he and Gaveston get their happy ending. Despenser will be largely ignored and you will never see fic about his other 'favorites'. The Isabella/Roger Mortimer shippers will be the Harmoanians of the fandom.
Edward III: Will either be written as guilt-ridden over the death of his father, or as a psychopath. There are no popular ships for him although some will fangirl or fanboy his wife Philippa.
Richard II: So ~sensitive and ~romantic and ~misunderstood. Fic will be similar in flavor to E2, but with fewer happy endings and more pretentiousness. Most likely to be written as trans*.
Henry IV: Passionate H4/R2 shipper crew. He will be written as more sympathically guilt-ridden than E3.
Henry V: Died young and left a good-looking corpse, and will probably have a healthy fandom that will ignore all the asshole stuff he did. Will be widely OT3d with Katherine and Owen Tudor.
Henry VI: No fandom to speak of.
Edward IV: He and Elizabeth will be a popular het pairings. Will also be shipped with his brother.
Richard III: Woobie.
Henry VII: (Not a Plantagenet but whatevs). Disliked.
transemacabre: (Default)
So I'm sure some of y'all have seen shows like The Borgias, The Tudors, or I CLAUDIUS at some point. If so, you know ancient and medieval royal dynasties were made up of power-hungry kings, scheming matriarchs, and yards of cleavage. Hell, Game of Thrones is nothing more than a warmed-over version of the Wars of the Roses. Well, for my money, the Komnenoi dynasty of Byzantium was quite possibly the most vicious and destructive of all medieval dynasties; you can read more about them in my As The Komnenoi World Turns. But these poisonous families give them a run for their money.

I. The Kometopulte Dynasty of Bulgaria

Read more... )

II. The Pornocracy

Read more... )

III. The Rurikids

Read more... )
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The Kumans (aka Polovtsi) were one of the pagan Turkic-speaking nomad tribes that swept across the steppes of Eurasia into the Balkans and the Byzantine Empire. Crushed by the Mongol invasion in 1237, they sought refuge in Hungary, the Latin Empire, and Bulgaria, and their descendants assimilated into those societies. Although only a historical footnote now, between about 1055 and 1237, the Kumans were some of the fiercest and wiliest warriors in Eurasia.

As far as I'm aware, no study has been done on one of the, if not THE, most influential Kuman families, which produced several khans and which intermarried with European royalty.

Sharokan, aka Sharagan (Turkic: sazağan, dragon) and his brother Sugr, khans among the Kumans. Sharokan was defeated by the Russians in battle on the Sula river (a tributary of the Dnieper) in 1107. He is mentioned briefly in The Lay of Igor's Campaign.

Sharokan's daughter, married to David Sviatoslavich, son of Sviatoslav II of Kiev, according to V.F. Miller's Ocherki. If this is correct, she was presumably the mother of David's many children.

Syrchan (Turkic: sır + çan, silvered bell) and Atraka (Turkic: atrak, Turk), sons of Sharokan. Vladimir Monomakh drove out Atraka, sending him fleeing to Georgia, but Atraka returned shortly after Vladimir's death in 1125.

Atraka's daughter, Gurandukht, married King Davit IV of Georgia. Only Davit's eldest son, Demetre, is attested as having an Armenian mother, so it would seem that Gurandukht was the mother of his younger children: Vakhtang, Giorgi, Tamar, and Kata.

Könchek (Turkic: könchek, leather leggings) and Eltut (Turkic: el + tut, to hold a realm), sons of Atraka. Eltut died in battle in 1180. Könchek's campaign against Prince Igor Svyatoslavich was immortalized in The Lay of Igor's Campaign.

Könchek's daughter, married Vladimir Igorevich of Halych (their marriage is mentioned in The Lay of Igor's Campaign)

Yuri and Köten (Turkic: kot, trousers), sons of Könchek. Yuri died in a skirmish against the Mongols shortly before the Battle on the Kalka in 1223. Köten killed his wives and then himself in 1241 after being betrayed by the Hungarians.

Daniil, son of Köten, commanded the Kumans alongside his father at the Battle on the Kalka versus the Mongols.

Zayhan, successor and possibly son or son-in-law (??) of Köten khan, khan of the Kumans in Hungary at least as of the 1250s.

Erszébet, probably daughter of Zayhan khan, married King István V of Hungary in 1253.

transemacabre: (Default)
Because we Westerners learn so much of our ancient history through the Greek writers, most of us are familiar with such figures as Artaxerxes, Cyrus, Bagoas, etc. through a peculiarly Greek or sometimes Latin filter. Of course these people spoke to and about one another in Old Persian, and wouldn't have recognized their own names in such a form. In the interest of science, I've compiled a list of some of the common Old Persian names and their corresponding Greek forms, with the meaning if known.

Old Persian | Greek
Vahuka | Ochus
Artafarna | Artaphrenes (with sacred truthfulness)
Artaxshacha | Artaxerxes (ruling through truth)
Bagabukhsha | Megabyzus
Gaumata | Cometes
Parushyatish | Parysatis (much blessing)
Xshayarsha | Xerxes (ruling over heroes)
Bagadata | Bagoas (given by god)
Darayavush | Darius (holding firm to good)
Ishtuvegu | Astyages
Kurush | Cyrus
Kambujiya | Cambyses
Chishpish | Teispes
Amastri | Amestris/Amestrine (strong woman)
Vashtateira | Stateira (beauty of the sign of Mercury
Hakhamanish | Achaemenes
Vishtapa | Hystaspes


M.A. Dandamaev. A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, 1989
Ragozin, Zenaide. Media, Babylon and Persia, 1903
transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Recently, I've been hardcore studying the fall of the Komnenoi dynasty of Constantinople, and the subsequent sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. If you're not a history buff, you can find a synopsis of it all on wikipedia or somewhere, which will give you some idea of the total fuckery of the whole thing. But when you study it in-depth, you will be blown away by how amazingly crazy -- and epic -- and crazy -- the whole saga was.

Seriously. This is the kind of thing that, if you made it into a TV show, people would criticize it for being "too unrealistic". It's like the most amazing exploitation movie ever made.

Shocking betrayals!
Princesses locked up in towers!
Pirate lords!
Secret love affairs!
Prison escapes!
Child brides!
Severed heads!

Also, Kaloyan of Bulgaria makes for one of the all-time great medieval villains (or, if you're Bulgarian, I suppose he could make for a good anti-hero). Kaloyan, aka Ioannitsa, aka Skylojan (he had more aliases than a rapper) only ruled Bulgaria for about ten years, but in that time Kaloyan killed so many Byzantine and Crusader lords, he could've filled a trophy room with just their grisly, severed body parts. Basically, the guy devoted his life to REVENGE. He had the single-minded thirst for vengeance of any ten Mortal Kombat characters, and the self-restraint of Mike Tyson. One of the stories about him was that he had Emperor Baldwin's skull hollowed out, lined with metal, and encrusted with jewels, and then used it as a drinking cup. HOLY CRAAAAP.
transemacabre: (Default)
In this post on [ profile] little_details, a poster named [ profile] littl3ghost inquired about what life might be like for his/her character, who is a male dressing as female in the Civil War-era South (Georgia, specifically). I added a little to the discussion, and then seeing the OP mention her character is half-Native American, I chimed in, asked a question, made a comment on how the Indian Removal Act might've affected her character's family, and then offered my assistance if any was needed*.

The OP's reply was sorta... testy. S/he replied that s/he is full-blooded NA and teaches NA history, so s/he's very aware of the Indian Removal Act and Native Americans in the South. Okay. I didn't KNOW that the OP was a teacher/professor of NA Studies, only that s/he was Native American. I didn't want to assume that s/he would know anything and everything about all Native Americans across the continent. I mean, I feel like that might be a little offensive, like assuming that all NA cultures were interchangeable, so if you know one you know them all. I wouldn't expect every European to be an expert on Europe, or every Asian to be an expert on Asia.

S/he also didn't like my use of the term 'Indian'. Okay. I didn't know 'Indian' was offensive, and I was using the word in the context of that place and time, but perhaps I shouldn't have used it. I asked his/her pardon. I don't feel like his/her subsequent comment of "I don't think anyone would like it if I used the term for African American people that would likely have been used at the place and time" was entirely warranted.

I will confess to finding this statement (once again, about the Civil War-era South) a little puzzling: "After all, anything was better than being black, German or Jewish."

Black, that I will give you. The South was an amazingly racist society at this time, and it would remain so for many, many years. But Germans seemed to do well enough; I have quite a few German ancestors who melded into Southern society and did just fine. Perhaps if they were German Catholics outside the traditionally Catholic areas, such as Louisiana, they might've had a harder time making a go of it in the hardcore Baptist areas like Mississippi. But that was religious, not racial, as German Protestants did okay for themselves. And I won't argue that Jews weren't an oppressed minority, but they were definitely more accepted into mainstream (ie white) society of that time than either blacks or Native Americans. Jews were prosperous merchants, and notably Stein Mart (the department store) started out as a little business run by a Jewish merchant in Greenville, MS. Several Jews served as mayors in Mississippi and many fought for the CSA. I would go so far as to say they were as assimilated as any obvious minority could've been in the pre-Civil Rights-era Deep South. It wasn't until the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and '60s (which was widely supported by Jewish people) that the whites went ape-shit against them. What happened is deplorable. However, I would say that in the Civil War era, a Jew had an easier time than a mixed-race or Indian/NA person.

*My mother's family is Mestee -- white, Melungeon, and black, from the Deep South. I thought I might could help out.
transemacabre: (Default)
Actor and Coppola family scion Jason Schwartzman, who played King Louis XVI of France in 2006's Marie Antoinette movie, filmed a mock episode of MTV's Cribs in the Palace of Versailes, all decked out in his late-18th century regalia as Louis XVI. And lo, it is wonderous.

It's obvious that Schwartzman has watched many episodes of MTV's Cribs in order to parody it so effectively. "100% real paintings!"

The only thing that could possibly make this better was if they walked into the rec room to find a TV with Scarface playing on it.
transemacabre: (Default)
So I love history, and I love languages, and naturally I love the history of language. Languages mutate, adapt, absorb vocabulary, and sadly, go extinct. I love thinking about how someone a thousand years or more ago scribbled something on a piece of birch bark or engraved a few words into a belt buckle, and that is now the oldest evidence in existence for that language. Doesn't that blow your fucking mind?

For example, here's a snippet from The Battle of Maldon, an Old English poem written about 1000 A.D. or so:

Gehyrst þu, sælida, hwæt þis folc segeð?|Hear you, viking, what these folk say?
Hi willað eow to gafole garas syllan|They desire to you a tribute of spears to pay
ættrynne ord and ealde swurd|Deadly spears and old swords
þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah|The arms of war from which you in battle will not profit

There's a bit of a pun here -- the Vikings demanded garræs, or tribute (as in the infamous Danegeld), but it can also mean 'armor', which is the meaning Brithnoth is using here -- basically he's saying, "Tribute? We'll give ya tribute! We'll give ya our spears, pointy-end first, bitches!"

With the translation side-by-side, you can kinda see something familiar in the text, but without the translation its completely indecipherable to me and, I think, most any native English speaker. Even knowing how the strange characters, such as Thorn, are pronounced doesn't really help.

From about 830-840 A.D. comes Old English's cousin, Old High German, the language of Das Hildebrandslied:

1.Ik gıhorta dat ſeggen|Ich hörte das sagen|I've heard it said
2.dat ſih urhettun ænon muotın|dass sich als Herausforderer einzeln mühten|That warriors met in single combat
3.hıltıbrant entı hadubrant untar herıun tuem|Hildebrand und Hadubrand zwischen zwei Heeren|Hildebrant and Hadubrand, between two armies

Makes me wonder how difficult it might've been for an Old English speaker to communicate with an Old High German speaker.

I like the Sequence of St. Eulalia, composed c. 881 A.D. (roughly contemporary with the Old English and Old High German examples above) as an example of Old French:

Buona pulcella fut Eulalia,|Eulalie était bonne fille|A good girl was Eulalia,
Bel auret corps, bellezour anima.|Elle avait beau corps, l'âme plus belle encore|She had a beautiful body, a soul more beautiful still
Voldrent la veintre li Deo inimi,|Les ennemis de Dieu voulurent la vaincre|The enemies of God wanted to overcome her
Voldrent la faire diaule servir.|Ils voulurent lui faire servir le diable.|They wanted to make her serve the devil.

You can really see how Latin-esque the language still is, but it's recognizably French.

In faraway Russia, we find the Novgorod birch-bark letters, a treasure trove of scribblings on daily life, thousand-year-old politics, and family dramas. Here's Letter no. 109, dated late 10th century to about 1110 A.D.:

грамота:отъ жизномира:къ микоуле:коупилъ еси:робоу:плъскове:а ныне мя: въ томъ:яла кънягыни:а ныне ся дроужина:по мя пороучила:а ныне ка: посъли къ томоу:моужеви:грамотоу:е ли оу него роба:а се ти хочоу:коне коупивъ:и къняжъ моужъ въсадивъ:та на съводы:а ты атче еси не възялъ коунъ:техъ:а не емли:ничъто же оу него:

Modern Russian:
`Грамота от Жизномира к Микуле. Ты купил рабыню во Пскове, и вот меня за это схватила (подразумевается: уличая в краже) княгиня. А потом за меня поручилась дружина. Так что пошли-ка к тому мужу грамоту, если рабыня у него. А я вот хочу, коней купив и посадив [на коня] княжеского мужа, [идти] на очные ставки. А ты, если [еще] не взял тех денег, не бери у него ничего'

Letter from Zhiznomir to Mikula: You have bought a female slave in Pskov. And now the princess has arrested me for it. But now my family has guaranteed for me. And now send a letter to that man and ask him whether he has another female slave. And I want to buy a horse and have the magistrate sit on it and initiate a svod. And if you have not taken the money, do not take anything from him.

From these birch bark writings we also have the oldest evidence of any Finnic language, namely Karelian, from Letter no. 292 along with what I think is the best transliteration and translation:

Cyrillic | Latin transliteration | Modern Finnish
юмолануолиїнимижи|jumolanuoli ï nimizi|Jumalannuoli, kymmenen nimesi
ноулисѣханолиомобоу|nouli se han oli omo bou|Tämä nuoli on Jumalan oma
юмоласоудьнииохови|jumola soud'ni iohovi|Tuomion-Jumala johtaa.

God's arrow, ten [is] your name
This arrow is God's own
The Doom-God leads.


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