CONWY Castle (aka Conway Castle), located in North Wales, was built by Edward I of England (r. 1272-1307 CE) from 1283 to 1292 CE to protect and maintain, along with several other castles, his newly acquired dominance in the region. Built on a rock promontory, the castle incorporated the latest defensive design features such as massive round towers, a double courtyard or bailey, and outer barbican defensive walls and towers. Conwy Castle is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
From 1272 CE Edward I, the new king of England, conquered most of Wales and joined it with the county system present in England. Following the death of Llywelyn, the Prince of Wales, in 1282 CE, the only part of Wales which remained free was the wild mountainous north and here the king built several major castles which included Caernarfon Castle, Harlech Castle, and Conwy Castle. Work began on Conwy Castle in March 1283 CE and would continue over that decade, the vast team of labourers, masons, and craftsmen being supervised by Master James of Saint Georges (c. 1235-1308 CE), the experienced architect and engineer who had previously built castles in Europe and who would be involved in many of Edward’s other Welsh castles.
The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.
By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mameluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj – both offices held by Mameluks – represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.
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IN this issue, all that glitters is gold! The Medieval Magazine goes east and visits the vibrant culture, art, and life of the Byzantine Empire. This issue takes a look at music, medieval travel in the Aegean islands, war on the frontier, Ravenna’s beautiful basilicas, and the important contributions made to Byzantine history by powerful women such as Sophia Palaiologina and Zoe Porphyrogenita. We hope you enjoy this trip to the golden East with us!
THE Englishman Sir William Marshal (c. 1146-1219 CE, aka William the Marshal), Earl of Pembroke, is one of the most celebrated knights of the Middle Ages. Renowned for his fighting skills, he remained undefeated in tournaments, spared the life of Richard I, King of England (r. 1189-1199 CE) in battle, and rose to become Marshal and then Protector of the Kingdom – king in all but name. Shortly after William’s death, Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, described him as ‘the greatest knight that ever lived’ and his deeds and titles are such that the claim still seems justified today.
William Marshal was born c. 1146 CE and he experienced his very first misadventure aged just six when his father’s castle at Newbury was attacked by an army of King Stephen’s (r. 1135-1154 CE). John Marshal was forced to give up his young son William as a hostage while the attack was suspended in order for the terms of a surrender to be settled. However, John had other ideas and used the respite to restock his castle with provisions. This seemed a risky strategy considering his son was in the hands of his enemies but when threatened with the execution of William his father glibly replied ‘I have a hammer and an anvil on which I can forge better sons than he!’ (Phillips, 104). Fortunately for William, he escaped both death and his family when Stephen decided not to end his young life by hanging him as threatened (or catapulted over the castle walls as some had proposed) and instead made him a royal ward. This was a fortuitous outcome for everybody since William, being the younger of several brothers, had no chance of inheriting the estates of his father and had to make his own way in the world anyway. It was not a bad start, after all.
THE medieval tournament was a forum for European knights where they could practise and show off their military skills in activities such as jousting or the mêlée, indulge in a bit of pageantry, display their chivalrous qualities and win both riches and glory. From the 10th to 16th century CE tournaments were the principal expression of aristocratic ideals such as chivalry and noble lineage where family arms and honour were put on the line, ladies were wooed and even national pride was at stake.
Warriors have staged practice fights ever since antiquity but the medieval tournament probably developed from the cavalry riders of the Franks in the 9th century CE, who famously practised charging each other and performing manoeuvres of great skill. The organised meetings of knights in order to practice specific military skills and engage in mock cavalry battles took two principal forms:
The tournament – a battle between two groups of mounted knights. Often called a mêlée, hastilude, tourney or tournoi.
The joust – a one on one duel between mounted knights using wooden lances.
The seven-day week has no correspondence to astronomy – unlike the presence of the sun giving us days, or phases of the moon giving us months. Historians generally think the seven-day week was “invented” by Mesopotamians and/or Jews. Both thought the number seven had mystic significance. Sumer had a (mostly) seven-day week system since at least the 21st century BCE. The Jewish weeks may have developed independently or been influenced by their Fertile Crescent neighbors.
From the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa the seven-day week spread around the Old World. The Greeks and Persians adopted the Babylonian system, and fro Persia it spread to India and China in various forms. In Japan, for instance, seven-day weeks were mainly used by specialist astrologers until the 1800s. In Europe, it was officially adopted by the Roman Empire in the 300s CE, but it was already in common use throughout the empire.
Have you heard of the Moosleute? Dwarflike “moss people,” they live in the forest of Germany. If treated well Moosleute will heal people, and for some reason, offer good advice. They’re like folktale’s Ask Amy.