Published on 6 Aug 2016
Rome had doubled the size of its empire in a single generation, but such expansion came at great cost. The wars enriched the wealthy and impoverished the soldiers who fought in them. Into these turbulent times came a talented and well-connected young man named Tiberius Gracchus, who soon learned the power of appealing to the populace over the elite.
Rome had expanded rapidly during the 2nd century BCE. It now stretched from Spain to Greece, with holdings in Africa, and showed no signs of stopping. At home, this growth destabilized the entire economy. Slaves from captured lands became field workers for the wealthy. Common soldiers who used to own land could no longer tend it during the long campaigns, and returned to find themselves either bankrupt or forced to sell to the large slave-owning elites. Now these displaced landowners flooded Rome looking for work, but many of them remained unemployed or underemployed. In the midst of this, two boys named Tiberius and Gaius were born to the Gracchus family. They were plebeians, but of the most distinguished order. Their mother, Cornelia, was the daughter of Scipio Africanus. Their father was a two-time consul who’d celebrated two triumphs for winning great campaigns. But their father died early, so Cornelia raised her children alone and made sure they had a firm grounding in the liberal arts. As soon as he could, the elder boy, Tiberius, ran for office as a military tribune and joined the final campaign against Carthage. There he earned great honor for himself, and learned from the Scipio Aemilianus, his half-brother who also happened to be the leading general. Upon return to Rome, he ran for quaeastor and was sent to serve in the Numantian Wars in Spain. This time, the general he served under was struggling and suffered defeat after defeat. At the end, he tried to flee, only to be captured by the Numantians along with the entire army. The Numantians insisted on discussing surrender terms with Tiberius Gracchus, whose father had long ago earned their respect, and he successfully negotiated the release of 20,000 captured soldiers. In Rome, however, the elites looked on his treaty with scorn: they felt his surrender made Rome look weak. The families of the soldiers had a far different perspective: they celebrated Tiberius, and even saved him from punishment at the hands of the Senate. He had learned that power could be found in appealing to the people.
August 25, 2016
August 21, 2016
Published on 20 Aug 2016
It’s Chair of Wisdom Time again and this week we talk about the Kurds in World War 1 and the iconic Swagger Stick.
August 11, 2016
Published on 16 Jul 2016
Federico da Montefeltro shone brightly as the “Light of Italy,” one of many torches that helped light the flame of Renaissance. He made his name as a wily yet honest mercenary captain, but he also ruled as prince of the small, remote town of Urbino. There, he and his wife built an illustrious court that celebrated creativity, knowledge, and justice.
Born an illegitimate son, Federico da Montefeltro became the heir of Urbino when his family got the Pope to legitimize him. As a child, he was sent to Venice to serve as a hostage for his family’s part in the wars of Lombardy, and by 15 he had turned his fate around to become knighted by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. At 16, he became a condotierre, a mercenary. Although he was technically prince of Urbino, his land was isolated and poor, so mercenary service allowed him to make money. He excelled at it: he never lost and never broke a contract. Cities began paying him NOT to fight against them, and he channeled their riches into his hometown. He looked after his soldiers families in Urbino, walked the markets every day, and held court in his garden where all citizens were treated equally under the law. Since he loved history and philosophy, he built one of the greatest libraries in all of Italy, hiring scribes to find and copy classical works that might have been lost if not for him. He also built a palace where he fostered art of all kinds, and young people from noble houses across the continent flocked to his court. His wife, especially his second wife Battista Sforza, built Urbino alongside him. She’d received the same liberal education he had and often counseled him on politics When he was away, she held court in his stead. Sadly, she died of complications while bearing Federico’s only son, whom he named Guidobaldo. Guidobaldo was intelligent and well read, but he was sickly and could never be his father’s equal in war. After Federico died, the Borgia came and seized Urbino from Guidobaldo, but although his family lost its holdings, his legacy lived on as the ideas and attitudes he’d nurtured in his court survived and spread far enough to help spur the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy.
July 18, 2016
Theresa May has become the second female prime minister in British history after the victory of the Brexit referendum campaign in late June (although she was a Remain-er herself). In The Spectator, Harry Cole indicates what Brits should expect from their new head of government:
There are plenty who have been left bruised by May’s decade and a half at the top of the Conservative party, but even her worst enemies concede that the woman who is to become the next Prime Minister has shown a remarkable durability in high office. She’s the longest-serving Home Secretary in half a century, and has made a success of what’s very often a career-ending job.
A long-retired party grandee recalls May, then newly elected to Parliament, approaching him in 1997 to ask what she must do to succeed. ‘Ignore the little things,’ he replied. It’s advice that her critics reckon she has firmly ignored ever since. When he resigned as a Home Office minister, the eccentric Liberal Democrat Norman Baker described trying to work under May as ‘walking through mud’. There are Conservatives, too, including ones in the cabinet, who accuse May of being a territorial micromanager. But the wrath of her colleagues has only increased her standing with grassroots Tories.
‘She’s a boxer,’ says a Home Office mandarin. ‘She’s got her gloves up all the time. Not much gets through. Always defensive.’ ‘Any special adviser in Whitehall who didn’t make it their business to know exactly what is going on in their department is negligent,’ contends Nick Timothy, a long-term aide and friend. ‘She wants to know what’s going on and wants to have a handle on things.’
‘As long as I have known her she has always refused to allow herself to be pigeonholed by saying she is in this club or that club or on this wing or that wing of the party,’ says Timothy. ‘It confounds some people, it especially confounds the Left, that you can be so sceptical about the European Court of Human Rights, but you can care so passionately about the rights of the citizen. It confounds them that she thinks immigration needs to be much lower, at the same time as introducing the first legislation of its kind on modern slavery. I don’t think that’s inconsistent, I think that she’s a sound conservative who believes in social justice.’
This is one of the secrets of May’s success. While she may be a defensive boxer with her gloves up, her feet are also moving incredibly quickly. That lack of pinpointing makes it very hard to define her, and thus attack her, though some will always try. ‘We will never ever forget the nasty party comment,’ says one prominent right-winger. ‘No matter how many terrorists she sends back or tough-sounding speeches she gives. She gave a name to our branding problem and it will be hung around our neck for decades by our enemies. It has damaged us as much as the misquoted “no such thing as society”.’ But while she may not be of the traditional right, there is certainly something very traditional about May as a person and as a politician. ‘If you say you are going to do a dinner, you can’t cancel it. She gets enormously annoyed if it looks like she might have to cancel something which has been a commitment she has given,’ says Cunningham. ‘I wouldn’t go as far as old-fashioned, but just a very traditional — do the right thing, you can’t let people down.’ ‘Strong sense of a proper way of doing things,’ echoes a friend.
July 17, 2016
Published on 16 Jul 2016
Indy answers your questions about World War 1 again. In this week’s episode we talk about mission tactics, how to deal with your own barbed wire and what Indy is excited about in Battlefield 1.
June 28, 2016
Published on 27 Jun 2016
Douglas Haig is usually the centre of the Lions vs. Donkeys debate. Were the British soldiers “Lions led by Donkeys” during World War 1? Douglas Haig, the father of the Battle of the Somme, is often painted as the Butcher of the Somme but is that really the case? We took a closer look.
June 7, 2016
Published on 6 Jun 2016
Aleksei Brusilov was the mastermind of Russia’s finest moment in World War 1: The Brusilov Offensive. Although it didn’t achieve it’s planned objective, it broke the back of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The life of Aleksei Brusilov was an interesting one between the cultures and even after Imperial Russia was gone, his career was not over.
April 12, 2016
Published on 11 Apr 2016
Even though he was called “the thick headed Croat” no southern Slav had ever achieved the rank of Field Marshal before Svetozar Borojevic von Bojna. During World War 1 he was probably the best general of the Habsburg Empire and his deeds during the Carpathian campaign and especially the defence against the Italians at the Isonzo River made him popular and earned him another nickname: Lion of the Isonzo.
March 15, 2016
Published on 14 Mar 2016
The military campaign in German East Africa during World War 1 went on longer than the whole war and thanks to Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and his guerilla warfare is now infamous among the theatres of the great war. But what was the history behind German East Africa and was it really a gentleman’s war and what role did the Askari play in it?
Published on 5 Mar 2016
By the time Narses was sent to join him Italy, Belisarius had been away from Constantinople for a very long time. The royal family wasn’t sure if they could still trust him, or if his repeated victories had gone to his head, so they sent Narses (who had been in Constantinople and earned their trust) to keep an eye on him. But this laid the groundwork for disputes that would unravel the military effort there. John looked down on the “barbarian” Ostrogoths and did not consider them a threat, so he viewed the war in Italy as a political battlefield between his friend Narses and his commander Belisarius. Although Procopius defends John’s courage and capability as a cavalry commander, John did not see the bigger picture in Italy and his actions interfered with Belisarius’s overall strategy even though Narses and his family connection to the previous emperor helped keep him safe from repercussions. Belisarius wound up doing the same thing when he refused Justinian’s orders to leave Italy immediately. And in the end, the arrival of the plague – Bubonic Plague, the Black Death – interfered with all their plans. Although we believe Theodora’s actions helped hold the empire together, historians like Procopius take a much darker view: he thought she went power-mad and ruined everything. It’s also worth taking a moment to point out that Theodora was a miaphysite Christian, not a monophysite as we described her in this series. We’ll clarify the difference in a future series on Early Christian Heresies, but for right now we decided to simplify. And there was one thing we left out of this series, a story we love about how Justinian succeeded (where so many had failed) in getting silk worms out of China by bribing monks to smuggle silk worm eggs away in their canes. He helped found a silk industry that brought a lot of money to the empire, and helped it survive longer than it might have otherwise.
March 13, 2016
Published on 12 Mar 2016
Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions and this week we are talking about artillery training, the education for officers and NCOs and if colonial troops were used as first in trench warfare.
March 12, 2016
Published on 27 Feb 2016
Faced with a crumbling empire, Justinian remained determined to realize the dreams of his youth – even though he was now over 65 years old and without Theodora by his side. He worked tirelessly to bring revenue back to the empire, and with money in hand he could finally deal with the forces that threatened it. He assembled his last company, an odd selection of leaders for his army, made up of men who were either old, or inexperienced, or even known for failure – yet they succeeded. His instinct for choosing the right person for the job did not fail him, as one by one his last company made peace with Persia, tamed the Balkan threat, and reclaimed Italy from the Ostrogoths. But fate was not yet done with him. A wave of natural disasters and the return of the plague shook the empire while its foundations were still being rebuilt, and left it vulnerable to an invasion by the Bulgars. Justinian turned to his old friend Belisarius, calling him out of retirement for one final campaign. As always, Belisarius succeeded against the odds, but it would be his last fight. One by one, all of Justinian’s close friends and advisors died of old age. Increasingly alone, he spent his last years trying to consolidate his empire and struggling to reconcile the Christian church. Finally, after one of the longest reigns in Roman history, Justinian died in 565 CE. His reign was a great “What If:” What if all those disasters hadn’t struck? Would his grand ambitions have succeeded? He accomplished so much with the expansion of empire, the construction of the Hagia Sophia, and his overhaul of the legal code. But in the process, he risked – and perhaps lost – everything. He emptied the treasury, overextended the borders, and left the empire vulnerable to the Ottomans years later. Good or bad, his legacy reaches through the centuries to touch our lives today.
March 7, 2016
Published on 6 Mar 2016
A promotional and informational short produced by New Horizon Films (with support from the NFB) for the Department of National Defense. The film follows a set of new recruits through officer training at the facility in Chilliwack B.C. Directed and photographed by Robert S. Rodvik; sound recording and editing by Michael J. Collier; technical advisors: Captain Stu Harper and Captain Grant Russell; music composed by Captain John Montminy; Narrated by Chad Miller; music performed by Canadian Forces Naden Band; Esquimalt B.C. “Can you be a leader?” won a Certificate of Excellence – Training at the U.S. Industrial Film Festival.
This film has been made available courtesy the City of Vancouver Archives at http://vancouver.ca/your-government/city-of-vancouver-archives.aspx Reference code: AM1553-2-S2-: MI-272
March 3, 2016
Published on 13 Feb 2016
The first recorded outbreak of the Bubonic Plague occurred in Pelusium, an isolated town in the Egyptian province, but soon it moved on to Alexandria. Alexandria was the breadbasket of the Empire, and ships carrying grain (and plague-bearing rats) spread across the Empire. The Plague reached Constantinople to disastrous effect: 25% of the population died. Justinian set up a burial office but even they couldnt keep up with the demand. When they ran out of burial land, they started piling corpses into ships and setting them afloat; they even packed them into the guard towers along the wall. So few people survived that when word got out that Justinian had contracted the plague, hope seemed lost… until Theodora stepped up. She had always been a force within the Empire, Justinian’s co-regent, and now she used that power to fight off the plots against him and keep the Empire together. She dealt ruthlessly with anyone who threatened them, and since many people wanted Belisarius installed on the throne as Justinian’s heir, she recalled him and pushed him out of power. She managed to keep the Empire from disintegrating into Civil War and became the symbol of hope and perserverance for a sorely demoralized city. And then, miraculously, Justinian pulled through.
March 2, 2016
Published on 29 Feb 2016
Erwin Rommel’s book Infantry Attacks in our Amazon Store: http://bit.ly/RommelAttacks (Affiliate Link)
Erwin Rommel had his baptism of fire during the initial offensives of World War 1 on the Western Front. His fearlessness and daring actions made him rise through the ranks quickly. When the German infantry tactics changed and the new Stormtrooper regiments were built, Rommel was the kind of officer needed. During the war in Romania and the battles of Italy he distinguished himself and already started building his legendary reputation that followed him into World War 2 as the Desert Fox.