PDV87 t1_jeg1kig wrote

The whole ghost army thing was kind of lamely adapted in RotK. The relative ease with which they dispatched the forces of Sauron at Minas Tirith is almost insulting to the men of Gondor and Rohan who gave their lives at the siege and on the Pelennor Fields.

It’s my second least favorite thing about the movies after the omission of the Knights of Dol Amroth.


PDV87 t1_j1tayal wrote

Reply to comment by oga_ogbeni in Death of Vercingetorix by oga_ogbeni

Caesar had a mountain of ruinous debts, a growing number of enemies in Rome, and little at his disposal aside from his governorship and the legions that came with it. Pompey Magnus feared he would be outshone and displaced by Caesar, just as he had outshone and displaced Sulla.

Caesar's war was certainly not a necessity, of course, but an illegal/unauthorized campaign, the aims of which were to fill Caesar's coffers and enhance his popularity with the people. However, I think he was compelled to action by his circumstances.

Over the course of Caesar's life, there are numerous examples of a desperate gamble that should have ended in disaster, but somehow, he just kept getting dealt a royal flush: the Cilician pirate incident, the Gallic wars and Alesia in particular, his invasion of Italy, the Battle of Pharsalus, the siege of Alexandria. The man's entire career was a string of calculated risks that came up in his favor, until they didn't -- i.e. the calculated risk of trusting his former enemies and showing them clemency.

In Caesar's mind, I believe the Gallic wars were more than simply a means to an end. They were a gambit for political (and literal) survival. This wanton slaughter was palatable to the people of Rome because of their deep-seeded hatred for the Gauls; in the Roman psyche, the Gauls were their most fearsome and ancient enemy, rivaled only by Carthage in terms of cultural animosity.


PDV87 t1_j1c5fsp wrote

Swords were particularly rare and expensive in the early middle ages. There were only certain parts of Europe known for their swordsmithing, and they were all controlled by different feudal powers; Frankish swords were high quality and prized by the Norse, for instance. It was also more difficult to learn to use a sword effectively as compared to a spear or an axe.

This kind of specialized training, along with mounted combat, the use of the lance and horsemanship in general, gradually became the province of the knightly and noble classes. Swords became a status symbol and, in some cultures of the medieval period, only knights and noblemen were allowed to carry them (especially during peacetime).

As the middle ages progressed, swords become more and more commonplace, just as the province of warfare begins to expand from the nobility to include professional men-at-arms of lower social rank.

Comparatively, the Roman Republic/Principate/Dominate is a completely different beast. Not only is it a massive polity stretching over the entire Mediterranean basin, it is also a military juggernaut that relies on its legions to continuously conquer new territories. Prior to the Nerva-Antonine dynasty, the idea of 'fixed borders' would have been not only ridiculous but sacreligious as well; the Romans believed they had been granted infinite imperium by the gods. Each victory brings more land, more minerals, more slaves; these resources are exploited and become fuel for the furnace of conquest.

Rome had centralized administration, tax collection, heavy industry, vast natural resources, a state-subsidized, professional standing army and labor that was extremely cost-effective (to put it mildly). States with all of that, on the level of efficiency that the Romans had achieved, would not be seen again in Western Europe until the early modern period. Those are all contributing factors to why Rome was able and willing to equip their legions as they did.


PDV87 t1_izxlamg wrote

Peasant levies were not exactly the norm in medieval warfare. Kings and lords all had personal armies of retainers, vassals and men-at-arms who were well-equipped professional soldiers. Depending on the time and place in question you might see the levy used to augment this force, but even then, in many cases these conscripted troops were also trained specialists - English longbowmen for example.


PDV87 t1_iz8gsdr wrote

Christianity had many competitors in its early days: the old Hellenic religion, Judaism, and the mystery cults of Sol Invictus and Mithras. There was also the Roman state religion, i.e. deification of the augusti, which one could practice in accordance with many established religions (with Christianity being a notable exception).

First, the spread of the teachings of Christ through the written word between learned people of clerical and priestly classes. Koine Greek being the intellectual lingua franca of a vast area (which was also highly urbanized and sophisticated by the standards of the time) allowed these writings to be spread very efficiently.

Christianity also had broad appeal, especially to the lower strata of society: slaves, laborers, the poor, etc. They may have been socially disadvantaged, but this group was numerically superior by a vast margin. Its central tenet and promise was that if you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and lived by his teachings—which, for someone who is poor, humble and generally a good person, is not far out of reach—then you will be rewarded in the afterlife with eternal bliss. Life was tough for a lot of people, and the idea that they would gain entry to paradise if they persevered and kept their faith was highly attractive. Despite being God, Jesus lived as they did; he worked, he ate, he drank, he experienced pain and suffering, and he did it all for them; that's a powerful and deeply personal message when most gods you know live on top of a magic mountain and throw thunderbolts around for fun.

Perhaps most importantly, Christianity was a prosleytizing religion, unlike Judaism. The conversion of non-believers was a core tenet of the faith. Throughout the religion's entire history you have evangelists, missionaries and other holy men spreading the faith, many times risking their lives (and often losing them) to do so. That kind of hardcore belief and obstinance has a snowball effect.

By the late 4th century, when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its state religion, the church had imperial resources at its disposal; it spread, co-opting local traditions, gaining adherents and building upon its successes. Its deep association with the Roman state continued to thrive in the Eastern Empire long after the fall of the West. And while the Western Roman Empire might have failed, the church carried on many of its clerical, bureaucratic and administrative traditions in the new kingdoms that formed from its ashes.


PDV87 t1_iz8em5z wrote

As you say, the traditional celebration of the solstice was probably the main reason why December 25th was chosen as the date on which Christ's birth was celebrated. Some people argue that another contributing factor was the holiday of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, which celebrated the birth of Sol Invictus on December 25th; however, the Emperor Aurelian instituted this holiday in 274 AD, and many others argue that he did so because Christians were already celebrating Christmas on that date.

Regarding the choice of December 25th as the Nativity, Saint Augustine said: "Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase."


PDV87 t1_ixpaqsy wrote

The parts of the Empire that were thoroughly Romanized were mainly troublesome provinces that required a lot of ass-kicking—Britannia, Gaul, Hispania, etc. After watching a vast proportion of their countrymen from all strata of society slain or enslaved, the local elites that survived hopped on the SPQR bandwagon quicker than people who play Paradox games. The Roman assimilation squad also used what we'd consider "heavy-handed PR strategies" to further integrate the conquered: merging local deities with their Roman equivalents and showing off the superiority of Roman culture with fancy innovations like roads, bath houses, Latin, crucifixion and so forth.

The other side of the Mare Nostrum was a different story altogether. These were heavily urbanized areas that had belonged to successfully-administrated states for centuries (the Persian Empire, the Greek city-states, Alexander's empire, the successor kingdoms of the Diadochi, etc). They already had a culture, and it was considered equal (or even superior) to that of the Romans. The Romans didn't have to come in and hand out their brand of civilization to the conquered while building up the area; it was already built, densely populated, well-organized and efficiently taxed. The Roman governor arrived and a laurel appeared above the head on the local coinage. These provinces required no remodeling. They were move-in ready!

The common language of the people who wrote down the New Testament (and of the regions in which they lived) was Koine Greek. The Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revelation are believed to have been written in the first century (generally between 50 and 110 CE, depending on which part), by both Jewish Christians and Hellenized Gentile Christians, mostly in Syria and Palestine. Roman dominion in these areas was relatively new, by the standards of the time, and one could argue that the prevailing Hellenistic culture of the East was the influencer, as it evolved into Byzantine culture and would remain Greek-oriented up until the Muslim conquests.


PDV87 t1_ixl9276 wrote

Kings, which retold the biblical story of King David in a modern setting; it was very short-lived and had some issues, but Ian McShane was tremendous and I think the premise had a lot of potential.

The Riches, another show that only got a couple of seasons. It was about a family of Irish Travellers and starred Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver.

Babylon 5, a really unique sci-fi show that, while it had a dedicated fan base (and still does), never got the credit it deserved for helping to usher in a new generation of genre shows with a polished, pre-conceived narrative arc that stretched over several seasons.

Rome, a show that definitely isn't underrated, but I think fits the bill of being underappreciated by the general public. The writing, casting, set/costume design, cinematography and music are all top-notch, but the acting is really something else: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Indira Varma, Ciaran Hinds, Kerry Condon, Tobias Menzies, James Purefoy and Polly Walker all give tremendous performances. Without it, Game of Thrones would have never existed.

I'll agree with you on Deadwood as well. I think the dialogue and the slow-burn pacing makes it a bit of an acquired taste, so I can see why it's not as massively appreciated as it should be, but it's Milch's magnum opus. The writing is just so good, and Ian McShane is simply next-level.

As a slightly silly honorable mention I'll also add The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. A whacky steampunk western show starring Bruce Campbell that was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. It wasn't the best show of all time or anything but I never see anyone talk about it at all. Kind of a shame, it was a lot of fun.