Lesson #368: The Roman Short Sword…is Spanish.

I learned today, in my reading of random things, that the official name of the Roman short sword you’ve seen in every movie about the Roman army ever is the gladius Hispaniensis. I’m a native French speaker; I have a pretty good grasp of Latin etymology.* And I know — and so should you if you paid attention to any colonial Caribbean history in school — the root of the word Hispaniensis. 

So, as I am wont to do, I went digging.

It seems that while it was developed on the Iberian peninsula, the strength (iron) and efficacy of the sword made it so popular that it was already in use by a large swath of the Rome’s armies by 200 BCE. Because of it’s durability and ability to be used both to stab, and in the right hands, to lop heads off — or limbs, whatever — the gladius Hispaniensis‘ design remain unchanged for the duration of the two hundred years it was in fashion as a Roman weapon.

More on the gladius Hispaniensis here, here, and here.

*Greek, not so much.

Lesson #356: The Zamburak

Today’s lesson comes by way of a Rock, Paper, Cynic comic. First off, Rock, Paper, Cynic is awesome and you should read it.*

Moving on…

Holy crap, you guys, camel cavalry! Camel cavalry with mounted cannons!

Technically the comic is incorrect; the zamburak (or zumbooruk) is the mounted cannon, not the camel with the mounted cannon. But the point remains. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of information available on the zamburak.

There’s some etymology here, but there’s not really anything to verify any of the information listed on the Wikipedia page, which is disappointing. The zamburaks were mostly used by the Persians and Indians as light artillery, though the range and accuracy wasn’t particularly good. They were used in combat against the British in the Anglo-Afghan and Anglo-Sikh wars in the 19th centuries, but had been used for centuries before that, at least as far back as the Persian Safavid Empire.

You can read more here. And you can see a LEGO version here.

*This one is still my favourite! It plays to both my love of words and my deep, deep love of dark humour. And if you read French and have a basic understanding of Canadian politics, read this one.

Lesson #298: The Speed of Technology

I just read something that made my brain explode.

There were only 69 years separating the Battle of Little Bighorn (in 1876), in which the most advanced weaponry was a breech-loading, 1873 model Springfield rifle, and the first combat use of the atomic bomb (in 1945, in case you missed every history class you were ever meant to attend).