Siege Diaries 7/21/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: How can I work better with others?

It really is all about communication. When I am communicating well, I work very well with others. When I’m not, or when I think I am but I’m falling short, that’s where things run into trouble. Telling people things isn’t necessarily the same as communication–you can have a great strategy devised to address a problem, but if the other people involved aren’t aware of that strategy and/or have not bought into it, you’re going to go nowhere.

Today’s SMASH work:

Create a period style self portrait in any medium.

This portrait is based on a 1073 portrait of a German noblewoman who married a Kievan prince. I combined the figure of the woman, who was portrayed with a young child, and her husband, portrayed with the book, into a single figure with no child holding a book.

Throughout history, people have had to accommodate for disability. Find an example of disabled person, before 1600, and what kind of equipment they used to access their world.

Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem, is known to history as the Leper King. He contracted the disease when he was still a child. Chronicler William of Tyre notes that it was first noted that he did not respond to being pinched by other children. When he gradually began to lose feeling in his right hand and arm, the probable diagnosis was suspected, but his father, King Amalric held back on having the suspicions confirmed as the boy was not exhibiting outward physical symptoms. Confirmation of leprosy would likely have meant that Baldwin would have been required to order the military Order of St. Lazarus, a knightly order for lepers, and may have become ineligible to inherit his father’s throne.The probable leprosy did not set back his military education, however. With no feeling in his dominant hand, Baldwin was taught to control a horse using primarily his knees. He also learned to use a sword left-handed. William of Tyre mentions that Baldwin was precocious, highly intelligent, quick to learn, but also stuttered. King Amalric, worried about his son’s ability to inherit, tried to make arrangements for the succession, but died before anything could be confirmed.A council of nobles confirmed Baldwin as the only viable heir, even though the still-unofficially-diagnosed leprosy was suspected. As he was underage, a period of regency ensued, during which the disease, which affected his limbs and face most significantly, made itself outwardly manifest. However, Baldwin was allowed to continue on as King and was not separated from others, although it is known that his condition made his subjects uneasy. Despite this, he managed to earn a very high degree of loyalty amongst his courtiers, which stunned Muslim chroniclers.

Part of this was based on his brilliance as a military commander. Baldwin, who could have delegated his authority to others, instead chose to lead his troops from the front. He donned armor and rode a horse (with assistance in mounting) as long as he was able, and was able to win a number of victories, most particularly a stunning victory while outnumbered over an invading Saladin. His reign was troubled by internal struggles focusing on the inevitable succession when he died. As he became more severely affected, he became unable to walk and was carried on campaign using a litter carried between two mounted knights. When he lost his sight, he offered to abdicate, but his subjects refused to accept the offer, a tribute to the intense loyalty he had inspired. He died at the age of 24.It is thought that Baldwin’s reign did a great deal to lessen the stigma against leprosy in the Christian West. Baldwin was renowned for his piety and chastity, despite the official Church attitude at the time that leprosy was a “just punishment by God.” But his leadership skills and victories over Saladin would seem to have demonstrated the opposite—that a leper could, indeed, receive divine favour and be considered a great warrior.

So: to recap: the accommodations made for Baldwin to allow him to serve as both a King and a military commander included: teaching him to fight left-handed; teaching him to control a horse using his knees rather than his hands; assistance in putting on armour and mounting/dismounting; and, in later stages, providing a litter so that he could still be present at the battlefield. Note that there is no evidence that he wore any kind of face covering or metal mask, despite what Kingdom of Heaven might portray; the heat of the Levant would have made a metal mask worn directly on ordinary skin—not to mention skin afflicted with leprosy—profoundly uncomfortable.

Sources:…/the-remarkable-baldwin-iv-leper…/; I also highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman’s beautifully-researched novel The Land Beyond the Sea.


Pick a year, before 1600, and write a paragraph each about what happened in that year for three different cultures

1242:   The Latin Empire of Constantinople

The Byzantine Empire had fragmented into several Crusader states in the wake of the Fourth Crusade where the “Latins” or “Franks”, instead of focusing on the Holy Land, sacked the city of Constantinople.  Originally, the plan had been to restore a deposed Byzantine emperor, but when the Franks did not receive the pay they believed they were owed, they installed their own ruler in Constantinople and attempted to set up a number of vassal states.  This did not go well.  By 1242, the region was beset by constant warfare between Byzantine claimants to the throne, Bulgarians, and the Franks.  In stepped the Mongols.  Baldwin II made an alliance with Cumans fleeing the oncoming Mongols, and in return for giving their enemy aid, the Mongols attacked the Latin Empire.  Baldwin met the Mongols in battle and seem to have been initially victorious, but in a second battle they apparently lost Thrace and a rumour spread that Baldwin had been killed in battle.   Baldwin may have been captured, and was apparently forced to become accept subjugation to the Mongols and to make tribute payments. 

1242: Novgorod

The general upheaval caused by the arrival of the Mongols had serious consequences for Kievan Rus’ In the north, the Republic of Novgorod, nominally under Kievan rule but largely independent, began to become ascendant as Kiev dealt with the Mongol threat.  Novgorod, however, had enemies to the West (particularly in Finland) who viewed them as barbarians for their Orthodox faith and appealed to the Pope for aid. Pope Honorius in turn attempted to establish a trade embargo against Novgorod in the Baltic Sea.  Novgorod found itself in prolonged conflict against Swedish and Livonian forces in the West.  With the Mongols becoming more of a threat in the East, it seems the Teutonic Knights sensed an opportunity to attack what they assumed would be a weakened Novgorod, and took several cities.  However, Novgorod recalled its recently-banished young Prince, Alexander Yaroslavich (of the Rurikid Kievan line), who had fought the Swedes and Estonians several times, winning the sobriquet “Nevsky” after his victory in the Battle of the Neva in 1240.  Alexander lost an initial skirmish with the Teutonic Knights, but managed to pull back and establish a line on his own chosen ground, luring the Teutonic Knights onto the frozen Lake Peipus to attack him. After about two hours of battle on the slippery ice, Alexander sent his two flanks out to encircle the tired Teutonic Knights, sending them into a panicked retreat and winning the day for Alexander in a decisive victory.   The eastward expansion of the Teutonic Knights was halted, and thus a permanent line between the Catholic west and the Orthodox East was established.

1242:  England and France

In 1242, a revolt took place in Poitou that would eventually presage the 100 Years’ War. Hugh Lusignan, a baron with significant holdings in Poitou, revolted against Alphonse de Poitiers, oldest son of King Louis VIII.  Hugh resented the authority that Alphonse—and by extension, the Capetian kings, was attempting to impose in Poitou, an area that had long been autonomous. Hugh was married to Isabelle of Angouleme, surviving spouse of King John of England.  Her son Richard (Henry III’s brother) nominally held the title that Alphonse had claimed.  This brought England, seeking to regain lost Angevin lands, into the dispute. Henry III and Richard invaded France to support the rebels and met the French at the Battle of Taillebourg.  The English were defeated and retreated to Saintes, which was then besieged.  Henry, realizing that Hugh was lacking in support, retreated to Bordeaux.  Hugh was forced into a humiliating surrender to Louis.   Things did not go well for the English, either, as lands Henry still held in Aquitaine and Gascony took the opportunity to begin their own revolt.  In a final desperate attempt to stop the revolt and retain these lands Henry organized a blockade on the port city of La Rochelle by sea to distract French forces from marching further south.  As 1242 ended, Henry was desperately looking for new allies against the French crown.