Member Article: The Battle of Tondibi: The Moroccan Conquest of the Songhay Empire
by Comer Plummer, III
On Tuesday morning, April 12, Judar Pasha woke well before dawn. Like many men, he had passed a fitful night. Outside, he could hear the sound of the camp breaking up. Crabby animals. Anxious men. The air in the tent was heavy. There was a shaft of lighter darkness from the flap. Otherwise, the blackness was absolute.
Judar’s eyes refused to adjust. He began to grope, for his chain mail vest, for his cloak. After a few moments, he managed to locate his boots, rearranged by his nocturnal perambulations. As Judar emerged from his tent, his servants moved in to begin packing up.
He waved away the proffered tea. In a moment, he gestured. Taking several steps toward the river, Judar relieved himself while scanning the emerging landscape. The land he surveyed was a nondescript tract of desert named Tengodibo, near Tondibi, about fifty kilometers north of Gao, in the east of present day Mali. It was the transitional time of day. Comfortable. The mosquitos had drunk their fill and retired to digest, and the sandflies were not yet up. The first streaking rays of light revealed the few features, the great artery, pale and uninterrupted, a few clusters of acacias, and, of course, great stretches of sand. Cooking fires revealed misty air. Somewhere beyond, out in the murkiness, the Songhay were also stirring. He was grateful they had not attempted a night attack. Such had been his greatest fear. Had the Songhay rushed them en masse they might have been overwhelmed. But, Alhamdulillah, the askiya, as the African king was called, had opted for a daytime confrontation.
Member Article: The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
by Kai Isaksen
As we enter 2014, the 700th-year anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and the year of the referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, it may be appropriate to look back at other battles fought between the Scots and the English.
Throughout the centuries, the two nations have fought several epic battles – some well-known like Bannockburn, Flodden, and Cullodden – and others more obscure to the general public, but no less fascinating from a historical point of view.
One such forgotten battle was the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, fought close to the town of Musselburgh, just east of Edinburgh, in 1547.
Many historians have argued that the outcome of the battle had no political consequences and that this may well be why the battle has been largely forgotten outside historical circles.
However, historians also tend to agree that the battle was indeed significant, in that it can be argued to be the first modern battle on British soil, a battle featuring the first real combined arms operations (as we define it through modern eyes), using infantry, cavalry and artillery, as well as naval bombardment, in a coordinated and mutually supportive way on the battlefield.
Member Article: Prelude to Disaster: The Siege of Mazagan, 1562: Portuguese Policy and Pyrrhic Victory in 16th Century Morocco
by Comer Plummer
It was a pleasant day of early spring in Lisbon and King Sebastian I of Portugal and the Algarve was making the most of it, bounding about the gardens of the Ribeira Palace. His elfish form disappeared momentarily behind the hedges and then into the shadows of the King's Tower before popping out again, diminutive rapier in hand, the shock of copper hair tussled. Normally, the sights and sounds of the Tagus River and nearby shipyard would have been the boy's primary diversions, but this day was different. Today, there were a thousand imaginary enemies at hand, and the King was determined to slay them all. The host was a Moorish one, godless savages and unruly fighters, and he was the crusading King Manuel I, the one they called The Fortunate, under whose rule the empire reached its zenith. Over 40 years after Manuel's death the country still bore his stamp, right down to the late Gothic architecture, a florid mélange of Italian, Spanish, and Flemish accents to traditional Portuguese style. Manueline, they called it.
As Sebastian leapt by, parrying and lunging, gardeners looked up, revealing weathered faces and furtive looks that were strangely servile and prideful. As the boy rounded the west side of the palace, that facing the river, he came upon knights and men-at-arms milling about the entrance. Recognizing their assailant, the men threw up their arms in mock surrender, sending the scowling boy off in search of another encounter. Usually, the eight-year old King was only permitted so much of this nonsense, but, under the circumstances, he was allowed to indulge. News from Morocco had everyone in a state of excitement.
Member Article: The Sharif and the Sultan of Fishermen: Mohammed ash-Shaykh, the Rise of the Saadians, and the Emergence of Modern Morocco
by Comer Plummer
It was in Constantinople, perhaps in 1558, or even years later, that on a certain
day a weathered basket containing the rotten head of Mohammed ash-Shaykh toppled
from the ancient Walls of Theodosius. It had hung there for a long time. Just how
long, no one quite remembered. It tumbled into the refuse that collected along the
base, a forgotten memento, uninteresting to even the wild dogs that scavenged there.
Such a spectacle was, for the era, both callous and insipid. Eventually, it would
become a dubious distinction for a Moroccan sovereign. In the final analysis, it
might be described as a nadir that underscored an audacious life.
Ninety Five Theses and the Revolution that followed
by Thomas Leckwold
Martin Luther's Ninety Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences was
nailed to the castle church in Wittenberg, in now modern day Germany, on October
31, 1517. This document was a protest that strongly criticized the practice of selling
indulgences of the Roman Catholic Church, known here after as the Church. The document
was a challenge to church authority that set forth events that permanently changed
the religious, political, and social factors of central Europe, and led to a series
of wars using the pretext of faith, and the role of the Church in the political
structure of Western Europe. Luther's document was not meant to be a call to revolution,
but the social conditions, and economic factors, along with religious convictions
did set in motion a revolution and subsequent conflicts in central Europe.
Cairo’s Fortress on the Mountain
by David W. Tschanz
Cairo residents call it the Qal'at al-Jabal, the Fortress on the Mountain, or just al-Qal'ah, the Fortress. The rest of the world simply calls it “The Citadel.” For nearly a millennium it has stood as a silent sentinel, residence, and symbol of power.
Standing on its battlements, and looking westwards provides a view of over 4500 years of architectural marvels from the mosque of Sultan Hasan, just below to the Pyramids of Giza across the Nile. From atop this fortress the awesome sweep of history is a vivid reality. It is a view that must have given even the sultans who ruled from here, cause to reflect.
Member Article: Armenian Warriors, Japanese Samurai
by Dr. Armen Ayvazyan
Armenian historiography contains considerable information about ancient and medieval Armenian military ideology.
In the works of fifth century historians Pavstos Buzand and Movses Khorenatzi, the commands and legacy of the Armenian
sparapets (commanders in chief) to their successors articulate in detail the obligations and responsibilities of
Armenian warriors. Their norms of conduct share striking similarities with the system of values of the Japanese samurai
codified during the 16th to 18th centuries, as well as with later medieval West European chivalry of the eight to 14th
“Fight and offer your life for the Armenian World just as your brave forefathers did, consciously sacrificing their lives for this Homeland…”
Member Article: Byzantine Military Pragmatism vs. Imperial Prejudice: Possible Reasons for Omitting the Armenians from the List of Hostiles in Maurice’s
by by Dr. Armen Ayvazyan
The problem of the various images of the Armenians in Byzantium has already become the subject of numerous, if sketchy, historical investigations and remarks. As a rule, students of this subject have focused on the images of those Armenians who resided beyond Armenia proper in the Byzantine capital and peripheral provinces as either newly-arrived immigrants or old-established inhabitants. Consequently, the shaping of the images of the Armenians in Byzantine Empire was appropriately sought and analyzed in such spheres as ecclesiastical differences between Armenian and Greek Churches, the ethnic peculiarities of everyday life as well as the rivalry in the imperial court between the Armenians and Greeks, the two major ethnic components of Byzantine elite. In contrast, this essay aims to analyze the Byzantines’ image of the Armenians of Armenia, that is, those who continued to live in and exercise military and political authority over their homeland. Accordingly, this study focuses on the geopolitical determinant in the construction of Armenian images in the imperial strata of Byzantine society.
Member Article: Lusty Stukeley: Deceiver of Princes
by Comer Plummer
The day was Monday, August 4, 1578. Sir Thomas Stukeley stood in his armor on the plain of Ksar el-Kebir, in the heart of the Kingdom of Fez, with the hosts assembling for battle around him. He had collected himself by then, having shed the ordeal of the previous night, with its discomforts and frustrations. He would have been calm and reflective, as only experienced soldiers could be at such times. Thomas probably knew that he was playing his final card. In a life of twists and turns the climactic moment had at last arrived. There was no maneuvering out of it. He was adrift among forces beyond his control. At last, on this battlefield, his destiny would be decided.
Member Article: Constantinople - The Citadel at the Gate
by Comer Plummer, III
The art of fortification is a clear reflection of our past. It bears witness to our roots as a race of mutually hostile
societies, and impresses upon us the determination of a people to defend themselves.
It has existed ever since man first came to realize the value of natural obstacles to his common defense, and evolved
as he sought to invoke his own methods to fully exploit this advantage. The building of barriers rapidly evolved from
the simple mud parapets and mountain top abodes of the Neolithic Age to the construction of linear and point stone
obstacles of the Bronze Age, best represented by the Hittite capital of Hattusas.
Member Article: The Battle of Poyang Lake
by Joshua Gilbert
In late August 1363 AD the two main contenders for control of China,
Zhu Yuanzhang and Chen Youliang, faced off on Poyang (also called Boyang)
Lake, the largest freshwater body of water in China.
In the end Zhu Yuanzhang would win the battle and go on to found one of
China’s greatest dynasties: the Ming.
Member Article: Apocalypse Then: The
Battle of the Three Kings
by Comer Plummer
Don Sebastian, the twenty-four-year-old King of Portugal, rose early on the
morning of August 4, 1578. He was restless as they dressed him under the silken
tent in new armor, over which was applied a leather tunic to guard against the
heat of the Sun. Outside, the din of the camp was building as the army too
girded for battle. On the hills facing them, the Moroccan army was also
Member Article: The Emergence of Seapower in the Yuan Dynasty
by John J. Trombetta and Steven C. Ippolito
John Keegan views the Mongolian war-making polity as a fusion of the "horse
and human ruthlessness[.]" The great khans, Chinggis, Ogodei, Mongke, and
Khublai Khan, gathered the martial energies of the steppe nomad in the quest
for Empire, and released them like so many dogs of war upon Asia, Europe,
China, Korea, the Middle East of Persians and Arabs, and Japan. Results were
startling: extraordinary political changes that reworked the map of the
thirteenth century Asia, and a transformation of war in the Asian steppe
"making it for the first time," in the view of Keegan, "'a thing in
Member Article: The Hundred Years War: An Analysis of the Causes and Conduct of the Longest
by Patrick J. Shrier
The Hundred Years War between England and France from 1337-1453 is best viewed
as a series of interconnected wars with the same basic objective instead of as
one long war. There was not continuous fighting during the period nor did
England and France keep armies constantly in the field, rather it was almost a
game between the two countries with clearly defined rules as to when to fight
and when to rest. The period was marked by many truces some for just a season
and some lasting years. The most striking thing when one studies the wars of
the period is how the English army was almost invariably superior to the French
in capabilities yet somehow the English managed to lose the war.
Member Article: The Muslim Horde's Easy Invasion of Iberia
by Robert C. Daniels
After a short foray in July of 710 AD, Muslim forces from North Africa invaded
the Christian Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal) in the spring
of 711, and within two years, with the exception of the extreme northwestern
portion of the peninsula, had successfully overpowered and conquered the
Visigothic Christian realms of Iberia. Not only did it take the Frankish
forces under Charles Martel to stop the Muslim horde at the battle of Poitiers
in 732 from further intrusions into Western Europe, it would take nearly eight
centuries for the Iberian Christians to re-take the peninsula from the Muslims.
Member Article: The Orin War
by Joshua Gilbert
The Onin War, (so called because it occurred in the regnal year Onin 1), was
the catalyst that sparked the century long period of Japanese history known as
the Sengoku Jidai, the "Age of the Country at War". What began originally as a
dispute between a father and his son-in-law, became an eleven year war that
trashed the once great city of Kyoto and sparked an era of bloodshed that
remains famous to this day.
The Onin War began because of the weakness of one Shogun. In 1464, Ashikaga
Yoshimasa, the 8th member of the Ashikaga clan to hold the title
Seii-Taishogun, and a man renowned for his focus on tea parties and poetry,
wanted to retire but had no son. He decided to instead make his younger
brother, Yoshimi, his heir. However Yoshimi was a Buddhist monk, so the Shogun
had to first drag his brother out of the monastery in order to make him his
Member Article: The Battle of Shrewsbury
by John Barratt
By the beginning of the 15th century, the English longbowman was one of the
most effective killing machines in Western Europe. For over half a century he
had dominated the battlefields of France and Northern Spain, winning for
England’s Plantagenet monarchy an extensive continental domain. The battle of
Shrewsbury, described by a contemporary writer as “the sorry bataille of
Schrvesbury between Englysshmen and Englysshmen”, witnessed the dawn of a new
and more terrible era in English warfare, when, for the first time in a major
engagement, the English longbowman turned their deadly power against each
other. It was a foretaste of the bloodbath which would follow half a century
later in the Wars of the Roses, and would also provide William Shakespeare with
the inspiration for one of his greatest plays - King Henry IV Part One.