Monday, 1 July 2013

A Welcome Change in Washington - Less Secrecy

Although admittedly the last few weeks have seen a massive amount of distrust in the US government after the NSA was revealed to be secretly monitoring an enormous number of American citizens I would like to reveal a piece of good news.  Secrecy in the US overall is declining, in 2012 the number of new documents consider to be secret dropped 42% to levels not seen since at least the end of the cold war if not far longer.  This is attributed to new guides on classifying documents.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

I just finished Camp NaNoWriMo!

I crossed my goal today, with 20012 words or just over my goal of 20000 words.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo, Day 16

I haven't updated my word count since yesterday but I am at 12,008/20,000 words.  I expect to get what I need for my words (667 words/day).  I am 3 days ahead of the target word count as of yesterday and I'll be back at that point when I update with what I've written today.  On the weekend I had a bad day and was too tired to write much but other than that so far I'm doing well, and I hope I will continue to do well!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo Status Update, Day 12

I am pleased to say that I am now 3 days ahead of schedule, having gotten 10098 words out of a 20000 word goal.  Yep, you heard that right, I am half way there!  In fact I am actually well ahead of my progress during NaNoWriMo, where I got a little over 11,000 words for the whole month!  Given how far I've gotten so far I believe I am well on my way to completing my goal.  See all of you at the finish line!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress, Day 5

So far I am doing far better than I did during NaNoWriMo, I am just over a quarter of the way done my word goal of 20,000 words.  With 895 words today I sit comfortably at:

5025 words / 20000 words

What I needed to get by now was 3333 words so I'm really ahead of schedule, and it looks so far as if I am going to manage my word goal. Perhaps more. :)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

World War One: How It Started

Background


Going into the first world war, despite the fact that the European powers had been prepared for this war   for decades, the various nations did not have an idea of what to expect.  They certainly did not know that it would be the downfall of several hegemonies and segue them into a new mind set of war.

However the conflict was foreshadowed several times before the empires of Europe actually went to war as they fought for resources and power.  During the Franco-Prussian War the Germans established themselves as an imperial power but also a modernized one.

This through off the balance that had previously existed between the west and east, the Russians and French now had a modern and powerful enemy between them rather than several buffer states.  And now their way of thinking changed, they chose safety in numbers and an alliance was inevitable.

The German Empire promoted militarism and nationalism, both great tools and ordinary for their time but combined they led to an arm's race between nations.  Here we see the beginning of the arm's race to develop dreadnoughts (battleships) between Germany and England who had the Royal Navy at its disposal, the largest navy in the world at the time.  Thanks to nationalism, war became a way for nations to prove to the world that they were the best, it became like a competition.  They knew that they  couldn't survive alone so they planned against the Germans, joining the Russians and French in what was known as the Triple Entente as of its formation in 1907.


The Ottoman Empire was on the other end of their life cycle, they had begun to decline, Greece declared independence in 1822, the Crimean War of 1853 saw how backward their military really was, and soon their European territory was gaining independence or being occupied by other nations, Romania in 1862 became independent, in 1878 we see Serbian independence, Bosnia being turned over to Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria becoming an autonomous protectorate of the Ottomans, and the British occupation of Cyprus, in 1912 the First Balkan War leads to the near complete expulsion of Ottomans from Europe.  This saw a lot of young states with unstable positions in the world they were born into, and a dying empire desperate to remain relevant in the modern world.  After several wars with Russia they were not about to join the alliance that had formed between France, Britain, and Russia.  And part way into the first world war they would join the central powers, who were Austria-Hungary and Germany.

The former Ottoman balkans chose sides that were best for them, Serbia and their slavic brothers in Russia were in alliance while Bulgaria chose to side with their historical allies the Ottomans (Bosnians although under Austria-Hungarian rule, were on the side of the Serbians).

The alliances and the dates of their formation.  These alliances were often ignored if they went against a country's interests but they were still fairly important leading into the First World War.

The Triple Alliance formed in 1882 under the leadership of Otto van Bismarck of Germany who wanted to prevent a two-front war if Germany ever went to war with France.  A valid consideration and unfortunately for Germany the war with Russia and France put considerable pressure on two fronts, exactly what they were trying to avoid.  In fact Hitler went to considerable pains to ensure the same wouldn't happen to him.  The alliance was however far more unnatural than the triple entente and this eventually led to the alliance becoming the Central Powers, which was an alliance between
Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire.

The Road to War


The European continent may have been extremely volatile but in practice the European powers were good at keeping the status quo intact.  They knew the lines they could and couldn't cross for the most part.  Despite this war was expected any time in the 1910s by both sides although the exact circumstances were anybody's guess, even if a lot of people were guessing it would start in the balkans.

The spark that started the war was in the capital of occupied Bosnia and this is where we meet the terror group Black Hand ("Unification or Death" was their actual name, but they are most commonly known as the Black Hand).  The Black Hand supported the unification of Serbia and Bosnia into one country as part of an eventual goal of a Pan-Slavic Union.  It follows therefore that the forces of Austria-Hungary that were occupying Bosnia were their enemy.

The prince of Austria-Hungary was Franz Ferdinand and he was a very revolutionary leader, he planned to make Austria-Hungary far more democratic and to give power to the Serbians in Austria-Hungary.  This would have taken a lot of wind out of the sales of the terrorists who relied on the image of Austria-Hungary as a great power with nothing but malintent for the Bosnian and other slavic subjects under their rule.  So when the prince toured Sarajevo with his wife the Black Hand did what they thought best for their movement and attempted to assassinate the prince.

Although an assassination attempt failed one of the prince's guards was hospitalized and before the prince returned to friendlier territory he chose to visit the man who had risked their life for him.  The visit would never happen because on the way quite by accident they crossed paths with a Serbian terrorist who shot and killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife.  This was shocking to Austria-Hungary but even yet a world war was not inevitable.  Austria-Hungary issued a list of demands to Serbia.  Serbia chose to comply with all but one of the demands.  The Austrians planned now to invade Serbia but were worried that invading Serbia would provoke Russia.

So the Austrians sent word to the German Kaiser about their plans to see if they would have support if they went ahead with it.  The Kaiser thought they wouldn't be insane enough to go ahead with it and offered up complete support for whatever course of action the Austrians chose.  The Austrians to the great surprise of Germany invaded Serbia (well, tried...).  The Russians began mobilizing their reserves to prepare for war which the Russians expected was coming because they believed the Austrians wouldn't act without German support.

The Germans expected that they now had 6 weeks before the Russian army was prepared for war, and they saw the possibility for disaster in their future.  They didn't want to fight a two front war against France and Russia so they acted quickly under the Schlieffen plan and declared war on France hoping to take them out quick enough to finish them off before the Russians could bring their full force down against the Germans and Austrians.  The fastest way to invade France was through the neutral country of Belgium and so the Germans invaded Belgium and began their invasion of France.

This is where the British stepped in...

Surprisingly accurate.

The British had signed a treaty recognizing the neutrality of Belgium and immediately began planning the liberation of Belgium from Germany.  To the surprise of the Russians and the Germans, the Russian forces mobilized in two weeks.  The war to end all wars had begun.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Revenge of Remus - Chapter 1 - The Calm Before the Storm (continued)

Part 4 - Brave New World

The battle of Alalia was fought between approximately 130 ships from Qart-Hadast and meχl-Rasnal on one side, including the young navy of Ushiluna, and the Lennenes on the other side with 60 pentekonters that protecting their settlement at Alalia and Corsica itself, the importance of this battle is that it stopped the expansion of young Lennene colonies in the western Mediterranean, the annexation of the formerly Lennic city of Alalia was because of this battle.  At the same time it saw the once mighty leagues of meχl-Rasnal have their influence wane, from a sea power, trading as far away as the Near East, to a regional power in their corner of the Western Mediterranean Sea.

Qart-Hadast had become the commercial centre of the West Mediterranean region in this period.  The city had conquered most of the old Phoenician colonies, subjugated the Numidian and Moor tribes, and taken control of the entire North African coast from modern Morrecesco to the borders of Egypt.  Its influence had also extended into the Mediterranean, taking control over Sardinia, Malta, the Balearic Islands, and into Sicily.  Important colonies had also been established in Iberia, even if at points they were not under direct control of Qart-Hadast itself.  Defeating the Lennic colonies once however was not enough, in the next century the people of Qart-Hadast, Ellás, and meχl-Rasnal would continue their fight for the Mediterranean.

Ushiluna: The City of Crossroads

Set between the cities of meχl-Rasnal and of Megálē Ellás, Ushiluna was positioned well to act as a middle man.  Lennic influence was contracting in this period allowing for their expansion, at the Battle of Kuma the Ushiluna navy played an important role in the defeat of Syrakoussai and Kumae’s combined navy, and the Rasna formed the new government of Kumae from the family of Ushiluna’s rulers.  There was further expansion into the already declining city of Parthenope, and later on into Dicaearchia, consolidating their power over the northern extreme of Megálē Ellás on land.


A Rasna artifact found in Anatolia, this particular piece of pottery is a stunning example of Lennic culture bleeding through.


Pithekoussai would remain the one hold out, lasting a decade longer than the other cities by the virtue that it was an island, and due to heavy support from Zankle, Poseidonia, and Syrakoussai, all of which had a fundamental interest in keeping the looming kingdoms of the north at bay and supported the city successfully once but were foiled on a second encounter.

All-and-all the city of Ushiluna proved itself to be a dynamic power between two great yet contracting powers, and by virtue of their flexibility and expansionist regime they managed to construct a base of power from which to project their influence across the Mediterranean Sea, we see once again remnants of Rasna cultural products as far away as anatolia, and with a hint of Lennic artistic styles bleeding through.  Between two dwindling leagues of city states they managed to prove themselves as important as either.

That also lead to their growing conflicts with the other great seafaring empire that was still at the top of its game, Qart-Hadast was powerful and they were the original seafaring empire, and they began to adapt to the new order of things very quickly.  They tried several times to defeat the city, even sponsoring Latin rebellion on the hope that this strategy would create  situation where the city was surrounded from all sides.

Part 5 - Chance, Wind, and Waves

“Chapter 4.4 - Italiotai, The Mediterranean: Geopolitics Ed. 2”

The entire framework of Italiot trade had changed from the decades and even centuries before.  There was two methods of travel, by land or by sea, and in this time period people were experimenting in both to stay ahead of the chaotic forces that had begun to establish divisions between the different nations now playing a part on the ever smaller world they shared.

Inland Transportation

Several inland transport routes were utilized and trade flowed to five Rasna ports, these were Pisae, Fufluna, Ushiluna, Alalia, and Kuma.  They exported their wealth to the world, other inland routes circumvented the sea and went to cities such as Rhegium, Taras, as well as other Lennic cities in Southern Italiotai entirely through a network of roads, the first of its scale.  Several roads passed near by the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Sea Coasts and supported trade in the worst periods of Ambrone piracy.  This road system is now the basis for the roads of not only southern Italia, but for much of the Italiot Peninsula and inspired the road networks in areas of the New World.

The roads were very experimental in both scale and design, and because of this they vary greatly.  Roads along the Adriatic Coast have a 4 foot-high wall on their side facing towards the coast (as far as can be identified from archaeological digs), which is where there would be the most risk considering most (Illyrian) pirates would have to land on the coast.  The Tyrrhenian Coast has several very wide roads, with little cover even today for bandits and the like, they were more used and the number of eyes was often considered an advantage against thugs preparing to steal from wagons and carts.  Another road has been found leading straight through Umbria as well however it is considered small and insignificant, it would have been very dangerous if you were unprotected but would have been extremely quick travelling if you needed a quick route between South-Eastern Italiot and Ushiluna.

Ramps (lupumarish) used in battle.

Oversea Transportation

Oversea transportation was much faster than inland transportation and allowed people to get across the sea, to trade with Egypt, Ellás, Sicily, and even Qart-Hadast.  The port cities of Kuma, Fufluna, Ushiluna, and Pisae collected resources from across Italiotai, including Keltoi [2] items from even further north.  There was one risk that dominated all others for the sea traders, the fact was that the pirates were very able mariners, more so than the Rasna, and it showed in their ruthless raiding of the Rasna vessels.  The Carthaginians helped finance these expeditions of terror to economically isolate meχl-Rasnal.  However all it forced them to do was to innovate, many vessels had large numbers of Latin crew members, who were cheap workers and easy to toss around.  They were also often good warriors, at least in hand to hand combat, the trick was to develop a way to board an enemy ship without risk of ramming sinking the ship.

This lead to the lupumarish [3] a device used on the front of Rasna vessels that could be knocked down onto the side of an opponent’s boat, allowing a boarding crew to overtake a pirate ship and possibly even collect the loot from the opposing ship.  Even the ships themselves were often taken.  The Ambrones [4] used every piece of silver they got [5] on expanding their operation, and they took pride in their well made vessels.  The invention of the lupumarish greatly increased the success of Rasna operations and cut down on piracy, just enough to allow the water ways to be a viable alternative to land travel.

Zankle and Rhegium [6] because of the need of the Rasna to access the Strait of Rhegium (to avoid Carthaginian Sicily en route to Ellás and Egypt) became needed allies and great trading partners.  Even though there was occasional bumps when either side got greedy.  Poseidonia, despite originally being concerned by the hostility shown by the Rasna in their expansion into Kuma and other Lennic cities, quickly established a relationship with Ushiluna.  Poseidonia grew a network of roads and sea lanes leading to the rest of the Mediterranean because of the relationship that it had not previously had.  Though both Megálē Ellás and meχl-Rasnal were in decline, by no means were they dead yet, in fact they were managing to grow as a consequence of the relationship they shared through Ushiluna, Poseidonia, and other ports.

[1] Greece.
[2] Greek for celts.
[3] Slave of Death in Etruscan.
[4] The Ligures.
[5] This shows they are pretty desperate, considering that normal currency was leather bags with cheap alloys inside (here)
[6] Reggio.

Part 6 - Fear The Seas Like You Fear Me

Background

The Ambrones were the first people to settle along the coast of the North-Western Italiot peninsula after the last ice age, they were a disorganized group of Pirates who spoke similar languages and were experienced sailers.  Later on there was several migrations of Keltoi people, who integrated into Ambrone society and began to mix in their own culture into that of the native people.  Still however the Ambrones remained distinct from the Keltoi, and they would remain that way for centuries to come.

As Ushiluna began to expand its power in the more southern areas of the Italiot peninsula the Ambrones began to raid the ships moving through the ports and they became quite good at it too.  Eventually they were noticed by Qart-Hadast who felt threatened by the success of Ushiluna and was willing to go to great lengths to try to keep down this emerging power.  This lead Qart-Hadast to make a strategic alliance with these pirates which transformed them almost into mercenaries, and also saw them change into a more modern fleet.

In less than a decade the Ambrones were able to build fleets of pirate ships that could rival most of the vessels travelling through the Tyrrhenian Sea, moving even along the coast became a dangerous game for smaller operations.  Instead vessels began moving in groups, new technologies such as the lupumarish came into use, and mega-projects such as large roads were started.  Together it began to offer relief to Ushiluna and made the process of trade safer for anybody travelling through the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Response

When once again Qart-Hadast noticed the city of Ushiluna expanding its influence, it started financing a new plan to defeat the city once and for all.  This event would happen during a major festival for the Rasna, all of the rulers of Campania would be gathered in Ushiluna for the event.  Qart-Hadast began to encourage rebellion among the Latins, especially farmers who were fed up with the treatment they received.  The farmers were instructed by Qart-Hadast to enter Ushiluna for the festival and during the event when the rulers were all together they would hit them with all they had, rocks, arrows, and whatever they could get.


An illustration for a children's retelling of the story.

That night, the Ambrones would hit them with all they had.  Hopefully catching them off guard and unable to respond fast enough, and with one fatal blow they could be crippled until the entire network of cities collapsed.

That was the plan but when it was put into action it did not go so smoothly.  The Latins were able to get in but when it came time to strike they were unable to do much damage, the king of Parthenope would go on to die from the wound he received but other than that it was a total failure.  And in the mean time the city prepared for the revolution they were concerned that this might be the start of, including the preparation of the navy in case of attack.  The Ambrone attack was a complete failure, and the Ambrones were essentially crippled.

The Consequences

The consequences were far-ranging and altogether it seems to be almost a complete victory for Ushiluna.  The Ambrones were defeated and along with those ships, we also saw several experienced crews go down, and that is something that the Ambrones could not replace.  However the area had started the process of urbanizing and in the coming years they would transform into a more united society, with consequences for the wider Mediterranean, for now however they were devastated.

Ushiluna came out of it relatively unscathed, and it soon became much safer to travel by ship, piracy was almost eliminated with one failed raid.  This initiated a short period of growth for Ushiluna, the navy was expanded and they would gain more experience during small skirmishes with Carthage who in the absence of their pirate proxies were fighting directly with Ushiluna.  Ushiluna however also came out of it with paranoia towards the foreign, including the Oscans that lived inland, one group in particular, the Safineis [1] bore significant persecution.  An important city of the Pentri tribe known as Bovianum [2] was completely destroyed during a heated period.  This bloated military costed the city too much and harmed Ushiluna in the long run.

Qart-Hadast faced a foe that had up to this point thwarted its efforts to crush it, and finally their psyche began to adapt to this basic fact, they still invested in raids but now there was less urgency to it as they faced trouble in their Iberian colonies and with Syracuse.  They still were the most powerful regime in the Western Mediterranean but they faced significant challenges that they would have to face in order to continue on.

[1] Samnites.  Yep, those Samnites.
[2] Modern Bojano.