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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 8:22 am    Post subject: Swords and styles         Reply with quote

It may be blasphemy to purists but to me the medieval longsword as illustrated in the Talhoffer publications is not all that wildly different from the blade of a reitschwert from an early 'rapier'. Yet renaissance rapier style fencing differs rather a lot from medieval swordfighting.

I wonder wether form and function mutually evolved with warfare or if cultural taste was the leading motivator.
Would a reitschwert be a handicap for 'Talhoffer' style or a longsword be a handicap in rapier style or is it mainly in vogue to follow the rapier style and 'not done' to have something else even if that was just as suiteable?!
Was/is this a functional 'thing' or maily a cultural development?

peter
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, obviously, a longsword is a longsword and a rapier is a rapier. Both are specific types of swords designed for specific uses.

Now, I absolutely don't believe that any given fencing style is restricted to a certain type of sword or vice versa. But that is not to say trying to use a sword in a way it wasn't meant to be used is advisable. One can always try to apply the principles of one sword style to a different one, but it's silly to think one can trade a reitschwert for a longsword or vice versa and expect similar results.

Basically: If two swords are different, they will also handle differently. And if they are very different, they will handle very differently. This should be taken into consideration.

As for your question of whether the difference in technique is functional or cultural, I believe it was a little bit of both. Keep in mind that the longsword was a battlefield weapon while the sidesword and rapier were civilian swords. They were used in different contexts, so its not surprising they would also be used differently.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't agree that a student of any given fencing school can use any sword. Personally, I believe that is exactly the reason so many varied types of blade shape, weight, length, etc., exist in the first place.

Swords and styles... At the moment, I am looking for any help I can find regarding the recreation of a Kopis technique for use without a shield. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions? I can use the Kopis, it is, after all, basically a one-handed cut/thrust backsword, but I am certain not many, if any, of the techniques I use in practise are authentic Greek, Celtic or Macedonian. The power in a cut, due to the axe-like shape is amazing.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The sword form in question is a cut and thrust sword. Some might even say it was more oriented towards cut than thrust, but arguably adequate for both. Looking at the various Renasissance Armies in the Features section, one can see a lot of opportunities for both tactics. I suspect the sword was suited for the diversity of it's period opponents. I have never handled this type of sword, but suspect one could perform a fair portion of traditional longsword technique "hand and a half" style, or use it for thrusting against armoured opponents.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 4:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bennison N wrote:
I don't agree that a student of any given fencing school can use any sword.


But why not? Happy The more I train, the more I realize that fighting principles are fighting principles. Even historical masters themselves claimed to teach techniques that are universal. Fabris points out that his rapier treatise didn't include the two-handed sword because of time constraints, but he points out that a diligent student will apply the same principles regardless of the weapon. Fiore shows the same guards and techniques for unarmed, dagger, longsword and poleax, using each of these weapons to build off of each other under the umbrella of the same art. The same is true for many Asian martial arts.

Back to the original question: I wouldn't draw too many conclusions based on the two dimensional illustrations of something that was not photo-realistic. Some rapiers do have wider cutting blades, like many Type XVa blades, but others have completely different geometries. Either way, you'll find that there isn't so much of a difference between "medieval" and "Renaissance" sword fighting styles. Marozzo's art isn't that far from Vadi's art, which in turn is very similar to Fiore's art. I'd say that once you start seeing more point-oriented styles, then the arts start to superficially look different. Truth is, though, the more I've studied the rapier of Fabris, the more I've understood the longsword of Liechtenauer, so it would seem that Fabris was telling the truth when he said that the principles of combat were the same regardless of the weapon.

Jared Smith wrote:
The sword form in question is a cut and thrust sword.


Actually, that's a myth. A "cut and thrust" sword is a 19th century weapon. It's kind of like calling a medieval arming sword a "broadsword", which is also a much later period style of sword. A better term for the more cut oriented rapiers is "spada da filo", or "edge sword". The term was used to differentiate between a blunt and a sharp weapon, but was also occassionally used to differentiate from a cutting weapon vs. a thrusting one.

Quote:
I have never handled this type of sword, but suspect one could perform a fair portion of traditional longsword technique "hand and a half" style, or use it for thrusting against armoured opponents.


Absolutely true. The Renaissance Bolognese tradition of swordplay is very versatile, and you'll see many of the exact same techniques as medieval swordplay in it.

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--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 7:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The difference in weight , length, point of balance, handle, shape, even pommel size and shape, of a sword a student has never before encountered would render the majority of his school's specialised techniques ineffective.

If said student was extremely quick with a rapier or smallsword, for instance, a long two handed sword (let's say a 14th Century Zweihander) would be too heavy to speedily apply to battle. Say the sword, in this instance, did not have an overly sharp point. His standard and most practised way of finishing would be ineffective, and he would have to rely on cuts. If he was good with a rapier, he would have reasonable knowledge of cuts, but not limb-severing hacks and spear-splitting chops, and again the weight would slow his movements somewhat. The size of the arc to swing for power would leave him more exposed than he would be comfortable with, and he would attempt less techniques as a result. Even the majority of his quicker smallsword or rapier tactics would be far less effective, as he would be forced to adopt one-beat. If he had the terrible misfortune to face someone who was using the exact sword they had always trained with, the unfortunate student of this discussion would be defeated rather badly and in extremely short time.

I do agree that fundamentals universally apply. There does come a time in training, though, when the techniques being taught or developed are weapon-specific. A lot that works with one type of sword, obviously wouldn't with certain others. For example, try using a Khopesh the way you would an Estoc...

So maybe how I should have worded my earlier post was: "I don't agree that a student of any given school can use any given sword WELL". Simply compare the performance of the student with his personal weapon (or at least the preferred sword taught to him by his school), with which he practises regularly, and a sword he has never seen or held before. Some students might even have trouble with someone else's sword of the same type... I have seen this countless times with Chinese Jian. The sword flies out of the hand, or they hit the ground with it by accident, sometimes even accidentally cutting themselves. Once they have their own sword in their hands, they complete an entire Jianshu form with no mistakes. If they were in a pitched battle, lost their sword, and were forced to pick up another, they would find themselves at an extreme disadvantage, wouldn't they?

That is why I personally do not recommend spending one's entire martial life on the same school. It would seem obvious that practising your fundamentals (and using your imagination to envision further techniques...) with as many different weapons as possible would prepare you for the eventuality that you might be called upon to duel without your favourite, or at least most practised, type of weapon.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:


Actually, that's a myth. A "cut and thrust" sword is a 19th century weapon. It's kind of like calling a medieval arming sword a "broadsword", which is also a much later period style of sword. A better term for the more cut oriented rapiers is "spada da filo", or "edge sword". The term was used to differentiate between a blunt and a sharp weapon, but was also occassionally used to differentiate from a cutting weapon vs. a thrusting one.


I am honestly just plain lost here. The blade in question is a straight, double edged, straight sword with a late medieval era complex hilt. The blade itself has a high degree of similarity with earlier longsword blades. It can do a great job of cutting, but is also capable of thrusting attacks. The primary confusion of the term "broadsword" essentially commences with 17th -19th century popularity of the rapier school of thought. This terminology post dates the blade's era completely.

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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 8:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bennison N wrote:
So maybe how I should have worded my earlier post was: "I don't agree that a student of any given school can use any given sword WELL". Simply compare the performance of the student with his personal weapon (or at least the preferred sword taught to him by his school), with which he practises regularly, and a sword he has never seen or held before. Some students might even have trouble with someone else's sword of the same type... I have seen this countless times with Chinese Jian. The sword flies out of the hand, or they hit the ground with it by accident, sometimes even accidentally cutting themselves. Once they have their own sword in their hands, they complete an entire Jianshu form with no mistakes. If they were in a pitched battle, lost their sword, and were forced to pick up another, they would find themselves at an extreme disadvantage, wouldn't they?

Strange. A look at the Bolognese system shows that a student would be expected to use pretty much any weapon well. Consider all of the weapons and weapon combinations detailed by this school (assuming I don't forget to list any):

Sword alone (1-handed)
Sword and Buckler
Sword and Targa
Sword and Rotella
Sword and Imbracciatura (a body-size shield)
Sword and Dagger
Sword and Cape
Sword and Gauntlet
Two Swords
Sword for Two Hands (i.e. the "Zweihander")
Dagger
Dagger and Cape
Unarmed against Knife
Pollaxe
Halberd
Ronca
Spetum
Partisan
Partisan and Rotella
Lance

Additionally, looking at the various plates and writings of the treatises of this school tells us that not only was there not one particular form of a sword, but also that the swordsman was expected to be able to use heavier or lighter, longer or shorter weapons without preference. This isn't usual for the period--in fact, none of the pre-1800 Italian treatises give anything more than rough specifications about the weapons.

Steve

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 9:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
I am honestly just plain lost here.


I apologize, I wasn't clear. What I meant was that the term "cut and thrust sword" is actually a term for a later period sword, rather than a Renaissance sword.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 9:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bennison N wrote:
The difference in weight , length, point of balance, handle, shape, even pommel size and shape, of a sword a student has never before encountered would render the majority of his school's specialised techniques ineffective.


Steve's post sums up exactly what I was getting at: Most systems (though not all) didn't train for a very specific, specialized weapon that could only be used with certain techniques. Consider DiGrassi's treatise, which focuses mostly on the sword (and the version that was published in London uses the term "rapier"). After laying down the foundations with the sword, it then goes onto the two handed sword, pole arms, and so forth, but the later weapons are still based on the use of his rapier system. He was teaching a full martial system that happened to use the sword as a pedagogical tool. That shouldn't be surprising: the Liechtenauer masters often used the longsword to lay down the foundation of all other weapons, Fiore began his treatises with unarmed combat which build up to other weapons... Aikido, in fact, often uses the sword to help teach principles of unarmed combat.

Having said all that, I do recognize that some schools of fence were more focused than others, particularly as you get to later periods. 19th century fencing, for instance, does not have a dagger or unarmed component, but by that time period the context in which a person would duel would have been different from earlier contexts.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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P. Cha




PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 11:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think it's an issue unless you go WAY out of time or area. So no, a fiore manual would probably fail if you tried it with a kopesh or a katana. But assuming your using something close to that era, I don't think it's gonna be too much of an issue.

So yes, as long as your near the same time frame, what worked was generally realized as to work and used until it stopped working...either functionally or socially (which is why early rapier and talhoffer would look similar...but a few hundred years down the line it doesn't).
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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 12:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Estimadas senores, interesting viewpoints. It is always enriching to learn other perspectives.

Meanwhile I have dug in the wealth of info on ARMA and encountered well researched anwers: the 'rapier develloped from/as a civilian arm (like was mentioned here) and thus with differing requierments than 'simply' maximum blade effectiveness.
The basic fact that a thrust is faster than a cut was not lost on early medieval swordsman so nothing new to swordsmanship thus the sleek blade of the longsword based on the (thrusting) aspect of what was to become renaissance rapier fencing.

To me the asner seems to be that yes, early rapier fencing would have been entirely possible with the 'Talhoffer' blade and all but the techniques requiring two hands on the hilt would have been possible with the reitschwert/early 'rapier'.

Fighting = fighting was mentioned was mentioned entirely correctly and it is the changes in society, the cultural background against which the sword played a functional role that changed it to the true rapier for civilians, On the battlefielf nothing much changed,
Under various names labeled on differing details the functional tapered sleek cut&thrust form of the longsword remained in exitence on the battle field and with it no doubt the fighting techniques.

Again I am amazed by the for most of us alien reality of killing by the sword that was so obvious to every swordsman untill say the 18th century. This is best illustrated that there existed no such thing as 'trickery' in this face of death that was a fact of daily life.
I guess it is the harsh reality of, the different outlook on, death was and is the reason why during the past say two centuries WMA and thus swords have been difficult to REALY understand.

In a different topic I ran into this as well. 'Talhoffer' techniques are intended to be end solutions, to result in death, as fast as possible by any means. It seems logical to US to practice fluidity in techniques and transitions to other techniques but that fails to incorporate the deadly effectiveness and goal.
I suppose the development of late rapiers and smallsword embodies a change in the outlook of THIS aspect.
Just think of the word 'brutality' and the meaning it has to us. What we think of as 'ruthless' now was nothing more or less than common sense.
This integration of death as fundamental part of living in western european culture probably explains why the crusaders were so alien to muslim warriors. To them, as to me, is seemed obvious to simply not engage or get off the battle field if the situation was a no hoper wheras either concept did not exist to the WMA.
I am amazed by the aspects and later perceptions of the Jarnac-duel that seems to ebody this. I think I understand the concept but I know it, the medieval death-reality, is utterly alien to me.

peter
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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 6:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Bosman wrote:
Again I am amazed by the for most of us alien reality of killing by the sword that was so obvious to every swordsman untill say the 18th century. This is best illustrated that there existed no such thing as 'trickery' in this face of death that was a fact of daily life.

I'm Sorry, but this is just not backed up by any of the treatises or writings of the time. While yes, you could and would likely do anything to protect yourself if being assaulted, ambushed or if you were the subject of an assassination attempt, the certainly is not the case in, say, a judicial duel, an exhibition match, a tourney or in sport.

Peter Bosman wrote:
I guess it is the harsh reality of, the different outlook on, death was and is the reason why during the past say two centuries WMA and thus swords have been difficult to REALLY understand.

You're right, they did have a different view on life, at least from an ideal point of view. That is, they felt that a man's honor was more important than his life (thus, the whole justification for the duel).

Peter Bosman wrote:
I suppose the development of late rapiers and smallsword embodies a change in the outlook of THIS aspect.

Peter, with all due respect, you really need more experience with WMA before you start lecturing people on what you think were the realities western swordsmanship. To think that what Fabris describes in his 1606 treatise was any less about being effective than what Fiore describes is just wrong. Honestly, you've fallen into some of the new misconceptions that in their way are just as incorrect as those of the Victorians.

Peter Bosman wrote:
I am amazed by the aspects and later perceptions of the Jarnac-duel that seems to embody this. I think I understand the concept but I know it, the medieval death-reality, is utterly alien to me.

This is a good example. While the winning cut may have been made out to be dishonorable by the Victorians, it certainly wasn't seen that way by the officials of the duel. However, that doesn't mean that they saw the judicial duel as anything goes. For example, the following would have been grounds for instant forfeiture of the duel had Jarnac used them: throwing dust in the eyes, using a hidden or non-agreed-upon weapon (i.e. the duel was to be fought with sword and shield, so no daggers), throwing rocks, furniture or other "debris" at the opponent to injure or distract him. In general, cheating in any way would instantly and irrevocably have lost the duel for whomever resorted to it.

I understand your enthusiasm, but remember that many of the people on this forum have a lot more experience in this area than you. Quoting ARMA's (or anyone else's) website materials at us is like a going to your auto mechanic and quoting the Chilton Manual at him. This isn't a roleplaying game forum where (with due respect) 99% of the participants have never handled a sword or have only experienced "sword fighting" through their local SCA chapter and many of the people who post here are either WMA professionals or very serious amateurs--either way with many years of experience.

Steve

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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven Reich wrote:
.. and irrevocably have lost the duel for whomever resorted to it.


...and be executed.

General point taken.

peter
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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter,

Sorry that I came across so harshly in my earlier post. I'm just getting over the flu and it has left me even more irascible than usual.

Steve

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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For what it's worth--Pallas Armata, 1639:

I have fitted my self to the times, in speaking only of single Rapier and single Sword, being that the Dagger, Gauntlet, Buckler are not in use, and because that the Rapier and the Sword are the grounds of the less noble weapons. The Rapier of the Quarter Staff, of the long Pike, of the Halbard: the Sword, of the two handed Sword, and of the Falchion, so that a man who can play at single Rapier and BackSword well and judiciously, may with great ease learn to handle the rest of the weapons.

-Sean

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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 6:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK, you guys... I stand PARTIALLY corrected.

As everyone could carry weapons, and challenge anyone else to a duel in those days of duelling, I still believe that the so very vast majority of swordsmen would only be proficient enough to staunchly and confidently face an opponent with the weapon they carried everywhere with them on their belts, back, etc.

As you were discussing the lessened regard swordsmen and duelists would have had for death, they still would've feared it. I think even a swordsman of the Bologna school would've sought to ensure victory by specialising in one weapon above all others, for confidence purposes. Stacking the deck, so to speak, right?

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2008 7:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bennison N wrote:
As everyone could carry weapons, and challenge anyone else to a duel in those days of dueling, I still believe that the so very vast majority of swordsmen would only be proficient enough to staunchly and confidently face an opponent with the weapon they carried everywhere with them on their belts, back, etc.

Well, it didn't quite work that way. What weapons you could carry and who you could challenge for a judicial duel and why you could challenge was controlled. Even when the duel moved from a legal to a social institution, who you could challenge and why was to some degree "controlled" by such things as the reason, the social status of the participants, etc. (although, this was more true at some times than at others).

Bennison N wrote:
As you were discussing the lessened regard swordsmen and duelists would have had for death, they still would've feared it. I think even a swordsman of the Bologna school would've sought to ensure victory by specialising in one weapon above all others, for confidence purposes. Stacking the deck, so to speak, right?

Oh I'm not saying that they didn't fear death just as much as us, it's just that (ideally) they didn't value survival as the ultimate aim (i.e. honor would be--philosophically, at least--considered more important). The swordsman might not have a choice in the matter of which weapon to use, depending on the circumstance. Only if you were challenged to the duel, were you able to select the weapon in a judicial duel, not to mention what armor or shield (if any) would be worn and used (and both sides used the same weapon and armament). The whole point of this was to prevent exactly the stacking of the deck. That is, if you were a prodigy with light two-handed sword used alone, you can be sure that if you challenged someone to a duel who had any brains, he would equip you with weapons and armament outside of your expertise. If he was significantly stronger than you, he might specify that both of you use a sword and a heavy shield (to throw away you shield would be to forfeit that duel).

Of course it is usual for a person to have a particular weapon with which he is most familiar and comfortable, but you couldn't always be sure that that is the weapon you'd be able to use in a duel.

For more information on the judicial duel:
http://salvatorfabris.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=104

Steve

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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2008 1:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The crux is, to me, an alien perception of life and time during the middle ages. It is difficult to discuss it in terms of having fear for death as is doen in this last few threads as it is near to impossible for us to grasp the totally different outlook of medieval people. Even something as obvious to us that it does not even occur to us that it is possible to have a different outlook on it as sequential time perception was not the case.
It therefor is very difficult to discuss violence, ruthlessness, brutality, honour, respect for life as we do not have the same foundations for our perception of these concepts.

When studying the 14th c. per example one must let go of present day concepts as much as possible to even understand what is actually described. So many things are assumed just as we do that it is almost inevitable to read what is not written. Also what is written is meant to be read and thus the writer is writing from the awareness that somebody will form an impression of him, passing judgement on him.

Anyway, 'death' was conceived in a way alien to us so it is difficult to relate our seemingly logical views on this to what is written.

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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2008 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Bosman wrote:
The crux is, to me, an alien perception of life and time during the middle ages. It is difficult to discuss it in terms of having fear for death as is doen in this last few threads as it is near to impossible for us to grasp the totally different outlook of medieval people. Even something as obvious to us that it does not even occur to us that it is possible to have a different outlook on it as sequential time perception was not the case.
It therefor is very difficult to discuss violence, ruthlessness, brutality, honour, respect for life as we do not have the same foundations for our perception of these concepts.

When studying the 14th c. per example one must let go of present day concepts as much as possible to even understand what is actually described. So many things are assumed just as we do that it is almost inevitable to read what is not written. Also what is written is meant to be read and thus the writer is writing from the awareness that somebody will form an impression of him, passing judgement on him.

Anyway, 'death' was conceived in a way alien to us so it is difficult to relate our seemingly logical views on this to what is written.

peter


What I understand to be different than today is that many generations of people would be living under the same roof and people were born and died in the same bed next to their families, death and sickness was something very much " close " to everyday life.

Today, we avoid even talking seriously about death and hide it away in a hospital and mostly shield children from dying relatives ( At least often and when death is imminent ).

As to being civilized because we are 20th and 21first and supposedly modern ? I think that varies enormously in different parts of the World currently ! Avoiding giving specifics, to not turn this into a political discussion, human life today in some places has very little value and horrors happen equal or worse than anything that may have happened in the past.

Ruthless governments, ruthless criminals and psychopathic killers exist everywhere and in all time periods and will continue to do so until something BIG changes as far as human nature is concerned ! To avoid just being bleak and negative: Human goodness, cooperation and kindness are also part of human nature, otherwise no society could function.

Where I will agree is that most of us living in countries were law and minimal individual rights are valued are very psychologically removed from violence happening on a daily basis or part of what we seriously worry about when going out.

Still, anything can bad can happen to anyone anywhere it's just that the odds of it happening are happily low.

Peter, if my comments don't address your comments then maybe it's just that I'm misunderstanding your intent. Confused Cool

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