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Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or…? November 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or...?

                There is a general consensus that chess came out of the east, that it arrived in Europe through the Arab Mediterranean and that from there it made its way to the royal courts of France and Germany. Certainly, by the fifteenth century a game that we recognise […]

Desperate Men: 490 BC June 17, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Desperate Men: 490 BC

The Battle of Marathon is one of those events that has been so polished by historians and lyricists that it has become a mirror held up to every age which has cared to look into it. But behind the bumph and the pumph there remains a very real mystery. How did a (then) obscure Greek […]

The Valley of Sweet Bells and Dead Bodies February 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Valley of Sweet Bells and Dead Bodies

Usually when Christian missionaries come face to face with a pagan shrine, the vitae tells us that the axe comes out and the splinters fly. But imagine if you were one of these (perhaps God-forsaken) missionaries in the woods of early medieval Germany or the great mountain ranges of Asia. How many really felt courage […]

Julian in the Desert May 6, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Julian in the Desert

Beachcombing finished his last exam yesterday and, with the exceptions of the long and frankly tedious work of correction, term is now all but over. Hurrah! Hurrah! By way of celebration Beachcombing thought that he would visit this morning one of his favourite hinge moments. The death of Julian the Apostate and with him the […]

First Greek Encounter with a Parrot December 30, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
First Greek Encounter with a Parrot

  In the ancient Mediterranean parrots were an exotic bird. They were rare, they were multicoloured and they could even repeat human words more convincingly than the native mimics: starlings, magpies and nightingales. Understandably, then, when they appeared, they were attention-grabbers. Indeed, in some periods of antiquity Beachcombing can barely read a source without tripping […]

The Napalm Snake Mystery November 18, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
The Napalm Snake Mystery

In ancient and medieval and, indeed, modern times geographers frequently got things embarrassingly wrong for those there-be-dragons areas outside the circuit of their little worlds. So the early Greeks believed that the Gobi desert was full of flightless griffins. The Byzantines were convinced that the air in Scotland was poisonous. And the British in the […]