Q&A

Age of Empires 2: Summer Reading Recommendations before AoE2 DE releases in the Fall

Book suggestions for Barbarossa/Attila/El Cid?

I love reading about history, …

…and especially about great historical figures, I believe the spark was lit by AoEII especially, since I love both that period and the game (which I still play). I have read the following books and would love to hear suggestions on nicely written books on Barbarossa, Attila, or El Cid, since the AoC are the best campaigns in my opinion.

The books I have read thusfar if someone is interested to read themselves:

  • Joan of Arc by Helen Castor. Bit drier than the other ones, but still a nice read.
  • Saladin by John Man, very nicely written book on how Saladins life played out.
  • God’s Wolf by Jeremy Lee about Reynald de Chatillon (Saladins nemesis which can be found in campaigns 2 and 3 if I am not mistaken). Tells the story of the second crusade from a Western perspective, great read.
  • Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world by Jack Weatherford. Out of all these books the best in my opinion, with not only focussing on Genghis’ life and conquest but also about Mongol life in general including laws, food, customs etc.
  • Attila (3 books) by William Napier, which is historical fantasy, overall a great read but would like to have more of an overview and historically sound read.

Thanks in advance if someone has any suggestions!

[Question from u/xGalen on the AoE2 Subreddit]

The hype is real

My answer

Hi there!

Here are the books I can recommend about our AoE2 heroes. (Thank you u/nimanoe for tagging me in.) Those books are all referenced in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology (2010) so they are quite up to date and provide very solid information. There should be little trouble to find freely available book reviews written about them on JStor, to help you get a summary and a sense of their content 🙂 I will limit myself to one book per historical character, but don’t hesitate to ask for more books if what I suggest doesn’t meet your tastes or expectations! In case you couldn’t find them in retail, don’t hesitate to browse WorldCat to find the library closest to you that has it!

You might think some of those books are ‘old’ because they date back from the 70’s of the 80’s. Don’t worry, History is a slower science than let’s say Physics or Chemistry. 70’s or 80’s monographies can still remain very authoritative secondary sources. You should generally take books from the 19th century with a grain of salt, though… They’re often easily available on Google Books or Archive.org, and they generally offer a very solid fact-driven narrative, but the analysis they bring about the past is most of the time lacking if not totally outdated. Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology hadn’t made their way quite yet within the study of History. Also, the writing of History has shifted post WW2 from the study of “great men” to the study of the economical long-term patterns, the history of cultural representations, and more broadly the study of the masses and/or the minorities (gender studies comes to mind).

AGE OF KINGS

1. William Wallace

  • Fisher, Andrew. William Wallace. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1986.

2. Joan of Arc

  • DeVries, Kelly. Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Stroud, U.K.: Sutton, 1999.

/!\ /!\ /!\ Actually, I have that last book at home and I don’t really like the positions taken by the author for several reasons, including over-simplification. Therefore I would go for something ‘safer’ and maybe even more entertaining: Pernoud, Régine & Clin, Marie-Véronique. Joan of Arc: Her Story. trans. Jeremy Duquesnay Adams. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.

The Joan of Arc campaign weekend is coming to the AoEII:DE Beta early August! Prepare yourselves for exciting news!

3. Saladin

  • Möhring, Hannes. Saladin: The Sultan and His Times, 1138-1193. Translated by David S. Bachrach. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2009.

This book was originally written in German if I’m not mistaken. German historians are just pure nerds. It might be a bit dry to read, I don’t know, but this book is a very safe bet!

4. Genghis Khan

  • Ratchnevsky, Paul. Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy. Translated and edited by Thomas N. Haining. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

5. Barbarossa

The Oxford Encyclopedia only suggests German monographies about Barbarossa. I’ll write them down since I know many AoE2 players are from Germany 🙂

  • Eickhoff, Ekkehard. Friedrich Barbarossa im Orient: Kreuzzug und Tod Friedrichs I. Tübingen, Germany: Wasmuth, 1977.
  • Opll, Ferdinand. Friedrich Barbarossa. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenshcaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994.

Now, what I do to find scholarly books easily in any medieval matter is that I browse the Regesta Imperii and if you type in what you search correctly, you’ll just find wonders:

  • Freed, John Beckman. Frederick Barbarossa: the prince and the myth. New Haven, 2016. (This book is from 2016, so it’s normal that it wouldn’t be referenced in the 2010 Oxford Encyclopedia.)

Don’t hesitate to try the Regesta Imperii yourself to find many other titles: books, articles, etc. Then head to JStor to find book reviews, the article themselves sometimes, when they’re not free to download from their author’s Academia page.

THE CONQUERORS

6. El Cid

  • Clarke, Henry Butler. The Cid Campeador and the Waning of the Crescent in the West. New York: AMS, 1978.

7. Attila

  • Thompson, E. A. The Huns. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

If you’d like shorter books with still a great scholarly value, you should turn yourself towards ‘collections’ of vulgarized books published by authoritative institutions. There is the “Que Sais-Je ?” collection in French, for example. The “C.H. Beck” in German. Finally, the “Very Short Introductions” from the Oxford University Press are a great read.

Enjoy your summer! 🙂

The purpose to read is to argue. Wololooo!
In-Depth

Soluce & Commentaire historique de “La Pucelle d’Orléans” (Age of Empires 2 : Jeanne d’Arc, niveau #2)

Do you wish to read this blog post in English?

Age of Empires 2 m’a fait tombé amoureux de Jeanne d’Arc. Il s’agit d’un amour dont je n’ai jamais guéri. Comme le dit Ovide : « Quod nullis amor est sanabilis herbis ». Il n’existe aucun remède à l’amour.

Tower. Beaurevoir. Joan of Arc. John of Luxembourg.
Tower of Beaurevoir © Stéphane Bloch, 19/07/2013

Une fois entré à l’université, j’ai redécouvert Jeanne d’Arc à la lumière de mes études. Elle m’apparaissait désormais au travers des recherches historiques et des sources d’époque. J’ai entendu sa voix en lisant son procès. J’ai perçu sa fière allure à la lecture des chroniques. Ensuite j’ai visité la Picardie et j’ai découvert des endroits où elle s’était rendue. J’ai marché au pied de la tour, à Beaurevoir, dont elle aurait sauté pour tenter de se sauver des Anglais.

Dans les paragraphes qui suivent, je vais démonter pièce par pièce le scénario du siège d’Orléans dans Age of Empires 2. Néanmoins, il s’agit bien d’une lettre d’amour. Age of Empires 2 est un jeu fantastique pour découvrir le Moyen Âge et s’intéresser à son histoire. Il y a beaucoup à redire sur les scénarios et l’encyclopédie du jeu, mais ce n’est que pour le mieux.

Tower. Beaurevoir. Joan of Arc. John of Luxembourg.
Tower of Beaurevoir, from afar © Stéphane Bloch, 19/07/2013

Intro

26 mars, Chinon

Remettre toute sa confiance en une jeune fille, pour une bande de soldats abattus, ce n’est pas rien. Mais pour cette jeune fille, se retrouver à la tête de l’armée de toute une nation, c’est bien autre chose.

Nous étions gonflés d’orgueil quand nous avons entendu les hérauts du Dauphin déclarer Jeanne la Pucelle, Chef de l’Armée de France.

Pour que Jeanne ait l’allure d’un général, le Dauphin lui a offert un cheval de bataille et une armure blanche.

Jeanne m’a chargé d’aller chercher une ancienne épée sous l’autel d’une église.

J’étais sceptique et pourtant non seulement les hommes ont déterré un fer rouillé mais nous avons découvert que cette épée avait appartenu à Charlemagne, le père de la France. Je ne douterai plus jamais de ses paroles. La fleur de lys se voyait encore sur la poignée.

Jeanne a adopté la fleur de lys comme symbole, qu’elle a fait représenter sur son étendard de bataille. Partout où Jeanne allait, son étendard la suivait. Et il nous a accompagné jusqu’à Orléans.

La ville d’Orléans est l’une des plus belles villes de France mais elle est assiégée par nos ennemis, l’Angleterre et la Bourgogne et elle est sur le point de succomber.

Cette guerre dure depuis cent ans avec de rares victoires françaises. Le peuple d’Orléans a besoin d’un sauveur. Ils auront Jeanne d’Arc.

Illuminated Manuscript. Brussels, KBR, ms. 9392. Christine de Pisan. Loyset Liedet. Jean Miélot. Pentesilea. Queen of the Amazons. Women in Armours.
Pentesilea, Queen of the Amazons, leading the charge – Bruxelles, KBR, ms. 9392, f. 18v

Commentaire

Ce texte est magnifique et il nous investit de façon très émotionnelle dans les aventures de Jeanne. Toutefois, il est parsemé d’erreurs…

Si les frères de Jeanne d’Arc ont été anoblis après la victoire d’Orléans, elle-même ne reçut jamais le moindre titre officiel au sein de l’armée du roi. Le « chef de l’armée de France » était le connétable, et ce titre appartenait en 1429 à Arthur de Bretagne, comte de Richemont. Il s’agissait d’un titre détenu à vie, et si le connétable de Richemont était en disgrâce en raison de ses partis-pris et de ses actions politiques, il disposait toujours de son titre. En dessous du connétable se trouvaient les maréchaux, et ces fonctions étaient également occupées.

La célèbre épée de Jeanne d’Arc, déjà célèbre de son vivant, n’avait pas appartenu à Charlemagne. Ici, les auteurs du scénario commettent plusieurs erreurs. Tout d’abord, il eut été impossible qu’une épée ayant appartenu à Charlemagne fût ornée d’une fleur de lys. Le principe des armoiries ne vit le jour qu’au XIIe siècle. Ce n’est pas avant cette époque que les rois de France adoptèrent la fleur de lys comme emblème. Ensuite, l’épée fut tout simplement prise à l’église de Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois, où Jeanne se rendit en pèlerinage et prière avant d’atteindre Chinon. Plusieurs épées y avaient été laissées en ex-voto et l’une d’entre elle attira certainement l’intérêt de Jeanne, mais il ne faut pas croire que l’épée fut trouvée par miracle.

Enfin, quand Jeanne arriva à Orléans, les Bourguignons n’assiégeaient plus la ville. Suite à une manœuvre diplomatique aussi rusée que risquée, Poton de Xaintrailles, le frère d’armes de La Hire, offrit d’ouvrir les portes de la ville au duc de Bourgogne si ce dernier acceptait d’en assurer la protection. Rien n’aurait fait plus plaisir à Philippe le Bon, mais cette éventualité fâcha le duc de Bedford, régent de France. Les deux hommes n’étaient plus en très bons termes depuis le décès d’Anne de Bourgogne, épouse de Bedford et sœur de Philippe le Bon. Ce dernier décida donc de lever le siège et de laisser les Anglais seuls devant Orléans…

1.1. La carte du jeu

Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc's Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans
Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc’s Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans

Telle qu’est présentée la carte du second scénario de Jeanne d’Arc, on trouve tout d’abord trois villes françaises : Chinon et Blois, au sud de la Loire, contrôlées par l’intelligence artificielle, et Orléans, au nord de la Loire, dont le joueur prend le contrôle dès qu’il y parvient.

Orléans est menacée par quatre forteresses britanniques. Les deux forteresses au nord produisent des fantassins à épée longue, d’autres fantassins à arc longs et des mangonneaux, tandis que les deux forteresses au sud produisent des béliers et des chevaliers.

Enfin, les Bourguignons participent encore au siège, même si cela constitue une erreur historique. Ils menacent notamment Orléans avec leurs piquiers et d’autres types d’unités.

Compte tenu que ces unités viendront assaillir le joueur continuellement, il devra se parer d’unités de plusieurs types pour contrer l’intelligence artificielle de façon efficace. Or, avec une population maximale bloquée à 75 unités, cela pourra s’avérer difficile à accomplir tout en maintenant une économie stable et bien équilibrée…

En outre, le joueur peut rencontrer quelques dangers sur la route, entre Chinon et Blois, notamment, mais surtout à l’entrée du pont de la Loire, où une troupe bourguignonne importante l’attend au pied d’une vilaine tour.

1.2. Orléans encerclée

Map. Orléans. 1428, 1429. Joan of Arc. Jollois. Harttweig
Plan de la ville et du siège d’Orléans en 1428. Jollois restituit ; Harttweig sculpsit

Comme nous l’avons déjà précisé, les Bourguignons n’étaient plus présents au siège d’Orléans quand Jeanne d’Arc vint au secours de la ville. En revanche, Orléans était encerclée par un véritable chapelet de forteresses et de bastilles occupées par les Anglais. Sur la rive droite, à l’Ouest d’Orléans, les bastilles étaient d’ailleurs gouvernées par Jean Talbot en personne, un chevalier de l’ordre de la Jarretière qui donnait bien du fil à retordre aux Français depuis son arrivée sur le continent. Les Anglais disposaient encore d’une ou l’autre bastille à l’est, mais ils bloquaient principalement le pont de la Loire en occupant la bastille des Tourelles, directement au sud d’Orléans. Pour cette raison, les habitants de la ville avaient saboté le fameux pont et il était en vérité infranchissable, ce qui n’est pas reflété dans le scénario d’Age of Empires 2.

Pour se défendre, Orléans disposait de puissantes murailles, garnies d’une trentaine de tours. Les faubourgs de la ville, de surcroît, avaient été bardés de barricades pour entraver l’accès à la ville aux Anglais. Les églises pouvaient également servir de lieux fortifiés. Toutefois, Orléans se trouvait peu à peu asphyxiée et le besoin de ravitaillement se faisait chaque jour plus urgent.

2.1. Les étapes du scénario

Le second scénario de la campagne de Jeanne d’Arc nous réserve quelques petites surprises, mais il se joue de façon assez linéaire. Le duc d’Alençon rencontre Jeanne dès les premières secondes de la partie et s’avance vers elle, sur son magnifique destrier. « Je suis le duc d’Alençon, Madame. Je serais fier de vous accompagner jusqu’à Orléans. »

De là, Jeanne, Alençon et la petite troupe quitte Chinon, dans le coin inférieur de la carte, pour se rendre à Blois, au Nord-Ouest. Une petite embuscade attend le joueur sur la route, mais quand il parvient à Blois, le joueur obtient un grand nombre de chevaliers et plusieurs charrettes de ravitaillements, qu’il doit escorter jusqu’au Forum d’Orléans, au Nord de la Loire.

Map. Orléans. 1429. Bridge. Loire. Jollois.
Plan de l’ancien Pont d’Orléans et de ses abords avec ses bastilles et boulevards, le fort des Tournelles et la bastille des Augustins. Jollois restituit

En sortant de Blois, le joueur peut suivre le chemin de terre, mais il tombera alors sur une troupe bourguignonne, et passer le pont de la Loire relèvera d’un véritable défi. S’il explore les berges du fleuve, en revanche, le joueur pourra trouver quelques embarcations qui lui permettront de franchir l’eau sans être ennuyé, et de parvenir indemne à Orléans.

Dès que le joueur entre dans Orléans par le Sud (s’il a traversé le pont) ou le Sud-Ouest (s’il a emprunté les embarcations), il prend possession de la ville et sa mission principale devient d’en défendre la cathédrale des assauts britanniques et bourguignons. Afin de gagner la partie, il doit abattre au moins un château anglais, maintenir la cathédrale debout et s’assurer que Jeanne reste en vie.

Cathédrale d’Orléans, vue depuis les toits de la ville.

La méthode la plus facile consiste à passer à l’Âge des Châteaux sitôt que les charrettes de ravitaillement parviennent au Forum d’Orléans. Ensuite, il suffit de repasser la Loire avec quelques villageois et de construire un Atelier de Siège à proximité de la forteresse anglaise la plus au Sud de la carte. Quelques béliers suffisent pour percer une faille dans les remparts et démolir le château qui s’y cache et terminer le scénario endéans les quinze minutes, montre en main. Il n’est pas même nécessaire d’amener les chevaliers trouvé à Blois jusqu’à Orléans, ils peuvent s’engouffrer dans la forteresse anglaise dès qu’une brèche est faite et aider à détruire le château ennemi, qui ne dispose pas de la technologie « meurtrières » pour se défendre.

2.2. La véritable histoire

Map. Orléans. 1429. Joan of Arc. Boucher de Molandon. Eugène Moreau.
“Orléans, la Loire et ses îles lors du siège de 1429. Première expédition de Jeanne d’Arc : ravitaillement d’Orléans”

Tout d’abord, le Duc d’Alençon n’a rien à faire dans ce scénario. Il n’intervient que plus tard dans la saga de Jeanne d’Arc, notamment au siège de Paris. Le véritable personnage historique ayant supervisé les opérations militaires du côté français, lors du siège d’Orléans, était Jean Dunois, le bâtard d’Orléans. Il y avait également La Hire, que le joueur d’Age of Empires 2 ne rencontre qu’à la mission suivante.

En résumé, l’armée française dirigée par le maréchal de Boussac, en compagnie La Hire, Jeanne d’Arc et un convoi de ravitaillements, voyagent depuis Blois jusqu’à Orléans. Afin d’atteindre la ville assiégée, ils décident de la contourner par l’est et de traverser la Loire à l’aide de navires de transports. Le bâtard d’Orléans attend le convoi de pied ferme pour superviser la traversée.

Dunois (le bâtard d’Orléans) et saint Jean l’apôtre observant le Jugement Dernier ~ London, BL, Yale Thompson MS 3, f. 32v.

Quand elle rencontre Jean Dunois, Jeanne d’Arc est énervée. Elle demande pourquoi ils ne franchissent pas la Loire à l’Ouest, où les Anglais se sont le plus lourdement fortifiés, là où se trouve leur commandant Jean Talbot. Jean Dunois est épaté par l’audace de la jeune femme. Elle lui rétorque que le conseil de Dieu, qu’elle reçoit, est certainement meilleur que le sien. Jusque-là, le vent empêchait la traversée du fleuve. Quand Jeanne finit de parler, il tourna. Des années plus tard, le bâtard d’Orléans interprétera ce moment comme un « droit miracle ».

Le maréchal de Boussac et l’armée française, toutefois, tournent les talons et retournent à Blois. Jeanne d’Arc, La Hire et les ravitaillements franchissent la Loire. Ils se reposent brièvement avec Jean Dunois à Reuilly, puis font route vers Orléans. Les Anglais en garnison à la bastille de Saint-Loup tentent une sortie pour attaquer le convoi, mais sont distraits par des troupes qui jaillissent en renfort d’Orléans. Jeanne et les ravitaillements arrivent intacts dans la ville, pour le plus grand bonheur des habitants. L’un d’entre eux s’approchent si près de Jeanne pour l’observer qu’il met feu à sa manche avec une torche, mais la catastrophe est écartée.

Loin de diriger les opérations, Jeanne est maintenue dans le noir. Rien ne lui est communiqué, le bâtard d’Orléans et les capitaines fidèles à la cause des Valois discutent de stratégie sans elle. Quand elle se réveille d’une sieste, elle dit avoir rêvé que le sang français était versé. Elle se pare de son armure et galope à tout rompre hors d’Orléans. Elle rejoint en vitesse les troupes françaises qui assaillent la bastille de Saint-Loup, et celle-ci est prise.

La bastille des Augustins tombe ensuite, puis la prochaine bastille attaquée est celle des Tourelles, de l’autre côté du pont de la Loire. Pendant toute la journée, les troupes françaises ne parviennent pas à s’emparer de la place. Néanmoins, grâce aux ultimes encouragements de Jeanne, les Français reprennent courage et conquièrent la bastille. La voie est libre pour l’armée française de venir depuis Blois sans entrave jusqu’à Orléans. Jean Talbot est contraint de plier bagages et il évacue les forteresses campées autour de la ville assiégée.

La libération de la Loire peut enfin commencer.

Outro

Jeanne a prédit qu’elle serait blessée à Orléans. Au point culminant de la bataille, un carreau d’arbalète l’a frappée, la faisant tomber de son cheval. Nous ne pouvions croire à notre malchance.

Mais tandis que nous transportions Jeanne à l’écart du carnage, nous avions remporté la bataille. Orléans était libérée.

Quand nous sommes entrés dans la ville, la population tout entière nous acclamait des fenêtres, sur les toits et dans les rues.

Ils ont tiré des coups de canon dans la nuit et crié à tue-tête le surnom de Jeanne : ‘La Pucelle’ – La Pucelle d’Orléans.

Commentaire

Jeanne d’Arc a bel et bien bien prédit sa blessure. Tandis qu’il est en voyage à Lyon pour son seigneur, le duc de Brabant, le sire de Rotselaar donne des nouvelles de la cour de Charles VII. Sa lettre, datée du 22 avril 1429, mentionne qu’une jeune femme a promis de libérer Orléans, mais qu’elle serait blessée durant les combats. L’attaque de la bastille des Tourelles se joue deux semaines après l’envoi de cette lettre, et durant l’assaut, Jeanne est en effet frappée au matin d’un projectile dans l’épaule. Sa prédiction est relatée par d’autres sources. Les historiens en sont encore étonnés aujourd’hui.

Jeanne, blessée, pleure. Mais elle refuse d’être soignée à l’aide de « sortilèges ». Elle retire elle-même la flèche de son épaule, n’ayant rien d’autre pour soulager sa peine qu’un bout de tissu et de de l’huile d’olive. Elle retourne aussitôt au combat. Au soir, la journée semble perdue, mais elle insiste. « Ne craignez pas, la place est nôtre ! » s’écrie Jeanne quand elle voit son étendard près des murs de la bastille, et indique que c’est là qu’il faut attaquer. Les Français reprennent courage et conquièrent enfin les Tourelles, dans un ultime assaut qui gravera toutes les mémoires.

Le soir se prête aux célébrations, mais il n’y a pas de coups de canons tirés dans la nuit. Le canon était tiré pour marquer le début officiel d’un siège. Les cloches de la ville, en revanche, sonnèrent toutes de concert. Recueillis dans les églises, les habitants d’Orléans et leurs défenseurs chantèrent le Te Deum Laudamus, que Jeanne avait fait chanter à l’armée française au départ de Blois. Ce n’était pas Jeanne, mais Dieu, que l’on remerciait pour la victoire.

Fermez les yeux et imaginez vous à Orléans, au soir de la victoire, par la magie intemporelle de la musique et des chants grégoriens.

 Trois anecdotes truculentes du siège

L’ultime assaut de la bastille des Tourelles donna lieu à de grands moments, qui méritent d’être remémorés.

Le pont de la Loire avait été détruit, mais voyant que le combat s’éternise, les habitants d’Orléans décident de venir en aide à leurs alliés. Ils jettent des planches en bois au travers du pont. Le premier à oser s’avancer sur ces constructions de fortune est un chevalier de l’ordre de l’Hôpital de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, Nicolas de Giresme. Alors qu’il franchit le pont sans que la planche ne cède sous lui, on crie au miracle.

Les capitaines anglais dans la bastille des Tourelles, en revanche, voient le pont levis s’écrouler sous eux et se noient dans la Loire. D’après un marchand italien, cela tient d’un navire de démolition, préparé par Jeanne d’Arc, et avancé sous le pont au moment le plus fatidique.

Enfin, alors que les Anglais évacuent leurs bastilles, un prisonnier de guerre, le bâtard de Bar, parvient à s’échapper de la façon la plus originale du monde. Il se fait porter par le prêtre-confesseur de Jean Talbot en personne jusqu’à Orléans ! Non seulement vient-il renforcer ses amis, mais il leur apporte un informateur de rêve.

Les historiens débattent encore aujourd’hui pour déterminer l’impact réel de Jeanne sur le commandement de l’armée française. S’il est désormais exclu qu’elle ait dirigé elle-même les troupes, les plus audacieux prétendent qu’elle a laissé derrière elle un « héritage ». Elle allait au-devant du danger et ne reculait devant rien. En cela, toutefois, elle était une parfaite élève de La Hire, la sagesse et l’expérience en moins. Pourtant, sans elle, il est indéniable que les Tourelles n’auraient pas été conquises et que le siège d’Orléans aurait pu s’enliser davantage.

Les Anglais étaient en mauvaise posture. Leur alliance avec les Bourguignons fondait comme neige au soleil et le comte de Salisbury, leur génie militaire, était mort aux premières heures du siège d’Orléans. La ville, en revanche, était défendue par les capitaines d’armées les plus retords et les plus braves de l’armée française. La Hire, Poton de Xaintrailles, leurs frères et leurs amis, ils étaient tous là. Ils n’avaient aucun titre pompeux, mais ils étaient de véritables professionnels de la guerre.

Jeanne d’Arc ne jeta jamais que de l’huile sur le feu, alors que les braises étaient encore chaudes et que le vent avait déjà commencé à tourner. Cela ne retire néanmoins rien à son courage, à sa vaillance et à son charme, consacrés à jamais par l’histoire.

Q&A

Joan of Arc depicted in Age of Empires (1999). Introductory words

What follows is my reaction to an AskHistorian Reddit thread that states the following:

All of us here, questioner and answerer, are inspired by portrayals of history in popular media, like games, film and tv. The recent release of the HBO Chernobyl mini-series is a great example – we had a sudden rush of interest in the history of the disaster. […] This week, we will look at the Age of Empires game series, from the first to the third and all of their expansions, which cover the ancient world, the medieval era and the ‘age of discovery’ period, and are set in various locations across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Foreword

I, for once, cannot shy away from that one. I’ve started a Twitch channel for the sole purpose to provide historical commentaries on Age of Empires—even though not very succesfully audience wise. Here is a highlight I saved from a former stream where I go on reading the in-game encyclopedia on the « Knights » entry and ramble about it. At first I went on to play Joan of Arc’s campaign and provided commentaries as I advanced in the scenario. That’s on YouTube now, even though I couldn’t make it into a series, along with a few short clips about Vikings [#1, #2, #3, #4, #5]. My latest and probably cleanest video edit is probably the short historical analysis I did on the Battle of Crécy, whilst comparing the longbowmen to the genoese crossbowmen units from Age of Empires 2. It’s only me working on it though, with my poor video edit skills, my full time night job and my social life to juggle altogether #CaptatioBenevolentia. It all started with a top facts on Joan of Arc I wrote on the AoEZone website (and also on Reddit, adding some corrections), in their kinda dead history forum. I’d love to finish a clean and well cut video edit on Joan of Arc’s campaign and provide something better than what Spirit of the Law is producing out of Wikipedia. I mean, I read the chronicles, the trials, the most recent books on the topic. So there it is, my short historical overview of the first scenario of Joan of Arc’s campaign (I won’t have the time to write about them all in one single go, maybe I’ll post one scenario a day since this is going on all week).

Here’s The Viper playthrouhg of Joan’s first AoE2 scenario. Respec’ to the Master. However… just watch that awful map for a second…

The Map of France

Now, the map that we see when we start the campaign is just plain awful, as I’ve complained several times. It basically shows the borders of France today, along with the borders of Switzerland (that becomes Burgundy!?), Belgium and the Netherlands. On that one, I’m sorry, but we can only give an F to Microsoft. One very pretty map that displays the border of France during the time of Joan of Arc is the one drawn by Auguste Longnon in the 19th century. I actually challenged u/Brother_Judas to provide his fresh take on it and he’s at it! It’s going to be beautiful. I can already tell.

I mean… just look how beautifully detailed Longnon’s map is!

An Unlikely Messiah

From the Journal of Guy Josselyne

“February 19, Army Camp near Vaucouleurs”    

“This morning I awoke to visions of fire and steel. These nightmares come more often now that I have seen my beloved France eaten away in years of war.”

“I wandered through camp ignoring the new snowfall, but observing the wounds and weariness of every soldier under my command, observing the desperation in their eyes.”    

“It was then that I first saw the girl. She told us that her name was Joan. She told us she was but a peasant, who did not know how to ride or fight. She told us that she intended to rescue France. The darkness lifted from the men’s souls. ” 

“Her voice rang with conviction, and we drank in her every word. I may have lost my faith, but Joan has not lost hers, and that is enough for me.”    

“Joan has asked our ragged band of soldiers to take her to Chinon, where the rightful ruler of France, the Dauphin, hides from his foes.”    

“The war-torn land between is infested with enemy marauders, and we will lose many men.  Death is by now an old companion, but for Joan, we will face it again.”

Paris, BnF, français 5054. Martial d'Auvergne. Vigiles de la mort de Charles VII. Joan of Arc. Jeanne d'Arc. Chinon. Vaucouleurs. Illuminated manuscript.
Joan of Arc goes to Chinon to meet Charles VII – Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 55v

“As Joan’s footsteps echoed down the marbled hall of the château, the fat and whispering dukes did naught but stare.”

“The Dauphin himself seemed afraid as she kissed his feet. ‘My gentle Dauphin,’ she demanded, ‘why does England claim what is ours? Why are you not crowned King of France as is your right?'”    

“The courtiers began to murmur. The chamberlain whispered lies into the Dauphin’s ear.”    

“But the Dauphin pushed the chamberlain away and rose to meet Joan’s gaze.”    

“She stands only to the shoulder of the shortest man, but all of us must look up to speak to her.”    

“I know not what silent conversation passed between the Dauphin and his would-be savior, but it was obvious that his majesty was in the same thrall as we.”    

Ideology versus reality

What we see in the scenario introduction is nothing short of a build up to depict Joan as a national hero. Well… The young girl was certainly pretty religious, but she had no idea of what a “nation” was in regard of our current understanding of the concept. She saw that the king had not been anointed in Reims, as was the tradition dating back from the Carolingian kings, and she maybe thought of it as the supernatural cause at the source of the wars that were afflicting the French people. I say “wars” because the Hundred Years War was in fact not one single big conflict between two nations, but the many push backs from the French nobility (including the king of England, who was a French nobleman) against the raising authority of their king through the slow building of an actual administrative state, which eventually lead, long term, to the administrative monarchy that ruled Louis XIV. Among the many concerns of the French nobility was the ability to raise their own troops. The king managed to deny them that right when he finally introduced the “Compagnies d’Ordonnances”, the first permanent and professional army in Europe since the Roman times. It brought the end of the Feudal system as we know it, where the suzerain called on his vassals. From then on, the king could rely on a constant military support, but it needed massive tax reforms and he really struggled to pass them on. Many of the noblemen that fought alongside Joan of Arc to “liberate France”, such as the Duke of Alençon, actually turned against Charles VII when the Companies d’Ordonnances were instated. That historical episode was called “the Praguerie” and it happened before the final battle of Castillon, which is portrayed as the final chapter of Joan’s campaing in AoE2.

Paris, BnF, français 5054. Martial d'Auvergne. Vigiles de la mort de Charles VII. Joan of Arc. Jeanne d'Arc. Rouen. Illuminated manuscript.
Joan of Arc being burned as a heretic at Rouen – Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 71r

Basic nitpicking

  • Basically, everything was much more complicated than what AoE2 makes us believe. Also, Joan’s travel from Vaucouleurs to Chinon was not a commando mission. Jean de Metz didn’t like that Joan would stop in every church to attend mass, because he wanted to be discreet about their journey (they also travelled a lot at night), but they didn’t have to force their way through a Burgundian settlement as the scenario suggests.
  • About the scenario introduction, yet again: Paris is misspelled “Pairs”. Also, the game map fused the Seine and the Loire together into one single river.
  • As we start the game, we witness a battle where the French are literally crushed and overpowered by an English army. The problem that the French faced however was not that they didn’t have enough military to counter the English. At that time (from 1410 to 1440), they were poorly organized and divided between opposing factions that couldn’t play well together. The Duke of Burgundy refused to attend the battle of Agincourt, the Duke of Bourbon only sought his own personal glory, the Count of Richemont showed poor political skills when he drowned the king’s favorite courtier, etc. The French army was more than able to push back the English forces, as Charles V demonstrated during his rule with his attrition strategy. It just lacked a proper hierarchy up until the Compagnies d’Ordonnances were put into play.
  • Oh, and by the way, Joan could ride a horse! She wore a red dress when she arrived in Vaucouleurs and was given men’s clothes to go on her journey at the request of Jean de Metz. He stated so himself during Joan’s second trial. #JustRanting
  • Now, it is true that Joan called Charles VII “mon gentil Dauphin” (meaning “my noble Dauphin”). However, Charles VII was already king! He was not the heir to the throne, but the dude on the throne. He only hadn’t been anointed yet. Henry VI of England, who claimed to be Henry II of France and who was Charles VII’s nephew, hadn’t been anointed either. He would nonetheless be anointed in Paris in 1431, as a political answer to Charles VII 1429 ceremony in Reims. So France had two kings just as Christendom, around those very years, had two popes. The question was only who could actually wield the power since both Charles VII and Henry II had very strong legal claims to the crown. Meanwhile, Charles VII and Henry II held different parts of the royal demesne and they offered different political “programs” so to speak. Allied to the Burgundians, the Lancastrian pretenders maintained more traditional and conservative views, whereas the Valois mustered for a better centralization of the unruly state.
Henry VI of England being crowned as Henry II of France by the Cardinal of Winchester… in Paris (1431) ~ Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 76

Needless is to say that Joan of Arc’s AoE2 campaign is what actually gave me my love for History. This campaign is emotionally very important to me and I can’t stress enough how much I love it. Even though I could tear down every single thing from the campaign, from the scenario intros and outros to the gameplay, I freaking love it and would recommend anyone to play it. The only reason I made my master thesis on La Hire is because of that freaking campaign.

By the way, spoiler alert… La Hire was dead in 1453 when the Battle of Castillon took place. So when I replayed that last scenario I actually shed a tear as I found him virtually still alive and kicking, thirsting for blood. He died in 1443 during a military campaign the king lead in the Southern part of France. He was dearly missed by Charles VII himself, as Monstrelet writes in his chronicle. Just as much as Bertrand Du Guesclin and Arnauld-Guilhelm de Barbazan before him, Étienne de Vignolles, La Hire, was nothing short of a hero. He became the Jack of Heart in the traditional French card game.

The blood on La Hire’s sword is almost dry.

Top 7 Facts of Joan of Arc’s Journey to Chinon

7. Joan was very religious. Her quest was more of a spiritual one than a patriotic one. The idea of a “French nation” as we define it today was quite foreign to her.

6. Joan asked to stop in many churches to attend mass. Jean de Metz proved quite reluctant since he prefered to travel unnoticed by Burgundians forces.

5. When she left Vaucouleurs, Joan was dressed as a man (because men’s clothes were more fit for travel) and riding a horse. She was not the average “sheperd girl” but she came from a well off family.

4. Before leaving Vaucouleurs, Joan was invited by the Duke of Lorraine, Charles II, to meet him. He was feeling ill and wondered if she could cure him. She only told him to stop cheating on his wife and asked for his ten years old son-in-law to be, René d’Anjou, who belonged to the highest nobility, to escort her to Chinon. Her request was declined.

3. As she left her native village of Domrémy, Joan lied to her parents. She told them she was going to help her cousin to deliver her child but she then asked her cousin’s husband to lead her to Vaucouleurs. That “white lie” would later cost her dearly during her trial in Rouen…

2. As Jean de Metz slept next to Joan several times on their way to Chinon, he never felt any desire for her. He had too much esteem for her as he would later testify on Joan’s second trial, held by Charles VII to clear her name of heresy.

1. Once she’d arrived in Chinon, Joan was then examined in Poitiers by theologians regarding the validity of her spiritual claims. Prior to that Yolande of Aragon also insured she was still a virgin and that is why she was later called the “Pucelle” (french word meaning virgin).

See Joan’s itinirary (picture it without the modern day highways ^^): click here.

Varia

Faltonia Betitia Proba

The following post found on St Andrews blog briefly introduces you to one of the most fascinating writer of the late Antiquity: Faltonia Betitia Proba. I mentioned her (and mispronounced her name) during my first stream about Pagan Gods in Medieval Manuscripts. Enjoy the discovery if you didn’t know her!

I was first told of Proba by Pierre-Augustin Deproost, teacher at the Université catholique de Louvain, as we shared a train many years ago. Check out his personal webpage about Latin authors, from Virgil to Thomas More (in French).

St Andrews Classics

The first five lines of Cento Probae with a depiction of the author, Faltonia Betitia Proba, holding a scroll. The first five lines of cento Probae with a depiction of the author, holding a scroll.

By Roger Rees

The most famous female writer from Greco-Roman antiquity would have to have been Sappho, the lyric poet from the island of Lesbos, but for womens history month I’m going to shout out for a Latin author by the name of Proba.

Faltonia Betitia Proba was born to an aristocratic Roman family early in the fourth century. This was a period of great religious flux, and Proba herself converted to Christianity. We know of two works by her: a lost work on the war between Constantius II and the usurper Magnentius, and the extant cento Probae. A cento is a work composed of resequenced lines (or half-lines) from an existing work, arranged to create a new narrative.

Proba’s cento of nearly 700 hexameters resequences verses from classical Latin literature’s canonical highpoint…

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Vesuvius. Naples. Napoli.
Varia

Naples Adventures

Medieval Meme
Medieval Meme – Blog Post in Progress

Chilling by the Sea

Vesuvius. Naples. Napoli.
Crossing legs in view of the Vesuvius, 21/06/2019 “Non gettate alcun oggetto dal finestrino e’ pericoloso sporgersi”, 20/06/2019 © Asinus Docet

We landed in Naples and I chose to take a cab from the airport to the city centre. Sure thing, the cab driver thought we were heading to the port to board on a boat to Capri, then once corrected he texted all the way to our destination.

His eyes though hidden under his sunglasses barely left his phone. He drove slowly and he had a big vehicle. I felt safer than I would have wanted. You don’t take a cab in Naples and don’t expect to die!

When we stepped in our airbnb we discovered our room was right across the conservatory. A young opera singer was practicing her range and it felt like we’d fell into some Halloween theme haunted house.

The room was large, the bed comfortable enough, the street noisy but we didn’t question it. It felt good to be there. We left our stuff and moved on to get a coffee. A real, dark, tasty coffee.

We drank like four coffees on our way to the marina at the end of the Toledo Avenue, where we drank an aperol spritz facing the Vesuvio. We chilled. For real. It was good. I kind of was falling asleep. I had worked all night and hadn’t slept for 24 hours.

Stopping by our favourite risotteria (Valù, go there!) to fill our bellies we made it all the way back to our airbnb where I fell asleep almost instantly. When midnight struck, I woke up.

Passing Shadows in the Night

Che Guevara. Napoli. Centro Storico. Naples.
Che Guevara graffiti in Naples city center, 21/06/2019 © Asinus Docet

Our room was on the first floor. A bar was blasting music right under our windows on the street level. People were out smoking, chanting, talking very loud and not only with their hands. Their vocal cords had joined the party with the utmost yelling fashion. It sounded like a busy Friday night at a cat strangling ritual. That electro music was just not natural!

When a saxophone started to cry in the spark of the night I was briefly reminded my dear old Belgium and I felt better. Yet it didn’t mean we could find any kind of rest staying in this shaggy place! We had to move.

Of course Morgane was awake. She couldn’t find any sleep. Her eyes wide open and her face paler than usual she told me that was okay to stay there for the night. I knew better. Not only would staying there drive her crazy but I’d end up going on a murder spree. I already felt unhinged, ghosts whispering in my souls where to find a butter knife and how to sharpen it.

We had to party all night and forgive about Pompeii for the next day altogether. Or move out!

We chose the latter option and I found us a cozy yet not too expensive hotel on the other side of the Centro Storico neighborhood. I made sure there would still be a receptionist to host us when we’d arrive and we left. Like thieves in the night.

We were but passing shadows on walls as we lurked through the Centro Storico and zigzagged in the narrow streets between the mindless drunkards and the raging scooters. The uneven blue stone pavement made our suitcase spit its rolling sound in a hectic manner. The graffiti all over the walls towered us and the Che spectacular portrait let us walk by without question.

At the end of our trial we were greeted by a cheerful and kind night receptionist. The ghosts who’d follow me told me I couldn’t kill him. He was too cute they said. Therefore I went to bed, sunk into its memory foam mattress and blacked out from exhaustion.

Always on the Move

“Non gettate alcun oggetto dal finestrino e’ pericoloso sporgersi”, 20/06/2019 © Asinus Docet

Morgane had put an early alarm so that we’d be at Pompeii in the morning. A fool’s dream. It rang. We looked at each other. We fell right back asleep. We eventually woke up at 9:50. Ten minutes before check out time. It left me no time for my two hours long get-out-of-bed ritual. I sprung on my feet and ran to the reception. We barely made it in time to eat breakfast, then we headed to the B&B that we’d booked overnight for the remainder of our stay and that settled our lodging predicaments for good.

Noon hit us like a ton of bricks. We were starving but the heat made us oblivious to it. We were now in the Materdei neighborhood and it meant only one thing. Pizzas at Starita! The former cantina that served as decor to the classic movie ‘Oro di Napoli’. It’s only one of the best place in all Italy to eat a pizza. The air-conditioning calmed our senses and awoke our appetite then we ate at full delight. It was therefore time to catch the train to Pompeii.

This very train, however, gave me a glimpse of India. It all flashed in front of my eyes. The crowd. The heat. The sweat. The train would stop at every station but no one would ever unboard. We were stuck together in like peas in a casserole. It’s a good thing I fought my way in and got us some seats at the expense of a granny trying to come down the train with her luggage. She had a ragazzi holding her suitcase and yelling to let her pass. I figured she’d be alright. Morgane confirmed it later to me.

I was left with nothing to do while on that train so my mind started to wander. As my eyes set on a warning on the window that read: ‘Non gettate alcun oggetto dal finestrino e’ pericoloso sporgersi’ the wildest images sparkled in front on my eyes.

This was the story of a train conductor, used to see people throw garbage from the windows of his train on a daily basis. There was nothing he could do about it but to complain to himself about the state of the world. Then one day, he saw something really big being pushed through one of the window. Fast track to the train wagon where it happened. Three macho men were throwing an old man out of the train but he wouldn’t let them do it and fought back. It was quite the scene. A pretty young woman yelled and prayed for the old man to be left alone. He was her lover. The three macho men were her brothers. A lot of arguing was involved until the old men finally let go and just flew away to the stupefaction of the train conductor who just figured out that the thing being thrown out of his train was an actual human being. Damn!

The story doesn’t end there. As the train conductor returns home and is still in total shock from what he saw, someone rings his bell. He opens the window and sees the old man, injured, but pissed. He actually knows the guy. It’s an old pal! He doesn’t figure out, however, that his old friend is the unidentified person that was thrown out of his train. “What happened to your face! – You wouldn’t believe the day I had.” They put two and two together then decide to go on their own vendetta. Guns out blazing. The train conductor is a part time gun trafficker so he naturally hides an armory in his basement.

Not a single shot ends up being fired though. The old man lurks around the house of his enemies in the bushes and catch the sight of his young lover. He loses his nerves and sits on a dead trunk. He remembers his former wife who died several years ago. He sees her face clear as day in his memories. The young woman looks so much like her. She reminded him of his youth. Of his former, happier life. The old man tells it all to his friend. Then, in the dead of the night, they take their leave as they go for a drink, or two.

As I finished to make up this story, our train stopped at Villa de Misteri. That’s where we had to disembark to visit Pompeii.

“Lente Impelle”

Coming soon… Writing in progress!

Fun Fact

The Devil’s Ten Commandments

Medieval Meme
Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 51v.

We find in several manuscript an illumination of a devil sitting on a tree. Every branch of the tree reads one of his Ten Commandments. Additionally, a wild boar at the bottom of the tree looks up at the devil and his commandments.

1 ~ Here is my first Commandment: swear upon God’s name as often as you can.

2 ~ Grant your body with as much delights as possible; there isn’t any other heaven.

3 ~ Come by my house anytime: it is the pub and the brothel.

4 ~ If you wish me to remember you, cover yourself with vain glory.

5 ~ Despise all poor people and love nothing but gold and silver.

6 ~ If you have nothing for yourself, take it from another, and give nothing back.

7 ~ Should you father argue with you make him fear you.

8 ~ Use wine for gambling instead of holy mass.

9 ~ Believe and witchcraft and violence: your will shall be fulfilled.

10 ~ Would you be short of money you shall take if from the Church.

Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 26v

Those Ten Commandments are given as Queen Ratio provides a moral and allegorical commentary of the wild boar which is depicted as a devilish creature. Furthermore, all of this is found, believe it or not, in a medieval hunting treatise.

It is called the Books of King Modus and Queen Ratio and reads as a long dialogue. Whereas King Modus teaches the hunting apprentice how to hunt the deer and other animals, Queen Ratio provides an allegorical reading of nature and its creatures.

If the wild boar is a devilish beast, then the deer is a Christian one. Its noble antlers are actually a figure for God’s own Ten Commandments. The deer protects itself with its antlers as the good Christian shields himself with God’s Commandments.

Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 29r

The wild boar used to be considered as a brave and mighty beast in Germanic culture. Henri de Ferrières, author of the Books of King Modus and Queen Ratio, however, turns it into the most despicable creature of the forest. Would you want to know more about that cultural shift, I’d recommend Michel Pastoureau’s book on the subject. It’s quite the page turner!

Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 50r

Further readings:
~ Michel Pastoureau, Le Cochon. Histoire d’un cousin mal aimé (1999).
~ Les livres du roy Modus et de la royne Ratio, éd. Gunnar Tilander, Paris, Société des anciens textes français, 1932, 2 t.