Equipment of a Roman Legionnaire

Fully equipped Roman Legionnaire. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The clothing and weaponry of a Legionnaire in the Roman army are described in  a series of posts. This fits well with this blog’s topic of ancient finances.

You will also find this fits well with the description of the armor of God as described by the Apostle Paul in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians.

Posts on Legionnaire equipment and weaponry:

Continue reading “Equipment of a Roman Legionnaire”

Gladius, sword used by Roman Legionnaires

Roman Legionnaire wearing chain mail armor, carrying a scutum, holding a gladius at the ready. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The gladius is a short sword, about 2 feet long, used by soldiers in the Roman army. In the hands of trained legionnaires, the gladius was a potent offensive weapon.

Roman soldiers would advance side-by-side with their shield, called a scutum, held in their left hand and a gladius in their right hand. In this position, the sharp tip of the gladius was best used as a thrusting weapon to stab the enemy, aiming for the torso. In ancient times, an abdomen wound was usually fatal.

With a two foot length and sharp double edges, the gladius could also be used as for slashing or cutting. From comments I’ve read, the main use was for thrusting.

Wikipedia describes the various sizes of Gladius:

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Inflation factors during the Civil War and an indication of relative wages in the 1860s.

Manassas National Battlefield Park. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

An insightful indicator of wages during the Civil War can be found in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy, by William C. Davis. Book also has useful indicators of inflation through 1863.

The northern economy was quite strong during the Civil War, with demand for skilled and unskilled workers in industry creating more lucrative job opportunities in the civilian world than being in the army.

While the pay for a soldier was $13 a month, the author says a man could make four times that much money merely by working as “a sign maker or a clerk in a dry goods store” (location 26210). That stat is credited to American Annual Cyclopedia, 1863, p. 413. A 30 second search on the ol’ internet suggests the book can be had for between $60 and $100.

The ratio of 4x suggests a dry good store clerk could make somewhere around $50 a month.

Continue reading “Inflation factors during the Civil War and an indication of relative wages in the 1860s.”

Covering the controlled territory, battles, and casualties of the Civil War in a very short video? A superb creative visualization.

Note:  This was originally posted on September 11, 2013 at my other blog, Nonprofit Update. It is cross-posted here because it kinda’ sorta’ fits. Even though the video is no longer available online, the post is worth reading.


How’s this for a very creative visualization? A four-minute video that tells the story of the American Civil War through the amount of territory controlled by the Union and Confederate forces with mention of major battles and a casualty counter in the corner.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum created The Civil War in Four Minutes.

You can view the video here at what appears to be the only authorized place to host it.

Update on 1/19/19: Video is no longer available online. You need to buy a copy if you want to see it. A bootleg copy can be found online, but I won’t link to it.

Continue reading “Covering the controlled territory, battles, and casualties of the Civil War in a very short video? A superb creative visualization.”

More background on the Viking Age, part 3 of 3

Equipment of the Viking warrior: shield, sword, and bearded axe.

This series of posts describes fun things I learned while reading A Dark History: Vikings, by Martin Dougherty. You might find it on the discount shelf at Barnes & Noble.

This post describes the criteria for picking target for raids, adds a few comments on weaponry, and discusses life expectancy.

See part 1 and part 2.

Newborns were valued only after they were accepted

The times were hard, as we see in so many ways.

One particular way life was harsh was that a new-born child could be abandoned to the elements if the baby was deformed or a family did not have the means to feed another mouth. This was socially acceptable.

A family accepted a baby by naming the child and having the mother nurse the baby. After a family accepted an infant, the baby was recognized by society and subject to legal protection.

If not named or nursed? The baby would be allowed to die.

Like I said, times were hard.

For some perspective, the economy was so lousy that another mouth to feed might make the difference between the family surviving the upcoming winter or much of the family dying from starvation. Life was that precarious.

Life expectancy

The book describes life expectancy in a different way.

Continue reading “More background on the Viking Age, part 3 of 3”

More background on the Viking Age, part 2 of 3

Part of viking age village replica in southern Sweden in early spring. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This series of posts describes fun things I learned while reading A Dark History: Vikings, by Martin Dougherty. You might find it on the discount shelf at Barnes & Noble.

Text points out the rest of the story behind the incident when King Knut the Great sat on the ocean shore commanding the tide not to come in.

After his command failed, he turned to his nobles and pointed out that the power of a king is nothing compared to the power of the Christian God.

That sort of changes the point of the story, doesn’t it?

Social order

Chapter 3 goes into some depth on “Viking law and social order.” There were well-developed laws which provided property protection. That in turn allowed the society to prosper.

Text points out there was no police force to enforce laws. Instead those who violated social norms would have to deal with armed men enforcing what society disapproved.

Continue reading “More background on the Viking Age, part 2 of 3”

More background on the Viking Age, part 1 of 3

Viking house in the city of Hobro, Denmark. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Another fun read on Viking history is A Dark History: Vikings, by Martin Dougherty. You might find it on the discount shelf at Barnes & Noble.

Will mention just a few particularly interesting thing I found noteworthy.

Weak information

Book starts out reminding us the information on the Vikings is limited.

Without a contemporary written history, we can’t look at the non-metallic and non-stone artifacts, such as clothing and homes, because they have long since have disintegrated. Written accounts, even those that are contemporaneous, are by people who are not Vikings and would thus not understand the Viking culture or mindset. (paragraph updated for readability)

As mentioned by other writers, comments by victims of Viking raids may have a bit of bias in their comments.

Starting and ending point of the Viking Age is vague

Contemporary comments for the first raids, such as during the famed Lindisfarne raid referred to the raiders as being “from the north” or “from the land of robbers” which suggests the Scandinavians had a reputation in place long before 793 A.D.

Continue reading “More background on the Viking Age, part 1 of 3”

Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.

Model of Santa Maria. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wages paid to the crew and a current understanding of crew list for Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas is provided at Columbus Ships Crew.

Crew size:

  • 41 – Santa Maria
  • 26 – Pinta
  • 20 – Nina
  • 87 – total

Of particular interest to me is the pay information provided in the article. It also lists reference points for gold and silver.

Will list that info here for future reference. All amounts are maravedis, which was the Spanish currency at the time. This data is for 1492 in Spain.

Continue reading “Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.”

Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.

Columbus’ Ships. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Transatlantic travel time has dropped radically in the last 500 years.  Time to transit the Atlantic has dropped about 99% and cost has dropped about 95% by my calculations.

Let’s look at several data points for cost and time, then calculate one indicator of improved quality of life.

(Article cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

Human Progress provides fun data points on August 2, 2018 in their post, A Reminder of How Far Transatlantic Travel Has Come.

Columbus’ first trip

The 1492 trip by Christopher Columbus took two years of lobbying before the king and queen of Spain approved 2 million Spanish maravedis to fund the trip. A professor has calculated that would be comparable to about US$1,000,000 today.

The cost seems low to me. I’ll look at that more later.

Crew size was 87 according to this article. The accountant in me is driven to calculate the cost per crewman.  That would give an average cost of $11,494. I’ll round that to $11,500 and ignore any adjustment for several crew members who died on the trip.

His trip took two months, nine days, which I calculate at 70 days (30+31+9).


Mayflower. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Continue reading “Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.”

Travel times during mid 1800s.

General Sherman monument in New York City at Grand Army Plaza. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here are a few data points from the Civil War era for travel times and logistics as mentioned in William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough. Previous post mentioned some data points for compensation of senior army generals and housing costs.

Travel times

In 1836, when Sherman started classes at West Point, he took a stagecoach for the trip. The journey from Zanesville, Ohio to Washington was three days, traveling night and day. Each stagecoach’s was loaded with nine passages on the inside and perhaps three or four on the roof of the coach.

A quick check on Google maps shows this journey is 345 miles on the modern I-70 and I-68. A trip that took three days and nights, say 72 hours, back in 1836 can now be completed in 5 hours 40 minutes, say just over 6 hours adding in a refueling stop.

That is a drop in travel time by a factor of 12, or a reduction of 92%.

In July 1846, company F of Third Artillery, with young first lieutenant Sherman aboard, sailed from the East Coast to California. They sailed around the Cape Horn. The company consisted of 5 officers and 113 enlisted men. The ship stopped in Rio de Janeiro for re-provisioning.

Continue reading “Travel times during mid 1800s.”