It’s time to check in on Snark!
Regardless of where Snark ended up last week – chowin’ down in the Middle Ages, perhaps? – it’s time to keep going!
Check 10th inning of Yo’s game, if that’s Snark’s path….
Or fan the flame with Aoibhneas to see where Snark’s off to next….
And, if you did end up watching Peder, it’s time to wake up from Snark up from her food hangover and get moving!
Well, where did you take Snark?
Did you venture back to the Roman Republic and take a look in on Glacia? Get some insight into it was like to be a (Vestal) Virgin?
Or did you decide Snark needed to watch some chariots during in sixth-century Constantinople? Rioting optional, of course….
It’s time to take Snark to her next destination…check out your options at the end of Glacia’s or Mesos’s stories!
Here, Hootie’s gonna serenade you while you decide….
Snark’s trying something new – or, rather, you are! It’s choose-your-own adventure time!
To start, you’ll help Snark navigate the stories already posted on this site – with opportunities later to visit new, sarcastic historical figures across centuries! Simply put, you get to determine who Snark meets and what she learns – where will you send her next?
Where to start? We set off where it all began – Rome in the fifth century. Here’s Petronia again – only, when you’re done reading about her this time, you determine Snark’s fate…. Make sure you scroll all the way to the end!
Snark wasn’t sure what to make of Petronia and her take on the relationship between Rome and the Goths. But she knew something about Petronia’s story was compelling her to find out more about the Roman world.
The only question was whether to go back in time or push ahead?
To find out more about the role of women in the Rome, send Snark back to meet Glacia, a wanna-be Vestal Virgin.
To explore happenings in Byzantium – AKA the Roman Empire East – take a trip with Snark to sixth-century Constantinople.
Skippy just learned all about “Duck and Cover” at school. Now that he’s done the drills in school and knows what to do if those evil Russians drop a bomb on America, he’ll be ready. He want to make sure everyone else is ready too…. Almost everyone. The school bully, Joe, no one would really miss him, right?
“It’s okay, Skippy, you can come out now,” his teacher said.
Skippy looked around and saw he was the only student still under his desk. He was taking these drills very seriously, more seriously than everyone else, in his opinion. He wanted to make sure he did it right and was safe in a nuclear attack. The Red Menace would never get him!
The class had just watched Bert the Turtle – again. Bert told them what they needed to do if they saw a flash, if they knew a bomb was coming. You hide, cover your head, and wait for it to pass. That was the only way to stay safe. They watched the film at least once a week and then practiced their best Duck and Cover skills. He was a professional ducker and coverer at this point, the best in his class.
As the school bell rang, Skippy gathered his books, left the building, and walked to the local Woolworth’s to buy some trading cards with his allowance. He had saved up for weeks and had a whole ten cents to spend on the latest batch of “Red Menace” cards. He almost had the whole set and considered himself a champion against Communism, just like the cards told him he was.
“Golly,” he said as he read about Mao Tse-tung on one of his new cards. “Communism is everywhere!” he exclaimed in a mix of excitement and fear. He knew that the United States had atomic weapons and that the Soviet Union had some too but what if China got them too? What would happen to the world then?
Skippy was even more concerned as he walked by the news stand. The newspapers and magazines all screamed headlines about how the Red Menace was going to destroy the United States. Was he prepared? Was his family? From the movie theater posters, with their bright colors and paranoid titles, he got more of the same.
Then it hit him, all at once, like a, er, bomb. Joe, the class bully – he must be a Communist!
“What do I know about Joe, really?” Skippy asked himself. When Joe wasn’t beating up third graders for lunch money, he was always hiding in the boys’ room, being secretive. Was he in there alone? With other bullies? With his Communist friends? And what did he do with the lunch money he stole?
“I bet he gives it to the Communists!” Skippy realized. “And there was that day last week when Joe took his hand off of his heart for the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, too.” Scratching his eye, right. Joe was just anti-America and that was his cover. Skippy was on to him now.
“Joe’s always the first one to make fun of Bert,” Skippy said to himself as he gave Joe more and more thought. “He’s the last one under his desk during ‘Duck and Cover’ too. Like he knows he won’t be here when the bomb arrives.”
Skippy thought more about how Joe behaved at school. He never read anything when they had time in the library. It was like he would rather the books all be burned or something. He didn’t want them around or didn’t want to be around them. During lunch, Joe and his bully buddies shared their food, all communal-style. Those socialists!
Skippy never saw Joe at church. Maybe he didn’t go to church. His family was probably full of godless heathens praying to a statue of Stalin! And with that, Skippy knew had no choice but to see where Joe lived and find out more. For God, for freedom, for Democracy.
The next day, Skippy followed Joe home. He was subtle about it, following from a distance, never letting Joe see him. When he saw the house that Joe walked into, Skippy was shocked. Red shutters! They weren’t even subtle about it! They had red shutters outside all of their windows…and a red mailbox! The nerve of these traitors!
Skippy knew he had to get closer. As he walked along the sidewalk in front of Joe’s house, he quickly darted into the yard. He crouched along the fence near the side of the house and tried to hear what was going on inside. He heard music – folk music! Only Communists listened to folk music! This was incredible, he thought. How has no one else seen this?
Skippy quietly snuck away from the house, unsure what to do. He stood on the corner a few houses down from Joe’s house for a while as he thought about his options. He had an obligation to the United States of America and democracy as a whole to fight against people like Joe. Skippy could go to his teacher at school but what did he know about him, really? Nothing. Skippy could only trust his own parents. He decided to talk to his father about it, he’d definitely have some ideas on what to do.
When Skippy got home, he was surprised to see a giant hole in the backyard and a group of men, including his father, standing around with shovels. It took him a minute, but he realized what was going on – his dad was putting in a fallout shelter.
“Yes!!” Skippy said as he ran toward the hole and the men. He’d been lobbying his dad for months to put a shelter in. It was the best way to protect themselves after a bomb hit. Since they didn’t have a basement, putting one in the backyard was the only option. And from the looks of it, it was going to be big enough for the whole neighborhood to use.
His father quickly shooed him away, telling him to go inside and do his homework, but Skippy had other things in mind. First, he’d note everything he’d seen and thought about Joe. That would come in handy when he ratted him out. Skippy would keep watching him and get more evidence before he went to his dad with it.
“Communists cover their tracks, I have to make sure I can nail him,” Skippy thought. Any self-respecting Communist wouldn’t go easily.
Then, Skippy would go start piling up items from the pantry. He’d stash extra cans of beans and bags of rice in his closet so he could stock the shelter when it was ready. His mom would never noticed if he took one or two things at a time. And she’d thank him later. He had to be prepared, they all did. That shelter needed to be stocked and at the ready.
Joe, well, Joe wasn’t invited.
Gustave knew he’d be back. Napoleon wasn’t a guy to just take exile lightly and it was just a matter of time before his triumphant return. Gustave was more than ready to sign up to fight alongside Napoleon again as the former Emperor became Emperor once again.
“Je m’appelle Gustave,” he said as he reported for duty.
“Gustave?” the clerk asked.
“Gustave.” He repeated.
Napoleon needed men to fight for him as he made his way back to the continent from Elba and Gustave was ready to go. He and several of his veteran friends met to talk about it the previous night and many of them were wishy-washy but he had no doubt. Napoleon was going to be able to reassert his former glory in no time.
Gustave had served with Napoleon even before he became Emperor. Napoleon was quite the role model and Gustave learned a ton from him. The first Corsican to graduate from the prestigious military academy in Paris, brilliant strategist, brigadier general at the age of twenty-four…impressive. He’d been on the right side of the royalist revolt and benefitted greatly. The Directory – the third or fourth government to take shape in the late eighteenth century – heaped fame, reward, and patronage all over him. Suckers didn’t even see the takeover coming but Napoleon was their hero. And they needed him. With the ups and downs of French politics – the Convention, Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, and then the Directory – they needed the best and the brightest to lead them.
Gustave had come up in the ranks under Napoleon in Italy during the Revolution. He’d been with Napoleon when he marched into Venice and ended their century of independence. He looted alongside the rest of the troops like the glorious victors they were. The amount of loot Napoleon got from Italy was amazing. Millions and millions worth of financial reserves, jewels, gems, gold, precious works of art – the man was a goddamn hero.
Next up, Napoleon planned to set France up with some choice Indian connections – in the hopes of besting the British, of course. Always gotta go after the British. Gustave was with Napoleon in Egypt when the army discovered the Rosetta Stone. If that was some sort of sign that Napoleon was already a legend, nothing was.
Militarily, not much came out of the campaign in the eastern Mediterranean but Napoleon still managed to come back to France as a hero. He had some major political skills. Within a month of returning to Paris, he’d set himself up as head of the Directory. Then he overthrew the Directory and had a constitution passed that confirmed he’d be France’s Consul. Pretty much code for ‘dictator’.
Gustave watched it all unfold and loved every minute. Napoleon played the people, played the government, played the game so well. As Consul, he ended conflicts with Austria and Italy with treaties that greatly benefited France, and even managed to negotiate peace with Britain. Peace domestically and abroad led to his declaration as “consul for life” – not even veiled code for ‘dictator’.
From there, it was Emperor. That ceremony had been impressive as hell – he used Charlemagne’s crown and laurel wreaths to evoke Roman and Carolingian glory. Military genius, political acumen, propagandist staging…there was nothing he couldn’t do.
Except go too far. Napoleon could do that. And soon did. Gustave never wavered in his support for Napoleon, but he knew that there were coalitions around the world that were upset with the amount of power he’d acquired. Napoleon handled it all brilliantly – until he tried to invade Russia. Late in the year. That had been one rough winter. Granted, the army had gotten to Moscow but instead of surrendering to Napoleon, the Russians burned the city. That’s hardcore resistance.
It was all downhill from there. Napoleon’s enemies – pretty much every other European country – ganged up on him. They tried to negotiate with the Emperor but they wanted to make France, well, France again. Take away all of the other lands that Napoleon controlled. Unacceptable! More than anything, he didn’t want to give up his title. Unacceptable! Technically, even when he did abdicate and give in he got to keep the title – on Elba. It just didn’t have the same ring to it after he’d been stripped over everything BUT the island of Elba.
During the months Napoleon was on Elba, Gustave waited. And waited. Napoleon was not the kind of man to give in. Well, not after his suicide attempts failed. Maybe that was a sign to him that his work wasn’t done. Then his enemies gathered at Vienna to divide up his lands, to reestablish order on the continent. And Napoleon seized his opportunity. Served them right for being distracted.
Elba, just off the coast of Italy, couldn’t contain Napoleon. The guard ships took their eyes off of the ball and Napoleon landed on the southern coast of France to throngs of supporters. And veterans. Like Gustave.
After Gustave gave his name to the clerk, he prepared to join the troops that were to march to Paris the next day.
“This is happening!” Gustave said when Napoleon’s ever-growing army arrived in France and Napoleon re-took power.
Paris was glorious. Gustave was thrilled to be back. Once Napoleon issued a pardon for all of the royalists that had been against him, it was easy for more and more people to join the Imperial revival. Napoleon put a new constitution into action and mobilized for war. He knew there was no way Europe would let him come back unopposed.
So he decided to strike first.
“Gustave,” the general called out, lining up the French troops for their next move.
“Yes, sir.” He replied.
“We’re going into Belgium,” he ordered after everyone was accounted for and ready to go.
Gustave was on the frontlines during the Waterloo campaign against the Prussian and British troops. Napoleon was there too, somewhere. Gustave and Napoleon celebrated the defeat of the Prussians one day and waited with near Waterloo ready to route the British the next.
“We’re waiting until the ground dries,” the general said.
“Could be worse,” Gustave thought, “at least we’re not in Russia.”
While the French troops waited, the Prussians arrived to reinforce the British. “How did Napoleon not see that coming?” Gustave said to himself as he launched into battle with his French comrades. “What had happened to the great military leader? The strategist-extraordinaire?”
Waterloo was a disaster for Napoleon. And for Gustave. Both men lived, but Gustave was so disappointed. He’d fought so long and so hard for Napoleon, only to be defeated in humiliating fashion. He had nothing to show for his efforts. Napoleon was gone, again. Forced to abdicate, again. Sent into exile…again. This time he was sent to an island way out in the Pacific Ocean, Saint Helena. Gustave decided to wait, again. He wondered how long it would take for Napoleon to escape this time….
Glacia is seven years old and knows what she wants to do with her life—she wants to be a Vestal Virgin. She’s growing up in Republican Rome and hopes like hell that the Pontifex Maximus chooses her to join Team V.V. She tells us what it takes to be a Vestal Virgin and how important they are to Rome and Roman society.
“I want to be a virgin when I grow up!”
The humorous end to the tale her mother loved to tell. Those had been Glacia’s first words, according to Mom.
“So what if they were?” Glacia thought each time her mother told the story. It was true. She’d wanted to be a Vestal Virgin for as long as she could remember, and she was a whole seven years old—that was a long time.
There was an opening at the house of the Vestals—Vestal Headquarters, as Glacia like to call it—and soon the Pontifex Maximus would be calling twenty girls from which to choose the next flame-watcher.
A new Vestal was needed because one of the previous six had retired. If one had died, they could put almost anyone in. She didn’t even have to be a virgin. She could be a divorcee or a widow. And someone like that would be old anyway.
Glacia was lucky. She met the qualifications to be a Vestal and had parents who supported the choice. She wasn’t deformed like her friend Sinista—her left arm was all kinds of twisted, and a deformity was a reason for not being accepted. She wasn’t the daughter of former slaves like Serva down the road, and there wasn’t a scandal surrounding her mother’s profession like Forna had to deal with—the rumors about the oldest profession in the book swirled constantly around that family.
So, she was free, perfect in physical form, and from a good family. Check, check, check.
Plus, her father was supportive of the choice. A lot of fathers weren’t okay with their daughter taking up a thirty-year job that removed them from the marriage and child-bearing game. If she gave it too much thought, Glacia would wonder why her father wasn’t more upset about it, but she didn’t dwell on that. She wanted to be a Vestal Virgin. She hoped her father would be the first one to offer his daughter at the ceremony so she could get the VVV [Vestal Virgin Vacancy]. Nip the competition in the bud.
Glacia had a playdate with Forna and Serva that afternoon. She took her white robe and purple scarf so she could dress like a Vestal Virgin. Forna and Serva always wanted to dress the part, but Glacia reminded them they weren’t able to dress up like a Vestal since they couldn’t even be one.
Glacia couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of finally achieving her dream. Once she was a Vestal, she’d be out from under the protection of her father and in the goddess’s service. Along with the five other VVs, she’d be a daughter of Rome. They conducted all the observances and duties the men couldn’t. Yep, men couldn’t do everything.
Vestal Virgins got all of the perks in society. Yes, they had to make sure the flame on the altar of Vesta never went out, but that was only part of what the role included. They made offerings to Vesta, goddess of hearth and home, by sprinkling water and purifying the shrine. They helped with tons of holy rites and ceremonies, were invited to all kinds of banquets, and got the best seats at public games and celebrations too.
The Vestal Virgins were literally untouchable, which Glacia liked as well. The Vestals were protected by guards, got carried around in a cart, and always had the right of way. Anyone who hurt them was put to death. She was going to be a deadly force! How cool was that?
She could own property and make a will. And she had the authority to pardon criminals, give evidence without an oath, keep both public and private documents safe because she’d be so trustworthy, pure, and esteemed…the perks just kept on coming….
But the rules were strict. There had been a Vestal not long ago that violated her vow of chastity and had been buried alive – sorta.
Romans couldn’t spill a Vestal’s blood or kill someone within the city so they put her in an underground room with some food and provisions to get around those technicalities. “She went willingly but a real Vestal Virgin would just kill herself if she committed such a horrible violation,” Glacia thought.
Glacia knew that if she was chosen to be a Vestal, it would be ten years of training, ten years of doing, and ten years of teaching the next generation. “Did it really take ten years to teach someone how to watch a flame?” she wondered.
It was THE flame, yes, but ten years? She wasn’t even ten years old yet!
Of course it would take that long. It was essential. Vesta needed the Vestals to keep the flame alive.
And Rome blamed the Vestals for everything that went wrong if and when a flame went out. Famine, weather, political strife – you name it, they bore the brunt. Even when the flame didn’t go out, the Vestals were blamed for not protecting the City. It was such an important job.
Thirty years was totally doable. She’d make her way through the novitiate, maybe even get to be the chief Vestal during her middle decade, and then teach the next group of girls. And she’d see her family again. Out and about in Rome. Each year during the festivals of Vesta, her mother could visit Vestal Headquarters too – like all of the other mothers in Rome. As long as she brought an offering.
Glacia knew that some Vestals even got married after they left the College of Vestal Virgins. I mean, they were in their thirties but the Pontifex Maximus had arranged the marriage before they took leave so it wasn’t like they had to get husbands of their own. Some of the retired Vestals didn’t marry and chose to be alone, living off their pensions. Glacia felt kind of sorry for them but it was forever until she’d have to worry about any of that.
Besides, who wouldn’t want to marry a former Vestal? Even if she was an old virgin?
Well, Snark learned a lot – she’s not sure what to make of it, but history’s full of eye-opening roles for women.
With that in mind, where should Snark go next?
Should Snark delve deeper into the stories of women – hopefully taking a strong stomach and some patience along for the ride – and visit seventh-century Ireland?
Or, speaking of stomachs, Snark might be due for a tasty medieval snack – complete with bitterness and song!
It’s difficult to be a depressed, misunderstood – often inappropriate – wandering minstrel, to which Peder can attest. He sings his songs, tells his stories, dances around, and tries to smile the whole time but it’s hard. At least when he’s out at a festival or at a royal court, he gets some good food and wine out of the deal.
Baldwyn, an Anglo-Norman nobleman and hunting companion to the king, offers his insights into late eleventh century England. He pays witness to specific matters of law and land during the reign of William Rufus – both of which caught up with him and set the tone for centuries to come.
“Oops, missed again,” Baldwyn said as he shrugged.
Baldwyn had nothing against hunting but these trips to New Forest with William Rufus were hardly enjoyable. The king’s lands, the king’s stags, the king has to be the best – so pointless. And what they killed didn’t even go to good use. There were people that really needed to hunt to survive. The King was doing it as a show of power. Royal egos were the worst.
He pulled another arrow out of his quiver and loaded his bow. He’d only have to do this for another few hours, the King had to get back to kinging soon.
William Rufus hadn’t made too many people mad as King. Except a large numbers of his subjects. And his brothers. And his uncle. And the Church. Okay, he was kind of an ass.
Baldwyn liked William Rufus, even if he was prone to fits of anger. His face got hysterically red when he was all worked up. It could be pretty entertaining. William Rufus had really pitched a fit after his father died. He wanted his father’s primary inheritance, Normandy, but that went to his elder brother Robert Curthose. King as second place, the first loser. At least he wasn’t as bad off as his younger brother Henry. He was pretty much left out entirely aside from that money he’d inherited.
Not that William Rufus was poor. William Rufus was a wealthy ass. He’d manipulated his position well. Pay for play when it came to church office, or just leaving the offices open so he could get the money. Lucrative.
He imposed huge taxes on the kingdom and confiscated the land left and right. The King’s lands increased exponentially, as did the punishments for hunting in them. Fines, imprisonment, even mutilation. Harsh.
Sending out justices to hear forest cases and get all of that revenue. Genius.
Selling the whole thing as a way of protecting the animals of the forest and the land itself. Unbelievable.
As in the people weren’t convinced. Commoners and nobles alike weren’t particularly fond of William Rufus’s behavior. He’d managed to stave off a rebellion a few years back. Robert and Odo, his uncle, had ganged up on him nicely but it didn’t go too far. Odo had ended up in prison after being a thorn in Bill the Bastard’s side, it wasn’t surprising that he would go after William Rufus too. Delusions of grandeur. Once Odo left to go live in Normandy and then on Crusade, Baldwyn thought the whole matter was closed. Odo even died off in Sicily along the way so that was an added bonus. No more problems from him.
But William Rufus just had to go after Normandy. Had to go after his brother Robert. Good thing Robert basically pawned off the duchy to William when he went on Crusade.
Baldwyn looked up as Colum sent out his hawk. At least trips like this let the falconers and their birds stretch their wings. Baldwyn saw stag in the distance and took aim. He hoped that if he could miss it, it would get spooked and run off. “It’s mine,” he whispered to his hunting companions as he lined up his bow. He fired and missed, just a bit to the left, and the deer ran off into the thick brush. “Phew,” Baldwyn thought, “he’ll live to see another day.”
Baldwyn figured that they’d see some boar out here somewhere. Hunting boar was a, well, bore, but the King seemed to really enjoy it. He’d let the King take aim if they saw one of those. Baldwyn hoped they didn’t see any wolves – he couldn’t help but admire their sleek beauty, even if they were murderous fighters. So were they, if they wanted to be honest. He felt a sense of camaraderie with them.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no,” came from the trees behind Baldwyn. He looked to see what was going on. He heard crying, a man crying, and picked up his pace – this couldn’t be good. When he got to the sobbing man he found the King. With an arrow in his chest. “Oh no” was an understatement.
“What the hell happened here?” Baldwyn cried out. By that time, the rest of the hunting party, including the King’s brother Henry, had gathered and were standing around the King in silent awe. Baldwyn asked the group “Was it an accident? Who fired the arrow? Did anyone see what happened?” No one was talking.
Henry wasted no time. He got on his horse and started riding to Winchester. Baldwyn knew he’d go to London after that. He was front-runner to be the new King and in a huge damn hurry to make it happen.
Baldwyn didn’t know what to do. Baldwyn thought “Um, hey, guys – there’s a body here. We can’t just leave.” But everyone did. One by one the party left. All of Henry’s friends, even William Rufus’s closest men, made haste to get as far from the scene as possible, each one mumbling something alone the lines of “I didn’t do it” as they left.
That struck Baldwyn as odd – maybe they had something to do with it. Had he been surrounded by conspirators all afternoon? Was he in the midst of king killers? Everyone there had been very skilled with a bow. Baldwyn had a hard time believing that anyone would have “accidently” shot one of their fellow hunters. But accidents did happen so he couldn’t count it out.
They may have wanted to return to their homes and secure their lands and possessions. Things were about to get chaotic, Baldwyn understood that.
But if the King was killed intentionally, why hadn’t he been brought in on the plan? He liked William Rufus enough but he was just as willing to play the political game as much as the next guy. Did Henry really think that little of him? He couldn’t help but be a bit offended.
Baldwyn decided to go back to London. He’d swing by Winchester along the way and try to get someone to go collect the body.
As he rode, the irony of the situation struck him. William Rufus had really pushed it when it came to his forests and people in them. For him to die in one of them, like a hunted beast, would probably get a few “praise God” exclamations from the people.
“Had people prayed for this?” Baldwyn wondered. “If one prayed for the death of another person, did it negate the prayer?” on account of absurdity? William Rufus hadn’t made any friends in the Church during his tenure as King either. William Rufus may have, very literally, shot himself in the chest with all of his bad behavior.
“Nah,” Baldwyn thought, “the forest killed him.”