The Ghost of St. Edmund Kills a King: The 1000th Anniversary!

St. Edmund kills Sweyn Forkbeard

Edmund, King and Saint, was killed in a conflict with the Danes in 869, and afterward his cult grew, perhaps helped along by a legend (or was it!?) found in Archdeacon Hermann’s Miracles of St. Edmund (1096), and repeated and embellished thereafter.

After the death of Edmund, the Danes continued to harass England, with Sweyn Forkbeard eventually becoming king by driving Æthelred the Unready and his sons into exile. Sweyn seized the crown on Christmas Day, 1013, but would enjoy it only for five weeks.

On this day February 3, 1014 (1000 years ago today), after attempting to extract a tribute from St. Edmund’s Abbey,

All at once there stepped into his room an unknown knight of wondrous comeliness, clad in shining armour. And he addressed the king by name, saying, “You want to get your tribute, O King, from the lands of St. Edmund? Get up, then, and come get it!” The king rose, but at once fell back on catching sight of the arms, and started howling in the most terrible way. Immediately, the knight lunged forward, and pierced him with his lance; he then departed, leaving the king behind. Roused by his cries, we flocked together and went to find him sullied with his own blood, just as he gave up the ghost.

Other records say Sweyn died of “apoplexy.” Yeah, right.

Sweyn’s son had better luck on the throne.

Anyway, it all happened on this day, 1000 years ago.

A New Poem By Sappho Discovered UPDATED

Prior to the new discoveries, this fragmentary 3rd century papyrus (published in 2004) was the most recent addition to works of Sappho.

This is pretty big news: there’s a major discovery of previously unknown poems by the great Greek poet Sappho. Few lines of her work have survived (some of them in our old friend the Oxyrhynchus dump), so each find is important. This new verses are on a scrap of papyrus in the hands of a private owner:

“The new Sappho is absolutely breath-taking,” said Albert Henrichs, a Harvard classics professor who examined the papyrus with Dr. [Dirk] Obbink. “It is the best preserved Sappho papyrus in existence, with just a few letters that had to be restored in the first poem, and not a single word that is in doubt. Its content is equally exciting.” One of the two recovered poems, Prof. Henrichs notes, speaks of a “Charaxos” and a “Larichos,” the names assigned by ancient sources to two of Sappho’s brothers but never before found in Sappho’s own writings. It has as a result been labeled the Brothers poem by Prof. Obbink.

“There will be endless discussion about Charaxos and Larichos, who may or may not be Sappho’s brothers,” Prof. Henrichs commented. One important point in that debate will be the Brothers poem’s clear implication that Charaxos was a sea-going trader. The historian Herodotus, writing about two centuries after Sappho, also describes Charaxos as a wayfarer—a man who traveled to Egypt, where he spent a fortune to buy the freedom of Rhodopis, a beautiful slave he had fallen in love with. Upon his return home, Herodotus relates, Sappho brutally mocked her brother’s lovestruck folly in one of her poems.

The Brothers poem contains no such mockery, but rather depicts an exchange between two people concerned about the success of Charaxos’ latest sea voyage. The speaker—perhaps Sappho herself, but the loss of the poem’s initial lines makes this unclear—advises that a prayer to Hera would be the best way to ensure this success, and expounds on the power of the gods to aid their favorites. The poem’s final stanza speaks of Larichos, presumably Sappho’s younger brother, “becoming a man…and freeing us [Sappho’s family?] from much heartache.”

And here it is, in a translation from Tom Payne of the Telegraph:

Still, you keep on twittering that Charaxos
comes, his boat full. That kind of thing I reckon
Zeus and his fellow gods know; and you mustn’t
make the assumption;
rather, command me, let me be an envoy
praying intensely to the throne of Hera
who could lead him, he and his boat arriving
here, my Charaxos,
finding me safely; let us then divert all
other concerns on to the lesser spirits;
after all, after hurricanes the clear skies
rapidly follow;
and the ones whose fate the Olympian ruler
wants to transform from troubles into better –
they are much blessed, they go about rejoicing
in their good fortune.
As for me, if Larichos reaches manhood,
[if he could manage to be rich and leisured,]
he would give me, so heavy-hearted, such a
swift liberation.

UPDATE: Ashes From Burnt Roses has much more.

Agricola [App o the Mornin’]

Uwe Rosenberg’s board game Agricola has been perennial favorite since its release in 2007. Winner of the 2008 Spiel des Jahres award for “Best Complex Game,” it’s one of the finest examples of the “worker placement” genre, with rules for both family and advanced play making its complex mechanics more accessible. The iPad version of Agricola (Playdek: $7) is one of the best conversions of a tabletop game to date. 

Set in 17th century Europe, the game focuses on surviving in hard times. The plague is over, and poor rural families are rebuilding their farms piece by piece. You and your spouse begin with a small hovel, a few meager resources, and only the sweat of your brow to help you survive.

Agricola is played over six stages of 14 rounds each. Each round, players place tokens representing family members on locations throughout the town. This allows them to collect resources or perform actions in order to build up their small plot of land. They can gather building materials, food, or animals; improve their spread by plowing fields, upgrading their home, and adding features like barns and fences; and add various improvements and more advanced occupations such as beer making (to provide extra food) or thatching (to use less reed when building).

Every few turns, there’s a harvest, when crops are reaped, animals reproduce, and you need to have enough food to feed your family. After all stages are completed, victory points are totaled based on how far you’ve developed your farm, how many animals and family members you have, and other improvements.

It’s actually a fairly complex game, and even in the “family” version, there’s a bit of a learning curve. This is helped along in the app thanks to a detailed tutorial and a complete manual, but it still takes a little time to get a grip on so many decisions.

The app has superb production values and is a faithful adaptation of the original. The graphics are attractive and fun, and the layout is sprawling without being overwhelming. You have to scroll along the entire length of a game board to see all the possible actions, but this is preferable to trying to cram too much data onto a single screen. The farmstead, represented by a card overlaid with squares in the conventional game, is found on a separate screen in the app.

All of it blends together quite well, and after about 30 minutes worth of tutorials are done, you’ll have a sure sense of the mechanics even if you’ve never played the original. There’s good solo support as well as online play with matchmaking.

Content: No issues of note.