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Can anybody tell me about the 5th century AD in Europe

Discussion in 'Research' started by Scalvi, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    I mentioned it somewhere else in these forums but I want to write a fantastical alternate-history story set in the time. I know, because it is alternate history, I technically have a writ to change a good portion of customs but I want it to have that foundation of reality.

    I wanted to know more about clothing in that era: what were clothes made from, what kinds of footwear were common/acceptable.

    I, also, wanted to know when being a mercenary or basically a professional fighter became a reality.
     
  2. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    With the Fifth Century AD, you have the dying days of the Western Roman Empire.

    As far as clothes go, you probably have the same materials as were used throughout antiquity: wool, linen, leather, fur, and(for the wealthy) silk.

    You'll have to clarify your last point a bit. I'm not positive what you're asking, and I don't want to give you an answer that doesn't work for you.
     
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    It really depends of where in Europe you mean...
    If it is in NW Europe, I'd look at the Saxons-Angles-Jutes and even the Franks for inspiration or at least a place to start.
    If it is SE Europe then its more Hellenic and Eastern Roman Empire [that still controlled much of the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea].
    SW Europe and you could be looking at Vandals [not exactly sure when they went to North Africa] and Visigoths in Spain
    NE and central Europe and I have no idea, sorry to say... but the words "Germanic Migration Period" did appear while I was Googling...

    I think there have always been mercenaries... If you had the money, you can always hire someone else to do the dirty work...
    Sometimes they were reliable and trustworthy other times more hindrance then useful... and sometime outright dangerous for your own side.
    But I think most of that depended on the politics of the day and the people involved.
     
  4. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    I mean, people that were paid to fight. I'm working under the idea that in the Middle Ages most people (that weren't raiders/bandits) were just tilling their farmlands. That might be false.

    I was wondering if there were people that just fought, even if they weren't criminals. That just traveled around, trading their skills in combat for food or whatever was considered equal trade.
     
  5. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    Thanks, I'll look further with those names. I tried to do some research on my own but (first, with the issue of choosing the right point in history to have some catastrophic happen, then shifting through all the various different groups) the scope became a bit daunting.

    The event affects the entire "Afro-Eurasian" land grouping, so I'm going to be doing a good bit of researching. Unless, the research starts to hamper the writing.

    The idea is that all the fantasy races people know and love originally lived in those lands--Europe, Asia, and Africa-- far in the BCs but migrated to the Americas for reasons that will be explained later. Now, though, they are invading to take their lands back, bringing magic to bear on the armies of the Middle Ages.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    There were mercenaries, as there always has been. This time frame also sees the end of the professional Roman army in the West.
     
  7. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    Huh, really? I guess I always conflated anything before 1000 AD with cavemen. Which is unforgivable seeing as I have taken courses and read a number of things from about 500 BC to 0 AD. They had quite a bit going on.
     
  8. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    For a fresher take on it you could consider using the Byzantine Empire instead of the Roman Empire.

    Either way, this site should prove very useful. Internet History Sourcebook

    Even under the Roman Empire the people were not homogeneous. If you're writing an alternate history it would probably be a good idea to refresh yourself on the history (and region) that you are thinking of using. (Burgundians, Franks, Saxons etc.)

    There will also be differences in borders depending on when in the 5th century your story takes place (early or late?). Quite a bit happened from 1900 to 2000, a single century. The further back we look in history the greater tendency we have to assume everything stayed the same from the fall of Rome to the 1200's and that simply is not true. If you're looking to do an alternate history learning more about the history you are altering should probably be your first step.

    You can probably find some History lectures online. Or hit up a college library (local libraries are probably not well equipped enough to offer more than two or three books on the subject if any at all). :)
     
  9. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    By this point you've got things like the Theodocian Code, the Latin Vulgate bible, the writings of the Early Church Fathers (plus the very influential church doctor- St Augustine). You also have people like St Martin of Tours (if you're unfamiliar w him read Sulpicious Severus' Hagiography on the site above). This became especially prominent in the French region. There's also legends of St George and the dragon floating around (which really took off among the British/Anglo-Saxons). You'd have to look at a timeline but there's also St Margaret of Antioch & St Benedict (all 3 in The Golden Legend). They really refer to the dragon as symbolic of the devil or that a demon transformed into a creature but it might be a good starting point for including other mythical creatures.

    You don't have Isidore of Seville's Etymologies or Pope St Gregory the Great and therefore you don't have the concept of peaceful coexistence or tolerance of the Pagan religions.

    I think Bede's Ecclesiastical History covers a portion of the 5th century though it was obviously written later.

    I would imagine there would be some tensions b/n different creatures. Any non-humans might even be considered "demons" by those who adopt Augustinian Theological principles (or St Martin's enthusiasm for destroying heresy).
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I second the call for Bede. Always a great read.

    Your answer really depends on where in Europe you are.

    Mercenaries? For sure by then. There is lot of evidence for mercenaries that goes back before the Roman Empire.

    I think you are too early for guys who made a living fighting judicial duels though I would have to double check.
     
  11. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    A thousand times- yes.

    You might also want to research T&O maps like this one [​IMG]

    Depending on the culture you're dealing with your approach will likely differ (North Western Europe often has mythical creatures living in the forests, sacred/Pagan groves, under bridges, in the side of mountains [Herla] etc. while many other cultures accounted for mythical creatures as not being in their own lands but as legends of lands far away [particularly in the cultures they deemed primitive in Asia/Near & Middle East]) in which case, look for maps w "Here be dragons" and such. I think the maps came later but you could use the same general idea.

    Also - too early for your time frame but check out the last several pages of Tacitus' Germania. In the earlier period the Germanic people were regarded as being grossly primitive and uncivilized, therefore monster-like. I would say read it because it makes a great read but most especially if you pay attention to the way he ends it you'll see what I am referring to.

    If you're hoping for more secondary source material you could try browsing about Medievalists.net

    I was wondering though, is there a particular reason why you want to write it in the 5th century?
     
  12. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    Well, I did some research of my own to get to this point.

    I was looking for a point in time for Europe where a major military defeat would have a large impact on a good part of the landmass. I figured a massive empire being soundly defeated would do that so I looked at Rome. Then, since the elves and such are invading from America, I wanted them to interrupt a big naval battle and I've landed on the Battle of Cartagena in 461(?).

    The story I want to tell takes place in the 8th-ish century (the jury is still out) but I want information from this (5th) century so I know when to start making my changes, and to what.
     
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    The fifth century was a busy time, what with Huns and all. I recommend you get a sense of chronology--who was running around where.

    Then, when you want the little details like footwear, I suggest you start with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). And, more generally, with the whole re-creationist crowd. Many of the Roman re-creationists focus on earlier centuries, but you can still find a fair amount of interest in the 4thc. Or, a bit later, with the Justinian era. Anyway, those kind of folks will get you to details of clothing much more quickly than will primary sources or historians. For historians, do some searching on "daily life" for books on, well, daily life.

    There are some excellent people on this forum. May I suggest that the best way to make use of them is to do your best research on your own, then come here with "here is where I've looked and here are the questions I still have".

    -= Skip =-
     
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    For the fifth century there is a great deal of extant material as it was the end of Rome etc.

    For the 8th century our sources are thin on the ground. Which can be an advantage if you want some flexibility.
     
  15. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    I guess that is good for me!
     
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