Hippeis

Hippeis

The World of Christian Cameron

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March 19th, 2014

Misquotes

I’d like to ask all peoples of all political persuasions to STOP pretending that Aristotle, Socrates and Plato said anything that would allow them to be quoted on Facebook or in any modern political spectrum,. To that I’d add Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. I’d say that in the last year on my FB feed along I’ve picked up 200 false quotes.

Ancient Greek philosophers were, by and large, aristocratic gentlemen who had no time whatsoever for the masses or for anything we might now interpret as ‘freedom.’ They believed in highly disciplined societies run on a fuel of excellence, and their world views, fascinating as they are and sometimes even practical, would not fit with either Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative. I suspect that pure fascism would come the closest, and even that wouldn’t be elitist enough for Plato–ok, I’m joking. But seriously–please stop misquoting the ancients!

Word up–Google and Duck Duck go are now sufficiently advanced that you can check a quote in one button press, English or Greek. I AM watching. Because History matters, and is not just a fuel for your f-ing propoganda.



January 28th, 2014

Okay, It’s all true

It’s all true. I am Miles Cameron as well as being Christian Cameron. But it was too much work for me and my friends who maintain websites for me to be two people, so we’re moving to just one. I’m Miles Cameron. People who want to talk to me should come and talk on the Agora on this site–there’s now topics for fantasy and for the way history and fantasy relate.

Why am I writing fantasy novels? Two reasons. First, it is what I have read for forty years or so. I love fantasy, and have since my mum read me the Hobbit at age five. Second, I do actually like to say things, and Fantasy, like Sci-Fi, is a genre the is also a bully pulpit. In my fantasy stories, I can say some things that don’t fit exactly in history. Sometimes those things are almost banal (like, how easily the West might have saved the Byzantine Empire) and some are ethical (like, that I don’t actually believe that grim, evil characters who are ‘gritty’ actually accomplish much in any world, because they have no friends, no allies and no way to train…because no one likes them!). I can also design my world to fit my own notions–and have been doing so since i first played D+D in 1977…

But History remains the backbone. What else can we describe, except experience? And a good deal of this site, for newcomers, is about the way we (my friends and I) experience reenacting and the past through martial and domestic arts. Or to paraphrase one of my younger sword students ‘we camp with swords.’ Yes, we do.

At any rate, over the next month, Hippeis will be updated to reflect my status as an historical and a fantasy writer and I hope I won’t lose any old friends while I welcome some new ones. Thanks for visiting. Welcome aboard.



October 1st, 2013

What is an expert?

It is all very fashionable to denigrate experts. We’re all equal, I’m sure. Certainly, as a sometime instructor of historical swordsmanship and the various knightly fighting arts, I’m endlessly less than amused by the desire of various people to tell me that their opinion about a technique or a form is worth listening to.

In the past two weeks, I had the pleasure of attending WMAW, a western martial arts symposium (and tournament) in Racine Wisconsin. There, instructors from all over the world allowed students of the arts to sample techniques in rapier, sidesword, longsword, spear, poleaxe, and even the Italian folding knife of the nineteenth century.

And then, after all that, I got to host Guy Windsor, of the School of European Swordsmanship. Guy is the most expert swordsman I know–and I know several hundred very competent swordsmen. He is, in fact, an expert.

He’s an expert–like Leo Todeschini at Tod’s Stuff and Jiri Klipac at The Armoury of Jiri Klipac and Tasha Dandelion Kelly at cotte simple because he can not only perform all of the techniques of historical swordsmanship, he can explain the bio-mechanics of the actions and he can teach students of the meanest understanding–to paraphrase Patrick O’Brian. Tod understands blades–not just how they feel and what they look like, but how they are worn, suspended, drawn and used. Jiri understands armour–how it looks, and how it works, and how it fits in three dimensions. How to make the curves fit your body and still retain the aesthetic of the period, rather than a modern aesthetic. Tasha understands the intimacies of cut and construction and the techniques by which those intimacies are achieved–a level of expertise far beyond mere ‘costuming.’

I’m quite fond of experts, myself, but to get the most out of them–to get anything at all out of them–requires an effort of humility. Perhaps that’s what we find hard. Sometimes I do, too. It can be very hard to say “I’ve studied this for years, but compared to you, I really don’t know anything.’ That’s antithetical to our societies take on information and info acquisition. Information, after all, should be free. And our abilities should be equal. But–they are not. Sometimes I argue with experts, and mostly, I find myself saying ‘I know something, too!’ when I should be listening.

The dedicated men and women who are truly expert preserve something precious. They are–at least, all four of the experts I have named–preserving skills that would otherwise be lost to us, and to history.

And of course–history matters!



June 24th, 2013

Fact and Fiction

I was lucky enough to spend most of the last month traveling to the places where my novels happen. I fought in a Medieval Tournament in Verona, Italy and I shot arrows from a fourteenth century fortification in Thrace built by John Cantacuzenos, I stood in a church built by Alexios Comnena and saw my first Altichiero painting ‘in person’ rather than in an art book. My family was sculled through the canals of Venice while we looked for Tom Swan and Alessandro di bembo, and then we followed William Gold across Italy, and then we watched the Persian Fleet form up off Samothrace, seen by Arimnestos.

Europe has a wealth of history that is almost unimaginable to a boy who grew up with the Battle of Gettysburg as ‘old.’ At one point my friend Giannis took me to a set of Turkish baths — from a hot volcanic spring, of course — that are still in use. You can all but see the Janissaries coming in to bathe. But in the walls, and all around on the ground, are scraps of another past—Byzantine crosses, Roman statuary, a dedication from 300 BCE and an Archaic column. All within fifty feet of the baths. Those baths have been in business for a LONG time.

East of Alexandrouplois in Thrace, we drove through the verdant countryside—richer than Boeotia—and I suddenly saw why the Greeks worked to hard to take it from the Thracians. The Evros River delta is some of the finest farmland in the whole Mediterranean, with small, protected valleys and easy access to the sea. The land it self is so valuable that I had to stop taking photographs of ancient ruins—because everyone, from the Archaic Greeks right through to the modern Greeks, has built something to protect or claim it, from hilltop fortresses to modern concrete bunkers for tanks. As a novelist—I honestly think I couldn’t have fully expressed the richness of the area, its value, and it’s historical role without going there.

Likewise, Verona, in Italy—a city with its fourteenth-century core beautifully preserved, so that you can wander about and easily imagine what William Gold saw in 1380. The magnificent striped buildings—the incredible wonder that is Saint Anastasia…

The next time someone tells you that there were ‘Dark Ages,’ toss out the following factoid: In about 700 AD, the citizens of the Commune of Verona formed an association—actually a corporation—to protect and maintain the Roman Amphitheater. They did a wonderful job—it’s still there, hosting opera. Think of the sheer number of conquerors and cultural waves that have passed over Northern Italy since 700 AD.

That’s history!