We are Marcomanni

In the Marcomannic Wars of the Second Century A.D., the Roman Empire struggled to hold its Danubian frontier against restless German and Sarmatian tribes centered in the Hyrcannian Forest to the north of the river. That the Rome response was listless and ineffective will not surprise those who have read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, who was emperor at the time. Although the name Marcomanni is often identified with one particular tribe centered in what is now Bohemia, and more particularly on the city of Budweis (home of Budweiser beer), I follow the authors who take marcomanni as a generic word denoting men of the border or frontiersmen.  It is a compound of the German “mark” (boundary) and “manni” (men). Among the Anglo Saxons the name “mark men” was given to those who dwelt in the border country, or “debatable land,” between England and Scotland. Their leaders were called marcher lords.


We are marcomanni,

Mark men all are we;

Our home is the debated land;

Here sleeps hostility! Continue reading

The Other Side of the Mountain

Until very recently, the prefixes “cis” and “trans” were mostly used as terms of art in geography.  The most common usage was Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul (or Europe).  The former meant “on this side” of the Alps (from the viewpoint of Rome), the later “on the other side.”  Transylvania is another very well-known geographical construction of this sort; it means, of course, the land “beyond the woods.”  Continue reading

How I Got My Hat Back

Panama Hat

My Hat

Yesterday, 17 July, my wife and I celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of our marriage by going to dinner at a The Bistro, a local establishment in Oswego, New York, our city of residence, where we have previously had pleasant experiences.  Not the least part of that pleasure is the affability of the establishment’s bartender, Mark, whom I know also from Old City Hall, where we both like to drink.  Mark, a former SUNY Oswego Philosophy major, is a friendly acquaintance.

In any case, I tried to dress for the occasion.  It was too hot and muggy for a jacket but I wore a black tuxedo-style shirt with a bow tie and I sported my new hat, a white Panama with the characteristic broad brim and a black band.  When we decided to eat at the bar, I put the hat on the table behind us, where, of course, I failed to retrieve it when we got up to leave.  (The two Martinis might have had something to do with it.)

Not only did I leave the hat behind, but I forgot it entirely.  Then, around ten o’clock this morning, my telephone (yes – I maintain a land line) rang and when I picked it up I recognized the voice of my friend Dick Fader, who is also a regular at Old City Hall.  Dick told me that he had just received a telephone call from Mark (my number not being known to him), and that Mark had told him (that is, Dick) that he (that is, Mark) had rescued my hat when he left work, and that he had left it for me at Old City Hall.

Continue reading

Forgeries of Spoilage

When demand exceeds supply, there will be forgeries.  Paintings by Rembrandt are the locus classicus of this phenomenon, but a list of examples would be long and various.  If you’ve ever been disappointed by a “fine dining experience” or a “room with a view of the ocean,” it’s likely because what you got wasn’t really fine, or a view, but rather some crummy forgery or facsimile of the same. Continue reading

Casting Stones the New Way

We all know the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8: 1-11).  The adulteress is discovered, we are given to believe, in flagrante delecto, and the scribes and Pharisees thereupon haul her before Jesus and demand to know whether she should be put to death (as stipulated in Leviticus 20:10).  Jesus extemporizes by stooping down and tracing figures in the dust.  When at last he stands, he famously answers them by saying: “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Continue reading

Woke Bibliographies

Dr. Carrie Mott is a feminist geographer recently hatched from the graduate program at University of Kentucky, and even more recently installed as an assistant professor at Rutgers University. She lists among her research interest “resistance” (she’s for it), “Boundaries” (she’s against them), and “difference” (which she’s for when it’s the right kind, and against when it’s not). She’s also into “non-Euclidian spatialities,” which has little to do with Euclid and a great deal to do with “Race,” “Settler Colonialism,” and “Critical Race Theory.” Continue reading