Wednesday 31 May 2023

A Cut Above the Chest

   Dat gotta Hurt

I'm sure my readership on this esteemed beacon of insanity is aware of the cliched German officer of the past Great Wars: monocle, a proud haughty demeanour and of course, facial scarring. Usually, and in passing comment, these facial adornments are casually described as 'Duelling Scars'. O gentle reader they are much more than just a scar; so much more. Read on and be amazed- or at least, well-informed, a bit.

I am about to enter the fascinating, and perhaps invigorating world, of Mensur. Please note: this brief essay into the combat sport is not supposed to be particularly erudite or even a full exposition. This is, of course, impossible in a short blog post. In addition, I know very little about this Teutonic activity and thus do not expect academic rigour in what follows. After, the usual caveats, I shall begin.

Toward the end of the 15th century, European nobility and upper-class folk began to sport small swords as part of their normal daily attire; as a means of protection and to advertise their status. The general population, that is lesser folk, were forbidden, by law from carrying a sword. Inevitably, squabbles, minor and otherwise, occurred between gentlemen and because they had ready access to sharp pointy things, the problem was resolved in blood, often resulting in the demise of one, or rarely, both combatants. From this contagion, the formal duel evolved. As this post is about something other than 'classical duelling' I will not dwell on the aforementioned topic here. However, I will mention that the peculiar form of Teutonic duelling I'm about to discuss derived from its less stylised brethren.

In Germany and Austria beginning in the 1700s, university students were allowed to wear swords for personal protection. As only noble folk could afford to attend institutions of higher education, this situation did not violate the social injunctions of the time. As noted earlier, the bearing of weapons does not bode well for the wearer and consequently, many a good and potential academic went straight to Valhalla. And yea, behold, the Rulers of the various Teutonic Principalities decided that senseless honour duels were devouring the 'cream' of their respective young men and therefore an outright ban was warranted. However, the banning of duelling did not detract from the martial ardour of the student body and the testosterone-driven and zealous members found ways to overcome meddlesome prohibitions. Therefore, and by degrees, by the early 19th century, a ritualised and formalised system of personal combat evolved, culminating in the practice of Mensur. The name, 'Mensur', is derived from the Latin word, meaning, 'dimension'. I will now describe the event, as it became at its height of popularity in the mid to late 19th century.


The fraternities formed in the universities of Gross Deutschland circa 1850 rallied around the usual male brotherhood activities of drinking large quantities of beer and talking in a loud rowdy manner (hurrah/Arse!). Part of the fun was taking part in Mensur. Traditionally, the activity of Mensur would occur between students of opposing institutions. Although this did not stop the occasional bout between members of the same fraternity. 

The bout would involve the protagonists adorning protective leather and padding. The upper torso was protected as also the neck area. In addition, protective padding was added to the fencing arm. Although the face was the main target of the sword's 'kiss', the eyes and nasal area remained inviolate through an elaborate protective mask of metal and leather. It appears that the warrior instinct was not so engrained that the nose should be removed by an ill-judged slice. I am sure my readers are aware of the eminent Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601), who lost his nose during a duel. Apparently, he replaced the displaced member with a prosthesis made of pure gold. Actually, Tycho Brahe is a gentleman worthy of a post. His death is particularly noteworthy/odd, and I will add him to the list. 

Thus adorned, the students would stand stalwart, and but a yards width apart. Each student would hold a thin straight-edged sword honed to razor sharpness. A martial would preside. He would stand close and adjacent to the duellists, sword in hand. His sword's position would indicate the commencement of the bout and intervene as deemed appropriate. The swordplay was directed above the chest area and toward the face. Unlike a duel in the usual manner, the protagonists were forbidden to utilise 'foot play' and consequently were riven to the spot. And then the fight would begin and a rapid flurry of blows would be exchanged. The majority of cuts would be parried, but not all. The bout finished when one of the fencers received a slice to the face, usually on the left cheek. There were no winners or losers in Mensur. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate the student's stoic, courageous nature. A physician in attendance would dress the wound and the resulting scar, or smite (Ger, schmiss) was considered a badge of honour and an indication of a man's steadfast character. Such was the prestige associated with the 'smite' that those unworthy of a university education would pay physicians to slice their cheeks to simulate the enduring mar of the sword's caress.  

At various times, government edicts were put forth to limit or ban the sport but usually, the students managed to continue stabbing each other with undiminished vigour. Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859- 1941) was actually a fan although he was way too delicate to partake. He would much rather use his sword, undrawn, for rattling within the scabbard. Hitler, however, was not a fan and the Nazis chose to forbid the bloody practice. This was not due to any innate revulsion to the shedding of blood. It had more to do with preventing 'Student Associations' from competing with the established brotherhood of National Socialism. The ban proved ineffective and 'Academic Fencing' was driven underground. After the war, student fraternities became overt and the tradition continues to this day. In fact, it is estimated that over 400 academic institutions are involved, in the now, almost bloodless 'sport' in Germany alone. And indeed, duelling scars are virtually unknown. Methinks the woke/wank brigade would approve.        

'The most Dangerous Man in Europe' sporting  a whole  number of duelling scars

Monday 15 May 2023

We Live in End Times

Today, with pride and honour, the incumbent Mayor of Tipton, Mr 'Baby Doc' Vowel, officiated at the opening of Tipton's only premier mall, appropriately called: 'Tipton’s only Premier Mall'. To inaugurate the inauspicious opening, Mr Vowel threw a half-eaten donner kebab at the front entrance. The kebab promptly slipped sluggishly to the floor, whence it instantly congealed into a glistening morass/mass. This momentous event augurs well for the future of this prestigious establishment.

Even before the mall opened, half the shops were boarded up and covered in ill-conceived graffiti. The clutch of Pawn/Porn shops are expected to thrive as is 'Mr Khan's Cheap Liquor Establishment of Oblivion'. 'Mr Patel's Pound Store' sits cheek and jowl next to Wang's Cheap Discount, Cut-Price, Cut-Throat, Low-Cost, Bouncy Bouncy, Love you Long Time, Boutique'. And no inner city mall would be viable, or replete, without the ever-present, 'Super Fags' outlet.

Local itinerants and foreign 'tourists' have already shown their enthusiasm and support by moving in and placing their bed rolls strategically in doorways. Filthy Eric's place lies adjacent to the bolted ‘Emergency Exit’ for quick egress on benefits day.

Filthy Eric has left the building
This well-thought-out mall provides for every demographic. Posing, intimidating youths, in hoodies can congregate /congeal in the poorly lit aisles dispensing drugs and ill-gotten gains with aplomb. World-weary, intimidated, superannuated folk, can swap tales of mirth and woe whilst glancing precariously at the turbulent youth and gypos with rheumy beclouded corneas. Thieves abound and pilfer with boldness and impunity.  

The mall even comes equipped with a fully functioning 'Sick Bay'. A bucket placed at a jaunty angle provides the denizens of Tipton with a receptacle for relinquishing their stomach contents after a Saturday night sampling the delights of the liquor store and 'Fat Mugumbo's Fast Fried Fat Filled Fancies'. Arrrrrrrsssssse. Furthermore, 'nurse' Fatarse (Arseee) Mugumbo-Mugumbo (no relation) is ever-ready (batteries included) to provide tender ministrations and blow jobs to all and sundry.

Enuff Said.

Friday 12 May 2023

This is Tipton! Part One



Sparta; the enigma; the myth, and the reality.

What is invoked when we consider the ancient Greek civilisation that was Sparta? When we talk of Sparta we must not only deal with the history, but the city state’s cultural make-up, influence, and not least the myth 

This post will be concerned with a modicum of introductory material, as is necessary for the sake of historical lucidity, coherence and context. And as a consequence will touch upon the unique nature of Spartan society including their intriguing and stout political system. The second post will focus on Sparta's history proper. Whilst the third, in the series, will examine the myth and lore that is Sparta together with a sideways glance at Sparta's cultural legacy and modern perception. This will help us to understand why Sparta's perceived tradition became so alluring, not only to the modern eye but also to their ancient contemporaries. Arse

The Dorian folk came from the 'north' and made Greece their home, in about 1100 BC. They displaced, enslaved or enserfed the folk they found there according to will and local expediency. Apparently, the indigenous population and the usurpers were akin racially but differed in dialect. The Spartans were part of this Dorian migration and finally settled in the southeast of Peloponnese Greece. When they arrived they reduced the native population to serfdom (helots). Whilst the land belonged to the Spartans, it twas the helots who tilled the sod and the ‘fruit’ of their labours was bestowed to their masters. As to be imagined the helots were none too pleased with this arrangement but were kept in check by the force of Spartan arms. In addition, the Spartans would declare war on the helots for one day of the year. This allowed the Spartan men to kill any helots who were considered troublesome without incurring the heinous crime of murder; how convenient.

The land of the Spartans was called Laconia and in the 8th century, they conquered the neighbouring lands of Messenia thus increasing both land and helots for their avaricious lifestyle. The whole intention of the Spartan system was to free Spartan men from any labour, or business, in order that they be free to train and engage in warfare. This was to be the sole preoccupation of Sparta’s free male citizens. Male children, at birth, were examined by the elders and those deemed sickly were quietly done away with. The Spartans were not soft. Unto the age of 20, all boys were trained together in one large school. The training was geared to produce, fit, tough men, inured to pain and attuned to strict discipline. Science and philosophy had no part in the curriculum. Unlike their bitter rival, Athens, Sparta did not produce any men of extraordinary intellect. Once the Spartan male attained 20 his military service began. After 30 he became a citizen and between 20 to 30, he lived in a barracks with his peers. Although allowed to marry at 20, it was discouraged, and the man and wife lived apart. Life was simple and no one was allowed to own silver or gold; their ‘coins’ were of iron. So confident were the Spartans in their armed prowess that the city of Sparta was unwalled.      

Girls also underwent rigorous physical training with the boys, in the nude. This must have proved a joy and an excrucible frustration to adolescent males during training. The Spartans believed in Lamarckian evolutionary theory and thought that strong and lusty women would give rise to majestic warriors. In modern terms, they envisioned that environmental factors would influence the children they were to bear. Today, we know that their hypothesis wasn’t entirely incorrect. It was considered a great shame if a woman or man was infertile. Fruitfulness was encouraged by law.

Sparta’s unique military system produced a society unmatched in war. Effectively, every able-bodied male adult was a professional soldier of unmatched focus and devotion. Consequently, Sparta became preeminent in armed conflict for hundreds of years until their defeat by Thebes (371 BC). After which Sparta’s spell of invincibility was broken and her days of military greatness were no more. 

Sparta throughout its history was obsessed with maintaining a large population in order to ensure enough men to support its military ambition. Ultimately the Spartan population could not be sustained and Sparta's prohibitive policy eventually contributed to her downfall. Unlike Rome, which was happy to accept non-Roman folk unto their armies, the Spartans were rabidly exclusive and only Spartan citizens could enrol into the military. Tis no good producing an elite solder, of scant number, when your foe puts forth many.     

Spartan Constitution

With a certain glance, Sparta appears as the perfect totalitarian state. Something akin to Nazi Germany if it had evolved into the ‘1,000-year Reich’. There is no doubt that the citizens of Sparta had been trained and indoctrinated from birth to be obedient, structured and solely built for war. In this regard, we can be assured. We might therefore conclude, and expect, the state to be rigidly ruled by one man, otherwise known as the ‘Ein Reich, Ein volk, Ein fuhrer’, principle. And yet we would be wrong. In fact, the Spartan constitution was complex and imbued, nay endowed, with an elaborate system of checks and balances that could be found only in the most politically enlightened societies of the ancient world. Twas the envy of lesser endowed states and thusly,  Sparta endured a degree of political stability, over several hundreds of years, unknown to Athens and many other ancient Greek states. It makes you wonder what would have occurred if the Greeks could have forgone their corrosive internecine quarrels and achieved unity- with Sparta at the military helm. Then they would have conquered the world. In a roundabout way they did, but that would have to wait for the rise of Macedonia. And in this case, ‘unity’ would be imposed, by force, by the despised, semi-barbarous Macedonians. Ironically, Sparta had no part in this pan-Hellenic expansion.  

Sparta had two kings, the role was deemed hereditary and thrust upon the State from the most noble of families (what a fucking surprise). Their power was absolute in war and subject to absolute check in peace. A council of 30 men formed the legislative structure and included the kings. The none regnal participants of the council were formed exclusively from men of aristocratic sensibilities, over 60. It was considered that old age brought forth wisdom. However, there is a well-trodden/tired adage that states: ‘Wisdom is a gift not endowed to all men in their elder years’. But as stated in more prosaic terms- ‘There is no fool like an old fool’. In addition, to their governmental duties, the council tried criminal cases involving citizens and introduced laws worthy of deliberation. Proposals so engendered were put forth unto all citizens who had the power to vote yea or nay on these matters. However, said citizens were not empowered to propose laws for deliberation. As an accretion, there was a fourth tier of governance, the ephors. In an otherwise sensible political set-up, the ephoric (not a real word) system detracted from the otherwise prudent political constitution. These five magistrates were chosen, by lot, from all citizens regardless of social strata, rank or status. Not only did ephors have jurisdiction over civil court matters, but they also, rather paradoxically, exercised criminal jurisdiction over kings. As time travelled (as it is wont to do), it has been written that the power of the ephors increased, thus leaving them susceptible to bribes. This contradicts the assertion that  Spartans did not avail themselves of material gain but were nonetheless well provided for. However, this statement contradicts human nature, which is generally acquisitive and prone to avarice. I will leave it to my readers to ponder upon this conundrum of doom.        

It has been whispered in the wind that the constitution with all its trappings, safeguards and downright strangeness was the mind of one great man, Lycurgus, the lawgiver (885 BC). This is, however, not historically accurate. In fact, the constitution of Sparta evolved over time in response to the usual forces and factors affecting all nations. 

The next chapter in this thrilling saga will concentrate on the history of this singular ancient nation. And finally, the third post will concern the Myth that is Sparta. In many ways a more interesting and enthralling story than mere truth.