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Thoughts On Old Books

This is what comes from reading old treatises

I've been trying to get to original sources, some of which are very old. It turns out that you can order old books of spells from Walmart online. That is just the first revelation, too.


De Re Militari sure is short, the Picatrix is short, and Meditations is short. Certainly, these folks didn't see any pressing reason to make their books 300 or so pages long. On Animals is longer, and I am going to tackle that soon, but I'm going to make a guess that it's composed of a bunch of shorter books collected into one. I suspect that writers in ye olden times, faced with the need to write everything out by hand and the inability to hit the delete button, were prone to be more concise than some of our contemporaries. Especially if they were facing the prospect of revising. My hands cramp just thinking about it.


I can't believe De Re Millitari lasted as the premier military treatise for a thousand years. The first two books were admittedly outdated before Vegetious had given them to the Emperor Valentinian. He also said you couldn't recruit into the army men who were fishers, bakers, or weavers because those were 'feminine' jobs, and guys who did them were clearly cowards and wouldn't cut it in the army.

A.) Fishing is only for girls? That is the first I've heard of it.

B.) What? How did this guy become an 'expert' again? Oh, yeah, that's right, he's not. He never even served in the army. He got all his ideas from reading the hagiographies of earlier emperors.

Vegetius doesn't stop there either. He says some states have braver folks than others. Yup, this guy should never ever be called on to recruit for the army.

Add the amount of brown-nosing and flattering he applies to the emperor in his introductions, and the effect is to cause enough eye-rolling to physically hurt.

All right, I Take That Back

The first 2 books are of historical interest because he's describing the organization of the Roman army. The part of the book that would have been actually useful was the 4th book, when he describes flanking maneuvers and gives advice about picking terrain. I'm sure his tips for having outriders go before the main army to spy on the enemy is a good idea in the eras before telegraphs or satellites, and he's probably right about keeping your soldiers busy to avoid mutiny.

He was also all about avoiding set battles unless you were absolutely sure you were going to win. Harrying the enemy with raids and ambushes was the preferred way to engage with the enemy for a long time for a great reason, and scorched earth tactics served Sherman, the Russians, and many other armies.

Also, Poop

Grimoires are weird, and the Picatrix is a prime example of this weirdness. It spends a whole chapter spelling out how to ask the spirit behind various planets to give you something (generally by sacrificing some poor creature and burning their liver with random herbs while playing dress up.) Then it ends this chapter explaining how Galenus thought 'sharp sun-dried excrement' was the cure for everything. The book details a couple of ways human poop can bring you miracles. I just have this deep fear that some genius will pick it up and decide that excrement is the new miracle cure because 'wisdom of the ancients' and 'quantum.'

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