A Man at Arms, by Steven Pressfield

First let me put out there that to me, a reader, and occasional author, that this is a book that I fancy (ego running wild) that I may have written had I approached the subject. I am not the author that Steven Pressfield is. I know that. His research, his hero, and his choice of topics appealed to me.

Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The content of this letter could bring down the empire.

The Romans hire a former legionary, a solitary man-at-arms, Telamon of Arcadia, to intercept the letter and capture its courier. Telamon operates by a dark code all his own, with no room for noble causes or lofty beliefs. If somebody needs to die, he kills them without comment. But once he overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted.

I’ll admit that after a few crucifixions, the book slows down a little.  One of my recommendations for a summer read, next to the pool with a cold drink and a sandwich.

The book was published in March 2021, and I read it on Kindle. It’s available in hardcover for roughly twice the cost.

 

Maps can be Misleading (of course)

This 1857 (pre-Civil War) map shows California in green, as a free state. (Slave states are red đź”´). This map is misleading. In 1850, California’s legislature did ban chattel slavery, as practiced in the South, but it also legalized a form of forced servitude for its Native population, primarily as practiced in Mission outposts.

 

A look at New England

Largest Ethnic Group by Town in New England. European groups like English, Irish, French, and Italian are most common, with African-American, as well as Hispanic and Asian groups being #1 in some places.

 

Paleolithic cultures in Europe

Landscape and the spread of vegetation during the WĂĽrm/Weichsel glaciation period.

In this glacial period, the grapevine was pushed back into the ice-free Mediterranean countries and the Orient. The probable refugees during this glaciation, according to Levadoux, 1956, are indicated here by a red line.

 

Range of palm trees across the world

Palms do not tolerate frost easily. Many species won’t grow in areas where the soil temperatures drop below 50 F. Some tolerate occasional freezing – Queen palms, sago palms, etc.

18 COMMENTS

  1. L.L.,

    I’ve read Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, Killing Rommel and The Profession. Thought the first two were great, the last left me kind of “meh” by the end.

    Curious on your take-if you’ve read them.

    • I had to look on one of my bookshelves I have Gates of Fire and Tides of War by Pressfield. I read them both some time ago and as I recall, I would put them in the “B” category. The book referenced above is Pressfield’s first book in 13 years. So he’s had time to travel, look, think. He’s a historian who writes rather than a writer who hops through history. That comes into play with A Man at Arms.

      Writing well is not easy. Keeping a reader interested is challenging and each reader is different. When you’re doing science fiction there is a lot more leeway than when writing about a Roman soldier – because I’ve read a lot on that topic and you’d better be right, or you lose me in the first few pages.

      If you read the first 10 pages of a book I write, you have no idea how it will end – I hope. Pressfield is not quite that sort of writer. 25 pages into it, I could have predicted a LOT of the story. However, Pressfield-the-historian kept me going because of the history, even though I had a good idea where it would end up. And some of the book is a historical stretch — would it really go that way – historically? There is a good guy and a bad guy and three acts to Pressfield’s book. Readers want that. I think that he could have departed a bit, but it is his book, not mine.

      Back to your question. I think that Pressfield is a successful author who made a lot of money because he appeals to a broad category of readers. He burned out as an author. It happens. He’s 77 now, not a young author and his writing has changed. I think for the better.

  2. The NE towns-by-majority-ethnic-group map is interesting but only part of the story. A group need not be the majority (or even plurality) to have a major effect on a community. I’ve heard it said about the bar/nightclub trade that if a place that was not explicitly intended as a [redacted] establishment, and it ends up having a >=30% [redacted] clientele, then the best bet is to close and re-open a few months later under a different name, because having over 30%+ [redacteds] puts you on the wrong side of profits/employee safety vs losses and liability from damage/fights/battery. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s what I’ve been told.

    I had a long bit about Lexington, Newton and Brookline (all Massachusetts) here, having to do with technically “minority” but culturally-dominant groups, but probably best redacted.

    A place I follow with interest is the “twin cities” of Lewiston and Auburn, Maine. “L/A” is in central Maine (a 94%+ white state) and has about 10% “Blacks” — the overwhelming majority of whom are Somali. It is impossible to get reliable information about their impact on L/A from official channels, all of which gush about how the Somalis have enriched the community. I also happen to be friends with one of the families that played a role in bringing the Somalis to Maine; that part of the political maneuvering was done probably by threatening to accuse opponents of “Islamophobia” (in addition to the primary threat of “surely you’re not a racist, are you?”)

    Anyway, L/A is an interesting place. Overall it’s economically depressed; while there is a medical center, and there is Bates College (highly selective, tuition + room/board > $60k USD per annum), L/A is not prosperous. I generally head on up to L/A once or twice a year and spend most of the day just looking around. There’s interesting architecture to photograph, but mainly to get a feel for the place. I missed my 2020 visit, but in spring 2019 on a rainy Saturday, downtown Lewiston was deserted apart from a handful of confused looking tourist families wandering around in front of closed and/or boarded up storefronts. A few shabby convenience stores were open, but those clearly catered to Somalis. (I think these are the vaunted, “Somali immigrants revitalize Lewiston by starting a myriad of small businesses!” that the government organs breathlessly gush about.) The Somali sections during mid-day had only groups of 3-5 young males (ages 12 to 20 roughly) patrolling the sidewalks (and mysteriously dashing between parked cars as if they were LARPing some urban combat game). At dusk families came out, stood on the street corners and chatted. (Okay, I saw adult males, adult females under headscarves, and pre-pubescent children of both sexes; I did not see any teenaged females. Dunno if that was a sampling issue, or if that was by design.) Mid-day a very nice park was deserted, except for one African-American guy (NOT a Somali; lighter skin, round West African head and not “garlic bulb” Somali head) in hiphop gear. He stood in the gazebo, eyeing passing cars for at least an hour in the 50-deg (F, duh) temps and drizzle. I strongly suspect he was a freelance pharma salesman. One block over in a residential neighborhood a young white woman literally walking in the street, quite pretty actually, gave me a big smile and struck a pose the first time I drove by. When I went by again 15 minutes later she tried to flag me down. I don’t think that was because I’m so damned handsome. But a gal’s gotta find a way to pay the man in the gazebo for the treats. (That is one of the things I hate most about the drugs trade. Generally, the way to destroy a society is to destroy its women. More specifically, that was two years ago. I wonder if that young woman has any teeth left, or if she is even alive. Drugs and street prostitution are a hard, hard life.)

    Switch from downtown Lewiston to the Bates campus less than two miles away and it’s a different world. Bates is not an “Ivy” but the campus is what you’d mentally visualize as the quintessential New England Ivy campus. Even the off-campus housing had athletic-looking coeds sitting on sofas on their front porches, textbooks propped on their laps. It was like something out of a movie.

    Anyway, L/A is only about 10% “Black” but I strongly suspect that those people have had a disproportionate impact on the community (which otherwise is heavily French-Canadian). If I’m making L/A sound like a disaster, it isn’t, exactly. Generally people are very nice, and I’ve met with “community leaders” (not of the Obama type, actual local business people) who were polite, sober, and sincere about wanting to do the best for their community (long story about how that happened), but the cards are stacked against them. There’s a long-standing “habit” of putting non-assimilating foreigners into struggling communities. I used to think that was because housing was cheap in such places, but increasingly I think it is deliberate malice, intended to further strain the host communities. Further, I now specifically think there are policies to destroy white communities.

    • Thank you for redacting the damaging demographic groups. This is a family blog and we wouldn’t want to delve into the politically incorrect.

      My experience is that when you bring Somalis or Syrians, etc. to a community that did not previously have those numbers, they set up small shops downtown and nobody who used to live in town goes there. They move or they shop elsewhere, and it turns into sort of a ghetto. That’s less true of Latino businesses in the Southwest – but likely because they’ve been there for a couple hundred years and are part of the landscape. Somalis and Syrians are not known for their cuisine, and people are reluctant to eat in their restaurants, which struggle.

  3. re:
    “African-ffs-American”

    Words dictate terms.
    Similar to ‘Blue States vs Red States’ instead of ‘a few loudmouths vs normal folk’, ‘gay/lesbian’ instead of ‘homosexual’, or ‘straight’ instead of ‘normal’, I think the BOLCHEVICS are changing our vocabulary to fit their agenda.
    I think eliminating traditional words/phrases eases the transition to a GloriousNewDay©.
    Phooie on that.
    My main meal is ‘supper’, my preferred afternoon activities include ‘naps’… and my dogs automatically distrust the BOLCHEVICS (probably by osmosis from hanging-out with me).

    Accordingly, instead of ‘Black©’ or ‘Afro’ or any of the other du-jour popular du-jour descriptors du-jour, I use ‘Negroid’ to indicate the sub-species of our human race.

    As much as I would like to be known as innately massively unapologetically ‘Keltic’, I remain ‘Caucasian’.
    Not ‘Keltic-American’… although, based on my experience, ‘American Keltic’ sets on-edge the teeth of certain members of a certain religion.

    Unapologetically-American.
    On my ‘off’ days.

    The rest of the time, I am unapologetically Oregonian.

    • I have no problem with inner-city people. The democrat regime’s stock in trade would seem to be focused on encouraging them to slaughter their unborn and to de-fund the police so that they slaughter themselves. There is a mentality afoot that would continue the plantation system that was LBJ’s Great Society. It’s a cynical bunch of people who would do that to them, but they’re progressive and to them, that’s progress.

    • I’m assuming you’re commenting on the New England map. BUT, if that was to my address, I used “African-American” to indicate the Lewiston likely drug dealer was what would be called “mixed race” in many other countries. Namely a more typical American “Black” phenotype. Specifically a milk-chocolate shade in terms of skin tone, and with West African facial features. As opposed to the Somalis, with their much darker skin and different facial features, who were not mixed.

      As to “Black” and “white” — I carefully follow that Associated Press style convention of capitalizing one word but not the other. I use it as a constant reminder to myself that the news media are controlled by people who hate Europeans.

      • They are like Ulysses’ Cyclops. The media thinks that they are invincible because they are huge and their advertising budgets and their master’s war chests are huge. History showed us that while propaganda is effective, they can’t fool all the people all of the time.

          • Or even less than half!

            Or, you could administratively create “people” and pretend you fooled them!

            Ah, it’s an Age of Wonders.

            -Kle.

      • Most of those who call themselves “African-American” are not from Africa. This invented hyphenation has become normalized lexicon that has no real meaning. However if they insist, then I’d be a “Heinz 57-American”.

        I am white, they are black, we are Americans made in God’s image…no hyphenation needed, which only divides.

  4. From a commenter on Knuckledraggin referring to the potential head of the BATF&E Chipman:
    * “How many men, women, and children are you willing to kill to enforce your dictates?”

  5. Reading your review of “A Man at Arms” brings to the surface of many hours of enjoyment reading the “Casca, the Eternal Mercenary” series. Which had some good historical research in it.

    Then there’s “The Longships” sometimes know as “The Saga of Red Orm.” Good book dealing with Scandinavians meeting Christianity (and Islam.) Well worth a read.

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