Some years back I took a holiday in Malta.
Taking the ferry to Valletta, climbing the ramp up from the dock, I was shocked to see the scale of the fortifications. I knew it was a strategically important place, but what surprised me was how obviously the entire walled peninsula of Valletta seemed to have been constructed first and foremost as a fortress.
It's easy to forget the scale and scope of historical conflict and the effort that went into it, and this was a stark reminder.
The other thing that surprised me was that they had the old suits of armor of the commanders of the order, and I was surprised how big they were. I'm pretty tall (6"6) and was surprised to see the suits were close to my height. Presumably bigger than the men that wore them, but what occurred to me was "these are the guys who made it to the the top of their organization, the commanders, and they must have been very big for their time. This is probably an organization that values brute strength."
I don't know if that's a valid inference or not, but Malta definitely left the impression it was created by folk who mean business.
This linked article is really interesting context, makes me realize why Malta was built so well.
It's amazing how much of that story could have been written yesterday. Tunneling is still used in the middle-east as a war tactic. North Korea tunnels to South Korea. The value of engineering ;) Embargoes are essentially siege tactics.
Yes. The wage gap between short men and huge men makes any perceived gender based wage gap between male and female look very, very puny.
Why do you present the height-based wage gap as a fact, while presenting the gender-based wage gap merely as "perceived"?
Is there more evidence for the former wage gap than for the latter? Or, is the one type of discrimination more acceptable than the other?
A number of the gender based wage gap studies that have made a splash in the press have neglected to account for multiple facets of employment and occupational risk leading to conclusions showing an outsize pay gap... They've documented inequal outcomes in the market based on equivalent experience or education across sectors without controlling for inequality of physical-demands and employment distribution... The popular press then extrapolates these findings inartfully, leading to a shared sense of gender discrimination that is not borne out by the broader market.
I know this is something of a hot button topic, so I'll be extra clear: women and men are of equal value, and deserve equal pay for equal work, naturally. But we have to own the fact that, statistically, men really should be earning more at work as long as men are doing the majority of high-risk occupations and women are taking more time off of work when having children. There are a lot of different studies, but last I dug into this when you start comparing more apples-to-apples you find that the gender gap is nowhere near the oft cited 0.75 cents on the dollar.
There is a gender pay gap, though it's quite difficult IMO to pin that gap on broad sexism given a few cultural factors. Namely men being 6 times more likely to ask for a raise at work, men being more likely to measure self-worth at work through money and not peer approval, societal pressures for men to be a 'provider', and for men to measure self-worth almost exclusively through career success.
While we're looking at why young men are more likely to find themselves doing EOD work or high-voltage wire repair than women, lets also remember that the physical difference between the sexes can, in fact, be a life or death matter in some occupations... And if we want to compare employment outcomes by years of education taken, we really need to quantify how dirty and dangerous jobs oriented towards physical labour would ideally be gender-represented in the market. Ie Sewer repair technicians and plumbers and construction skew male and high paying compared to white collar positions with the same length of training - are we really going to expect 50% female representation in those fields?
Height based studies, on the other hand, are much easier to setup controls for. Outside of the far extremes height doesn't fundamentally impact employment opportunities, and demographically are much easier in terms of experimental design. As long as those studies control for certain kinds of physical work which self-select towards large/small people we should be able to get a reasonable grasp of how the world responds to taller people. Last I checked a few inches in height meant a significant increase in yearly takehome pay, management opportunities, and attractiveness as a mate.
Bottom line: easier studies that aren't politically loaded tend to give us better data than harder studies that are rich with social and political subtext... Women should get paid as well as men, but we can't pretend that Geese and Ganders are one and the same. Deep sea welders get paid a lot of money and jobs like that will create a statistical gender pay gap as long as they are not equally distributed among the genders.
We talk about the knights now as though they were some kind of priests, but in reality they were pretty much ferocious pirates with a religious sanction.
The fortress of Rhodes, now much restored by the fascist regimes of the early 20th century as a showpiece, is indomitable. The recorded histories say that Suleiman the Magnificent brought nearly a quarter million men to take the island. The defense was 700 knights, 500 archers and about 5,000 lower units.
After six months, as the story goes, the fortress was much battered, but still had not completely fallen. The Knights of St. John had lost the bulk of their men, but were still defending. Suleiman's forces on the other hand had suffered massive casualties -- depending on the source somewhere between 5,000 to several tens of thousands.
One of the local stories says that after the six months of siege, Suleiman communicated with the Knights something along the lines of "I am in awe of the defenders of this fortress. I have lost half my men, and you no doubt have lost half of yours. If you lay down your arms, you and any who wish to leave will be granted safe passage off of Rhodes."
Other histories I've looked into have different, but similar terms along those lines.
The Knights accepted and moved to Malta. The locals of Rhodes thus count the Fortress at Rhodes to have been surrendered but never to have fallen.
We toured that fortress and it's one of the most obviously formidable fortifications I've ever seen. Ever single square meter of it was designed to trap humans and place them into undefendable positions where they could be caught in an easy cross fire and slaughtered. It almost looks like something from science fiction in parts: layers of walls with straight line shots between them, approaches to gates with multiple overlapping fields of fire.
This approach in particular has really stuck with me - http://l450s.alamy.com/450s/cx91gf/knight-fortress-in-rhodes...
Nearly every hole you see there at ground level was designed for cannon with support fire from above by archers and other small arms. A person trying to breach this gate would be consumed by shots from nearly a dozen positions. The alternative approaches along the wall were all clear cut open spaces that could swallow thousands of men and set them up for easy pickings.
Succeed in that, and you get another layer of walls with more places to get killed. And more and more and more. If you look down this corridor, you'll see some stone spheres. Those I was told were representations, and perhaps even some original, canon balls. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Rhodes_o...
Imagine scaling the wall to the right in the picture, making it across that open shooting range, then setting up ladders or something to scale the wall on the left.
And there are several more great photos on the rest of the Wikipedia page:
"Suleiman was respectful and generous in victory. The citizens of Rhodes were to be exempt from both taxation and conscription for the next five years. Tadini was allowed to leave. He went to the colonies of Genoa, where he again fought invading Ottoman forces and again lost.
The Order of St. John was allowed to leave in peace and build a new fortress elsewhere. They did so on Malta, where their walls could be built on stone and therefore could not be undermined. Toward the end of his life, Suleiman sent a force to conquer Malta. This time the siege failed, in part because he was not there to keep order or impose his implacable will."
This kind of graciousness in warfare does not seem to exist in modern times. Weird, considering how brutal war in those times looks compared with today.
Well, there was a ton of brutality then as well. Probably even much worse than today.
Medieval or ancient wars were a bit more emotion driven.
As an example, during the siege of Constantinople, the Genoese and Venetian navies were ultimately defeated when the Ottomans literally carried their ships over land to get behind the other's defensive line.
>According to Ottoman understanding, the state's primary responsibility was to defend and extend the land of the Muslims and to ensure security and harmony within its borders within the overarching context of orthodox Islamic practice and dynastic sovereignty
Consider a hypothetical history with Persian empire not falling to Muslims and Byzantine also enduring. Best buddies forever or likely the same pattern of pull-push on borders and a cultural clusters boundary condition?
Geography is the key here, not people's misunderstanding regarding the meaning of it all.
The Suleyman portrait there (in http://ericflint.wikia.com/wiki/Ottoman_Empire) is also rather astute.
"...an early genius of military engineering, Gabriele Tadini." But more than 1500 years before him there were others such as Archimedes and Caesar.
I wonder if Tadini was a polymath similar to other great military engineers like Archimedes and Leonoardo who would have been living at the same time as him.
For example knowing about plants and animals. We as whole humanity are still far from knowing them all on the earth, so how could somebody from history knew them all?
And even if you only count "everything" as the whole current knowledge of humanity, then also no, as there are for example tribes in the jungle who know about plants or hunting technics the genius in europe never heard of.
I've heard this question before. I think it's more useful to think of it as "When was the last era when it was possible for one person to know everything that's known?"
Doubtful that there ever was such a particular person, at least because of geography, as you point out, and different concerns in different parts of the world. But there must have been such an era; I don't know when that was.
In various trips to the UK and dozens of castle walking tours, almost to a guide they said (paraphrasing) "no one used boiling oil. It was way too precious a commodity." Water, sure.
This made my day. :)
The Knights were composed mostly of nobles from Europe and thus brought tremendous wealth with them. Initially they set up hospitals in the 12th century to care for pilgrims traveling from Europe to the Holy Land. That role grew into a militarily defensive role and then grew some full-on military features by the 14th century.
Being composed of rich Nobles, the order at one point may have had access to more wealth than the entire rest of the Roman Catholic Church during this time period. During the early Malta period of the 16th century, the Knights built one of the most incredible and beautiful buildings I've ever seen. The outside isn't much to look at, but the inside is one of the most decorated buildings I've ever been in -- pictures don't really do it justice. The local "real" Cathedral built by the Catholic Church looks positively spartan in comparison even though it also is a beautiful building.
The order survived into the modern age, and over the ages did a number of works, continued to administer Malta, and happened to colonize parts of the Caribbean. Weakened during both the Protestant Reformation and the Napoleonic wars, but returned to the roots as a human welfare and religious group. They eventually changed their name to "the Sovereign Military Order of Malta" (SMOM) which they keep to this day as the oldest surviving order of chivalry.
Amazingly it actually is a "sovereign" order, meaning they're viewed in many circles to have power equal to that of a minor nation-state even though they have no territory at all -- the only example in the world today. For example, SMOM is a permanent observer in the U.N.  and maintains diplomatic relations with 106 countries. It can enter into treaties, issue passports, coins and postage. Their headquarter buildings in Rome are treated as Embassies and enjoy diplomatic extraterritoriality.
1 - https://www.un.int/orderofmalta/
2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_Military_Order_of_Ma...
Also the knight orders have not survived. Should I blame the victors (whoever they are, as in this story the Ottomans won, for example), for writing history?
"See, kids, the reason mass surveillance ala Snowden has to exist is because the other side mines and we undermine, its always been like this."
"Despite Tadini's losses, his methods have continued to
influence combat into the present. Mining and
countermining, with all their attendant surveillance and
engineering, are still staples of warfare."
In conclusion, Tadini's mining is still influential today.
To understand what makes HN different from other sites, you may want to familiarize yourself with the guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
In particular, we try to write comments that are interesting to read. That rules out swipes and one-line dismissals: calling something amateurish, or complaining about downvotes.
HN has a lot to offer as a community, and we started out as a tight-knit group of refugees from sites like Reddit. This place has grown up a lot since then, but those fundamentals were the reason for HN's success.
Your second comment was better than your first -- a substantive dismissal is always preferable. And you can write comments like that if you really want to. I usually find it's more productive to focus on what's cool about a piece. There's usually something.
However if an article is mistaken, that's worth calling out. Some of the best HN comments are refutations. Though you'll want to be certain you're correct, or else you'll get called out yourself. :)
Anyway, I appreciate the environment on HN and the steps users like you take to preserve it.