Friday, July 18, 2008

And, Making A Cameo Appearance...



The above picture is a scene from the Battle of Varna, fought on November 10th, 1444. It ended in a decisive if costly victory for the Ottoman Turks over a combined force of Hungarians, Poles, and others. I believe that the painting (a 19th-century work by Jan Matejko) depicts the heroically stupid charge of Wladislaw III of Poland against the janissaries of Sultan Murad, a military action that resulted in Wladislaw's death and the defeat of the Europeans (it really was a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The brilliant Hungarian general John Hunyadi had managed to rout the Ottomans and overrun their camp, and Wladislaw's charge, which Hunyadi begged him not to undertake, turned the entire course of the battle).

I've been helping a friend translate some Latin sources on the Battle of Varna, including some letters written by a certain Andreas de Palatio, a papal envoy who witnessed the battle. In describing the prelude to the battle, he describes the arrival of a potential ally to the Europeans:

"In stacione autem nostra sub urbe Nicopolii illustris Wlad waywoda Transalpine Walachie, qui et Dracula dicitur, Danubium traiecit in Bulgariam..."

"Moreover, during our vigil below the city of Nicopolis, the famous Vlad, Prince of Transalpine Wallachia, who is also called 'Dracula', crossed the Danube into Bulgaria..."

Of course, this immediately led to the mental image of...



...taking part in the Battle of Varna. Unfortunately, however, the battle was likely relatively vampire-free. The Vlad referred to here is not Vlad III Tepes, a.k.a. "Vlad the Impaler," who would later inspire Bram Stoker. It is, in fact, his father Vlad II Dracul (Stoker seems to have been ever-so-slightly confused over the names). Still rather fun to see the name in a contemporary document, though!

First note: This isn't the only fun Latin project I've embarked upon recently (leaving aside the teaching of the Latin summer course). One of the local High Schools (the covert canine's alma mater, to be precise), is set to offer Latin in the fall, and the Latin-teacher-to-be and I are frantically working to get her up to speed.

Second note: The internet is a charming place, sometimes. I found the Battle of Varna painting at a site, which I will neither name nor link to, that claims to present the history of the conflict between Islam and the West "from a neutral and factual viewpoint" (their words). It then goes on to enthusiastically endorse the forcible lobotomizing of all Muslims. Uh, that's just swell, guys...

1 comment:

Chorus said...

Oh, good grief. Idiots.

You do have the coolest job in the whole wide world, by the way.