Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boomeranging catapults and the economics of soldiers

Louis XIVth had this barracks built for soldiers
We took the Argeles-sur-mer village history walking tour, for the second time, with Jean-Marc, re-learning some things and learning a few interesting new facts and educated guesses about the 5000-year legacy of the place we call home.

The area of Argeles and surrounding plains and mountains have been inhabited or traversed by humans since pre-historic times, through Roman occupation, the medieval era, etc.

The fortified village of Argeles with stone walls 10 metres high and another 10 metre hill sloping down to the western plain, probably dates from the 11th or 12th century.

During the short-lived Kingdom of Majorca, the village prospered when the king made it his centre of tax collection (so he wouldn't need to share the proceeds with quasi-rulers of other towns in the region).

There's a tale of a catapult, designed to hurl huge rocks at the enemy, except the trajectory was straight up (and therefore straight down) and the rock crushed the catapult. (Wonder if it was a no-bid contract as a favor to some lobbyist?)

We learned about the three main gates -- the Elne, Collioure, and Sea gates ... some of the flooding tendency of the Massane River (dry most of the year but capable of rising 30-40 feet), which is why Napoleon III had the Rue Nationale built on high ground ... and how some houses could be dated by their construction techniques ... the barracks Louis XIVth had built to house soldiers ... and how the region changed hands from Spain to France in the mid-16th century.

A recurring theme throughout history is that rulers taxed the people so they could pay for soldiers, who they would use to try to conquer other lands ... so they could tax those people so ....

Things don't change much, do they?
One of the corner towers protecting medieval Argeles

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