A TENT!! I took the plunge and purchased a period-ish pavilion.

Camping in the Society for Creative Anachronism is a widely varied activity. Some people going for high degree of authenticity in their set up and others merely camping out with modern tent and equipment. At last, I took the plunge and purchased a period-isa pavilion!

Like most, I began with a modern tent– large, inexpensive, light weight, and leaky. It had a nice mesh top that, with the rain tarp removed let out the heat which was nice, but it was not great. To improve the entire situation I found I could buy a better rain tarp, and get even less period, or I could buy a new tent– and there are modern ones that are less obviously modern that cost about what I spent on my pavilion, but I wanted more of a period look.

I sat drooling over the tents made by Panther Primitives but simply cannot justify the cost, not on my budget nor with the amount of use the tent would get. They make very good tents though and you can get the poles and other hardware with the tent.  Go visit their web page and see how many gorgeous tents they make and then do a bit of research and you will find most owners rave about how nice their tents are. But over $2000 for a 12′ eve pavilion? I cannot justify it on my income. Drool and dream but not actually do it.

I really want a period pavilion, and if I cannot afford the one I drool over, I needed to find a less expensive option. Enter the solid and more economical Midwest Tent.

Midwest Tents makes a sturdy 12′ round pavilion that will do the job. I will have to make my own hub and poles which is going to be a learning experience for me. I know the canvas, heavy though it is, isn’t the higher grade sun-forger of the Panther Primitives, but it is a good quality heavy canvas. Even better, they now make them with stripes SEWN ON!

This tent is going to get both mundane AND SCA use. Which is how I was able to justify spending the money to buy a “period” tent. I also am looking at my camping gear with an eye toward period looks. I want to be able to camp with the Enchanted Ground people! I want to get into persona and PLAY.

Mine will be white, with blue stripes on the roof and walls. I opted for the less period removable walls because I cannot carry the whole thing in one piece! I was given several choices on the valence and opted to not have the vertical stripes on the valence. This will give me a nice band for painting patterns onto it! I am excited. My looking at art from near period, my choosing stripes is probably not ideal, but I like them, and add the paint to the valence with period designs and it is going to be a wonderful tent to use both for Mundane camping events and for SCA events.

I will be sure to do pictures once I get the tent UP!

Decorating a Byzantine Tent: Dagging

Decisions, decisions! I’d like some fancy dagging along the roof of my tent, but I am not finding evidence for it in the10th century.  I see lots of color. I see solid colors on the tents for images of Byzantine troops in camp:
AdrianopleConquestByzSoldBGhistory                                                                                Page from the writings of John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These date from later than the 10th century but demonstrate what they considered how tents should look. In this close up we see Byzantine tents as the Byzantine army takes their oaths in preparation for battle.
Byzantine army taking oath before the battle of Anchialus              Close-up of image by John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I see solid colors portrayed with decoration at the eaves and along the roof. In images further down, also of Byzantine tents, the colors appear solid, the decoration at the eaves is contrasting, and some tents have decorations on the roof, but not all. Again, I wonder if this suggests ethnic differences or simply the way the artist chose to paint his pictures.

And horizontal stripes for Muslim’s tents during a siege:
Assedio di Messina 1040         Close-up of image by John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Note in the images above and below here that the Muslims are shown with round shields and the Byzantines with those long pointed bottom shields. I wonder if this is just the artist or if it represents an actual common difference?
MadridSkylitzesFol97raDetail              An Arab emir’s tent from Skylitzes via Wikimedia Commons

There are not enough images from enough sources for me to make a solid conclusion, but these images certainly suggest that different groups decorated their tents differently. Most notably that the Muslim tents are portrayed as having a much stronger horizontal decorating motif, where the Byzantine tents are more often solid colors limiting the decoration to the roof and the band where the roof and the walls connect in the illustrations. In the Arab Emir’s tent, there is a striped sort of look to the way the large panels are colored, again, wondering if this suggests that there were vertical stripes as well as colored panels and a decorative lower edge?

Here is one of a Byzantine siege of a citadel from Skylitzes:
Byzantine Trebuchet Skylintzes
Close-up of image by John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This image repeats the solid colors, and gives the additional information on bows and the variations of tent shape found in a Byzantine camp. Looks like both sides wear the same helmets, and use the same bows. The shield shape used by the soldiers in the citadel is the same as used by Byzantines in other images.

Then another of Byzantines re-taking a city, this time Antioch:
Fall of Antioch in 969             Skylitzes via wiki commons

I see no sign of fancy dagging along the upper part of the wall where it meets the roof, bands of contrasting color, but no dagging. I wanted dagging but cannot find evidence to justify it– so far at least.

I need to find another source of images. 🙂


Byzantine Tents

I love the idea of a vardo-type conveyance, but so many events relegate them to an area away from the tents, which puts me off a bit as I am incredibly introverted and prefer to attend events with my local group.  So, I reverted to looking at tents.

There is clear evidence that the Romans used large round tents with a center pole, and, some say spokes radiating out from the center pole. This is speculation because while the scholars say round yes, they note a lack in the written or pictorial record for the inside of the tent roofs.
Assedio di Messina 1040              By John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

That said, there is abundant pictorial evidence of the round tent from exterior views and many internet friendly places to explore them. For example, Levantia, the blog of Dr. Timothy Dawson re-creator of history and academic, has a wonderful page on tents. On Facebook I frequent several Byzantine oriented pages: SCA Byzanteam where we had a long discussion of tent styles suitable for an SCA persona who is 10th Century and Byzantine and Byzantine Army where the scholarship is delightfully good, and participants give evidence (and sharing images) to support their positions.
Alusian appears before Peter Delyan and the Bulgarian camp              By John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The favored images from the historical record brought up in each discussion and on Dr. Dawson’s web page, are similar if not the same.  Looking on my own via “googling” turned up pretty much the same images. Being that I am not planning on becoming a scholar specializing in research on tent usages in the 10th century, I decided to count the fact that I am interacting with persons far better educated in the field than myself, that it is safe to say the round pavilion with a center pole is an excellent choice.

Panther Primitives Round Pavilion

In modern tent makers there are several who produce suitable tents. I am drooling over the Panther Primitives version. Midwest Tent has a less expensive and serviceable version. Both companies have happy customers. I like the options available with Panther Primitives. (A nice modern option is from Canvas Camp. The entry is low, but it visually fits into a crowd of period tents.)

White is the basic color of the canvas, and some persons use paint to decorate the walls–like the image from Panther Primitives. This has lots of FUN ideas bouncing around my head.

The next nagging question is: Which dagging option for around the top of the tent walls do I want? Which is more likely to have happened in period?

According to my reading (and if I could find the book I would give you the title), tents of the wealthy were heavily decorated, another version of the flashy use of color and design to signify position in society. I will update when I find the book…

Wheeled Conveyances in Eastern Rome

Methods of travel have been on my mind a good bit lately for the 10th Century. I have seen documentation for vardos for very late in the SCA period and after, but long have wondered if something similar existed for my period and for the Eastern Romans.

A kind person sent me to a webpage that gives links to documents that show wagons of various sorts. Many examples from illuminations and carvings of wagons during the medieval period but not from my 10th century Byzantine. Still, it is a start and there ARE examples of wagons from before the 10th century. From that page of many links, the one link that caused me to get very excited is this one: Roman Traction Systems. Go look, it is an information dense page!

So, the Romans were not restricted to two wheeled conveyances only! There is a tiny bit of evidence that they had quite a good design for a comfortable wagon to carry people. This means there is the possibility of something period and similar to the later Vardo.

I am glad to see that research is moving in this direction because it simply never made sense to me that the people who could build the aquaducts, bathhouses, public buildings, temples and later Cathedrals, were actually unable to make a 4 wheeled conveyance with a pivoting front axel!

What this means for me is that I could build something to tow to SCA events that could be period, and comfortable, and hide away the modern medical items and the battery bank for running them at night, and even hide a modern RV style tank system, so I could be comfortable at events and not have to be able to set up my own tent. Drive up, drop the wagon, unload what isn’t in the wagon already, and go park the car and become my persona for the weekend.

Oh yes, this would take some doing, but it would be so much fun to have!