Author Archives: Burrowowl

The Responsibilities of the Powerful


In light of all the talk about violence involving police officers recently, let’s fire up the way-back machine and look at what Ramon Llull had to say back in the 13th century about the people who were expected to wield the government’s monopoly on force:

“Item, office of knighthood is to maintain and defend widows, maidens, fatherless and motherless bairns, and poor miserable persons and pitiable, and to help the weak against the stark, and the pure against the rich; for oft-times sick folk are, by more stark than they, beaten and robbed, and their goods taken, and put to destruction and poverty, for fault of power and defence.

“For right as the hewing axe is ordained to cut down trees that hinder ploughing of lands, and carts and chariots and merchandises to pass through the forests, so is the sword of knighthood ordained to cut away and destroy the wicked unworthy weeds and vines of thorns of evil men that hinders labourers, merchants, traitors to travel through the world which is as a forest and wilderness when it is not well tended; of the which evil men should be weeded out by knights, keepers of the law, that good men might live in shelter; and he that is a knight, and does not this, but does even the contrary, should be taken by the prince, or by other worthy, faithful, and honourable knights, and put till dead.

“For when a knight is a reaver, or a thief, or a traitor or a murderer, or a lollard, schismatic or heretic, or in such crimes openly known and proved, then he is unworthy to live, but to be punished in example of others that defoul that most noble and worthy order and abuse it against the points and the properties of that order.”

Hat tip to Gilbert of Hay by way of False Machine for the translation.

This all predates the Lockean notion of the social contract, but strikes me as largely compatible with it. Society-in-general delegates a portion of its collective power to a few individuals who in turn promise to shoulder a greater portion of society’s responsibilities. That nice strong man in blue is supposed to protect those who cannot protect themselves. If he takes to beating and robbing the people, taking their goods and destroying their property, it is of paramount importance that the other men in blue stop him, that they publicly stop him, punish him, and show that the public’s trust is well-placed. Otherwise the social contract is in breach and the public must seek remedy.

EUIV: Anno Domini 1500

Part of an ongoing series on an ironman playthrough of Europa Universalis IV as the Papal States. 


In January of 1500, Pope Alexander VI has recently subjugated Candar and Ramazan, two Turkish territories bordering the Black Sea and the Mediterranean respectively. The Papal State’s holdings had expanded to include much of Tuscany, Romagnan lands up to an including Ferrara, and Northern Napoli.  The great bulk of this and previous Popes’ military and diplomatic efforts had been exerted primarily towards limiting and later eliminating the Ottoman juggernaut in the near East, establishing local vassals to peacefully administer the Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims native to those lands.  The Mamluks are a serious regional power, Wallachia is poised to pounce on Ottoman Bulgaria. Serbia is losing a war that will force them to spit out Ragusa, a thorn in their side that will become a serious problem in due time.


Looking North, we see that Denmark has incorporated Norway into its realm and annexed Riga. England has Scotland on the ropes, and has split the island of Ireland with Munster. Oldenburg and Nassau has acquitted themselves well, taking over Frisia and Münster. The Teutonic Order is in a pretty sorry state and not likely to maintain independence after its current war with Poland. The middle of the Holy Roman Empire is, as usual, an unqualified mess.


In Western Europe we see a familiar division between Portugal and Castile, with France having taken Catalonia from Aragon, and England maintaining multiple toeholds in the continent. Their war with France isn’t looking good at the moment, but the English lion will remain in Acquitaine and Normandy for some time to come. Austria has expanded its holdings from Sundgau up toward the Low Countries. What could possibly go wrong there? Brittany is not only still independent, but has taken Anjou and Maine from Provence.


To the Eastern extent of Alexander’s knowledge, Muscovy has run Novgorod into the ground and should be forming Russia in short order. Poland and Lithuania have been in a personal union for a while now, and will soon integrate into the Commonwealth, a proper superpower with the greatest manpower resources in the world, eclipsing even Ming China.


EUIV: Reclaiming the East

Part of an ongoing series on an ironman playthrough of Europa Universalis IV as the Papal States. 


We pick up our story in the year of our Lord 1455. Pope Pius II has been elected by the college of cardinals and assumed the mantle of the Holy See.  He would oversee a period of interior development, as well as the entrance of the Papal States into the Holy Roman Empire. Under his guidance the Vatican Library was founded, Urbino was integrated, and Ferrara was liberated from the petty moneychangers in Venice.

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Pope Pius went on to his eternal reward on October 9, 1465 after ten years of enlightened rules. Callistus III was elected shortly thereafter. During his reign, territories were gained from Naples, Constantinople was recovered from Aragon, and the Ottomans were pushed from the Bosphorus for good. So weak had the Sultan’s grip become that its Eastern Beys, Wallachia, and even tiny Albania were able to wage offensive wars against him. Strong diplomatic relations with Austria, France, and Hungary as well as the protective hand of the Holy Spirit stood the Papacy in good stead for years, until the delicate balance was disrupted. In August 1487, France would embark upon a protracted and bloody trade dispute against Aragon.  Entering the war would mean breaking a long-standing alliance with Hungary and exposing his temporal realm to a three-front war in Northern and Southern Italy as well as in Greece. With manpower already perilously low and unwilling to unleash the depravity of mercenary forces against fellow Christians, Callistus declined to engage. This rattled the King of France’s confidence in the Holy Father, a grudge that would continue for over a hundred years. The Bishop of Rome’s territory had grown great, but his armies were weary and surrounded by jealous princes sharpening their swords.

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On April 2, 1488, Pope Callistus passed on his sacred duties to Pope Pius III, an accomplished diplomat, able administrator, and skilled soldier. He would immediately set about mending relations with nearby Milan, Savoy, and even Qara Qoyunlu in hopes of eventually staging a crusade to break the infidel Mamluk stranglehold on the Holy Land. It was in 1490 that the Holy See first weighed in on the question of slavery in the New World. This was an issue that would come up repeatedly in the years to come, a frequent point of contention between future Popes and the emerging colonial powers. The ambitions and plans of Callistus amounted to little more than a brief period of war recovery, as he returned to his creator’s arms after a brief four years.

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In April of 1492 Alexander VI assumed the triregnum, a sharp military mind well-suited to his time but sadly not quite so blessed as his predecessor in other matters. His tenure would carry us into the 16th century, and he is best remembered for beginning the process of integrating Byzantium in 1497 and for subjugating the Ottoman Beys of Candar and Ramazan as Muslim vassals. Our next installment will look at the known world as Alexander VI knew it in AD 1500.

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