Book Review – The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon

The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon

As a follow up to Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ, I opted to read The Book of Deeds by James I of Aragon. King James was a contemporary with King Fernando, and also like Fernando III of Castile, James I of Aragon was a great crusader king. This book is Jame’s autobiography written and narrated by him. In addition of having the distinction of being the only monarch to have written an autobiography, James also had the longest reign in all of the high and late middle ages. In this book we get to see why just about everything of Jame’s life was spectacular.

This book can be mainly divided into three parts, first we to start of reading about his parents, then we go into his troubled youth as the heir to The Crown of Aragon, and the different rebellions within his nobility. The second part, which is the bulk of his book is the content regarding his crusades on capturing the kingdoms of Majorca, Valencia, and Murcia. This is where we get to see why he is known to history as James “The Conqueror”. Finally, the last section is mostly regarding how he incorporated the conquered territory, and the problems he faced doing so.

The book itself is a literal translation from medieval Catalan to English, which to be honest I found it hard to read at times. Thus said, the book is fully annotated by the translators, providing more details that put into context what James is narrating. I would’ve probably understand more if I would’ve read a Castilian (modern) translation instead, but I would’ve not gotten the additional benefit of reading the translator’s annotations.

I’m a massive Tolkien fan, so seeing James’s devotion to Our Lady during dire times seemed similar to how the elves revered Varda in their times of need. Another thing that struck me, was reading about the division and even hostility between Aragonese and Catalan factions in Jame’s nobility and army. A division, albeit different that can be seen today in Spain over 800 years later.

Overall if you’re interested on learning about life in the middle ages, even if you’re not fully interested in the history of Spain, or in the crusades; this book is still a fascinating read and would highly recommend it.

Book Review – Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ

Saint Fernando IIISaint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ is a biography work that venerates one of histories greatest crusader kings. Fernando III of Castile and Leon has been canonized and recognize in the Catholic Church as a saint. So in this book we get to read about the life and deeds of Fernando III from a Catholic’s perspective.

It is important to note that this book is presented firstly as a religious novel, and not specifically as a scholarly work. It includes the different reconquista myths and legends (or miracles as seen by many) that may not necessarily be fully historically accurate. Thus said, I feel scholarly readers or students will definitely get something out of reading this book. The author did an excellent job portraying the different battles and military campaigns. He even included custom hand drawn illustrations.

James Fitzhenry is a brilliant writer, this book has lots of beautifully written passages. Not only can this book be seen a very good uplifting spiritual novel, but also as a wonderful piece of literature as well. Were it may even rival the famous Arthurian Legends.

Book Review – Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain

Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain

Of the different books that I’ve read relating to The Reconquista, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain has to be the best one thus far. It makes sense why I keep seeing this book being referenced by numerous other historians online. Joseph F. O’Callaghan did an incredible work given us an overview of a very extremely complex topic. The author gives us an overview of the different events, using both Christian and Moorish sources. Then analyze it’s accurateness from an unbiased historian’s perspective.

I haven’t read any other book in where most of my highlighted notes were “lol” (for laugh out loud). It’s rather amazing to read about the events that ended up changing the course of human history forever, yet how comical the political landscape in medieval Iberia was at times.

This is the best book anyone can read regarding The Reconquista. The only caveat I see is that this is probably not the best first book to read on the subject. Since this book is an overview of an almost 800 year conflict, it is quite easy for someone to get completely lost in the sea of names of Kings and Queens, Nobles, and Religious Figures that took part of these historic events. Thus said, this book is hands down the best history book that I’ve read so far.

Oops I Did It Again

For the third time in the twelve year history of this blog, I’ve moved the site URL to a new one. Originally this blog started under www.abaltazar.org, then switched to www.rubyninja.org, now www.antoniobaltazar.com/blog/ is its permanent home. The primary reason for this new switch is because I’m consolidating my webapps into fewer domains as possible. The actual config changes made to WordPress for the URL move was overall a relatively pain free process.

1. Update database

UPDATE wp_options SET option_value=’http://www.antoniobaltazar.com/blog’ WHERE option_name=’siteurl’;
UPDATE wp_options SET option_value=’http://www.antoniobaltazar.com/blog’ WHERE option_name=’home’;

2. Update .htaccess

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /blog/
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !=/server-status
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !=/server-info
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /blog/index.php [L]

3. Update Varnish vcl config vlc_recv() to handle all old redirects;

if (req.http.host ~ “(?i)^(www.)?rubyninja\.(org|net)”) {
set req.http.host = “www.antoniobaltazar.com”;
set req.backend_hint = antoniobaltazar;
return (synth(750, “http://” + req.http.host + “/blog” + req.url));
}

The old rubyninja.org domain will continue to function as my primary domain used on my homelab server architecture.

Book Review – El Cid: The Making of a Legend

El Cid: The Making of a Legend
This book takes a factual based approach to the legend of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid. It analyses the chronicles contemporary during the life of El Cid, many of which were fully included the book The World of El Cid, however unlike The World of El Cid, in this book we get an in-depth analysis of the famous poem El Cantar de mio Cid, which has fueled Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar a folk hero of Spain. In addition it includes other sources, like films and plays that portrayed the legends of El Cid.

This book provides really good research and analysis showcasing the elements of what turned El Cid from a medieval military leader to a present day national hero. It is worth mentioning the author is English. So from an Englishmen’s perspective the author provides a lot of comparisons between medieval England and Spain. In addition comparisons between the Arthurian legends and El Cid.

A very interesting anecdote was learning how the author was first captivated by the character of El Cid because of the Hollywood movie of El Cid when he was just a child. Yet the author rightfully is not shy to differentiate the legends and myths surrounding El Cid from the true historical person.

Given the times the movie is mentioned in this book, perhaps it may be a good idea to watch the movie prior to reading this book. As well as the podcast from Real Crusades History which takes an in-depth look on El Cid.

New Portfolio Site!

So I was laid off my job last month, this gave me a good reason to finally redo what was a fairly ugly looking portfolio site. This time around instead of creating the entire static site from scratch (after all CSS and JavaScript are not quite my forté) I opted to use a pre-existing open source theme. Of the many responsive bootstrap based themes, I chose to use
https://github.com/BlackrockDigital/startbootstrap-resume.
With some minor changes, getting my new portfolio up and running was overall an relatively easy process.

I recently started learning Pipelines in Jenkins more in depth, and in all honesty porting over my old Freestyle project job to a Pipeline job was far more complicated process than creating my portfolio site!

New Portfolio Site:
https://www.antoniobaltazar.com

Book Review – A Feast for Crows

A Feast for crowsA Feast for Crows has been my least favorite book in A Song of Ice and Fire thus far. I recall being almost 700 pages into this novel and I literally said to myself “Nothing majored has happened to move the story forward..”. Even worse, their wasn’t much content regarding some of the main characters in the entire saga! Which to be fair, it wasn’t until I almost finished reading the book when I saw George R.R. Martin’s note regarding why their wasn’t much content regarding Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Daenerys and having to break up the novel into two. This gave me an entirely different perspective to this novel.

In this book the notion of religion, and the different types thereof is a really prevalent. We get to read more about the different religions in this fictional world and the mythologies behind them and how it shapes the different cultures within this world. Some of our heroes take new identities. Finally, as to be expected, we get to read of new locations in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire that we haven’t been before.

Having read George R.R. Martin’s brilliant first three books in this series, gives me excitement that this book was just a mere setup to what will be the epic events that will be following in the next novel A Dance with Dragons.

Book Review – The World of El Cid

The World of El Cid
It seems the more I read chronicle like writings, the more I tend to enjoy them. The World of El Cid: Chronicles of the Spanish Reconquest is a book that consists of four different chronicles by different original authors that depict the deeds of the different Kings of Leon and Castile, and now legendary knight, El Cid. In addition, these chronicles also includes quite a few stories of the deeds of certain nobles.

Being the longest conflict in human history, the Iberian reconquest is such an incredible complex topic. The chronicles narrated here are from the events in the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the most interesting aspects during this time in history was the political nature of the Christian Kingdoms and Moorish Taifas. The different political alliances, and intrigue during this era was absolutely incredible. At times, I even found it to be comical.

Unlike other chronicle works that I’ve read, here the writings are shown in a sequential timeline order of the events. We get to read the state of the Iberian Peninsula before the existence of El Cid, and chronicles that occur well after his death.

Reading this book without any prior knowledge might be somewhat confusing. It certainly doesn’t help that all the kings and queens have the same name!

For anyone new wanting to read this fantastic book, I would first highly suggest viewing the YouTube Real Crusades History Channel, El Cid and Reconquista playlist.

Book Review – Morgoth’s Ring

Morgoth's Ring

Of all the books in The Complete History of Middle-earth series, Morgoth’s Ring has been so far by favorite book thus far. The primary reason being is that their is an incredible large amount of new texts here that we really haven’t seen in the first 9 books. The texts included in this book were originally written around the same time The Lord of the Rings was being written and post Lord of The Rings publication.

One of the primary themes in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works is death; Men are mortal and Elves are immortal. In The Lord of The Rings and in Akallabêth we mostly get to read and understand death from the perspective from of Men, however in this book we get to read about the meaning of death from the perspective of the Elves. Aside from the death of Elves, we also get to read about their customs raging from when they were elven children, growth, dating, and marriage. This book deals a lot with the origin of Tolkien’s creations. As with Elves and Men, we also get to read more about the origin of ocs or “orks” as it was later implied by Tolkien.

In the following interview, Christopher Tolkien perfectly depicts the difficult task of his father’s attempt of trying to explain the metaphysical aspect of his creation.

Book Review – The Order of Santiago

The Order of Santiago

The Order of Santiago: The History of the Catholic Military Order Sworn to Defend the Iberian Peninsula is a book that describes this medieval crusader Order from its initial necessity to its current present form. The first part of this book is a mere primer of the crusades. I think it does an excellent job depicting this incredibly complex topic in short easy to understand manner, and more importantly it does a good job describing the concept of religious knighthood, and how eventually the crusades occurring in the holy land affect those in the Iberian Peninsula. It describes the differences between the Order of Santiago to other Iberian religious military Orders, as well as to the ones that originated in the holy land.

While I think this is a great book, I was slightly disappointed it didn’t covered the topics in great detail. The Order Santiago played a massive role in the reconquista, so I would’ve love to read about the role the Order had in the vast amounts of military campaigns that it was a part of, instead of brief high level overview.

Another example I would’ve love reading more about the Order’s different Grand Masters, as well of the deeds of its famous knights. This goes in part with the role the Order had in the conquest of the Americas, which it’s hardly mentioned. For example how some native chieftains were knighted and those knights played a massive role in the subsequent wars of conquest.Nicolás de San Luis Montáñez

Nicolás de San Luis Montáñez

I know such thing most likely require years of research, this book felt more like a college thesis paper. A very good paper (with lots of great potential).

To my surprise, what I’ll remember more about this book is not necessarily related the Order of Santiago, but learning of the role Byzantine nobles had during the Umayyad Caliphate conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom.