Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Lion of St Mark

It’s funny the sort of things you learn from gaming. From my early role-playing days of Dungeons & Dragons I learnt the names and types of all sorts of medieval weaponry and armour. For some unknown reason, many, many years later, that information has pretty much been retained in my brain. Sometimes I wonder what purpose this trivia serves me now that I am an adult with a young family living in suburban Australia. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be on a game show and I’ll make it all the way to the final million-dollar question and it will be "What is a Bardiche?" (Click on the link if you really want to know) Anyway, we are each the sum of our knowledge and experiences, so I guess this is part of what makes me, me.

And that leads me to the point of this entry – to give some context to the photos below. Back in the late 90’s I was into wargaming with miniatures. My rules of choice were De Bellis Multitudinous, or simply DBM as it is more familiarly known. DBM is a set of rules for ancient and medieval battles with miniatures. I had a regular opponent, Chris, who had several armies and we gamed together quite often. I even painted and based a Mongol Conquest army and was working on an Early/Later Crusader army.

One day Chris told me he was going to run a tournament at an upcoming gaming convention. The rules to be used would be De Bellis Renationis or DBR. DBR covers the wars of 1494 - 1700 (and was written by the same authors as DBM). Essentially, DBM and DBR are very similar, with some different troop types and some minor rules changes.

Chris offered to lend me an army if I was interested as he had lots of miniatures that could be substituted for most armies. On pouring over the army lists available for DBR, my eyes fell on an interesting army – The Venetian Italians.

From memory, this Venetian Italian army had three Ship elements and four Boat elements. My cunning plan was to lay down a waterway on the side of the table and send my troop-laden ships down to attack my opponents on their flank. There was only one problem - I didn't have any naval elements. I decided to make my own. The ships were called Galleasses, which is a type of galley. What did a Galleass look like? I scoured my personal library for pictures. I came across this painting, The Battle of Lepanto 1517 (artist unknown), in which are depicted Venetian Galleasses. I would base my models on these images.

I constructed the hulls out of balsa wood, the rams out of Milliput, the stern canopies out of thin card, the masts out of toothpicks, the oars out of wire, and the flags and sails out of paper. I then based them on a 40mm x 80mm base of cardboard. They were painted with acrylic paints and a few spray coats of clear varnish. All images are clickable for a closer view.

The yellow galleass

The blue galleass

The red galleass

I came second or third in the tournament, I can't really remember. While it was fun, I don’t think I’ll ever play DBR again and so I really have no further use for these ships. I’ve considered selling them on eBay but doubt they’d go for enough to compensate for the time I took to build them. One option I’m considering is using them to play Man O’ War by Games Workshop. I’ve had these rules for a couple of years now and have been itching to play them. The only problem is that the Games Workshop Man O' War ship miniatures are out of production and are rather expensive to buy on eBay. I know I have the ability to scratch-build several fleets but it’s just finding the time, and motivation, to do it.

My fleet of Venetian galleasses

Now this is where I eventually come to the Lion of St Mark, the subject of this blog entry. As part of my historical research I found that the flag under which the Venetians fought was called the Lion of St Mark. It represents a winged lion with its paw on a book with the latin inscription (Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus = Peace to you, Mark, my evangelist). In times of war the lion's paw is laid on an unsheathed sword. The lion is the symbol of Saint Mark, who is said to have stopped on a Venetian island during one of his journeys. I was able to find an image (although not the one below) that would have been representative of a Venetian flag of that time, reduced it in size and printed it on my printer. Voila!

The symbol of Venice is the Lion of St Mark. This bit of trivia has ensconced itself firmly in my brain for some reason. I know it, and now, so do you.

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