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Old 08-04-2009, 08:10 PM   #1
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Dark-Eye Bio-warfare In Middle-earth

I started thinking about this after re-reading ROTK Appendix A.

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"Ever will some new evil be hatched in Angband beyond the guess of Elves and Men," they said. And in the autumn of that year, to point their words, there came an ill wind from the North under leaden skies. The Evil Breath it was called, for it was pestilent; and many sickened and died in the fall of the year in the northern lands....
UT Narn I Hîn Húrin

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Soon after a deadly plague came with dark winds out of the East. The King and all his chidren died, and great numbers of the people of Gondor....for weariness and fewness of men the watch on the borders of Mordor ceased...Later it was noted that these things happened even as the Shador grew deep in Greenwood, and many evil things reappeared, signs of the arising of Sauron. It is true that the enemies of Gondor also suffered, or they might have overwhelmed it in its weakness; but Sauron could wait, and it may well be that the opening of Mordor was what he chiefly desired.
ROTK Appendix A

Two epidemics of deadly disease, each apparently deliberately introduced.
The first, Morgoth's seems to mainly have been a terror weapon intended to weaken the will of the Men of Dor-lómin prior to the Nirnaeth, as it had an especially terrible effect on their children.
Sauron's use of the plague was more tactical: he wanted to re-occupy Mordor, and could not do so while it was constantly guarded by Gondor.

Here's the issue: the use of plagues could have brought great mortality to Sauron's foes in the years leading up to the War of the Ring, or during the War itself. Certainly his own armies would likely be affected, but still: it seems to me the sacrifice might have been worth it.
Why didn't Sauron attempt to set another plague on the West after his return to Mordor?
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Old 08-04-2009, 08:49 PM   #2
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Why didn't Sauron attempt to set another plague on the West after his return to Mordor?
Good question. It may have been simply ROI - return on investment. We don't know what it took for Sauron to cook these things up. He may have thought that, with the poisoning of Denethor's mind and the alliance with Saruman the traitor that there was no need to send another plague. He may also have been 'employing' more human types, and so his losses may have been greater than in the past. Think about the new creatures that didn't blanche at the sunlight.

And take it from me, you can only spend so much time in the lab.
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Old 08-05-2009, 08:31 AM   #3
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I think it's also possible that he didn't do it again because he had achieved one of the goals of sending out a plague: he had diminished the numbers of his foes to the point that the various groups were effectively isolated from one another. Such separation tends to keep people thinking more about themselves and less about others, so that when the time comes to band together against a common enemy, they don't want to, either because they've grown suspicious of outsiders, or because they feel that they barely have the numbers to defend themselves, and not enough to send help elsewhere. Had Gandalf not intervened in Rohan, that end would have been achieved.
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Old 08-05-2009, 09:18 AM   #4
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The other goal may have been to taint/dilute/counteract the Númenórean blood. Think of the plague as an anti-elven marriage. Instead of living hundreds of years, being healthy, going on strong until the very last, being far sighted, the plague brought us all down to where we are today.
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Old 08-05-2009, 10:05 AM   #5
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Another thing to consider: plagues are not specifically designed weapons. They target everyone. And that would possibly include the Ring Bearer. It it had been buried with the Bearer, the Ring could have been lost in a grave with a little quick lime or, if he fell far away from civilization, in some unknown clime, blanketed by leaves and earth and perhaps prey to carrion-seeking carnivores. Like the River, the earth would give the Ring a quiet bearth where none would find it. Until upheaval, of course. And that possibility may be a little too long term even for someone with eons of time at his disposal.
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Old 08-05-2009, 10:34 AM   #6
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Another thing to consider: plagues are not specifically designed weapons.
But they could be...

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It it had been buried with the Bearer, the Ring could have been lost in a grave with a little quick lime or, if he fell far away from civilization, in some unknown clime, blanketed by leaves and earth and perhaps prey to carrion-seeking carnivores. Like the River, the earth would give the Ring a quiet bearth where none would find it. Until upheaval, of course. And that possibility may be a little too long term even for someone with eons of time at his disposal.
Nice exegesis (for lack of a better word as my 'common tongue' thesaurus in my head in on the fritz). I think Sauron was getting tired of waiting - he'd spent more than a few years waiting up at his summer home - and so was looking for a more decisive end. As stated, he already had a plan for Rohan, and Minas Tirith was being neutralized, and so there wasn't that much more to do...

..except to pick out his victory wardrobe.
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Old 08-05-2009, 12:32 PM   #7
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Ring

Another point, a ruler (dictator or no) needs subjects to govern
and to improve his realms. Kill too many and who's he got to
boss around? And given Sauron's ego, how could he not smugly
have already assumed he'd win Middle-earth?
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Old 08-05-2009, 01:43 PM   #8
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Hi all,

Agree that Sauron had no particular need for a plague during the War of the Ring. Although maybe he could have engineered it to infect humans, not orcs, he probably outnumbered the West in human troops alone. Therefore it could have been counter-productive to unleash such a thing, as chem/bio-warfare tends to be unpredictable to say the least.

As has been mentioned, his 17th century plague might have been a smart move - he had no great strength of numbers, the West would lose heavily, and presumably orcs would re-populate faster.

One possible biological warfare technique was the catapulting of the severed heads into Minas Tirith, that could have spread disease, contaminated water etc, though it was likely more of a morale-degrading measure. Another was the 'poisoning' of orc blades, could be a chemical poison, or contamination with, er... infectious or toxic biological materials of various unpleasant natures!

I've had a theory that the 'broils and smokes from the East' that periodically affected Gondor might have contained endocrine-disruptive chemicals that might reduce fertility, as we know Minas Tirith only had half the population that it could hold. If so, was Sauron's biological warfare rather more subtle than it seems? Its really unusual for a medieval-style city to lose population unless there's a high mortality from disease (common enough in history but MT seems a fairly healthy place), lack of food, or very high losses in warfare/political disorder.
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Old 08-05-2009, 08:01 PM   #9
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But they could be...
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we know Minas Tirith only had half the population that it could hold.
I see a thread in the future. It is called, "A Plague of Plasmids: viral reproduction in Middle earth, or, Orcs and Oxytocin: Do they mix?"
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:45 PM   #10
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Agree that Sauron had no particular need for a plague during the War of the Ring. Although maybe he could have engineered it to infect humans, not orcs, he probably outnumbered the West in human troops alone. Therefore it could have been counter-productive to unleash such a thing, as chem/bio-warfare tends to be unpredictable to say the least.
Exactly. And, unlike in Peter Jackson's Middle Earth, Sauron et al weren't trying to rid the place of humans.

Quote:
As has been mentioned, his 17th century plague might have been a smart move - he had no great strength of numbers, the West would lose heavily, and presumably orcs would re-populate faster.
Was Manwe asleep at the switch? A wind from the West could have changed the effect of this plague.

Quote:
One possible biological warfare technique was the catapulting of the severed heads into Minas Tirith, that could have spread disease, contaminated water etc, though it was likely more of a morale-degrading measure. Another was the 'poisoning' of orc blades, could be a chemical poison, or contamination with, er... infectious or toxic biological materials of various unpleasant natures!
Yep. Like lembas and elven rope to the other side.

Quote:
I've had a theory that the 'broils and smokes from the East' that periodically affected Gondor might have contained endocrine-disruptive chemicals that might reduce fertility, as we know Minas Tirith only had half the population that it could hold. If so, was Sauron's biological warfare rather more subtle than it seems? Its really unusual for a medieval-style city to lose population unless there's a high mortality from disease (common enough in history but MT seems a fairly healthy place), lack of food, or very high losses in warfare/political disorder.
Excellent observation! How better to easily get what you want than by letting - helping! - the current inhabitants simply die off?
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:41 PM   #11
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As has been mentioned, his 17th century plague might have been a smart move - he had no great strength of numbers, the West would lose heavily, and presumably orcs would re-populate faster.
*If* the Orcs had their origins as ruined Avari, would they not be immune to any plague or sickness , as the Firstborn were?
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Old 08-07-2009, 08:50 AM   #12
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I think what also is important here is the fact that he simply did not need a plague during the WotR.

This is an easy explanation for many things that Sauron could have well used and did not - he was so confident and arrogant that he needed not bother come up with complicated plans, he knew that eventually he would defeat the West. Of course that turned out to be a mistake in the end...
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Old 08-07-2009, 08:56 AM   #13
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I also think that Sauron wanted a 'clean' victory. I see him not as a rogue, bent on burning the whole place down, but as an evil but brilliant tactician and strategist. Instead of sending over yet another plague (the first already did its work well enough), he went for more conventional means to subdue his conquests. Sauron also used psychic biowarfare in the cowl of the Nine.

This more clean warfare would leave more whole survivors, which, methinks, he may have had other plans for.
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Old 08-07-2009, 09:35 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun
*If* the Orcs had their origins as ruined Avari, would they not be immune to any plague or sickness , as the Firstborn were?
It depends on how fallen, exactly, the orcs ended up being. I can see the First Age orcs being incredibly better than the Third Agers, simply because the elven side of them was a lot stronger then. And over time, the elven blood most likely was weakened and diluted, so I can see the orcs being just as vulnerable to disease as humans. Not the same diseases, given the orcs' choice of habitations, but still illnesses.
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Old 08-07-2009, 11:25 AM   #15
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I reckon Morgoth didn't send out constant plagues because he had already spent too much of his power on orcses and dragons. He would have if he could as he was a nihilist who wanted everything and everyone dead.

Sauron might have had a similar lack of power but also he was content with creatures living as long as they were his slaves to do his bidding.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:29 AM   #16
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I agree with much of what has been said here, particularly on the fact that Sauron had no desire of being king over an empty desert. After all, even Mordor had arable lands!

But I think there's one more thing to consider: Plagues don't hold territories. Yes, they can weaken your foe and make it easier for you to conquer them, but at some point you have to get out and conquer them. So I would say that, as has been said before, Sauron felt the time was ripe for conequest and so a plague was not what he needed, he needed armies for control and occupation.

Furthermore, we don't really know how plagues were spread. It seems that the writers of the annals where such information was collected to make the appendixes of LoTR (after all, it's not Tolkien who speaks to us as a narrator) attributed the plagues to "ill winds" but then their societies probably knew nothing about disease vectors and microorganisms.

Is it possible that these plagues sperad by conventional methods? which include human-to-human (elf-to human?) contact, vector organisms like mosquitoes, aerosols and the like

Perhaps to spread a plague Sauron first had to infect a significant amount of individuals and send them to coexist with his targets. Then he created a "foul wind" which probably encouraged people to stay inside... and voila! Good situation for a rapid spread of a virulent and contagious disease! However, during times of high military tension, peoples would tend to be more xenophobic (See Rohan) and thus the disease would not have been easily introduced to their target lands!

Therefore (and finishing up a long, rambling post) Sauron's need for armed conquest of territories decreased his ability to spread disease among his enemies so that he would have reaped little or no benefit from trying.

Or perhaps, he did try and, for the reasons explained before, failed and thus we never found out!
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Old 01-04-2016, 03:05 PM   #17
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I thought I would revive this old thread, because it still fascinates me.

Any thoughts as to the nature of these plagues? Illness caused by micro-organisms isn't exactly a known thing in Tolkien's Arda. How did Morgoth, and later Suaron, manage their bio-terror acts? Could the "plagues" have had a chemical origin, instead of one founded in biology? After all, we see the land around Angband and Mordor rendered sterile and void of vegetation. The Brown Lands were subjected to some sort of assault that made them utterly unusable for anything.

Gas warfare, perhaps?
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Old 01-04-2016, 05:12 PM   #18
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I thought I would revive this old thread, because it still fascinates me.

Any thoughts as to the nature of these plagues? Illness caused by micro-organisms isn't exactly a known thing in Tolkien's Arda. How did Morgoth, and later Suaron, manage their bio-terror acts? Could the "plagues" have had a chemical origin, instead of one founded in biology? After all, we see the land around Angband and Mordor rendered sterile and void of vegetation. The Brown Lands were subjected to some sort of assault that made them utterly unusable for anything.

Gas warfare, perhaps?
Plagues were once considered magic or "God's Wrath". The mind of pre-Enlightenment man would consider plague spreading by the air (often in conjunction with earthquakes or volcanoes), by sight, or by touch, but knew nothing of the actual method of transmission.

But Medieval men knew enough about plague to catapult infected bodies into walled towns under siege (and thus force a surrender), just as later Europeans knew well enough what would happen if they gave blankets infected with small-pox to Native Americans. Sauron or Morgoth, although not microbiologists or epidemiologists would have, being immortal and all, seen countless iterations of disease over many centuries, and would discover an effective method of transmission -- whether that be along trade routes (infected clothing, fabric, blankets), or merely through warfare, which was always an effective means of transmitting disease (hence syphilis was called the 'French Disease' in Italy, the French referred to it as the 'Neapolitan Disease', the Persians called it the 'Turkish Disease', and the Indians called it the 'Portuguese Disease' -- only the Spanish didn't blame another country ).

So, although Tolkien inferred the pestilence was airborne from the enemy, I'd prefer to consider that plague wasn't Dark Lord conjured, but Dark Lord administered.

P.S. Mordor and its environs were filthy by all accounts, and bad sanitary conditions were (and still are) the primary source of plagues and pandemics. So, Mordor could well have been a wonderful incubator for any number of infectious diseases.
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Old 01-04-2016, 05:27 PM   #19
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Any thoughts as to the nature of these plagues? Illness caused by micro-organisms isn't exactly a known thing in Tolkien's Arda. How did Morgoth, and later Suaron, manage their bio-terror acts? Could the "plagues" have had a chemical origin, instead of one founded in biology? After all, we see the land around Angband and Mordor rendered sterile and void of vegetation. The Brown Lands were subjected to some sort of assault that made them utterly unusable for anything.
The image of the "dark winds out of the East" has interested me for some time. This suggests, unless it is meant to convey a primitive understanding of disease, that it was spread atmospherically rather than by people or animals. It caused me to think of radioactive fallout which would spread through the atmosphere after a large nuclear detonation. A chemical poison seems quite possible, but it would have to be extremely potent to be effective when mixed with the atmosphere at large.
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Old 01-04-2016, 08:00 PM   #20
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Fascinating thread indeed. Lead me to delve into the depths of Wikipedia for information of all sorts of outbreaks and plagues in real world history, even though I should be doing readings (but the bubonic plague is so much more interesting!).

For myself, I try to keep my science in my textbooks, well away from my Tolkien. So when he says that the plague was brought by an evil wind, I take the point of view of medieval (and not so medieval) society and trust that the pestilence was caused by the air brought from Angband and Mordor. I did not think that these plagues were truly intentional, or at any rate not really planned out to the degree assigned in this thread, but rather as a sort of pathetic fallacy, with the weather itself exploding with the evildoers' malice on occasion. I am perfectly content with that, and I think that supernatural beings like Morgoth and Sauron deserve to retain a touch of the supernatural. If magic refers also to the deceits of the Enemy, surely such a thing as a plague can also be his magic!

But from the ideas above, I am a fan of Zigur's radioactive fallout theory. I've pictured both plagues to resemble more some lung disease - tuberculosis perhaps - but your theory really does fit the mode of transmission better. If we delve into the practicalities of the plague, though, there might be some problems. Firstly, radiation only causes severe immediate damage in high doses. Something that's carried this way and that by the atmosphere would probably be too dilute by the time it gets to Gondor to have such a result. It is more likely to act as a carcinogen and possibly teratogen. The issue with that is that it's unlikely to then be called a plague, as such, and especially unlikely to be associated with the evil wind, because cancer takes a while to develop and life expectancy may vary widely among individuals. The teratogen aspect is less likely but more fascinating, I think. But even so, Gondor's parents wouldn't discover the effects until long after the wind has passed, and I think they would have called it a curse rather than a plague. Furthermore, the danger with any biological weapon is infecting your own population. Microbes can be controlled, though, and your own population could be immune or otherwise protected from the pathogen. But as far as I know you can't protect the general population from radiation exposure, and it would have killed as many of Sauron's forces as it did of Gondor's. Sure, the wind blew Westward for a time, bringing the plague to them, but it couldn't have persisted to blow in that direction for long enough for all the radioactivity to be blown away into Gondor. Even so, it's an interesting and novel idea.

A general point to add about plagues - they are most effective in crowds. Once you decrease the population significantly enough, it seems that a natural quarantine would occur due to increased isolation, and the spread of the disease would slow. If Sauron would not be able to wipe out Gondor's population completely with a plague, and even if he just wanted to dominate it rather than destroy it, he would not be able to weaken them enough morally that their submission would be realistic. He would still have to go to war.

Why not send another plague before the War of the Ring? Perhaps because Sauron didn't intentionally send the first one either. Perhaps because he lacks the power. Perhaps an external consideration like his scheming in other countries. At the end of the day, he may just have been a wise fool - if he was fool enough to send his armies abroad rather than making them cover every inch of his borders and put guards at Mount Doom, he may not have had the wisdom or foresight to send another plague. Or he didn't anticipate the events to develop so quickly, and by the time he got them running it was too late to send a plague - he would want it to run its course and kill as many people as possible, and preferably die out too before he attacks, since no one wants to contact men known to be infected with highly contagious diseases, even in battle.
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Old 01-04-2016, 09:47 PM   #21
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I should have specified that I didn't actually mean radiation, just a poison which might spread through the atmosphere in a comparable way.

Concerning Sauron not using a plague again later, it seems to me that it could be argued that the reason he didn't may have been because he had already done so; his long term plan extended over thousands of years and the plague "stage" of it might be seen as a component which had its specific time and place of execution. Now swift and decisive military force was in order.
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Old 01-05-2016, 09:23 AM   #22
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I should have specified that I didn't actually mean radiation, just a poison which might spread through the atmosphere in a comparable way.
Oh, ok, I see. Makes sense. But you would still face the problem of the poison spreading to your own people. Supply them all with antidotes? Or have so many that Sauron just doesn't care to lose a few?
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Old 01-05-2016, 09:52 AM   #23
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Oh, ok, I see. Makes sense. But you would still face the problem of the poison spreading to your own people. Supply them all with antidotes? Or have so many that Sauron just doesn't care to lose a few?
Yes it isn't that convincing unless he just kept it away from his own people somehow (but that would be a very steady weather pattern). I like your suggestions about the pathetic fallacy as well as what has been said by Morth (and myself ) about medieval and ancient understandings of how disease worked.

Perhaps it was simply a disease which arose in Rhûn (where would Sauron have been in the Third Age without Rhûn to hide him and provide him with regular waves of Gondor-attackers?) and which Sauron encouraged to spread West, and perhaps the "dark wind" was a bit of weather he stirred up to increase a sense of doom and despair to motivate people to lose hope.

Or perhaps it was a spiritual malady like the Black Breath, far vaster in scale but not automatically deadly untreated as the Breath would be. What I mean is it seems some survived the Plague or did not become ill, while it appears that if one was afflicted with the Black Breath it seems that death was certain unless Aragorn turned up with athelas in hand.
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Old 01-05-2016, 06:46 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Morthoron
Plagues were once considered magic or "God's Wrath".[...]
Maybe that's what "happend" in this case as well. I think there's the possibility that those plagues might have been natural phenomena that were wrongly associated with Morgoth/Sauron by the people of the West. All we get is their (reasonably biased) point of view which turned into lore and, at some point, was written down by gondorian scribes as history.¹ It's entirely reasonable to suspect that, due to the existing threat and dire circumstances, all sorts of disastrous events were mystified and (re)interpreted as of evil and unnatural origin.

There's, of course, no way of proving that this might be the case, but I think that this thought is interesting nonetheless.

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1: You can find a way more detailed description of this process in the Note on the Shire records in the prologue of the Lord of the Rings. This text explains how the appendices became part of the recorded history.

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Old 01-05-2016, 07:46 PM   #25
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Maybe that's what "happend" in this case as well. I think there's the possibility that those plagues might have been natural phenomena that were wrongly associated with Morgoth/Sauron by the people of the West. All we get is their (reasonably biased) point of view which turned into lore and, at some point, was written down by gondorian scribes as history. It's entirely reasonable to suspect that, due to the existing threat and dire circumstances, all sorts of disastrous events were mystified and (re)interpreted as of evil and unnatural origin.

There's, of course, no way of proving that this might be the case, but I think that this thought is interesting nonetheless.
Yes definitely an interesting way of looking at it. While Morgoth is the most overtly "Satanic" character, in Letter 175 Professor Tolkien refers to Sauron (indirectly) as "the Devil" and it seems quite possible to imagine him quite naturally being blamed for all sorts of misfortunes throughout the Third Age which would be seen as the Middle-earth equivalent of the Devil's work (although given that all evil derives from Morgoth, I suppose Morgoth is the one who's ultimately to blame.)

It's also noteworthy that as we know, in Gondor Sauron was referred to as "Nameless" and one "who we do not name". The latter in particular seems to suggest a degree of superstition, does it not? But I'm unsure if this is because the name is seen as unlucky or if it's because Sauron was regarded in the culture of Gondor to be an abomination unworthy of even the recognition of a name. It's worth noting that Denethor regarded Sauron as "another potentate" like himself (Letter 183) which, if that was consistent with the views of other Men of Gondor, suggests a more political motive of disparagement: that Mordor was the "Nameless Land" because in their view it was not a legitimate nation and Sauron was "Nameless" because he was not a legitimate person (if that makes sense).

So the question might be: were the Men of Gondor superstitious? Would they see a natural plague as a deliberately instrumented weapon of the Enemy?
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Old 01-05-2016, 09:31 PM   #26
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The mind of pre-Enlightenment man would consider plague spreading by the air (often in conjunction with earthquakes or volcanoes), by sight, or by touch, but knew nothing of the actual method of transmission.
Why "pre-Enlightenment"? The alleged "Enlightenment"* had nothing to do with it; microbial pathogens weren't discovered until the Victorian age.

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Europeans knew well enough what would happen if they gave blankets infected with small-pox to Native Americans.
Actually, they didn't; because what they thought they "knew" was that the Indians would become infected, and in that they were quite mistaken. Rather like Columbus and the Flat Earth this myth is impossible to kill; the story of widespread Evil Whites causing mass epidemics with their smallpox blankets grew out of a single, and entirely unsuccessful, incident, an attempt by Lord Amherst at the siege of Ft Duquesne in 1758. (The smallpox virus cannot survive outside a living host and thus cannot be transmitted via inanimate vectors)


------------------------
*I say "alleged 'Enlightenment'" because Voltaire and his fellow salon wankers contributed in real terms very little to human advancement; the Bloomsbury circle or Warhol Factory of 18th-century France. The REAL Enlightenment, the one in which the modern world was created, occurred in the 17th century and was led by men like Newton, Descartes, Leibniz and Locke.
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Old 01-05-2016, 10:51 PM   #27
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Actually, they didn't; because what they thought they "knew" was that the Indians would become infected, and in that they were quite mistaken. Rather like Columbus and the Flat Earth this myth is impossible to kill; the story of widespread Evil Whites causing mass epidemics with their smallpox blankets grew out of a single, and entirely unsuccessful, incident, an attempt by Lord Amherst at the siege of Ft Duquesne in 1758. (The smallpox virus cannot survive outside a living host and thus cannot be transmitted via inanimate vectors)
Thank you. I, too, get tired of hearing this time-worn fallacy.
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Old 01-06-2016, 05:50 PM   #28
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Why "pre-Enlightenment"? The alleged "Enlightenment"* had nothing to do with it; microbial pathogens weren't discovered until the Victorian age.
On the contrary, Lady Montagu Wortley observed inoculations for smallpox being conducted in the Ottoman Empire (the East always being way ahead of the West at the time), and pushed for the same program when returning home to England in 1718. Cotton Mather conducted smallpox inoculations in Boston in 1721. In 1796, Dr. Edward Jenner discovered immunity to smallpox could be produced by inoculation of patients with the cowpox virus.
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Old 01-06-2016, 06:46 PM   #29
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Inoculation is not the same - remotely - as the germ theory of disease. It was practical, cause-and effect medical treatment, like the use of willow bark and quinine - and answered no questions as to how diseases are transmitted. Germs would have to wait for Louis Pasteur.

(It's worth pointing out that Lady Worley and Mather were working during the first quarter of the 18th century, still the era of the Genuine Enlightenment).

--------------------

I would also dispute "the East always being way ahead of the West at the time"
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Old 01-06-2016, 07:35 PM   #30
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Inoculation is not the same - remotely - as the germ theory of disease. It was practical, cause-and effect medical treatment, like the use of willow bark and quinine - and answered no questions as to how diseases are transmitted. Germs would have to wait for Louis Pasteur.

(It's worth pointing out that Lady Worley and Mather were working during the first quarter of the 18th century, still the era of the Genuine Enlightenment).
Certainly microbial pathogens were not "discovered" until the Victorian Age, but they did not discover these in a vacuum. The previous work of van Leeuwenhoek (commonly known as the "Father of Microbiology", who first reported characteristics of bacteria), Robert Hooke, and Spallanzani (who proposed that microbes move through the air and that they could be killed through boiling) were all men of the 18th century.

The "Genuine Enlightenment" has been a period that historians have marked as ending in 1789 (the French Revolution) and even 1804 (the Napoleonic Wars), what is your personal preference? Because I have yet to see any dates cast in stone.

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I would also dispute "the East always being way ahead of the West at the time"
As far as the use of inoculations (variolations), China is said to have practiced it since the 10th century, and, certainly from a scientific standpoint, I would say the Chinese and the Muslims were far ahead of the West prior to the Enlightenment, or at least the late Renaissance. I don't even think the point is debatable.

But I was trying to make a general point, not bicker about arbitrary dates of epochs that historians do not necessarily agree upon, and whether or not the "smallpox blankets" were effective is besides the point. The effort was made, at least twice; thus, an idea, however misconstrued, of biological warfare.

And the actual use of biological war dates back at the very least to the Black Death (most likely much earlier, but my study has been the Late Middle Ages), when Gabriele de' Mussi reported (a very detailed account much prized by Medievalists for its thoroughness) the Tartars had catapulted plague victims into the besieged town of Caffa in 1346:

“The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense."

They, of course, didn't know the nature of the disease, but knew what the effect could be, in much the same way as English longbowmen of the 13th and 14th century never drew arrows from a quiver, but rather stuck the arrows in the ground in front of them during battle. This served two purposes: 1) they could nock their arrows faster, and 2) the dirt on the arrow heads would make wounds much more likely to fester.
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Old 01-06-2016, 09:48 PM   #31
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Um, Hooke (1635-1703) and van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) were men of the 17th century, not the 18th.

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certainly from a scientific standpoint, I would say the Chinese and the Muslims were far ahead of the West prior to the Enlightenment, or at least the late Renaissance. I don't even think the point is debatable.
It seems to be very fashionable these days in a sort of postcolonial self-deprecation to portray the "barbarous West" relative to the glories of the Islamic world as if at the time of the First Crusade. But the fact is, Islamic intellectual progression in almost all fields had been stagnant since the 13th Century while Europe leaped ahead-... yes, even during the High Middle Ages ("Renaissance" is a term which has meaning in art history, but in little else).

As for dating the Enlightenment? I would say for a round number the nine decades from 1637, the publication of Descartes' Theory of Geometry and Discourse on Method, to 1727, the death of Newton. Although there were still ripples in the 18th-century pond, no real waves appeared until the Scottish Renaissance at the end of the century. One might push back as far as 1609 (Kepler), since he advanced a mathematical astronomy (which also, happily, was essentially correct for the first time).
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Old 01-07-2016, 07:33 PM   #32
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It seems to be very fashionable these days in a sort of postcolonial self-deprecation to portray the "barbarous West" relative to the glories of the Islamic world as if at the time of the First Crusade. But the fact is, Islamic intellectual progression in almost all fields had been stagnant since the 13th Century while Europe leaped ahead-... yes, even during the High Middle Ages ("Renaissance" is a term which has meaning in art history, but in little else).
I would suggest there was very little "leaping" in regards to intellectual progression in the West in the 13th or 14th century. Any leaping that was done was to escape being bludgeoned by mercenary armies, leaping from buildings infected by plague, or leaping from fiefs owned by various lords and abbots and running to hide in the relative freedom of the nearest city. Intellectually, academia was stratified in the rigid confines of monasteries and the monks' adherence to scholasticism. In literature and humanism, you had Dante, Chaucer, Petrarch, Froissart and Boccaccio (with Christine di Pisan the lone outlier of female writing) in a two-hundred year time span.

When you state "'Renaissance' is a term which has meaning in art history, but in little else", I would definitely disagree. The Renaissance was not merely a few Italian artists painting some portraits and sculpting a bust or two, which would certainly be a wretchedly naive outlook on the period, but rather a humanist and secular intellectual explosion.

With the printing presses of Gutenberg, Caxton and Aldus Manutius established in the mid-to-late 15th century, and, in addition, the influx of Greek scholars fleeing to Italy because of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, I would say the intellectual ferment was just as grand as the artistic masterpieces of the era; in fact, the arts of the time were fed by the same thirst for antiquities that fueled humanism and science: Humanists Lorenzo Valla, Pico Mirandola, Machiavelli, Erasmus, Thomas More, Rabelais and Montaigne; the birth of capitalism under the Medici and Fuggers; the sciences with Nicholas of Cusa, Da Vinci (he painted okay too), Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, and later, Brahe, Kepler and Galileo; the architecture of Brunelleschi, Palladio, Bramante -- not to mention the explorations of Magellan, Columbus, Vespucci. It was a time of far more than just art.

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As for dating the Enlightenment? I would say for a round number the nine decades from 1637, the publication of Descartes' Theory of Geometry and Discourse on Method, to 1727, the death of Newton. Although there were still ripples in the 18th-century pond, no real waves appeared until the Scottish Renaissance at the end of the century. One might push back as far as 1609 (Kepler), since he advanced a mathematical astronomy (which also, happily, was essentially correct for the first time).
French historians usually place the Enlightenment between the death of Louis XIV (1715) and the French Revolution. Others go all the way back to the publishing of Copernicus' work, and still others want to include the remarkable Americans like Franklin and Jefferson and their Constitution. Whatever, it is arbitrary and subjective.

P.S. In any case, I apologize for going so far afield and dealing in such extraneous debate, and returning to Sauron, I still feel he or Morgoth didn't invent the plague; they were either agents for spreading it, or took an evil delight in taking credit for it. Particularly since Tolkien inferred that Sauron, at least, could not control it from decimating his own minions.
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:24 PM   #33
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Any leaping that was done was to escape being bludgeoned by mercenary armies, leaping from buildings infected by plague, or leaping from fiefs owned by various lords and abbots and running to hide in the relative freedom of the nearest city. Intellectually, academia was stratified in the rigid confines of monasteries and the monks' adherence to scholasticism.
Oh, dear. Yes, that's the cliched version available from a pop-culture vendor near you. Actually, the degree of serfdom, war, plague, famine and instability was no worse and at times rather better than in the tumultuous 16th century, an age of chaos and incessant wars punctuated by pestilence, tyranny and starvation. Compared to the filth and squalor of Elizabethan London, Edward I's London was a clean (if smaller) place with functioning sewers and well-frequented public baths.

Never mind that scholasticism was hardly an unfruitful or straitjacketed endeavor, and it's something akin to Lewis' "chronological snobbery" to deny the intellect of men like Aquinas, Bonaventure and Scotus; the era 1100-1400 also saw Gothic architecture, the windmill, the mouldboard plow, the horse-collar, glass windows, Francis Bacon, the chimney, the hammer-mill, liquor, the astrolabe, the blast furnace, Peter Abelard, the wheelbarrow, the university, Albertus Magnus, trade guilds, crop rotation, eyeglasses, Giotto, the artesian well, the navigational quadrant and carrack that made Columbus & co possible, polyphonic harmony, the mechanical clock, lager beer and Parliament arise in Europe. Oh, and Protestantism too if one counts Wycliffe and Hus (not to mention Francis, Dominic and a whole new version of Catholicism, sadly squelched by the Avignon popes).

In other words, not at all stagnant, and hardly the Monty Python "plague village."

I think it's rather a hidden premise to take the position that intellectual life only counts if it's "humanist;" I would say rather that it became the fashion for authors and poets, like artists and architects, to emulate Classical models. Not unrelated, however, is the fact that the late 15th to early 17th century was also notable as an age of handwaving mystical woo-woo from alchemy to numerology to astrology, and, of course, witch-hunts (not really a medieval phenomenon). You see, the rigorous logic of the scholastic age made it far more an "age of reason" than the anything goes, wildly undisciplined Renaissance.

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French historians usually place the Enlightenment between the death of Louis XIV (1715) and the French Revolution.
Well they would, wouldn't they?

Frankly,* the French contributed little between Descartes, Pascal and Fermat (all dead by 1715) and Lavoisier (executed in the Terror). Voltaire was merely the Oscar Wilde of rococo Paris, and Rousseau a charlatan whose influence has been wholly pernicious. "Reason" was just a buzzword, a fad for the fashionable (and put firmly in its place at century's end by Hume and Kant).

----------------------

*Pun intended. Forgive me.
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Old 01-08-2016, 08:25 PM   #34
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Where did the Enlightenment/Renaissance debate come from? It doesn't seem that relevant to the subject, other than specific examples of war tactics, and bottom line, who cares what time period they were technically from, it's the specific examples that matter. Certainly the perception of the plagues in ME could have followed the general view of the spread of diseases before the role of microorganisms was established (and Enlightenment or not, there are still people today who refuse to do some treatments for unscientific, even superstitious reasons. Heck, I refuse to take pills for very unscientific reasons, and I pay my tuition to learn how they work, among other things). It's not what happened in each real-world history period that matters, or where the boundaries lie between periods. Middle-earth history draws ideas in part from real-world history, in part from real-world legends and myths, which makes these topics relevant, but shouldn't make them the subject matter of the discussion.

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P.S. In any case, I apologize for going so far afield and dealing in such extraneous debate, and returning to Sauron, I still feel he or Morgoth didn't invent the plague; they were either agents for spreading it, or took an evil delight in taking credit for it. Particularly since Tolkien inferred that Sauron, at least, could not control it from decimating his own minions.
Certainly. I do not think that Sauron or Morgoth purposefully (or accidentally, for that matter) created the plague. Perhaps I'm taking this too much like a Pandora's box, but it seems to me that once the perfection of the world was ruined, it was ruined with all the ruin known to man at once. It's just that you can't have all the bad stuff happening simultaneously, it happens bit by bit, and it can be controlled and directed. And we know from the horse's mouth that neither one could really create. However, I still believe that the plagues could have been a ripple of the Dark Lords' mood mirrored in nature. Either way, they were not a conscious creation, but just a use of something already present. I might only disagree with you on whether the use of conscious or not, but that's just a matter of personal preference.
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Old 01-08-2016, 08:58 PM   #35
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Oh, dear. Yes, that's the cliched version available from a pop-culture vendor near you. Actually, the degree of serfdom, war, plague, famine and instability was no worse and at times rather better than in the tumultuous 16th century, an age of chaos and incessant wars punctuated by pestilence, tyranny and starvation. Compared to the filth and squalor of Elizabethan London, Edward I's London was a clean (if smaller) place with functioning sewers and well-frequented public baths.
I will have to simply disagree with your assessment and forgo any flippant remarks, however necessary I would consider them; in fact, regarding the 14th century, I would say you haven't the slightest idea what you are talking about. The French historian Michelet commented, "No epoch was more naturally mad." Every credible historian I've ever read has described the century as an unmitigated disaster economically, physically and spiritually -- one of the worst centuries Europe has ever struggled through until the mass slaughters of WWI and WWII in the 20th century.

A Little Ice Age descended upon Europe in the 14th century (that was to last until circa 1700), driving out settlements in Greenland, Iceland and Northern Scandinavia, and reducing growing seasons throughout Europe. By 1315, rains had become so torrential that crops failures were the norm and famines commenced. Oh yes, and the Black Death, the single greatest pandemic, wiped out a quarter to a third of the population, with intermittent bouts of the plague recurring throughout the remaining decades of the century. In towns of the Holy Roman Empire, France and Spain the great Jewish pogroms commenced: 900 burned alive in Strasbourg, and in Cologne over 1000 butchered (many burned to death in a synagogue) as the most appalling examples.

The peasant uprisings and the brutal reprisals that followed in France (the Pastoureaux and the Jacquerie), in Italy (the Ciompi), in Flanders (several Weavers Revolts) and in England (Wat Tyler's Rebellion), were all part and parcel of the desperation of the underclass, criminally overtaxed and underpaid with wages legally kept at pre-Plague levels in England (I refer you to The Ordinance of Laborers in 1349 and Statute of Laborers 1351). The Hundred Years War commenced before the Black Death and outlasted the century, and in its train mercenary armies destroyed France and overran Italy. Assassinations, poisonings, ransoms and murder were career moves for criminal entrepreneurs.

The abandonment of Rome for Avignon and the resultant Papal Schism rent the fabric of Christianity and led to the eventual Reformation with profligate sales of indulgences and selling of benefices outraging reformers and Papal taxation angering the Lords. Even a future pope, Robert of Geneva (nicknamed 'the Butcher' by the Italians who hated him) massacred almost the whole city of Cesena (about 5000 people). And, of course, there was the destruction of the Templars, a new Turkish invasion of the Balkans, Hungary and the besieging of Constantinople (and the Turks under Caliph Bajazet in turn crushed by Tamerlane's Mongol-Turkic invasion). The Danse Macabre and gruesome memento mori festooned Europe by the time the 14th century ended - death ruled.

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Never mind that scholasticism was hardly an unfruitful or straitjacketed endeavor, and it's something akin to Lewis' "chronological snobbery" to deny the intellect of men like Aquinas, Bonaventure and Scotus; the era 1100-1400 also saw Gothic architecture, the windmill, the mouldboard plow, the horse-collar, glass windows, Francis Bacon, the chimney, the hammer-mill, liquor, the astrolabe, the blast furnace, Peter Abelard, the wheelbarrow, the university, Albertus Magnus, trade guilds, crop rotation, eyeglasses, Giotto, the artesian well, the navigational quadrant and carrack that made Columbus & co possible, polyphonic harmony, the mechanical clock, lager beer and Parliament arise in Europe. Oh, and Protestantism too if one counts Wycliffe and Hus (not to mention Francis, Dominic and a whole new version of Catholicism, sadly squelched by the Avignon popes).
Francis Bacon? He died in the 17th century. Perhaps you mean Roger the alchemist?
The windmill, invented in China.
Moldboard plow, also a Chinese invention.
Horse Collar? Chinese.
Glass windows? A Roman invention, and most European windows in the 14th Century were made of flattened horn, not glass.
Hammer Mill? 4th Century China.
The astrolabe? The Greeks have the rights to inventing it, and Medieval Muslim astronomers perfected it. Next.
The wheelbarrow? 100 A.D. China.
Blast furnace? Yawn. Extant in China 100 A.D.
Crop rotation? Two field rotation was being used since 6000 BC in the Middle-east, three field rotation around the time of Charlemagne in Europe.
Artesian wells? Imported from China according to the sources I drilled into.
The mariner's quadrant? Rudimentary quadrants were introduced by the Greeks, and, again, improved by medieval Muslims.
Mechanical clocks? China, circa 723 A.D.
Chimneys? They've been around since Roman times. The first in England was in 1185.

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I think it's rather a hidden premise to take the position that intellectual life only counts if it's "humanist;" I would say rather that it became the fashion for authors and poets, like artists and architects, to emulate Classical models. Not unrelated, however, is the fact that the late 15th to early 17th century was also notable as an age of handwaving mystical woo-woo from alchemy to numerology to astrology, and, of course, witch-hunts (not really a medieval phenomenon). You see, the rigorous logic of the scholastic age made it far more an "age of reason" than the anything goes, wildly undisciplined Renaissance.
I would suggest that astrology was far more en vogue in 13th and 14th century. After all, Dante placed Bonati in Malbolge, the eighth circle of Hell, for practicing such divination, and Chaucer's work is littered with astrological references. Charles V of France wouldn't have a bowel movement without the stars aligning properly over his garderobe. Your dear portly Aquinas made a futile attempt to reconcile astrology and Christianity. But to be fair, Elizabeth I had a court astrologer and Brahe, Kepler and Galileo were all court astrologers. As a fad it lasted several centuries.
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Old 01-08-2016, 10:58 PM   #36
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Oh, yes, the 14th Century was calamitous, no question about it; but that's after the proto "renaissance" of the 13th-- and, really, the 16th was hardly better. Religious wars and schisms? Sectarian persecution? Mass invasions with attendant slaughters? Epidemics? Famines? The 1500s produced great art, but would have s*cked to live in.

But I find your particular responses interesting, to say the least.

Here goes:

The windmill, invented in China.
The Chinese by about 1300 or so had got from the Persians the panemone, a simple, ungeared vertical-axis windmill, of very limited power and utility The horizontal-axis rotating tower or post-mill, capable of pumping water and grinding grain in useful quantities, developed in the late 12th century in NW France and/or Flanders
Moldboard plow, also a Chinese invention.
Nope. The Chinese invented the iron ploughshare, but the turnplough arose in post-Roman or early Saxon Britain ca. 600
Horse Collar? Chinese.
While the Chinese had developed it by the sixth century, its development in Europe (first, it seems, in Scandinavia) was apparently independent, since it was unknown in the Middle East
Hammer Mill? 4th Century China.
Again, independently invented in medieval Europe
Blast furnace? Yawn. Extant in China 100 A.D.
A bloomery is not a blast furnace. Switzerland ca 1150-1200
Crop rotation? Two field rotation was being used since 6000 BC in the Middle-east, three field rotation around the time of Charlemagne in Europe.
Okay, so ca 800 is a little earlier than my period
Artesian wells? Imported from China according to the sources I drilled into.
Interesting how any technology of the sort might have been imported from China in the early 1100's, when they appeared in Artois (hence the name)
The mariner's quadrant? Rudimentary quadrants were introduced by the Greeks, and, again, improved by medieval Muslims.
A cross-staff is not even remotely a quadrant
Mechanical clocks? China, circa 723 A.D.
Hybrid water-clock with mechanical elements; the Chinese developed the escapement (sill powered by water) around 1100; Europe was little if any behind and using weights.
Chimneys? They've been around since Roman times. The first in England was in 1185.
Roman wall-tubes were not "chimneys;" northern Europe, probably England. 1185 is the date of the oldest surviving chimney, not the first.

------------

While there is no doubt that ca 1400 China was the most advanced civilization on the planet, that was about to change, in large part because of the Ming revolt. The Polos were lucky to visit when they did! Ming China became reactionary, inward looking, philosophically stagnant (no deviation from Confucianism was tolerated) while at the same time attaining even higher glories in art, architecture, textiles, ceramics and literature (and ever more elaborate etiquette). The tragic exemplar of this trend, which continued largely unabated for 600 years, was the senseless disbandment of the Great Fleet in 1424.

But the extent to which China directly influenced Europe during this period is rather more tenuous; after all there was no direct contact other than the Polos and a handful of missionaries (who rarely came back). Certain things like gunpowder and the trebuchet made their way along the Silk Road (or more likely army-to-army) to Byzantium, but nothing as mundane and non-violent as a plough or a well.

The Islamic world, in the meantime, was going nowhere. Its Abbasid glories were behind it as its own calamitous century saw the Mongol devastation and then the Black Death; what came out was either po-faced Asharist puritanism, or the perfumed, gilded and essentially ornamental sybarism of the Ottomans. From roughly 1300 onward Europe had a greater number of significant scholars than the Islamic world, a trend which would only accelerate with time.

------------------------
What I'm trying to get across in all this is that while the period 1430 or so onward saw a huge shift in style and technique in art, architecture and to a lesser extent poetry, European intellectual and technological development in other fields represented rather a continuous development from ca 1100 right through the Middle Ages; one can't really point to any huge acceleration of invention or revolution in thought in Medici Florence, but rather a continuing evolution which saw, e.g., the first masonry dome since the Romans parked atop a Gothic cathedral-- and that represented Brunelleschi at the 'dawn of the Renaissance' figuring out how to execute Neri's engineering concept from the 1360s.
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Old 01-09-2016, 06:04 AM   #37
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Where did the Enlightenment/Renaissance debate come from?
Yes, could some more be done to link this back to Professor Tolkien's work and the Great Plague of the Third Age? Given that much of Professor Tolkien's writing harks back to an early medieval and somewhat "unRomanised" Germanic culture (or at least an idealisation of it) it seems to me that that would be the era to focus on.
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However, I still believe that the plagues could have been a ripple of the Dark Lords' mood mirrored in nature. Either way, they were not a conscious creation, but just a use of something already present. I might only disagree with you on whether the use of conscious or not, but that's just a matter of personal preference.
This is a good point which could be compared to the scene in Book 4 of The Lord of the Rings in which the brooding of Sauron appears to influence the weather:
"The skirts of the storm were lifting, ragged and wet, and the main battle had passed to spread its great wings over the Emyn Muil; upon which the dark thought of Sauron brooded for a while. Thence it turned, smiting the Vale of Anduin with hail and lightning, and casting its shadow upon Minas Tirith with threat of war. Then, lowering in the mountains, and gathering its great spires, it rolled on slowly over Gondor and the skirts of Rohan, until far away the Riders on the plain saw its black towers moving behind the sun, as they rode into the West."
This also refers back to your "pathetic fallacy" concept very neatly
That being said I could imagine that while Sauron may not have been the originator of the plague, he may have, again, "encouraged" it to be transmitted westwards. There's something particularly horrifying about the image of an enemy who hated the Dúnedain so much that he encouraged mass migrations, diseases and so on in an effort to destroy them over three thousand years and more.
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Old 01-09-2016, 07:15 AM   #38
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There was also the pestilence which Morgoth sent into Hithlum, which killed Turin's sister Lalith among many others. Of course Morgoth was a Vala; but then, he too couldn't "create," only corrupt.
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Old 01-10-2016, 05:47 AM   #39
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So, while the original question posed in this thread was about Sauron's biological warfare strategy, the 2016 uh, renaissance* concerns the nature of "plague" in Middle-earth? Well, I'd say there isn't a single answer- as others have mentioned, these are presented as writings by people who would tend to see disease in terms of magic; l think it's ultimately up to the reader whether or not to look through the lens of modern science for the "real" version of events.





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Old 01-13-2016, 04:57 PM   #40
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how did the Dark Lords stop the pestilence annihilating the Orcs? when I read the stuff about plague in materials, I always hazarded that the plagues were not so much contrived, but a natural consequence of the lack of hygiene in Orc warrens.

I imagine that numbers of both friends and foes dropped significantly, although, the Dark Lords probably knew Orcs multiplied more quickly than Numenoreans.

We never heard if plague affected the Elves. I don't think it did.
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