Saturday, 20 July 2013

On the Beginning of Period

The ending point of the SCA's period is fairly easy to define, within a range of about fifty years (and on a strict reading, down to a range of three years). The beginning of period, however, is somewhat trickier to define to any accuracy.

The SCA governing documents define period as
"The era used by the Society as the base for its re-creation activities. The Society is based on the life and culture of the landed nobility of pre-17th Century Western Europe, focusing on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance."

Later on, in "A Brief Introduction to the Society for Creative Anachonism", it continues with this:
"For Society members, most of the world, and all of the centuries prior to the 17th, can serve as a source for personal research. However, the further you go from the core of Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the less the environment we offer will resemble what someone of your time and country would find natural or homelike. For example, you can be an Asian or African guest at a European court, but you cannot expect others to share your special interests - like any long-term visitor in a foreign land, you are the one who will have to adapt to the customs you find around you. Since members have free choice of what areas they will explore, it follows that Society branches cannot decide to specialize in a specific time and place, since that would make it hard for members there to pursue their own interests in other times and places."
From these, we can see that there is no hard "earliest" mark for period. However, in all of the definitions, there is a focus on medieval and renaissance Europe. For example, the Roman Republic or Empire is European, and clearly pre-17th century, but I would also argue that it is also not compatible with a medieval setting, as it was the Frankish and Gothic barbarians who overthrew Rome who have become the cultures of our period. Going even further, so little was known of the ancient Egyptian culture (until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799) that having one of them present in a medieval court would be confusingly obtrusive at best.

There are various numbers thrown about, from 600 (which gives a nice even thousand-year period), or similar arbitrary numbers.

While I cannot offer a definitive answer, I can definitively say that there is no definitive answer, nor is there likely to be one. For my own judgements, I place the mark at 476 AD, when Romulus Augustulus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed. This is one of the common markers of the start of the middle ages and end of the classical period.

Please, no bunny fur cave-man bikinis.

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