Friday, May 03, 2013

Furies (4)

Long sieges of cities were a common practice. These brought a terrible toll on civilian populations, as the soldiers always demanded the last of the food. In some cities, “useless mouths”, such as the elderly and handicapped were pushed outside the cities walls, where they would be killed by the be-sieging armies. Those who remained were forced to eat dogs, rats and dead birds. Leather and paper were ground up and made into soup. Thousands of people died of starvation and disease. People who lived outside the city were not much better off, as the land within fifty miles of the city would be cleared of all food to support the army enforcing the siege.

To sack a city, was not only to loot it, leaving behind a spoor of destruction, but also to murder at will, to violate women and to batter inhabitants until they revealed the whereabouts of their concealed valuables— money jewellery, plate, silks, and prized furnishings. Another source of rich plunder— often the most lucrative—was in ransom moneys squeezed from as many people as possible, particularly the rich and well-connected (Furies p.55).
The general practice was that a successful siege would be followed by the sack of the city, unless it was preceded by a negotiated surrender.

The allied powers imposed a siege on Germany during the First World War. This siege was continued on after the armistice had been agreed, doing huge harm to the civilian population, especially children.

The modern form of the siege is the sanctions imposed on many nations. These are used most actively by nations with a strong Christian influence, but they are not much better than a siege, because the worst effects are felt by the civilian population, and especially children. Worse still sanctions the hand of the hard line leaders are they are intended to weaken.

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