Have Gun, Will Travel:

We recently had a side conversation on Rome v. the Middle Ages, and whether our modern age is more like one or the other. I was reflecting on that through the lens of our 155mm self-propelled howitzer, the Paladin, which provides the deep defense of our bases and, in my case, identifies for my comrades an important piece of my equipment, without which my contribution to the war would be even smaller than it is.

But what is a Paladin, properly speaking? The word has an interesting history, before it became the standard of Dungeons and Dragons.

The term paladin was first used in Ancient Rome for a chamberlain of the Emperor, and also for the imperial palace guard, called the Scholae Palatinae by Constantine. In the early Middle Ages, the meaning changed and the term was used for one of the highest officials of the Catholic Church in the pope's service and also for one of the major noblemen of the Holy Roman Empire, who was then named Count Palatine. Similar titles were also used in 19th century Hungary and in the German Empire and United Kingdom during the early 20th century.

In medieval literature, the paladins or Twelve Peers were known in the Matter of France as the retainers of Charlemagne. Based on this usage, the term can also refer to an honorable knight, which has been used in contemporary fantasy literature.
One of the Medieval usages is interesting, because it pertains to the swearing of oaths.
From the Middle Ages on, the term palatine was applied to various different officials across Europe. The most important of these was the comes palatinus, the count palatine, who in Merovingian and Carolingian times (5th through 10th century) was an official of the sovereign's household, in particular of his court of law. The count palatine was the official representative at proceedings of the court such as oath takings or judicial sentences and was in charge of the records of those developments.
The other night I attended a re-enlistment ceremony at the Al Faw Palace. Hundreds of soldiers, assembled together under the heraldry of the Third Division, swore an oath of loyalty and common defense. Three Silver Stars and several Purple Hearts were awarded to some of these men, as were Bronze Stars. It was hard not to hear those oaths sworn in that setting, and not reflect on the belting of swords, in a castle carried by conquest.

This is the nature of echoes: you hear the sound, and its echo, and the echo of the echo, each of the latter distorted slightly by whatever surface it struck. We live as if in a canyon, where the sounds of old return again and again until the whole world seems to tremble.

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