Traveling judges & wandering priests

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach world history. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


Jobs and social roles that lend themselves well to episodic storytelling show up a lot in fiction. There's a reason that noir is centered around private investigators, and that so many fantasy stories feature innkeepers and soldiers. There's a lot of opportunity to expose the character to new situations that lend themselves well to repeatable, serializable plotlines. In the interests of developing opportunities for this sort of thing in my fantasy universe, and expanding on the plotline of Stint, I did a little more digging into real-life travelers.

Quick Facts

Mendicant Men

Although it’s hard for a modern eye to differentiate much between different monastic orders, mendicants were considered distinct from other monks mostly because they literally begged for alms. The men, at least. Mendicant women were forbidden from living itinerant lifestyles, and lived the traditional monastic lifestyle of living in an institution and being supported by the ownership of property.

Sacking Rome

German scholars often refer to the migration of Germanic and Asiatic tribes such as the Goths, Huns and Franks toward Rome as the Völkerwanderung, meaning ‘The Wandering of the People’. The Vandals made it all the way to Spain before crossing the Straits of Gibraltar and finally settling in North Africa. In 455 CE they sailed back across the Mediterranean and sacked Rome itself. Their name has been adopted as a word for mindless vandalism, although they did very little damage to the city.

Wandering Author

George Orwell lived an itinerant lifestyle for a time in the late 1920s and 1930s when he was researching and writing Down and Out in Paris and London, an account of interwar homelessness, and The Road to Wigan Pier, a report on working conditions in poor industrial communities in the north of England following the Great Depression. He decided to publish Down and Out in Paris and London under the pen-name George Orwell to avoid embarrassing his family with his account of himself living as a homeless person. He once claimed a writer needs four things to be able to write: an ego, a sense of aestheticism, a historical impulse and a political purpose.

Modern Itinerants

There are still many nomadic or itinerant cultures today. The travelling community of Ireland are a small ethnic minority, though nobody knows for sure how they first came to be in Ireland. Others include the Bushmen of Africa, the Sami of Finland and the Gaadi of northern India. There is a growing movement for people to become digital nomads in the modern world: over fifteen million people in the United States alone are digital nomads.

📗 If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my previous newsletters about conveyances & wayfinding.

💚 If you learned something from this overview, consider forwarding it to a friend and encouraging them to sign up for more overviews of my research into obscure history and science.

💼 Do you have a favorite story about itinerant lifestyles? Please reach out — I'd love to hear about it, either via email or in a comment where other readers can see.


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