Month: February 2014

Three Ancient Traditions of Tactical Writing

A forthcoming conference has me thinking about writings on tactics in the ancient world. While the English word tactics indicate a clever way of fighting, the Greek adjective τάκτικη means “having been put into a formation for battle.” In other words, in the ancient world tactics were what we call organization and drill. Ancient and modern critics have complained that tactics in the Greek sense are insufficient education for a soldier, but experienced soldiers tended to recognize that they were necessary.
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Das Boot

A view along the Nydam ship towards the prow
A view along the Nydam ship towards the prow

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Schleswig. One of the pleasures of the trip was seeing the famous Nydam boat, a thirty-oared galley sunk in a lake around 400 CE. It had apparently been captured in war and was sunk as a sacrifice to the gods in a lake which received sacrifices for several centuries. A Greek would have called it a triakonter, although Germanic ships in the fourth century CE differed from Greek ones in the fifth century BCE in many details.

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Did the Greeks Wear Glued Linen Armour?

A recent scholarly book argues that ancient Greek soldiers wore body armour of many layers of linen glued together. This would be surprising, since most cultures with linen armour sewed it together, but some people are concerned that Greek images of this armour rarely show stitch marks.* The book briefly cites two 19th century articles as evidence that such glued linen armour has been found.** Many curious readers will not be able to follow up on these references, since the necessary journals are hard to obtain outside of a large reference library, and since the articles are in Italian and German. One perk of studying in Innsbruck is that I do have access to the necessary publications, and I can read German if not Italian. I therefore spent a few hours flipping through online databases and back issues of journals with gilded titles on the spines and „königlich und kaiserlich“ in the stamps on the title page. Because many interested people do not have access to these articles, I have decided to reproduce the key passages with an English summary.

The first article describes the contents of an Etruscan tomb at Tarquinia. (It was published as W. Helbig, “Oggetti Trovati nella Tomba Cornetana detta del Guerriero,” Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archaeologica 46 (1874) 249-266). The relevant passage seems to be as follows:

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A Comment to Diodorus

Τέννης δ’ ὁ τῆς Σιδῶνος βασιλεὺς προσελάβετο παρ’ Αἰγυπτίων στρατιώτας μισθοφόρους Ἕλληνας τετρακισχιλίους, ὧν ἦν στρατηγὸς Μέντωρ ὁ Ῥόδιος. μετὰ δὲ τούτων καὶ τῶν πολιτικῶν στρατιωτῶν τοῖς προειρημένοις σατράπαις συμβαλὼν ἐνίκησεν καὶ τοὺς πολεμίους ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τῆς Φοινίκης. And Tennes the king of Sidon got himself from amongst the Egyptians four thousand Greek mercenary soldiers,... Continue reading: A Comment to Diodorus

The Stone Throwers of Onomarchus

Classicists and Assyriologists spend a great deal of time and energy editing ancient texts, debating which version to use, and carefully noting which they have chosen. A debate about the use of catapults in fourth-century BCE Greece has reminded me why this matters.
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