Month: November 2015

The Thrust of an Argument

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Impression of a seal on clay: a warrior in a Median hood and a cuirass with a tall projection behind the neck with a piercing axe thrust into it pulls an enemy’s shield down and stabs overhand into his chest as the enemy brandishes a club. From Erich F. Schmidt with contributions by Sydney P. Noe et al., Frederick R. Matson, Lawrence J. Howell, and Louisa Bellinger, Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries. Oriental Institute Publications 69. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957 plate 9 seal 30.

Sometime in the sixteenth year of Xerxes great king (circa 468/7 BCE in our calendar), someone at Persepolis turned a tablet with Elamite writing on end and rolled his seal along it. A conversation with Josho Brouwers of Karwansaray BV recalled it to memory. Because this seems to show the style of body armour with a tall neck-guard and flaps over the shoulders which is often understood as distinctively Greek and said to have been invented about a hundred years before Xerxes based on its appearance in Greek vase paintings. But there is no hint of the Aegean in this scene, and this armour is missing the skirt of pteryges around the waist which usually appear in depictions of armour with this cut from the Aegean.

Showing where this style of armour was invented and how it spread and changed is more difficult than it sounds. It is true that the earliest evidence is painted pottery from mainland Greece in the early sixth or perhaps the late seventh century BCE. But in the sixth century BCE, it happens that we have much more evidence for arms and armour from the Aegean than from anywhere in the neighbourhood. The people there painted armoured men on their pots with durable glazes and carved them on stone, and they deposited large amounts of armour and weapons in graves and especially temples. So it is very dangerous to say that the Greeks invented an object just because it is first depicted in the Aegean, especially if that object is one which does not survive well in the ground. It is usually thought that the first armours with this cut were of cloth or felt or hide, and none of those materials survives 2500 years in the ground unless the conditions are just right. Although by the second century BCE armour with this cut was being worn all around the Mediterranean and made in every possible material, not a single fragment made from cloth or hide has been identified. So while this style of armour was probably invented somewhere in or near to the Aegean around the sixth century BCE, its hard to say for sure that it was invented by Greeks.

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Cross-Post: Conference on Experiencing Warfare in the Ancient World, Brock University, February 2016

CFP: EXPERIENCING WARFARE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD STUDENT CONFERENCE CLASSICS GRADUUATE PROGRAM ─ BROCK UNIVERSITY FEBRUARY 6, 2016 From Stephanie Culp The Classics Graduate Program at Brock University is pleased to announce an interdisciplinary conference exploring the experience of warfare in the ancient world. How were the ancients affected by warfare? What can the literature... Continue reading: Cross-Post: Conference on Experiencing Warfare in the Ancient World, Brock University, February 2016


A tomb relief depicting a man in a toga with six writing boards, Archaeologisches Museum, Schloss Eggenburg, Graz. Photo by Sean Manning, September 2015. A good long time ago, Julius Caesar faced the problem of how to boast about military achievements so great and so numerous that one war threatened to... Continue reading: VENI VIDI VICI

Keeping Just One Cloak

In 1837, the remaining Protestants living in the Zillerthal in eastern Tyrol were ordered to convert to Catholicism or leave. Mathias Schmid (d. 1923), “Vertreibung der Zillerthaler Protestanten im Jahr 1837/Letzer Blick in die Heimat,” 1877. In Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck; catalogue number Gem 3718. Photo by author, October 2015. Xenophon,... Continue reading: Keeping Just One Cloak