Important Assyriological Discovery!
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Categories: Ancient

Important Assyriological Discovery!

a carved ivory pommel with ruminant heads and a scabbard chape with a great cat pouncing on a ruminant
The ivory pommel and chape of an akinakes and scabbard in the Louvre. For more information see Bernard, Paul (1976) “À propos de bouterolles de forreaux achéménides,” Revue Archéologique pp. 227-246 or for our Russian friends Perevodčikova, E.V. (1983) “Subjects Depicted Upon the Bouterolles of Akinakes-Sheaths in the Achaemenid Period.” Vestnik Drevnej Istorii 3 (165) pp. 96-103

Between looking for work and finishing articles, I have been working on a book on Achaemenid warfare which bears a certain similarity to a 2018 Innsbruck PhD dissertation and should be released this year. In Austria you make the mechanical fixes and the changes in response to the committee’s comments after the thesis is accepted, not before (in Canada, you are normally given a list of changes by the committee, make them, and pass the revised version back to the committee for them to approve before you are granted the title).

I never converted to citation-management software, preferring a simple word processor file with bibliographic information and notes on everything I had read, wanted to read, or thought I might one day want to read. When I was assembling the different files into a dissertation, I stripped out the metadata and dumped the individual entries into the bibliography then sorted it alphabetically with Tools → Sort. So one problem I had is that some works in the footnotes were not in the bibliography, and some notes were in different formats than others. To sort this out I went through each chapter recording the works cited, then removed duplicates and standardized the format, then combined the eight separate lists into one and removed the duplicates again. I checked that list against the bibliography, making sure that everything in the footnotes was in the bibliography.

And that leads to the important question, out of the roughly 1,232 works in the final bibliography (77 pages x 16 citations per page), how many do I actually cite?

I cite about 742 750 770 modern books and articles, not counting personal communications and acknowledgements and translations of Greek and Latin sources. I cite 146 142 passages in more than a hundred Assyriological sources, 13 passages in nine biblical books, and 320 314 307 passages in about seventy classical texts ranging from the Iliad and Maurice’s Strategikon to Macedonian inscriptions (and lets not get started on the artwork, the artefacts, or the comparative evidence). As you can imagine, checking those references and making sure the citations to one text are all in the same format has kept me busy.

The reason why I read and cited so much modern writing is that many people say similar kinds of things about ancient Persian armies, and they rarely tell you where they come from (pro tip: the answer is usually “a book or article published in French or German between 1880 and 1960”). The standard works which people turn to are booklets for wargamers and articles in encyclopedias. So I spent a lot of time asking “that does not seem likely, but where did they get the idea? Who makes a case for that best, and who shot it down?” Without this, discussions will just keep going around in circles, as people bring up an old idea thinking it is new. For example, the idea that Artaxerxes told his troops to run away from the Greeks at Cunaxa appeared in the 1990s in two articles by C.T.H. Ehrhardt and Graham Wylie, but its famous because Robin Waterfield used it to explain the battle in 2006. I feel a lot more comfortable unloading a full academic broadside at the version in their articles than at some poor Osprey book or documentary by someone who didn’t get paid to spend five years thinking about the subject.

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