Marching Under the Lash
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Categories: Ancient, Modern, Not an expert

Marching Under the Lash

I feel like I am not clever or wise enough to understand what Herodotus was doing, but every so often, he reminds me that he could tell a kind of truth which was different than truth about the exact size of the Persian army or what day two armies fought.


What is it that you say they relate, that the soldier’s is more pleasant than the scribe’s (profession)? Come, let me tell you the condition of the soldier, that much castigated one. He is brought while a child to be confined in the camp. A /searing\ beating is given his body, an open wound inflicted on his eyebrows. His head is split open with a wound. He is laid down and he is beaten like papyrus. He is struck with torments. Come, /let me relate\ to you his journey to Khor (Syria) and his marching upon the hills. His rations and his water are upon his shoulder like the load of an ass, while his neck has been made a backbone like that of an ass. The vertebrae of his back are broken, while he drinks of foul water. He stops work (only) to keep watch.

P. Anastasi IV, 9, 4–10, 1 in William Kelly Simpson (ed.), The Literature of Ancient Egypt. Third edition (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2003) p. 441


(7.55) This done, they crossed over, the foot and horse all by the bridge nearest to the Pontus, and the beasts of burden and the train of service by the bridge toward the Aegean. In the van came the ten thousand Persians, all wearing garlands, and after them the mixed host of divers nations. All that day these crossed, and on the next, first the horsemen and they that bore their spears reversed; these also wore garlands. After them came the sacred horses and the sacred chariot, then Xerxes himself not spearmen and the thousand horse, and after them the rest of the host. Meanwhile the ships put out and crossed to the opposite shore. But I have heard ere now, that the king crossed last of all.

(7.56) Having passed over to Europe, Xerxes viewed his army crossing under the lash; seven days and seven nights it was in crossing, with never a rest. …

(7.223) but now they met their enemies outside the narrows, and many of the foreigners were there slain; for their captains came behind the companies with scourges and drove all the men forward with lashes. Many of them were thrust into the sea and there drowned, and more by far were trodden down bodily by each other, none regarding who it was that perished

Herodotus, Histories, tr. A. D. Godley


According to (Andrei Kurochkin, the Deputy Chairman of the Union of the Committees of the Soldier’ Mothers of Russia), conscripts who were recently called into the army were sent to the border with Ukraine for the military exercise. They report to their parents that in their military tickets, the status of a conscript (who cannot be ordered to serve outside of Russia) changed to the status of a contract soldier (who can be ordered to serve outside Russia).

“Changing whole regiments into contract soldiers, although the guys have not filed any request for this, they did not show initiative. There are cases of using physical violence and beatings of those who refuse to become a contractor. Further unknown, since they are selected by them. We have a flurry of calls from frightened mothers from all over Russia. They cry, do not know if their children are alive, if their children are healthy. The problems associated with the provision of food have already moved to the tenth priority,” said Kurochkin.

The Committee of the Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia is preparing complaints to the main military prosecutor’s office, the public reception office and other departments demanding not to switch conscripts to the contract service.

“If a war is going on, then professionals should do it, and not the untrained ‘green’ guys. We have already experienced this on the example of Afghanistan and Chechnya. The fact that it is, besides, is forced, – a complete catastrophe,” Kurochkin signed. via Google translate; cited in The Daily Beast (USA) and (?)

There are many accusations that Russia is using child soldiers in Ukraine or conscripting boys as young as 15 and 16.

I don’t feel wise enough or clever enough to understand what Herodotus was doing, but a refugee had this to say in 1967:

When dealing with early Greek history, the modern historian must be less scholarly, because his sources do not yield to the modern scientific approach. The method recommended here is much like Herodotus’ own. A sympathetic understanding of living traditions is the only road only to our understanding of this particular period of Greek history. … It is in the area of methodology that we can learn more from Herodotus than from Hignett.

Henry R. Immerwahr, “Review: Charles Hignett, Xerxes’ Invasion of Greece (1963),” Gnomon, 39. Bd., H. 4 (July 1967) pp. 394, 395

Edit 2022-03-12: see also “‘I’m panicking — where is my child?’”,, 25 February 2022

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