Getting Started
Written by

Getting Started

If someone is just starting out studying archaic warfare, they should go read Josho Brouwers’ Henchmen of Ares, Hans van Wees’ Myths and Realities, the Iliad and Xenophon’s Anabasis. But if you are on a site like this you know all those books and want something with information specifically on the things they carried and how they lived in the field.

For the shameless Ionian pirates and rebels, there are books like:

  • Casson, Lionel. Travel in the Ancient World (John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore MD, 1994) {soldiers are travellers too}
  • Davidson, James M. Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens {lots of information on meals based on bread, wine, oil, and a side-dish (opson) such as fish}
  • Rainer C.S. Felsch (ed.), Kalapodi II: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen im Heiligtum der Artemis und des Apollon von Hyampolis in der antiken Phokis. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2007. ISBN 978-3-8053-3771-7
  • Karunanithy, David (2013) The Macedonian War Machine: Neglected Aspects of the Armies of Philip, Alexander, and his Successors (Pen and Sword Military: Barnsley, Yorkshire) {check out pages 176-178 for descriptions of soldiers’ baggage in New Comedy}
  • Lee, John W. I. (2008) A Greek Army on the March: Soldiers and Survival in Xenophon’s Anabasis (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge) {by an ancient historian but goes through all the things they carried and cites where to find more information}
  • Oleson, John P. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008
  • Latsis Foundation museum catalogues (if you can make the online version work) https://www.latsis-foundation.org/eng/e-library

For the King’s men there are broad books like:

  • Bertman, Stephen. Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Facts on File, 2003 and Oxford University Press, 2005. {a bit chattery and sententious, so could be a good choice if you get bored of academic prose}
  • Jill L. Baker, Technology of the Ancient Near East: From the Neolithic to the Early Roman Empire (Routledge 2018) {I have not seen this but its modestly priced and illustrated}
  • Bottéro, J. et al. Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001.
  • Curtis, John (2013) An Examination of Late Assyrian Metalwork with Special Reference to Nimrud. Oxbow Books: Oxford. https://www.academia.edu/34060829 {written 1979 but contains a catalogue of different kinds of objects with clear line drawings and instructions on where to find other objects of the same kind}
  • Elspeth R.M. Dusinberre, Empire, Authority and Autonomy in Achaemenid Anatolia (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2013)
  • Encyclopedia Iranica http://www.iranicaonline.org/ {a comprehensive academic encyclopedia, in English, and free to use}
  • P.R.S. Moorey, Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industry: The Archaeological Evidence
  • Karen Nemet-Nejat, Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Daily Life through History. Greenwood Press: Westport, Conn., 1998. {check out chapter 7 for short overviews of household furnishings, clothing, and cooking}
  • Nicholson, P.T. and Shaw, I. (eds.) Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Jack M. Sasson (ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. 4 volumes. New York: Scribner’s, 1995 {an encyclopedia which many libraries carry, articles are designed to ‘stand alone’}
  • Real-Lexikon der Assyriologie {the starting point for serious research into the ancient Near East, articles are in German or English}
  • Chapter 5 of my PhD thesis http://diglib.uibk.ac.at/urn:nbn:at:at-ubi:1-30064 {a guide to finds of arms and armour from the Achaemenid empire}
  • A. Lucas and J.R. Harris, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. 4th edition (Edward Arnold Publishers: London, 1962) {may be more available in smaller libraries than the volume by Nicholson and Shaw}

There are four websites for living historians:

These three sites are strong on arms and armour (‘hard kit’) so I am focusing my attention on all the other things you have to do to get into a position to use that kit. A naked soldier with food poisoning and blisters won’t be very effective! (If you are interested in Achaemenid women, check out Orientalism in the Age of Steam with posts on reconstructing a high-status woman’s clothing, food, dying, etc. https://orientalismandtheageofsteam.blogspot.com/. If you want to learn how reenactors and living historians search through archaeological literature, try the Kelticos forum http://www.kelticos.org/forum/index.php? (hacked as of January 2022 so I broke the link -ed.)

The archives of Roman Army Talk and the Online Agora: Taxis Plataion (offline as of January 2022- ed.) contain some good references, some practical tips, and a lot of blather. Most living history people seem to have moved to Facebook, but it is hard to find old posts and the people who know the most tend to go quiet after being faced with an endless crowd of demanding strangers. If you live within travelling distance of a good reenactment group interested in this period, I strongly recommend meeting them and having a chat in a pub about what you should be reading and who is researching and making what!

The Plataians in Toronto have a web journal: Hoplologia: Resources for Experimental Archaeology and Living History http://www.boarstooth.net/hoplologia-publications

… web resources with art and artefacts …
Beazley
CVA Online
British Museum
Ur Online http://www.ur-online.org/
UPenn
Oriental Insitute, Chicago
‘Sardis excavation’ report http://sardisexpedition.org/en/

site reports

McLean’s Heuristic from “How on earth do you find these things?” https://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-on-earth-do-you-find-these-things.html

In trying to recreate (the ancient or medieval world), (slightly later cultures in the same area) are useful places to look for hints if you can’t find the information in a source (from your culture). It’s not perfect, but a lot better than using your enormous 21st c. brain to attempt to deduce things you don’t know from first principles. Diderot’s Encyclopedie (from the 18th century) was a great help to me in trying to recreate medieval scabbards, for example.

← Back to table of contents