Load-Bearing Equipment
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Load-Bearing Equipment

A terracotta figurine from Myrina-in-Aeolis, showing a soldier with pack. From Bieber, Margarete (1920) Die Denkmäler zum Theaterwesen im Altertum (Berlin and Leipzig) pp. 133, 134, Taf. lxxii.3. The figurine is said to be now in Berlin. https://archive.org/details/diedenkmlerzumth00bieb
  • Xen. An. 6.4.23 on things brought to rob some villages …
  • Xen. Cyr. 6.2.32 always have plenty of straps (the Greek word is ὁ ἱμάς and seems to imply leather: reins, a boxer’s hand-bindings, the floor of a chariot, the flayed skin of Sisamnes the unjust judge …)
  • Xen. Mem. 3.13.6 on Socrates and the man who wanted his slave to carry everything
  • Aristophanes on where to keep your coins …
  • Theophrastus, Characters 22 Diel (the Miser) on carrying meat and vegetables home in the breast of your tunic
  • The epitaph of Hipparchia the Cynic by Antipater of Sidon (Greek Anthology 7.413, Loeb vol. 2) with walking stick (σκίπων) and double-fold sack (δίπλαξ):

οὐχὶ βαθυστόλμων Ἱππαρχία ἔργα γυναικῶν, “I, Hipparchia chose not the tasks of rich-robed woman, but the manly life of the Cynic.”
τῶν δὲ Κυνῶν ἑλόμαν ῥωμαλέον βίοτον
οὐδέ μοι ἀμπεχόναι περονήτιδες, οὐ βαθύπελμος “Brooch-clasped tunics, well-clad shoes, and perfumed headscarves pleased me not;”
εὔμαρις, οὐ λιπόων εὔαδε κεκρύφαλος:
οὐλὰς δὲ σκίπωνι συνέμπορος, ἅ τε συνῳδὸς “But with wallet and fellow staff, together with coarse cloak and bed of hard ground,”
δίπλαξ, καὶ κοίτας βλῆμα χαμαιλεχέος.
ἄμμι δὲ Μαιναλίας κάρρων † ἄμιν Ἀταλάντας “My name shall be greater than Atalanta: for wisdom is better than mountain running.”
τόσσον, ὅσον σοφία κρέσσον ὀριδρομίας.

  • Petronius on where to hide coins …

Studying how people carried things is difficult. Ordinary small objects are usually hidden in art unless the artist needs them to communicate who a character is and what they are doing. The big containers used by shoppers, porters, and peddlers and the temporary containers that held a snack from a street vendor or a cut of meat rarely appear at all. Documents and literature can be more helpful: by the 18th century, a key source is records of trials of thieves and pickpockets which record exactly what was taken from where! Christian Cameron has an inspiring post on the problem Writing Fantasy: Baskets and Broadswords (2018).

Two travellers in Greek clothing, a man with a crooked walking stick, a case on a strap over his left shoulder and a bundle on his back, and a woman with a case on her head
The Cynic philosophers Hipparchia of Maroneia and Crates of Thebes in a wall painting from the Villa Farnese in Rome (1st century BCE) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crates_and_Hipparchia_Villa_Farnesina.jpg
two girls sit on a cart full of sacks while an adult walks and two soldiers pull it by the yoke
A Neo-Assyrian relief of ?Elamite? deportees in the Louvre. Photo by Sean Manning, 2019.

Deportees in Neo-Assyrian art often carry a sack over their shoulder or in their hands in front of them. With some rope, you can rig a simple sack to be carried with your hands free.

Men in Assyrian or Elamite clothing often have necessary objects thrust through their sash: three knives, a big knife, or a stylus.

Small objects such as seals and whetstones are often pierced with a hole and sometimes a ring through the hole. This would allow them to be worn around the neck or from a belt on a thong.

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  • Edit 2022-01-17: added wall painting from the Villa Farnese, Rome
  • Edit 2022-01-20: added reference to Theophrastus Characters