A number of people are trying to recreate prehistoric European martial arts: ones which have left neither a living tradition, nor manuals. One of the most serious attempts focuses on early medieval combat with sword and shield and is lead by Roland Warzecha:
One category of evidence central to this issue [of the abuse of civilians by soldiers] is the large number of petitions directed to officials, where in one sample roughly a third were directed to centurions acting in a local police role (Hobson 1993 = ‘The Impact of Law on Village Life in Roman Egypt,’ in B. Halpern and D. Hobson (eds.), Law, Politics and Society in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Sheffield, pp. 193-219). The sheer number of petitions suggests that abuse was widespread. A still further complication could be that a centurion was petitioned concerning abuse by a soldier. How likely is fairness in this regard? Such was the case for Aurelius Sarapion in a petition to the centurion Aurelius Marcianus:
there is nothing more dreadful or harder to bear than maltreatment. At the time of life I have reached, being over eighty years, I served faithfully as an Arab archer. A sow having escaped from my daughter in the village and being reported to be at the house of the soldier Julius, I went to him to demand his oath about this matter, and he laying hands on me, despite my age, in the village in the middle of the day, as if there were no laws, laboured me with many blows. (P. Graux 4 )
He goes on to list witnesses and to seek redress.
From Colin Adams, “War and Society in the Roman Empire” in B. Campbell and L. A. Tritle eds., The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2013) p. 267
(I do not have access to that volume of P. Graux, so I cannot give the original text)
Adams uses this papyrus to ask a question about how often Roman centurions (who often acted as judges and police in the countryside) gave justice when a civilian accused a soldier. Today I will ask another question. In this passage an ancient person tells us a great deal about who he was, or who he wanted to be seen to be. So what was Sarapion’s ethnicity? I would encourage my learned readers to really think about this whether or not they click “more” to see my opinion.
The last few copies of Philip de Souza ed., The Ancient World at War seem to have reached bookstores and are selling at a discount. My copy was well worth the reduced price. This book contains some good chapters and beautiful photos, although some of the ideas and illustrations are familiar from other books for... Continue reading: Some Thoughts On “The Ancient World at War”
My visits to Heuneburg and Haithabu/Hedeby reminded me that I don’t know enough about one of the great puzzles in world history: why cities spread so slowly, with frequent retreats and abandonments. There were towns in the Balkans before the Indo-Europeans came, but it was almost the year 1,000 before there was a single town on the Baltic, and that was burned and abandoned. Why did it take 5,000 years for cities to spread from Mesopotamia to Denmark, when other innovations spread in a few centuries? And why did many societies which once had prosperous cities give them up? Read more
On Thursday I traced a theory back from 1935 to 1909. Asking colleagues did not help. Being in Europe, I didn’t have my usual handbooks available, but a search on some of the standard journal databases had turned up some articles after I experimented with keywords. One of these articles was published in 1935 and... Continue reading: The Research Process
A new doctoral thesis by Dr. Panagiota Manti on the construction of Greek bronze helmets is now available online (here). Manti had an unusual theory, namely that some Greek helmets were cast in something close to their final form then reshaped by hammering. This idea goes against a lot of comparative evidence for armour being... Continue reading: Manti on Greek Helmets
George Monbiot has a story to tell about life in the jungles of Brazil. The Guardian published it here and I urge my gentle reader to read his story before they read my thoughts, because it is a good story.
Michael Ignatieff, former head of the Liberal Party of Canada, has been musing about why he lost the election of 2011 (see eg. this excerpt from his book in the Toronto Star). One of his consolations is that succesful political thinkers often fail as practical politicians, because theory and practice are different arts and require different virtues. Canadian readers... Continue reading: Who writes the history books?
Philip Sabin, Lost Battles: Reconstructing the Great Clashes of the Ancient World (London: Continuum Books, 2009) Bookfinder link Big battles are always a popular topic, but even the best-documented ancient battles are difficult to understand. The few ancient accounts which survive never answer every question which modern readers ask, and often disagree with each other... Continue reading: Some thoughts on Sabin’s “Lost Battles”