Monthly Archives: February 2014

Greek Cavalry in the Peloponnesian War Zone

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Greek Cavalry–This picture shows how holding weapons while riding limited the soldiers’ abilities.

The Greek cavalry, or hippeis, played a major role in the battlefields of the Peloponnesian War. It was an important characteristic that brought Sparta success. The war lasted from 431 to 404 BC. It took place in mainland Greece, Asia Minor, and Sicily.

Athens and Sparta both used cavalry.

Thucydides believed “the growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Sparta, made war inevitable” (Strassler 16). The war started all because of a desire for power.

The horses were very useful in combat. They made traveling easier, and soldiers became comfortably accustomed to riding them. During periods of resting time, they dismounted, and as soon as attacks rose up again, they would “leap easily upon their horses” (Worley 84).

One tactic the Athenian cavalry employed was the use of javelins. They threw javelins at the enemy, and controlled the movement of the whole army. They could throw the javelins while going forward or retreating.

Cavalry also fought in “close quarters” (Gaebel 96) to the enemy with lances and swords in addition to javelins for farther distances.

Some disadvantages came with the cavalry. Hands are occupied while riding a horse, so the rider is not able to carry as many weapons. They ran out of ammunition quickly. Also, throwing javelins from horseback decreases the efficacy of the shot. Accuracy and distance decline (Sidnell 58).

Their cavalry was well-used in observing and attacking when raids occurred. Unfortunately, they soon became overworked. Horses became lame and wounded, and had no time to rest in between battles (Worley 119).

The cavalry was powerful and made up for the times when others’ attempts failed. They stepped in and dominated. For example, the Chalcidians utilized their hoplites, light troops, and peltasts, and then the cavalry. They “at last caused a panic amongst them” (Strassler 137). Their strength in “riding up and charging them just as they pleased” provided victory against Athens.

Bibliography

Gaebel, Robert E. Cavalry Operations in the Ancient Greek World. University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.

Shumate, Johnny. Greek Cavalry. The Lost Treasure Chest.

Sidnell, Philip. Warhorse. New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2006. Print.

Strassler, Robert B., ed. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War. By Thucydides. 1996. New York: Free Press. Print.

Worley, Leslie J. Hippeis. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Print.

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Blog Post One: Homosexuality in Ancient Greek Culture

File:Erastes eromenos Staatliche Antikensammlungen 1468.jpg

(Source: Haiduc, Wikipedia) Pederastic scene: erastes (lover) touching chin and genitals of the eromenos (beloved). Side of Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 540 BC.

Some may argue that homosexuality is a product of a deranged world society, that same-gender attraction is unnatural, an abomination, and even a sign of the the end of days as predicted in religious texts.

However, there are others that would argue that same- gender attraction is perfectly normal, healthy even, an expression of affection just as heterosexual relationships.

Ancient Greek society did not consider sexuality to be a preference for one gender or another. It was a completely normal and socially accepted practice for older men to take on a younger male lover, a practice known as pederasty.  The older man would received the physical intimacies of the younger boy while the younger boy would enjoy advancement in education, position, or political standing in return from the older male. Pederasty was accepted and practice by many Greeks of the time, noting that reciprocity in the relationship made it more stable than relationships of heterosexual nature (Nussbaum,17).

In pederasty the two players are known as the lover, the erastes, and the beloved, the eromenos.  The lover is the older man.  His is the role of dominance, of pursuit of the younger boy and enjoying the physical affection of his eromenos.  The beloved is usually a younger male, usually a teenager who cannot grow a full beard, who is to be submissive to his lover. The beloved is not supposed to enjoy the physical intimacy aspects of the relationship, but rather he was to benefit from the political advancements and the opportunities for education(Nussbaum, 14-15).

While this all sounds like the perfect storm for wide-spread pedophilia, that was not supposed to be the case.  The purpose of pederasty was to allow the erastes to enjoy the beauty and talents of the youth and advance the eromenos in secular ways that he could not by himself.

There were many critics of pederastic relationships that included sexually erotic actions.  In his Symposium, Plato encouraged the lover’s affection to be more for the beloved’s talents and abilities and to leave copulation out of the relationship, condemning erotic behavior as immoral.

In the army, some military units used pederastic relationships to their strategic advantage. “My claim is that being found out by [the eromenos] would cause [the erastes] more distress than being found out by his father, his friends, or anyone else… I mean, it goes without saying that the last person a lover wants to be seen by, in the act of deserting or throwing away his weapons, is his boyfriend; however many times he had to choose, he would rather die than that.  And as for abandoning his boyfriend or not helping him when danger threatens- well, possession by Love would infuse even utter cowards with courage and make them indistinguishable from those to whom bravery comes most easily.  The effect that love has on lovers is exactly what Homer described, when he talked about a god “breathing might” into some hero or other,” (Plato, 178d-179b)

Thebes had an elite military unit known as ‘The Sacred Band Of Thebes’ in the fourth century BC supposedly composed of exclusively homosexual couples.   Proving Plato’s theory that lovers would fight most valiantly in defense of their lovers, the Sacred Band, with help from Athens and other major cities, successfully defended Thebes from Spartan invasion at the Battle of Leuctra. So much honor and general respect for The Sacred Band Of Thebes surrounded them at the time of their defeat that there was a monument erected in their honor atop a common tomb after their defeat at Chaeronea (“Sacred Band Of Thebes”).

Sparta, a notably militaristic area of ancient Greece, was also known for their embrace of pederasty and other homosexual relationships.  Due to the militaristic nature of Spartan society, men were often away from their wives for long periods of time.  Homosexual acts were not uncommon in the Spartan army and were seen as a way to satisfy sexual appetites that are natural.

Compared to modern culture, women of ancient Greece had relatively few rights.  However, they did participate in homosexual acts just as the men of ancient Greece did.  Evidence for the existence of female-female relationships can be seen in the poetry of Sappho, a female poet born about 620 BCE.

Even though poets and philosophers often represent counterculture rather than popular culture, Nussbaum said “it’s difficult to believe that [homosexuality] would be put forward to a highbrow audience as something that would be well received if it in no way corresponded to an accepted reality,” (14).

While it is uncertain just how big of a role homosexuality played in ancient Greek life due to the lack of primary sources that clearly represent popular culture of the time, it is clear that homosexual practices were accepted by ancient Greek society. One thing that the reader must consider is that homosexual relationships were looked at with a much different perspective in antiquity than they are in modern society. Pederasty, a homosexual relationship between a man and a younger boy, was one that there is evidence of occurring throughout Greece with varied frequency depending on the region.  The overall role of homosexuality in the Ancient Greek army is unclear, though it is clear that there were military units comprised exclusively of homosexual couples like The Sacred Band Of Thebes.

Works Cited:

Dover, K.J.  Greek Homosexuality. 1st ed.  New York: Random House, 1980. Print.

Haiduc,Erastes and Eromenos,2005-01-21, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Erastes_eromenos_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_1468.jpg&gt;, red-figure pottery,Feb. 8, 2014.

“Homosexuality in ancient Greece.” Wikipedia. Web.  5 Feb 2014.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_ancient_Greece. >

Nussbaum, Martha C. “Other Times, Other Places: Homosexuality In Ancient Greece.”Annual Of Psychoanalysis 30.(2002): 9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

“Pederasty.” Wikipedia. Web.  5 Feb 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty&gt;

“Pederasty in ancient Greece.” Wikipedia. Web. 5 Feb 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty_in_ancient_Greece&gt;

“Sacred Band of Thebes.” Wikipedia. Web.  5 Feb 2014.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Band_of_Thebes&gt;

“Sappho.” Wikipedia. Web. 11 Feb 2014.< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sappho>

Waterfield, Robin, trans. Plato’s Symposium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print.

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Persian Archery and Tactics.

Persian armies had many traits that made them some of the most feared and most successful armies of all time.  The Special Forces of the Persian armies were a huge reason why they were so successful; some of the most important special force soldiers were the archers. Archery was a huge part of the Persian Army, it often times was the deciding factor in wars that were fought. I am going to focus on the tactics that the archers used.  Persian archery was often about quantity over quality. In the Landmarks Herodotus it said, “They used volleys of arrows that darken the sun.” (7.218.3)   Persian archers would shoot thousands of arrows at the same time into the sky.  Archers’ job wasn’t to hit specific targets, but to weaken the line opposing them.  You didn’t necessarily have to have a good shot to be an archer for the Persian army.  In the Landmarks Herodotus it says, “ Persians launch arrows tipped with burning hemp at walls of Athenian Acropolis.”(9.49.1)  So fire arrows were developed to weaken and distract the opposing forces.  These were brilliant tactics to use in war, because oftentimes whoever’s front line broke first would lose the fight. I imagine it would be quite difficult to keep in perfect formation while flaming arrows are setting a blaze to your surrounding and hitting and burning you.

An Achaemenid Archer with a composite bow.

An Achaemenid Archer with a composite bow.

Archers couldn’t just be exposed to enemy fire, so a tactic that the Persians used was  setting up wicker shield walls which sheltered archers as they shot volleys of arrows at their enemies. A Persian archer would not have been very effective on their own. That is why there were lines of archers that all stood in formation and shot at the same time to take down enemies. The arrows they used were often times made out of light wood or reed, so archers actually didn’t have as much range as we think of archers having today.  Also since the arrows were so light, more than one was usually required to kill an opposing Greek.  Tactics were very important for Persian archers. They had to work with each other in order to be effective.

Works Cited

“An Introduction to the Achaemenid Military Equipments.” CAIS, The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, (Image) web

http://www.caissoas.com/CAIS/History/hakhamaneshian/AchaemenidMilitaryEquip.htm

“Herodotus.” The Landmark Herodotus: the histories. New York: Pantheon Books,   2007. Text   (Primary Source)

“Iranian Archer Solders Profile.” Military History Monthly .  Nov. 10 2010. Web

                     http://www.military-history.org/articles/profile-iranian-archer.htm

“Persian Warriors.” Legends and Chronicles. Edited 2007-2014 Web.

                    http://www.legendsandchronicles.com/ancient-warriors/persian-warriors/

 

 

           

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The Persian Archer

My blog is going to primarily focus on the Persian archer himself. For example, the qualities he needs to have, the characteristics and attributes that would benefit him, and the type of armor he would wear when going into battle. This information was found in an article that was based off of a Persian archery manuscript called Resāleye Kamāndāri, which was discovered in 1968. It goes through many different aspects of archery, including the qualities that it was thought that the archer should have. It summarizes those qualities in ten points which are further grouped into moral, temperamental and physical characteristics. The moral requirements are to be pure of heart and grateful to one’s master, to not be greedy and to lead a pure life, and to keep promises and to do good deeds. Temperamentally, the archer needs to be in a good mood and stand tall, and be able to cope with suffering and be chivalrous. The physical features are having an open chest, wide shoulders, and long arms. The archer also needed to have the knowledge and skills of how to properly use the bow. It was not a weapon you could just take and use immediately, it required thought and preparation along with calmness and self-control (Dwyer et al 2).

This is a red vase and based on my research this is an accurate depiction of how the archers in this time period looked, artist Epiktetos (signed), time frame between circa 520 and circa 500 BC

This is a red vase and based on my research this is an accurate depiction of how the archers in this time period looked, artist Epiktetos (signed), time frame between circa 520 and circa 500 BC

The archer’s attire was made up of a tunic and trousers, which were loose fitting and usually had an elaborate woven decoration to them. There was also a cap that they wore along with a combined quiver and bow-case (Iranian Archer- Soldier Profile). Many times, the foot soldier carried a short sword (acinaces), a spear with wooden shaft and metal head and butt, a quiver full of arrows of reed with bronze or iron heads, and a bow about one meter long with ends formed in animals’ heads, and a case which combined the bow-case and quiver-holder (Shahbazi).

An Achaemenid Archer with a composite bow. This is another idea of what the Persian archer would have looked like.

An Achaemenid Archer with a composite bow. This is another idea of what the Persian archer would have looked like.

References:

An Achaemenid Archer with a Long Bow. The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies. Web. http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Images2/Achaemenid/Military/Achaemenid_Archer.gif

DWYER, Bede, and Manouchehr MOSHTAGH KHORASANI. “An Analysis of A Persian Archery Manuscript Written By Kapur Čand.” Revista De Artes Marciales Asiaticas 8.1 (2013): 1-12. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

Iranian Archer- Soldier Profile. 10 November 2010. Web. 9 Feburary 2014.

Shahbazi, Sh., A. Achaemenid Army. n.d. Web. 9 Feburary 2014.

Wikipedia contributors. “Trousers.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

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Battle of Salamis: Greek Organization/Tactics

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Rainey, William. Death of the Persian admiral at Salamis. The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library. Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls',. n.d. Colour Lithograph.

Rainey, William. Death of the Persian admiral at Salamis. The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library. Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls’,. n.d. Colour Lithograph.

January 28, 2014

Battle of Salamis

     In the roaring waters between the mainland of Salamis and the island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, a naval battle was fought between the Greek city-states and the Achaemenid Empire of Persia in September 480 BC.  As numerous ships trailed through the waters, the marking of the soon to be war was upon them as they lined up in preparation to see who would be victorious.

As each side prepared for battle, different tactics and strategies engulfed the minds of each side. The Persians, expecting an easy victory, were at a significant tactical advantage, outnumbering their allies, and having better ships, one being the Phoenician, which was the fastest ship. Most of their marines carried a bow, which the Persians relied greatly on in their battles, which would most likely fail if their ship was boarded, as the bow would be negated due to the standoff range. Persians had swifter ships with triremes being equipped with a ram at the bows, which would be used for ramming, which required skill sailing, Persians were more likely to employ this technique, but the Greeks developed special tactics and a unique set-up specifically to counter this.

Led by Themistocles, the Greeks sailed there estimated 300 plus ships in a single file line towards the Persians who had their boats aligned in a different form.  As the Greek ships approached closer to the Persians, the Greeks began to roe out of there single file line into a circular formation as they rowed into the clumsy line set-up of the Persians. Once in position, the Greeks turned their ram-equipped bows toward the Persians, using a common tactic “diekplous”, which is described as a tactic of sailing into gaps between enemy ships and then ramming them into the sides. As the Greeks rammed the Persians, they began to lure the Persians further into the channels. As the Persians fell for the trick, the Greeks struck again hitting the weakest point of the ships on the sides and the stern quarter. As the process was repeated, the objective was to puncture a hole in the enemy vessel or break a number of the enemy’s oars to disable the ship or get the ship to sink.

As the Persian ships sank, the Greeks were at an advantage because of their ability to swim. Many Persians drowned because they could not make it to shore. Persian command and control soon broke down, and in fear of that the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont, the few remaining ships headed back, as the Greeks scored a decisive victory.

Works Cited

Elayi, Josette. The Role of the Phoenician Kings at the Battle of Salamis (480 B.C.E.). Vol. 126. Paris: Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2006. Scholarly Journal.

Gabriel, Richard A. Battle of Salamis. Vol. 26. Military History, 2009. 28 January 2014. <http://web.a.ebscohost.com.hal.weber.edu/&gt;.

Rainey, William. Death of the Persian admiral at Salamis. The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library. Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls’,. n.d. Colour Lithograph.PICTURE.

Rawlinson, George. Herodotus: The History. Vol. 4. New York Appleman & Company, 1885. Print.

Waterfield, Robin. Herodotus:The Histories. 2008. Book.

Wood, Adrian K. Warships of the World. 2012. Book.

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