Author Archives: freyjabellona

Trajan’s Column: Boats


Scene 79. Trajan Standing aboard a Trireme. Used with permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. Via

Boats were an important part of Trajan’s campaign. The first task of the campaign was to cross the Danube and fortify it against the Dacians. The Danube would be frozen solid in the winter so the Dacians could cross on foot or summer when the water was low and easy to cross (Jones). The boats helped prevent the Dacians from raiding across the Danube and they also helped Trajan’s army get across it safely. The boats were also used to help aid the building of the bridge across the Danube.

The naval fleet employed by Trajan during the Dacian wars was the Classis Moesica (Matyszak) and they controlled the lower Danube and the opening of the Black Sea. A typical Roman boat would have oars the most common type having three rows of oars called Trireme. Trireme’s also had sails so according to Trajan’s column, the Classis Moesica had some triremes as well as smaller river boats that did not need sails called a liburna.


Scene 87. Seagoing Ship. Used with permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. Via

The liburna’s were used to transport most likely used for raids and patrolled the river and coast for Dacians as well as transported the troops up and down and across the Danube. (Wikipedia). In this section of the Column we can see the Horses being prepared for a trip either across the river or down it.


Scene 33-34. Seagoing Ship. Used with permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. Via


Scene 87. Oar and Anchor of Ship. Used with permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. Via


Works Cited

Brewster, Frank. “The Arrangement of Oars in the Trireme.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 44 (1933): 205-225. Web. <;.

Davies, G. A. T. “Trajan’s First Dacian War.” The Journal of Roman Studies 7 (1917): 74-97. Web. <;.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Naval Ship. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc, 2012. Web. <;.

Jones, H. Stuart. “The Historical Interpretation of the Reliefs in Trajan’s Column.” Papers of the British School at Rome 5.7 (1910): 435-459. Web. <;.

Jones, Prudence. “Juvenal, the Niphates, and Trajans Column “(Satire 6. 407-412″).” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 100 (2000): 477-486. Web. <URL:;.

Mason, David J.P. Roman Britain and the Roman Navy. Tempus, 2003. Print.

Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: The Roman Soldiers Unofficial Manual. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 2009.

Rockwell, Peter. “Trajan’s Column.” The McMaster Trajan Project, 1999. Web. <;.

Wallinga, H.T. “The Trireme and History.” Mnemosyne 43 (1990): 132-149. Web. <;.

Wikipedia. Liburna. n.d. Web. 2012. <;.



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Alexander the Great’s Army: Followers and Logistics


Alexander the Great’s army was well, great. It consisted of more than 48,000 soldiers and at times grew to over 90,000 soldiers. The Macedonian Army under Alexander’s command embarked on the longest military expedition ever undertaken (Engels).The reason for alexander’s success on the longest military expedition was his careful watch over the provisions of his army. Most other armies that went the same way alexander did had many soldiers dying of starvation and dehydration. Because of Alexander, his army and their baggage train were able to stay well fed (Engels).

The actual size of Alexander’s army is hard to estimate because of the amount of followers and animals in addition to the number of troops already following Alexander. According to the ancient historians, Diodorus Siculus, Curtius, and Plutarch, Alexander had bodyguards, seers, soothsayers, physicians, poets, traders, musicians, courtesans and many, many, more followers with them on this large expedition. Because Alexander’s campaigns took him and his army so far away from their native land, the policy adopted by Philip, Alexander’s father and predecessor, to allow soldiers to return home periodically to visit their families, was abandoned. The soldiers were homesick and lonely so later; Alexander allowed his men to take wives of the captive which would keep the soldiers from missing their homeland too much and keep them on campaign. Because of this, the size of Alexander’s army grew adding thousands of followers to his many legions. The size of the army grew with each wife and eventually with each child that was born to the military families (Engels).

Works Cited

Adams, Colin E. P. “Supplying the Roman Army: “Q. Petr.” 245.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (1995): 119-124. Web. <;.

Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Print. Alexander’s Army. n.d. Web. Feb. 2012. <;.

Loomis, R.S. “Alexander the Great’s Velestial Journey. I-Eastern Examples.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 32.181 (1918): 136-140. Web. <;.

Plutarch. Lives, Volume VII: Demosthenes and Cicero, Alexander and Caesar. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. Trans. Bernadotte Perrin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1919. Web.

Siculus, Diodorus. Library of History. Trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. Web. <;.

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Final Blog V: Usage of Biological and Chemical Weapons in Norse Mythology

The myth of Hercules and the hydra got me thinking, what other myths contains evidence of early biological and chemical warfare? What other civilization used poison arrows and other biological or chemical weapons?

The Prose Edda speaks of Baldr’s death as the result of a poisoned arrow or spear depending on which translation you read. Baldr and his mother had dreams of him his impending death which would lead to destruction of the gods according to the Völuspá (Poetic Edda). His mother Frigg, made all the objects in the world promise never to hurt Baldr except mistletoe which she thought was unimportant and nonlethal. When Loki, heard that the mistletoe was the only thing that had promised no to hurt Baldr, he fashioned a spear (later versions say arrow) and gave it to Hodr, Baldr’s blind brother. Hodr threw the spear at Baldr thinking it would just bounce off but it killed Baldr. Although mistletoe isn’t known for its deadly properties like the venom of the Hydra was, it was the only that could kill Baldr and thus becoming a biological weapon seen in Norse Mythology.


Figure 1:  Balder’s Death from being stabbed by Mistletoe:

Another story in the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, is the story of Loki’s imprisonment. the Gods had found out that Loki was the one who made spear out of the mistletoe which killed fair Baldr. So they took him and bound him with the entrails of his son Narfi in a cave. To punish him further they hung a poisonous serpent above him so the venom would drip onto his forehead and cause him great pain. His wife, Sigyn, held a bowl to catch the droplets of venom so Loki wouldn’t suffer but whenever the bowl became full she had to turn away to dispose of it and the venom of the snake dropped on Loki which made him “writhe[s] against it with such force that all the earth trembles: ye call that ‘earthquakes (Gylfaninnig)” Although Loki did not die from the snake’s venom, it caused him great pain.


Works Cited

Anonymous. “Völuspá.” Anonymous. The Poetic Edda. Trans. Lee M. Hollander. Texas: University of Texas Press, 1962. 1-13. Print.

Lindow, John. “The Tears of the Gods: A Note on the Death of Baldr in Scandinavian Mythology.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 101.2 (2002): 155-169. Web. <;.

Mabie, H. W. “Norse Stories From the Eddas: How Loke Was Punished.” 2007. Web. April 2012. <;.

Mayor, Adrienne. Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. New York: The Overlook Press, 2003.

North, Richard. Heathen Gods in Old English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

Schnurbein, Stefanie von. “The Function of Loki in Snorri Sturluson’s Edda.” History of Religions 40.2 (2000): 109-124. Web. <;.

Sturluson, Snorri. “Gylfaginning.” Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda. Trans. Jesse L. Byock. London: Penguin Books, 1220; 2005. 9-79. Print.

Wikipedia. Baldr. n.d. Web. April 2012.



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Final Blog VI: Poisoned Monarchy

Monarchy and treachery go hand in hand. If you’re a ruler you probably have at least one person that wants to kill you. And what better way to kill a ruler who has many guards watching over him than poisoning him?

Mithridates VI (114-63) was constantly afraid of being poisoned so he tested many poisons and eventually began taking small doses of poisons to build up an immunity. He eventually made a substance which he dubbed Mithridatium which supposedly was able to cure all poisons. Pliny criticized Mithridatium for its numerous ingredients and was suspicious of its abilities (XXI 24-25). Mithridates later tried to commit suicide by poisoning himself to avoid capture by Pompey, but he was unable to do so because of his resistance to the poisons (Cassius Dio).

Livy describes the usage of poisons in Rome to kill off members of their own family for personal and political gain. The emperor Nero, ruling from 54-68 AD, was widely known to have poisoned his relatives (Suetonius). Nero’s great-uncle and predecessor, Claudius was reported to have been poisoned by Nero’s mother Agrippina or her poisoner Locusta with poisonous mushrooms or according to other sources, different herbs (Tacitus).

Not only were poisons used to assassinate people, they were also used to commit suicide. Cleopatra was said to have poisoned herself after hearing of Marc Antony’s death. Many sources such as Florus and Velleius Paterculus tell of her inducing an asp or Egyptian cobra to bite her on her breast.


Figure 1: An Egyptian Asp

Works Cited

Aenid. Virgil. Trans. H. Rushton Fairclough and G.P. Goold. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.

Cassius Dio. Roman History. Trans. Earnest Cary and Herbert B. Foster. London: W. Heinemann, 1970. Print.

Florus. Epitome of Roman History. Trans. E.S. Forster. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929. Print.

Livy. History of Rome. Trans. B.O. Foster. London: Heinemann, 1919. Print.

Mayor, Adrienne. Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. New York: The Overlook Press, 2003.

—. The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.

Paterculus, Velleius. Compendium of Roman History. Trans. Frederick W. Shipley. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979. Print.

Pliny the Elder. The Natural History. Ed. John Bostock and H.T. Riley. Trans. H. Rackham. Perseus, n.d.

Poisoning in the Ancient Times. n.d. Web. April 2012. <;.

Suetonius. Lives of the Caesars. Ed. J.C. Rolfe. Trans. J.C. Rolfe. Harvard University Press, 1997. Print.

Tacitus. Histories. Trans. Clifford H. Moore and John Jackson. Harvard University Press, 1931.

Wikipedia. History of Poison. n.d. Web. April 2012. <;.



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Extra Credit Blog: Genocide in Darfur

I was a little disappointed when the Center for Diversity and Unity changed the film screening from Blood Diamond to the Genocide in Darfur: Darfur Eyewitness film. The film was made by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was actually a very touching and powerful story. The film featured two men, U.S. Marine Brian Steidle and Jerry Fowler, the director of the Committee on Conscience, who witnessed the effects and bloodshed in Darfur. Fowler told of his time in Chad helping the refugees and he spoke about a woman who had two gunshot wounds in her leg. She told him that she had received the gunshot wounds when she tried to draw water from the village well that the soldiers were guarding. It shocked me that they not only took away the peoples home, destroyed their belongings and families, and now they won’t even let the village people survive with their basic necessities.

To prepare for the screening and the discussion I was supposed to lead following the screening, I looked at many articles talking about Genocide in general I was unaware that Genocide had a clearly defined definition. I always just understood it as a mass killing. But in fact, the real definition of Genocide is much more powerful and clear. It states that:

“Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, such as

a)      killing members of the group;

b)      causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c)      deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part;

d)     imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. “

–          United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime Genocide, adopted on December 9, 1948

Fowler also mentioned ways we can help stop the genocide in Darfur. We need tell the stories of what’s happening out there, spread awareness and just get people to start caring about genocide. Just like with the KONY campaign we need to make people aware that genocide is happening NOW, that it didn’t stop with the Holocaust. I was disappointed the attendance at the screening was very small, I feel if people took a little time out of their day to share the knowledge of genocide the world might be just a little better.

Check out the Signpost coverage of the event in the Center for Diversity and Unity!!!:

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Final Project Summary on Biochemical Warfare in the Ancient World

I had a lot of fun researching biological and chemical warfare in the ancient world. I grew up with two older brothers who loved to burn thing and blow things up so it’s natural that I would take an interest in this topic.

The funnest part for me was reading about the myths and finding out how they correlate with real events and places. The most interesting story for me to read was the story of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib attacked Egypt and the Pharaoh prayed to the god Ptah who sent thousands of mice to chew up their weapons and bring plague to the Assyrian army. The most interesting thing about this story, reported by Herodotus, is that the exact same story happens in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is also under attack by Sennacherib’s army and the god of Israel also sends thousands of mice to defeat the Assyrian army. I found this fascinating as Josephus later backs up Herodotus’ account. Where was the true setting of this story? Is the bible accurate in saying it was Jerusalem or was Egypt where this miracle actually happened?

Another exciting thing I did for the project was when I was researching Greek Fire. All the sources compare Greek Fire to modern napalm. So I decided to make some napalm myself and see just how deadly it could be. My brothers used to make napalm all the time in the summers when they were out of school. I enlisted the help of my oldest brother, Daniel, to help me make napalm. The basic recipe for making napalm is Styrofoam, gasoline, and a metal pot. He told me to pour gasoline into the metal pot. Next, we added bits and pieces of Styrofoam into the gasoline. We kept stirring like it was a batter of caramel and kept adding bits of the Styrofoam until we had a sticky, gray/white, syrupy mixture. Then, we burned it. We dug a small but deep hole and put some grass and twigs into it. Then we put the mixture on and lit it on fire. It was really cool. The fire was bright and the smoke was black. It burned bright for about 20 minutes until it started to die down. It was really fun. I wanted to bring some of my homemade napalm to class to show everyone but I was pretty sure the fire marshal would have frowned upon that. 

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Final Blog IV: Deadly Animals

Animals are everywhere. From dogs to cats and rats to snakes every country has them. The ancient world had many uses for animals the oxen and horses provided means of transportation and proved helpful in wars such as cavalries or elephants used in Hannibal’s invasion of Italy. The animals also provided food and clothing for the people of the ancient days. But animals also have sinister uses. In the bible we read much of plagues and pestilences where god sends an “angel” to help the people of Jerusalem. According the second Book of Kings around 700 BCE a large army of Assyrians under the rule Sennacherib began attacking Jerusalem. Isaiah urges King Hezekiah to keep defending the city and tells him that God will protect the city. God sends an “angel” and smites the 185,000 soldiers camping outside of Jerusalem. The angel of god is a plague carried by rats that swept through the already unsanitary camp of the Assyrians (2 Kings: 19).

A similar story is reported by Herodotus where the pharaoh of Egypt is also under attack by Sennacherib. The Pharaoh was told by the god Ptah in a dream to face the Assyrians for he would send help to the Egyptians. The Pharaoh thought the god meant an Army but instead the god Ptah sent thousands of rats and mice to chew the weapons of the Assyrians and bring (Mayor). According to the book of Samuel, rats and mice were already known to be bringers of plague and death (1 Samuel: 5).

Rats have not been the only deadly animals used in ancient warfare. Snakes, scorpions and smaller insects have also been widely used to attack the enemy.  In the ten biblical plagues, lice was the third. Bees have also been used against the enemies. Mayor states that the poisonous hornet’s nest was hurled at the enemy to confuse and to kill the enemies. The swarm of angry hornets would buzz around the unsuspecting enemy and sting them until they either died or found some sort of shelter and even then most soldiers would be badly injured.

The same would be done with other insects and reptiles. In the ancient Mesopotamian city of Hatra, scorpions would be put into clay pots and sealed, then hurled at the enemy where the irritated scorpions were ready to attack the first aggressor that they saw (Herodian). Mayor believes that the clay bombs were not filled only with scorpions but with a “potpourri of scorpions, assassin bugs, wasps, pederin beetles and other venomous insects from the desert around Hatra (Mayor).”  Who would have thought that such small animals could do so much damage to strong, brave men? 

Works Cited

Herodian. History of the Empire. Trans. C.R. Whittaker. Loeb Classical Library; Harvard University Press, 12 April 2012.

Herodotus. The Histories . Ed. A.D. Godley. n.d. 12 April 2012. <>.

Mayor, Adrienne. Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. New York: The Overlook Press, 2003.

Samuel. “1st Book of Samuel.” Various. The Holy Bible. King James Version. n.d. 12 April 2012.

The Holy Bible. The Old Testament. Ed. King James Version. n.d.

Various. “2nd Book of Kings.” Various. The Holy Bibile. King James Version. n.d. 12 April 2012.



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