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Specific Treatments in Military Medicine

The main bread and butter of military field medicine was woolen bandages.  Every medicus ordinarie would have been equipped with a stash of them.  There is a section of Trajan’s Column that depicts the actions of a medicus ordinarie.  After a battle, there are wounded soldiers being aided by other soldiers (indicated by the same uniform style).  One has a wound on his thigh that is being treated and bandaged, and another has a shoulder wound. (Richmond, 13-15)


The Reliefs of Trajan’s Column by Conrad Cichorius. Plate number XXXI: Major Battle against the Dacians (Scene XL)

A common procedure was to apply honey to the woolen bandage before using it on a wound.  Modern science has proven that raw honey is well suited to wound healing, as it inhibits bacterial growth and provides an immune boost, aiding the body’s own healing mechanisms. (Molan, 141) Wool itself is a superior choice for bandages because it wicks moisture away from the skin, also promoting a healthier healing environment for wounds sustained in battle.

Eye problems were a common complaint noted in ancient records.  It would seem likely that the complaint causing most of the trouble stemmed from conjunctivitis, or pink eye.  Highly contagious and debilitating to a soldier’s fighting abilities, it was an illness taken seriously by military medici.  (Allason-Jones, 137)  Eye salves of various types would have been used to treat the condition.

Another issue faced by the army was the spread of feces-borne diseases like dysentery as well as parasites.  Even with sanitation, the close quarters and high density population would have been a favorable breeding ground for such issues. (Allason-Jones, 138-139)

Caches of medical tools have been found, dating back to the Roman Empire.  Most of the tools are forceps or other surgical tools for the removal of weapon remnants or foreign objects.  There are also catheters and bladder sounds, rectal speculums, cautery tools, and cupping vessels.

Though not as common in the Roman army, sometimes a wounded soldier was in need of amputation.  Opium, henbane and white mandrake were the strongest medicines available for anesthetic purposes, and would have been employed on such occasions along with copious amounts of alcohol.  Tools used for the procedure were scalpels, bone saws, and tile cautery tools.  I was able to find a picture of a bronze prosthetic leg, but could find no supporting information to describe how widespread their use was during this period of time.

M0012307 Roman artificial leg of bronze.

Roman artificial Bronze leg

In conclusion, the Roman army’s medical corps was impressive for its day.  It was orderly, just like the military itself, and effective.  In fact, modern militaries have similar systems in place to facilitate the care of soldiers during battle.  Warfare today may look very different, but there are some things that the Romans were ahead of their time about.  Military medicine happened to be one of them.





“Medicine in Ancient Rome.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 15, 2018.

Allason-Jones, Lindsay. “Health Care in the Roman North.” Britannia 30 (1999): 133-46. doi:10.2307/526676.

Molan, Peter and Tanya Rhodes. “Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing.” Wounds: A Compendium of Clinical Research and Practice 27, no. 6 (2015): 141.

Richmond, I. A. “Trajan’s Army on Trajan’s Column.” Papers of the British School at Rome 13 (1935): 1-40.

Wesselingh, Robb. “From Milites Medici to Army Medics – A Two Thousand Year Tradition of Military Medicine.” Journal of Military and Veteran’s Health 16, no. 4 (2018):1-5.

Conrad Cichorius: “Die Reliefs der Traianssäule”, Erster Tafelband: “Die Reliefs des Ersten Dakischen Krieges”, Tafeln 1-57, Verlag von Georg Reimer, Berlin 1896

=={{int:filedesc}}== {{Artwork |artist = |author = |title = Greek and Roman surgical instruments |description = Greek and Roman surgical instruments from the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum <p>Wellcome Ima…

=={{int:filedesc}}== {{Artwork |artist = |author = |title = Greco-Roman cupping vessels and Roman bronze rectal speculum |description = Greco-Roman cupping vessels and Roman bronze rectal speculum from the We…

=={{int:filedesc}}== {{Artwork |artist = |author = |title = 6 Roman surgical instruments |description = 6 Roman surgical instruments: A)Rreplica of Roman bronze scalpel, from Silchester. B) No information. C)…


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Military Medicine in Action

Prior to the Augustan age, there was no formal military medical apparatus.  (Byrne, 267) It was most likely that soldiers helped each other, providing basic first aid and field surgery.  Upper ranking officers might have brought along their own personal physicians, but they were not widely utilized by the rank and file.  There are references to the treatment of the sick and wounded, particularly that they were sent to the back of the company while they recovered, but there is no mention of care they might have received while falling back in the ranks.

If a soldier was wounded or sick enough to not be able to keep up with the army, they were often quartered in civilian homes to be cared for during their convalescence. (Byrne, 268) The ideal situation for a soldier in this condition would have been to enter the house of an upper class citizen, who had more comforts and likely employed a physician in-house.  Outside of Roman settlements, garrisons of wounded and sick soldiers would have been left behind with adequate supplies to see them through. (Wesseleigh, 2)

Eventually, medics were trained and assigned duties within the army.  There were three orders of medics – medicus ordinaries, medicus legionis and medicus cohortis. (Byrne, 269) The first order was a regular soldier who had extra medical training.  He would have fought alongside his comrades, and offered aid when needed.  The second was over the legion, and would likely have had some rank or additional standing outside of regular soldier.  The last rank was over the whole cohort, and likely remained in the rear of the company to care for the worst of the sick and wounded.  The medicus cohortis would likely have been in charge of the field hospital, or valetudinarium.


Physician treating a patient. Red-figure Attic aryballos.

Valetudinaria, also referred to as “flying military camps,” were first just a designated tent or group of tents and later became permanent buildings.  The buildings were built with great care, with sanitation being a first concern. (Wesseleigh, 4) On average, each hospital was built to accommodate up to 5% of the legion it served.  One can therefore assume that the aim of the hospital was not for long term convalescence, but for acute care following injury and treatment.  Archaeological evidence of the valetudinarium near Baden suggests a well equipped pharmacy and surgical theater, along with wards for the recovering soldiers. (Byrne, 271)


Roman latrine

To conclude, the military medical program was an orderly undertaking.  With clear denotations of duties, it helped the care of the sick and wounded to happen with little confusion or fuss. The last post will look at specific treatments used in military medicine, and examine some of the military health records that have been found.


Byrne, Eugene Hugh. “Medicine in the Roman Army.” The Classical Journal 5, no. 6 (1910): 267-72.

Wesselingh, Robb. “From Milites Medici to Army Medics – A Two Thousand Year Tradition of Military Medicine.” Journal of Military and Veteran’s Health 16, no. 4 (2018):1-5.

== {{int:filedesc}} == {{Information Louvre |artist= {{en|Clinic Painter (name-piece)}} {{fr|Peintre de la Clinique (vase éponyme)}} |description= {{en|Physician treating a patient. Red-figure Attic aryballos, ca. 480–470 BC.}} {{fr|Médecin soigna

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The Basis for Military Medicine

The Greek tradition of medicine heavily influenced Roman medicine.  Members of the upper classes employed Greek or Hellenistic trained physicians to provide their households with care as needed.  Lower classes clung to the Roman traditions of paterfamilias or allowing the head of the household control over medical diagnoses and curatives.  Although they employed Greek physicians, it seems that overall, Romans preferred to appeal to the Gods first before seeking their care and treatment.  There was a healthy distrust of physicians, in general, especially among the lower classes.  (Scarborough, 297)

In order to appreciate the military’s medical organization, it is important to understand the regular Roman citizen would be treated by either the paterfamilias or sometimes a slave-physician.  Only the upper classes would have had access to a proper Greek physician. (Scarborough, 298) The types of treatments prescribed in a farming family would include cabbage in some form or other.  Cato the Elder, a staunch opponent of physicians, was the most well known promoter of the cabbage cure, which in his estimation could cure just about any ailment from constipation to deafness by preparing the cabbage in a specific way.  (Household Medicine)

The wealthier class would have had access to drugs sold by local chemists (pharmacists), such as opium, and a variety of herbs grown locally or imported from nearby regions.  Dioscorides’ work De Materia Medica was the most referred to volume on the subject of herbs and their medical uses.  No chemist would have been without that reference book. (Dioscorides, wiki)


Dioscorides, by Cami Isle

L0051528 Titlepage to 'Materia Medica'

L0051528 Titlepage to ‘Materia Medica’

Galen was the premier authority on anatomy and physiology up until the mid-1500’s.  Because Greek law outlawed the dissecting of human bodies, Galen used animals such as pigs and primates to understand the basics of anatomy.  Some of his theories were disproved later, but for the Romans, it was considered accurate enough.  Galen, himself, was the personal physician to Marcus Aurelius. (Galen, wiki)


Galen, by Cami Isle

Galen borrowed many ideas from Hippocrates, chiefly the theory of the four humors in the body – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.  Hippocrates posited that illness occurred when these humors were out of balance.  Galen furthered the humors theory by adding personality types to the dominant humors – sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.  Treatments for unbalanced humors included purging, sweating, and bloodletting.  (Galen, wiki)


Romans were well known for their public works projects.  Sanitation and clean water were the most prevalent features of most Roman cities.  The bath houses were well used by citizens, and facilitated the overall cleanliness of the people.  Fleas and lice were likely not as prevalent because of the bath houses, however depending on how often the bath house was cleaned, it may have contributed to the spreading of some viral and bacterial infections.

In summary, Romans were quite advanced in their society when it comes to health promoting practices.  They had access to clean water, had adequate sanitation overall, and medicine was available in the case of illness.  These general factors led to the promotion of a military medical apparatus that was superior to most others of the time.  The next blog will examine the specific medical organization within the military and how it changed over time.


“Pedanius Dioscorides.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 15, 2018.

“Galen.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 15, 2018.

“Household Medicine In Ancient Rome.” The British Medical Journal 1, no. 2140 (1902): 39-40.

Scarborough, John. “Romans and Physicians.” The Classical Journal 65, no. 7 (1970): 296-306.

=={{int:filedesc}}== {{Artwork |artist = |author = |title = Titlepage to ‘Materia Medica’ |description = Titlepage to ‘Materia Medica’ <p>Rare Books<br> Keywords: Materia Medica; Plants, Medicinal |date…


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Bayeux Tapestry (Panel 21)


Bayeux Tapestry – Wilson, Plate 21

I chose scene number 21 of the Bayeux Tapestry.  In the scene is depicted the siege of Dol and the escape of Duke Conan, and his subsequent flight to Rednes.  These events took place a year or so before the Battle of Hastings, during the Breton-Norman War.  (Wiki, Breton-Norman War)

Conan II, the Duke of Brittany had a feud with the neighboring duchy, headed by Duke William (who later became William the Conqueror, King of England).  Duke William had sent out a warning to his neighbors that he was on a mission that was sanctioned by the Pope, and to not even try to invade his duchy while he was on his Papal errand.  Duke Conan took the opportunity to threaten to invade Normandy, regardless of William’s warning.  William enlisted Harold to help bring the fight to Conan and take him down.  Conan had laid siege to Dol, but had not captured the castle there.  Instead, William and Harold showed up and Conan was obliged to leave the area and flee toward Rednes (Rennes).  (Wiki, Conan II)

The Latin inscription on this part of the tapestry just explains what is happening in the scene.  “…Conan turned to flight. Rennes.” The Latin inscription acts as a running narrative of the story as it unfolds along the banner.

The tapestry depicts Conan escaping down a rope from the castle stronghold of Dol, but this is not historically accurate. (Anderson) (Noxon) Conan had only laid siege to Dol, and had not actually captured the keep.  One could guess that the depiction of Conan escaping down the rope was more dramatically pleasing in the visual story that the Tapestry was trying to portray.  It might also have been difficult to represent the actual details in embroidery, and this was close enough to the truth to convey the point.

It is suggested that the two birds beneath the tower at Dol represent a peaceful surrender between the parties.  (Anderson)

The pursuit of Conan to Rednes continues the story, and it is notable that the spears of the horsemen extend out of the main section of the tapestry and into the top border.  This is among the first sections of the tapestry in which the main characters infringe upon the border art. (Rud)

As for the border art, there were no sources I could find that gave much information about the animals portrayed on either border.  In this section, there are various mythical beasts including dragons.  I have no explanation for their imagery, other than they are mythical and would have been common to the artwork imagery of the time.

The panel following my section includes the surrender of Conan to William, imaged by the exchanging of keys on lances.

The original version of the popular 1620 painting of William the Conqueror

The tapestry itself was meant to make William the Conqueror look very heroic, and give justification to his claim of the English crown.  It was also to explain why Harold should not have been king of England, on account of his oath to William, albeit likely achieved through torturous means.  As the story of William unfolds over the 230ft of embroidery, it is clear that he is the hero of the medieval comic strip story. (Anderson)


Sources Cited:

“Breton-Norman War.” accessed November 25, 2018.

“Conan II, Duke of Brittany.” accessed November 25, 2018.,_Duke_of_Brittany

Anderson, John D. “The Bayeux Tapestry: A 900-Year-Old Latin Cartoon.” The Classical Journal 81, no. 3 (1986): 253-57.

Noxon, Gerald. “The Bayeux Tapestry.” Cinema Journal 7 (1967): 29-35. doi:10.2307/1224876.

Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2002. Print.

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. New York: A.A.

“William the Conqueror.” Painting., 1985. Print.

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Early Sources For Arthur (Sean)

  • Much folklore has been developed around the title of King Arthur; indeed, he is a chief character in much medieval and modern literature (some of my personal favorite modern nods to him include “The Buried Giant,” by Kazuo Ishiguro, the character Saber, a.k.a. Arturia Pendragon, in the Fate anime series, and a single obscure episode in the third season of Babylon 5, in which nothing remotely significant to the plot ever occurs). However, the bulk of this work tends to be very fanciful, growing more so the further the source is displaced from the approximate period of Arthur’s life. It is natural to wonder what the earliest sources say about Arthur, as these should (logically) carry the most accurate and reliable information. Below, we investigate some of the early records and events popularly associated with Arthur, in an effort to determine the likelihood of his existence.
  • “De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae” — Gildas
    • Providing the most relevant context to the time when Arthur’s actions would have been current events, as Gildas was most likely a Briton, this text will get most of our attention.
    • There are limitations to how seriously and literally we can take this work, in spite of it being the earliest work following the lifetime of King Arthur, if he existed. As one notable article states, “This preface is the only surviving narrative history of fifth century Britain, but it was not written as history. Though Gildas was a native of Britain and deals with the period at some length, he was extremely ill-informed about the Roman period. . . [H]e may be regarded as the authority for the period before 547-9 (the year of death of Maelgwn Gwynedd in the Annales Cambriae), but in general he gives very little definite information.” (Vortigern Studies)
    • Additionally, this work is highly politicized, near impossible to date, and gives no direct reference to King Arthur, limiting the use we can make of it. The connection with King Arthur is found through the account of the Battle of Badon Hill, a battle generally connected to Arthur for reasons discussed below.
    • As mentioned, Gildas doesn’t mention Arthur in his commentary on the Battle of Badon. 12th century hagiography claims that “Gildas had praised Arthur extensively but then excised him completely after Arthur killed the saint’s brother, Hueil mab Caw.” (Wikipedia). In Concepts of Arthur, Thomas Green theorizes that the events of that battle were so well known that describing them in greater detail would have seemed a triviality (Green, 2007). However, it is somewhat difficult to believe that Gildas would have failed to comment on a monarch he disapproved of, considering the nature of the rest of his writings.
  • The Battle of Badon Hill
    • As this name keeps coming up, it is worth commenting on this battle. Out of the information available from the time of Arthur’s potential, the reality of this battle is one of the strongest points advocating for Arthur’s existence, as it is an event commonly associated with Arthur that almost certainly occurred. It is mentioned in a variety of sources, both with and without reference to Arthur. Here is the simple version:

The Battle of Badon has significance because the encroachment of the Anglo-Saxons on the Celtic Britons was halted as a result of it. This decisive victory was accomplished by a united force of Britons, which implies that they had some sort of leadership, at least militaristically; their military leadership was purported by later sources to be Arthur, though he was clearly not “King” Arthur at this time, as Gildas refers to Ambrosius Aurelianus (see right) as the organizer of this force. (Korrel).

    • Later sources name Ambrosius Aurelianus as Arthur’s uncle, the brother of his father.
    • Unfortunately for Arthur, the sources that actually connect him with the battle come much later, and their accounts are so fanciful that one cannot reasonably take them at face value. Historia Brittonum, for example, indicates that Arthur personally slew 960 men in a single charge (though other sources scale this number back to a more modest figure in the mid to upper 400’s). (Mommsen).
  • Other Sources:
    • Simply put, other notable historical documents of that time, including the Gallic Chronicles and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, do not mention Arthur, though they both comment on the Saxon invasion of Britain and Bede specifically makes reference to the “siege of Mount Badon, when they made no small slaughter of those invaders” (Bede).
  • Conclusion:
    • It seems doubtful that there was a historical King Arthur. The contemporary sources simply don’t reference him, while the later sources represent him in a way that is clearly more folklore than fact. If there was a historical Arthur, it seems very likely that Badon Hill would be the key event to tie him to, being an actual event that would be a pivotal moment in the events Arthur is described as being central to (the halt of Saxon encroachment and the unifying of Britain). However, as this battle is impossible to accurately place in time and space and as details of the battle from contemporary sources are effectively nonexistent, at least with the records we currently have, this pursuit is futile. And it is quite certain that if there ever was a King Arthur the accomplishments attributed to him are largely fictitious.


Works Cited:

  • Vermaat, Robert. “Gildas (early sixth century AD).” Vortigern Studies. (accessed November 3, 2018).
  • “Battle of Badon.” Wikipedia. (accessed November 3, 2018).
  • Korrel, Peter. “Arthur, Modred, and Guinevere in the historical records and in the legendary Arthurian material in the early Welsh tradition”, An Arthurian Triangle: A Study of the Origin, Development, and Characterization of Arthur, Guinevere, and Modred. Brill Archive, 1984.
  • Mommsen, Theodore (ed.) Historia Brittonum. Accessed 7 Feb 2013.
  • Bede. “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.”


Arthurian Artifacts (Abe)

The earliest mention of King Arthur can be found in the 594 poem “Y Gododdin” by Aneirin. Still, this is only a reference and certainly provides no concrete evidence for a real King Arthur. The stanza in which Arthur is referenced reads:

He fed black ravens on the rampart of a fortress

Though he was no Arthur

Among the powerful ones in battle

In the front rank, Gwawrddur was a palisade (Wikipedia)

One remarkable, though quickly refuted, artifact is the Artognou stone, discovered in 1998 at Cornwall, United Kingdom. The inscriptions on the stone read, as translated by the Celtic Inscribed Stones Project,  “Artognou descendant of Patern[us] Colus made (this). Colus made (this).” (Wikipedia). Because “Artognou” bears semblance to “Arthur,” many parties, including the media, mistakenly referred to the artifact as the “Arthur stone.” Additionally, the stone was dated back to the approximate time period in which Arthur is reputed to have lived, if he did. Despite these commonalities, scholars have rejected the notion that the stone is related to the historic King Arthur in any way. Perhaps one of the contributing factors to this rejection is the fact that the stone does not appear to be an official inscription, rather a work of graffiti, as the carvings are shallow and untidy.

The Artognou Stone


Another artifact, also refuted, is the Glastonbury cross. In 1184, at Glastonbury Abbey,  fire destroyed the monasteries. While reconstruction was underway, visits to the abbey declined, that is until the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere was reportedly discovered, alongside a leaden cross that read: Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia (“Here lies interred the famous King Arthur on the Isle of Avalon“). (Wikipedia). In retrospect, this incidence has been dismissed by scholars and historians as nothing more than a publicity stunt by the abbey to attract visitors (Britannia History).

The Alleged Burial Place at Glastonbury Abbey


Most recently, a castle was discovered on the Tintagel peninsula in Cornwall. This structure evidently housed noblemen of the area, based on the additional findings of fancy, imported food utensils, such as plates from North Africa and glass cups from France (Daley). Most relevant to the legend of King Arthur, however, is the fact that this structure lines up with the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote History of the Kings of Britain in 1138. Geoffrey claims that King Arthur was either conceived or born in the same area that this high-profile structure has been discovered (Huber). In discoveries such as this, it is important for researchers to objectively analyze what they have found, rather than seek to connect their findings to King Arthur. Prematurely claiming Arthurian ties without backing evidence only encourages the spread of misinformation among both media and scholarly works. Such has been the case with the Tintagel excavation: the slightest inkling of possible ties to King Arthur are ran with, and facts becomes muddled (Proctor).

Based on these artifacts, evidence for the historical King Arthur is rather shaky. The castle-like structure carries the most weight, as Geoffrey of Monmouth described a similar location for the origin of Arthur. Altogether, however, physical evidence for King Arthur is about as convincing as the written and spoken testaments of his existence. The evidence, or lack thereof, points towards King Arthur existing only in legend.



Works Cited:

“Artognou Stone.” Wikipedia. Last modified August 18, 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Daley, Jason. “A Palace Was Unearthed Where Legend Places King Arthur’s Birthplace.” Last modified August 5, 2016. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Huber, Emily Rebekah. “Geoffrey of Monmouth: Introduction.” Robbins Library Digital Projects. Last modified 2007. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“King Arthur.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 19, 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“King Arthur’s Burial Cross.” Britannia History. Accessed November 4, 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Proctor, Elizabeth Gaj. “The Legendary King: How the Figure of King Arthur Shaped a National Identity and the Field of Archaeology in Britain.” DigitalCommons. Last modified May 2017. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“Y Gododdin.” Wikipedia. Last modified July 30, 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)



Ambrosius Aurelianus: Possible King Arthur? (Amanda)


Ambrosius Aurelianus was a 5th century Roman leader in Britain. From the writings of Gildas it can be determined that he was noble or descended from nobles, and most likely a Christian as Gildas said that he won his battles “with the help of God.” Had he not been a Christian, the author would likely have neglected to mention him at all, or at least not by name.

Based on a record of Saxon conflicts by Bede, it is generally accepted that his parents and many of his people were killed in an early invasion. According to Gildas, Ambrosius organized the survivors and defeated the Saxons, though this is disputed by other historical records which claim multiple battles were fought, with both sides claiming victories.

In Historia Brittonum, written by Nenius, Ambrosius morphed into a semi-mythical character who warns the hero Vortigern about dragons. Some believe Geoffery of Monmouth took some of this character’s superhuman attributes and changed his name to Merlin in his work History of the Kings of Britain. In Latin, Merlin’s name is given as Ambrosius Merlinus.

Based on Geoffery’s writings however, Ambrosius would have been too old to have fought in Arthur’s battles. He would have been around 70 years old when Arthur should have fought at Camalan. Based on this information, some people have concluded that Ambrosius is not Arthur, but his name and some of his deeds may have become mixed up in the Arthurian legends.

Ambrosius was known to the Welsh as Emrys Wledig (The Imperator). Some sources name him as the brother of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur, while others write him as the great warrior king that Uther may have been based on. Since Ambrosius was likely too old to have been Arthur, it is more likely that his victories against the Saxons led to him being written into myths as the famous king’s father, who was also known for his prowess in battle

Some have speculated that there were two men named Ambrosius, possibly an older and younger brother, one who fought against Vortigern in battles often attributed to Uther, and another who fought against the Saxons in the 5th century. This is unlikely however, as historical sources have only ever alluded to one Ambrosius.

Works Cited:

Hunter-Mann, Kurt. “The Last of the Romans: The Life and Times of Ambrosius Aurelianus.” The Heroic Age, no. 4 (2001). Accessed November 5, 2018.

“Ambrosius Aurelianus.” Britannia. Accessed November 5, 2018.

“Ambrosius Aurelianus.” New World Encyclopedia. Accessed November 5, 2018.

Lydwien, Charlotte. “Who Was King Arthur?” 2010. Accessed November 5, 2018.


Arthur and Christianity (Andrew)

Was King Arthur based on Jesus? I personally do not believe this is true, but it’s important to consider. The Annales Cambriae mentions Arthur carrying a cross for 3 days and 3 nights in year 516. This could potentially be a retelling of Jesus carrying his cross and being resurrected on the third day. Mordred is a man who betrayed Arthur. In year 537 they mention Arthur and Mordred dying. Mordred could be based on Judas who betrayed Jesus before he was crucified. The knights of the round table could be Christ’s apostles.

There are many reasons why I don’t believe Arthur was based on Christ. Thus said Arthur, noblest of kings: ‘See ye, my Britons, here beside us, our full foes,–Christ destroy them!’ In this legend Arthur is mentioning Christ. It’s strange that legends would refer to him mentioning the person he’s based on. Most of the rest of Arthur’s stories don’t relate much to Jesus himself.

It’s more likely he’s based on other religious figures such as saint Armel. Saint Armel was a prince who established some churches, retired as a monk, and even had rumors of slaying a dragon. While not talking about Arthur himself, there’s a quote that says, “to have such apostles for leaders was to have Christ Himself fighting in the camp.” The people may have thought similarly of Arthur and it’s possible that while not being based directly off Jesus, Arthur was a religiously impactful leader.


“Annales Cambriae” The Annals of Wales, 447-954 AD.

Robert Vermaat “The text of the Vita sancti Germani.”

Saint Armel, Wikipedia.

Wace, “Arthurian Chronicles: Roman de Brut”


Arthur was Based on Many Leaders (iamcamalot)

Based on the widespread popularity of the Arthurian Legends across many cultures, it is my belief that the historicity of Arthur was created from many different historical, mythical, and religious figures.  Due to the larger than life nature of Arthur’s feats, it seems unlikely that they were all completed by one man, let alone in one very short medieval lifetime.  There are also evidences of the mixing of religious and mythological themes along with the historically accepted battles, guesstimated timelines and locations.  The story of Arthur is popular in not only the Celtic traditions, but is claimed by the Romans and Scottish as well.


Given that there is a long list of potential claimants for the historical role of King Arthur, it stands to reason that there is likely the influence of one or many of those individuals in the lore.  The most commonly accepted theory is Ambrosius, mentioned above, but due to discrepancies between the timeline and other details, it is not likely that he was the one and only Arthurian archetype.  Other potential candidates for Arthur include a wide timeline and potential locales.  (Ashe)


Another reason that Arthur’s story is not likely to be based on one historical figure is that there are echoes of cultural influences of mythology, folklore, and religion in each culture that has adopted the Arthurian legends.  Christianity is one example. (Crawford) Irish and Celtic folklore is another. (Loomis) Lastly, there is a heavy link to Sarmation culture in many of the artifacts associated with Arthur. (Littleton) (Wadge)


One thing is for certain, the idea of a brave and just king was popular.  Add to that, the heroic journeys, epic battles, and magical elements to his story, there is little to rival such a romantic telling of history.  Let’s face it, the middle ages were no picnic to have lived through.  If the story of the legendary King Arthur was made up of only facts, it likely would not have endured through the ages.  There is something about the ethereal mythical properties of the tale that linger in the imaginations of men and women throughout the ages.  It is no wonder that the legend itself has gained a form of immortality, much like Arthur does in some versions of the story.


Sources Cited:

ASHE, GEOFFREY. “The Origins of the Arthurian Legend.” Arthuriana 5, no. 3 (1995): 1-24.

Crawford, Deborah. “St. Joseph in Britain: Reconsidering the Legends, Part I.” Folklore 104, no. 1/2 (1993): 86-98.

Littleton, C. Scott. “The Holy Grail, the Cauldron of Annwn, and the Nartyamonga: A Further Note on the Sarmatian Connection.” The Journal of American Folklore 92, no. 365 (1979): 326-33. doi:10.2307/539418.

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by | November 13, 2018 · 12:21 am


Hadrian: Buildings, Public Works, and Administration


Hadrian’s rule of Rome is best characterized by his numerous buildings and similar establishments. It is important to recognize the effects Hadrian’s works had on Rome’s legacy and reputation as well as the effects on his citizens’ lives.



Looking retrospectively upon his actions, Hadrian was deeply invested in improving the living quality of Rome for its citizens. Two minor but effective ways of accomplishing this were by sanctioning and reducing wheeled traffic in the city and by serving harsher punishments to those caught burying dead bodies within city limits (Boatwright 26). These steps would contribute to a cleaner and more appreciated city. A more direct service to his citizens was Hadrian’s increase of Rome’s borders to include land that was previously uninhabitable due to flooding. Through the creation of a dike, the land was made safe and habitable, and became a significant area for housing (Boatwright 24). Another benefit to Roman citizens was the creation of jobs for tens of thousands. Large numbers of workers were needed for Hadrian’s projects; skilled and unskilled workers alike were needed (Boatwright 20). Examples of these projects are the development of shrines, temples, baths, and theatres (Boatwright 7).


Map of Rome

Each of these things contributed to a greater Roman identity for citizens. Between the swell of new buildings and public works as well as the active presence and power of the Roman senate and other princeps, citizens of Rome saw their city as a beacon of strength and unstoppable improvement (Boatwright 7). A greater Roman identity would have benefited the republic in that citizens would be more supportive of their officials and proud of their community. Hadrian was well aware of these effects. In fact, many of Hadrian’s buildings arguably serve two purposes: their literal purpose and their perceived statement of status or power. For example, the purpose of the Pantheon has been debated, but it can be agreed that aside from just being a structure of religious importance, it is a uniquely Roman accomplishment. It was an emblem of Roman identity and potential (Joost-Gaugier 21).

Another point of interest is Hadrian’s buildings themselves. Hadrian, famously enamored with the culture, drew much of his inspiration from the Greeks. This can be seen in his classically Greek yet Roman reinventions of architecture (Somers). The majority of the most well known ancient Roman buildings were built under Hadrian’s reign, such as the Pantheon, the Temple of Venus and Roma, and the Mausoleum (Boatwright 5). Unlike the buildings commissioned by Trajan before him, Hadrian’s buildings lacked lavish decorations and detailing. Rather, these buildings compensated with their sheer size and scale (Boatwright 21). A contributing factor to this feat was the development of efficient and reliable concrete, which opened the doors to buildings previously impossible (Wikipedia).



The Roman Pantheon

These buildings also serve as important cooperations between the senate and the emperor. As the senate was chiefly responsible for religious matters, the creation of religious buildings required agreement between the two powers. In fact, most of the identified buildings from Hadrian’s time are religious, which paints the relationships between Hadrian and Rome’s senate in a positive light (Boatwright 29).


Works Cited

Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro. Hadrian and the City of Rome. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

“Concrete.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 16, 2018.

“Hadrian.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 17, 2018. Joost-Gaugier, Christiane L.

“The Iconography of Sacred Space: A Suggested Reading of the Meaning of the Roman Pantheon.” Artibus Et Historiae, Last modified January 1, 1998.

Mark, Joshua J. “Hadrian.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 21, 2018.

Granger. “Roman Empire: Map Of Rome by Granger.” Fine Art America. Accessed October 21, 2018.

Somers. “Hadrian’s Villa A Roman Masterpiece.”, Last modified October 4, 2004.

“The Roman Pantheon.” The Roman Pantheon – Crystalinks. Accessed October 21, 2018.




Hadrian’s Public Works

Hadrian had an interest in architecture even before he became emperor. Unlike Trajan before him, Hadrian was unable to create a military legacy, and left an impact on Roman history through public works instead. Hadrian used his public improvement projects in Rome and throughout the empire to unite his people, giving them a sense of common identity.

The Pantheon is Hadrian’s most well-known architectural achievement. It is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Roman construction ability, largely due to the use of concrete in its design. The Pantheon’s 43.3-meter-wide dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world even today. The original Pantheon was built by Marcus Agrippa after 27 BC but was burned down around AD 80. Hadrian completely rebuilt it into the building we know today. Cultural impacts of the Pantheon and its revolutionary architecture can be seen across the world, from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to the Basilica of St. Peter in 15th century Rome, which was partly designed by Michelangelo after close study of the Pantheon.

Through his extensive building and public works projects, Hadrian was able to secure his legacy as emperor, as well as strengthening the empire for his successors. In order to ensure a smooth transition of power after his death, Hadrian built himself a tomb in the center of Rome modeled after that of Augustus’s mausoleum nearby. This action was seen as a bold political statement, highlighting Hadrian’s desire to establish a dynasty.




Works Cited

“Hadrian–Life and Legacy.” British Museum. 2017. Accessed October 20, 2018.

“The Pantheon.” Honors Program in Rome. September 8, 2004. Accessed October 20, 2018.

Gill, N. S. “The Roman Emperor Hadrian.” ThoughtCo. August 14, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.



Religion in the time of Hadrian

The emperor Hadrian seems to have had a rather eclectic view of spirituality.  He favored the traditions of Hellenism, with a flair for Egyptian mythology, and a sprinkling of other religions of the day.  He constructed temples to the Greek and Roman gods, deified Antinous by comparing him to Osiris, and curbed anti-Christian sentiments by instructing governors to investigate claims against Christians and punish those who made false accusations.

Hadrian himself is difficult to classify into just one religion.  (Walton, 165) He had at least a passing knowledge of most of the sects and cults of his time, and it would stand to reason that he had a particular fascination for eastern religions, given his time spent in that region.

Hadrian desired to rebuild many cities that had been destroyed in previous conflicts, including Jerusalem.  This, however, enraged the Jewish populace — who believed that it was an insult for anyone other than their people to rebuild their holy city and temple, and ended in the Bar Kokhba revolt. (Rénan, 501)  This bloody conflict put down further Jewish uprisings.  (Goodman, 182)

The Hellenistic religions during Hadrian flourished.  New temples to the gods were erected, and nothing controversial happened between people of those beliefs. (Religious Activities, Wiki)

Christians, who practiced their religion quietly so as not to provoke enemy persecution, benefitted from Hadrian’s policies.  Hadrian allowed their religious practices so long as Christians did not object to paying homage to the many Roman gods.  Only if they broke other laws were Christians punished. (Religious Activities, Wiki)  Hadrian had knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, and would have built a temple to him if not for the admonishment of the oracle at the time, who warned that if he built that temple, the other temples would fall into disuse and it would be the end of those other religions. (Rénan, 508)

The death of his boy-lover Antinous began a new cult that was spread by Hadrian far beyond the Nile, where Antinous likely drowned.  Hadrian deified the young man, and he became known as Osiris-Antinous.  A city was established near the place of this death, called Antinopolis, which also served as a place that connected the Egyptian culture with Greco-Roman culture.  (Antinous, Wiki)

These religions would have translated from the population as a whole into the military ranks.  Though, for many soldiers, the Hellenistic cults would have been the most popular, given their high favor by emperor Hadrian.  There would have likely been a small group of Christians and other religions among the soldiers as well.

In conclusion, Hadrian’s rule was largely peaceful, with many benefits to the various religious groups — with the notable exception of the Jews, whose uprising was perhaps the most violent event in Hadrian’s reign.


Sources Cited:

Goodman, Martin. “Trajan and the Origins of Roman Hostility to the Jews.” Past & Present, no. 182 (2004): 3-29.

Rénan, Ernest. “The Emperor Hadrian and Christianity.” The North American Review 127, no. 265 (1878): 492-508.

Walton, Francis R. “Religious Thought in the Age of Hadrian.” Numen 4, no. 3 (1957): 165-70. doi:10.2307/3269342.


“Hadrian: Religious Activities.”



The Law Under Hadrian

When Hadrian became emperor, he sought to organize the government more efficiently. During his reign he sought to codify roman law. In other words, he wanted the law written down and set in stone with little room for personal interpretation. He made his legal advisors into a permanent office. The central government became very strong and often helped the upper classes more than the lower. Punishments for higher classed citizens were much more forgiving than those for the lower class. He encouraged political figures to behave well and dress nicely.

While emperor he implemented the Praetor’s Edict or Perpetual Edict. A praetor “was the magistrate charged with the administration of justice” (Touri). They made sure the law was being upheld and made sure proper legal action was taking place. At the beginning of each year, praetors would publish their edict and all legal procedures listed within. As the year continued, changes and additions may happen. When legal action needed to take place, they could refer to the edict to determine what the outcome should be. If they were ever presented a case they hadn’t dealt with in the past, they could work the case out and add to the edict.

The Perpetual Edict would be very beneficial in many ways. It prevented the law from being left to interpretation. Rather than every single legal issue needing to be brought before the emperor or praetor, smaller issues could be dealt with by referring to the edict. If anybody attempted to find a way around the law, the edict could adapt to cover their offenses.

With most praetors, their edict would rarely change from year to year (Johnston). The idea of the perpetual edict was not new to Hadrian’s time, though he was the first emperor to make it official. There are also very few sources that reference the perpetual edict and it is difficult to find exact dates for when they were published. When referring to Hadrian’s perpetual edict, there is uncertainty and vagueness associated. It is possible that modern ideas have influenced what has been said about the government of ancient Rome and it is even possible the edict didn’t exist until after Hadrian’s time.




Watson, Alan. “The Development of the Praetor’s Edict.” The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 60, 1970, pp. 105–119. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Dr Kaius Tuori (2006) Hadrian’s Perpetual Edict: Ancient Sources and Modern Ideals in the Making of a Historical Tradition, The Journal of Legal History, 27:3, 219-237, DOI: 10.1080/01440360601041076

Johnston, David. Roman Law in Context. Cambridge University Press, 1999. EBSCOhost,




The Military under Hadrian

What made the legions (and auxilia and such) so appealing compared to other professions?


Significant Non-Military Occupations:

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Farming
  • Trade
  • Government Positions


Benefits of the Legions (and Auxilia and such):

  • Legion:
    • A well established and secure pension at the end of service (worth about 14 years of income).
      • A lesser pension is given if you are misso causaria (this depends on your length of service.
    • Opportunities to travel, meet new people, and receive training in some professional skills (and lots of training in construction and ditch digging).
    • Potential for loot if you are actually involved in and survive a successful campaign.
    • More if you’re a centurion or higher officer, including potential advancement, though your fancier garb will put you in greater danger in the event of an actual battle.
  • Auxilia and such:
    • Potential to become a Roman citizen after service.
    • A pension, though a lesser one when compared to that of a Legionnaire.
    • In the navy, a slave can serve and potentially be freed
    • Again, travel and receive professional experience


Pros and Cons of Other Occupations:

  • Construction: much of the work you might like to do is already done by the legions. A traveling army needs roads, so if no such convenience exists it must be built. However, in the empire proper this is a valid occupation, if you can do the work for less than a slave.
  • Mining, Quarrying, etc.: Genuinely a valid career path, though like construction it’s hard to be more affordable than slave labor. As Hadrian downsized the empire and largely ceased conquesting however, competition with slave labor went down as slaves became less plentiful and more expensive.
  • Farming: To put it simply, land is expensive. Also, there are many parts of the world that are more agriculturally productive than Rome (much of southern Asia, for example). As a result, foreign imports tend to be less expensive for many products than their domestically produced equivalents.
  • Trade: This is, again, a decent alternative. Assuming you live somewhere along a major trade route or on the coastline, you will likely be able to make a decent living. However, like modern entrepreneurship, getting into the business and getting established is as hard as ever.
  • Government/Public Service Positions: There are obviously a lot of these in the world’s greatest empire. However, there are a few major hurdles to overcome. Among other things, you need some sort of patron to obtain a good position. Also…public service really isn’t an alternative to military service, as most civil offices are reached only after service as an officer in the Roman Army (a position which one also requires a patron to obtain).
  • In general, all of these alternatives have the advantage of significantly lower chances of being cut to pieces, shot, trampled, or otherwise brutally killed. And, with the exception of construction, you will also spend less time digging trenches than the average legionary by a significant amount.


Works Cited:

Rodgers, Nigel (2006). Roman Empire. Dodge, Hazel. London: Lorenz Books.


“Ancient Rome.” Wikipedia. (21 October, 2018).

Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2009.


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Alexander Blog

It is useful, in an attempt to more fully understand the world-shaking conquest of Alexander the Great, to view the context of his campaign. In learning about the state of the territories that he was to invade, both physically and in other, more temporary aspects, such as the political and cultural status’ of these lands, we discover elements that help to explain some of Alexander’s exceptional military success during his short reign.

The State of Greece

Alexander III of Macedon rose to power in 336 BC, following the assassination of his father Philip II by a royal bodyguard. His father’s accomplishments include the founding of the League of Corinth, a federation of Greek States, formed for mutual defense, as well as with intentions of conquering Persia, though Philip II died before any such campaign could be undertaken. The extent of his control can be seen in this map, where all the marked territories excepting Sparta, Crete, and the Persian Empire (naturally) could be considered his, though parts of it were still, at least in name, “independent” (such as Thrace and Molossia).


Upon Philip’s assassination, Alexander was the heir apparent and laid claim to the throne, though Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the some of the Thracian tribes in the northern reaches of the kingdom attempted to rebel. This was something of a kick-start to Alexander’s conquest, however, as his magnificent success in reconquering these rebellious territories–including the total destruction of Thebes–helped secure his native kingdom and established him in the eyes of his army as a capable leader from the very beginning of his campaign. Hence, when he turned toward Persia in 334 BC, his base in the Greek peninsula was stable.

The State of the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Achaemenid [Converted]

Interestingly, Darius III of the Achaemenid Persian Empire ascended the throne as the Persian “King of Kings” in the same year Alexander did, also as the result of his predecessor’s assassination, though his reign was fated to end far sooner than that of his contemporary, Alexander.

The vizier of the Persian empire for some years before 336 BC was a eunuch named Bagoas. Notably, during his time in that office, he was effectively the ruler of the Empire. Those emperors who attempted to assert dominance during this time were poisoned and replaced. However, when he selected Darius III as the new emperor after poisoning most of the family of Artaxerxes IV (as well as the man himself, naturally), Darius showed himself immediately to be dominant and, being forewarned of Bagoas’ tactics, forced his adviser to drink the poison intended for Darius. However, it appears that Darius may have had a harder time establishing his control in his Empire, as Alexander would make quite an indentation in the Persian border before meeting any real opposition from the Emperor.

The Terrain of Alexander’s Route


Alexander spent much of his early conquest of Persia trying to remain close to river banks and the ocean, typically only departing from this approach when it was necessary to conquer a strategic target.. This was a mixed bag for him: it was basically necessary, assuming he wanted supplies to be able to reach his army quickly, and as it allowed his forces to minimize the advantage the more numerous Persian armies that (eventually) opposed them had, but at the same time this left them open to harassment by the Persian navy (sadly, until he conquered enough of Persia’s ports, Alexander had little to no navy of his own). When he did move inland, much of his travel was through mountainous terrain, particularly as he progressed closer to Alexandria Eschate (lit. “the furthest), the final reach of his stretch into Persia.

“File:Map Macedonia 336 BC-en.svg.” Wikimedia Commons. January 28, 2017. Accessed September 30, 2018.

The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. “Bagoas.” Encyclopædia Britannica. April 11, 2016. Accessed September 30,2018.

Kia, Mehrdad. The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2016.

“Wars of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia. September 24, 2018. Accessed on September 30, 2018.

“File:The Achaemenid Empire at its Greatest Extent.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons. August 19, 2017. Accessed on October 1, 2018.



What kind of troops would be effective?

Assuming we have around 60,000 total troops, choosing which types to bring requires us to understand what the enemy has. In one battle described by Kaushik Roy, Alexander fought against chariot archers, lightly armed cavalry, and disorganized infantry (Roy, 2004). Around 45,000 heavily armored men in the phalanx won’t have much difficulty with the enemy’s infantry, and around 5,500 heavy cavalry (called the companion cavalry) can help against the enemy’s chariots and cavalry.

The bigger issue is that India has lots of elephants. When one of the massive beasts charges the phalanx, the dense group of soldiers get trampled and impaled by the iron tipped trunks. A charging elephant can eliminate large groups of men very fast. To help combat this, the phalanx must split up. Instead of being in a big group, they can be divided into smaller groups that stay close enough together to prevent the enemy from surrounding them, but also providing enough room for them to spread out when an elephant charges. They can surround it and attempt to drive it back into the enemy infantry. If it doesn’t work quite so perfectly, it will at least help reduce losses.

Another important group of units would be around 1,500 horse archers. Societies like the Scythians are excellent horse archers, recruit as many of them as possible to help with the not as excellent Macedonian mounted archers (Mounted Archery). Elephant riders would often carry poisoned spikes they could stab into the head of the elephant if it ever turned on its own troops. Archers could pick of the riders to leave the beast uncontrollable and aid in driving it back into the opposing infantry.

The remaining 8,000 troops could contribute to the phalanx or cavalry, but there are some other units that could be useful. Lighter infantry, possibly mercenaries, could make up a lighter infantry that can fight where the phalanx can’t. More archers can be beneficial, especially if they have high power bows that can pierce metal. War elephants can be good, but overall not many should be used because of their unpredictability. Elephants might be more useful as a pack animal, but still require a large amount of food and care.

How do we deal with our troops?

As conquering continues, cities will be established and provides an excellent opportunity to leave behind those who are severely wounded and those who have served their time and would like to stay.  To transport the sick and wounded, they can be carried in a wagon or slung over a pack animal in what is called a litter (Sternberg, 1999). New troops can be recruited from conquered regions and hired as mercenaries. It can be dangerous and expensive to do so, but will help maintain the number of troops. Winning battles will help keep mercenaries on our side.



Mounted Archery. Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Roy, K. (2004). India’s Historic Battles: From Alexander the Great to Kargil. Orient Blackswan.

Sternberg, Rachel Hall. “The Transport of Sick and Wounded Soldiers in Classical Greece.” Phoenix, vol. 53, no. 3/4, 1999, pp. 191–205. JSTOR, JSTOR,



Alexander the Great Logistics

The first problem faced by any army is how to provide adequate food and water for a large number of soldiers. In the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate Alexander’s army would have marched through on their way to India, each soldier would require a minimum of 3,400 calories a day, including 70 grams of protein, and at least 9 quarts of water. With around 65,000 soldiers, the army would have to take along about 195,000 pounds of grain, 325,000 pounds of water, and about 375,000 additional pounds of grain to feed pack animals.

Another common problem was the issue of speed and flexibility. In the past, the ox-cart was the most common means of transport for armies traveling long distances. While it allowed more supplies to be moved, the carts only moved about two miles an hour for five hours. Ox-carts also required almost constant repair, necessitating the presence of repairmen, extra lumber, and tools, which added to the overall burden armies had to carry and slowed them even further. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the horse to military operations, allowing their armies greater speed and the ability to move over all types of terrain. While it took five horses to pull a load carried by one ox-cart, horses required almost half the amount of forage and were able to move the load at four miles an hour for eight hours. By the time of the Persians, the rapid growth of army size had created a logistical burden so large that speed and operational flexibility was becoming severely limited. The Persians’ use of horses as part of their military operations did a lot to remedy this issue, though they still relied heavily on the ox-cart. Phillip II and Alexander became the first to make horses a major part of their logistics train.

The mobility issue was further resolved by Phillip of Macedon, who was the first military commander to forbid the presence of camp followers in his armies. Before this, a typical army of 30,000 would bring with it almost the same number of attendants, wives, and various service providers. The logistics burden of his army was reduced by nearly 2/3 without the presence of these people, increasing the army’s combat power as well as the speed at which they were able to travel. Alexander’s army also maximized the speed at which it was able to travel by requiring each soldier to carry his own food and equipment. As a result, soldiers carried nearly 1/3 of the load normally hauled by horses and oxen and the army required almost 5,000 less pack animals.

Alexander the Great Logistics

The first problem faced by any army is how to provide adequate food and water for a large number of soldiers. In the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate Alexander’s army would have marched through on their way to India, each soldier would require a minimum of 3,400 calories a day, including 70 grams of protein, and at least 9 quarts of water. With around 65,000 soldiers, the army would have to take along about 195,000 pounds of grain, 325,000 pounds of water, and about 375,000 additional pounds of grain to feed pack animals.

Another common problem was the issue of speed and flexibility. In the past, the ox-cart was the most common means of transport for armies traveling long distances. While it allowed more supplies to be moved, the carts only moved about two miles an hour for five hours. Ox-carts also required almost constant repair, necessitating the presence of repairmen, extra lumber, and tools, which added to the overall burden armies had to carry and slowed them even further. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the horse to military operations, allowing their armies greater speed and the ability to move over all types of terrain. While it took five horses to pull a load carried by one ox-cart, horses required almost half the amount of forage and were able to move the load at four miles an hour for eight hours. By the time of the Persians, the rapid growth of army size had created a logistical burden so large that speed and operational flexibility was becoming severely limited. The Persians’ use of horses as part of their military operations did a lot to remedy this issue, though they still relied heavily on the ox-cart. Phillip II and Alexander became the first to make horses a major part of their logistics train.

The mobility issue was further resolved by Phillip of Macedon, who was the first military commander to forbid the presence of camp followers in his armies. Before this, a typical army of 30,000 would bring with it almost the same number of attendants, wives, and various service providers. The logistics burden of his army was reduced by nearly 2/3 without the presence of these people, increasing the army’s combat power as well as the speed at which they were able to travel. Alexander’s army also maximized the speed at which it was able to travel by requiring each soldier to carry his own food and equipment. As a result, soldiers carried nearly 1/3 of the load normally hauled by horses and oxen and the army required almost 5,000 less pack animals.

Sources Cited:

Kast, Bernahrd. “The Logistics of Alexander the Great.” Military History Visualized. April 19, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018.

“Alexander the Great Needed Great Supply Chains.” SCM Globe. March 17, 2014. Accessed September 23, 2018.

“Ancient Macedonian Army.” Wikipedia. August 31, 2018. Accessed September 23, 2018.

“Military Supply Chain Management.” Wikipedia. March 9, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018.



Navigation in Ancient Times

Being able to get from place to place was important, not only for regular citizens, but especially for military campaigns.  Alexander would have used every possible tool at his disposal in his conquest of Persia and Asia. Basic maps would have been had among the military, but the real information about the terrain would have come from the native populations.

Alexander was known for using guides from the newly conquered people in order to move to the next place.  These guides often gave accurate information, but sometimes used their position of trust to deceive and mislead.  Treachery of this sort was swiftly dealt with, as the cost in time, supplies and even lives mattered a great deal.  (Engels, 331) Either the guides themselves acted as hostages for their own good performance, or else family members of the guides were taken to insure proper intelligence gathering. (Engels, 331-332)

Another tactic was to use social connections to be introduced in new places.  These friends or kinsmen led the way to the new location and made introductions with the locals in charge. (Stark, 107)  Having the personal connection made it much easier to overtake cities.

It is also important to note that trade routes and roads were used on some of the campaigns.  (Stark, 110) These roads were important not only for the movement of troops, but also for communication sent via horseback.Trekking_the_Old_Roman_Road

By Davidbena [CC BY-SA 4.0  (, from Wikimedia Commons

For naval use, the employment of sounding weights would have given navigators information about the depth of the water and general topography of the seafloor.  The weight was usually dropped to measure the depth of the water near the shore, but also in times of inclement weather. (Oleson, 119-120)

Interesting Tidbits from the Research

As I was researching this topic, I came across several references to Zoroastrianism in Persia. Alexander got in quite a bit of trouble for going counter to their traditions.  In one instance, Alexander ordered the crucifixion of Bessus, and for the soldiers to keep the vultures away from the body. This upset the Zoroastrians, who believed that it was important for the dead to be devoured by birds and wild beasts. (Livius, 2.12)

People during this time were highly superstitious, and armies often had magicians and soothsayers as part of their advisors.  The final battle between Alexander and Darius III was foretold to spell doom for Darius because of a lunar eclipse. In fact, the omen was so widely known for its negative prediction that many in Darius’ army deserted before the battle began.  (Livius, Alexander the Great)

Engels, Donald. “Alexander’s Intelligence System.” The Classical Quarterly 30, no. 2 (1980): 327-40.

Oleson, John Peter. “Testing the Waters: The Role of Sounding Weights in Ancient Mediterranean Navigation.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes 6 (2008): 119-76.

Stark, Freya. “Alexander’s March from Miletus to Phrygia.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 78 (1958): 102-20. doi:10.2307/628929.



Punjab and Indus Valley, Approx. 327 BCE.

A well-planned and executed baggage train is essential for any successful military march, or at least for any march in the 4th century BCE. Alexander the Great’s cavalcade was no exception. The efficiency of a baggage train was generally rooted to the ability of its animals in terms of speed, survivability, and strength.

Before addressing the animals, it’s important to know what the “baggage” of a baggage train is. This is all of the army’s provisions: food, equipment, tents, medicine, firewood, etc. It’s also important to note that the followers in this march were not solely comprised of soldiers. In fact, the numbers were greatly bolstered by non-military individuals, as listed by Donald W. Engels:

Traveling with the Macedonians were bodyguards, older Macedonians exempt from combat duty, hostages, servants, seers, physicians, sophists, poets, a historian, a tutor, secretaries, surveyors, the transport guard, Egyptian and Babylonian soothsayers, Phoenician traders, courtesans, a harpist, a siege train, engineers, and as the expedition advanced further into Asia, women and children. (Engels 11)

Alexander was conscious of the size of his following, and took measures to downsize when appropriate. One method was to burn excess baggage and unnecessary carts (Engels 13). It goes without saying that limiting the number of wagons and carts and their respective beasts of burden would speed the march up.

As previously stated, a baggage train is only as good as its animals. Mules, horses, and camels would have been Alexander’s primary “motive power.” Between these three animals, Alexander’s march would be able to transport its cargo with relative speed and efficiency. Mules and horses were effective at weathering down a path for the army to follow (Hammond 28). Camels were capable in the same terrains as mules and horses, but were more strongly suited for desert terrain(Hammond 28). Donkeys and oxen were not used as they were too slow and unfit for long journeys (Hammond 14-15). These animals, though able to be loaded with packs, would have hindered the march.


Having inherited his army from Philip, Alexander would have maintained most of the practices previously in place, including the general unfriendliness towards the usage of carts. Only carts carrying essential battle equipment of medical supplies were allowed (Engels 15). Among whatever other reasoning exists for this decision. It was thought that the usage of carts might encourage individuals to try and bring along cargo that was unimportant and a waste of space (Engels 16). As a general rule, personnel were to carry their own smaller possessions— weapons, armor, utensils, etc.— rather than take up valuable space in wagons or carts (Engels 12). The smaller the train was in both size and weight the easier it would be to traverse and troublesome terrain. According to Livius, the march would have ran into trouble when the Himalayan snows melted and filled rivers in the surrounding valleys. In cases such as these, smaller was better.


As far as amounts go, Engels asserts that, “About 800 pack animals were required by each legion to carry its noncomestible supplies, or about one animal per seven combatants” (17), and notes the increase of Alexander’s army as time went on as he continues, “After crossing the Hellespont, there were about 48,000 soldiers in Alexander’s army and about 6,100 cavalry horses… 1,300 baggage animals would be required” (18).


“Alexander 2.13.” Livius, Last modified January 16, 2017.

Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

Hammond, N. G. L. Army Transport in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries. Cambridge: Clare College, 1982.

Loaded CamelKisspng. Accessed September 30, 2018.

Lovell, Tom. “ Alexander The Great Refusing Water In The Desert.” . American Gallery. Accessed September 30, 2018.



How do we know these things?

Using primary and secondary sources, historians and researchers have been able to piece together most of the information.  Some things have to be inferred based on other historical evidence not related to this particular campaign, but similar in both time period and other methodology.  Additionally, sources are useful for what they spell out, but they are equally useful for what they do not expressly tell. Depending on the audience intended for the original documents, certain information would have been left out based on social norms or the expectation that the intended audience would have already had some of the information.  



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Hello all!  I chose the username iamcamalot as a play on words.  I love the story of King Arthur, along with the musical Camelot, and it works because of the nickname I get called sometimes.  I am not as well versed in Ancient and Medieval history as I’d like, and I thought that this class might give me some more insights into that time period.  Plus, who doesn’t like learning about ancient smackdowns?

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