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A new French Ancient Hoplite experimental archaeology project.


An excellent living history project took place in France and you can see it here:

French re-enactors from South of France in collaboration with a web channel specializing in martial arts took an interesting approach to ancient Greek hoplite combat.

For starters the setting was impressive as there were 32 re-enactors that participated,

The French brothers in arms demonstrated phalanx movement.  The next step was demonstration of phalanx maneuvers. 

A superb show of the formation turning left with locked shields and pivoting on the left most hoplite was shown. As said on camera this could happen when one phalanx outflanked the other for various reasons.  Most demonstration of turning formation that I am aware of, were done in open order so this interpretation in a tight group and with locked shields was a very interesting approach.

Their interpretation of the Spartan maneuver in Thermopylae to trick the Persians in the narrow path offers a good insight into this part of Herodotus work that is debated by scholars.

The most important part in my opinion was the demonstration of two formations colliding and performing the othismos (push over). The most remarkable part was that hoplites stationed behind the second line of combatants could also be targeted. So men in the 3rd or 4th rank could not afford to have a false sense of security. They could also be stabbed by their enemies, even if they were not very well seen by them.

 Their solution for avoiding problems with the butt spikes of the spears is also worth further study.  I also noted that they point their spears at the enemy after they close ranks. Personally I object to that. Based on experience and many trials I believe that the best option is to go on guard and level the spears in open order and then tighten the formation. This better done when the successive ranks also have distance from one another and after the ranks close a second command for compacting the phalanx is given.

I also suggest it might be well to consider taking a better defensive stance by lowering the waist and advancing towards the enemy using the “gathering step”. (moving the rear foot first and then  move the front foot to recover your stability)

Well done lads. You set a mile stone for further study.

Homeric  era naval commands


ΑΓΕ ΝΗΑ ΕPΥΣΣΩΜΕΝ ΕΙΣ ΑΛΑ

Let’s tow the vessel to the sea (put the boat to the water) Odyssy 8, 34

ΕΓΚΟΣΜΕΙΤΕ ΤΑ ΤΕΥΧΗ

Man your positions  Odyssey  15,  218 – 219

ΕΥΝΑΣ ΑΝΕΛΚΥΣΑΙ

Lift the anchors

ΠΡΥΜΗΣΙΑ  ΛΥΣΑΙ

Cut (untie) the ropes     Odyssey 11, 637

ΙΣΤΟΝ ΣΤΗΣΑΤΕ

Set the mast  Odyssey 1, 480

ΕΠΙ ΚΛΗΙΣΙ ΚΑΘΗΣΑΤΕ

Sit on your benches Odyssey 11, 638

ΕΡΕΤΜΑ ΑΝΑΛΑΒΑΤΕ

Pick up your oars Odyssey 11, 639

ΕΜΒΑΛΕΕΙ  ΚΩΠΑΣ

Put the oars in the water Odyssey 10, 28

ΚΩΠΗΣΙ ΤΥΠΤΕΤΕ

Strike (the water) with your oars Odyssey 9, 472 9, 564

ΠΡΟΠΕΣΟΝΤΩΣ ΕΡΕΣΑΤΕ

Row faster Odyssey 10, 194

ΣΦΟΔΡΩΣ  ΕΛΑΣΣΕΤΕ

Row harder Odyssey 12, 121

ΕΥΝΑΣ ΒΑΛΑΤΕ

Throw anchor in the water  Odyssey 15, 498

ΠΡΙΜΝΗΣΙΑ ΔΗΣΑΤΕ

Tie the ropes Odyssey 15, 498

ΕΡΕΤΜΑ ΕΠΙ ΚΛΗΙΣΙ ΔΗΣΑΤΕ

Secure the oars to the benches  Odyssey 8. 37

Odysseus, also called Ulysses, pictured lashed to mast of a similar ship on an ancient Greek vase. Image: British Museum

A voting ostrakon from the Kerameikos Museum.


In the Kerameikos Museum in the center of Athens is exhibited a pottery fragment like those that were used in voting persons in to temporary exile if they were considered a threat to the democratic institutions of ancient Athens. They were known as ostraka (plural) to the ancients and the procedure was called ostrakismos (ostracism).The individual was given 10 days to manage his affairs and was banished for a period of 10 years.

The individual that was to be banished is Kallias son of Kratias. The ostrakon would be no different from the many others used in similar cases except for the fact that it has an archer engraved on the opposite side of the inscription. The archer is dressed in Scythian garb and he seems to be ready to advance after he has loosened an arrow.

This raises some issues. In general voting procedures are considered secret. So why the individual casting the vote wanted to mark it so that it would be known who cast it? Was the voter an illiterate who had been bribed to vote and put the engraved figure as proof that he had actually done it? (A case of electoral fraud here?) Did he bare a serious personal grudge against Kallias and he wanted him to know who voted against him? Was the engraved archer a threat to Kallias from a criminal whose grudge would not be resolved by the defendant’s banishment? If so was it a warning like: “watch your back”? Another interesting question would be: was a Scythian slave or mercenary involved in the case made against Kallias? After all Peseistratus had established tyranny with the employment of 50 club armed slaves. Was Kallias an officer of the horsearcher corps of Athens accused of dereliction of duty? Whatever the case this pottery fragment seems to hold its mystery.

My New Book is on circulation


 

You can purchase it  from HERE

Questioning the origins of the Bireme.


The bireme was an ancient oared warship that had two decks of oars. It was the first attempt to increase the speed of the ships of the period which had one deck with 15 to 25 oars to each side. Except the increased speed and the larger crew the increased height of the bireme was an additional advantage in naval combat.  A school of thought considers these ships a Phoenician invention of the seventh century BC simply based on the plaque of Sennacherib (WA 124772 British Museum) that depicts a ship with two decks and a ram. If we trust Archaic pottery biremes appear in Greek art 100 years later. But is this so?

Homer in the Iliad at rhapsody two, that lists the Greek forces, uses the term “glafyra” for the ships of the Beoteans. (verses: 496-516) This term translates as “ventricle” in Hysichios lexicon. He also mentions that the ships of the Orchomenians have 120 men as crew. Both terms are thought to be characteristic of the two decked ship when compared to their contemporary vessels without decks.

Yet Mycaenenan pottery dated in the 13th century BC depicts vessels that seem to have a deck.

A fresco from Orhomenos dated also in the 13th century BC depicts a vessel with two decks

Even if we assume that the poems depict life of the 8th century BC they are still earlier than the plaque of Sennacherib. It is even more interesting that in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens exist fragments of pottery depicting double decked ships and they are dated around the 8th century BC.

Ancient Greek War Chants & Battle cries


Herodotus says that the  Perinthians used the “Paean ” as their victory cry

(Histories,  5.1)

Xenophon  says the  Greek mercenaries chanted “Zeus, Soter, Nke“ at Cunaxa

(Anabasis 1.8.16)

and  “Zeus, Soter, Heracles Agetor (= leader)” against the Bithynians

(Anabasis 6.5.25)

Paysanias says  that the Thessalians chanted “Itonia Athena” while the Phocians chanted “Phocus” their deified ancestral spirit

 (Description of Greece, 10.10)

Demosthenes in his speech against Leocrates he preserves the oath of the Athenian youth. There he mentions (Leoc, 101) the god Ares with his epithet Enyalios. It is interesting to think that the Athenian hoplites entered into battle chanting it rhythmically

He also says that the Spartans worshiped Artemis Agrotera (“Hellenica” 4. 2. 20) so it is quite likely that they chanted her name rhythmically when they fought without allies

Hoplite trumpeter, Altesmuseum Berlin. (Wikimedia Commons)

For more details on hoplite maneuvers you can check my book here

 

Ancient Greek iron-shod foot-ware.


While most people have the notion that all ancient Greek warriors wore sandals, ancient art depicts a vast variety of boots and other closed foot-ware for usage in hunting or war. A sample of studded soles in the Athens Ceramicus Museum testifies to the usage of hobnails. Yet another item in the Nafplion Museum proves that metal reinforcements similar to the metal pieces reinforcing the soles of the 17th to 18th century military boots were also in use. Ancient sources call them «Kapymata».

Phalanx drill commands in Greek


The Hellenistic common dialect of ancient Greek literature Corpus is used.

Pronunciation has taken into account the syneresis of the vowels.

Listen to the sounds in Greek here

The underlined vowel signifies the tone

ΗΣΥΧΙΑ ΔΕΣΤΩ ΚΑΙ ΠΡΟΣΕΧΕΤΕ ΤΩ ΠΑΡΑΓΓΕΛΜΑΤΙ
ISIHIA DESTO KE PROSEHETE TO PARANGELMATI

ΑΣΠΙΔΑΣ ΑΝΑΛΑΒΑΤΕ – ASPIDAS ANALAVATE

ΖΥΓΕΙZIGI

ΣΤΟΙΧΕΙSTIHI

ΠΡΟΣ ΠΡΟΕΛΑΣΙΝ ΔΟΡΑΤΑ ΑΝΑΛΑΒΑΤΕPROS PROELASIN DORATA ANALAVATE 

ΠΡΟΣ ΠΑΡΕΛΑΣΙΝ ΔΟΡΑΤΑ ΑΝΑΛΑΒΑΤΕPROS PARELASIN DORATA ANALAVATE

ΕΠΙ ΔΟΡΥ ΚΛΙΝΑΤΕEPI DORY KLINATE

ΕΠΑΣΠΙΔΑ ΚΛΙΝΑΤΕEP’ ASPIDA   KLINATE

ΜΕΤΑΒΟΛΗ METAVOLI

ΠΡΟÁΓΕΤΕPROAGETE

ΕΠΙ ΛΑΙΑ ΕΓΚΛΙΝΑΤΕEPI [ΤΑ] LEA ENKLINATE

ΕΠΙ ΔΕΞΙΑ EΓKLΙNATE EPI [ΤΑ] DEXIA ENKLINATE

ΕΠΙ ΔΟΡΥ ΜΕΤΑΒΑΛΟΥEPΙ DΟRY METAVΑLU

ΕΠΑΣΠΙΔΑ  ΜΕΤΑΒΑΛΟΥEP’ ASPIDA METAVALU

ΟΥΤΩΣ ΕΧΟΥUTOS ECHU

ΦΥΛΑΞΙΣFILAXIS

ΔΟΡΥ ΑΝΑΣΧΕΣΘΑΙDORI ANASKHESTHAI

ΣΥΝΑΣΠΙΣΑΤΕSYNASPISATE

ΔΙΑΣΤΗΘΙDIASTITHI

ΠΑΡΑΣΤΗΘΙ ΕΠΙ  ΤΟ OΠΛΟΝPARASTITHI EPI TO HOPLOΝ

ΑΣΠΙΣ ΠΑΡΑΠΛΕΥΡΩASPIS PARAPLEVRO

ΑΣΠΙΔΑΣ ΑΠΟΘΕΣΑΤΕASPIDAS APOTHESATE

ΤΟΥΣ ΖΥΓΟΥΣ ΛΥΣΑΤΕTOUS ZIGUS LISATE

Listen again to the sounds in Greek here

Detailed description of the  commands execution in my book

 

Anti-theban propaganda on Ancient Attic Amphora


In Ancient Greece where paper was unknown but Art needed to propagate cultural and political messages. Athens and Thebes were at odds from the Geometric Era. Attic theater through the “Theban circle» collection of plays was a constant reminder of this enmity. But if the visual arts had to sent their message to wider audience the pottery iconography was the best means to reach a large number of people.

A good example is a red-figured Amphora with «Two Amazons», related to The Charmides Painter workshop and it is dated between 480 and 460 BC. (Beazley ARV² 653-654; Boardman ARFH1 195)

At that time Greece was in grave danger facing invasion by large Persian Army and the Thebans, who were viewed with suspicion, after Thermopylae promptly sided with the invaders according to Herodotus. Even worse the fought valiantly, although unsuccessfully against the Greek Coalition troops in Platea in 479 BC.

Amazons on British Museum

Image courtesy Michael Svetbird (c) MSP”

The amphora depicts two young warriors: one in typical hoplite equipment and the other in Persian or Scythian garb and armed with bow and axe. The fact that they appear beardless makes scholars to designate them as “Amazons» This may be true for the person with the Asiatic gear as most contemporary Iranic people sported beards but can be called into question for the hoplite who might just be a beardless young man.

From Xenophon we learn that the club of Hercules was the emblem of Thebans and from that we can designate the hoplite warrior as a Theban because of this shield device. The legends of Theseus present the Amazons as enemies of the Athenians who finally defeated them. If we accept them both as Amazons the hint is obvious. The good for nothing, effeminate Thebans with their equally useless foreign allies who fight from a distance they are not to be taken seriously and the will never be able to stand up to Athenian might.

My thanks to Michael Svetbird  for bring the item to my attention.

Looking for Kerberus lost brother…


On the webpage of COINWEEK.COM, Mike Markowitz posted on February 14, 2020 the article : » Mythical Monsters on Ancient Coins » It is a good narrative that can be read by a non-specialist audience.   The author even uses example of modern show business to ease the understanding of even the uninitiated in the Greek Mythology reader.

I will stand though on one of the coins. The stater of Kyzikos in Straights of Asia Minor that depicts a monstrous dog identified as Cerberus. I strongly believe that the author’s sources have led him to an error, which is not his fault. For the dog on the coin might well NOT be Cerberus.

In Greek mythology, Cerberus (or Kerberos) is a large, ferocious three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hades to the land of the dead. He often appears as the companion of Pluto the Lord of the underworld. It was the 12th Labor, of Hercules (or Herakles) to bring the dog to the King of Mykynae. After that the creature was returned to the underworld, unharmed. Cerberus appears on a magnificent electrum stater of Cyzicus (c. 500-450 BCE).

Kyzikos Stater

Mysia, Kyzikos EL Stater. Circa 500-450 BCE. Cerberus standing to left on tuna fish / Quadripartite incuse square. Von Fritze 10; Boston 1538. 15.90g, 19mm.

Mr. Markowitz sources state that: “For practical reasons, representations of Cerberus in Greek art often depict him with two visible heads (the third being assumed to be hidden), but occasionally three heads, and rarely only one, are also seen.”

The problem is that in Greek mythology there was a… guardian dog with actually two heads! His name was Orthrus (or Orthos) and belonged to the three-headed giant Geryon who possessed excellent cattle coveted again by the king of Mykynae. In his 10th Labor Herakles killed both Geryon and his dog and brought the cattle to Mykynae. According to Hesiod, Cerberus, like Orthrus was the offspring of Echidna and Typhon so the two were brothers.

It is not unlikely that the stater of Kyzikos actually depicts Orthrus and not Kerberus. Orthrus was also reputed to have great alertness and loyalty. So it could be used as a symbol by the hoplites of this city-state. If you want to re-enact ancient warriors like the hoplites of Kyzikosyou may want to check my book here

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