Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums

marcus silanus

Equites
  • Content Count

    135
  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by marcus silanus


  1. Whyere that site is concerned, I cannot tell a lie.

     

    The number of times I have seen images of the basilica wall from Wroxeter (not to forget the couple of times) I have stood under the gap in the mwall myself have combined to burn it into my memory. :)

     

    Then the prize is yours, Melvadius - I'll PM you when I can think of what it is.

     

    In the mean time, to get this thread moving again, and with Marcus Silanus' permission, I think it's only proper for you to have the honour of providing the next image.

     

    That's fine with me of course! I knew that I had used an image from England or Wales, but couldn't be sure from where exactly.


  2. ..ok marcus silanus, i think we waited now long enough and deserve a hint! ;-)

     

    cheers

    viggen

    Thanks for the message and at some point I will explain my absence. However I will say that I am determined to get stuck in again having greatly missed the intellectual "tennis" and daily betterment of my appreciation of the subject.

     

    Slight problem that I have on this post is that I am struggling to remember myself. My face has gone rather red over this so I'm going to spend some time later on after the daily toils and I'll come up with a hint.

     

    Fingers crossed!!


  3. <Snip>

     

    We should be vigilant against a modern tendency in the social sciences to force fit evidence into politically correct interpretations. They presume each culture's behavior must be equally altruistic (except for dominant western culture, which is "bad"). <SNIP>

     

    I would rather turn that statement around to say that we should be careful that we do not blindly accept everything which comes from any historical source.

     

    Archaeologists are now working to redress the balance of centuries if not millenia of effectively unquestioning acceptance that a relatively limited subset of historical documents were 100% accurate. Now admittedly in some instances the archaeological evidence does more or less support such documents but not always for which reason the veracity of the ancient documents has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years rather than for any reasons of 'political correctness'.

     

    While absence of evidence is not ervidence of absence what we are seeing with this report is that even when it is being actively sought there is currently no physical evidence supporting the historic contention of an irregular let alone 'regular' Carthaginian/ Punic habit of child sacrifice. We now have two converging datasets from different parts of the Pheonecian/ Carthaginian/ Punic world which from sound statistical evidence both contradict what is increasingly looking like an ancient calumny. The childrens graveyards are increasingly being seen as simply that - somewhere to buty those who died at an early age. In comparison the indications are that in much of the Roman world children dying at that early an age would have had no special place to be buried - child burials within buildings are not uncommon.

     

    Looked at impartially if there were no written accounts even vaguely suggesting, let alone 'claiming', that the Carthaginians carried out such sacrifices from the archaeological evidence to date nobody would be ever have considered making such a suggestion.

     

    BTW Rather than referring to a 'putativce' sacrifice the earlier suggestion on this thread that one tombstone could be interpreted as a father 'sacrificing' a 'disabled' son for an 'able' son an alternative interpretation is that it was simply grieving father's appeal to the gods that having lost one son through natural causes he might soon have another.

     

    [Edit - I have just ran a search for the reference to the 'mute son being sacrificed' quoted above and as far as I could determine it seems to have its origin in an article in 'Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, Volume 1, Number 2 - 'What Are/Is Christian Ethics?' by Jay E. Adams, S.T.M., PhD. My concern with this source is that despite there being numerous references to documentary evidence this particular 'quotation' is totally unreferenced in fact there isn't even any indication of what language it was supposed to have beeen written in. I would be interested if anyone could quote this particular inscriptions site/ publication reference number and which report it ands/or it's translation has been published in.]

     

    I didn't make a note of the source. As far as I recall, it is a translation of Punic script from one of the stones found at Carthage. I will, however, try and find the article used and shed some light on this.


  4. Second to an essay in this book:

     

    their enemies were only weak barbarians and the decadent Hellenistic kingdoms with depended on mercenaries.

     

     

    Were they really decadent? The Hellenistic world was probably the most advanced civilzation of the time.

     

    As for the ease at which they were beaten militarily by the Romans, there was something about the Macedonian system that made it exquisitely vulnerable to the Roman legions. Many of the late Hellenistic kingdoms still had great success against numerous opponents, but they fell apart against the Romans and were subject to wholesale slaughter.

     

    True, they were advanced but "weak". And while the hellenistic world was advanced, their military wasn't very good. At least compared to Rome and Carthage.

     

    I think that one important factor was the fact that the Romans mobilized a very large proportion of their population to the military, about 10-15% of the adult male population of Italy was in the military during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.

     

    I have read that all of the warring states in China mobilized their populations to the same extend as Rome. Maybe the other mediterranean powers didn't mobilize their populations to the military like Rome and the warring states.

    The Hellenistic Kingdoms that arose after the death of Alexander were weak by comparison. The huge resources of Alexander were now split between three conflicting factions who in turn were subject to internal treachery, instability and a dependence on the support of neighbouring powers. That was the state of affairs in the late 4th century and early 3rd century BCE.

     

    In contrast, towards the end of the 4th century BCE, Rome had adopted and developed a manipular form of warfare that was tested significantly in the war with Pyrrhus, who was probably the last of the great Hellenic generals to properly employ the Phalanx based army. Rome emerged victorious, with ironic assistance from Carthage, and during the next century or so, engaged in repeated conflict with the Gauls and, of course, Carthage herself.

     

    Rome's success against the Gauls was hard won and bloody, but eventually organisation, manpower and some degree of luck saw off the main threat at Telamon; although further difficulties arose during the Second Punic War. It was during this war that the Romans engaged first with Philip of Macedonia and it is well worth highlighting the contrast between the Hellenic world and that of Rome.

     

    The Greeks had never been a nation state. Whilst they shared cultural values and language - to an extent - the lack of a state left each part of that world isolated and vulnerable. Rome's citizen legions were made up of individuals all of whom had a common interest and something to defend. They were therefore motivated by patriotism, although the promise of booty was always a major consideration. Also, Rome had a unique way of embracing conquered people into the Roman state who would accept an obligation to provide troops for her wars. This meant, for example, that at the most testing time for Rome during the Second Punic War, following the most catastrophic defeats, the Roman state had a citizen and allied body of around 700,000 to call upon. This huge resource, combined with a flexible and effective manipular system and some very able commanders meant that the defeat of deteriorating and poorly motivated Macedonian armies was all but inevitable.


  5. Salve

     

    I am curious to learn about the ethnic extraction of the various Greek colonies in Sicily and the Italian peninsula. I do know that Tarentum was settled by Doric colonisers who had named it Taras and I believe the same goes for Syracuse. Can anyone fill in the gaps here? Which cities were Doric and which Ionic?

     

    Thanks in advance

     

    Tarentum was a Spartan colony and therefore Doric as was Syracuse founded by the Doric Corinthians. Two of the most important Ionian/Attic settlements on Euboea - Chalcis and Eritria - in turn founded one of the very earliest trading posts in the bay of Naples; Pithekoussai. Chalcis was also the mother city of Rhegium.

     

    This is terribly sketchy, I know, but I hope that it's a start. This is part of the wider subject of Hellenic culture and its influence on that of the Roman Republic and is therefore very important and wide reaching. There was a conflict within Hellenic culture that, loosely, saw the Ionians viewing the Dorians as rather rustic and culturally inferior. A great example is the contrast between the Athens and Sparta; the former highly cultured and the latter a harsh military state.

     

    The loyalty of any colony was to her mother city and the lack of political unity was a factor that led to their wholesale absorption by the Roman Republic following the Pyrrhic War. Ionian Rhegium, for example, resisted Pyrrhus and was sent the - ultimately treacherous - Oscan garrison led by Decius for protection against the Molossian King brought by Doric Tarentum.


  6. It wasn't a throwback to the hoplite phalanx in any way. The Spears were only equipped by the first ranks so they could counter cavalry charges with the main weapon being the spathion long sword.

     

     

    Alexander had a similar plan for the future development of the phalanx. Only the first 3 ranks would carry the sarissa, and light infantry with bows or javelins would be behind them. I don't think he ever got a chance to try it out in battle, and his successors abandoned this experimental formation.

     

    http://books.google.com/books?id=nTmXOFX-w...ile&f=false

     

    The deep Macedonian Phalanx certainly created the impression of wastage as the sarissii of only the first five ranks would protrude. However the other ranks would provide "weight" to the advance and much needed momentum. The raised sarissii of the remaining ranks also provided cover against missile attacks.

     

    I must admit that I know very little of note with respect to the Byzantine period. I do wonder why, however, none of the Diadochi adopted the new tactics. What they actually seemed to do was try an execute versions of Alexander's tactics, whilst the reality was that resources had been split and therefore depleated. Alexander had a six to one ratio of infantry to cavalry and at best, Perseus at Pydna had one of ten to one.


  7. I do understand that the concept of slavery in Rome is quite different from what some people imagine. As opposed to being beaten with whips on the fields, many slaves must have had quite comfortable lives in the house of the master and been very friendly with the members of the household -even growing up with the children of their owner in some cases.

     

    However, it is also obvious that they usually desired to buy their freedom and become independent, as we know from many sources. What I always wondered is how masters prevented slaves from running away and establishing a new identity in a different part of the empire. Would it not have been exceptionally easy for a slave sent to the market to buy some olive oil to slip into the crowd in Rome and make his way out of the city, to never return?

     

    If some such individual were to go to a different town and pretend to have moved from another province, but robbed on the way, and hence with no papers, how in the world could they check who he really was? How did people in general identify themselves? As far as I know, the nobles had rings and seals for this purpose, bit how about the Plebians and Slaves?

     

    It is probably more straight forward to explain how an individual proved citizenship than to explain why slaves did not abscond at will. Citizenship was recorded in such a way that slave records were also fairly thorough. Every five years, citizens would register for the census, where their status was recorded according to their wealth, slaves, wife and children. The penalty for not registering was so severe that we can be pretty certain that they were comprehensive and accurate.

     

    Proof of citizenship was either by reference to the census records or by production of a - normally wooden - diptych that to all intents and purposes acted like a birth certificate. The nobility would have a gold, silver or bronze diptych and possession of such a document when not the rightful owner was punishable by death as it was assumed that the owner had been killed. Incidently, the Roman nobility was composed of both Patrician and Plebian families. The poorer citizens without wealth were known as proletarii or the capiti censi - head count. Citizens would also keep records of slaves' names, origins and abilities in family documents.

     

    As you have pointed out, there were slaves and slaves; those owned to toil away on the vast Latifundia or in the mines of Spain were in a very different situation to those tied to the houses of Rome and other towns and cities. However, your question was with regard to the domestic slaves and it is difficult show systems that would prevent a slave from running if that was what he wanted to do. The diptych was not, it is thought, carried by a citizen when traveling and therefore it may have been possible for a non-citizen to declare "Civis Romanum Sum!" and get away with it. Perhaps, however, the prospect of freedom with its uncertainties and lack of material security, was sufficiently disconcerting to deter most from this action.

     

    I would suggest that the idea that those in bondage would automatically desire freedom is relatively modern. The ancient people were more pragmatic; after all whole towns, cities or tribes would swap one master for another in a similar way that a football player will move to a successful club. Slavery was an accepted component of all ancient societies and those in decent circumstances would not, I think, be straining at the leash. Ultimately, manumission was common and all a citizen had to do was to register the slave on the census and he automatically became a citizen.


  8. I don't think that Hannibal had any alternatives to what he did.

    When the war started he could wait in Spain for the romans to come, and giving the roman superiority in numbers the result was not in much doubt, or take the fight to the romans trying to gain allies, take away roman allies and destroy roman resources.

    His choice can not be faulted here. If he did not invaded Italy then celts, macedonians, Syracuse and Tarentum would have never fought the romans and the romans could have concentrated much more power against Carthage.

    His decision not to attack the walls of Rome was probably sound as it is obvious that roman forces still outnumbered him and in a siege he would have supply problems while being denied the opportunity to outmaneuver the romans on a battlefield.

    I believe that he was a brilliant general and if other Carthaginians would have behaved better the end result could have been different. His only error was starting a war and provoking a determined enemy while his own country was undecided.

     

    Most take the view that it was never part of Hannibal's plan to utterly defeat Rome by storm or siege. Even after Cannae, there were sufficient forces there to force a long and costly siege with an unpredictable outcome. His aim was the reduction of Roman power by the detachment of her allies and in this he was to an extent successful. He did, however, misjudge the appetite amongst the allies for a detachment from Rome.

     

    With respect to Carthaginian support, we are familiar with Hanno's opposition to Barcid actions in Spain and there may have remained a powerful lobby at Carthage that had no desire for a renewed and protracted war with the Roman Republic. This may or may not have been the case, but we should not forget that the Barcids built their power base in Spain to be independent of Carthage and it is by no means certain that the Carthaginian Senate even knew of Hannibal crossing the Alps at the time that he did so. In these circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect the Carthaginian state to support a maverick, secretive and suspicious general.

     

    However, the news of the victory at Cannae changed much. We are told that Hannibal's brother Mago, punctuated his news of the victory by casting piles of gold rings taken from Roman dead in front of the Senators, silencing those voices of opposition and creating a great deal of enthusiasm for the enterprise! Hannibal did not ask for reinforcements at this time, purely because Rome still dominated the sea and there were insufficient defections of port communities to allow disembarkation. Carthage undertook support of Hannibal by political means, creating alliances that threatened Rome, whilst Hannibal continued in trying to detach allies. The theory was that Rome having to defend herself in Italy would be unable to counter any external threats and would eventually have to come to terms to ensure any survival as even a minor power.

     

    The Carthaginian state was decisive in its support of Hannibal, but that support was political and complementary to his military campaign. Orchestrated by the Carthaginians and signed by Hannibal was the treaty with Philip V and Demetrius, beginning a hostile political envelopment of Italy. This hostile environment was further developed on the death of Hiero of Syracuse whose successor Hieronymus entered negotiations with Carthage against Rome. Therefore, a political encirclement, organised by the Carthaginian state in support of and involving Hannibal was almost complete, with a threat across the Adriatic, in Sicily and lastly in Sardinia where a Carthaginian expedition found huge support amongst the tribes of that island.

     

    Rome was therefore under threat militarily by Hannibal within Italy and without by the political support of the Carthaginian alliances forged by the state. That this ultimately failed, is only further evidence of Roman resilience and resources on the part of the political threat and of the largely loyal nature of the allies. The fact that Rome suffered Cannae, defeat in Cisalpine Gaul and still went on to continuing the war on multiple fronts is utterly remarkable and could not have been foreseen by Hannibal or anybody for that matter.


  9. I'm a big fan of Hannibal myself but his major flaw was a lack of grand strategy. He could defeat any army tactically but strategically he could not break the Romans despite roaming their heartland for 13 years.

     

    A great general must also win the grand strategic game to be truly great IMO so I'd give him an 90 out of a 100.

     

    http://www.unrv.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=9955

    This is a fascinating topic debated in depth in the link above. I tend to agree with you that whilst Hannibal was a brilliant battlefield tactician, he was strategically left wanting.

     

    Having said that, the ancient world was very different to that of the last few hundred years. Ancient commanders did not stand over maps and compose grand strategies and battlefield communications were inefficient. There was no "academic" destinction between strategy, operations and tactics, but a much more ad hoc approach to warfare where rudimentary expectations would form the objective.

     

    Hannibal expected the Roman Republic to come to terms after Cannae and why wouldn't he! That he failed to understand the singular character of the republic, its massive manpower and indomitable spirit is not too much of a criticism of the man, but more a testament to the unique fortitude of Rome herself.

     

    But seeing as in the time of his father the Romans had willingly sustained the losses of two whole fleets but kept on trucking he should have been aware of their remarkable ability to suck it up when needed and had a plan B for the eventuality of them not surrendering.

     

    The Romans' durability was indeed remarkable but not unknown at that time so his lack of grand strategic contingencies lost him a war which he won tactically on all counts until Zama.

    This is a good point. I would only say that Roman losses at sea - barring the defeat at Drepana - were inflicted by Mother Nature and bad seamanship and they only, if our available sources are accepted, suffered one defeat in a set piece battle at the hands of Xanthipus during the African campaign. The huge losses at sea attributed to storms, assuming Hannibal knew about them, would certainly have told him that Rome was resilient and had huge manpower reserves, but would not have necessarily given him the clues needed to predict how they might react after three enormous land defeats.

     

    Having said that, there should have been enough evidence to show Hannibal that he should not expect a conventional reaction. There may have been further clues available in his studying of Pyrrhus derived of his experience of the Roman "hydra".

     

    The most extensive evidence, however, was available to Hannibal. Cannae, as we all know, was sheer carnage and that the Republic did not come to terms. Hannibal had already inflicted two great defeats on Rome at the Trebia and Trasimine and therefore after Cannae should have been aware that you could destroy whole Consular armies without the Republic throwing in the towel.

     

    Hannibal had a strategy, that of reducing Rome to a regional power and detaching her from her allies. The first of those objectives could only be reached by forcing the Republic to concede defeat and accept terms. In this he simply did not understand that the combination of massive human resources and, whichever way you read it, something indomitable in the character of the people and the state.

     

    The second objective was based on an assumption that the Latin, Italian and Italiote Greeks allies were waiting for some sort of liberation. Whereas some capitulated, it was not because they welcomed Hannibal in particular, but because they felt there was no option. Enough of the important coastal communities stood with Rome to deprive Carthage of disembarkation points for reinforcements.

     

    All in all, I think that we are both saying that there were in the first place available clues as to the singular nature of the Republic. That he did not heed those clues led to him being unable to fulfill that first component of his strategy. It seems to me, that he missed the fact that the Roman opponent was different but so was her relationship with her allies.


  10. I'm a big fan of Hannibal myself but his major flaw was a lack of grand strategy. He could defeat any army tactically but strategically he could not break the Romans despite roaming their heartland for 13 years.

     

    A great general must also win the grand strategic game to be truly great IMO so I'd give him an 90 out of a 100.

     

    http://www.unrv.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=9955

    This is a fascinating topic debated in depth in the link above. I tend to agree with you that whilst Hannibal was a brilliant battlefield tactician, he was strategically left wanting.

     

    Having said that, the ancient world was very different to that of the last few hundred years. Ancient commanders did not stand over maps and compose grand strategies and battlefield communications were inefficient. There was no "academic" destinction between strategy, operations and tactics, but a much more ad hoc approach to warfare where rudimentary expectations would form the objective.

     

    Hannibal expected the Roman Republic to come to terms after Cannae and why wouldn't he! That he failed to understand the singular character of the republic, its massive manpower and indomitable spirit is not too much of a criticism of the man, but more a testament to the unique fortitude of Rome herself.


  11. The Romans nobles were from the Trojan blood line.

     

    *the Roman nobles claimed to be from the Trojan blood line. It's important to remember that they weren't, in reality, from Troy (if anyone can prove otherwise, I'd love to read about it).

    An inscription which appears to be written in Etruscan or a similar alphabet, has been found at Lesbos off the coast of Asia Minor. Aside from this admittedly tiny piece of evidence, there is very little to back up their claim.

     

     

    I reckon that inscription normally is used as argument that the Etruscans might have come from somewhere in Asia minor but not Troy? Not even the Greeks and Romans them self believed that.

    The Etruscans are cloaked in mystery. Indeed, Herodotus stated that they came from Asia Minor, but from Lydia not Troy. The story goes that the Lydians during a period of famine, split themselves in two with one half remaining and the other being sent to find richer land by their King Atys.

     

    The King's son Tyrrhenus settled with the pioneering half in Italy and, of course and according to Herodotus, these became the Etruscans. This view was widely accepted in Rome and Virgil - ironically - Horace and Ovid often refer to the Etruscans as Lydians in their poetry.

     

    Dionisius takes the view that they were an aboriginal Italian people and it could be argued that he had the advantage that he was writing at a time when the Etruscan language was still being spoken and had access to their literature. He is however, very dismissive of those that agreed with the Herodotian view stating that the Etruscans shared little with the Lydians in terms of religion or language, which is a view now more difficult to accept since the discoveries made in 1885.

     

    There are proven similarities between Etruscan and Lydian art and language that do persuade me certainly of the Asiatic origins of this mysterious people. The reference that I am looking at is to a funerary stele bearing the portrait of a warrior with an inscription in Greek characters but not in the Greek language. This was found at Lemnos and a similar stele with similar words was found in Etruria linking these ancient cultures.

     

    The period following the fall of Mycenaean culture is absolutely full of the mystery of a "dark age"; for that is what it was. I think that so far all are in agreement that the attested date for the fall of Troy and the founding of carthage by Dido are totally incompatible although there may well be a real link between migrations from Asia Minor and the most influential culture to effect early Rome, Latium and Campania.


  12. I've heard mention of a Tunisian tophet having traditional burials as late as the 2nd century CE. Unfortunately those findings were yet to be published back when I was doing my thesis on the period and I haven't kept up to date on it really. :D

     

    Would not surprise me one bit however. Roman Africa was still a country unto itself even in late Antiquity.

     

    I have found another part of the site which I referred to in my previous postings which may be of interest as it also discusses the contentious issue of 'chald sacrifice'. It may be of particular interest as it mentions findings by Piero Bartoloni, Head of the Department of Phoenician-Punic Archaeology at Universita' di Sassari, Italy (reported in 2007) from excavations at Zama. Bartolioni noted that this child cemetery contained a large number of foetus burials (he believes that around 7 in 10 children died within their first year with only one in ten reached adulthood), He argues that the number of infant bodies found in this cemetery reflect the high infant mortality rate rather than supporting the myth of 'child sacrifice'.

    I don't think that a 'guilty' or 'not guilty' verdict is at all easy to reach. Although I acknowledge the point about infant mortality, there is enough evidence from elsewhere that child sacrifice did take place. After all, each rite would not have constituted the large scale slaughter described by Diodorus of two-hundred noble infants and three-hundred others of 310 BCE when under siege by Agaothocles.

     

    That the Carthaginians might have indulged in such practice may in some way be explained in that Ba'al Hammon was the equivalent of Cronos who swallowed his first born son to prevent his destined dethronement by him. The thinking here is that the Carthaginians maintained that the action of their chief deity of the time should be continued in his worship. Stager and Woolf suggest that the sacrifice of a first born within the aristocracy may serve to maintain the family wealth and for the poorer classes, act as a hedge against poverty. That assertion does not fit very well with a society with an already high infant mortality rate, which should be born in mind of course. However, we should also search for hard evidence of the actual infant mortality rate of Carthage, if possible, to be able to find the balance of probability.

     

    Some of the inscriptions may be open to interpretation; however there is one that I find fairly straight forward that tells of a man called Tuscus who "gave Ba'al":

     

    "...his mute son, a defective child, in exchange for a healthy one."

     

    This is still, I suppose, open to interpretation but agin, it's about the balance of probability which I still feel points towards child sacrifice at Carthage and throughout her domain.


  13. Good reiteration of the argument.

     

    Me personally I see the case for child sacrifice actually being carried out as not established enough by the physical and literary evidence.

     

    However, I would far from dismiss the notion entirely since the barbarity of all peoples back then was pretty harsh.

     

    Leaving unwanted babies out to die, gruesome executions, horrible tortures, genocidal razings of cities etc.

     

    Excavations of Tophets in many Carthaginian settlements do seem to confirm a widespread practice of child sacrifice. However, this is one of the great debates. The majority of the remains appear to be of very young children, the eldest being around five. Could the Tophet urns simply be a burial ground for infants? That many of the urns contain animal remains may suggest not.

     

    Obviously we should be cautious; for example Livy and Polybius make no reference to the practice and they surely would have done had they been aware of it. Child sacrifice by fire is thought to have occurred mostly after Carthage's defeat by the Greeks at Himera (480 BCE), which in the following political chaos saw her lose ties with her mother city of Tyre and the preservation of the cult of Melquarth and Astarte.

     

    The Carthaginians elevated Baal Hammon and Tanit within their own pantheon and as their power spread, so did this cult. Children were said to be placed upon the upturned palms of Baal Hammon's statue, from which they rolled into a furnace.

     

    However, it is also widely thought that after the introduction of the cults of Demeter and Kore at the beginning of the 4th century BCE, there was a gradual Hellenisation of the Carthaginian religion and personal dedications were made to Tanit rather than to Baal Hammon and slowly, religious practice became gentler.

     

    My guess is, that on balance, the sacrifice of children was widespread in the Carthaginian world, but only so widespread within a relatively short period. I am puzzled as to why Diodorus is so confident in his descriptions and why Livy, Polybius and others fail to mention it.


  14. My choice was 'a little bit of everything', but that doesn't really capture the obsession.

     

    As close as I can come to explaining my passion is the rain of tears that [in spite of my best effort to suppress them] cascade down my face when I burst onto Piazza della' Rotunda after dark and behold Hadrian's Pantheon. Of course, every incrotio in Italy provides a similar opportunity to be staggered to tears over the events that took place there and their significance for everything we know, even now.

     

    Last year, I scared the *** out of some Japanese tourists when I bawled like little girl before Titiano's La Venere d'Urbino. [Yeah, not Roman, but I make scant distinction for these high points of Rome's legacy.]

     

    It's to stand in those places and hear all those ancient voices that inrtigue me.

     

    By the way, Fortuna willing I'll turn 60 in Campus Martuis next June.

    I absolutely share with you the same passion for the ambience of the eternal city. My last two visits have been based at beautiful apartments - in the same block - in Campus Martius. It is impossible isn't it, to walk into that piazza without a strong emotional response.


  15. Images have been taken from the Aes Graves coin collections of short swords - blade narrow near the hilt and becoming thicker before coming to the point. These are thought to be authentic for the Hastati and priceps of the Pyrrhic war and not markedly different to the Hispaniensis in appearence and application.

     

    What you're describing sounds more like the xiphos, which would go along with the later upgrade to the gladius.

     

    The earlies Gladius was the Mainz type, which was widest at the hilt, and had a long tapering point. The later Pompeii type had parallel edges.

     

    Regardless of the shape, what made the gladius special was the quality of the steel, which allowed it to maintain a very sharp edge.

     

    Yes, I think you are right. The Aes Graves were, of course, Italian and the images would be of swords used by Roman and Latin infantrymen, but they do conform to the Xiphos in appearance. There are also images on specifically Roman bronze bar coinage showing swords of the type described above, which are as you pointed out Greek in design. Those are contemporary for the Pyrrhic War and suggest that the Gladius Hispaniensis had not yet been adopted.

     

    Please ignore my comment about these being similar in design and application. I can only postulate that whereas the sword was the Hoplite's secondary weapon; for the Roman it was primary. Although they had not, in all probability, adopted the Hispaniensis at this point, they had made the transition from phalanx to manipular battle order and it is my belief therefore that the weapons would have been used in the same way.

    Can you post the image (or a link to) of the relevant Aes Grave? I'm not sure when was the later time that such currency was still minted.

     

    The Gladius Hispaniensis (Spanish or not) and related short swords were extremely useful in Roman hands not so much for any intrinsic superiority, but because it far better fitted close quarters comabt (ergo, the Roman manipular tactics) than the Spatha and related long swords; for one-to-one duels, the latter would presumably have been still supetior to the former.

     

    On the material of the Roman swords, there is a famous passage from Polybius, comparing the Roman with the Gallic swords at the victory of Flaminius over the Insubres in 223 BC:

     

    " The Romans are thought to have managed matters very skilfully in this battle, their tribunes having instructed them how they should fight, both as individuals and collectively. For they had observed from former battles that Gauls in general are most formidable and spirited in their first onslaught, 3 while still fresh, and that, from the way their swords are made, as has been already explained, only the first cut takes effect; after this they at once assume the shape of a strigil, being so much bent both length-wise and side-wise that unless the men are given leisure to rest them on the ground and set them straight with the foot, the second blow is quite ineffectual. The tribunes therefore distributed among the front lines the spears of the triarii who were stationed behind them, ordering them to use their swords instead only after the spears were done with. They then drew up opposite the Celts in order of battle and engaged. Upon the Gauls slashing first at the spears and making their swords unserviceable the Romans came to close quarters, having rendered the enemy helpless by depriving them of the power of raising their hands and cutting, which is the peculiar and only stroke of the Gauls, as their swords have no points. The Romans, on the contrary, instead of slashing continued to thrust with their swords which did not bend, the points being very effective. Thus, striking one blow after another on the breast or face, they slew the greater part of their adversaries. This was solely due to the foresight of the tribunes,.. "

     

    However please note that the preserved Celtic swords don't fit such description; they don't bend so easily and their iron (or sometime steel) is often as good as that of the Romans.

     

    There's an ongoing unsettled controversy on theuse of steel by Romans and other Classical nations; the consensus still seems to be that such steel was accidentally and not deliberately made; even at the time of Pliny Major, Romans seems to still have plenty of misconceptions regarding metallurgy.

     

    In any case, Pliny stated the best steel was imported from Parthia and Scythia; next to that, the famous ferum Noricum was the best one. It seems the Romans had a regular trade with that region since the I century BC.

    I'll try and find the images again. They are said to date from the 5th and 4th centuries BCE and that is why I said that they were THOUGHT to be contemporary - the later ones - with the Pyrrhic War. The bronze bar images are simply to be found in Osprey "Early Roman Armies" and are absolutely of the right era.

     

    On the use of short swords, certainly my point was that even if the Romans were using a sword resembling the Xiphos, as the bar coinage would strongly suggest, they would have used it as their primary weapon. It was a short sword that fitted well with manipular tactics used in conjunction with the scutum. You quote a famous example above with respect to the Celts and more usually, the legionaries were trained to take the slash of the long sword on the reinforced top edge of the scutum and stab at the legs and groin.

     

    I think that you are right to point out that the preserved Celtic swords are not so pliable as suggested. Celtic ironmongery was renowned and respected by the Romans. Not within this period, but perhaps testament to this was the Romans use of Celtic metal workers in developing the most famous Roman helmet type in the late 1st century BCE.

     

    The huge and major point about the Romans and their short sword of whichever type is that every legionary had one. For the Celts and others, the possession of their long sword was a huge status symbol and reserved for warriors of higher status. Both wore their weapons on the right hip, the Celt for display and the Roman for practical reasons within the context of close order tactics until the adoption of the longer Spatha.


  16. Images have been taken from the Aes Graves coin collections of short swords - blade narrow near the hilt and becoming thicker before coming to the point. These are thought to be authentic for the Hastati and priceps of the Pyrrhic war and not markedly different to the Hispaniensis in appearence and application.

     

    What you're describing sounds more like the xiphos, which would go along with the later upgrade to the gladius.

     

    The earlies Gladius was the Mainz type, which was widest at the hilt, and had a long tapering point. The later Pompeii type had parallel edges.

     

    Regardless of the shape, what made the gladius special was the quality of the steel, which allowed it to maintain a very sharp edge.

     

    Yes, I think you are right. The Aes Graves were, of course, Italian and the images would be of swords used by Roman and Latin infantrymen, but they do conform to the Xiphos in appearance. There are also images on specifically Roman bronze bar coinage showing swords of the type described above, which are as you pointed out Greek in design. Those are contemporary for the Pyrrhic War and suggest that the Gladius Hispaniensis had not yet been adopted.

     

    Please ignore my comment about these being similar in design and application. I can only postulate that whereas the sword was the Hoplite's secondary weapon; for the Roman it was primary. Although they had not, in all probability, adopted the Hispaniensis at this point, they had made the transition from phalanx to manipular battle order and it is my belief therefore that the weapons would have been used in the same way.


  17. If the accounts of Polybius and Livy are so unreliable, where are or whose are the utterly reliable accounts that say that Hasdrubal left Spain which such a large army? You have an opinion that I do respect about the sub-text of Polybius'. Whilst I do understand why that is, there is no evidence whatsoever that your alternative interpretations of events are true. You have used your powers of reason to arrive at your conclusions, but those conclusions are not truths that can be based on pure reason - a priori. They are not either a posteriori truths; they are postulations.

     

    Otherwise, I totally agree with you assessment of PCS. I only differ in as much as the accounts of why, for example, he needed five years in Spain can be explained by the existing consensus. This does nor mean that I am not being analytical and I can recognise sycophancy when I see it, but there's a limit by where the flattery ends a reasonable accounts begin.

    There are two false-dilemma fallacies here.

    First, you want me to either absolutely accept or absolutely reject Polybius & Livy.

    Second, you want me to blindly accept Polybius & Livy just because I have no better alternative sources.

     

    Plainly, absolutely no source should be blindly or uncritically accepted (unless of course we are debating religious dogma).

    Livy and Polybius are actually excellent sources. The evidence on Hasdrubal's army obviously came from them and analogous Classical sources (e.g. Appian). I'm just trying to read them critically, just with a minimum of critical rationalism, the same as any science is expected to analyze any evidence.

     

    I just pointed out the inherent unreliability of two specific points of our sources.

    It's extremely hard to explain why Africanus' conquest of Punic Spain required so many years if his army was never defeated, or to describe Hasdrubal's army as an utterly defeated force when it invaded Italy in 207 BC.

    If you can satisfactorily explain those facts, be my guest.

    I don't expect you to accept anything "blindly" at all. I am merely suggesting that the consensus - because I can not find any well regarded scholar who does not hold with that consensus - may be the best guess and without new a posteriori analysis could be the most accurate account. We simply can not know what the truth is from the distant past in many cases.

     

    If Polybius was in some way a propogandist of the Scipione clan, then the material on Caesar must be taken in the context of his greatest fan: one Caius Iulius Caesar. I would suspect that his "Commentarius" should be at least subject to as much if not more scrutiny than the history of Polybius.

     

    I understand you pointing out that if you have no alternative sources then you should still remain critical of those available. Of course you should. However, there is a long standing and overbearing obsession on your part, in particular with Polybian accounts of Scipio Africanus. Everybody knows about the relationship between the Scipiones and Polybius. If I were to accept your points about the amount of time PCS spent in Spain, then you should accept the possibility that the consensus might be true. We simply can not prove things either way. However, I will repeat that I am afraid that I will accept the view of Adrian Goldsworthy etc. that Scipio's campaigns happened as documented - with a decent critical overview.

     

    It is therefore important if you so decry the Polybian accounts, that you have an alternative source, contemporary or otherwise. My major problem is your assertion that there must have been Punic victories during the campaign of PCS in Spain. Why? It is in your idiolect a bare assertion. No well regarded scholar has focussed on this possibility with any degree of seriousness. That is not to say that everybody accepts everything at face value, but more that the fundamental descriptions are reasonably accurate.


  18. In any case, the notable performance of many Iberian groups against the Romans both during and after Punic War II, either alone or under Punic command, strongly suggests that those warriors were not so "sub-optimal" after all.

    Besides, please remember that the twin Roman defeats mentioned above for 211 BC were explained because of the Iberian desertion.

     

     

    No surprise there. The success of the post-PW II legions against the Helenistic kingdoms can be attributed to their use of the Gladius Hispaniensis more so than to their manipular formations.

     

    The Gladius was a romanized version of the HispanoIberian sword or Falcata. The Romans must have recognized the value of those swords when they fought the Iberians. Hannibal brought Iberian mercenaries to Italy, and it is possible that his African Infantry may have carried a similar sword.

     

    The way that this post appears is a little mixed up. Either way, the Gladius Hispaniensis was not a derivation of the Falcata. The Falcata was derived from the Greek Kopis and differed greatly in design and application. The Falcata was a single edged weapon designed to slash down with a heavy blow that would horrifically split a helmet- and head - in two. The Gladius Hispaniensis was a short stabbing sword possibly adopted by the Romans after encountering the weapon in Punic War I in the hands of the Celtiberians or possibly well before in the conflicts with the Celts in the 4th century BCE.


  19. I have never looked to Zama as proof of Scipio's prowess. By that time he had learnt so much of his weakened enemy that it is simply not the best example. However his tactical genius at Ilipa must be seen as an example of the commander(s) heavily influencing the outcome of a battle regardless of the quality of the manpower at their disposal. PCS made tactical decisions at Ilipa that enabled the victory in Spain and those decisions were so radical that it could easily be concluded that a more conventional commander may not have carried the day. His plan was based on the "sub-optimal" Spanish part of his force advancing slowly in the centre whilst the "optimal" legions enveloped the weaker flanks of the Carthaginian army. This is a good example of an optimal commander and a sub-optimal army.
    The main problem of that assesment is that it takes for granted the absolute reliability of the utterly lavish apologetics written for Africanus Major; we must always (and especially in cases liike this one) favor factual accounts over mere figures and value judgments.

     

    The narrative of the Spanish campaigns is particularly problematic.; e.g. if Africanus' army was really never defeated, why did it require five full years for clearing the Peninsula? Even worse; how was Hasdrubal Barca able to get to Italy with such an immense army? (reportedly more than half a hundred thousand men). We can't just left aside such strong and obvious objections.

     

    On the other hand, if we are to take literally Polybius and Livy's accounts, winning the Spanish campaigns wouldn't actually seem so impressive (a paradoxical effect of overpraising); after all, all along the twelve years of Punic War II at Spain, the Carthaginians were purpotedly able to win only two times (strictly speaking, two phases of a single battle in 211 BC), and even then, the outcome was entirely attributed to the Celtiberian desertion; absolutely all other battles would then reportedly have been Roman victories.

     

    In any case, the notable performance of many Iberian groups against the Romans both during and after Punic War II, either alone or under Punic command, strongly suggests that those warriors were not so "sub-optimal" after all.

    Besides, please remember that the twin Roman defeats mentioned above for 211 BC were explained because of the Iberian desertion.

     

    We can objectively consider Africanus Major as the best Roman commander of Punic War II with reasonable certainty, simply because he utterly defeated Hannibal, who had not only defeated in open field virtually any other Roman commander for years, but had also continued doing so up to his last moment in Italy, even with fewer men than in Africa.

    Additionally, Zama was the culmination of years of brilliant African campaigns, definitively crushed the worst Roman enemy for centuries and opened the Mediterranean world to Roman conquest; its relevance can hardly be exaggerated.

    If the accounts of Polybius and Livy are so unreliable, where are or whose are the utterly reliable accounts that say that Hasdrubal left Spain which such a large army? You have an opinion that I do respect about the sub-text of Polybius'. Whilst I do understand why that is, there is no evidence whatsoever that your alternative interpretations of events are true. You have used your powers of reason to arrive at your conclusions, but those conclusions are not truths that can be based on pure reason - a priori. They are not either a posteriori truths; they are postulations.

     

    Otherwise, I totally agree with you assessment of PCS. I only differ in as much as the accounts of why, for example, he needed five years in Spain can be explained by the existing consensus. This does nor mean that I am not being analytical and I can recognise sycophancy when I see it, but there's a limit by where the flattery ends a reasonable accounts begin.


  20. I rest my case.
    Given your last line; is any debate invited here?
    But of course!

     

    Be my guest...

    May I take this a bit at a time? Firstly, it is useful that you use the word "best" as opposed to "greatest" giving us a much better defined debate. Would you redefine your conclusions with respect to optimal commanders, sub-optimal commanders and optimal armies. Staying within the appraisal of PCS, wasn't the army at Cannae optimal and badly led? If this wasn't the case and the huge defeat was purely down to the genius of Hannibal, then neither the legions nor their commanders were optimal leading to a conclusion that there were variances in the quality of both.

     

    I have never looked to Zama as proof of Scipio's prowess. By that time he had learnt so much of his weakened enemy that it is simply not the best example. However his tactical genius at Ilipa must be seen as an example of the commander(s) heavily influencing the outcome of a battle regardless of the quality of the manpower at their disposal. PCS made tactical decisions at Ilipa that enabled the victory in Spain and those decisions were so radical that it could easily be concluded that a more conventional commander may not have carried the day. His plan was based on the "sub-optimal" Spanish part of his force advancing slowly in the centre whilst the "optimal" legions enveloped the weaker flanks of the Carthaginian army. This is a good example of an optimal commander and a sub-optimal army.


  21. - All armies perform better against enemies that fought in any predictable manner; that is a tautology (i.e. a statement that is necessarily true).
    The Roman Republic seemed to have much more success against the highly organized combined arms forces of many of the eastern kingdoms, even those that had large numbers of cavalry. Against barbarians (gauls, cimbri, teutons) the outcome seemed less predictable. Not every Roman general was able to beat them in the manner of Marius or Caesar.
    "Barbarian" was just any non-Roman: both the Gauls and the people of the eastern kingdoms were equally Barbarian for a Roman.

     

     

     

    The Hellenes might have viewed the Romans at some points as barbarians, the the opposite was not true and Barca's distinction is correct. It is also true that, as you point out, organisation does not necessarily mean predictability, but as we have seen elsewhere and at length, the quality of the Hellenic armies of the had deteriorated whilst the effectiveness of the manipular legions had increased.

     

    At the same time, the Romans were culturally terrified of the Gauls and all other northern "barbarians" since the near destruction of the early republic in the early 4th century BCE. The struggle was with the vast numbers and their fanatical warrior zeal. It reminds me of a friend of mine who whilst with the IDF in Lebanon told me that never mind how well equipped, trained or motivated you are, a tidal wave of fighters with no fear of death will always be at least your equal.


  22. Although I would agree that Polybius was "selling" Rome to the newly subject people of Greece, I can not accept that he was the crude propogandist that you consistently describe. You will recall how he views his main sources for this period as misleading and biased, Fabius Pictor as the Roman offender and Philinus of Agrigentum that of the Punic side.

     

    If there had been another Punic victory, in a pitched battle, I do not see that Polybius would choose to not mention it, purely because that would not dilute his message or dent his objective.

     

    Archaeology is a science that assists historical understanding. History is a humanity and the consensus belief is often based on the balance of probability.

    I am not trying to explain here why Polybius acted as he did; the fallacy stands, and you haven't dealt with it.

     

    Such a long war against a superpower like Rome can't be explained just by a couple of victories from the other side; at the risk of overstating the obvious, that would be plainly absurd; simple as that.

     

    Whilst the sources are flawed, simply no respected scholar or historian backs the claim to secret Punic victories. I can understand the notion, but firstly Rome was not at this time the superpower of later years. Carthage was her military equal and the most successful thalassocracy to be seen in the region.

     

    Are we to doubt everything that we think we know about Carthaginian military practices, simply because our sources are Greek or Roman? You stated earlier that we can know practically nothing about Carthaginian military culture for this reason, but went on to state that they definitely had a deep military tradition. You simply can not know nothing of the former and be so definite of the the latter: it does not stand logical scrutiny.


  23. Caesar wasn't a tyrant. Cicero was a coward.

     

     

     

    Would he have participated if asked?

     

    His behavior afterwards suggests so. In a letter to Trebonius (one of those friends of Caesar who were so disgusted by the dictator's behavior that they joined the assassination), Cicero expressed regret that he hadn't been "invited to that superb banquet." Moreover, he worked tirelessly on behalf of the liberators, convincing the Senate to defend Decimus Brutus at Mutina, lobbying to get the Roman senate to recall Brutus and Cassius to Rome after they had left for Greece, and denouncing his son-in-law Dolabella for the murder of Trebonius.

     

    On the other hand, it's a lot easier to talk about tyrannicide than to actually risk your life committing it. Yes, Cicero was as disgusted by Caesar as any other sane and decent human being, but he nonetheless showed very little actual fortitude when Caesar was waging his war on Rome. While Cato was tearing his guts out lest he share the same air as that bald darling of Venus, Cicero was at home fretting over how his ex-wife and current one were getting along.

    Whether Caesar was a tyrant or not is a subject for debate. However, I fail to understand how Cicero can be described as a coward so unequivocally!

    Can't agree more; if facing a Catilina or a Clodius were not risky enough, Cicero's fiery Philippics were given against the most powerful Roman general of the time; guts were definitively needed for that.

     

    And, the manner in which he died according to all sources, was overwhelmingly brave!

×