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China’s Terracotta Army and the Greek involvement (part II)

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The Terracotta Army of China’s first emperor (credit: Wikimedia commons).

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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CONTINUED FROM  PART I

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The Achaemenid Persian kings were the first to settle Greek runaways, prisoners of war and mercenaries in Ferghana (W.W. Tarn and others). In 329 BCE, Alexander founded in the same valley his fortress-colony Alexandria the Furthest settling there some of his veterans and other soldiers. In the years to come, there were additional Hellenic settlements in the valley and its surrounding areas (in modern Tajikistan and Eastern Uzbekistan). In 238 BCE, the Greek provincial ruler of Bactria, Sogdiane and Ferghana declared his independence from the Seleucid dynasty. The Greeks of Bactria and Ferghana started to extend their territory to all directions. Their expansion to India resulted in the founding of the Indo-Greek kingdom – independent from the Greco-Bactrian one – which reached the peak of its power under the warrior-king Menandros.

However the ancient geographer Strabo informs us that the Bactro-Greeks marched even beyond Alexandria the Furthest, that is in the Tarim Basin and “extended their kingdom as far as the Seres and the Phryni” (Strabo 11.XI.I). The Greeks were calling “Seres and Phryni” the Chinese and the Proto-Turks or the Tibetans.  There is some evidence that the Bactro-Greeks may have sent expeditions as far as Kashgar in the Tarim Basin in the end of the 3rd century BCE, that is around the reign of the First Emperor in China (221-210 BCE). In any case, the Hellenistic art was diffused in the Tarim Basin in this era and also during the 2nd century BCE. The aforementioned Hellenistic archaeological findings in the Urumqi Museum came from this diffusion. (As I have watched in a TV reportage on the issue, there are also strong indications for the settlement of some Greek craftsmen and artists in a city of the Tarim Basin and some of them may had moved to the east, to China proper).

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China’s Terracotta Army and the Greek involvement (part I)

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urumchi-china

A warrior of Hellenistic style along with a depiction of a centaur, woollen wall hanging, Sampul tapestry, 3rd or 2nd century BCE, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum. It is one of the most known items of Greek style in Tarim Basin in the era that the Terracota army was manufactured (credit: Wikimedia commons).

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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The main recent event concerning Archaeology and Ancient History is the estimation in a documentary jointly made by the BBC and National Geographic, of a group of archaeologists who continue the excavations at Emperor Ch’in Shi Huang’s Mausoleum with Dr. Li Xiuzhen being the Senior Archeologist, that there was a Hellenic involvement in the construction of the renowned “Terracotta Army” of the Emperor. “We now have evidence that close contact existed between the first emperor’s China and the west before the formal opening of the Silk Road. This is far earlier than we formerly thought,” said Li Xiuzhen. “We now think the Terracotta Army, the acrobats and the bronze sculptures found on site, have been inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art.”

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THE PHRYGOBOEOTIAN HELMET: a case of hybrid helmet (IN MEMORIAM MIKHAEL GORELIK)

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phrygo-boeotian helmetPhrygoboeotian helmet.

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By Periklis Deligiannis

This is a little bit late dedication, but I was just informed about the death of the great Russian archaeologist, academician, historical author and illustrator Mikhael V. Gorelik (Михаил Викторович Горе́лик) who died on January 2015 in Moscow. Gorelik had been one of my favourite scholars and writers. I really admire his lifetime work especially on the study of the warfare of the Eurasian Steppes nomadic peoples.

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The Phrygoboeotian (Phrygo-Boeotian) helmet is a case of hybrid helmet used by the Macedonian armies of Alexander the Great and his Successors (Diadochoi and Epigonoi), as the archaeological finds demonstrate – either original pieces or artistic representations.
The Phrygoboeotian helmet was actually the old Boeotian casque with the addition of the peak of the “ethnic” Macedonian helmet known as Phrygian or Thracophrygian.
The Boeotian helmet was a patent of the Boeotians, initially appearing when they manufactured in metal form the shape of their characteristic leather caps. Xenophon in his “Hipparchikos” considers this casque as the ideal one for the cavalry due to its advantages, mainly the fact that it ensures a wide visual range for the cavalryman.

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CONFRONTING DESPERATELY THE INVADER: A strategic analysis of Memnon’s war plan against Alexander the Great (334 BC) (IN MEMORIAM PETER CONNOLLY)

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In  memory  of  PETER  CONNOLLY  (1935-2012),  one  of  the  foremost  modern  scholars,  archaeologists  and  illustrators  of  the  ancient  world.

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Alexander  and  his  Companions  are  crossing  the  river  Granicus.  The  greatest  adventure  of  World  History  is  just  beginning (artwork  by  Peter  Connolly).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  main  problem  of  the  Persian  army  at  the  Battle  of  Granicus  against  Alexander  the  Great  (334  BC),  was  its  polycentric  leadership.  The  Persian  leadership  consisted  of  five  Iranian  satraps,  a  Rhodian  Greek  mercenary  officer  called  Memnon,  and  several  other  generals  and  commanders.  It  seems  that  Arsites,  the  satrap  of  Hellespontic  Phrygia,  was  the  official  general  commander,  but  the  other  Iranian  satraps  and  generals  were  generally  unruly  and  disobedient,  and  not  influenced  by  his  office. Memnon  was  probably  the  ablest  general  in  the  Persian  headquarters,  as  it  is  evidenced  by  Darius’ (the  Persian  Great  King/Emperor)  appreciation  for  him.  Moreover  he  had  lived  for  a  decade  in  Macedonia  and  probably  knew  all  about  the  Macedonian  Greek  army,  while  he  had  confronted  the  Macedonians  for  two  years  (337-335 BC)  as  a  general,  fighting  the  first  invading  army  of  Parmenio  and  Kalas  in  Asia  Minor.  Memnon  was  certainly  a  very  capable  commander,  but  his  commanding  ability  and  the  value  of  his  proposal  to  the  Persian  council  of  war  in  Zeleia  (see  below)  have  been  probably  exaggerated  by  some  ancient  Greek  authors  (Arrian,  Diodorus  etc.)  who  preferred  their  mercenary  fellow-countryman  as  a  protagonist  in  the  Persian  war  effort,  than  the  Iranian  commanders.  But  despite  Memnon’s  strategic  ability,  Darius  could  not  appoint  him  high  commander  of  the  Persian  amry  against  Alexander,  because  he  was  not  Persian  or  Median.  The  proud  and  rebellious  satraps  and  “relatives  of  the  Great  King”  (a  honorific  title  of  the  most  powerful  Iranian  nobles)  would  never  obey  a  “barbarian”  (from  the  Iranian  point  of  view).

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