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Architecture of the Athenian Acropolis

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In this post I present digital reconstructions of an architectural detail in the southwest wing of (above) and of the temple of Erechtheion (below). Both refer to buildings of the Acropolis of ancient Athens. Guess who’s the figure standing in front of the Erechtheion!

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Answering to a New Yorker author’s criticism on my articles about the Argonautica (and making an exception)

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ArgoGathering of the Argonauts, Attic red-figure krater, 460–450 BC, Louvre (G 341) (Wikipedia commons)
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Periklis  Deligiannis

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Sometimes some of my articles are criticized by various scholars, historians, researchers and other readers around the world. These criticisms are sometimes positive, sometimes negative and sometimes malicious or aggressive/abusive. Except the latter, all of them are welcome.
The most recent criticism (negative criticism, but I think not malicious) was made by an editor and writer from New York, Jason Colavito, who wrote here a long article in which he presents a number of his ‘arguments’ based on which he is trying to question the conclusions of my two articles on the Argonautica. Although I generally do not answer to the criticism of others, I will make an exception for Mr Colavito because my vacations have already started and I have plenty of time (no, I’m not on a beach of a Greek island, but in the cement-city of Athens under a heat wave!).

Mr Colavito writes that “Deligannis makes a number of errors, beginning with the fact that he takes the developed Argonaut myth of the Classical and Hellenistic period as representative of the state of the story in the Archaic period and earlier, including all of the people and places of the standard version of the myth. There is no evidence that the full complement of fifty some-odd Argonaut celebrities drawn from all over Greece were original to the myth. Homer knows nothing of them, nor does Hesiod’s Theogony. The Hesiodic fragments contain episodes…”

It is obvious that the writer of the above paragraph/argument does not have a picture in depth, of the topography, geography and settlement history of the Mediterranean region in Antiquity, which probably plays the most important role in dating the Argonautic myth and mostly the chronology of its approximately final form. The myth of the Argonauts mentions several cities such as Peiresiae, Oechalia, Iolkos, Titaros, Alope, Tipha, Lerna, Pylos, Arene and others which in the Classical and Hellenistic period either no longer existed and no one knew their location, or had become insignificant villages, overshadowed by famous nearby cities. Additionally, the legend does not mention at all very important cities of the Classical and Hellenistic period of the same areas such as Chalkis, Eretria, Histiaia, Megara, Marathon, Eleusis, Corinth (Ephyra), Sicyon, Patrae, Orchomenos in Arcadia, Mantineia, Olympia and many others. And above all, no one in the Classical and Hellenistic period knew for sure the location of the Bebryces, Salmydessos, the Symplegades, not even of Colchis (Colchis’ location at the foothills of the Caucasus was a reasonable hypothesis made by the subsequent Greeks but not a certainty).
The Classical and Hellenistic Greeks knew only the location of Lemnos, Samothrace, and the territories of the Doliones and the Mariandyni, but specifically for the Mariandyni this is doubtful because the homonymous people of their time is not certainly identical to the tribe encountered by the Argonauts. All these peoples, figures and cities obviously belong to a very ancient period (Proto-Mycenaean period, archaeologically known as Middle-Helladic); so ancient that the Classical and Hellenistic Greeks knew them only as ‘empty names’ without location or personal history. I think it is very unlikely for the later and much later (Hellenistic) Greeks to attach the lesser legends of such ’empty’ place names, peoples and other to the ‘central’ myth of the Argonautica. After all, that central myth would be very reduced in its original form.  I think that this evidence is enough to demonstrate that the Argonaut myth of the Classical and Hellenistic period is representative enough of the state of the story in the Archaic period and earlier, including all of the people and places of the standard version of the myth.

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JASON’S ARGONAUTS (part II): a Historical and Geopolitical approach to the myth of the Argonautica

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argoA modern reconstruction of the Argo, the ship of the Argonauts or rather their flagship, by the Historical Association “Argonauts 2008”. Argo was an early Bronze Age penteconter.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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As it was mentioned, the Argonauts docked at first in Lemnos Island, where Jason had a love affair with the local queen Hypsipyle with whom he had two sons. This episode is sometimes interpreted as a Minyan colonization of Lemnos and the neighbouring and closely related island of Imbros. During the Trojan War, the people of the two islands were not sided with the Mycenaeans, at least from the beginning of the war, but that does not mean that they were not akin to them. The reason is that the mentioned islands were near the coasts of the Troad and Thrace (most of the Thracians were allies of the Trojans) and thereby they were obliged (or threatened) to join the Trojan alliance. It is also very plausible that the mercantile and geopolitical interests of the Lemnians and the Imbrians were identical to those of the Trojans. Other ancient literary sources inform us that after the destruction of Troy, Lemnos and Imbros were occupied by Pelasgians who actually were non-Greek Tyrsenians from Lydia, kinsmen of the Etruscans of Italy. It is obvious that the Pelasgi/Tyrsenians evicted the Minyan settlers from the two islands. In the Archaic period the latter became Greek again, when the Athenians occupied them evicting their Tyrrhenian/Tyrsenian inhabitants and colonizing them.
After Lemnos, the Argonauts anchored at the island of Samothrace very close to the Thracian coasts, then crossed the Hellespont and from there they faced adventures in the territories of the Doliones, the Bebryces and the city-principality of Salmydessos, which they lie on the south coasts of the Propontis (Sea of Marmara) with the probable exception of the latter. Next the Argonauts crossed the perilous strait of the Symplegades (probably the modern Bosphorus in Turkey) and thus managed to reach the Black Sea. There, they first docked in the land of the Mariandyni tribe at the north coast of Asia Minor. The aforementioned peoples of the south Propontis coasts were rather of proto-Phrygian and proto-Thracian stock who had already settled in Asia Minor, while the country of the Mariandyni can be identified with the one of the Palaites (the land Pa(ph)la, the subsequent Classical Paphlagonia) or even of the Gasga (Kaska) mentioned in the Hittite royal archives at Hattusas.

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THE HOPLITE PHALANX IN COMBAT (HOPLITE TACTICS)

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03A reenactment of the phase of ‘othismos’ during a hoplite conflict, from the Spanish Historical Association Athena Promachos (photo  copyright: Ana Belen Rubio).

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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Earlier related article: HOPLITE TACTICS: THE HOPLITE PHALANX

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The attack of the hoplite phalanx started with the hoplites of the three or four first ranks (lines) holding their spears horizontally facing the enemy. Thus three or four spearheads prevented the enemy from reaching the frontline of the phalanx. The hoplites of the rear ranks behind the third or the fourth one, were holding their spears in an inclined position in order not to injure with their spearheads the fellow hoplites of the front ranks and to have their sauroterae* directed downwards so that they could kill the wounded enemies lying in the ground, when they were marching over them. The main purpose of this inclined position of the spears was to intercept the missiles of the enemy light infantry (javelins, arrows, stones etc.).

The battle started with the two opposing hoplite phalanxes marching the one against the other. The approach to the battlefield was accompanied either by war anthems, the paeans – as the armies of Spartans and other Dorians used to do – or by war cries. When the hoplite armies approached each other at a distance of about half or one stadion (89 or 177 meters), the hoplites began to run in order to collide with the enemy. This is what the Athenians and the Plataeans did at Marathon against the Persians. The Spartans were an exception to this general rule because on the contrary they were marching in close quarters until the moment of the collision, and at a synchronized march, the pace of which was given by the sounds of pan-pipes. These tactics of the Spartans aimed to the terrorizing of the enemy army through their demonstrated collectedness and apathy. Some researchers have hypothesized that the armies of other Doric cities as well followed the same tactics when approaching the battlefield.

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Η ΟΠΛΙΤΙΚΗ ΦΑΛΑΓΓΑ ΣΕ ΣΥΡΡΑΞΗ (ΟΠΛΙΤΙΚΕΣ ΤΑΚΤΙΚΕΣ)

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03Aναπαράσταση φάσης ωθισμού οπλιτικής σύρραξης από τον Ισπανικό Ιστορικό Σύλλογο Athena Promachos (copyright: Ana Belen Rubio).

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Παλαιότερο σχετικό άρθρο: ΟΠΛΙΤΙΚΕΣ ΤΑΚΤΙΚΕΣ: Η ΠΑΡΑΤΑΞΗ ΤΩΝ ΟΠΛΙΤΩΝ

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Η επίθεση της οπλιτικής παράταξης διενεργείτο με τους πολεμιστές των τριών ή των τεσσάρων πρώτων στοίχων να κρατούν τα δόρατα τους σε οριζόντια θέση, προτεταμένα προς τον εχθρό. Τρεις ή τέσσερις αιχμές δοράτων εμπόδιζαν τον εχθρό να φτάσει στον πρώτο στοίχο της φάλαγγας. Οι πολεμιστές των γραμμών που ακολουθούσαν, είχαν τα δόρατα τους σε κεκλιμένη θέση προκειμένου να μην τραυματίσουν με τις αιχμές τους οπλίτες των εμπρόσθιων στοίχων και για να έχουν τους σαυρωτήρες* με κατεύθυνση προς τα κάτω, έτσι ώστε να σκοτώνουν τους τραυματισμένους εχθρούς όταν περνούσαν από πάνω τους. Ο κύριος σκοπός της κλίσης των δοράτων ήταν να ανακόπτουν τα βλήματα που δέχονταν από τους ψιλούς του εχθρού (ακόντια, βέλη, πέτρες, κ.α.).

Η μάχη ξεκινούσε με τις δύο αντίπαλες φάλαγγες να κινούνται η μια εναντίον της άλλης. Η είσοδος στο πεδίο της σύρραξης συνοδευόταν είτε από πολεμικά άσματα, τους παιάνες –όπως συνήθιζαν οι στρατοί των Σπαρτιατών και των άλλων Δωριέων – είτε από πολεμικές ιαχές. Όταν οι οπλιτικοί στρατοί πλησίαζαν μεταξύ τους σε απόσταση περίπου μισού έως ενός σταδίου (89-177 μέτρα), οι πολεμιστές άρχιζαν να τρέχουν με σκοπό να επιπέσουν ορμητικά επί του εχθρού. Αυτό έπραξαν οι Αθηναίοι και οι Πλαταιείς εναντίον των Περσών στον Μαραθώνα. Εξαίρεση σε αυτόν τον γενικό κανόνα αποτελούσαν οι Σπαρτιάτες οι οποίοι βάδιζαν μέχρι την εκ του συστάδην σύρραξη, με οργανωμένο σχηματισμό και συγχρονισμένο βηματισμό, τον ρυθμό του οποίου έδιναν οι ήχοι αυλών. Στόχευαν στην τρομοκράτηση του εχθρού με την ψυχραιμία και την «απάθεια» τους. Μερικοί ερευνητές έχουν υποθέσει ότι και άλλοι στρατοί δωρικών πόλεων ακολουθούσαν αυτήν την τακτική εισόδου στη μάχη.

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THE BATTLE OF PLATAEA, 479 BC (Part II)

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Battle P

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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Read Part I:  THE BATTLE OF PLATAEA, 479 BC (Part I)

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NEW MANEUVERS AND TACTICAL PLANS

The Greek combatants were exhausted because of the continuous ‘hammering’ of the Iranian cavalry, and this situation resulted on a disruption in their units. They finally relocated again to new (third) positions but without organization and order. This confusion led to the dispersal of the forces of the Alliance and the occupation of positions that were not those which were decided in the last military council (see part I). The units of the center of the battle order (Megarians, Corinthians, Fliasians and others) were the ones who suffered most from the attacks of the Persian cavalry. Their men wandered and eventually took positions on the Heraion, near the walls of Plataea. The Athenians began to move to the north, opposite to the direction which the Lacedaemonians followed. Herodotus says that the former were annoyed by the latter because “the Spartans were talking differently from the thinks that they were thinking.”
I believe that this behavior of the latter had nothing to do with any lack of confidence or estimation of them for the Athenians: it had to do with the standard Lacedaemonian policy of secrecy and concealment of as much as possible information about the tactics that they followed, even if the ones that were annoyed by this secrecy were their Greek comrades. It was a standard policy of the Spartan army in order not to demonstrate its superior strategy and tactics to the other city-states. It was a protective measure for the Lacedaemonian hegemony in Greece.
The Athenians, feeling sick and tired of the general lack of strategic coordination, took the brave and dangerous decision to move towards Asopos River, in the lowlands of Parasopia. It seems that they wanted to fight the enemy only by themselves (an enemy that they knew well from their victory at Marathon) and thereby gain a new triumph that would give them the opportunity to question the Spartan hegemony.
The Lacedaemonians were rather wiser following the opposite course to the South, eventually establishing themselves at the foot of Cithaeron. Thus they were protected from the Iranian cavalry. Herodotus quotes that Amompharetos, the commander of the Spartan battalion of Pitane (Pitanatos lochos) initially refused to give ground to the enemy but when the rest of the Lacedaemonian army departed, he had to follow with his company to the new protected location. The “Amompharetos’ incident”, despite the fact that the Spartan senior commanders tended to undertake independent initiatives different from the decisions of the Commander in Chief, does not seem to have happened in reality. It has been hypothesized that it was rather a story made to explain the late retreat of the Pitanatos company (rather a battalion according to the modern standards).
The Pitanatos battalion was probably a rearguard which covered the Spartan relocation to the new positions. Furthermore, Amompharetos’ battalion seems to hold an even more important and risky mission: to lure Mardonios in an attack against the Spartans. The Persian commander, watching a battalion being cut off from the rest of the Spartan army, would believe that the latter was generally in a state of confusion and disorder. Additionally if he decided to attack the Pitanatos battalion, he would have the opportunity to easily destroy a part of the formidable Lacedaemonian army. It is characteristic that the Spartans used similar tactics at the Battle of Thermopylae, when they pretended retreat in front of the Asiatic warriors so that the latter would be lured in a disorderly attack. When this did happen, Leonidas’ men stopped abruptly their retreat, regrouped on the spot and attacked the unorganized Asiatics winning the day.

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THE BATTLE OF PLATAEA, 479 BC (Part I)

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Thorax1A bell-shaped hoplite thorax of the archaic period with an extended bell-type projection in the waist, for the repulse of the enemy arrows, javelins, stones etc.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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[Actually, this paper is a  subchapter of my published book: The Spartan army, Athens 2007].
In the Greco-Persian Wars (490-479 BC) between the Achaemenid Persian Empire and the defensive Alliance of the city-states of South Greece, the victory of the latter at the sea Battle of Salamis (480 BC) on Xerxes’ fleet, secured the control of the sea for them. The Asiatic fleet (mainly East Phoenician) was neutralized and fell back to the eastern Aegean. However, the Persian army remained almost untouched. King Xerxes, fearing the possibility being trapped in Greece and eventually captured or killed after a possible defeat on land, withdrew “discreetly” in Asia officially considering that the objectives of his campaign had been achieved. Before he withdraws, he left his cousin Mardonios (Mardonius in the Western historiography) as head of the army in order to continue the military operations. Mardonios was a stubborn and brave man (his name means the “gallant” in ancient Iranian, originating from the word “mard” for the man or the warrior). On the other hand, in the winter of 479 BC a change occurred in the Spartan military leadership, which proved to be very important for the Greek defense against the invasion. Shortly after Salamis, the Spartan royal commissioner (regent) Kleombrotos died. His office was occupied by his son, Pausanias.

Mardonios initially tried to gain over the Athenians. But the victors of the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) would not be subdued to the losing side in that battle, and twice rejected the tempting terms that he offered them, assuring at the same time the Spartan envoys who were at Salamis Island (the military base of the Athenian army and fleet) that they would never betray their Greek compatriots. Till that moment, the Spartans were avoiding the confrontation with Mardonios’ army. But at that time, they were pressed even more intensely by their Athenian, Megarian, Plataean and Aeginetan allies whose countries were either occupied by the Persians or directly threatened by them. The Spartans had to satisfy the demand of their allies and finally sent their army led by the regent Pausanias, to face the invaders who had already occupied Attica (the territory of Athens) for the second time during the Second Persian campaign (480-479 BC). The women and children of the Athenians had long ago found refuge in Peloponnese and the small islands of the Saronic Gulf. The Athenian resistance was concentrated in the Island of Salamis, where they had defeated the enemy fleet almost a year ago.

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HOPLITE TACTICS: THE HOPLITE PHALANX

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

14Leonidas’ Spartans  confront  the Persian army at Thermop[ylae, in a classic  artwork by Peter Connolly.

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The  hoplite  way  of  war  as  it  is  known  from  the  sources  of  the  Classical  period,  had  been  formed  until  the  Persian  wars  (490-479  BC).  When  the  hoplite  armies  of  two  rival  city-states  prepared  for  battle,  their  hoplites  formed  the  phalanx,  in  a  short  distance  apart  and  usually  in  closed  formation.  In  this  formation,  each  hoplite  had  an  area  of  about  one  square  meter  in  order  to  fight  and  manoeuvre.  The  hoplites  could  be  arrayed  in  an  open  formation,  if  needed  (open  formation  was  used  during  the  march  to  the  field  of  battle  or  if  the  enemy  line  had  to  be  covered  in  length).  In  this  case,  the  distance  between  the  hoplites  increased  alength  the  front  of  the  phalanx  and  also  apeak,  in  the  “depth”  of  the  phalanx  (which  is  the  number  of  ranks).  On  the  other  hand,  if  the  phalanx  had  to  turn  to  the  famous  compact  and  unbreakable  “shieldwall”,  the  hoplites  were  approaching  one  another  so  that  their  shoulders  touched  (very  close  or  dense  formation).  This  was  the  proper  formation  when  the  phalanx  had  to  put  more  pressure  on  the  opponent  or  to  ensure  its  best  possible  defence.  It  was  the  perfect  closed  formation  (although  it  had  some  disadvantages)  because  the  unprotected  right  side  of  the  hoplite  was  covered  by  the  shield  of  his  fellow  hoplite  to  his  right.  Thus  was  formed  an  unbreakable  and  compact  array  which  was  based  on  the  solidarity  of  the  combatants.

The  mission  of    the  “champions”  (“promachoi”)  of  the  Heroic  Age  (Late  Mycenaean  and  Geometric  Age)  –  which were  the  best  and  most  noble  fighters  who  fought  in  front  of  the  other  warriors  –  were  no  longer  the  duels  to  death  with  the  champions  of  the  enemy.  Their  current  mission  was  to  maintain  the  tenacity  of  their  hoplite  phalanx  and  to  kill  the  opposing  champions  in  order  to  weaken  and  burst  the  enemy  phalanx.  Because  of  their  mission,  the  champions  were  arrayed  in  the  first  rank  (line)  of  the  phalanx,  holding  in  reality  the  same  position  as  in  the  irregular  line  of  the  Geometric  period.

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Hoplite  phalanx  of  eight  ranks  (“depth”)  in  battle  formation.

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ΟΠΛΙΤΙΚΕΣ ΤΑΚΤΙΚΕΣ: Η ΠΑΡΑΤΑΞΗ ΤΩΝ ΟΠΛΙΤΩΝ

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Οι Σπαρτιάτες αντιμετωπίζουν τον περσικό στρατό στις Θερμοπύλες με κλειστό σχηματισμό φάλαγγας, σε κλασσικό πλέον πίνακα του Peter Connolly.

Ο οπλιτικός τρόπος πολέμου όπως μας είναι γνωστός από τις πηγές της Κλασσικής περιόδου, είχε πλέον διαμορφωθεί έως τους Μηδικούς πόλεμους (490-479 π.Χ.). Όταν οι στρατοί δύο αντίπαλων πόλεων-κρατών συναντούντο, οι οπλίτες τους σχημάτιζαν φάλαγγα, τασσόμενοι σε μικρή απόσταση  μεταξύ τους, δηλαδή σε κλειστό σχηματισμό (κλειστή τάξη). Ετσι παρατάσσονταν οι στοίχοι και οι ζυγοί της οπλιτικής φάλαγγας. Κάθε οπλίτης διέθετε έκταση περίπου ενός τετραγωνικού μέτρου προκειμένου να μάχεται και να ελίσσεται. Οι οπλίτες δύναντο να παραταχθούν σε ανοικτότερους σχηματισμούς, αν χρειαζόταν (π.χ. η ανοικτότερη τάξη εφαρμοζόταν συχνά κατά τη συντεταγμένη προέλαση έως το πεδίο ή αν το μήκος του εχθρικού μετώπου έπρεπε οπωσδήποτε να καλυφθεί εξολοκλήρου). Στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση, η απόσταση μεταξύ τους αυξανόταν τόσο στο μήκος μετώπου της φάλαγγας όσο και στο «βάθος» της. Από την άλλη πλευρά, αν η φάλαγγα έπρεπε να μετατραπεί στο γνωστό συμπαγές και αδιάρρηκτο «τείχος» από ασπίδες, οι οπλίτες πλησίαζαν τόσο μεταξύ τους, ώστε οι ώμοι τους ακουμπούσαν. Επρόκειτο για την κατάλληλη τακτική όταν η φάλαγγα έπρεπε να ασκήσει  μεγαλύτερη πίεση στον αντίπαλο ή να διασφαλίσει την καλύτερη δυνατή αυτοπροστασία της. Ηταν ο ιδανικός κλειστός σχηματισμός (αν και είχε κάποια μειονεκτήματα) επειδή κατά την εφαρμογή του, η δεξιά ακάλυπτη πλευρά του οπλίτη προστατευόταν από την ασπίδα του συστρατιώτη ο οποίος ήταν ταγμένος στα δεξιά του. Ετσι σχηματιζόταν μια συμπαγής αδιάρρηκτη παράταξη η οποία στηριζόταν στην αλληλοπροστασία και την αλληλεγγύη των μαχίμων της.

Η αποστολή των «προμάχων» των «ηρωικών χρόνων» (Υστερομυκηναϊκής και Γεωμετρικής εποχής), δηλαδή των καλύτερων και περισσότερο ευπατριδών μαχητών οι οποίοι τάσσονταν μπροστά από τους άλλους πολεμιστές, δεν ήταν πλέον οι προσωπικές μονομαχίες με τους προμάχους του εχθρού. Η τωρινή αποστολή τους ήταν να διατηρούν τη συνοχή της φίλιας φάλαγγας και να φονεύουν τους προμάχους της αντίπαλης, με σκοπό να την κλονίσουν και να τη διαρρήξουν. Λόγω αυτής της αποστολής, οι πρόμαχοι παρατάσσονταν στον πρώτο ζυγό της φάλαγγας, ουσιαστικά στην ίδια θέση με εκείνη που κατείχαν στην ασύντακτη παράταξη της Γεωμετρικής περιόδου.

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Οπλιτική φάλαγγα οκτώ ζυγών (‘βάθος’) και οκτώ στοίχων (μήκος), με τους οπλίτες της σε σχηματισμό μάχης.

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ΤΗΕ BOSPORAN KINGDOM (CIMMERIAN BOSPORUS) – PART II

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

 Scythians

King and Queen of a Scythian tribe in  a representation based on the archaeological finds from Central Asia. Since around 300 BC, the Scythians systematically attacked the Bosporan kingdom but a part of them settled in its territory becoming subject to the Bosporan king.  In the  last  centuries of  the  Bosporan  history,  the  Iranians (Scythians and Sarmatians) became the main population of the kingdom.

CONTINUED  FROM  PART  I
In this way, the city-state of Panticapaeum turned into an extensive hegemony, which later evolved into a Hellenistic kingdom. Generally speaking, Panticapaeum had the same evolution as Syracuse, the birthplace and capital of the Hellenistic kingdom which was founded in Sicily. The Greeks and the Hellenized Thracians were originally the ruling class of the Cimmerian Bosporus, but the status of the indigenous population and the Scythian/Iranian minority, was also important. The two peoples (Greeks and non-Greeks) supported each other: the natives were Hellenized and the Greeks gradually adopted the spirit and the habits of the natives. This duality is obvious in every aspect of the social life of Cimmerian Bosporus. Thus a special Bosporan Greek identity was formed in the Northern Black Sea coast, based on the Ionians.

King Paerisades I died in 310 BC. His eldest son, Satyros, was proclaimed king but soon faced the rebellion of his younger brother Eumelos who claimed the throne. Eumelos had secured the support of Aripharnes, king of the Thataeans as mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, the people who lived on the region of the river Thatis. This river was probably one of the tributaries of Hypanis (Kuban River). It is almost certain that the “Thataeans” (a name which is not national but geographical) are identified with the Siracae, a major Sarmatian tribe who had settled in the Kuban region during the reign of Paerisades I who made them his tributaries. The Sarmatians were a group of nomadic peoples of Central Asia, belonging to the Northern Iranian (Saka, Sakic) stock together with the Scythians. Since the 4th century BC, most of them began migrating towards the steppes north of the Black Sea, while some of their tribes began to move towards China. The various Sarmatian tribes (Sauromatae, Siracae, Aorsi/Alans, Aspourgi, Roxolani, ‘Royal’ Sarmatians, and later the Iazyges, the Alans, the modern Ossetians etc.) were independent and often fought each other. The Sarmatians fought primarily as horsemen and cavalrymen with a long cavalry spear called ‘kontos’. Other arms used by them were their typical medium and long swords, the daggers and a kind of compound bow, less powerful than the Scythian.

Eumelos and Aripharnes of the Siracae confronted Satyros and his Scythian allies in the great battle of the river Thatis , one of the  greatest cavalry battles in Antiquity, in which 10,000 Scythian and 20,000 Sarmatian horsemen and cavalrymen participated. It is certain that the Siracae were supported by many other Sarmatian horsemen, because the Sarmatians in  general were trying to oust the Scythians from the Black Sea steppe.

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ΤΗΕ BOSPORAN KINGDOM (CIMMERIAN BOSPORUS) – PART I

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

 map

Map  of  the  Kingdom  of  the  Cimmerian  Bosporus,  the  other  Greek  states  in  the  region,  the  Scythian  territory  and  the  last  refuge  of  the  Scythians  after  their  defeat  by  the  Sarmatians  (Historical  Atlas  of  Ukraine:  Greek  colonies  and  the  hinterland)

Since  the  Mycenaean  Age,  the  Greek  navigators  and  colonizers  expressed  their  interest  in  the  Black  Sea  and  the  rich  countries  that  surround  it.  The  Mycenaeans  had  explored  the  region,  as  shown  by  the  tradition  of  the  Argonauts  and  other  evidence,  philological  and  archaeological.  Before  the  Mycenaeans,  Minoan  Crete  was  never  really  interested  in  the  Black  Sea  region.  Generally  speaking,  the  Black  Sea  was  inhospitable  for  the  Mediterranean  seafarer  because  sailing  in  its  waters  was  difficult  and  the  countries  surrounding  it  were  inhabited  by  savage  peoples,  who  used  to  kill  those  who  landed  on  their  shores.  For  these  reasons,  the  original  Greek  name  of  the  Black  Sea  was  the  ‘Inhospitable  Sea’  (Axeinos  Pontos).  The  chaos  of  the  12th  century  BC  in  which  the  Greek  world  sank,  with  the  devastating  raids  of  the  Sea  Peoples  in  the  entire  area  of  the  Eastern  Mediterranean,  the  destruction  of  the  ‘Mycenaean    Commonwealth’  and  the  collapse  of  the  palatial  sociopolitical  system  and  their  aftermath,  removed  the  Greek  navigators  of  the  Black  Sea.

Since  Early  Antiquity,  since  the  time  of  the  ancient  Tripolye  civilization  of  the  3rd  millennium  BC,  the  modern  Russo-Ukrainian  steppes  were  inhabited  by  sedentary  agricultural  and  stockbreeding  populations.  These  populations  were  subdued  by  the  nomadic  peoples  who  arrived  successively  from  Central  Asia,  moving  north  of  the  Caspian  Sea.  The  Indo-Aryan  or  Iranian  Cimmerians  were  the  first  known  (historical)  nomadic  people  to  arrive  there,  followed  by  the  Iranian  Scythians  and  Sarmatians,  and  then  by  the  Turko-Mongol  Huns,  Avars,  Cumans,  Pechenegs  and  others.  The  nomadic  invaders  considered  the  Russo-Ukrainian  steppe  as  a  very  suitable  environment  for  the  growth  of  their  flocks.  The  resident  population  of  modern  southwestern  Ukraine  was  rather  Thracian  in  origin,  while  that  of  southeastern  Ukraine  and  the  steppe  north  of  the  Caucasus  belonged  to  the  people  of  the  older  Shrubnaya  (Timber-grave)  culture.  The  lands  of  the  natives  were  relatively  rich  in  agricultural  production,  so  they  could  pay  without  much  difficulty  the  taxes  imposed  on  them  by  the  nomad  rulers.  Various  nomadic  tribes  retained  as  long  as  they  could  their  power  on  those  lands,  substantially  as  long  as  their  military  superiority  against  external  threats  lasted.

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