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War was central to Europe’s first civilisation (Minoan)- contrary to popular belief

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Minoan swords1

A collection of bronze swords and daggers from the Arkalochori Cave, Crete, belonging to the Late Minoan Era (1700-1450 BC) before the Mycenaean conquest of Knossos (c.1450). (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete).


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ΤΗΕ GELOAN WAR MACHINE (ANCIENT SICILY) – PART II

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phalanx

cavalryThe hoplite phalanx (vase-painting above) and the cavalry of the Archaic type (artwork below, by Giussepe Rava) were the two main army formations of the Siciliot and Italiot Greeks including the Geloans.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I
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Gela completed her hegemonic march when eventually Gelon, her greatest son, made Syracuse his capital. Henceforth, Acragas substituted Gela as the second most powerful city-state of Sicily, a great rival for Syracuse.
Many readers accustomed to the History of World War II, must have known Gela, because her site was one of the main landing areas of the Allied assault on Sicily on the 10th of July 1943.
After this historical introduction, I am going to deal in greater detail with ancient Gela’s armed forces.
The main military disadvantage of Gela was the lack of natural harbours in her core territory. Because of this geophysical situation, the Geloans never had a navy of some account. When the Geloan tyrants formed the ‘Geloan Empire’, they exploited the ports and the warships of the subject naval city-states to establish a navy.
The limited occupation of the Geloans with shipping and the fertile plain around their city turned them into an agricultural and ranching life. Moreover the ancestors of most settlers, although all of them islanders, were more attached to the land occupations than to sea life: these were the Cretans, the Coans and the colonists from the city-states Hialysos and Kamiros of Rhodes; the Lindians were actually the exception to this ‘general rule’.

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ΤΗΕ GELOAN WAR MACHINE (ANCIENT SICILY) – PART I

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1The  anthropomorphic  bull  in  a  coin  of  Gela  (480-470  BC),  apparently  a  popular  emblem  on  the  shields  of  the  Geloans.

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The city of Gela  was  founded  in  688  BC  on  the  south  coast  of  Sicily,  near  the  river  Gelas,  by Cretan,  Rhodian  and  other  Dodecanese  Dorian  settlers.  This  new  Greek colony  was  originally  named  “the Lindians”  from  the  “ethnic name”  of  Lindos,  the  most  important  city-state  of  Rhodes.  Lindos  had  significantly  higher  shipping  than  any  other  city-state  of Rhodes,  Crete  and  the Dodecanese,  and  apparently  supported  the  colonial  mission  with  her  navy.  However,  because  most  of  the  colonists  had  not  Lindian  origin,  the  name  “Gela”  finally  prevailed originating  from  the  indigenous Sicanian  name  of  the  nearby  river  (the Gelas River).

From  the  beginning  the  Geloans  (the citizens  of Gela)  had  a  high level of militancy,  seeking  the expansion  of  their  territory  in  the  Sicilian  mainland,  at  the  expense  of  the  natives  of  Sicily  and  other  Greek  colonists.  The  natives  were  the  Sicani  (Sicans),  the  Elymians  (probably  a  Sicani  tribal  offshoot)  and  the  Siculi  or  Sikels  (actually  of  Italian  mainland  origins).  The  first  phase  of  the  impressive  conquests  of Gela,  belongs  to  the  wars  against  the  neighboring  Sicani.  The  Sican  townships  of  Kakyron,  Omphake  (now  Monte  Desusino),  Ariaiton  (or  Ariaitis),  Inykon  and  others,  succumbed  to  the  army  of  Gela,  despite  their  resistance.  The strong  resistance  of  the  Sicani  is  demonstrated  by  the  fact  that  the  Geloans  spent  nearly  two  centuries  until  the  subjugation  of  the  last  independent  Sicani of their territory.  The  Greeks  had  a  decisive  military  advantage  against  the  natives,  thanks  to  their  hoplite  phalanx and their cavalry.

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THE SPARTAN ‘AGOGE’ (socio-military education & training) – PART I

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By  Periklis    Deligiannisspartan agoge

Girls  and  boys  of  Sparta  during the ‘agoge’  in  a  Western European  artwork.
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The  Spartan  or  Laconian  ‘agoge’  (socio-military  education  and  training)  had  been  formed  at  the  end  of  the  Archaic  period  (7th  cent  –  479  BC).  The  Spartan/Lacedaemonian  tradition  claims  that  this  system  of  civic  and  military  education  was  contrived  by  the  famous  Spartan  statesman  Lycurgos.  In  fact,  Lycurgos  established  in  the  8th  century  an  early  form  of  the  agoge,  which  went  through  various  phases  of  development  and  improvement  to  get  its  final  classic  form.  The  Spartan  education  had  much  in  common  with  that  of  several  Doric/Dorian  city-states  of  Crete.  Apart  from  their  common  Doric  origins,  some  Cretan  cities  were  Spartan  colonies  and  it  is  generally  considered  that  there  was  regular  interaction  between  the  two  regions,  Laconia  and  Crete.

For  a  predominantly  militaristic  state  as  it  was  the  Spartan  state,  military  training  was  particularly  important.  If  the  young  Spartan  did  not  manage  to  go  through  its  stages,  he  could  not  enter  the  social  class  of  the  ‘omoioi’  (meaning  ‘akin’,  and  in  the  case  of  Sparta  meaning  the  ‘equals’)  who  were  the  Spartan  full  citizens,  and  he  could  not  participate  in  the  ‘Apella’,  the  Spartan  House  of  Citizens  (parliament).  Additionally,  later  in  his  life,  he  could  not  be  a  member  of  the  ‘Gerousia’  (Spartan  Senate)  and  could  not  be  elected  as  one  of  the  five  ‘Ephoroi’  (Curators).  This  extremely  hard  training  that  reached  the  limits  of  human  endurance  since  the  childhood  of  a  Spartan,  has  been  the  subject  of  criticism,  positive  and  negative,  already  from  the  ancient  times.

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A CONTRIBUTION TO THE STUDY OF THE SPARTAN NAVY – PART I

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aaaaaThe  allied  Greek  fleet  in  the  sea  battle  of  Salamis,  against  the  Phoenicians  and  the  Persians.

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  Navy  of  ancient  Sparta – an  important  Weapon  of  the  Spartan army – remains  in  a  state  of  oblivion  for  most  researchers.  The  Spartans  had  no  naval  tradition,  nor  ever  acquired  one.  But  the  Spartan  navy  was  a  reality,  due  to  the  inhabitants  of  the  coasts  of  Laconia.  Later,  during  the  Classical  era,  the  united  Peloponnesian  Navy  was  provided  mainly  by  the  Peloponnesian  allies  of  Sparta.  After  the  end  of  the  Hegemony  of  Sparta  in  Greece  (371  BC),  the  Spartans  reduced  essentially  their  naval  forces  until  the  time  of  king  Nabis,  who  was  responsible  for  the  last  glimpse  of  the  Spartan  navy.
The  maritime  tradition  of  the  coastal  Laconian  “perioikoi” (subjects  of  Sparta,  mostly  pre-Dorian)  begins  at  least  from  the  Mycenaean  era,  when  the  Lacedaemonian  Achaeans  took  part  in  the  Trojan  War  with  60  ships.  The  founding of  common  colonies  by  Spartan  Dorians  and  Laconian  pre-Dorians  in  Crete,  Melos,  Thera (Santorini)  and  Cnidus  (a  city  of  Asia  Minor),  indicates  that  the  Laconian  maritime  tradition  continued  uninterruptedly  during  the  Geometric  period (11th-8th  centuries  BC).  This  is  also  indicated  by  the  Spartan  naval  operation  for  the  founding  of  Taras  (modern  Taranto)  in  Southern  Italy  (706/5  BC),  which  started  from  Gythion, the  main  port  of  Sparta (Taras  was  a  Spartan  colony).  Continue reading

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