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THE HOPLITE SHIELDS

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vase painti
A  vase  painting  depicting  a  hoplite,  5th  century  BC.  He  is  armed  with  a  bronze  cuirass,  a  hoplite  sword  and  a  hoplite  shield  of  the  Argive  type.  In  the  interior  of  the  hoplite  shield, you  can  see  the  “antilave” («αντιλαβή»,  handle/handgrip),  the  “porpax” («πόρπαξ»,  fastener  for  the  elbow)  and  the  “telamons” («τελαμώνες»,  shoulder  belts)/ (Paris,  Louvre  Museum)

By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  Geometric  Period  (11th-8th  centuries  BC)  preceded  the  invention  of  the  hoplite  warfare  and  the  hoplite  phalanx (about  700  BC).  The  shields  of  the  Geometric  period  belonged  to  two  main  types:  the  “Dipylon” type  shield  and  the  “Herzsprung”  type.  The  Dipylon  shield  is  named  after  the  Athenian  Dipylon  gate,  where  a  number  of  pottery  with  depictions  of  that  type  of  shield,  was  discovered.  It  was  a  large  and  long  shield,  covering  the  warrior  from  chin  to  knees.  It  was  made  of  wicker  and  leather,  without  excluding  further  strengthening  of  wooden  parts.  Despite  its  size,  the  Dipylon  shield  was  light  due  to  its  materials.  It  had  a  curved  form  in  order  to  embrace  the  warrior’s  body.  In  the  middle  of  its  surface,  the  Dipylon  shield  had  two  semicircular  notches  for  the  easier  handling  of  the  offensive  weapons (spear  or  sword).  Notches  also  facilitated  the  hanging (suspension)  of  the  Dipylon  shield  on  the  warrior’s  back,  in  order  not  to  restrict  his  elbows  when  he  walked.  The  shield  had  at  least  one  central  handle  for  its  holding  by  the  warrior  in  battle,  and  one  or  more  shoulder  belts,  in  order  to  hang  it  on  his  back  when  not  used.  These  belts  were  called  “telamones” (τελαμώνες).  The  shape  of  the  Dipylon  shield  denotes  its  origins  from  the  famous  Minoan  and  Mycenaean  eight-shaped  shield.  During  the  Greek  Archaic  Era (7th cent – 479  BC),  the  Dipylon  shield  was  made  mostly  of  bronze  and  had  a  smaller  size:  that  is  the  “Boeotian”  type  of  shield,  named  after  Boeotia,  where  it  was  popular.

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LEONIDAS’ LUCKLESS BROTHER: DORIEUS THE SPARTAN

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Greek Phoenician colonizationBy  Periklis    Deligiannis

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By  the  end  of  the  sixth  century  BC,  Anaxandridas  of  the  Agiad  royal  family,  one  of  the  two  Spartan kings (Sparta  had  two  kings),  had  a  difficulty  in  bearing  children  from  his  first  wife.  The  Spartan  ephors  forced  him  to  take  a  second  wife – despite  the  southern  Greek  monogamy – in  order  to  obtain  a  successor.  Anaxandridas’  second  wife  gave  birth  to  Cleomenes,  who  was  destined  to  become  one  of  the  most  skilful  Spartan  kings.  However,  shortly  after  the  birth  of  Cleomenes,  Anaxandridas’  first  wife  also  gave  birth  to  a  son,  named  Dorieus.  Although  Dorieus  came  from  the  king’s  first  wife,  Cleomenes  succeeded  Anaxandridas  to  the  throne  as  firstborn.  Dorieus  became  furious  because  of  the  takeover  of  royal  power  by  Cleomenes.  Thus  he  decided  to  organize  a  colonization  campaign,  in  order  to  leave  forever  Sparta  (515  BC).  His  first  choice  for  the  founding  of  his  colony,  was  the  site  of  the  river  Kinyps  in  Libya.  The  men  who  followed  him  out  were  referred  by  the  sources  as  “Lacedaemonians”  and  it  seems  that  they  included  a  few  real  Spartans  (Spartan  citizens,  called  omoioi).  The  Spartan  omoioi  followers  of  Dorieus  were  mainly  his  personal  friends  and  some  members  of  his  political  faction.  The  majority  were  other  Lacedaemonians,  mainly  hypomeiones  (fallen  citizens,  ex-Spartans  who  were  just  beginning  to  become  numerous),  perioikoi (free  Lakonian, Messenian  and  Pylian  subjects  of  Sparta)  and  Peloponnesian  allies.

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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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A SMALL SPARTA FAR AWAY FROM GREECE: THE LIPARIAN ISLES

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By  Periklis Deligiannis

 

Aristonothos

Aristonothos vase 700-650 BC

The renowned “Aristonothos vase” (about 700-650 BC) manufactured in Magna Graecia by Aristonothos and discovered in Caere of Etruria (Etruscan Caisra). Its vase-painting of a naval battle (image below) provides us with a very good representation of the ships used by the Greek and the Etruscan sea-fighters (almost identical), and of naval warfare during the acme of the Aeolidae Islands (Archaic period).


The Aeolidae (Aeolian) or Liparae (Liparian) Isles is a cluster of small islands in Sicily,  northwest of the Straits of Messina. In this article I will deal with an unknown aspect of their history which is related with a very interesting episode of the ancient Greek colonization.
In Sicily, around 580 BC, the Selinuntian Greek colonists finally resigned from claiming disputed lands from their Geloan brethren (in which lands, Acragas was founded) in exchange for aid by Dorian settlers coming from Rhodes and the Anatolian Greek colony Cnidos (Knidos), who arrived in western Sicily through Gela. Pentathlos, the leader of the Rhodian and Cnidian colonists, was a Cnidian like most of his men.
The Selinuntians used the Cnidian and Rhodian reinforcements in their ongoing war against the Elymians and the Phoenicians. They helped them to establish a new Greek colony at Cape Lilybaion (Latin Lilybaeum), just 10 kilometers south of Motya. They were trying to establish a new Doric power against Motya (the main Punic colony on the island) and Carthage, while they would deal with the subjugation of the Elymian Segesta which resisted stubbornly their expansion. The Selinuntians, Cnidians and Rhodians joined forces against the Elymi, Sicilian-Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
Diodorus Siculus states that the main battle between the two blocs took place near Lilybaeum, obviously in the hinterland between Selinus (Selinunte) and Segesta. Pentathlos was killed; the Greeks were defeated (580/576 BC) and immediately after, the Elymi and the Carthaginians attacked Lilybaion and drove off from there the Cnidians and Rhodians.

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THE SELINUNTIAN WARS of the 6th cent.BC.

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By  Periklis Deligiannis

segestaA pure Greek-type temple in Segesta (main temple of the city).


CONTINUED FROM   THE PHOENICIAN-GREEK STRUGGLE IN SICILY &THE FOUNDING OF SELINUS (7th-6th c. BC.)

In 580 BC the Selinuntians finally resigned from claiming the disputed land from Gela (in which land, Acragas was founded) in exchange for aid by Dorian settlers coming from Rhodes and the Anatolian Greek colony Cnidos (Knidos), who arrived in western Sicily through Gela. Pentathlos, the leader of the Rhodian and Cnidian colonists, was a Cnidian like most of his men.

Athena Promachos1

A beautiful reenactment of Archaic Greek hoplites by the Spanish Historical Association Athena Promakhos (copyright: Anna Belen Rubio). Note the double crest of two snakes facing each other on the Corinthian helmet of the hoplite on front, and his arm-protector with the sculpted emblem of  Gorgo (gorgonion). The same gorgonion emblem  is depicted in his Argive shield.  The two snakes facing each other are sculpted in his bell-type cuirass as well.  In the Orient, the hoplites were known as brazen (bronze) warriors.  The Siciliot and Italiot Greek warriors did not differ from those of mainland Greece.

The Selinuntians used the Cnidian and Rhodian reinforcements in their ongoing war against the Elymians and the Phoenicians. They helped them to establish a new Greek colony at Cape Lilybaion (Latin Lilybaeum), just 10 kilometers south of Motya. They were trying to establish a new Doric power against Motya (the main Punic colony on the island) and Carthage, while they would deal with the subjugation of Segesta which resisted stubbornly their expansion. The Selinuntians, Cnidians and Rhodians joined forces against the Elymi, Sicilian-Phoenicians and Carthaginians.

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THE PHOENICIAN-GREEK STRUGGLE IN SICILY &THE FOUNDING OF SELINUS (7th-6th c. BC.)

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By Periklis Deligiannis

Selinunte

Aerial view of the archaeological site of Selinus (Selinunte).

During the period when the ancient Greeks were colonizing the eastern coast of Sicily (late 8th century BC), the Phoenicians kept their own emporia (commercial stations) in the western part of the island. It seems that Panormos (modern Sicilian capital Palermo) was the oldest Phoenician colony. Motya was founded around 700 BC by the Phoenicians of Carthage. Her location was very strategic and well protected, having been founded on an island near the Sicilian coast. Simultaneously, the Carthaginians founded the emporia  of Mazara and Macara on the southwestern coast, whose Phoenician origin has been verified by their Canaanite names and by archeology. Macara was probably founded on the site of a former Minoan ‘emporion’ or naval base, because the Greeks called the town ‘Minoa’ and later ‘Heraclea Minoa’ (or just ‘Heraclea’). Some archaeologists have theorized that the subsequent town of Thermae Himeraiae, which was founded by the Carthaginians after the destruction of the nearby Greek city Himera (late 5th century BC), was in reality a Phoenician colony that existed before the foundation of the latter. According to this hypothesis, when the Greeks founded Himera, they drove off the Phoenicians from Thermae but when the Carthaginians destroyed Himera, they refounded the old Punic colony.

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THE BATTLE OF CUMAE, ITALY (524 BC)

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Italian lightly  armed warrior (by Peter Connolly), the main type of lightly armed  Italian warriors who attacked Cumae in 524 BC. Especially for the peoples of the Apennines, the central mountain range of the Italian peninsula, this was the main combatant type. These hardy and stubborn warriors, mainly Oscan and Southern Umbrian, caused great problems in Rome in the coming centuries. The depicted warrior has a native Italian helmet with a Greek-type plume. He bears a protection plate on his neck and a pactorale – a circular disk to protect his chest. He holds two spears – one heavier and one lighter. He also has a Greek-type sword (copyright: Peter Connolly).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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In 745 BC, the Euboean Greek settlers who had colonized years ago, the small island  Pithekousai off  coast of the  Bay  of  Naples  in  Italy, founded  Cumae  (Cyme  in  Greek,  Cumae  in  Latin) on the opposite coast. Cumae was the first ‘official’ Greek colony in the Italian peninsula. Pithekousai was actually the first, but ‘unofficial’ colony in Italy. Cumae took its name from the Euboean Cyme, rather as a neutral compromise between Chalkidean and Eretrian settlers, the most numerous among the Euboeans. Chalkis and Eretria were the most powerful city-states of the large island Euboea in the Aegean Sea.

Soon Cumae, enhanced by new colonists from Chalcis, Eretria, the Euboean Cyme, Tanagra (Boeotia), Cirinthos (Euboea) and Oropia (Boeotia), expanded in the fertile land of the Phlegraian Fields to the north. Later, further more Greek colonists arrived in Cumae from Magna Graecia, Samos etc. founding subsidiary colonies and thereby increasing the extent of the Cumaean territory. Among the Cumaean colonies, Neapolis (modern Naples) would become the most important. In other cases, the Greeks settled in existing villages o f  the  indigenous Ausones, turning them into Greek colonies, as it happened in Pompeii, Heraklion (Herculaneum), etc. Thus the boundaries of the Cumaean territory were approaching fast  the river Volturnus, but soon they were confined by a powerful enemy: the Etruscans (or  Tyrrhenians  as the Greeks used to call them), the people of Etruria (modern Tuscany), mostly of Anatolian origins (from Lydia, Asia Minor).

The competition between the Greeks and the Etruscans was older enough. The mythographer Palaifatos (“On Unbelievers”) assures that the sea monster Scylla, which Odysseus encountered on his wanderings (“Odyssey”), represented the danger facing the Greek merchant ships in the Strait of Messina, from the Etruscan pirates.

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