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Two significant representations of ancient Greek vase-paintings and frescoes on military topics

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The sea-battle scene from the Aristonothos Vase on the left (of the reader) and on the right the “Battle in the River” fresco, along with the modern representations by Angel G. Pinto (image credit: Angel G. Pinto)

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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In this article, I would like to note two significant representations of ancient Greek paintings by one of my favourite artists on military topics, namely Angel G. Pinto. The image of the two representations came from his website (angelgpinto.blogspot.gr).

I was interested (rather lured) in the ad hoc themes that he chose for these two artistic representations, that is to say the “Battle in the River” – a Mycenaean fresco of the 13th century BC from the palace of Pylos – and the sea-battle scene from the “Aristonothos vase” of the Archaic Era (about 700-650 BC).

I will start from the chronologically earlier fresco, the “Battle in the River”. This artwork was found in the palace of Pylos, the administrative center of a Mycenaean state in the south-west Peloponnesus. It was one of the most potent states of the Mycenaean ‘Commonwealth’ and probably the best organized. Pylos was a power counterbalance to the state of Mycenae, although it seems to have been usually its ally.

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Cataphractarii! (2) – The cataphract cavalry in a period of 2,500 years

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Continued from Part I

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sassanid cataphract

A superb restoration of a Sassanid  cataphract (credit: Total War: Rome II, Sega).

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By Periklis  Deligiannis

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Cataphractarii! (I) – The cataphract cavalry in a period of 2,500 years

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The onslaught of a unit of Sassanid or Central Asia Iranian  cataphracts in a marvelous artwork by Mariusz Kozik (credit: Creative Assembly Sega/Mariusz Kozik).

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By Periklis  Deligiannis

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The following text is a small part of the Introduction of my study: Kataphraktarii and Clibanarii: Late Roman full-armoured cavalry. Along with it I give a gallery of cataphracts from most of the ethnic and cultural regions in which their use was spread over a period of two and a half millennia.
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The first cataphracts or clibanarii were rather an invention of the Iranian Saka tribes of the Central Asian steppes – being the ancestors of the Sarmatians, the Scythians, the Dahae and the Massagetae among many others – or the non-Iranian but Indo-European as well Tocharians of the same steppes that is the ancestors of the Wu Sun and the Yuezhi of the Chinese chronicles. The term  cataphract is a Greek word (κατάφρακτος) meaning the ‘fully armoured’ warrior and was adopted by the Romans (catafractarius) while the other almost synonymous Latin term clibanarius is actually the Latinized and originally Iranian term grivpanvar which is possibly analyzed as grivapanabara, meaning the bearer of neck-guard plates being a feature of the early cataphracts. I prefer to use the more correct verbal type kataphraktos which is closer to the original Greek word κατάφρακτος but in this abstract I will use the Latin-originated term cataphract in order not to confuse the reader.

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Roman military footwear: Bronze caliga from an over life-size statue of a Roman cavalryman

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Republication from Following hadrian (by Carole Raddato)

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© Carole Raddato

Bronze caliga from a over life-size statue of a Roman cavalryman
© Carole Raddato

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Caligae were heavy hob-nailed military boots worn by the Roman legionary soldiers, auxiliaries and cavalrymen throughout the Roman Republic and Empire.

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Roman engineering II: The Roman Temple of Évora (Portugal)

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Republication from Following hadrian (by Carole Raddato)

The Roman Temple of Évora (Templo romano de Évora), also referred to as the Templo de Diana (although there is no basis in fact for this designation) is an ancient temple in the historic city of Évora, Portugal. The temple is part of the historical centre of the city, which was included in the classification by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

In 57 BC, the city was conquered by the Romans who renamed it Liberalitas Julia and expanded it into a walled town. The temple is believed to have been built around the first century AD and was probably erected in honour of emperor Augustus. It was built in the main public square (forum) of Liberalitas Julia.

The temple has undergone numerous changes throughout history. What remains of this structure today is the podium, almost completely preserved and made of granite blocks, an intact colonnade along its northern facade consisting of six columns, four columns to the east and four columns on its western facade.

The Roman Temple of Évora, overview from the north-western corner, Ebora, Lusitania, Portugal © Carole Raddato

The Roman Temple of Évora, the northern facade consisting of six columns
© Carole Raddato

[image not to  be shown here: visit the original source]

The Roman Temple of Évora
© Carole Raddato

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Roman engineering: The Hadrianic aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima, Israel

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Republication from Following hadrian

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Caesarea Maritima is perhaps one of Israel’s most famous attractions. Its ruins are located by the sea-shore of Israel about half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa. It is the site of one of the most important cities of the Roman World, the capital of the province of Judaea. The city was founded between 22 and 10 BC by Herod the Great (37-4 BC) as an urban centre and harbor on the site of the earlier Straton’s Tower. The city has been populated through the late Roman and Byzantine era. Today, Caesarea is a large and beautiful national park and a fascinating place to visit while exploring the Holy Land.

Herod the Great's palace and circus, Caesarea, Israel © Carole Raddato

Herod the Great’s palace and circus, Caesarea
© Carole Raddato

The Judaean port of Caesarea had no reliable source of fresh water when construction on the city began around 22 BC. King Herod commissioned a raised aqueduct to deliver water from the springs near Shuni, 16 kilometers north-east of Caesarea Maritima. Today, the most impressive part of the Herodian aqueduct (known as the high-level aqueduct I) can be seen on the beach of Caesarea, north of the ancient city.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE (EAST ROMAN) GENERIC TACTICS AND STRATEGY (Part II)

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Byzantine St-LucasByzantine fresco depicting Joshua (from the Hosios Loukas monastery, 12th century AD) bearing a lamellar ‘clibanion’  (‘klibanion’) cuirass, and armed with a “kontarion” (spear) and a “spathion” (sword). The figure is sometimes considered as a model of the appearance and equipment of the Byzantine “skoutatoi” heavy infantrymen.
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CONTINUED from PART I
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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In the order of battle in front of the front line, units of archers and some javeliners and slingers (and a few light horse-archers) were lined up. Those units were usually starting the imperial attack with their missiles against the enemy army in order to cause confusion on its ranks, in order for the attack of the armored cavalry of the first line to follow. The lightly armed Byzantines were usually engaged in skirmishes with their enemy counterparts before the main combat, but when threatened by heavy enemy units conducting a frontal assault on them, they were fleeing behind the line of their fellow horsemen.
Over the centuries, the native Byzantine archers and horse-archers were gradually replaced by Altaic and Alanic mercenary horse-archers (the so-called “Prokoursatores“, see below) who additionally used their favorite nomad tactics of “feigned retreat” at the start of the battle. According to those tactics, they were pretending to have been defeated in the initial skirmishes with the enemy forces so that they could lure them in their pursuit. The ultimate goal of this nomadic vanguard was to disband the ranks of the advancing enemies because of the speed of the ‘chase’, so that they would be unorganized enough when they would face the attack of the Byzantine frontline armored cavalry. In this case, the imperial horse-archers were galloping through the interstices of the front line to the safety of the rear, while the marching enemy who had considerably lost his compact order, confronted the “catapultic” attack of the Bucellarii, Kavallarii or Cataphract cavalry.

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AD FINEM DESOLATUM! : ROME’S FEROCIOUS 2nd CELTIBERIAN WAR (154-133 BC) Part II

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Modern reconstruction of the fortifications of Numantia, Spain (source:  Wikipedia commons).
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By Periklis Deligiannis

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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Scipio realized that the Roman war effort should focus on Numantia, the center of the resistance. When he observed her strong walls, made of stone and plinths and supported by wooden towers and defensive obstacles in front of them, he understood that the fortress-city (rather a town according to the Greco-Roman standarts) which had repelled four Roman armies, could not be conquered by assaults and generally by an energetic siege. For this reason, he decided to cut her of the rest of Spain, surrounding her with a powerful ring of fortifications extending 10 km around the city. The Roman siege wall consisted of a wooden wall with towers in which ballistae and catapults were installed. There were also six legion camps embedded in the siege wall. In overall, 60-70,000 Romans would face a few thousands of Numantine defenders who were inside the town together with a few more thousands of non-combatants. The neighboring Celtiberian tribes did not help Numantia because of fear for the huge Roman army and mainly their envy for her growing power and influence. Once again, the typical Celtic discord was the strongest “weapon” of the Romans in their wars against any Celtic enemy.

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AD FINEM DESOLATUM! : ROME’S FEROCIOUS 2nd CELTIBERIAN WAR (154-133 BC)

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centurionΑ Republican Roman centurion leads his legionaries through a storm of arrows. Artwork by Radu Oltean.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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In the 4th century BC, the ethno-linguistic situation in the Iberian Peninsula (or simply called Iberia) was settled. Most likely, her area was shared by at least five ethno-linguistic groups. The three of them consisted of indigenous peoples of the Pre-Indo-European Mediterranean substrate: the Vasconian or Aquitanian group dwelled in the northern area, being the ancestors of the modern Basques. The Vascones belonged to the same group with the pre-Celtic Aquitani of southern Gaul. The southern part of the Peninsula belonged to the Tartessian group, with the Turdetani being its principal tribe and the River Ana (today Guadiana) being its northern border. The eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain was dwelled by the Iberian group. Some decades ago it was believed that the Vascones and the Tartessians were branches of the Iberians, but today it is almost certain that they were independent ethno-linguistic groups. This ‘misunderstanding’ was due to the Greek and Italian navigators/explorers who first came into contact with the Iberians. Because of this meeting they called “Iberia” the whole peninsula when in fact the Iberians were a rather limited part of the total population. In the mentioned period, the original Tartessian group was already divided to a Paleo-Tartessian and a Turdetanian subgroup.
The other two ethno-linguistic groups of the Peninsula were Indo-European: the Lusitani who were linguistically an Indo-European population but probably pre-Celtic, and the Celtiberians who were linguistically Celts. Some researchers believe that the Lusitani spoke proto-Celtic dialects originating from the local Urnfield Culture, older than the Celtiberian dialects (being  q-Celtic, rather originating from the Hallstatt Era) but there are many objections to this view.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part II): THE BATTLE OF THE SABIS (57 BC)

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RomanWithout wasting any time, the legionaries of Legio X crossed again the river Sabis to help Caesar’s men against the Nervii. Reenactment of imperial era legionaries by the Polish Historical Association Legio XXI Rapax, photo by Cezary Wyszynski.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Caesar marched with his six oldest legions towards the river Sabis sending first a body of cavalry to find a safe location where he would establish his camp. The newly founded XIII and XIV Legions followed at a distance, protecting the Roman supply convoy.
The Roman cavalry corps had crossed the river Sabis to its right bank along with bodies of light infantry and skirmishers in order to oversee the Belgae. However, the Celts suddenly dashed from the forest, screaming war cries and brandishing their swords. Soon they repelled the terrified Caesarian cavalrymen and crossed the river swimming. When they reached its left bank they began ascending speedily the hillside, heading towards the top of the hill where the Roman soldiers were working on the construction of the camp. Caesar found himself in a very difficult situation since he had to act instantly to rescue his unorganized and unarmed legionaries. He had to give orders to sound the bucinae, to raise the red vexillia calling the legionaries to hurry for battle, to gather his men who were cutting trees, etc., all this ‘in just a moment’ as he characteristically writes in his memoirs.
Fortunately for the Romans, Caesar had ordered his officers not to leave their soldiers until the construction was completed; thereby they were able to quickly gather their legionaries. The Romans were additionally helped by the high level of their military training and discipline. When the more isolated legionaries realized the danger of the stormy attack of the Belgians, acted with characteristic collectedness. They did not search for their units; on the contrary they grabbed their arms and armour and ran to the nearest Roman vexillium (war standard) that was lifted up. Thus in an incredibly short time, a battle line was formed. It was a typical manifestation of the robust organization and discipline of the Roman army, one of the many features that made it an unconquerable (invictus) killing  machine.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part I): Preparations and primary Operations of Caesar’s First war on the Belgae

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Romans

Reenactment of Roman legionaries at English Heritage Festival in 2011 (photo by Lichfield Lore). The picture could very well represent legionaries ready for combat in the dense forest of Belgica, but the problem is that the depicted legionaries are of the Imperial era.
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By Periklis Deligiannis

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In 58 BC the campaign of Julius Caesar for the subjugation of Gaul was going on. That year he overwhelmingly defeated the Germanic Suebi (Swebi) who also intended to conquer Gaul under their king Ariovistus. In the next year, the Roman general turned against the threatening Belgae. Many Gauls felt relieved by the destruction of the Suebi who had been threatening their homeland. Others understood that Caesar intended to turn their country into a Roman province.
The Belgae were a large conglomerate of Celtisized peoples mainly of the Northwestern pre-Celtic ethno-linguistic group (pre-Teutonic Germani) as it seems, whom the Germans had expelled from their cradle (in the east of the Rhine), thereby they settled in northeastern Gaul, mostly between the rivers Seine, Marne and the Rhine. However the Belgae included some Celtic proper and Germanic tribes and clans.
After their settlement in Gaul they had almost completely adopted La Tene culture (typical Celtic). Caesar in his ‘De Bello Gallico’ describes them as the most warlike and brave among the Gauls. The Belgians were additionally strengthened due to their long wars against the Germans. The majority of them were fanatically anti-Roman and their leaders and nobles supposedly kept their morals intact without succumbing to the Roman bribe attempts. The Belgae tribes were united in a tribal confederation on the basis of their common origins and culture.
The Belgae realized that Caesar would campaign against them and thus their leaders started to exchange hostages in order to further strengthen the bonds of their union.

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