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The figure-of-eight shield and other shield types of the Bronze Age Aegean (part II)

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Reconstruction of the so-called “Shield frieze” fresco in the Old Palace at Tiryns with depicted figure-of-eight shields (photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I
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Most scholars believe that also the Dipylon shield of the Geometric period (10th-8th centuries BC) came from the evolution of the full-body figure-of-eight shield. The Dipylon shield, which was named after the Athenian Dipylon gate where the first pottery with images of the former, was discovered, had much in common with the figure-of-eight shield. It had a large size, covering the warrior from the chin to the knees. It was made of wicker branches and leather, without excluding its further enhancing with more wooden parts. It was curved to a degree that “encapsulated” the body of the warrior, like the figure-of-eight shield. In the middle of its surface, it had two semicircular notches which facilitated the handling of the spear and the sword. But many other scholars believe that the Dipylon and the Boeotian shield came from the main Hittite type of shield which had roughly the same shape.

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The figure-of-eight shield and other shield types of the Bronze Age Aegean (part I)

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Akrotiri tower shieldsHeavy spearmen with tower shields depicted in a fresco from Akroteri in Thera. Minoan period. Note the different colorful skins covering the surface of their shields.
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Reconstructed Mycenaean fresco of a figure of eight shieldReconstructed Mycenaean fresco of a figure-of-eight shield
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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In the Minoan and Early Mycenaean period (until the 14th century BC) the main types of shield (called σάκος in Mycenean Greek) used by the early spearmen of the Aegean was the ‘tower’ shield and the figure-of-eight shield, both invented in Minoan Crete as it is demonstrated archaeologically.

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ON THE MILITARY ARCHITECTURE OF TROY: Some remarks on the difficulty of conquering the city

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1111Restored Plan of Troy’s citadel adapted from W. Dorpfeld’s excavations. The successive archaeological and urban levels are noted. Note also the outer and inner walls of Troy VI.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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My initial intention was to give an outline of the military architecture of Troy but the detailed studies of W. Dorpfeld, M. Wood, H. Schliemann, R. Neumann, C.W. Blegen, J.L. Caskey, M.Rawson, M. Korfmann, D. Easton and others, most of which are free on the internet, does not leave any room to add something new to the subject beyond the usual data. Therefore, in this article I will deal with the essential result of that architecture, namely the difficulty of conquering the mighty fortress which Troy VI had been.
Which of the archaeological urban levels of the city discovered and excavated by H. Schliemann at the hill of modern Hissarlik was the city of Homer’s epic? This is one of the main problems concerning the Homeric Epic Cycle. It is considered certain that the Homeric Troy corresponds to one of the levels VI (about 1900-1250 BC) and VIIa (about 1250-1180 BC). Wilhelm Dörpfeld who in 1893-94 continued Schliemann’s excavations in Troy, indicated level VI as the Homeric city. Dörpfeld found that the last phase of that level (VIh) was hit by an earthquake and concluded that after the blow, the city was captured by enemies who according to his view they were the Homeric Achaeans. The German archaeologist found that the earthquake caused damage to the city but the destruction was the work of man, a view based on the discovery of extensive fire traces in the VIh destruction level and on archaeological evidence, mainly traces of military activity.
This theory of Dörpfeld and those who agree with him today (e.g. M. Wood and others) is the most believable in my opinion, that is why in this article I will base my analysis on the assumption that Homer’s Troy was the archaeological level VI (phase VIh). In a future article I will deal with the arguments of those who argue that Homer’s city was the level VI and the ones of those who argue that that city was level VII (less likely).

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A rare and detailed representation of the total city of Troy (urban area and citadel). Most of the modern representations use to deal just with the architectural and engineering status of the citadel. Most of the defensive features mentioned in the text are noted, but please observe notably the scalar urban distribution of the buildings of the lower city and the citadel, essentially being the fourth defensive line of Troy (Copyright: National Geographic Magazine. Art by William Cook. Source on Troy: Troy project).

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THE ORGANISATION AND THE HIERARCHY OF THE MYCENAEAN ARMIES

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By  Periklis    DeligiannisMycen weapons

A  museum  collection  of  Mycenaean  bronze  weapons.  It  includes  swords  (in  Linear  B:  qi-si-poξίφος),  some  of  them  called  ‘phasgana’  (pa-ka-na,  φάσγανα),  daggers,  spearheads,  arrowheads  etc. 

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The  archaeological  evidence  and  the  descriptions  of  the  Homeric  Epics  (ignoring  the  symbolic  divine  interventions  and  some  obvious  Later  Geometric  elements)  are  the  main  sources  regarding  the  Mycenaean  warfare.  In  the  Greco-Roman  world,  the  Homeric  epics  were  considered  fundamental  writings  on  the  study  of  the  art  of  war.  Especially  the  Mycenaean/Achaean  palatial  tablets  from  Pylos,  Knossos  and  Mycenae,  provide  valuable  information  about  the  military  hierarchy,  organization  and  equipment.  These  tablets  contain  public  records  compiled  by  the  bureaucrats  of  each  palace,  and  reveal  that  the  military  organization  and  the  maintenance  of  the  heavier  military  equipment  were  controlled  by  the  state.  The  Mycenaean/Achaean  nobles  were  obliged  to  provide  military  equipment  and  services.  The  tablets  on  military  issues  were  titled  as  “orchha”  (in  Linear  B  script:  o-ka,  ορχα)  –  a  word  related  to  the  ”orchos”  (όρχος,  military  group)  –  which  probably  means  the  military  unit  and/or    command.

dendra

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Two  modern  representation  of  Mycenaean  armored  warriors.  

The  warrior above   wears  the  renowned  segmented  suit  of  armour  of  Dendra,  which  was  used  by  the  warriors  of  the  chariots.  He  bears  the  same  tusk-boar  helmet  with  an  inverted  crest,  and  the  same  lance  ‘enchos’  (Linear  II:  e-ke-  a,  έγχεα)    holding  it  in  a  ‘low  handle’  way.  His  greaves  are  based  on  Mycenaean  finds  from  the  Peloponnesian  Achaea.

The  warrior  below wears  a  relatively  rare  type  of  Mycenaean  armor  (Linear  II:  to-ra-ke,  θώρακεςarmor),  the  scale  armor.  He  attacks  with  an  ‘enchos’  (έγχος),  the  characteristic  Mycenaean  elongated  and  robust  spear/lance,  holding  it  in  a  ‘high  handle’  way.  Note  his  tusk-boar  helmet  (Linear  B:  ko-ru,  κόρυς),  which  is  restored  with  a  rare  item:  the  double  crest  which  is  based  on  relevant  Mycenaean  representations  (reenactment  by  the  Australian  Historical  Association  Sydney  Ancients). Continue reading

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