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"Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World"
#46
Quote:I just think that ancient sources are often discounted without the proper diligance,
True, and the most beautiful complaint about this happens to be from a book that deals with Thermopylae: Charles Hignett's Xerxes' invasion of Greece. In the introduction, he sarcastically remarks that there appears to have arisen some sort of new type of study of history, in which the first rule is that the best source must be discarded first.

All this being said, I'd wish that military historians and classicists learned more from each other. I have seen strange translations by classicists who did not understand military matters, and historians taking sources too serious; a case in point is the Teutoburg Forest, which is not a forest at all, and if the historians had paid attention to what classicists were doing, they would not have been surprised.

I once wrote a book for arhaeologists in which I explained how sources must be read. It was soon a bargain book and ended as a remainder. I wonder what my next book, about battle narratives, will do.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#47
Quote:The archaological evidence supports the last stand story. People are still discovering arrow heads and tourists got into trouble for trying to get a "lucky find" as souvenir. The "Persian arrows obscurring the sun" are still found.
I have seen photos of them; and I think they are indeed of the same type as the arrowheads I've seen in Persepolis.
[Image: arrowheads.jpg]
But where are they now? I remember a little building at Thermopylae that was said to contain an exposition, but the two times I went there, it was closed.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#48
Elements exist in Archeological Meusum in Athens, Lamia and the British Meusum. I mean those that made it there. There are stories of the local blacksmith of Anthele arround 1700 A.D. who found raw material easily.

Quote:I once wrote a book for arhaeologists in which I explained how sources must be read. It was soon a bargain book and ended as a remainder. I wonder what my next book, about battle narratives, will do.

Well I saw translations of Herodotus arround 1850 describing Spartan shields as "bucklers"!!! I do not know if it is nice poeticaly but it makes you wonder about the accuracy of Persian archers :o o


Kind regards
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#49
Quote:Elements exist in Archeological Meusum in Athens, Lamia and the British Meusum. I mean those that made it there. There are stories of the local blacksmith of Anthele arround 1700 A.D. who found raw material easily.
OK, thanks. I will check my files because I do own lots of photos from the BM. There would have been even more if the boy next-door had not stolen and sold a camera with pictures that had not been transferred to the computer.

When I tried to visit the Lamia museum, many years ago, it was being reconstructed, so I've never been there. It is on the edge of town, at the foothills of the mountain range. Nobody over here in Holland believes me, but I swear that I saw a grey/yellowish wolf. I think he was more scared of me than I was of him; he looked ill-fed, perhaps even sick.

Vlach shepherds behind Almyros later confirmed to me that there were wolfs in the southern Pindos, but were surprised to hear of a wolf in the southeastern Othrys mountains. Still I'm sure it was a wolf.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#50
Most arrows in BM I saw in the maintenace lab.
I will try to dig if I have photoes but I do not promish for sure.
Wolves are protected species now so it is not unlikely...but...Grey yellowish wolf :!: :!:
....Gods, the spirit of Leonidas still haunts the place Confusedhock: :!:

As for Meusums and maintence.... :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :twisted:
seems permanent condition GRRRRR!!!!:twisted: :twisted: :twisted:

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#51
Quote:Most arrows in BM I saw in the maintenace lab.
That explains quite a lot!
Quote:I will try to dig if I have photoes but I do not promish for sure.
That will be great; I now have a very small photo on my website, which I scanned from a book. Technically, it's a copyright infringement. A better photo that I can use without legal worries, would be nice.
Quote:As for Meusums and maintence.... :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :twisted:
seems permanent condition GRRRRR!!!!:twisted: :twisted: :twisted:
Well, that means that a country has lots of artistic and historical treasuries. Greece and Italy happen to be responsible for a great many of them, and although closed museums are a perennial source of irritation, I think they are doing fine, given the circumstances.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#52
Dear Jona,

You clearly know a lot about this matter, and you argue very well, but not convincingly enough, in the final analysis.

For me, your argument breaks down on two points:-

An operation which fails to achieve its objective by sheer weight of numbers, as expected, has suffered a setback. When this operation also sees the failure of the artillery and your elite troops, you have a serious problem. I conclude that the defenders of Thermopylae gave the Persians a hard time. Evidence for this is the sudden stiffening of Greek resistance to the invader after the battle.

I couldn't find any sound basis in your posts for your assumption that Leonidas accidentally got himself trapped and "mopped up". This very evocative phrase could indeed describe the lats hours of the action, but not the battle as a whole. More to the point, the notion that Leonidas could have seen the stand as a holding action makes perfect sense, but there is also good sense in the idea that, when he saw that his position was turned, he chose to make a point, by refusing to leave the field.

There is a well-established and documented warrior-ethic which demands that the elite fighters must be prepared to stand and die, in certain circumstances. We see it at Thermopylae, amongst the Plains Indians of America, the Samurai and the Gesithas of the Anglo-Saxons as well as the Huscarls of the Vikings.

Johnny already mentioned the Alamo on this thread. I believe that was a pre-meditated "re-enactment" of Thermopylae, carried out to achieve the same results as the original - to unite and inspire the remaining defenders.

Spartans (although, as you say, they were known to retreat) were also expected to be prepared to sacrifice themselves to achieve their military objectives. Leonidas, as one of two kings, left Sparta fully conscious that he was expendable. He may also have felt that to return to Sparta having yielded the pass would lead to disgrace and loss of power. This also ties in with the warrior culture of the age and most specifically of the Spartans.

In terms of the logic of the Spartan warrior, Leonidas could have done nothing other than what he did; hold the pass for as long as possible and then die covering the withdrawal of his allies. I feel you have completely by passed the issue of mindset.

Hi, Floof, nice to hear from you again.
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#53
Quote:Evidence for this is the sudden stiffening of Greek resistance to the invader after the battle.
But did it? The Persians met no further resistance in the next weeks and reached Athens without losses. The account of Salamis betrays that many commanders were no longer willing to fight; Themistocles had to use a trick. Even after Salamis, when the Persians were retreating, the Spartan king Cleombrotus refused to pursue them. Herodotus' account of the winter of 480/479 shows a Greece that was totally confused.

Personally, I think that a strong case can be made for the thesis that Thermopylae was considered a big defeat, and that the re-interpretation started after Plataea.

Quote:I couldn't find any sound basis in your posts for your assumption that Leonidas accidentally got himself trapped

But that's not what I am arguing. My point is that we do not know what happened. After the allies had left, Herodotus' story is no longer based on eyewitnesses.

Personally, I do not rule out that Leonidas wanted to sacrifice himself in some sort of devotio; after all, he went to Thermopylae with an army that was not made of from the best warriors, or a phalanx of men who knew each other and shared the same routines, but he used "soldiers who already had sons", a strange choice unless you have decided that you know there is a very great chance that you will not survive. The oracle itself can be older than the battle; it does not refer to the Persians but to the "sons of Perseus", which is also applicable to Argos.

So, it is certainly possible that Herodotus' interpretation is correct, but he can not have based it on eyewitness reports. It must be treated as a legend. An inspiring legend, BTW.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#54
What about Abronichus? Presumably he would have known the outcome of any decision made by the Greeks at Thermpylae; and seems to have potentially at least observed the results of the last days fighting, before sailing to inform the fleet.
Paul Klos

\'One day when I fly with my hands -
up down the sky,
like a bird\'
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#55
I agree, the Greeks would have recognised Thermopylae as a defeat, just as we British recognised Dunkirk for what it was. Certainly, the legend of both these events grew up afterwards. This doesn't alter the fact that each was a turning-point in history, powerfully affecting the fighting spirit of the nations involved.

You're right, too, in pointing out that the Greeks continued to be on the back foot for a while after the battle, but the confusion and division had existed throughout the early stages of the campaign, so why did this change? I would accept the traditional view that it was because of Thermopylae - and Salamis. Salamis just doesn't capture the imagaination in the same way because the odds were shorter and the navy both won and survived - there is not the dramatic element of the combatants choosing to face certain death.

As you say, the facts aren't available to us; but I feel we should consider psyche as well as logos , even if this means we are, at best, deducing and, at worst, guessing. History must allow for the bizarre and unpredictable action of the human spirit.

There is a story of an island people - I think they may have been of the Friesians - who, when threatened with conquest, armed every available person (men, women and children) and resisted until all were slain. The mass graves with the skeletons in their ill-fitting armour have been recorded and attest the truth of the legend. Truth can sometimes be of a legendary quality.
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#56
Greetings,
Quote:CCXXXIX. I return now to that place in my history where it earlier left off.1 The Lacedaemonians were the first to be informed that the king was equipping himself to attack Hellas; with this knowledge it was that they sent to the oracle at Delphi, where they received the answer about which I spoke a little while ago. Now the way in which they were informed of this was strange. [2] Demaratus son of Ariston, an exile among the Medes, was, as I suppose (reason being also my ally), no friend to the Lacedaemonians, and I leave it to be imagined whether what he did was done out of goodwill or spiteful triumph.
Quote:"reason being also my ally" seems like it should be a clue when exactly H. was writing this. What does he mean by this exactly? Does he know Demaratus personally? or is Herodotus allied to the Medes? I can't read Greek so someone who can might clarify this to me.
That would say to me that Herodotus is acting on reasonable belief...
is he saying the Lacedaemonians were his ally?
I may be wrong...I can't read Greek either :?
regards
Cristina
The Hoplite Association
[url:n2diviuq]http://www.hoplites.org[/url]
The enemy is less likely to get wind of an advance of cavalry, if the orders for march were passed from mouth to mouth rather than announced by voice of herald, or public notice. Xenophon
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#57
Quote:What about Abronichus?
Good point; I had not thought it. That changes a lot. When I'm in the library, I will see if Hignett addresses this point. For the moment, I can only say that I would not overestimate the quality of information going up and down between Thermopylae and Artemisium (Herodotus never understood that the two had something to do with each other) but I admit your objection is a very strong one.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#58
This paragraph seems to indicate that Abronichus did actually relate Leonida's fate
They indeed were doing those deeds and there was on hand the watcher from Trachis. For there was on Artemisium a watcher, Polyas, in birth an Anticyrian, to whom it had been assigned (in fact he had a fitted out boat ready) that, if the naval army was disabled, he should give an indication to those who were in Thermopylae. And likewise was Abronichus, Lysiclees’ son, an Athenian, in fact with Leonides, ready to those who were on Artemisium to make an announcement by triaconter, if any newer matter befell the foot. Hence that Abronichus, having come, to them gave an indication of what had happened concerning Leonides and his army. Then they, when they had learned that by inquiry, no longer matter for delays were considering their retreat, but they were conveying themselves as each group had been drawn up, the Corinthians first and last the Athenians.
Herodotus Inquries Bk 8.41
Cristina
The Hoplite Association
[url:n2diviuq]http://www.hoplites.org[/url]
The enemy is less likely to get wind of an advance of cavalry, if the orders for march were passed from mouth to mouth rather than announced by voice of herald, or public notice. Xenophon
-
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#59
Quote:This paragraph seems to indicate that Abronichus did actually relate Leonida's fate
Yes, but Herodotus only tells that A. told about the endresult. Is it possible that the man knew more? I will check Hignett; he is still the best commentaries on Herodotus' vision on these battles.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#60
Quote:Personally, I think that a strong case can be made for the thesis that Thermopylae was considered a big defeat, and that the re-interpretation started after Plataea.

I agree with this, there is almost no way they could have sorted out the story so quickly. All they knew was that Xerxes army was large. I bet most of the greeks, especially ones not entirely familiar with military matters, thought the Spartans and allies could handle it.

Quote:So, it is certainly possible that Herodotus' interpretation is correct, but he can not have based it on eyewitness reports. It must be treated as a legend. An inspiring legend, BTW.

Well, it could very well be based on eyewitnesses. There were lot's of witnesses on the persian side. This includes Thessalians, Macedonians, Medes, all of which H. would have access to later. In any case, like WWII it probably was the story of the day. Actually, H. does give one eyewitness account from the persian side later on, which I will search for... got it. This is just before Platea.
Herodotus\\n[quote]XVI. While the barbarians were engaged in this task, Attaginus son of Phrynon, a Theban, made great preparations and invited Mardonius with fifty who were the most notable of the Persians to be his guests at a banquet. They came as they were bidden; the dinner was held at Thebes. What follows was told me by Thersander of Orchomenus, one of the most notable men of that place. Thersander too (he said) was invited to this dinner, and fifty Thebans in addition. Attaginus made them sit, not each man by himself but on each couch a Persian and a Theban together. [2] Now as they were drinking together after dinner, the Persian who sat with him asked Thersander in the Greek tongue from what country he was. Thersander answered that he was from Orchomenus. Then said the Persian: “Since you have eaten at the board with me and drunk with me afterwards, I would like to leave a memorial of my belief, so that you yourself may have such knowledge as to take fitting counsel for your safety. [3] Do you see these Persians at the banquet and that host which we left encamped by the river side? In a little while you shall see but a small remnant left alive of all these.â€
Rich Marinaccio
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