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While reading about the Sack of Rome in 410, I started wondering about the "three days" of looting. It seems like this number appears a lot in this context. Rome was said to have been looted for three days in 410 and in 1527. The Fourth Crusaders took three days to sack Constantinople, and then Mehmet was supposedly going to give his troops three days in 1453. There are probably more examples; these are just the ones that came to mind.

Was there something traditional about giving troops three days to loot a captured city, or I am just seeing a coincidence?
Quote:I am just seeing a coincidence?
I read that three days was indeed a custom - but where did I read that? Oh, my memory.
Maybe any longer than three days and you couldn't count on having an army any more. :wink:
If I recall correctly, it only took one day for Caesar's troops to "do Gomphi"...
It's like a weekend away: one day to travel there, one day to celebrate, one day to travel back again. :wink:
Quote:Was there something traditional about giving troops three days to loot a captured city, or I am just seeing a coincidence?
During my siegecraft studies, I have never noticed "three days looting", but that may be because I was concentrating on siege operations rather than their aftermath. Off the top of my head, Scipio Aemilianus sacked Carthage for six days, so he obviously didn't feel constrained by any 3-day tradition! :wink: (Similarly, the Flavians sacked Cremona for four days in AD 69, but they were totally out of control.)
Quote:Off the top of my head, Scipio Aemilianus sacked Carthage for six days, so he obviously didn't feel constrained by any 3-day tradition!
Are you absolutely positive that it's not just that he sacked it twice?
Smile
The Turks entered Constantinople on 29 May 1453. The Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, was killed. The sultan, Mehmet II, gave the city up to his troops to destroy and loot for three days. Taken from: 'Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World'

Not sure if that helps, I just happened to be reading this book and ironically came across this particular reference.
I doubt three days looting was a Germanic custom.
IIRC, the Vandals spent a fortnight in the city.
The length of time a army takes to sack a city probably depends on the relative strength of the opposition.
Rome in 455 was weaker than in 410. Carthage was weaker than ever. The Turks just backed off because Mehmet didn't want his new capital reduced to rubble.

Maybe 'three days' is a literary tradition or device not meant to be taken literally ?

~Theo

Gaius Decius Aquilius

It takes them three days to sack my groceries.

Ralph
Quote:Maybe 'three days' is a literary tradition or device not meant to be taken literally ?

That's what I'm starting to think, or else it's simply a coincidence.

The ancients often drew parallels between contemporary events and mythological or historical events. (The "Thirty Tyrants" of Athens and the "Thirty Pretenders" of the HA, for example.) So I checked some stories of the capture of cities in mythology and literature, such as Seven Against Thebes and the Sack of Troy. I'm not finding anything about three days of looting.
Quote:Maybe 'three days' is a literary tradition or device not meant to be taken literally ?
But whose literary tradition? During my siegecraft research, I never came across this, but my cut-off date was 378! :wink: (btw Who is the source for the 3-day sack in 410? Surely not Zosimus?)
Quote:
Theodosius the Great:pgye8q2s Wrote:Maybe 'three days' is a literary tradition or device not meant to be taken literally ?
But whose literary tradition? During my siegecraft research, I never came across this, but my cut-off date was 378! :wink: (btw Who is the source for the 3-day sack in 410? Surely not Zosimus?)

Perhaps it is a Christian literary tradition?

Quote:The third day after they had entered the City, the barbarians departed of their own accord.

Orosius, Against the Pagans, 7.39

Orosius was a student of St. Augustine and was around 35 years old when Alaric sacked the city. There may be other sources for the sack lasting three days in 410; Orosius was simply the first one I checked.
Maybe three days is just one of those figurative numbers--like forty days of rain--indicating the degree of thoroughness.

Assumedly, a three day sack is a cursory job while a forty day sack (Of which I know of no historical record, I'm just speculating :wink: ) would indicate a really thorough job. Kind of like Scipio Africanus sacking Carthage, then salting the ground (also a claim without ancient authority, so I understand. :roll: )
Quote: Kind of like Scipio Africanus sacking Carthage, then salting the ground (also a claim without ancient authority, so I understand. :roll: )

I think the story behind that myth is really interesting. I was fascinated to learn how that came about: Scipio sowing Carthage with salt.
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