lesbiassparrow: (Default)
To make the below make a bit of sense, here's a few random facts about the Battle of Marathon. (If one can be said to have a favourite battle this might be mine, though I am also very fond of Salamis and Teutoburg Forest.)

1. The Spartans didn't turn up for Marathon. They said they were busy celebrating the Carneia. They did show up after the battle and say that the Athenians hadn't done a bad job, which I am sure was very useful and much appreciated. Later on they and the Thebans did burn Plataea to the ground and turn the place into a giant inn.

2. Aeschylus' brother died at Marathon when he grabbed a Persian ship and had his arm chopped off for his troubles. This may or may not be the reason why Aeschylus went on to write long tragedies that make you cry when you read them in Greek. And that's not because they're so sad.

3. Miltiades, the Athenian general, did actually have tactics for this battle. This is surprising because usually everyone argues that only the Spartans had the training to manage anything more than running at people and hoping for the best.

4. According to Herodotus the Persians suffered 6,400 losses, while the Athenians and the Plataeans suffered...192. That's a 30:1 ratio. Take that, Spartans!

And here's some pictures of Miltiades' helmet from Olympia and the tumulus of the Athenians at the site of the Battle. According to legend you can hear horses neigh and the clash of armour at night there.

Sadly, they won't let you take pictures in the museum of Marathon, so I don't have a shot of the pillar they put up at the site or the grave goods recovered from the burial of the Greek dead.

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lesbiassparrow: (rose bad wolf)
...and probably don't want to know. But I will tell you anyway, because that's the sort of person I am. I think that makes me very Roman, because the Romans weren't the sort of people to consult your opinion on anything. Of course, I don't actually have an empire, but maybe someone will leave one lying around so I can pick it up.

1. For a long, long time, the Spartans were the only people who could advance in step. Everyone else in ancient Greece usually only turned up a few days before the battle, but the Spartans could spend all their time training. Mind you, the Spartans also could only do this because they'd enslaved and routinely terroized their neighbours, the Messenians

2. The Spartans were also the only people with matching equipment; everyone else just turned up in what they bought privately or could borrow off friends with more money.

3. It was a long time before people worked out how to use cavalry against foot soldiers because there were no stirrups and saddles and so if you hit into a heavily armoured group of men in formation you'd probably fall off your horse and not do any damage before they killed you. Philip of Macedon was the guy who worked out that you could give them a long javelin to poke at people and solve that problem.

4. Pyrrhus (he of the Pyrrhic victory) was killed when an old woman threw a tile at his head from a roof, stunning him enough so someone could finish him off.

5. Elephants were great in war until they freaked out and trampled their own side. This happened a lot. They are also only effective against tightly packed infantry; they just sort of slide through infantry in loose formation

6. Both cities that suffered the most and offered up the biggest percentages of their manpower in the Persian Wars - Thespis and Plataea - get pretty much wiped out in the Peloponnesian War.

7. Livy once spent several very funny pages explaining why the Romans would have defeated Alexander had he attacked them. This is the earliest known example of what would later morph into the 'Superman vs. Spiderman' debate.


lesbiassparrow: (Default)

August 2011

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