Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines- Part1- “Where the World Meets”

Posted by Powee Celdran

You will find me a Scythian among the Scythians and a Latin among the Latins, and in general, among all other people you will find me to be one of them.” -John Tzetzes, 12th century

cDNOSmb

Welcome once again to another article by the Byzantium Blogger! Recently, I have tackled several interesting topics of Byzantine life from the emperors, to their inventions and science, and their methods of torture and punishment according to one of the most fascinating books on Byzantine life, “A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities” by Anthony Kaldellis. This article will once again cover a chapter- if not a set of chapters- from the same book and that part of the book covers the topic I’ve always wanted to write about. This topic is about different foreign lands, far and near including their people and how the Byzantines viewed them; which in fact was the topic I’ve always wanted to write about- basically about how well the Byzantines knew about the world around them. The Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) lasted for 1,100 years (330-1453) which means there was a great amount of time for them to encounter all sorts of races and powers either from lands surrounding them or lands far away. The different people the Byzantines encountered throughout these 1,100 years included Jews, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Scythians, Armenians, Huns, Vandals, Goths, Vikings, Rus, Slavs, Vlachs, and of course the Franks, Latins, and Germans (which will be my next article). The Byzantines encountered all sorts of people either by travelling to very distant places such as India, China, and Ethiopia or by those people settling in Constantinople therefore having the Byzantines have some stereotypes about them. With all these people from different parts of the world settling down in Constantinople, the capital was surely a “Cosmopolitan Society” like today’s New York, London, and Paris and also like Coruscant from Star Wars, and this fact of Byzantium’s cosmopolitan society was something I’ve always wanted to write about after reading a chapter from Judith Herrin’s “Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire“. Meanwhile, some of these foreigners the Byzantines encountered have had some hostile views towards them just as the Byzantines viewed them in a hostile way but some of these foreigners looked up to the Byzantines as the successors of the Roman Empire. This topic on far away foreign lands has always been something of great interest because the Byzantines long before explorers such as Marco Polo, Vasco de Gama, and Christopher Columbus discovered distant lands had already reached the far reaches of Asia including India and China but of course the Byzantines did not go as far as building large ships that enabled them to sail around Africa to reach Asia or across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. This article will feature descriptions of foreign lands including the people, animals, customs, food, and how the Byzantines saw them from as early as the beginnings of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 4th century up until its final days in the 15th century. This is definitely GOING TO BE A VERY LONG READ and instead of just mentioning Byzantine history like I always do, this has some zoology, geography, anthropology, and a bit of cultural stereotypes blended into it. For the Byzantines, the farthest they’ve reached and heard about east was China, to the south it was Ethiopia, and to the north it was Scandinavia but as it turns out, the people and lands the Byzantines were most fascinated about were the lands in the east which were rich in resources and exotic. Like my other articles based on the same book, this will be written in many different paragraphs categorized by the different people and lands the Byzantines encountered.  Out of the many interesting chapters in A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities, the one about foreign lands, people, and stereotypes was one of the best parts to read about and of course this article is not it yet as I will post a sequel to this on Byzantines vs Latins (Westerners) showing how both were different and how they viewed each other. Anyway, let’s begin with the article.

95t3yr5xvfyy
Byzantine Imperial flag and symbols
kb7xsuk2emmy
The Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent- reign of Justinian I
1024px-PtolemyWorldMap
The known world according to the Byzantines

 

Note: This article’s information comes from various Byzantine historians from the era of the Byzantine Empire (330-1453). It also contains some cultural stereotypes dating to Byzantine times, so be prepared.

WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG ARTICLE 

Other Byzantine Articles from the Byzantium Blogger: 

Crime, Punishment, Heresy, and Medical Practice in Byzantium 

Byzantine Science and Technology 

The 94 Emperors 

The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire 

7 Reasons to be Interested in Byzantium 

 

Provincials (Asia Minor and Armenia)

1280px-Byzantine-Arab_wars,_837-838.svg
Map of the Byzantine Themes of Asia Minor

Where else to begin writing this article on the multi-ethnic Byzantine world but with provincials of the Byzantine Empire itself. These provincials of the empire include people from the Themes or provinces which were mostly in Asia Minor (Turkey) which all had their own customs and stereotypes which the Byzantines of Constantinople had towards them and in fact the people of Constantinople had some condescending views towards the provincials. One example of how the Byzantines of Constantinople viewed the provincials talks about the Cappadocians, the people from the Asia Minor region of Cappadocia: “a poisonous snake once bit a Cappadocian, and died from tasting his tainted blood” saying that the person did not die but the snake because of the Cappadocian’s blood. It was also in Cappadocia (or if not Armenia) where the conjoined twins of the 10th century came from, as I have mentioned in my previous article which are depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes. Meanwhile, the Byzantines called the Paphlagonians, the people from the region of Asia Minor of Paphlagonia as “pig-assed” (choirokoloi in Greek)  but also it was also in Paphlagonia where a certain type of cheese was made wherein cheese-makers blew air into the milk they were curdling to give it holes creating the Byzantine version of Swiss cheese. When it came to the people from the island of Cyprus, the 12th century Byzantine writer Constantine Manasses describes that one day in church, a man from Cyprus came in with a smell of wine and reeking garlic that he couldn’t stand the smell all the way to the point where he had to punch the man from Cyprus in the jaw. In the 9th century, the poet and hymnographer, St. Kassiane- who would have been the wife of the emperor Theophilos (r. 829-842)- wrote a discriminating poem on the Armenians:

The terrible race of Armenians is deceitful and extremely vile,

fanatical, deranged, and malignant, puffed up with hot air and full of slyness.

A wise man said correctly about them that Armenians are vile when they live in obscurity, even more when they become famous, and most vile in all ways when they become rich.

When they become filthy rich and honored, then to all they seem as vileness heaped upon vileness.

Apart from these hostile views towards the Armenians, they were also good and strong soldiers in the Byzantine army and many of them rose above the ranks becoming great generals, although it was said that when they become rich and famous, they become viler.

300px-15th_century_map_of_Turkey_region
Colored map of Byzantine Asia Minor
8226527089_0ccf5107d8_k
Present day Cappadocia, Turkey

 

Jews

Benjamin_of_Tudela_HE
Map of the travels of the Spanish Jew, Benjamin of Tuleda, 12th century

Apparently, there was a large number of Jews that lived in Constantinople and in the Byzantine Empire ever since the early days of the Eastern Roman Empire when the Jews began to scatter around the Mediterranean and other parts of the world. The Byzantines were usually tolerant towards the Jews living in the empire but really, they found the Jews mysterious especially since they always lived beside each other and only interact with each other. According to the Jewish Spanish traveler Benjamin of Tuleda in the 12th century who visited Constantinople, the rival Jewish sects of the Rabanites (population of 2,000) and the Karaites (population of 500) were forced to live in the district of Pera across the Golden Horn despite hating each other, which meant they had to build a wall between their communities. Benjamin of Tuleda also said that the Byzantines would beat up Jews in the streets for not seeing eye to eye with each other and that Jews were not allowed to ride a horse in the city except for one, who was the physician of the emperor Manuel I Komnenos. Another thing Benjamin writes about was the wild beast show in the Hippodrome during Christmas sometime in the 1160’s which featured lions, bears, leopards, wild donkeys, and birds that would fight each other for public amusement in which Benjamin said “no entertainment like it can be found in any other land”, and here the emperor Manuel I was present as well watching the show. Meanwhile, the Byzantine poet John Tzetzes who lived during the same time as Benjamin of Tuleda has more insulting things to say about the Jews as seen in his poem on how to greet a Jew: “You blind house, full of evil magic, mouth like a gorge sucking up flies” followed by “You Jew, thick as a brick, the Lord did come, lightning upon your head”. In other words, some Byzantines insult the Jews for not accepting the Christian faith when they had the chance to and instead stuck to their old religion.

Another story the Byzantine Greeks have about the Jews takes place back in 401 in a letter of the philosopher and bishop of Cyrene, Synesios was on his way back to Cyrene from Alexandria and the captain and more than half of the ship crew were Jews believing that it was an act of piety to kill as many Greeks as possible but it turned out the captain and the crew were strict orthodox Jews and they refused to pilot the ship during a storm on the Sabbath and all the captain would do was read his scroll until an Arab soldier on the ship threatened him with a sword. More than a century later in 534, the artifacts of the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, particularly the Menorah was recovered in Carthage once the Romans reclaimed it under Emperor Justinian I. In 70AD, the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed when the Romans took Jerusalem and many pieces from the temple were taken to Rome as spoils of war including the menorah until 455 when Rome was captured by the Vandals under King Geiseric (r. 428-477) who took many spoils including the menorah to Carthage, which was their capital. After the Romans (Byzantines) reclaimed Carthage in 534, the general Belisarius sent the menorah to Constantinople where a Jew saw it and told Justinian that no city could keep the artifact safe but Jerusalem so Justinian shipped it to Jerusalem together with other artifacts and scattered it various churches as in that time the Jews were no longer a dominant population in the area. In 614, the Sassanid Persians captured Jerusalem taking the relics and from then they were never seen again. Overall, the Byzantines were more tolerant to the Jews compared to the Western Europeans of the middle ages even if they isolate the Jewish communities in a district in Constantinople but they allowed them to progress commercially and relied on their skills in trade, mathematics, and medicine; although only if they would cause problems, the Byzantines would take action against them.

Pera-District-view-of-the-Galata-Tower
Present day Pera district

 

Egyptians

aegyptus
Map of Roman Egypt (Aegyptus)

 When the Roman Empire was fully divided after the death of Emperor Theodosius I in 395, Egypt fell under the more powerful and progressive Eastern Empire based in Constantinople and up until the Muslim conquest in 641, the both fertile and mostly dessert filled Egypt remained a Roman province providing the grain supply for the empire. The Roman soldier and travel writer Ammianus Marcellinus from the 4th century describes that the Egyptians are dark and swarthy with a sad look about them, also easily animated in their gestures, quarrelsome and persistent, and are not ashamed to show any lash marks on their body from refusing to pay taxes, and at the same time any torture would not be hard enough to reveal the name of a hardened criminal from Egypt. In Constantinople, which had all sorts of races living all over, there was a type of police unit focused on catching Egyptians and Syrians who have migrated to the capital for invalid reasons, this was similar to racial profiling.

The Egyptians however have grown accustomed to Greek culture and the Greek alphabet ever since Egypt fell under Greek rule in the 4th century BC from Alexander the Great’s conquest. Hieroglyphics on the other hand were last seen in the Island of Philae along the Nile in the year 394 recording the name of the priest, date, and the god being the son of the Egyptian god Horus that was being honored. After that, hieroglyphics became totally not understandable to those who lived in the empire, including Egyptians which is seen when a monk named Jacob entered the tomb of the pharaoh Ramses IV in the Valley of Kings writing graffiti on the wall saying he could not understand the picture alphabet of the Ancient Egyptians. It was mentioned by the Ancient Greek historian Diodoros that ancient Egyptians would sacrifice the rare red-headed men to their gods; when this was found out by the reddish-haired Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates in the late 12th century, he said that he was already old when he found out about this so he wouldn’t have to worry about this custom anymore because his hair turned gray. It was also in Egypt where the Plague of Justinian in 541 was first recorded which spread all over the Mediterranean from the ports of the north coast of Egypt; the fleas on the rats that caused the plague were so small that they were invisible to the Byzantines. Fast-forward to the 11th century, Egypt was no longer under Byzantine control but a diplomatic gift of a giraffe in which the Byzantines called a “camel-leopard” was given to the emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (r. 1042-1055) which was paraded in the capital.

Alexandria-Air-Far
Alexandria from Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017)
King-Rameses-IV-Tomb-Valley-of-the-Kings-Luxor-6
Tomb of Ramses IV, Valley of Kings, Luxor
252131-782fd699e7f2ee1cb14e2ab78e7df9e5
Map of the Plague of Justinian (541-542)

 

Ethiopians and Nubians

ethiopia-historical-empire_0
Map of the ancient Kingdom of Axum (Ethiopia)

To the south of Egypt in the far reaches of the dessert was the region of Nubia (now in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan) where its people look different from the Egyptians being darker in skin. Below Nubia farther south into Africa was the land of Ethiopia where the desserts start to fade and the land becomes elevated while one part of it is along the Red Sea. Europeans knew very little about Ethiopia up until the 19th century but the Byzantines back in the 6th century or earlier knew some things about this far away land, but not too much about it as it was very far away from Constantinople. One thing the Byzantines knew about Ethiopia was that its people had very dark skin leaving them to think they were not human beings seeing their blackness as a sign of evil. In one story, a monk named Pachon from Egypt was tormented by the memory of an Ethiopian girl he had once seen working in the fields in his younger days and in the lives of the dessert ascetics, the devil would appear to them in the form of a black man, woman, child, or beast to test them. Despite their blackness seen by the Byzantines as an omen of evil, Ethiopians were actually tolerated by the Byzantines and some even have positive views about them as exotic people. From 530-31, a Byzantine named Nonossos was sent by Emperor Justinian I on an embassy to Ethiopia and Arabia and while in the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia, he wrote a memorable description of their king named Ella Asbeha that he barely clothed except for gold-threaded linen hanging from his belt to his loins and decorated with jewelry all over his body including a golden torque around his neck and he stood over 4 elephants yoked together on a tall carriage adorned with gold leaves while his senate stood beneath him accompanied by flute players in the procession.

In The Conquest of Constantinople by the French knight and chronicler Robert de Clari in the 12th century, he writes that a Nubian prince was branded with a cross on his forehead went on a pilgrimage to Constantinople, the city that brought Christianity to his country in Africa many centuries ago. It is explained that the journey from Nubia to Jerusalem took about 100 days; he set out with 60 men and by the time he reached Jerusalem he was only left with 10 and when he reached Constantinople, he only had 2. Christianity possibly came to Nubia in the 6th century when the empress Theodora, the wife of Justinian I sent the missionary Julian to convert the Nubians from 537-39 but because of the heat of the dessert, Julian could not endure it so throughout these 2 years, he would lecture the people and convert them in a pool inside a cave wearing only a loincloth. The Byzantines overall mostly viewed the Africans of Nubia and Ethiopia as a rare sight not only because of their color but because they came from very distant places.

Fallen-Kingdom-connection
An overview of Ethiopia
Ancient christian wall paintings in an Ethiopian Church, Lake Tana
Byzantine inspired Ethiopian icon art
pyramids-nubian-desert_1
Nubian Desert

 

Arabs

arabmap
Expansion of Islam from Arabia around the Byzantine Empire (622-750)

The Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula have not become a threat to the Byzantines (Eastern Romans) up until the 7th century when Islam rose leading to the unification of the Arab tribes under the prophet Muhammad which since the 630s began invading Byzantine territory in the Middle East, first during the reign of Heraclius (610-641), who also turns out to be mentioned in the Quran. For centuries, the Byzantines went through a series of conflicts with the Arabs who began ruling most of the Middle East, but at times they would make truces. The Byzantines however never really understood the holy book of Islam or the Quran and its translation in Greek rendered a crucial term describing Allah as entirely encased in metal or entirely hammered into a ball, causing some Byzantines to have a bizarre image of the God of the Muslims, possibly because their were no images of Allah, but instead only his name written in Arabic calligraphy. To make it easier for Muslims to convert to Orthodox Christianity, the emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143-1180) planned to remove Allah from the list of Muslim beliefs they had renounce as the name just meant “God”, although this aroused fierce opposition in the Church. The 7th century writer Anastasius Sinaita questions that “why are there more maimed people, lepers, people with gout, and epileptics among the Byzantines compared to foreigners such as the Arabs?” He answers this by saying that because the Byzantines have a wetter climate, drink wine excessively, and eat heavily while the Arabs have a drier diet and drier climate in the Arabian Peninsula. The Byzantines however were not always hostile towards the Arabs; in fact, one time when the Crusaders of the 4th Crusade arrived in Constantinople in 1203 and attacked and destroyed the mosque at the Pera district, some Byzantines came to aid of the Muslims against the Crusaders as both people had a common enemy in the Crusaders.

tervel-leads-the-bulgars-on-an-attack-on-the-arab-forces-besieging-constantinople-by-vasil-goranov
2nd Arab Siege of Constantinople, 717-18

 

Persians

31582
Sassanid Persian Empire beside Byzantine Empire (late 6th century)

Ever since the Byzantine Empire was founded by Constantine I the Great in 330, the Sassanid Persian Empire has been a great threat to them and the Byzantines constantly defended their eastern borders from the Persian armies. Even before Constantine the Great, the Romans have always been at war with the Persians, first with the Parthians and then with the Sassanids. The conflict between the Byzantines and Persians concluded in 628 when the Sassanids were defeated by Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641) and soon enough the Persians would fall under the rule of the Arabs. In 628, when the Byzantine army captured the Persian palace at Dastagerd outside the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon in Iraq, they discovered over 300 Roman military standards taken by the Persians over the years of battle with the Romans, together with large quantities of aloes, silk, pepper, sugar, ginger, silks, and Persian carpets but they could not take them back as spoils of war because the quantity was too heavy to carry so instead the Byzantines burned them all.

When encountering the Persians, Ammianus Marcellinus who wrote about the Egyptians describes the Persians as slender, dark-skinned, have intimidating eyes, curved eyebrows that meet in the middle, have trim beards, and long hair. It was also said that the Persians were addicted to sex having as many concubines and wives as they can afford, wear swords in public, are formidable fighters winning through craftiness rather than courage, but they still talk a lot, are arrogant, and make threats easily. Ammianus Marcellinus also describes the Persians during the Battle of Amida in Mesopotamia in 359 saying that when the sun rose, it illuminated the plain full of glittering arms, cavalry, and coats of mail showing that Persians wore shiny silver armor and their king, Shapur II rode a tall horse with helmet having a golden ram’s head. 4 years later in 363, the emperor Julian the Apostate (r. 361-63) at the Battle of Ctesiphon saw the Persian cavalry entirely cased in metal including the horses, while the riders wore steel plates fitted exactly to their limbs and masks sculpted with detailed facial features having only tiny holes for the eyes and nostrils. Next to the cavalry were the archers who had nimble fingers able to pull the bowstring all the way back to their chest and when the arrows were released, a loud hissing noise was made. Behind the archers was a row of massive war elephants like the ones the Carthaginians used several centuries earlier and these elephants also made noises that terrified the Roman horses together with the smell while the drivers of the elephants had knives to stab them in case, they lost control. It was in this battle where Julian met his end and so did the Constantinian dynasty, the first dynasty of Byzantium.

In the 6th century, the historian Agathias comments that in the Persian Zoroastrian funeral rites, dead bodies were disposed and exposed to be dismembered by birds and dogs; if the animals move fast to eat the bodies, it meant that the person was virtuous, but if the animals moved slow, then the person must have been flawed. Sometimes, the Persians had also exposed the terminally ill to be eaten and if they returned looking half-dead, then they were thought ass belonging to the underworld. After the defeat of the Persians in 528, nothing much was written about them by the Byzantines except that the sport of Polo known to the Byzantines as Tzykanisterion (Čaukan in Persian) was introduced to them by the Sassanids and in the 5th century, a polo field was built in the imperial palace by Emperor Theodosius II. This sport became popular among the Byzantine nobility and notable players of this sport included the emperor Alexander who died in 913 of stroke while playing it.

maxresdefault
Sassanid Persian shahs
battle_of_frygium_27_july_363_by_amelianvs-d620q3y
Battle of Ctesiphon, 363
traditional-zoroastrian-funerals-are-banned-almost-everywhere-due-to-the-dead-body-smell-photo-u2
Zoroastrian funeral rite by exposing the dead

Scythians and Huns

02-04_mayor_map_color_rgb_10-14-14
Location of Scythia

To the northeast of the Byzantine Empire lived the warlike nomadic tribes of the Steppes of Central Asia such as the Scythians, Huns, Alans, Cumans, Pechenegs, Mongols, and the Turkic tribes. Many of the Asiatic people made their way into Eastern Europe settling there as well as threatening the borders of Byzantium including the Avars, Bulgars, and Turks. The Scythians have been the people living in the area north of the Black Sea and north of Persia for the longest time that the Greek historian Herodotus back in the 5th century BC has something to write about them being horse-riding nomadic pastoralists without cities. The Huns were also similar to the Scythians by having no cities, except that the Huns came from a more distant place (possibly Mongolia) while the Scythians came from what is today Kazakhstan, Southern Russia, and Eastern Ukraine. The Byzantine soldier-writer Ammianus Marcellinus describes the Huns (and the other Asiatic nomadic tribes) being squat and ugly and that they gashed the cheeks of their children so that beard would not grow properly making them look scarier. They also ate the half-raw flesh of any animal cooking it only by rubbing it between their thighs and their horses’ back as they rode, which is possibly the origins of Steak Tartare. True enough, the now French dish of Steak Tartare originates from the Nomadic people of Central Asia who tenderized their meat placing it under their saddles as they rode long distances. These nomadic people wore clothes of linen or sewn mice skins and their shoes were not comfortable probably made of rope so they were not meant for walking, so instead they rode everywhere and in war they used lassos and extremely powerful bows in which they could fire with 2 hands while on horseback.

The Byzantine historian Priscus describes Attila, the king of the Huns (434-453) by saying he loved war but was not bad tempered and also gave good advice as well as being loyal to his allies. Attila the Hun was also described as being short but with a broad chest, a large head, small eyes, a sparse beard, flat nose, and dark skin which gives a description to what the Asiatic steppe people looked like. Before Attila’s death in 453, he tried to invade Constantinople but sometime in March 453, on the night after his wedding to Ildico- his last out of many wives- Priscus writes that Attila drank too much and, in his sleep, died from internal bleeding. Afterwards, Attila was placed in an iron coffin, placed inside a silver one, placed inside a gold one and buried in an unknown location, although it is said that he died in Hungary. If the Byzantines saw the Huns as hideous people living by roaming around having no cities, there was one group of Huns known as the Hephthalites or “White Huns” living in Central Asia that were more civilized and had cities according to the Byzantine historian Procopius. These Huns had defeated the Persians several times, had white faces and bodies, and when a rich man among them dies, up to 20 of his men who’ve shared his wealth are sealed up in a tomb to die with him.

tumblr_nu8a6rnY1E1u6oeoao1_r1_1280
Scythian horsemen

 

Slavs and the Balkans  

balkans750ad
Map of the Byzantine Balkans and the raids of the Slavs, 750

 The people known as the Slavs began to appear in the Balkan territories of the Byzantine Empire north of Constantinople in the 6th century. The 2 Byzantine historians during the reign of Justinian I (527-565), Procopius and Jordanes write that in their times, Slavs have just appeared suddenly raiding their territories and yet they have no idea where they came from, although it said that the Slavs have originated somewhere in Ukraine or Poland. The Byzantines describe the Slavs as mysterious people that are not ruled by one but surprisingly live under a democracy where everything concerning their welfare is a matter of common concern among them. The Byzantines have also written about the Slavic gods, particularly Perun, the god of lightning equivalent to Zeus for the Greeks, Jupiter for the Romans, and Thor for the Norsemen; Perun was the chief god among the Slavic Pantheon and the lord of all things who the Slavs would sacrifice cattle and other victims to. The Slavs also revere rivers and nymphs as well as other spirits making sacrifices to them, at the same time they also worship their gods through totem poles as their version of icons. The Slavs though do not have good conditions of living as they live in hovels far apart from each other and in appearance they are described to be always covered in filth making it hard to notice if their skin is fair or dark and if their hair is dark or blonde, and it is also probably in their heritage that they have the habit of squatting (something I’ve noticed about the Slavs) because back then the ground they walked on was dirty. In the late 6th century, the leader of the Slavs that attacked the city of Corinth in Greece took the gilded canopy over the altar in the cathedral in order to use it as a tent to live in. The Slavs would become Christianized in the 9th century through St. Cyril and St. Methodius, Byzantine Greek missionaries sent to convert the Slavs by learning their native language and creating the Cyrillic alphabet in which most Slavic countries use up till this day including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia.

At the same time the Slavs began raiding Byzantine territory in the Balkans, the Avars- people from Central Asia- did the same thing too in the Balkans. The king of the Avars or Khan was interested in the animals the Byzantine emperor Maurice (r. 582-602) had. The emperor was eager to please the Avar khan so he sent over his largest elephant but the khan sent it back to Maurice either because the elephant frightened him or he wanted to insult the emperor. Meanwhile, another group of people that lived in the Balkans were the Serbs who also spoke a Slavic language; and according to De Administrando Imperio by Emperor Constantine VII (r. 913-959), the name “Serbs” means “slaves” in Latin which is “servus” and the Serbs are called this because they used to be the slaves of the Roman emperors in the past as well as to the Eastern Roman emperors.

2da9f95dc25c6d531501a5d32c866eab
Sample Slavic settlement
13f7df6663a48b8dbf3d637502eff466
Slavs attack Byzantine territory
d1f23b3c976cb2a99f2b602d98c2ee52
Avars and Slavs attack Constantinople, 626
pl0mg7q13yp01
Modern recreation of the Slavic tribes (as Slavic countries) meeting while squatting

Watch this for more info on why Slavs squat.

 

Vlachs, Romanies, and Acrobats  

Carpath-7cce
Map of the Balkans, 700

 During Byzantine times, the people that lived in present day Romania were the Vlachs, who claim they are descendants of the people of the Roman province of Dacia (today in Romania) and they speak a Romance language. The Vlachs had been under the Bulgarian Empire until it was annexed to Byzantium by Emperor Basil II in 1018; from then on, the Vlachs appear in Byzantine sources, one of them by the 11th century military author Kekaumenos who calls them treacherous thieves apart from being pastoralists and descendants of the Dacians. The same Balkan pastoralists known as the Vlachs have encroached into the monastic lands of Mt. Athos in Greece going against the rules of the monastic land by bringing in women and children, although the women dressed like men to avoid giving scandal. The women however began providing dairy products for the community as well as other services but still created an ongoing scandal. The worst part for the monks however were the Vlach children in which the patriarch later complains to the emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118), and the emperor responded by saying “what do you want me to do about the children? I am not King Herod!” In 1468, after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the historian Laonikos Chalkokondyles turned out be the first writer to understand that the Vlachs spoke a language descended from Latin saying that “they speak a language similar to that of the Italians, but so corrupted and different from it that it is difficult for the Italians to understand anything they say, unless they recognize words spoken distinctly.” Meanwhile, an insult made as an ethnic slur targeting a Bulgarian candidate for the patriarchate of Constantinople in the 14th century was “Boulgaralabnitoblachos” meaning that he was a Bulgarian but allegedly a Vlach by birth and an Albanian in appearance.

If the Byzantines though of the Vlachs as treacherous thieves, they though even worse about the travelling people known as the Roma or Gypsies who were best known as thieves and practitioners of magic. The name “Gypsy” comes from the word “Egyptian” probably because these people looked like Egyptians but in reality, they’ve originated from what is today Afghanistan and speak the Romany language which is similar to the Hindi language of India. In one story, the Byzantines of Macedonia noticed the Gypsies known as “Egyptians” go around thieving and when are caught, they do not deny their action but confess it asking to be paid for their thievery; similar to ancient Egypt where the person who’s goods were stolen has to pay ¼ the value of the stolen goods to the thieves’ guild master. The Gypsies were another strange people for the Byzantines, not just because they were known to be thieves, but they practiced magic such as by wrapping snakes around their bodies in order to make predictions about the future but the Gypsies were exceptionally good at acrobatics in which the 14th century historian Nikephoros Gregoras says that these performers did not use magic to perfrom their tricks but the arduous training of their bodies. Gregoras writes that these Gypsy performers could do a headstand above a mast, cartwheel across the ropes and sometimes walk across a tightrope with a child, stand on a horse moving fast and leap from its mane to its rump by passing underneath it and again and again, and they could balance a jug of water or a small child from at the end of a tall pole standing over his head. Gregoras however adds that these entertainments were risky that 40 Gypsies set out from their native land and only 20 remained once they were finished in Byzantium before they headed west to Spain. Another type of acrobats in Byzantium were known as Kontopaiktes or “pole-players”, one of them was seen in the court banquet hosted by Emperor Constantine VII in 949 and according to the diplomat Liutprand of Cremona, there was a man who balanced a 20ft pole on his forehead without using any hands and 2 boys climbed it up performing various acrobatic maneuvers up there, although it is not said where these acrobats came from. Tightrope walking was a popular form of entertainment seen in the Hippodrome of Constantinople according to Niketas Choniates but the people who excelled in tightrope walking skills were the Turks. Laonikos Chalkokondyles writes that the Turks as he saw them in the marketplace of Adrianople could tightrope while shackled or blindfolded, could perform various tricks on them including passing through swords and twirling.

 

Scandinavians and Rus

7186665
Map of the different people of Scandinavia

In the 6th century, the influential historians Procopius and Jordanes during the reign of Justinian I (527-565) have a lot to mention about the barbarians living across the northern borders of the empire. Many of these barbarians were Germanic people and many of them such as the Herules originate in the far northern peninsula of Scandinavia in Northern Europe, in which the Byzantines think of as it as an island calling it Thule or Scandza. When the Herules settled near the Byzantine Empire in around 500, it was said that they perform human sacrifices to their gods and that their old and sick had to be set on a pyre, killed with a dagger, and then cremated. What is more bizarre than this is that when a man died, his wife had to hang herself by his tomb or face an evil reputation. For Jordanes who identifies himself as a Goth, he calls Scandinavia (and Northern Europe) as the homeland of his people where the sun does not set so much during summer and for him, Scandinavia which he considers an island is a hive of races and a womb of nations such as the Finns, Goths, Danes, and Herules. According to Procopius who’s never been to Scandinavia but had plans to says that the Scandinavians are depressed during winter because the perpetual darkness prevents them from mingling with each other. They would send a watchman to the tallest mountain and when he glimpses the sun he will return and report back that the light will return in 5 days and then when it returns, they celebrate a festival. True enough, it is usually dark in Scandinavia and it is only during summer when the sun is usually out and never really sets.

Procopius also mentions another tribe among the Scandinavians known as the Scrithifini– who are most possibly Finns- are mostly hunters and do not feed milk to their infants but rather the marrow of animals killed in the hunt. For Procopius, the most populous nation among the Scandinavians were the Gauti or Geats from Sweden, known to Jordanes as the Gautigoths. The Geats were the people of the legendary hero Beowulf from the Old English poem dating back to the 520s, being a contemporary of Procopius and Justinian I. As early as the reign of Justinian I and even earlier, the Byzantines already had informations about the Scandinavians and centuries later, they had interacted more with the Scandinavians and Rus who joined the Byzantine army as the Varangian mercenaries to protect the emperor (this will be mentioned more in my next article). Fast-forward to the 1440’s during the last days of Byzantium, here the writer John Kananos travels from Byzantium to the lands of the far north including Norway, Sweden, Livonia, Prussia, Slavonia, Denmark, England, and finally to Iceland which he says that all they eat is fish

The Rus meanwhile were the people of Russia descended from Scandinavian Vikings who travelled down Russia’s rivers raiding and trading and would eventually try to attack Constantinople. The 10th century Byzantine historian Leo the Deacon gives a description of the Rus by describing their king Sviatoslav of Kiev who after being defeated by the emperor John I Tzimiskes of Byzantium agreed on terms. Sviatoslav came in by a small boat to meet with the emperor and he was of medium height with thick eyebrows, gray eyes, a snub nose, shaved chin, a thick long moustache on his upper lip, a thick neck, broad chest, and a shaved head except for a thin strand of hair hanging down from one side as a mark of his nobility and like the rest of his companions, he wore all white.

The_body_of_Leo_V_is_dragged_to_the_Hippodrome_through_the_Skyla_Gate
Varangians in the Madrid Skylitzes
RusVikingsMap
Map of the Viking expansions into Russia

 

India

1430100957-112_India400ADGuptas
Map of Byzantine era India

If Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire have reached India in the 4th century BC, the Byzantines could do the same in their time. In 400, a Roman description of India says that the Brahman men or philosophers and women live on opposite banks of the River Ganges. The men cross the river to be with the women for only 40 days during July and August, which are their coldest months. After the woman has 2 children, the couple will never meet again and remain celibate thereafter but if a woman is barren, the man will try again for only 5 years. Also, in around 400, a Byzantine lawyer from Egypt travelled as far as to Taprobane– which is most probably Sri Lanka- the island south of India in the Indian Ocean. It was said that the island was so rich in magnetic rocks that ships with nails could not depart from it but drawn back to it. Procopius from the 6th century knew about it tried to explain that because of the magnetic rocks in the shore, the Indians used ropes to tie their ships together instead of nails; on the other hand, he says that the Indians did not have much iron in their lands, though later on Marco Polo explains this saying that the wood of India is too thick for nails to penetrate. Back in 500, when the lawyer tried to travel to these magnetic islands, he could not reach them as he was arrested by the Bisad people (probably in India) and since they could not understand each other, only that he thought they were accusing of something for the bloodshot color of their eyes and the grinding of their teeth. At the end, the lawyer ended up being sent to work in a bakery for 6 years, being released when the king at Taprobane learned he was a Roman (Byzantine), a nation they hugely respected. A century later, in 500, the Byzantines would encounter Taprobane again when a Byzantine merchant named Sopatros and a Persian ambassador reached the island and met with the king who asked to judge which nation was greater. Sopatros showed the shiny gold Roman solidus coin with the face of the emperor- at that time Anastasius I- while the Persian showed the silver Persian coin with the image of their Shah of Shahs. When the king compared them, he found that the Roman one outmatched its silver Persian counterpart and Sopatros was paraded around town above an elephant accompanied by music. True enough, today there is a private island in Sri Lanka with the name Taprobane.

The best known thing about India to the Byzantines was that it was full of jungles with all sorts of exotic animals including dragon-like reptiles, huge ants, scorpions, ape hybrids such as a lion-ape and bear-ape, and an amphibious creature living in the Ganges called the “Tooth-Tyrant” (Odontotyrannos) which was able to swallow a whole elephant. It was also believed that the “unicorn” which had a serpent’s head, coiled neck, a crooked horn, beard, and lion’s feet lived in India as well as the mythological Sphinx in the form of an ape creature. Ever since the Byzantine times long before the European explorers reached India, westerners have already been fascinated with its exotic wildlife.

d0b3d0b8d0b4d0b0d181d0bf_d180d0b5d0b4
Alexander the Great’s Conquest of India, 327-325BC

Read this for more info about the Magnetic Islands according to Procopius. 

 

China

main_image_silkroad_image_by_radio86__0
Silk Road- Byzantium to China

 In the east, the farthest recorded place the Byzantines made their mark in was China, which was known to them as Sera and Serindia if combined with India. The distance from Byzantium to China was very far and the Indian philosophers or Brahmans say that if you stretch a rope from China to Byzantium, the midpoint would be in Persia. Even before Marco Polo in the 14th century, the Byzantines had known about the Silk Road to China; here the soldier historian Ammianus Marcellinus already made a reference to China’s Great Wall saying that their land was surrounded and defined by the summits of lofty walls, meanwhile the Seres people (Chinese) in character are quiet, gentle, and unwarlike while their climate is agreeable and skies mostly clear. As early as the 4th century, the Byzantines already believed that silk (Sericum) was produced by certain trees in China that monks travelled all the way there to learn the silk making process. In the 6th century, silk was still very expensive in Byzantium until the monks explained to Emperor Justinian I how silk in China is made. Justinian responded by sending the monks back to China to smuggle the silk worm eggs and bring them back to Byzantium. From then on, the Byzantines no longer had to spend huge amounts on silks bought from the Persians as they could already produce silks themselves with the technology from China. Making silk within the empire was not only an economic benefit but something the Byzantines excelled at that Justinian I’s successor Justin II (r. 565-574) was able to impress the Turks by producing silk without having to buy them. In 643, the Tang emperor of China, Taizong received an embassy from the Byzantine emperor Constans II (r. 641-668)- known to the Chinese as Boduoli– giving the Tang emperor red glass and green gemstones, and in exchange, Taizong gave the Byzantines silk. The longest account on China from a Byzantine source is by 7th century historian Theophylaktos Simokattes who wrote about their major city known as Taygast and its governor called Taisson (probably a reference to the emperor Taizong) meaning “The Son of God” who had harem of 700 women, meanwhile the men there did not wear jewellery. If China is the world’s most populous region today, it already was back then in the 7th century, the next most populous to it was Moukri, which was possibly Korea. It is unclear whether the Byzantines went further east past China to Korea or possibly across the sea to Japan, which means China was the farthest they went to the east.

20090529_Great_Wall_8185
The Great Wall of China
Straet-Jan-van-der-Giovanni-Stradano_Two-Monks-Present-Silkworms-Smuggled-from-China-to-the-Emperor-Justinian-plate-2-from-Vermis-Sericus-The-Silkworm-engraved-by-Philip-Galle-1537-1612
Monks introduce the silk making process to Emperor Justinian I, 552

Watch this for more info on Constans II and China. 

 

Alright, this concludes this very long article, which is now so far one of the longest ones I’ve made! Despite being so long, I hope it was an interesting read because as I was writing it, I learned so many new things about the many different people from around the world who lived at the same time as the Byzantines. The same way I find Byzantine life very interesting, the customs and skills of all these other races are equally as fascinating, especially the way the Byzantines saw them. Overall, the Byzantines were not very hostile in viewing foreigners from different reaches of the world even if they were enemies in battle, all they did was that they told the truth about the bizarre customs and attitudes of these different people. Long before the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and British came to explore and colonize the far parts of the world, the Byzantines as the successors of the Romans continued to explore the far parts of the world the way the Romans did before them to make their mark. The Byzantines travelled far to conquer distant lands but if they were very far away like India, China, and Ethiopia, they did not bother to conquer but to discover them and their people. If the Byzantine Empire continued after its fall in 1453, they might have even been able to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and discover the New World before Columbus did or go around Africa and explore even more distant lands. If the Byzantines had some extreme views about different people, these people must have also had extreme views towards the Byzantines but some people from foreign lands such as India had high respect for the Byzantines. The Byzantines may have had some distaste towards some foreigners such as the Ethiopians for their blackness, Slavs for their dirtiness, Scandinavians and Huns for their primitive customs and drunkenness, Persians for their arrogance and bizarre funeral customs, and Gypsies for thieving but at the end, the Byzantines tolerated and if not even respected these people allowing them to practice their customs in the imperial capital. On the other hand, the Byzantines were really fascinated over the exotic animals and skills people from faraway lands had and to some people like the Arabs, the Byzantines thought their diet was worse for being too heavy. At the end, I was also fascinated especially in the smaller details about these different people and their customs especially about how steak tartare originated with the Nomadic people of Central Asia, how the Gypsies and Turks were so exceptionally good at acrobatics, how long the journey from Nubia took to Constantinople, how the Persians had bizarre funeral customs of exposing their dead, as well as the fact that the Byzantines knew that India had exotic animals and magnetic islands and that the silk the Byzantines were well known for originated in China. What I’ve also learned when writing this was that it was during Justinian I’ reign from 527-565 when the Byzantines had the most encounters with people from faraway lands as well as these faraway lands themselves including Scandinavia, India, China, and Africa; this is mainly because it was during Justinian I’s reign when the Byzantine Empire covered the most territory but also because of chroniclers like Procopius that documented a lot about these places and people out of fascination. For months, I’ve been wanting to write an article about the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople being a “Cosmopolitan Society” after reading that chapter from Judith Herrin’s “Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire”, and now I’ve done what I wanted too with more information from the very fascinating Byzantine trivia book by Anthony Kaldellis. However, this is not yet it about Byzantium’s cosmopolitan society as I have forgotten to mention about the Varangians, Latins, Franks, Germans, and other westerners in the Byzantine Empire. This then will be the next thing I will write about and the way the Byzantines viewed them, which of course was more hostile than how they viewed people from other parts of the world as I’ve mentioned in this article. To sum up this whole article, the Byzantines did not only travel to the far parts of the world, these people from the far parts of the world met in Constantinople making it a cosmopolitan society like Coruscant from Star Wars, and now this is basically almost it for how well the Byzantines knew about the world. Well, this is it for part1 on Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines which has been a very long piece because the Byzantines have so much to say especially about people from the east, up next would be about the difference between the Byzantines and the west in culture. This is it for now from The Byzantium Blogger… thanks for viewing!

tRSvdXp

Warfare- Ancient Eastern Empires

Hello everyone, I’m back again with my historical warfare posts featuring my sketches of different of armies from history. This time, I’d go in detail with the warfare of the Eastern kingdoms and empires from ancient times, parallel to times of Greece and Rome. Surprisingly the eastern empires of the world, located in Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and the Middle-east had battle strategies, weapons, and armor a lot different from those in the west. The empires and kingdoms that will be covered would be the Persians, Parthians, Armenians, and Sassanids, each of them were very different from the common places in the west.

Persian Empire battle standard
Persian Empire battle standard
symbol of Persian empire
Symbol of Persian empire
full extent of the Achaemenid Persian empire
Full extent of the Achaemenid Persian empire

The first part of this post would focus mainly on the 1st Persian Empire, also known a the Achaemenid Empire, or simply the Persian Empire. The Achaemenids were the first Persians to build an empire stretching across the Middle-east in a short matter of time. The empire began under Cyrus II the Great, the first king of Persia, and in his reign (559-530BC) he conquered the lands outside of Persia (Iran) extending to Asia Minor and Armenia. Cyrus the Great simply began being ruler of the small Persian kingdom in Iran and conquered regions beyond it such as Medea, Judea, Phoenicia, Babylon, and Lydia in Asia Minor, the Persian empire’s capital was Ecbetana. He was most famous for conquering Babylon but failed to conquer the Bactrian and Scythian tribes. His successors were Cambyses II, Darius I, and Xerxes I, in their reigns they expanded the empire conquering Egypt, Thrace, and parts of India. When building their empire, they defeated powerful rulers including extremely wealthy Lydian king Croesus and the pharaoh of Egypt. At the beginning of the 5th century BC, the Persians fought a series of wars with the Greeks, the Greek-Persian wars, here the Persians managed to invade Greece for a while but were driven away by the armies of the Greek city states combined. The Achaemenid Persians were overall a powerful empire having an army large in size, but not strong in battle, and a large powerful fleet, and had lots of wealth. The Persians are famous for inventing the messaging system and road systems building highways around the empire extending across the deserts, plains, mountains, rivers, and seas. For the remaining years after defeat in the war with the Greeks, the Persians continued to rule their great empire. The Achaemenid Persian Empire came to their end when their last king, Darius III was defeated by Macedonian king Alexander the Great, from then the Persians and all their lands including Egypt were ruled by the Macedonian Greeks; after Alexander’s death, the succeeding Persian empire would be the Seleucid Empire, though they were more Greek than eastern.

Persian warriors carved on walls
Persian warriors carved on walls
Persian army at battle
Persian army at battle
Persian Immortals in phalanx formation
Persian Immortals in phalanx formation
my sketch of Persian warriors
My sketch of Persian warriors

The Persian army was made up of a variety of units of all sorts of skills. The Achaemenid Persian army was many in number but majority were weak and untrained for battle. Only a few of them, called the Immortals, the elite army units and the protectors of the king. The rest of their army were untrained citizens from all over the empire simply asked to fight for Persia as slaves and not soldiers. In battle, the Persians relied mostly on missile weapons than melee weapons, these missile weapons they used included bows and arrows or javelins. The citizen army were mostly peltasts or hillmen weakly trained and only skilled with using missile weapons and usually used one of each and holding a dagger on their side. The only elite force highly trained for battle were the Immortals and the Cataphracts who handled a set of weapons such as a bow, a sword or axe, javelins, and a shield. The Immortals were more of an infantry force, at battle using the phalanx formation and using both melee and missile combat. The Cataphracts were more of cavalry men skilled in archery and lancing when on horse. The Persian warriors however did not wear much of armor, the Immortals and the Cataphracts though wore only padded armor or scales rather than full armor as the Greeks did. The Persian cavalry was usually made up of horses, camels, charriots, and sometimes war elephants. The Persian army did not take the use of armor seriously but instead carried more weapons as wearing armor would be too heavy when marching in desert heat. The elite warriors usually wore a sheet of padded armor around the body but not covering the arms, under they wore tunics and on their head they had headscarves and under they had pants and boots. Most of their soldiers were not armored and simply wore tunics and headscarves, or phrygian caps. For shields, the Persians either used large square shields for phalanx when using spears, or round shields with a curve when firing javelins, their shields were usually made of wood, some were metal; for their weapons they used different types of curved swords called kopis, they also used javelins, bows and arrows with the incendiary effect to burn down enemy armies. In my sketch above, it shows 2 Persian elite warriors, on the left a cataphract, on the right an immortal; also shown here are Persian weapons a bow, a set of arrows with a Persian quiver which had a design with a curve to hold both the arrows and the bow, also here is a Persian curved sword and dagger. Most of all, they used missle weapons as they were more of skirmishers in battle.

the Parthian Empire symbol
Parthian Empire symbol
map of Parthian Empire
Map of the Parthian Empire

The first empire, the Achaemenids fell under the Greeks for a matter of time dissolving to the Seleucid Empire. The Seleucid Empire (mentioned in the previous page) was more of Greek than eastern but had few parts of eastern culture. The Seleucid Empire stretched across the Middle-east from Mediterranean Syria and Turkey to eastern Iran, Parthia was one of the states of the Seleucid Empire. In the 2nd century BC, the Parthians formed their own faction and revolted against the Seleucids, later capturing their regions around Persia, the new empire was the Parthian or Arsacid Empire. A famous Parthian ruler was Mithridates I, he was responsible for building the empire and expanding it weakening the Seleucids after battles. The Seleucid Empire then fell to the Romans after battles, so did the Ptolemaic Egyptian empire, but the Parthians remained with most of the land in the east preventing the Romans to go through. After defeating the Seleucids, the Romans then tried to make their way to Parthia, though they lost at the Battle of Carrhae where Roman leader Crassus was defeated. Afterwards, for the next 2 centuries Rome and Parthia were always at war with each other, and there was no successful result, Rome never invaded them nor did they invade Rome, and at times they made peace. However, the neighboring kingdom to Parthia, Armenia was a weaker kingdom but allied with Parthia, however both Romans and Parthians fought for it. One of the significant fights between them was during the reign of Roman emperor Nero, which involved Roman general Corbulo to deal with the issue. At the end, Corbulo was able to capture Armenia from Parthia and claim it for Rome while Parthia stayed alone, but later on went through more conflicts with the Romans. Armenia then fell under Roman control for the longest time while Parthia was sometimes captured by Rome, however the Romans did not fully invade Parthia but took some of their territory. The Romans invaded until the Euphrates area while Parthia continued to keep their lands beyond it including Babylon and Persia; Parthia’s capital was still Ecbetana though the Seleucid’s earlier used Antioch as their capital, though the actual capital of Parthia was Ctesiphon in Iraq. The Parthian empire came to its close after their last war with Rome involving the last Parthian king Artabanus V and the Roman army, after the war, the Romans and the Parthians finally made a full peace after all. After the king’s death, the dynasty ended falling to the Sassanians, a new dynasty, they were to be the enemies of the Byzantines, the successor to Rome in the east.

Parthian cavalry at battle
Parthian cavalry at battle
Parthian war elephants
Parthian war elephants
A Parthian camel cataphract
A Parthian camel cataphract
my sketch of Parthian cataphract cavalry
My sketch of Parthian cataphract cavalry
other sketch of Parthian cavalryman
Other sketch of Parthian cavalryman

When it came to battle, the Parthian empire had a more organized and strategized army compared to the Persians. The Parthian army was mostly made up of cavalrymen, also called cataphracts,which were the most important part of their army. Their cavalry was made up of simple horsemen, then cataphracts which were more armored horsemen, also camel cavalry, war elephants, chariots, and an infantry. The infantry men were not as strong and carried limited choices of weapons, which were mostly missile weapons for skirmishing. Their infantry were mostly hillmen or skirmishers, though their cavalry was more advanced having different ways in battle from thrusting with spears, slashing with swords, throwing javelins, and shooting arrows while riding on horse. The Parthians used camels too as a way to be faster in riding, the soldiers on camels were mostly archers but also spearmen. The difference between the Parthian army compare to the earlier Persians was that they were more organized and had full armor, especially the horsemen, even horses and camels had armor. The Parthians used nearly the same weapons as the Persians though cavalrymen used a bow, sword, shield, and spear combined, this was much more effective and useful in battle. The Parthians too used large armored war elephants, which were also useful in creating bigger destruction on the enemy by ramming and archers shooting arrows from above. For armor, the Parthians used more of it, having a full set of body armor made of soft pads or scales, together with chain mail and a full helmet covering the face, though lined with scarves, and a cape. The infantry used simpler armor or just wore tunics, their military outfits had to be more fit for dessert combat. With their strong cavalry including archers and elephants, the Romans could definitely not beat them.

th-7

Sassanid empire symbol
Sassanid empire symbol
full extent of Sassanid empire
Full extent of Sassanid empire

After the Achaemenids, Seleucids, and Parthians, the concluding dynasty of the Persian Empire was the Sassanids or Sassanians. After the Arsacid Parthian dynasty faded away in the 3rd century AD, the Sassanid dynasty took its place and changed the course of the empire, the new dynasty and empire began with Ardashir I, first Sassanian ruler. For the Sassanids, Ctesiphon remained as their capital, and they remained with the same Persian religion since the early days before the Persian empires began, Zoroastrianism. However, the Eastern Roman Empire turned to Christianity, and some of the Christians there settled in the Sassanid Empire following the Nestorian branch of Eastern Christianity, these Christians were a lot more different and traveled far to the east, probably even reaching China.The Sassanids were somewhat more different from the Parthians as they expanded their lands more to the north retaking Armenia and the east of Asia Minor, even capturing Syria and Egypt from the Eastern Romans. One of the most significant wars between the Romans and the Sassanids happened in the 4th century AD, when the eastern empire was still new, in fact in these wars, eastern emperor Julian was killed in battle with the Sassanids. One thing the Sassanids had was an army mostly made of cavalry just as the Persians did, they had the same elite cavalry unit called cataphracts, also had horse and camel archers, war elephants and chariots. The Sassanids had quite a lot of land around the deserts and traveling may have been easy in fact the Sassanids knew ways of getting to China by land; their empire spanned across the Middle-east going from Asia Minor and Armenia, the Caucasus mountains to the north, to the Arabian peninsula in the south, and as far as the Indian border in the Indus to the east. The Sassanid Empire came to an end when falling to the Arab conquests of the Muslims. Afterwards, the Sassanid Empire died and the Persian empires fully ended making the Islamic Empire be dominant in ruling the east and southern parts of the world. After that the world changed as the Persian world came to an end, though they were one of the most influential eastern empires.

Sassanid cavalry man
Sassanid cavalryman
Armenian hillmen
Armenian hillmen
my sketch, Sassanid cataphract (left) and Armenian hillman (right)
My sketch, Sassanid cataphract (left) and Armenian hillman (right)

Shown above is my sketch of a Sassanid cataphract warrior (left) and an Armenian hillman (right). The Sassanid army was usually made up of cavalry, mostly archers on horses or camels. These cavalry warriors had a round helmet with chain mail flowing down from their head to their body, a set of scarves on their head and carried together a bow, a spear, a sword, and a shield. On the left sketch shows a Sassanid cataphract infantry warrior, fully armored (drawing based on Easterling warrior from LOTR trilogy), this time for a difference it has a large square shield for infantry, holds a large curved scimitar sword, and at the back, a bow and a quiver with arrows. This warrior has padded armor in a hexagonal patter, an unusual helemet, and headscarves. The Sassanid cavalry army all looked the same, same padded armor, and chain-mail, and same set of weapons except only a small round shield for cavalry, though the Sassanid army was highly organized. On the right is an Armenia hillman, the Armenians though did not have a strong army with cataphracts or elephants, instead lightly armored hillmen or skirmishers without armor but tunics and a phrygian cap, holding a set of javelins, a wooden shield, and an axe, sword, or dagger for melee weapon, they also used slings though some hillmen used spears. These hillmen were not much organized but more of skilled skirmishers coming from the mountains of Armenia using mountain warfare. The Armenian skirmishers look a little similar to that of Scythian warriors, except not on horses.

To conclude the topic on Eastern warfare, to tell the difference, the eastern armies relied more on cavalry, archery, and skirmishing, though were very intricate in warfare. The eastern armies compared to the west came in more colors, having artistic designs, and different smart battle strategies of skirmishing or shock cavalry charge, they also had better styles of armor being more comfortable to travel through deserts and mountains. Their skills also matched the areas they were from, and in battle they came in large numbers, most of them however were unarmored but those who were well-trained and fully armored had unmatched skill in battle. Of course the eastern world had more gold and riches making the empires together with their army powerful as well. So this is it… hope you had learned, see you soon for more!

Warfare of the Greek World- part2

Here I continue my article on Ancient Greece, especially about Greek warfare, once again it is about the military of ancient Greece and its history. This time it would focus more on the empires made by the Greek world, not only in Greece itself but outside Greece, going south, east, and west. These other Greek nations and empires from outside Greece include Macedonia, the Seleucid Empire, the Egyptian Empire, and Carthage. These empires (except Macedonia) are from outside Greece but were still Greeks and dominated other parts of the world with Greek power. The one that was responsible for spreading Greek ideas including warfare outside Greece was the conquests of Macedonia.

map of Alexander's Macedonian Empire
Map of Alexander’s Macedonian Empire
Macedonian empire symbol
Macedonian empire symbol

First of all, Macedonia was just a small kingdom in northern Greece (the Balkans) next to Thrace, Epirus, and the Greek cities. What all changed it was the legendary general and king, Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC who conquered the lands to the east and south making the Greeks a world power. The person who started Macedon’s ambitions was Alexander’s father King Philip II who conquered the Greek cities making the Greeks fall to Macedonia and from then the Macedonians joined in with the Greeks and used Greek armies to expand their empire. In more than about 12 years of Alexander III the Great’s reign (336-323BC), Macedonian territory expanded from Greece going east all the way through Persia and Bactria, all the way to the Indus river, at the border of India, an to Egypt in the south, the Balkans in the west. Alexander conquered these lands with his powerful army with Macedonians and Greeks combined. As the conquests progressed, the Macedonians used different armies from all over the eastern world such as Persians and more. Part of the powerful army were holiness and the same Greek army units combined with battle tactics from Greeks and Persians. Afterwards, when Alexander died in 323BC, the Macedonian Empire was divided between his generals making the rest of the world Greek.

Macedonian hoplites in phalanx formation
Macedonian hoplites in phalanx formation
Macedonians with combined armies
Macedonians with combined armies
Macedonian hoplite with arms and armour
Macedonian hoplite with arms and armor
Macedonian cavalryman
Macedonian cavalryman

When building their empire, by the conquests of Alexander the Great through the known world in the east, the Macedonians expanded their territory by a large army having the same units as the Greek army, except with Macedonian and Greek armies combined. The Macedonian army had the same units of hoplites as their special forces. Although Macedonian hoplites had skills and looks different from Classical Greek hoplites; the Macedonian hoplites did not wear a full Corinthian helmet but instead a bronze helmet placed above and around the head but not covering the face, these helmets had a round shape only covering the head and sometimes had a round or pointed tip with a plume coming out.These hoplites did not wear heavy iron armor but the white leather cuirass with metal scales, this type of armor was lighter and more flexible in battle (though white may not be the exact color they used), the armor then was a lot more lighter and it came together with a tunic under and cape sometimes. These hoplites carried a spear as their primary weapon and formed phalanx in battle, for secondary weapons they held either a xiphos sword or a kopis sword if they had no spear, and a large round shield with the Macedonian vergina sun symbol. Most of the hoplites wore armor though the minor forces of Macedon wore just a tunic with a helmet. The Macedonian army was also made up of the minor Greek forces including peltasts (javelin men), archers, slingers, and cavalry men; the cavalry men though were in greater use in the Macedonian army than in the Greek army. The Macedonian cavalry was an important unit in their army, they were also armored with the usual white armor and had the round helmet covering the face, which is also called the Boeotian helmet, used by Greek horsemen, they carried spears as their main weapon and a sword too; to symbolize the Macedonian army in the conquests, they had a purple or red cape. However, the Macedonian army did fully use their own men but used the forces of the Greek city states to fight for them. The cavalrymen were mostly from Macedonia or Thessaly, the peltasts (javelin men) were hired from Thrace or the Greek islands or even Scythia so were the archers and slingers, while the hoplites were either from Athens, Sparta, or Macedonia. The powerful Macedonian army of Alexander fought against the Persians at the battles of Issus and Gaugamela, then conquered Persia and all their lands including Babylon, Egypt, Judea, and Medea. Afterwards, Alexander’s army hired the remaining Persian armies to fight at their side on their next conquest in India, though they failed as it was too far and the Indians had more elephants than men. Afterwards, the Macedonian empire and army id not die, they continued to expand with the new empires, although Macedonia later on grew to become a weak kingdom but its succession kingdoms grew and expanded and their armies changed with ideas form the east.

Seleucid cavalry soldiers
Seleucid cavalry soldiers
Seleucid cavalry soldier
Seleucid cavalry soldier
Seleucid war elephants
Seleucid war elephants
Egyptian infantry men
Egyptian infantry men
Ptolemaic Egyptian heavy infantry
Ptolemaic Egyptian heavy infantry

After Alexander’s death, the Macedonian Empire was divided into 3; Macedonia, and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms. The Seleucid Empire was the next Persian Empire based in Syria, it was one of Macedonia’s succession kingdoms which was handed to Seleucus, one of Alexander’s generals giving it its name. The Seleucid Empire became a leading power for about 200 years in the east covering Asia Minor, Syria, Judea, Babylon, Persia, until the Indus River, the border with India. The Seleucids though kept their empire with an effective army of both Greek and eastern battle strategies and units. The Seleucid army was mostly made of cavalrymen, which was their most important part in battle more than foot soldiers and hoplites. The Seleucids at battle though mainly used hoplites on horses and especially chariots, this is what the empire focused on in battle. Their chariots came in units with 1 or 2 soldiers riding on it firing arrows and the chariot itself was a weapon with blades at its wheels to slash the enemy army. The Seleucid infantry was not much of an effect, but they were still used, having peltasts, archers, and hoplites, a difference with them was that they used archers and javelin men more and as shields they used an lighter oval shield instead. Another part of their army was the use of Indian elephants, which was highly effective too, above them were archers or javelin men shooting arrows and javelins from above.

The Egyptian empire on the other hand, was a successor kingdom to Macedonia, it was then renamed the Ptolemaic kingdom as it was given to Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals. This new empire was a different version of Egypt as it became more Greek and even the army units changed. In battle, the Ptolemaic Egyptians used infantry men more compared to the Seleucids, and focused on javelins, archers, and spear men who were not much of hoplites but a less trained version of them. The difference here was that the Egyptians used plain white leather armor while the Seleucids used iron armor more. A similarity between them was that they both used chariots with archers above them and sometimes used war elephants, and for swords they rarely used the xiphos but the stronger curved-sword, kopis. The Ptolemaic Egyptians however did not have much of a powerful army but their navy was much more effective. Their types of armor were made for desert battle, especially in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, which makes the armor lighter and flexible.

Ptolemaic Egyptian symbol
Ptolemaic Egyptian symbol
Seleucid Empire symbol
Seleucid empire symbol
Egyptian infantry man (left), Seleucid chariot archer (right)
Egyptian infantry man (left), Seleucid chariot archer (right)

Shown above is my drawing of a Ptolemaic Egyptian infantry soldier and a Seleucid chariot soldier. On the right, is a newer version of the Egyptian army; this soldier wears an iron helmet not covering the face but surrounding the head, it has a different type of white leather armor and a cape behind it. This soldier is more of a peltast except fully armed and armored, having an oval shield with the Egyptian symbol, a set javelins for throwing, and a kopis sword. On the right, it shows a Seleucid Empire soldier fully equipped with a bronze helmet and iron cuirass armor with gold scales and a dark cape behind. This soldier for a difference wears a long-sleeve tunic under and holds a kopis sword too and a bow. This soldier ont he right is an elite force of the Seleucid Empire as it is on a chariot, shown behind.

th-21
Carthaginian empire symbol
map of Carthaginian empire with Rome
Map of Carthaginian empire with Rome
Carthaginian infantry soldiers
Carthaginian infantry soldiers
Carthaginian war elephant
Carthaginian war elephant

Another part of the Greek world was Carthage, though it may be far off from Greece and Greek lands, located in north-coast Africa, west of Egypt and south of Italy, its origins though are Greek, originating from the Phoenician settlers. Carthage however was not an empire itself but a republic, same as Rome and Athens and well known for their navy and wealth by trade more than their army. Carthage though had an effective army consisting of cavalry and infantry, though their cavalry was more of the important part. They had mostly the same army units as the Greeks did including peltasts, archers, hoplites, and an extensive cavalry. The unique part of the Carthaginian army was the use of war elephants, the elephants of Carthage were their most important and effective part. Carthage is most famous for fighting wars with Rome (the Punic Wars), here Carthaginian general Hannibal launched a large attack on Rome with the whole army including elephants, but at the end lost. The Carthaginian army had the same type of armor as the Greeks, usually the light leather ones but t eh difference is that that in Carthage they sometimes used chain-mail cuirass armor which Greeks did not use but the same bronze helmets. The weapons though were the same but the Carthaginians took the use of javelins more seriously; Carthage’s forces then are more similar to that of the Romans than the Greeks.

Carthaginiansoldier (left) and Macedonian hoplite (right)
Carthaginian soldier (left) and Macedonian hoplite (right)

Shown above is my sketch of a Carthaginian and Macedonian soldier, each look differently. The Carthaginian soldier (left)wears the classic Greek bronze head-cover helmet but instead of a leather cuirass, this soldier wears a chain-mail similar to that they used in Rome.This soldier would be classified as an elite pelatast or heavy infantry, holding a set of javelins with an oval shield, and a xiphos sword, these were the same types of units on Carthage’s war elephants. The Macedonian soldier (right) is classified more as a hoplite, except without a spear being used for light combat with a xiphos sword ans shield. This version of hoplite does not wear a full helmet but the bronze one and a light leather armor together with a smaller shield for sword combat and the classic Macedonian purple cape being part of their royal army. All these soldiers of my drawing may have looked the same, which is true since most of the units of the Greek world empires outside Greece had the same look and weapons and somewhat the same skills. The similarity all these empires mentioned (Egypt, Seleucids, Macedonia, Carthage) has is that they all met their end fighting wars with Rome and soon falling to what will be the new Roman Empire, combining all these empires.

the Greek navy
The Greek navy

Before this finishes, here is also a short topic on the Greek navy and the types of ships together with siege weapons. Aside from the army, the Greek city states, also the empires had a powerful navy, especially Egypt and Carthage. In the history of Greece and the Greek empire, famous naval battles are recorded, such as the Battle of Salamis where the Greeks won against the Persian invaders, some happened during Alexander’s naval conquests, also in the war between Carthage and Rome, ad lastly, the Battle of Actium, between the Ptolemaic Egyptians and the Romans when Rome finally took over the Greek world. There are different types of Greek ships in the navy and have different effects, the Romans to used the same type of ships as the Greeks, except stronger; other empires too such as the Persians had a similar navy.

sample bireme ship
Sample bireme ship
same trireme ship
Same trireme ship

The Greeks had a set of different war ships of different uses and were similar to the Roman warships. The ships came in different sizes and were different from each other by the number of rows of oars. For example, the ship called bireme is much smaller and used to hold archers and skirmishers, and had 2 sides of oars but only one row, it is much simpler in look and was an earlier form of these battle ships. The trireme was much more effective moved by a double row of oars and 2 sails, it held the archers in naval battle and in battle, its effect was ramming enemy ships with its sharp point in front. The quadrireme was a larger version of a trireme, this one held more soldiers, had a sharper edge, but was more used for siege weapons to destroy enemy ships, these types of ships also had a small tower mounted on it for skirmishers or siege weapons. Following it, there are larger types of ships which were more used for blockading; the Romans on the other hand used even larger ships having until 7 rows pf oars. At battle, these ships fought in a few different ways but had limited skills.

Greek naval warfare
Greek naval warfare
naval clash- Carthage vs Rome
Naval clash- Carthage vs Rome

The ships of all these empires of the Greek world and even Rome had the same appearance but their sails had each of the country’s symbol and sometimes ships itself had different colors. In battle, the ships often fought together as one fleet but each ships had different weapons and skills. The way naval battles were fought in the Greek world, also Roman world was by firing missiles such as arrows and javelins at enemy ships. By firing arrows or javelins, archers were boarded on the ships using their bows altogether to fire at the enemy; in naval battles though, first burning oil was thrown at sea where the enemy passes, then archers fire their flaming arrows at the oil burning the enemy, or they fired a singe flaming arrow at the ship itself which was made of wood, this was very much effective especially if the enemy ship were trapped but it would be hard to escape the trap. Another way Greek ships fought as by ramming directly at the enemy ship with the ship’s point in front, after ramming, the enemy ship would get beaten. Part of naval melee combat was also when ships hit each other, the soldiers would board the enemy ship, for the Greeks hoplites and infantry melee soldiers were boarded on triremes to board the enemy ship and attack the enemies on ship, sometimes the ships would be useless as the soldiers fought jumping from ship to ship. Another effective but slow way of combat in the Greek navy were siege engines mounted on ships, used for launching bolts or large hot stones or flaming hay balls on enemy ships. Using siege weapons were quite slow but the larger ships carried them and it took up more spacing having not much soldiers in them but siege weapon operators. These siege weapons included ballistas and catapults which had the effect of destroying enemy ships by burning or simply battering them. The famous naval battles of the Greek and Roman world like Salamis, the Greeks against Persians; Syracuse and Naxos, which was Athens against Sparta; and even in the Punic wars with Carthage and finally Actium used these naval battle tactics and had great effects in the wars.

Greek ballista
Greek ballista
Greek onager
Greek onager

The Greeks too had a set of siege weapons, the ballista and the onager were the classic and basically used ones. These siege weapons were both used in land and sea battles. The ballista was a commonly used one, a large crossbow low on the ground but pointed upwards, it was used on ships or in land battles when it came to siege walls and fortresses or to take down a number of enemy forces. Ballistas were also used on ships to fire flaming bolts a the enemy ships, the ballistas often fired bolts which were a larger version of arrows and had the flaming effect to burn down ships or burn the enemy lines. The onager was another type of weapon, this one was a small version of the catapult and moved on ground but needed about 6 men to operate. Onagers were both used in land to siege walls or destroy enemy ships by using heavy stones or flaming hay piles. These types of weapons then were overall used in the Greek world and also by the Romans, thought the Romans made improved versions of them.

Before this article ends, here’s to shorten the explanation of the Greek army, in battle they were different from each other having hoplites, archers, cavalrymen, siege weapons but they fought together as one and relied more on melee combat. Although the Greeks of the extended Greek world (Seleucids, Egyptians, and Carthaginians) did not fight that way anymore but individually as units and modified many parts of the Greek army. For the navy, they also fought together, and with their own military tactics, they were able to grow and build empires, dominating the known parts of the world for centuries. This topic may have been really long, but sure may have taught you a lot of things!!

Warfare of the Greek World- Part1

On this article on my blog, it is once again about historical warfare once again showing my military sketches throughout history. This time, the focus will be on Ancient Greece and the warfare of the Greek world; armor sets and weaponry. This topic on Ancient Greece focuses mainly on the warfare on ancient Greece and the city-states. (next one about the Greek world empires)!!

map of Greek city-states
Map of Greek city-states

th-1In the time of Classical Greece, Greece itself was not a full united kingdom or empire but several city-states, some ruled by a king, some a democracy. The well known city states of Greece (if you can see the names on the map above) include Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Thessaly, and Epirus. Each of them had a different government, different way of life such as enlightenment in Athens and warfare in Sparta, and of course each had different armies. Armies of Ancient Greece, no matter from which city state somewhat looked the same, though to tell their difference, their colors were sometimes different, some city-states had different army units or different types of weapons, and the symbols on the soldiers’ round shields were different showing symbols of different city-states. For example, Athens used the owl symbol (for Athena), while Sparta used the lambda (^) symbol, and Macedonia together with other Greek cities used the vergina sun symbol. The Greek islands however were not counted as full city states but colonies or alliances to them especially when city-states of mainland Greece are at war. The city-states became united under one empire when the Macedonians took them over in the 4th century BC, afterwards the Greek army fought at their side.

I. Greek land Warfare (Hoplites)

sketch of Greek Hoplites in battle
Sketch of Greek Hoplites in battle
Greek hoplites in phalanx formation
Greek hoplites in phalanx formation

The armies of Ancient Greece had many different battle units but had the same formations in battle. For the Ancient Greeks, fighting together side-by-side in the phalanx was an important part of Greek warfare. At the same time it was effective too, as Hoplites, the elite military force of ancient Greece fought together in different groups forming a square formation but each hoplite holding a spear for attack and a shield for defense. The hoplites were organized in different rows, the spears pointed strait at the front and going upwards at the back rows. It was effective in a way that the phalanx slowed down the enemies trapping them especially with the front row spears, which was used to hit the horses of enemy cavalry while the upper spears pointed towards the horseman. The use of the phalanx however could be hard especially when fighting another army with he same formations such as fighting other Greek hoplites (which happened in the Peloponnesian War, Sparta against Athens) though the phalanx was effective when fighting cavalry men or soldiers who did not use the phalanx such as the Persian armies (during the Greek-Persian Wars); the phalanx though was vulnerable to cavalry shock charges though the hoplites were quick in action to slow them down and sometimes easily wipe out enemy armies by simply using the spears. The Greek army was also made up of skirmishers, including archers, javelin men, slingers, and shock cavalry, however the fully-armored hoplites were the important lie of defense as the Greeks in battle took close combat more seriously.

2 types of Greek hoplites
2 types of Greek hoplites

Shown above here is my sketch showing two types of Greek hoplites, a Thessaly hoplite (on the left) and a Sparta hoplite (on the right). In Ancient Greek warfare, hoplites were the important line of defense in battle and the elite forces (the spec-ops or marines of ancient Greece, the leading city states had to have hoplites in their army especially if they were at war with another city state or an invading empire. Hoplites served as the professional army and were the most well-trained and organized soldiers of the Greek world, in battle they were fully equipped with a full-face helmet which was called the Corinthian helmet, hey wore an iron and leather body armor called Thorax, a set of bracers, boots, and cape depending on their city’s color, and carried a one-handed sword, a dagger, a spear, and a large round shield. The Thessalian hoplite on the left shows a classic version of a Greek hoplite with the Corinthian helmet with a crest above, at the body is the thorax armor made of leather and iron scales (the white color though is not accurate to the original armor but a modern representation, the exact color of Greek armor though is unknown though it was made of bronze). The hoplite on the left wears a red cape, carries the phalanx spear called a Dory, the sword is sheathed and covered by a large round shield, curved outwards with the scorpion symbol. On the right is a Spartan hoplite commander; to tell the difference, the commander has the patterned crest sidewards but wears the same helmet and compared to all the Spartan hoplites with a red cape, this one wears a dark colored-one to differentiate himself from the army. The Spartan hoplite wears a full metal engraved armor and a tunic under; this hoplite also does not carry a spear but the classic one-handed leaf-edge sword, called Xiphos and a large round bronze shield curved inwards with the Spartan symbol.

combination of Greek hoplites
Combination of Greek hoplites
3 types of hoplites
3 types of hoplites

The upper picture shows a close-up of different types of Greek hoplites in battle itself with their melee weapons (swords and spears) ready for attack. The lower picture however, describes the functions of different types of Greek hoplites. The 3 types shown here is a Macedonian infantry soldier (left), Spartan Hoplite (center), and Athenian Hoplite (right) and an old sketch of mine which had appeared in a previous post. The Macedonian soldier (left) is a different form of hoplite, a lighter armed and armored one with a common Greek infantry bronze helmet, wearing the light armor (white with metal scales), and carrying lighter weapons for light combat in battle which is just another type of Greek sword (Kopis) used for harder sword combat if without a spear and holding a smaller round shield for foot-soldiers. On the center, this other version of a Spartan hoplite however does not do much of the action in fighting at the battlefield but instead carries the flag representing the Spartan army at battle, this hoplite as it does not fight full on the battlefield does not wear the iron cuirass armor but a leather cuirass mostly covered by a cape or a draping, although wearing the full helmet and carries a xiphos sword and instead of a shield, the Spartan war flag. The one on the right is a full armored and equipped Athenian hoplite with the full helmet with the crest, wearing iron armor for full protection when fighting full-combat; the Athenian hoplite is on standing formation holding up the spear and the shield with Athens’ symbol kept still, the sword is sheathed. The Athenian hoplite wears the blue cape showing Athens’ state color in battle, the Athenian hoplite at battle had more battle strategy than strength at battle as the Spartans did. As for weapons, hoplites used the spear as their primary weapon to hit the first wave of enemy, the sword was secondary used if the spear hit the target or fell or if the enemy is too close. Overall in ancient Greece, hoplites were the leading and most important part in battle being fully armed and armored and also organized whether they are many (in the 10,000’s such as the Spartans in the Persian Expedition) or a few (such as 300 in the Battle of Thermopylae); in ancient Greek warfare, melee fighting was what they highly focused on in battle.

II. Greek land Warfare (skirmishers and minor units)

The Greek army had more than hoplites, though hoplites were the leading and major part in the battlefield, the other soldiers were secondary forces or citizen armies. These other forces included cavalrymen, javelin men, archers, and slingers who were not in much use in battle but sometimes effective. These secondary units of ancient Greece were also used in battle but not on the front line of defines, but in at the sides or behind instead. These units in a way wore the same thing in battle, less and light-armored or sometimes without armour but a tunic and helmet, sometimes without a helmet but a hat.

Greek peltasts, samples
Greek peltasts, samples
Greek pelatast at battle
Greek pelatast at battle

A type of these alternative units were Peltasts, or Greek javelin (as shown in the peltast images above), a Greek javelin men in battle wore light armour for skirmishes and not in full combat as the hoplites, usually they did not fight on the field but shot javelins from behind, above or from bushes. The Greek peltasts wear either a set of light armour and a light bronze helmet only covering the head, carried a dagger and the main weapons were the javelins and the small crescent-shaped shield to hold javelins when aiming, this army unit did not usually wear armour and sometimes just the under tunic.

Greek slinger drawing
Greek slinger drawing

Another type of Greek army units were slingers, they also were skirmishers, though having not much effect their use was to basically scare the enemy with stones; the slingers were the most unequipped and less-trained Greek army unit having only the use of a sling and stones and a dagger and did not wear any armour but a tunic and a hat.

Greek archer sample
Greek archer sample

Greek archers on the other hand used the bow and arrows as a primary weapon, while the sword or dagger was the secondary one, when the enemy is too close or arrow run out. Archers however did not fight fully on the battlefield but skirmished the enemies from another point, sometimes using the effect of flame arrows to burn the enemy line of defines or shock them, first by setting up burning oil then by simply firing one flame arrow to burn down the enemy’s battle lines; the Greek archers usually did not wear armour except for light leather armour and barely wore helmets, instead wore large hats, instead of armour they would wear a tunic with a cape over it sometimes.

Macedonian (Greek) cavalryman
Macedonian (Greek) cavalryman

The cavalry then was a more important part in the Greek army and was of great use, they were highly trained also but were not equal in strength with the hoplites. This one shown above, a Macedonian cavalry man wears a light bronze hemet forming a round shape, wears light, white shaded leather armour, holds a spear, and to distinguish cavalrymen from the other units, they wore extra layers of capes with different colours, either blue, red, purple, or grey. Of course, the cavalrymen are mount on horses and their ability is to perform a shock charge on the enemy using their spears. As a secondary weapon, cavalrymen used their swords and sometimes carried bows or javelins; cavalry men often fought in a way by surprising the enemy too and later ambushing them. In Ancient Greece, city states however id not use horse men much at battle, though the Macedonians were the Greeks to really use them.

Greek peltast and archer (my sketch)
Greek peltast and archer (my sketch)

Shown above here (my drawing) for example is how a Greek peltast and archer with weapons. Here both wear helmets, even though they did not but usually they wore iron or bronze helmets in battle but no armour as they were there as skirmishers and the helmets protected their head. The peltast (left) wears a helmet only for the head and instead of light armour a simple tunic with a belt holding a dagger. The peltast’s main weapons here is a set of javelins to throw at the enemy, and the wooden crescent shield with a pattern, for defines and guiding the javelin. The archer (right) is another version of one as  it does not wear a hat but an iron helmet showing the face; its weapons include the bow an arrows and a xiphos sword, ins tea of armour the archer wears a tunic covered with a cape and held by a belt also for protection.

3 types of Greek infantry
3 types of Greek infantry

However, shown here is another version of javelin men and archers of Greece, over here (my drawing) displays a Greek archer (left), a Thracian peltast (centre) and Greek cavalry soldier (right). The archer here is a more classic version of one, wearing no amror but a tunic, belt, and cape, and ins tea of a helmet a leather hat; its weapons are the same bow and arrows with the sword. The peltast (centre) is a different type of Greek soldier, this one is not fully Greek but Thracian (from Thrace, north-east Greece), wearing a distinct tunic and a pointed leather cap, holding simply javelins and as shield, the Thracians however specialised in javelin warfare. The cavalryman (on the right) is however not on a horse but has the exact helmet, spear, and sword as the Greek cavalrymen do; for armour it has the same leather armour with metal scales and a cape covering it.

III. Greek weaponry 

As I have described the army units of Ancient Greece, here is the complete set of weapons Ancient Greek soldiers carried at battle…

set of Greek weapons- part 1
Set of Greek weapons- part 1

Part 1 of my sketch of Greek weapons used in the Greek warfare shows a variety of weapons from swords, to javelins, daggers, and skirmishing equipment. This weaponry set shows 2 of the sam javelins, used by peltasts in skirmishes and below it the skirmisher’s shield. At the upper part, it shows 5 types of Greek swords, 5 of them are the xiphos swords an one is a kopis sword, an a sword sheathe; the 4 types of xiphos have different hilts, some wide, some narrow depending on the blade whether the edge curves wily or narrowly, however these Greek swords have the same function, usually for stabbing the enemy at close melee combat. The other one sword is the kopis, the curved one-bladed sword, its function is usually for Greek hoplites or citizen armies without a spear but a strong weapon for an instant kill. At the right is a Greek bow which archers use sometimes with the flame ability to shoot arrows; below are two types of daggers, one is smaller version of a xiphos, beside it is a sheathe and the other is a sharper one; beside the sharper dagger is a Greek sling for shock skirmishes but not much effect.

set of Greek weapons, part2
Set of Greek weapons, part 2

Here’s part 2 of the Greek weapons, showing a little less of it. Here it shows 2 types of Greek spears (dory) used as primer weapons for hoplites and 2 types of large round Greek shields used by hoplites having Greek patterns painted on metal. Also shown here is an extra xiphos sword design and a Greek war banner used as the army’s flag in battle. Also here are 2 types of Greek siege weapons, the mini-catapult and he ballista. However, siege weapons would be discussed more on my next post.

spartan_lambda_shield_sticker-rddadb085d43548ecbb4f686b2b14567d_v9waf_8byvr_512

So that would be all for now but to conclude the article, the thing about Greek warfare is that it comes in many forms and strategies of each Greek city-state may be different. So this may be a good lesson on Greek warfare no matter how long it is. Up next, see some more of Greek warfare as it will be on the Greek world empires!!

Military Sketches, Classical Roman Age (Individuals) part 2

Well, here’s another set of sketches of soldiers and historical designs and symbols continuing the previous one, about Renaissance 16th-17th century figures, here’s another individual sketches set. This time, it is all on military figures with their country’s symbol and designs as well as descriptions from the Classical Age in Ancient times, this time going backwards in time. Here are 7 individual sketches, one ancient rimes nation in it with a military figure as a sample unit of their army to visualize how the soldiers of each ancient kingdom or empire looked different from each other, rather than the sample soldier, there is the country’s seal in each of the 7, and a cultural design in each of based on the country. Each of the 7 sheets have an ancient kingdom, empire, or confederation in each from all over the known world in the ancient Classical days from 300BC-200AD; Rome, Macedonia (Greece), Parthia, Carthage, Egypt, Gaul, and Britain; basically in the time of the Romans. This is all basically set in Roman times, with Rome leading, however it is not all about Rome but descriptions of the powers of that time. The descriptions of each ancient kingdom or empire is widely mentioned rather than the description of the soldier. In particular, these sample soldier units and descriptions are based on each of the factions of the Total War game series, Rome Total War II, which I based it on inspired by the game I have played before…. (7 sketches drawn last March-April 2014, posted only now)

I. Rome- The Roman Republic/ Roman Empire, 300BC-200AD; “strength, honor, duty”

Rome- starting as a small city state in Italy, through time the power ruling the world in the Mediterranean, Europe, west Asia, and North Africa all in one empire based in Rome. Throughout the years, having wars defending themselves from outsider enemies leading them to conquer and expand through time defeating their enemies from nearby to distant lands, grew powerful through many years and centuries by military strength and victory. The republic turned full-time empire, known for political skills and military strength.

The Roman faction
The Roman faction

The Romans- Culture type: Roman (Latin), from Italy; Origins/ base: Rome, Italy (with a few Greek origins); System: Republican(500BC-30BC)/ Imperial(30BC-300AD); Skills: Building, Politics, military conquest and power, excellent armies.

Sample Soldier unit- Legionary, Praetorian cohort forces, or special forces. army class; high-ranked guardsman soldier or praetorian, blue color coded; weapons used are sword (gladius), dagger (pugio), javelin (pilum), and legionnaire’s heavy defense shield for shield-wall formation; armor used are heavy armor sets of Roman legionnaire chest-armor, leg protection, praetorian soldier’s helmet, and blue cape; in battle a heavy armed defensive soldier.

Others: Rome’s official seal of the eagle and wreath with the symbol SPQR, with the Roman helmet, sword, and shield, above the Roman imperial gold pattern and red background.

II. Macedonia- The Macedonian Greek Empire, 400-140BC; “glory, order, power”

Macedonia (Greece)- First the several Greek city states of Athens, Sparta, Corinth etc. then the Greek kingdom of Macedonia builds up to be the leading Greek power in a short period of time conquering all the lands of the east but lasting shortly too. Their world power empire then was divided into 3, Macedonia, Seleucid Empire, and Ptolemaic Egypt Empire minimizing the real power of Macedonia, which became one of the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great’s empire which he built earlier but divided to 3, Macedonia did not grow again to be a world power but lost its power and strength after time. When becoming smaller and weaker, the Macedonian kingdom lost Illyria and Greece but also allied with them but afterwards all of Macedonia and the nearby lands of Illyria, Thrace, and Greece were taken over by the growing empire of the Romans.

The Macedonian faction
The Macedonian faction

The Macedonians/ Greeks- Culture type: completely Greek; Origins/ base: Macedonia, kingdom in Greece; System: Republican (sort of democracy) however more of monarchy ruling the Macedonian kingdom/ empire (350-140BC); Skills: military power and conquest, having a strong army and navy having elephants, hoplites, heavy warships; secondary skills are alliances, diplomacy, with trade and commerce.

Sample Soldier unit- Greek Hoplite, or special forces infantry; type of soldier, special forces of the ancient Greeks (pike-man or spear-man); a high-ranked soldier unit in the Macedonian Greek army; weapon choices of Greek spear, sword, dagger, and hoplite’s round shield; armor used includes Greek hoplite cuirass armor, hoplite helmet, and protection for arms and legs; in battle, the close-combat melee warrior.

Others: The official Macedonian Empire seal of the sun or Apollo, the Spartan Greek shield and helmet, and above the pattern of the Greek chain.

III. Egypt- The Ptolemaic Egyptian Empire, 300-30BC; “legacy, independence, power”

The new Egyptian Empire- Egypt was once a powerful kingdom way back in the ancient days, however destroyed by the Persian Empire, but restored after Macedonian conquest. Egypt under the short Macedonian Empire became a succession kingdom to Macedonia once the empire was divided in 3; the other 2, Macedonian and Seleucid Empire, Egypt was the 3rd becoming the Ptolemaic Empire, it grew even more powerful and progressive than Macedonia. This restored Egyptian empire had a mix of both Greek and ancient Egyptian cultures, but more of Greek as it came directly from Macedonia, but having great progress. The Egyptians having a strong army made of Greek battle styles and units but a stronger navy as it is located in the south-east of the Mediterranean, based in Alexandria. It was in full power with the navy and trade but later on, it ended up being defeated and fully taken over by Rome.

The Egyptian faction
The Egyptian faction

The Ptolemaic Egyptians- Culture type: Greek (formerly Egyptian but not existing); Origins/ base: Egypt, Macedonia; System: kingdom/ empire (300-30BC); Skills: Naval power with powerful navy, outstanding army of Greek skills, hoplites, skirmishers, elephants, cataphract cavalry; skills also include building, shipping, and trade.

Sample Soldier unit- Egyptian light infantry peltast; soldier type, skirmisher javelin men, or missile infantry, middle-ranked soldier; weapon choices of curved sword, skirmisher light shield, throwing javelins set; armor used include Egyptian light armor, skirmisher light helmet, and protection for arms and legs; in battle, a range fighter, missile throwing.

Others: The Ptolemaic Egypt empire’s official seal of the eagle and blue background, an Greek-Egyptian helmet, a light shield, above the traditional Egyptian pattern.

IV. Parthia- The Parthian Empire from the east, 200BC-200AD; “tolerance, justice, profit”

The Parthian/ Persian Empire- Parthia was once before a small province within the Persian Empire in the east then ruled by the Seleucid Empire, the other succession kingdom to Macedonia. Parthia then rose up and fought the Seleucid Empire for their independence and crushed the Seleucid Empire beginning to expand Parthian territory controlling a big part of the east (Parthia, Persia, Babylon, and Syria. Parthia grew to the leading power in the east by conquests and by their wealth and riches which they have a lot of. Was later, the rival of the world power Roman Empire that bordered it in terms of wealth and power, fought wars after each other with Rome, though Rome never conquered them or Parthia never conquered the Romans. Parthia though has eastern origins and traditions but has a mix of Greek and eastern cultures as they tolerated all cultures; they remained dominant in power and Rome never conquered them.

The Parthian faction
The Parthian faction

The Parthians- Culture type: Eastern; Origins/ base: Parthia, Persia; System: kingdom/ empire (200BC-200AD); Skills: military conquest and power, having different types of units like cataphract units, spear-men, cataphract cavalry, cavalry archers, camel cavalry; also known for gold and wealth, trade, farming, and hunting.

Sample Soldier Unit- Parthian Cataphract cavalry; soldier type, heavy armed cavalry (though seen without horse), both archer and special forces with multi-weaponry, a high-ranking special force cavalry soldier; weapon choices of Persian sword, rectangular shield, cavalry spear, with a bow and arrows too; armor used includes Parthian cataphract heavy armor with chain-mail, heavy helmet covering face, with cavalry soldier’s cape; in battle, the type that uses any battle style especially in cavalry, both close-combat, spearing, and archery

Others: The Parthian empire’s official seal of the Persian lion, a Persian sword and shield, and above the Persian ornate pattern

V. Carthage- The Carthaginian Republic, 500-140BC; “democracy, commerce, faith”

The Carthaginian Republic- Carthage is based in the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, where Tunisia is today, however Carthage’s origins are from Phoenicia; started out as a Phoenician-Greek colony but grew to power in the Mediterranean.Carthage, just like Rome was a republic not a monarchy, it grew by naval power and strength; it conquered lands around it in the Mediterranean, all over North Africa, Spain, and parts of Italy with their powerful navy but also by trade. Carthage took trade and business more seriously than war and especially their ships, though their empire expanded by shipping and military conquests using Greek army units and elephants. Soon became Rome’s imperial rival and fought the series of the Punic Wars with Rome, at the end was defeated and destroyed by the Romans. Known for commerce, trade, and battle strategies.

The Carthaginian faction
The Carthaginian faction

The Carthaginians- Culture type: Phoenician (Greek-like race); Origins/ base: Carthage, North Africa (originally from Phoenicia; System: Republic (Democracy), around 800Bc-146BC; Skills: navy, shipping, trade, businesses, and military conquest and strategies using elephants, hoplites, skirmishers in battle.

Sample Soldier unit- Carthaginian Hoplite (Legionnaire); soldier type, light infantry skirmisher, middle-ranking hybrid hoplites using skirmishing weapons instead of spear; weapon choices of curved sword, hoplite skirmisher light shield, and set of javelins; armor used is light leather protection armor, over chain-mail, skirmisher helmet, and arm and leg pads, with cape; in battle, a range fighter or skirmisher, uses throwing skills

Others: The official seal of the Carthaginian Republic (from Rome Total War II) using a Phoenician symbol, below a Carthaginian helmet, and above a pattern of waves representing the sea, what Carthage has and controls.

VI. Gaul- The Gallic Tribes Confederacy, ?800BC-50BC; “belief, dignity, power”

The Gaul Confederacy- Gaul was not one kingdom or empire but a set of tribes in the same area, modern day France ruled by different kings and warlord/ generals growing to a powerful confederacy of the tribes that advanced towards areas around it and attacked them. Gaul however is not a common barbaric state but a more advanced and powerful one with full Celtic origins but with traces of Greek and Roman origins too making them the most advances and sophisticated tribes of the part of Europe, they are actually just a little bit more backwards version of the early Romans and people in Italy. The Gauls are strong in battle and have armies with strategies but some times disorderly but having strong soldiers and weapons, with that they ended up having conquests and wars with Rome, Spain, going as far as Carthage, even to Greece by massive invasions; they have skills in crafting, farming, and cavalry rather than being savage tribes. The Gauls fought many wars with the Romans since 200BC and lost some land to them, Gaul was fully conquered by Roman general Julius Caesar and the Romans by 50BC, the Gauls remained and afterwards had a powerful alliance with Rome.

The Gallic faction
The Gallic faction

The Gauls- Culture Type: Barbarian (not completely with Greek and Roman traces); Origins/ base: Gaul (France), partly from Italy and Aegean Greece; System: Feudal, ruled by chieftains and warlords (?800-50BC); Skills: war and conquest, military strength and invasions, crafting, cavalry, farming, trade.

Sample Soldier unit- Gallic Warrior, heavy infantry; melee fighting warrior, high-ranking in Gallic troops; weapon choices of heavy great-sword, Gallic shield, sometimes uses battle-axe; armor used are Gallic helmet, chain-mail armor, and Gallic green tunic and cape; in battle, a close-combat melee soldier.

Others: The Gallic tribes seal of the red wild boar and green background, a barbarian axe and shield, above the Gaul green and red pattern.

VII. Britain- The British (Celtic) tribes Confederacy, ?800BC-50AD; “iron, conquest pride”

The Celtic Confederacy- Britain back in the time of the Romans, before being conquered was not one kingdom or empire but an island made of several barbarian warrior tribes. The Celtic or British tribes from Britannia are a confederation of tribes around the large island ruled by warlord chieftains and have a druid culture. The tribes, like the Iceni are brave, warlike, and strong warriors having an army of frenzied warriors and mostly infantry. As an iron age nation, the British Celts have strong skills in iron and crafting weaponry as well as survival and hunting skills. The British tribes later fought wars with Rome and until 40’s AD, they were conquered by the Romans under Emperor Claudius I, but remained British tribes but sometimes revolted against the Romans, soon the British Celts became Romanized.

The Briton faction
The Briton faction

The Britons- Culture type: Barbarian; Origins/base: the Island of Britain; System: Feudal, tribes ruled by warlords and chieftains; Skills: war, skirmishing and charging, iron smiting, crafting, hunting, warrior infantry with blue painted warriors and chariots, survival skills

Sample Soldier Unit- Celtic tribes warrior, heavy infantry melee and missile infantry (special forces); high-ranking warrior in British tribes; weapons used include javelins, Celtic patterned long-shield, barbarian short-sword, heavy battle-axe; armor used include chain-mail, Celtic sheets and fur (although not supposed to wear chain-mail or blue tunic but shirtless and just fur and sheets), Celtic warrior bronze helmet, blue cape, protections for arms and legs; in battle, a type for frenzied or shocked charging as it is high with blue war paint, melee fighting, and missile throwing infantry warrior.

Others: The Iceni British tribes official seal of a deer with blue background, Celtic war-axe with blue patterned shield and Celtic wool sheets, above a Celtic tribal pattern.

VIII. Germania- The German (Cherusci) tribes Confederacy, ?800BC-20AD“blood, nobility, courage” 

The Germanic tribes- These tribes from the dense woodlands of Germany, northeast of Gaul, the Cherusci in particular is a tribe part of many tribes found in Germany with similar languages and beliefs. The confederation of the barbarian German tribes are ruled by different warlords or war chiefs having fierce and warlike warriors, most skilled in ambush tactics. The German warriors are lightly armed only with few swords and axes with either round, hexagonal, or rectangular wooden shields and also barely armoured, some of them have chain-mail or sometimes just cloth or fur but they are masters in performing surprise attacks by throwing missiles or shooting arrows from above the trees or behind bushes, the warriors are also skilled in doing berserk charges against the enemy. The Germanic tribes live in thick forests beyond the Rhine river, east of Gaul, some have been easily conquered by the Romans in the many years of the German campaigns, sometimes it was impossible for the Romans to beat the Germans’ surprise attacks, and also some of the distant German tribes to the east have never been conquered by the Romans.

The Germanic faction
The Germanic faction

The Germanic tribes- Culture type: Barbarian; Origins/ base: the German woodlands; System: Feudal, tribes ruled by war chiefs; Skills: war, metalwork, hunting, ambush tactics (shock charge, skirmishing, berserk warriors)

Sample Soldier Unit- Germanic tribal berserk warrior (heavy infantry); melee berserk warrior, high ranking soldier in the tribal units; weapons used include berserkers’ war-axe, barbarian short sword, a dagger, and large wooden hexagonal shield; armour used includes animal skin (a bear) over a bronze helmet, chain mail shirt over red tunic, belts and and suspenders to carry weapons and shield, also German tribal pants and boots; in battle, a melee type warrior skilled in performing berserk shock charges at the enemy by striking with the axe first and close combat with the sword and shield.

Others: The Germanic Cherusci tribes official seal at the upper-right, in the lower-right the traditional Germanic tribes war0axes and a round shield, above a traditional Germanic tribal pattern.

This is all for now of my Rome Total War II inspired soldier sketches postcards, it was quite a history lesson of the others kingdoms and empires from the time of ancient Rome. Hope you’ve learned something after this long discussion though it may be interesting. Anyway, this another set of my military drawings postcards but this one had a bit more of description and detail of the ancient world, this is all for now, goodbye!