WAR OF THE ROSES ENDS AT BLOODY BOSWORTH

On 22 August 1485 the War of the Roses reached a bloody climax at Bosworth Field. Here, Richard III, England’s most controversial king, defended his crown against the Lancastrian champion, Henry Tudor.

The thirty-year long Wars of the Roses was a dynastic struggle between rival branches of the ruling royal family of England, the Plantagenet. These two Houses, cadet branches of the Plantagenet, were descended from sons of the prolific Edward III: the House of York, whose symbol was the white rose, and the House of Lancaster, represented by the red.

After the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1461 and the subsequent execution of the Lancastrian king, Henry VI, the war seemed to have come to close. The Yorkist leader Edward IV was firmly in command of his kingdom; and would rule undisturbed till his death in 1483. However, Edward left as heir his son Edward, not yet thirteen years old. His younger brother, Richard of Gloucester was named as guardian for the young prince and Lord Protector of the Realm.

The War of the Roses raged across the map of Britain for 30 years, decimating the nobility of England.

Throughout his brother’s reign (and the struggle for Yorkist victory that established it) Richard of Gloucester had always been the capable, trusted, and loyal lieutenant. As Warden of the North he had proven himself an able captain; successfully campaigning against the Scots, temporarily occupying Edinburgh and capturing the mighty fortress of Berwick in 1482. But as Lord Protector for his young nephew, King Edward V, Richard quickly found his authority challenged by his brother’s widow, the Queen Mother Elizabeth Woodville and her ambitious family.

In the brief struggle for power that followed, Richard outmaneuvered the Woodvilles and took custody of both the young king-to-be and his brother, Prince Richard. The two princes were lodged in the Tower of London; then still used as a royal residence as well as a prison for the most important of prisoners. Over the next month, the boys coronation was postponed; while rumors were circulated that the marriage of Edward IV to Elisabeth Woodville had been illegal. The prince was ultimately disinherited, and on 25 June, an assembly of Lords and Commons declared Richard to be the legitimate king; later confirmed by act of parliament.

Thus began the reign of Richard III, perhaps England’s most controversial king.

The displacement of his brother’s son and heir alienated some supporters of the House of York. The disappearance of the two princes in the tower and rumors of their murder (later confirmed) further tainted Richard’s reign with the charges of usurpation and regicide.

Though there is no evidence that Richard was a “bad king”, division within the kingdom invited adherents of the House of Lancaster to plot a renewal of the War of the Roses. Taking advantage of the disaffection, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, scion of the Lancastrian dynasty, landed in Wales on August 7, 1485 with a force of French mercenaries.

Wales was a traditional Lancastrian stronghold; and this combined with Henry Tudor’s half-Welsh ancestry allowed him to gather to his standard a sizable force of Welsh troops and remnants of the Lancastrian cause. Welshmen comprised the largest part of his forces; with few, in fact, being English.

Though inexperienced at war, Henry had for advisor and commander the veteran warrior,John de Vere, Earl of Oxford; who had commanded the Lancastrian rightwing at the Battle of Barnet. While he could expect to be outnumbered by the Royal forces Richard would bring to bear, Henry had an “ace up his sleeve”: His mother’s husband, Thomas Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby and Lord of (the Island of) Man.

Stanley was a veteran courtier and intriguer. He was married to Henry Tudor’s formidable mother, Margaret Beaufort; a descendant herself of Edward III on her father’s side. She was a confirmed and dedicated Lancastrian, and for years had been preparing the way for her son to raise the standard of the Lancastrian cause.

Portrait of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (the future Henry VII) as a younger man.

As Henry Tudor marched through Wales, he was in communication with his stepfather; who through the agency of his brother, Lord Sir William Stanley, Chamberlain of Chester and north Wales, opened the way through the countryside to Tudor’s Army. Richard, of course, was not ignorant of Lord Stanley’s connection to his enemy; and of the Stanley’s complicity in Tudor’s invasion. His relations with Lord Stanley were strained and had been for over a decade; the enmity between the two erupting into violence in 1470. Wary of Stanley, Richard took his son, Lord Strange, as hostage to discourage him from joining Henry openly.

Meanwhile, Richard called the lords of the realm to assemble under his banner at Leicester on the 16th of August. Many of Richard’s vassals failed to answer the royal summons. The chief lords who did join their king were John Howard Duke of Norfolk, and his son-and-heirThomas, Earl of Surrey; and Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. While the Howards were loyal to Richard and the Yorkist cause, Percy is thought to have harbored deep jealousy of Richard dating from his time as Warden of the Northern Marches (a title usually held by a Percy) and the renown Richard had gained in his Scottish campaign. Both Percy and Howard held chief commands during the coming battle: Norfolk commanding the Yorkist Vanguard, and Northumberland the Rearguard/Reserve. On August 20, the royal army, with the arms of England flying overhead alongside Richard’s personal standard, displaying a White Boar; marched from Leicester to intercept Henry’s army, on route to London from Shrewsbury.

Three armies converged on a field south of Bosworth Market, 13 miles west of Leicester: Richard’s, numbering 10,000; Henry Tudor’s army, numbering 5,000; and that of the Stanley brothers, some 6,000 strong. The Stanleys had been in close communication with Tudor, and were ostensibly his ally. However, on the day of battle, they refused to declare themselves one-way-or-another; making the Battle of Bosworth Field a three-sided affair.

Richards took up a position on Ambion Hill, a strong position dominating the battlefield. Elevation aside, it was protected (or constricted, as events would show) by a marsh in the low ground to the left. Richard’s deployment is disputed: Norfolk’s “Van” may have been in the front or on the right of the Yorkist forces; with Richard, commanding the “Main” behind this (or in the center) at the crest of the hill. Northumberland deployed his 4,000 man “Rear” behind or to the left of Richard’s “Main”.

In the plain below, the Lancastrian forces deployed; with Oxford commanding Henry’s forces. Oxford drew his men up in one large “Battle”. The accounts do not make it clear if his forces were primarily dismounted, or if some part of his line (presumably the flanks) were cavalry. Considering that most of his forces were Welsh spearmen and French mercenaries (some of which may have been members of the French king’s “Scots Guards”) it is likely that most of the Lancastrian force was infantry. Only Henry’s bodyguards were certainly mounted.

On the flank of the battle, the Stanleys deployed their forces on rising ground. All attempts by Richard or Henry to command them to declare themselves were met with silence or prevarication.

The battle unfolded Oxford advancing the Lancastrian forces towards Ambion Hill in one body; his right-wing protected by the marsh. An exchange of arrows and even cannon fire followed. (Richard had an unknown number of guns, ranging in caliber from 30mm up to 94mm. Based upon the number of projectiles excavated at the battle site, at least 10 such guns were present. It is unknown if Henry Tudor had any guns at his disposal.)

Norfolk’s vanguard then descending Ambion Hill and engaged Oxford’s force. In the fierce melee that followed, men hacked at each other with a variety of weapons; the most popular being pole-axe or pole-hammer, battle axe, mace, and long sword. Norfolk force was getting the worst of the melee, and Norfolk, who was slain in or after the battle, may have fallen at this stage. Richard ordered Northumberland to bring up his reserve and join Norfolk’s hard-pressed men.

The Knightly-class warriors of the late Middle Ages were superbly armored in mixture of plate and mail. Since the 100 Years War, Men-at-Arms had often chosen to fight on foot, since quality infantry were scarce and to spare the mounts from the lethal firepower of the longbow. During the War of the Roses, the Men-at-Arms fought either mounted or on foot as circumstances dictated. To defeat the high-quality armor of their opponents, they often used pole-weapons (as carried by the figure here), war-hammers(5), maces(6) and battle axes. The latter was Richard III’s chosen weapon at Bosworth. The sword(7-12) was still the signature weapon of the knightly-class.

For reasons unknown, Percy failed to move. Historians argue to this day wither this was treachery or simply an inability of Norfolk to maneuver his force through Richard’s own “Main” or around the marsh to the left. In either case, Richard was forced to commit his own mainbody into the melee to bolster Norfolk’s flagging forces.

Still Tudor’s Welshman held firm. Richard, growing frustrated, decided to finish the issue with a charge of his household knights, directly at Henry himself, visible beneath his banner behind Oxford’s battling forces. It is likely that a gap had opened in the mass of battling men on the plain, and Richard saw this gap as an opportunity to strike directly at his rival.

Charging at the head of his knights, Richard reached Henry’s banner. His lance struck Henry’s standard-bearer, Sir William Brandon, throwing him from his horse and killing him outright. Riding on, Richard unhorsed Henry’s giant bodyguard, Sir John (later Baron) Cheyne , a renown jousting champion; allegedly with the broken stub of his lance. (Cheyne was a massive man of renown strength, called in his day “The Vigorous Knight”. Based upon a 21″ thighbone found in his tomb at Salisbury Cathedral, his height is estimated to be 6 feet 8 inches; a true-life version of George R.R. Martin’s fictional character Ser Gregor Clegane, known as the Mountain“.)

Richard threw down his broken lance and drew a battle axe, his intention now to hack Henry Tudor down. At that very moment, however, the Stanley’s made their move.

Their previously uncommitted force now charged into the flank of Richard’s household knights. In the sudden press, Richard was separated from Henry; and along with his knights was driven back into the marshy ground on the flank.

Outnumbered, Richard’s group fought valiantly but were cut down. Richard hacked left and right with his battle axe, shouting “Treason!” with each blow.

His horse mired in the soft ground, Richard was forced to continue the fight on foot. Here Shakespeare had him shouting, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” However, accounts indicate that Richard’s followers offered him their own mounts so he could escape. But Richard refused to quit the field. All chroniclers agree that Richard fought bravely to the end. Eventually overwhelmed, the last Plantagenet King of England died fighting.

(On September 12, 2012 skeletal remains were identified as Richard III. The remains showed some 10 wounds, evidence of Richard’s fearsome last fight. An arrowhead was found embedded in the spine. Perhaps this wound, inflicted by an enemy archer at close range, brought the battling King to his knees. The killing blow seems to have been a blow to the back of Richard’s head by a halberd or bill. Almost certainly Richard’s helmet had been knocked off first; as the blow cleaved very deeply into his skull and through the lower brain. Several postmortem wounds were also inflicted upon the dead king’s body.)

On news of their king’s death, the Yorkist forces still fighting broke, leaving the Lancastrians victorious.

Henry was crowned as Henry VII, on the battlefield.

Northumberland and Norfolk’s son, Surry were both subsequently arrested, but eventually pardoned by Henry and restored to their estates and offices. The Howards served both Henry VII and Henry VIII loyally. Henry Percy was lynched by a northern mob 8 years later; supposedly in revenge for his betrayal of his king at Bosworth.

Richard’s body was taken to Leicester, where it was displayed naked for several days. It was eventually buried in the church at Greyfriers Abbey. In 1536, the Abbey was one of many destroyed by Henry VIII. The location of Richard’s body was lost till recovered in 2012 at the site of Greyfriers.

Along with the signs of trauma noted above, the skeleton refutes the description of Richard given to posterity by Shakespeare. He had no withered arm, and was not a hunchback. He did, however, have scoliosis of the spine; which would have led one shoulder being higher than the other, and a lifetime of discomfort.

The victor, Henry Tudor, cemented his relationship with a marriage to Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV and Richard’s niece. By this marriage the Houses York and Lancaster were united in his heir, Henry VIII; bringing to England a much needed century of peace under the Tudor Dynasty.

Statue of Richard in the Gardens of Leicester Cathedral; just yards from his final resting place within.

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 7)

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Long before George R.R. Martin penned his tale of war, intrigue and treachery the ancient world was scene to its own version of The Game of Thrones.

(This is the seventh in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadochi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. The previous installment, Part 6, can be found here  . Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

HOSTILITIES BEGIN

The First War of the Diadochi had begun. It pitted Perdiccas against an alliance of Antipater, Craterus, and Ptolemy.

In light of Ptolemy’s actions, seizing Alexander’s body and allying with his enemies in Europe,  Perdiccas was forced to reassess his plans. Though he had at his command the Royal Army, and could defeat any other force brought against him by any coalition of satraps; he was now forced to fight on two fronts.

Moving into Europe as he’d planned, and declaring himself king, was out of the question. For one thing, his enemies Antipater and Craterus had a powerful fleet, commanded by White Cleitus; which could block passage across the Hellespont or (further east) at the Bosporus. Even were he to be able to bring a fleet from Phoenicia to aid in crossing into Europe, Craterus and Antipater were supremely skilled generals, with a large and experience army. They knew the land more intimately than did he (Perdiccas had not seen Macedon or Greece since 334, when he’d crossed into Asia with Alexander’s invasion force), and had long-established relations with (or garrisons in) most all of the Greek and Macedonian cities.

They could be expected to maneuver and delay a decisive encounter till it was in their favor; or to buy time while their ally, Ptolemy, sallied forth from Egypt and created chaos and disaffection deep in his rear. Ptolemy, left to his own devices to run amok throughout the empire, might even sway more-and-more satraps in the heart of the empire to rise against Perdiccas as well.

Perdiccas’ (in consultation with his Synhedrion Philoi, his Counsel of Friends) decided to let Antipater and Craterus come to him in Asia for now; while eliminating the weakest member of the coalition, Ptolemy. This made good strategic sense. Let the “Europeans” cross into Asia, which would take time; while he secured his rear and the empire’s heartland by destroying Ptolemy. Then, gathering to his side the eastern satraps, he could return to Anatolia to deal with his other enemies.

Meanwhile, to delay Antipater and Craterus he gave his loyal philos, Eumenes (partial author of most of the current discord) instructions to interfere with Antipater and Craterus’ crossing into Asia; and delay them if they did. The wily Greek, still in Sardis, was given authority over the satrapies that had belonged to Leonnatus and Antigonas (Hellespontine and Greater Phrygia), Asander (Caria), and Menander (Lydia). The first of these satraps was dead; the rest either unreliable or openly in rebellion. This commission gave Eumenes command over most of western Anatolia.

However, Eumenes forces were limited to a small (unknown) number of Macedonians and what he could raise locally, from his own newly conquered satrap of Cappadocia and the Antatolian satrapies loyal to Perdiccas. To help Eumenes maintain their position in Anatolia, Perdiccas further instructed his willful and hotheaded brother, Alcetas, satrap of Pisidia; and Neoptolemus (possibly satrap of Armenia, though that is uncertain) to obey Eumenes, and join their forces to his.

Perdiccas also opened negotiations with the Aetolians; in an attempt to open a second front for his enemies in western Greece. In this he was successful: the following year, they would break the peace they’d made with Antipater and invade Thessaly; overpowering a Macedonian garrison along the way at Amphissa.

PERDICCAS’ EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGN

In early spring of 320, the Royal Army marched first to Cilicia, where Perdiccas arranged the government; removing partisans of Craterus. While there he learned that the various petty-kings of the island of Cyprus had made alliance with Ptolemy, and were besieging the loyal town of Marium. He arranged an expedition to go over to Marium’s relief, and take over the island; comprised of 800 infantry and 500 horse. Sosigenes of Rhodes was appointed as admiral of the fleet of 200 Phoenician ships that would convey the force to Cyprus; Medius of Larissa (who’d been a friend of Alexander’s, and at whose drinking party the late king had first become ill) to command the mercenary foot; and Aristonus the Bodyguard (who we have not heard of since Babylon following the death of Alexander) over-all commander of the expedition.

Diadachi 320 egyptian campaign

(To continue reading, go here)

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ADRIANOPLE: TWILIGHT OF THE LEGIONS

1362408On a hot and dusty plain eight miles from the Roman city of Adrianople, on August 9, 378 A.D., the elite field army of the Eastern Roman Empire and a tribal army of refugee Visigoths fought one of the most celebrated battles in western military history. The results would reverberate for centuries.

The Goths had been enemies of Rome for centuries.

Originating in Sweden (the southern region of which is to this day called East and West Gautland: “Gothland”), this Germanic nation had migrated in the early Christian Era onto the plains of western Ukraine and northern Romania. Under their greatest king, Ermaneric, the Goths created a powerful kingdom in the mid-4th century.

1362416The broad rivers of the Ukraine flow southward, draining into the Black Sea. Throughout the 3rd Century A.D., Gothic longships sailed down these alluvial highways, and from the Black Sea raided the civilized communities along its shores. Passing through the Bosporus and into the Aegean, they brought fire and sword to the ancient towns and cities of Greece and Asia Minor. Athens, Corinth, Argos, Olympia and Sparta: all felt the fury of the Goths. Troy and Ephesus on the coast of Asia were also sacked and pillaged. In the latter, the Great Temple of Diana, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”, was finally destroyed for all time.

1362413Romans living along the Aegean Coast might well have prayed for deliverance from the “furore Gothicnorum”, the fury of the Goths!

On land, the Goths were equally formidable. In 249 an army of Goths and other barbarian warriors under the Gothic king, Cniva, crossed the lower Danube; raiding into the Roman province of Moesia. After nearly 2 years, they were brought to bay by the Roman Emperor Decius, near the town of Forum Terebronii (modern Razgrad, Bulgaria). On swampy ground, the advancing Roman heavy infantry and cavalry bogged down; and were overcome by showers of Gothic javelins and arrows. Decius was killed, becoming the first Roman emperor to be slain in battle.

This defeat by the Goths made a deep impression on the Romans. And though the Gothic menace abated after their crushing defeat at the hands of the Emperor Claudius “Gothicus” at the Battle of Naissus in 269 A.D.; they remained a “boogie man” in the minds of later Romans.

Then, in the 4th Century of the Christian Era, a greater “boogie man” stormed out of the vast steppes of Central Asia: the Huns!

1362422These nomadic herdsmen had been driven from the borders of China centuries earlier by the Han Chinese. (It is the subject of a great deal of scholarly debate as to whether or not the Huns are the same people as those known in Chinese sources as the Xiongnu. To date there is no consensus on this question.) Over a century, they had drifted ever westwards, across the “sea of grass” that covers the Eurasian hinterland. Along their westward trek, they subjugated or displaced other tribes of nomads. In 370 (approximately), after subjugating the Alans, they entered the lands of the Gothic king, Ermaneric.

The Goths, whose armies were still primarily composed of javelin or bow armed infantry, were no match for the swift-moving Huns, armed with the powerful and deadly composite bow. Like all Asian steppe nomads, Hunnic warfare was a matter of herding or luring the enemy onto killing grounds, where they were worn down by swarms of horse archers. Once the enemy’s numbers were depleted or exhaustion had set in, the Huns closed with the enemy and finished him off with lance, sword, or lasso (which the expert Hun herdsmen used to rope and pull their enemies them from their horses; to be made captive or dragged to their deaths).

1362424The Gothic Kingdom of Ermaneric was overthrown, the old king committing suicide in despair. Rather than submit, the Gothic nation fled westward. Led by Fritigern, many found themselves refugees pushing against the Danube frontier of the Roman Empire.

In 376, the Roman authorities agreed to allow the Goths to take refuge within the Empire. The Romans were interested in settling these warlike people along the frontier province of Moesia, an area devastated by earlier Gothic raids. There they would repopulate the province and act as a buffer against future “barbarian” incursions. This arrangement was a common one the Romans employed throughout the empire, enlisting tribes as foederati: tribal warriors allowed to settle on Roman territory in return for military service….

(To continue reading, go here.)

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A HUMOROUS LOOK AT AMERICA’S MILITARY

marines-45153676275Deadliest Blogger takes a humorous look at the American military; through axioms, instructions, guidelines and various quotes.

“Aim towards the Enemy.”– Instruction printed on U.S. Army Rocket

“When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” -U.S.M.C. Training Bulletin

“Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground.” -U.S.A.F. literature

“If the enemy is in range, so are you.” Infantryman’s Journal

“A slipping trigger gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular with what’s left of your unit.” -Army’s Magazine of Preventive Maintenance.

(To continue reading, go here)

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THE AGE OF ARTHUR: PART EIGHTEEN

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Unique among the territories of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Britain succeeded in holding back and even reversing the tide of Germanic conquest for nearly two centuries. This was an age of heroes… It was the Age of Arthur!

This is the Eighteenth-part of our discussion of Britain in the 5th though the mid-6th Century A.D. It is a fascinating period, with the Classical civilization of Greece and Rome giving way to the Germanic “Dark Ages”; the sunset of Celtic-Roman culture in Britain.

(Read Part Seventeen here. Or start from the beginning, with Part One!)

THE HILL OF AGNED

In the previous chapter we examined Nennius’ tenth of Arthur’s battles, that at “the River Tribruit”. We built a case for that battle to have been fought on the River Forth, eight miles above Stirling; “Gateway to the Highlands” and site of William Wallace’s famous victory over the English. Arthur,  called north by his brother-in-law, King Lot; threatened by  a band of outlaws called the cinbin. “Cinbin” (or Cynbin) translates as “dog-heads”. They are led by a savage character named Garwlwyd (possibly synonymous with the figure known as Gwrgi Garwlwyd in the Welsh Triads).

From their lair along the marches between the British Kingdom of Gododdin and the Pictish Highlands, the Dog Heads raid into Gododdin, carrying off plunder and prisoners; two of which (a boy and girl) they supposedly eat daily!

Making common cause with an Angle pirate chief named Edlfled, the Dog Heads plan to converge  upon and capture Din Eidyn from land and sea.

As recounted in the previous chapter, Arthur and his 300 mounted Cymbrogi rush north from Cornwall, a distance of approximately 515 miles; and arrive in 10 days at Dùn Èideann (or Din Eidyn).  Joining with Lot’s forces, they move against Garwlwyd, camped at the crossing of the Forth at Tribruit (the Fords of Frew). In the resulting Battle of Tribruit/Tryfrwyd the Dog Heads are destroyed; though Garwlwyd may have escaped (to be later assassinated).

Meanwhile, unaware of Garwlwyd’s defeat, his Angle ally Edlfled has landed near Din Eidyn, some 46 miles to the southeast….

(To continue reading, go here!)

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 6)

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Long before George R.R. Martin penned his tale of war, intrigue and treachery the ancient world was scene to its own version of The Game of Thrones.

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(This is the sixth in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadochi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. The previous installment, Part 5, can be found here  . Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

KYNANE

Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, had married seven times and fathered at least 6 children. His first (or perhaps second[1]) marriage, contracted shortly after his accession to the throne in 359 was to an Illyrian princess, Audata daughter of Bardyllis. She took the royal queenly name, Eurydice; and was likely for a time Philip’s “queen”, not merely another wife. From this union was born his eldest child, a daughter: Kynane.

Perhaps taking after her “barbarian” Illyrian mother (and given the freedom of a first child by a proud and likely bemused father) Kynane practiced “the manly arts”. She was a fierce huntress and warrior, allegedly slaying an Illyrian queen in battle while accompanying Philip on campaign; perhaps in 344/3, when she was only 14! Had she been a boy, instead of a girl, she would likely have been groomed as Philip’s heir, and been as much a warrior as her famous brother. However, she was not; and was passed over in the succession by her half-brother Alexander, Olympias’ son, a year her junior.

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Though depicted in Greek art and featured in their mythology, true Amazon-like warrior women are exceedingly  rare in history. However Kynane, daughter of Philip and half-sister of Alexander the Great was one of these. As a young teenage girl, she slew an Illyrian warrior queen in battle. She raised her daughter to be a warrior and a huntress like herself.

At 17 or 18 she was married to her own cousin, Amyntas; whose father Perdiccas III(Philip’s elder brother) had been King of the Macedonians till he was killed by the Illyrians in 359. Too young to assume the throne on his father’s death, Amyntas had been passed over by the Macedonians in favor of his uncle. Philip had raised his nephew at court, and now married his eldest daughter to him. They had one child, a daughter, Adea; whose birth date is unknown.

Upon becoming king in 336, Alexander had his brother-in-law and cousin, Amyntas executed on charges of treason; along with two princes of Lynkestis (in the Macedonian highlands) and Philip’s last father-in-law, Attalus. Coins struck in Amyntas name (as Amyntas IV) may come from this time, and be proof of a plot by some to bypass Alexander and crown Amyntas as king after Philip assassination. In any case, Kynane found herself a widow. Alexander attempted to marry her to his friend,Langarus the ruler of the allied Agrianians; but this prince died before the wedding could be arranged. After this, Kynane retired to her own estates to raise her daughter; preferring to remain unwed as Amyntas’ widow. Her daughter Adea was brought up in the same “manly” way as was her mother. She was taught to hunt and to fight, and throughout her life was as bold and courageous as befitted one of her blood and rearing.

(To continue reading, go here.)

 

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SPARTAN INVINCIBILITY DESTROYED AT LEUCTRA, 371 BC

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A millennium-and-a-half before Frederick the Great, Epaminondas of Thebes changes the face of warfare with the Oblique Attack; and destroyed the myth of Spartan invincibility forever!

The Peloponnesian War indisputably established Sparta as the paramount power in the Greek World. Though that long conflict had been waged, ostensibly, by Sparta to free the Greek city-states of the Delian League from Athenian dominance; the Spartan victory merely replaced Athenian hegemony with Spartan.

Though superb soldiers, the Spartans were educationally and temperamentally ill-equipped to deal with the subtleties of statecraft and diplomacy necessary for managing an empire. Over the next 33 years following the end of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta faced sporadic challenges from the other leading Greek states; with coalitions forming against her and her interests. Of these, the Thebans were both the most implacable and the most dangerous.

Thebes had been an ally of Sparta against Athens; and had even pushed for the total destruction of that city after its surrender in 404 BC. However, the following year Thebes aided in the restoration of the Athenian democracy; rightfully perceiving a revived Athens as a counter-balance to Spartan power. Over the next two decades, she often found herself at odds with Sparta; culminating in defeat in the Corinthian War, after which her Boeotian League (through which Thebes exercised leadership over the other Boeotian cities) was dissolved. The crowning agony came in 382 BC, when a Spartan force treacherously seized and occupied the city; establishing once again a oligarchical government.

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Theban hoplites (drawing by James Carrozza*)

Three years later, the pro-Spartan government was overthrown by a coup, led by the dashing young Theban firebrand, Pelopidas and his friend, the philosopher-soldier,Epaminondas. A virulently anti-Spartan democracy was installed; and for the next eight years a desultory war was waged to drive the Spartan garrisons out of Boeotia and reestablish the Theban-dominated Boeotian League.

During this period Epaminondas and Pelopidas alternated command; training and improving the Theban forces. Pelopidas was particularly successful at leading small-unit operations; and in his hands the 300 strong Theban corps-de-elite, the Sacred Band became a formidable and professional body of soldiers, fully capable of facing the vaunted Spartan hoplites in battle. Skirmishing with the Spartans year-after-year, the Thebans both learned the Spartan’s method of making war; and lost their awe of Spartan military prowess.

This small cadre had started its existence as the citadel guard of the city; all chosen for their valor. Uniquely in Greek history, the entire corps was composed of homosexual couples; each man paired side-by-side with his lover….

(To continue reading, go here)

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