SPARTANS: ELITE WARRIORS OF ANCIENT GREECE 7

Greek_Galleys 1(To read Part 6, go here; or to start at the beginning, go here.)

The Battle of Mantinea in 418 BC was the largest hoplite battle of the Peloponnesian War. The one-sided Spartan victory over their rivals secured Spartan hegemony over the Peloponnesians; and confirmed their reputation as the foremost soldiers in Hellas.

The prime agent behind the anti-Spartan alliance that collapsed at Mantinea was the Athenian Alcibiades son of Cleinias. A kinsman of the late Athenian leader, the renown Pericles, Alcibiades was perhaps the most charismatic politician of his generation. He had wealth, wit, good looks and boundless ambition. While not a great public speaker, he was charming and persuasive in private conversation. Unfortunately for Athens and his own fortunes, he was also completely lacking in scruples; and his primary loyalty was to no one other than himself.

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Herm portrait of the young AlcibiadesFollowing the failure of his efforts to sabotage Spartan power in the Peloponnese, he began to champion another project; one that would thrust him into a position of great influence and responsibility in the Empire. In 415 BC, delegates from the Ionian/Elymian city of Segesta in Sicily requested Athenian support in their war against neighboring Selinus; asking for a force of 60 triremes, the cost of which they offered to pay for a year. Alcibiades very quickly became the champion for this proposed intervention in Sicily; arguing for a military expedition to not only aid Segesta, but for subduing the entire island!

This opening of a new war, when the war against Sparta and her allies was yet smoldering and likely to erupt anew was foolish in the extreme….

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ART OF WAR: HEROES OF TROY AND MYCENAE

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Much of our perception of history is influenced by the artists who have drawn and painted scenes from out of the past. This is the second in a series in which Deadliest Blogger looks at historical armies and warriors through the images artists have given us.

The Trojan War was a seminal event in both Greek and Roman history and legend; and few episodes in Classical mythology have attracted more attention from artists, writers, or filmmakers than this famous war.

In their immortal tales the epic poets Homer and Virgil describe the ten-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans; and the wanderings of the Trojan hero Aeneas and the refugees from Troy to Italy. While these tales were accepted as history by both the Greeks and the Romans; post-renaissance scholars largely dismissed them as myth. It was not till the work of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who did the initial excavations at both Hisarlik in Turkey (site of ancient Troy) and at Mycenae that the underlying truth behind the legends began to emerge. Since Schliemann, continuing archaeology has confirmed and expanded our knowledge of events first described by Homer. We now know that the site of Troy was continuously occupied over many centuries, and archaeologists have uncovered not one city, but many; each built on the ruins of the previous.

106-73-04-102 Map of Troy

Most scholars and archaeologists agree that Troy VII was the Troy of Homer.

The world of Homer’s heroes (as well as the other heroes of Greek “mythology”) was that of the late Bronze Age. Most scholars now place the Trojan War somewhere between 1260 BC and 1120 BC. This was a world…

(To continue go here)

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13 DAYS OF GLORY: THE ALAMO, 1836

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There are times when a defeat can become a triumph. Just as the heroic death of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae gave courage to the rest of Greece; so the last stand of a handful of brave Texians in a fortified Mission became a rallying cry for Texas’ independence: Remember the Alamo!

IN the predawn hours of March 6, 1836, the Mexican army of President and Generalissimo Antonio López de Santa Anna stormed the battlements of the Alamo; slaying the defending Texan garrison to a man.

This battle, though neither final or decisive, was the seminal moment in the Texas War of Independence. It bloodied the Mexican army and lent the Texans both a band of martyred heroes and an immortal rallying cry: “Remember the Alamo”!

 

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Following Santa Anna’s seizure of power and revocation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 in early 1835, the English-Speaking (mostly American) majority of Texans (called “Texians“, to distinguish them from the Spanish-Speaking “Tejanos”) revolted in the face of his dictatorial policies. American immigrants, originally invited by previous governments to settle in Texas as a counter to Comanche raids, were now the majority of the population; and brought with them the American distaste for tyranny. Expelling what few Mexican garrisons existed in the territory, the Texians began drafting a constitution for the new nation they envisioned; and building an army in preparation of Mexican reprisals.

Near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio) was an 18th century Spanish Mission. Abandoned at the end of that century, it was briefly turned into a garrison for Spanish troops; who gave it the name, “Alamo“. After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the Alamo was held by a Mexican garrison; till this force was expelled by Texians under the famous knife-fighter JamesJimBowie, a land-owning resident of San Antonio, in December of 1835.

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Bowie was at first ordered by the new Texian Army commander, Sam Houston, to dismantle the fort and retrieve the 19 cannons of various caliber left behind by the Mexicans. Instead….

(To continue reading, go here)

 

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GREAT CAPTAINS: ALEXANDER THE GREAT

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This is the next in a series of posts examining the “Great Captains” of military history. Unusual for Deadliest Blogger, this will be primarily in video format; posting compelling biographical material.

By every measure of generalship Alexander III of Macedon excelled all others, before and after. His performance set the bar by which all other generals have been measured ever since. In battle or in siege, he was ever victorious; leading his army in four very great battles and as many great sieges. He died at the young age of 32; having conquered the greatest empire to date, and second only to the that of the Mongols in extent…..

(To continue reading, go here)

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES

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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.

When Alexander the Great died in Babylon 323 BC, he left the greatest empire the world had yet seen with no clear successor. While both of his wives (Roxane the daughter of Oxyartes of Bactria; and Stateira , daughter of Darius) were pregnant, he had no (legitimate) children yet born; though a four year old son of his former mistress Barsiné, named Heracles, was claimed by some to be Alexander’s illegitimate son. Alexander had made no provision for what was to happen in the case of his death. For a ruler who habitually took unnecessary risks; leading his Army, literally, from the front this was particularly irresponsible. But it was completely in character for Alexander, who ever refused to acknowledge his own mortality.

(To continue reading, go here)

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GREAT WARSHIPS OF HISTORY: THE BISMARCK

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As Hitler prepared for World War II, he planned to interdict British shipping with both submarines (U-Boats) and surface raiders. Of these, the greatest and most celebrated was the Bismarck-class of battleships. Larger than any built by Europe during the war (though smaller than the largest Japanese and American Battleships)the Bismarck and its sister-ship, the Tirpitz caused great concern among Allied naval planners in the early years of the war in Europe.

Launched in February 1939, the Bismarck spent only eight months and one offensive operation at sea before being hunted-down by the British and so wounded its crew scuttled the great ship on May 27, 1941. But that single attempt by the Germans to slip past the Royal Navy in the North Sea and enter the North Atlantic caused near panic in Britain and led to one of the great naval chases in history; becoming the source of books, song and film….

(To continue reading, go here)

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THE AGE OF ARTHUR: PART THIRTEEN

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This is the Thirteenth-part of our discussion of Britain in the so-called Age of Arthur: 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”. It was the sunset of Celtic-Roman culture in Britain; it was the Age of Arthur!

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

ARTHUR’S NORTHERN CAMPAIGN

In the last few parts of our discussion, we have attempted to create a hypothetical reconstruction of Arthur’s rise to power; based in part upon clues found in the narrative of Nennius, the 9th century Welsh monk. In the 56th chapter of his  Historia Brittonum, Nennius speaks of twelve battles fought and won by Arthur; whom he calls dux bellorum (war leader or warlord) of the Celtic British:

At that time, the Saxons grew strong by virtue of their large number and increased in power in Britain. Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent. Then Arthur along with the kings of Britain fought against them in those days, but Arthur himself was the military commander [“dux bellorum”]. His first battle was at the mouth of the river which is called Glein. His second, third, fourth, and fifth battles were above another river which is called Dubglas and is in the region of Linnuis. The sixth battle was above the river which is called Bassas. The seventh battle was in the forest of Celidon, that is Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth battle was at the fortress of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried the image of holy Mary ever virgin on his shoulders; and the pagans were put to flight on that day. And through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the blessed Virgin Mary his mother there was great slaughter among them. The ninth battle was waged in the City of the Legion. The tenth battle was waged on the banks of a river which is called Tribruit. The eleventh battle was fought on the mountain which is called Agnet. The twelfth battle was on Mount Badon in which there fell in one day 960 men from one charge by Arthur; and no one struck them down except Arthur himself, and in all the wars he emerged as victor. And while they were being defeated in all the battles, they were seeking assistance from Germany and their numbers were being augmented many times over without interruption. And they brought over kings from Germany that they might reign over them in Britain, right down to the time in which Ida reigned, who was son of Eobba. He was the first king in Bernicia, i.e., in Berneich.

In previous installments, we have constructed a working hypothesis as to the locations and details of the first five of Nennius’ 12 battles of Arthur. We are now prepared to continue, with Nennius’ sixth and seventh battle.

Following his victories in Lindsey over the Angles, Arthur and his combrogi likely returned to Eboracum (York), the Elmet capital; to feast and celebrate their victory over the Angles. Perhaps while here word came of rebellion in the north.

(To continue, go here)

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