Ancient Warfare Magazine III.2

Ancient Warfare III.2

Ancient Warfare III.2

“Alexander’s Funeral Games” is the (not very original) title of the last issue of Ancient Warfare. Its theme is warfare among the Successors. It is introduced by Bob Bennett and Mike Roberts, who give an overview of the endless campaigning that is remarkable for its clarity. Duncan Campbell tells essentially the same story, although he focuses on Demetrius Poliorcetes; it is a fine piece, as I have come to expect from this author.

Konstantin Nossov and Joseph Pietrykowski describe how the Successors fought. The first describes Hellenistic fortifications in an article about Philo of Byzantium, who dedicated a manual on poliorcetics to Ptolemy III Euergetes; the second deals with armies and tactics. Michael Park focuses on the battle of Gabiene, while, concentrating on an even smaller subject, Christian Koepfer describes the sarissa, the heavy lance of the Macedonian phalanx.

Demetrius Poliorcetes (Antikensammlung, Berlin)

Demetrius Poliorcetes (Antikensammlung, Berlin)

There are some splendid illustrations in this issue: Vladimir Golubev made several beautiful drawings of Hellenistic fortifications, and Hellenistic soldiers were painted by Igor Dzis and Johnny Shumate. I was unable to discover who made the frontispiece – it is not even mentioned in the “On the cover” series. (It’s Shumate, BTW.)

Was there something I missed? Yes: the economy. Scholars like Košelenko, Galataÿ, and Golenko (below) have proved that the amount of precious metal that Alexander had captured in Susa and Persepolis was exactly sufficient to pay for the armies of the Successors until 301. In other words, Ipsus was the final battle not because it was decisive, but because all money had been spent. In the next years, Seleucus Nicator declined to go to war to Ptolemy Soter and things appear to have become a bit more quiet, the only dynamic element being the adventurer Demetrius.

Seleucus Nicator

Seleucus Nicator

Personally, I would like to know more about the economic base of ancient warfare and social attitudes towards violence. Some of the articles in Ancient Warfare have in the past addressed this subject (e.g., an article on the portrayal of mercenaries in Greek comedies), but in my opinion, this may be a bit more. But that’s just a minor point of criticism; this issue was, as always, nice to read.

As always, Ancient Warfare has some articles unrelated to the main theme. This time, Svenja Grosser has a fine article on amphitheaters for gladiatoral shows near military bases, while Raffaele D’Amato describes a navy carpenter, whose dead body was found near Herculaneum (beautiful drawing by Graham Sumner). Murray Dahm continues his series “Be a General” with his second article on Vegetius, and this issue ends with five pages of reviews.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed this issue; and if you haven’t got a subscription yet, you can go here.


  • François de Callataÿ, “Les trésors achéménides et les monnayages d’Alexandre” in Revue des Études Anciennes 91 (1989) 259-276
  • V.K. Golenko, “Notes on the coinage and currency of the early Seleucid state,” in: Mesopotamia 28 (1993) 71-167

5 Responses to Ancient Warfare Magazine III.2

  1. bertie007 says:

    “Decisive” is not a word that really comes to mind with the great majority of the battles of the Diadochoi. Shifting alliances, the eye to the main chance and the object of not allowing one the grand prize defined most. Coropedium could, at a pinch, be described as decisive: septuagenarian Seleucus had the empire, less Egypt, at his fingertips. What Philadelphos would have done – had not his “estranged” (and strange) brother Keraunos killed the victorious king – makes for interesting speculation. I doubt he had the forces to withstand the assault that will have followed his refusal to acknowledge Seleucus as the basilieus of empire.

    The economics of war in the Diadoch kingdoms is thoroughly intertwined with the economics of those kingdoms. More importantly, the produce of successful wars became a great enabler of the Hellenistic kingship. Reward for support, of the king’s philoi, was part and parcel of the reasons for going to war. From Philip through Alexander and down to his marshals war was acquisitive as much as it ever was defensive. It is no great surprise that the sources are replete with references to the philoi of the kings or aspirants to such kinship. Antigonus Monophthalmus is many a time described as promising rewards and presents to his philoi in his endeavours to gain empire from 318 onwards.

    As to Ipsos, there likely also exists the possibility of lack of will following the climactic battle. Antigonus’ “empire” is described as earning him some 11,000 talents annually. I’d suspect that lightening coffers may have filled readily enough given time. More so for Lysimachus who had enough on his hands establishing a firm control of the regions he netted post Ipsos. The revenues of Egypt were fantastic even to the ancients. I can’t recall the number given though.

  2. I can’t recall the number given though.

    14,800 talents during the reign of Philadelphus (Porph., FrGrH 260F2)

  3. bertie007 says:

    That’s it. And, from memory, that leaves out the corn taxes?

  4. If I recall correctly, it leaves out the income derived from selling corn; anyhow, it means that Ptolemy Philadelphus had more income than 14,800 talents.

  5. bertie007 says:

    A rather well-off fellow.

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