3 September 2009
Drawing from the Openbare Bibliotheek Brugge, manuscript 519
If I attend a meeting, and am listening to what is said, I will invariably doodle something in the margin of my notes. And when I am lecturing, I am not surprised to see people make little drawings of things I have mentioned. If you speak about, say, Herodotus‘ hippopotamus and the long western tradition of deliberately incorrect descriptions of that animal,* you will see a lot of students drawing hippos.
Medieval copiists couldn’t resist the temptation either. Their manuscripts often contain little drawings. Two weeks ago, one of the libraries of Bruges announced that an astronomer who was consulting a thirteenth-century manuscript of the Almagest of Ptolemy of Alexandria, had discovered two small portraits of the great astronomer. The ink is now a bit pale, but you can clearly see that the copiist has done his best, making a pretty, detailed picture of what he thought Ptolemy must have looked like. I think it is beautiful.
You can read more about it here (in Dutch) and download four photos here.
*The best one is, of course, T.S. Eliot’s Hippopotamus.
Leave a Comment » | ancient egypt, ancient greece, ancient history, ancient rome, belgium, medieval history | Tagged: Almagest, Bruges, Ptolemy | Permalink
Posted by Jona Lendering
20 April 2009
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)
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.
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 Comments | ancient greece, ancient history, ancient Iran, ancient persia, ancient turkey, military history, storia antica | Tagged: ancient warfare, Antigonus, Demetrius, Diadochi, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Successors | Permalink
Posted by Jona Lendering