Thursday, 17 August 2017

Procopius Revisited

Time for some more reflection.  First, I love the fact that Cameron's and Kaldellis' chapters bookend the book.  I also confess a great love - too strong? - for reading about how scholars came to their chosen topics/views.  Reading Cameron's discussion of how she came to Procopius were fascinating.  At the same time, I like Kaldellis' idea that more of us (those writing about Procopius) ought to say why we like reading him.  I admit in my own case I was influenced by three things.  I knew little about late antiquity (why did we cut off there?), but I started doing some background reading to bring myself up to speed.  One particularly influential book for me was Cameron's first edition of the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity. In that book, this fellow Procopius kept popping up.  While I don't remember what stood out, I do remember the sense that he seemed an intriguing figure who deserved closer attention.  I seem to recall too that some of the formative thinking about this took place on a stationary bike at the McMaster University athletic centre (circa 2001, 2002).

Second, I love these sorts of chapters/papers:  ones that highlight key aspects of a topic, some gaps in the scholarship, and avenues for future work.  More often than not, these are the ones that have the most scribbles in my copies.  Given my love for Roman military things, historiography things, and late antique things, it's no surprise that these chapters here really float my boat.

Third, I want to go back to a couple of points that both Cameron and Kaldellis have made (separate ones, more or less), which have given me much to think about.  One is Cameron's emphasis on narrative and storytelling, that I mentioned in my woe-is-me post (which also has me thinking:  what sorts of efforts should we make to publicize our books, and how can I make my work reach more people?).  Cameron notes that his narrative approach relates to writers of sixth century history as well as other types of Byzantine prose writing, like hagiography.  That's a fascinating idea, and I'm sure not wrong.  I remember coming across all sorts of useful discussion vaguely related to these comments in Clark's 2004 book, History, Theory, Text.  Maybe this is one avenue that deserves more exploration:  Procopius and hagiography.  After all, Procopius spends a lot of time characterizing a few individuals in his Wars, to say nothing of his Secret History.  In crafting his portraits of Belisarius, has Procopius adopted and adapted some of the techniques employed by hagiographers? 

Cameron also draws attention to Procopius' writing practices, especially with respect to what he chose to include and exclude.  I talked about this a bit, but I'll be touching on it even more in the sequel.  It seems to me that one of the hardest things to grasp (and it's almost certainly impossible) is why Procopius left things out, and one particular topic I'll be looking at in the book is recruitment.  I suspect that as work continues on this sequel, I might have to address quite regularly why things were left out:  did it suit his literary objectives somehow, is it a desire to make his work more palatable to his audience?  There's so much he likely did know, even the regularly military stuff I'm interested, that he doesn't discuss. 

Yeah, I seem to be trailing off so I'll move on to the next topic.  Cameron stresses that all three of Procopius' works are anchored in material life, while Kaldellis (following Turquois) highlights the materiality of Procopius' writing.  This is how he "structures, textures, surfaces, and fleshes out a world for us" (Kaldellis 2017:  265).  His point is that Procopius has produced a literary simulacrum of sixth-century experience, and he draws attention to a number of topics for which this might be true including weapons, wounds, and forts.  What I need to do, clearly, is read Turquois' thesis in its entirety and bear her conclusions in mind when looking at all the war stuff.  One current project, stemming from the grant, is on battle narrative in late antique classicizing historiography. It might be worthwhile to consider all this as I examine (or continue - it's well on its way) my intended subjects, Ammianus, Jordanes, Procopius, Agathias, and Theophylact.   As it happens, when it comes to open or pitched battle, Procopius might well be one of the weaker ones of the group.  I think, if anything, Agathias and Ammianus might be the strongest in this regard, though only time will tell (and more reading). 

Unfortunately now Cameron and Kaldellis have me wanting to write a third and fourth sequel of my Procopius book, the third on narrative techniques in the Wars as a whole (maybe narrative and character), the fourth on the materiality of warfare in Procopius.  But then I'll never do any of these other things.  Maybe I could combine the two into my eventual study of Agathias?  If nothing else, this book has so far reminded me why Procopius might still be one of my favourite topics.  It's also been a very challenging year or three professionally, and it's stimulating discussions like these that keep me going.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Monograph Do-over

I've been reading some of the chapters, particularly the opening and closing sections, in Lillington-Martin and Turquois' new edited volume on Procopius, and a few things have jumped out at me, much as I suspected they would.  For one, it's a bit disappointing my book came out as late as it did, as the gestation period of the edited volume meant that no one really had the chance to digest what I had to say.  On the other hand, had the edited volume come out before the book, there's every chance I might have seriously considered tweaking (to put it mildly) some of the book to respond to the interesting points that have been made.  One other, general observation:  some of the avenues for future research proclaimed in this book I have already embarked upon.

Let's begin with the first point.  A couple of contributors (Whitby and Kaldellis) draw attention (or at least refer in passing) to the heroic, even Homeric, character of the Gothic War narrative, especially as it applies to the siege of Rome (537/538).  I discuss all this in detail in the book (chapter 4).  Somewhat frustratingly, I'd initially stumbled across this character to the narrative back at the start of the PhD in 2006.  But things being what they are, Hornblower managed to comment on it before I did, at least in print, owing to the publication of his contribution to the Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare.  Still my chapter, a revised version of what was in the original PhD, discusses this in detail. 

Indeed, Kaldellis (2017:  261) notes that Procopius' "coverage has breadth and detail in the right proportions as a military historian".  That, in a nutshell, summarizes what I argue on the book, though my focus is more narrowly on battle.  To complicate things, the follow-up, or sequel (which I've discussed regularly in this blog) as I'm thinking about it, will look at this more broadly, though more on this a bit later.

Another point that Cameron, Van Nuffelen, and Kaldellis draw attention to (to some degree or other) is the relationship between author and text.  On the one hand, there's caution about how much we can take an author at his word (Cameron, Kaldellis).  On the other, Van Nuffelen notes scholars have hardly ever heeded the advice of literary scholars that author and text are two different things.  I did - and had planned to do more of this in the monograph.  My desire to do so, however, was regularly tempered (by others) at the various submission/revision stage, such that I ended up including a background chapter (one that I'd planned to add to the end - after the reader had seen what I had to say about the text). 

The narrative structure of Procopius' works features too, unsurprisingly.  There's a sense that more could be done on this.  Cameron (2017:  15) identifies this as an approach that "seeks to analyse the techniques by which narrative is constructed" and highlights his techniques of narrative and storytelling , while Kaldellis (2017:  261) says that Procopius' "ontology of action" remains to be studied.  Although my focus was narrower (combat), this, again, is precisely what my book does.  I ask (or answer), how does Procopius tell the story of battle, and what sort of narrative techniques does he employ?  See, for instance, the second sections of my second, third, and fourth chapters.  It involves bringing some narrative theory into the discussion, though also hints of rhetoric and classicism, among other things. 

On the other hand, doubt is cast on the value of genre in understanding a text.  Admittedly, I stressed the importance of genre in understanding how Procopius describes and explains combat.  I even went so far as to claim that Procopius was constrained by his chosen genre (classicizing history).  I think my point, however, was that this explained why he didn't include all those little details that military historians are often so keen on.  Indeed, I also tried to show that for all this influence of genre, he was able to craft some truly remarkable accounts of battle, and that his latent classicism didn't necessarily mean that he couldn't represent reality truthfully (Van Nuffelen 2017:  40 - the prologue, section four in my introduction, and chapter six).  Additionally, I spent a good part of the time showing what makes his accounts of combat in the Wars such dramatic narratives (section three in chapter two, and sections 2a, though maybe 2b and 2c too, in chapter four).

Then there are the avenues for future research (they are many), some of which I've started to take up (or will do soon).  Cameron (2017:  18) says it's inadequate to evaluate Procopius' three works in terms of reliability and truth-telling.  This had been my intention with the follow-up, under the preconception that people would rather read that sort of thing than what I had done in Battles and Generals.  Some months ago that approach seemed better left for something else (a commentary, maybe), and some sort of unifying theme would make for a much better project.  Well, lo and behold, that's when I stumbled across the emphasis on fear, raiding, booty, and defence that unifies all three texts, at least if your focus (like mine) is on military issues.  Along the way I plan to situate Procopius' writing on war in the real-world context.  This means, to follow Kaldellis (2017:  269) to some degree, to look at the sixth century empire's military institutions through an analysis of the papyrological, legal, and narrative evidence, though I too will be using, where warranted, the epigraphic evidence.  Increasingly, it seems, scholars are seeking to understand the relationship between Procopius and Justinian's laws (Kaldellis 2017:  268), and I plan to do this, where possible, and where it pertains to military issues, in the sequel.

So there's me responding to what I've read so far.  There's more, and there will be more, but my bicycle's busted and I think my youngest daughter (all of 1.5 months) may soon crack.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Even Further Reflections on the Roman Military Panel

Black to the blurbs...

Cary Barber, "The 'Lost Generation'..."
Barber noted the extreme war time losses during the Hannibalic war, which might, in the case of senators, have meant a depletion of as much as 60% of their numbers.  The senate, in general, had a regular cycle of death of renewal, but this was thrown off by all the deaths in the war.  For the years from 366-218 BC, there were fewer and fewer men repeating the consulship, in part (or largely?) the result of the Lex Livinia. All the deaths threw this off, and Romans were willing to let men repeat consulships as a result of all the Hannibalic madness.

Michael Fronda, "Titus Quinctius Flamininus'..."
Fronda highlighted the looking at old questions in new ways that seemed to dominate discussion so far.  He commented on narratives and the memories of war, with the triumph itself serving as a kind of narrative (an interesting point - has me thinking about the varied narratives of war in the age of Justinian).  Allies participated in some triumphs, though generally irregularly, starting in 187 BC (probably).  The idea is that Flamininus' triumph in 187 was an experiment in just this (bringing in allies).

Jessica Clark, "Anecdotal History..."
There were a handful of papers that touched on the social war, this being one of them, with her aim being to meld history and historiography.  She noted the Social War was a difficult event to grasp, with some modern scholars starting their discussions before it, or after it.  Evidently, Diodorus Siculus called the war the greatest war that was ever known - and not at the start of his entire work, but just that section.  Struck me as very preface-y, (and I jotted lots of Procopius-themed points, surprisingly) though I gather there are all sorts of problems with the text as is (still I might have to come back to this).  The evidence for the social war is problematic, and she asks whether we'd understand it better with more evidence - though another question is whether we should be asking different questions.

Nathan Rosenstein, "Tributum, Latin Revolt..."
He said two great questions for the republic were:  how did it get such a great empire, and what caused it to fall apart.  Says war and military service played a role in all this, which is part of the reason why they're worth studying.  Touches on the communicative turn (not convinced by), and says warfare was (one of?) the best way(s) for individuals to interact with each other.  This, to me, was a fascinating point, and I think Milne brought up something comparable, either in her talk or in her questions.  While soldiers did spend time fighting, much of it wasn't.  And even when they were at war, they often had to travel to get there (set up camp, etc.).  So, there were plenty of opportunities for men to chat (and sing).  Back specifically to Rosenstein:  Livy provided lots of evidence of the deaths of military tribunes, which suggests they didn't hold back when fighting.  Additionally, war (and the Hannibalic war too) was a means for elites to prove their worth.  Along those lines, cavalry provided many more opportunities to prove all this than service in the infantry (in lines, part of a group, etc.).  Rosenstein notes the changing culture of the soldier in the 1st century BC, though also the 2nd century BC, and the 3rd century BC (and so on).  This brought up an interesting question (in my mind at least):  what would my three men for my army textbook think if they were transported into each others' Roman worlds?  I believe we were into the discussion now, but when soldiers came back from war, how did they integrate back into regular life?  Is the biggest change from the Social War (in terms of military stuff) the integration of all these Roman and Italian men?  Were men recruited from all over?  These last couple of points surprised me (my ignorance) - I'd assumed republican recruitment was more uniform, and hadn't appreciated all this complexity.

Francois Gauthier, "The Transformation of the..."
In this paper he basically says we shouldn't give all this credit to Gaius Marius for his late second/early first century reforms.  I had done, to some degree, in the past, but found his arguments convincing.  Rather, to pick up the social war theme, he said this was the turning point.  I discovered that Roman citizen cavalry hadn't been replaced in the first century BC (or earlier) by allies (this from McCall's book).  Allies were apparently much cheaper to use than Roman soldiers, because they paid for themselves, apparently (to do with taxies, indemnities, and such, I think - plus they pay for their own men and equipment).  There were some useful references to chase down:  Front. 2.3.17, Cic. Verr. 5.60 (can't remember why).  Also, intriguingly enough, Pompey's armies were allegedly comprised of men from 33 ethnicities (this following an article in Historia from the 60s - have to track it down).  There were lots of comments about paying for soldiers, and the challenges this provided.

Jack Wells, "The Lessons of..."
His paper was about Augustan historiography, and really about Roman beliefs about where they came from.  Lots of ways to tell a story, and one interesting figure with a fascinating backstory is Servius Tullius, both a slave and divine.  Most sources rate him highly.  He notes the weirdness about Rome:  any foreigners who show up in early Rome could be made citizens, which wasn't the case for slaves.  Additionally, it was fortune that made you a slave (contra Aristotle's natural slavery views).  If you're a slave captured in war, you've proven some form of honour (this the view of Dionysius on early slaves).  Some interesting points about Dionysius of Halicarnassus, whom I'd never thought much about before:  he does apparently try to explain how the Romans do things to a Greek audience (an interesting point).  One of the big takeaways is the permeability of categories in all this.

Brian Turner, "'Bloodless Victories..."
There are a host of examples in which battles were won but the Romans hadn't suffered any casualties.  All sorts of interesting comments here (like all them, again).  Claudius celebrated taking Britain without any losses, and Turner asked whether the Romans were losing their appetite for war.  Bloodless victories are apparently found in every decade of Livy's book, and apparently Sallust gets into it too.  Men wanted to limit their own losses, and it was asked if there was a practical component to this.  He touches on Mons Graupius, Josephus and Jotapata, Tactius, Civilis, and the Batavian uprising, the Adamklissi monument, and he asks if the discourse of bloodless victory (he's influenced by John Lynn) could influence how a general performed.  One point raised in discussion (and which I hadn't considered), was that Lendon's view of combat was too elitist (all this virtus stuff - did ordinary soldiers really care about it?).  There was a question too about whether all this bloodless victory stuff was really about hiding losses.

Sara Phang, "Reviewing the Marriage..."
An update, of sorts, following her book on marriage.  All very convincing (read her work).  She notes the importance of documentary sources for the imperial era.  She asks what the most useful approach is to studying women, families, and the army.  She gets into who's serving and where are they from.  She sees epitaphs as cultural patterns, and looks at the changing depictions of soldiers on epitaphs - very interesting.  Think I'd contemplated it before, but not really given it much thought.  I think I'd like to get my hands on as many depictions of soldiers on epitaphs as I can find.  Anyway, she notes the contrast between epitaphs, which involved lots of choice on the part of the individual, and the diploma, which was a legal document that allowed for limited choice.  She compared Hdn. 3.8.5 saying soldiers lived with wives to Eck's comments (2011) about a diploma of 206 which suggested that soldiers still lacked conubium at this time.  Noted too Allison's book (2013:  353) where she said women made up 5-24% of the inhabitants on bases.  All sorts of strong evidence for women on bases (skeletons, shoes, jewellery, spindles and textile-production items, children's clothes, infant burials).  She implied too that women were involved in some of the production of military things, which I hadn't considered (and which I should touch on in later studies).

Allison Keith, "Love's Figures..."
A fascinating paper, though I'd really flagged by this point.  My expertise in Latin poetry also happens to be lacking.  Anyway, she looked for epigraphic evidence (in Italy) for some of the slaves alluded to in classical-era Latin poetry.  The few names we find on epitaphs are resonant of Roman imperial conquest - and they could be seen as a celebration of the spoils of war.  Nemesis, evidently, was a popular name.  Inscriptions, as it happens, offer a useful social context and comparanda to what we find in the poetry.  They give us something of the human costs to Roman conquest and imperialism, and this is definitely stuff I want to use in my textbook (and updated chapter for a textbook).  She argues that the contemporaneity of the names in poetry reflects the slaves/people captured in war.  Very useful bibliography including, especially, all the work by K Gaca (only read one of her papers, I think).

Justin Ryan James, "Expressing triumph..."
This about the images of the turn of battle in Roman imperial-era art.  Fascinating stuff.  They show the moments before the turn of battle - and this reminded me of the scenes of myth from Roman art, where they tend to show the moments before the bad shit happens.  I brought this up in discussion, but I'm not sure I was terribly eloquent:  my point was is this a wider genre thing (where the genre is the visual arts generally, perhaps a bit too specific), where there were established topoi, motifs, and tendencies across different themes in art.  Anyway, continuing on from the turn of battle, he noted that cavalry always went from left to right on scenes, but infantry could go in any direction.  The commander is usually the largest person.  There are some images he had which I hadn't come across before, like the Tropaeum Alpium from La Turbie, France, the Etruscan Celtomachy from Florence, Tiberius' Arch, and the architrave from Mantua.  He referred, too, to something from Glanum (Roman legionaries marching?), and Romanius Capito, a grave stele dated to 60-65.  Lots of emphasis on cavalry on these monuments.

James Gersbach, "A reinterpretation..."
His paper was about the war-cry, though he preferred the term "battle expression", which covered everything from sound, to a song, dance, silence, and any sort of experience.  His paper was chalk full of interesting references to sounds and the like.  He argued that these were rehearsed, and that served all sorts of purposes.  Lots of juicy stuff here for my sensory approach to battle book.  Gersbach argued that the socio-political force of these cries were missed by some scholarship.  He asked, too, who is likely to have initiated these cries (this garnered some discussion - spontaneous - paraells to haka and European football chants).  Were they organic - again, like football chants?  Many of my notes are copies of references.  Will have to come back to these.  Intriguing - evidently he's doing a whole thesis on ancient battle cries.

Me..blah, blah blah...eurasian, blah, cavalry.
For me, the very last speaker, I want only to note the great questions I got so that I don't forget them.  There were questions about specialization (greater or lesser in the sixth century), and whether dragoons were a thing (a question that's come up elsewhere - Alofs, for instance).  Justin noted some interesting material about the training of Ottoman horsearchers.  Hmmm...most of the questions might be lost to the sands of time.  But, someone did ask about how professional the men were, and how this might have varied between the ranks.  Were they all professional?  Only some?  I'd mentioned recruitment a little, which seems both haphazard and more official in the sources:  when it comes to the Gothic Wars, it seems a bit haphazard, for generals are often sent to the Balkans to round up men.  On the other hand, we know a bit about the official parts of recruitment from the law codes - and we even seem to have a relevant papyrus, a probatoria (the document even says so), that describes this.  So mixed image.  What do I make of Procopius in these instances?  Is he glossing over official practice for the sake of the narrative?  Are the troops they're getting of a lower quality because of the needs of the situation? - and this reminds me of his comments on the Lycaonians at Callinicum, which he'd said had only just enlisted.  The cost issue surfaced too. I don't know how many horse archers there were (don't seem to be significant), but they would have costed a great deal, especially if the horses were covered with armour, so they never could have that many.  This, then, too, casts doubt on it being an age of Hippotoxotai.

The end.  That's it.  Lots to digest.  Extremely useful for all the things I have on the go.  I'd thought about making a post about raids and early and late Rome, its increasing and then decreasing civility, etc., but my eyes are fuzzy and I should go to the gym to process.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Further Reflections on the Roman Military Studies Panel

For the next post on the Roman military studies panel/sessions at the Montreal CCC 2017, I'm going to give, effectively, a list of interesting points/comments/suggestions I jotted down.  There are fewer for the last couple of panels (I was getting tired - more of the material covered ground I was familiar with).  Here are some highlights (and apologies for overlapping with the first Montreal post).

Fred Drogula, "the Legalization of War".
Evidently early Roman warfare reads a bit like mob warfare, with wealthy clans engaging in raids led by patricians in charge of private war bands.  Ultimately they were looking for plunder.  Drogula asked how did military command become a legally sanctioned activity of the state given these beginnings  - and I wonder how and why it regressed (if you want to call it that) back to this state at the end of antiquity.  Additionally, the gradual expansion of the state led to a change in the nature of war.  Along the way, some intriguing parallels were drawn between early Roman warfare and early modern Italian warfare (think Medici, etc).

Jeremy, Armstrong, "On the Eve of Empire..."
The late fourth/early third century (BC) was a period of significant change, and this included a number of different facets of the Roman state such as:  weapons and armour, allies, citizenship, territory, naval power, military infrastructure, coinage, command, tactics.  Despite all these changes, much had been set in motion earlier.  The manipular legion was a big part of all this change.  Evidently, too, the legion wasn't very phalanx-like, and fighting with a phalanx goes against all we know about warfare in early Italy (it wasn't conducive to this - surprised to hear all this, because I'd assumed the phalanx was the early method, later changed. Goes to show what I know).  Indeed, he argues that the Romans were always manipular in a way because of the gentes, warbands, and tribes of early Rome, which when organized together tended to be divided into the sort of divisions that matched a maniple well.  Ultimately, take Polybius' legion versus phalanx discussion with a grain of salt.

Peter Vanderpuy, "Debt Structures, Warfare, and the rise"
He too noted the gentilicial, clan-based, warfare which characterized early Rome, which was in contrast to the more state-based approach of later times.  V provided an intriguing list of agrarian statues from the 12 tables (some of which had a very modern feel).  He got into the formation of all these new farms that is often associated with mid-republican Rome.  It got into issues of environmental history (more or less).  One interesting point (or series of points) he raised pertained to the costs associated with these new farms:  the suggestion was farming wasn't ingrained, for some would have had a much more successful go of things on this front than others.  Finally, following Berry-Wendell (to some degree), he said the primary cultural output at Rome was its warfare.

John Serrati, "Religion and Roman Warfare..."
His paper touched on gender, and a key figure was Bellona.  Bellona was present at the opening and the close of hostilities in Roman combat.  For him, it was surprising that a female deity had such a prominent place in such a male part of a patriarchal society.  That said, Athena had a big role in Athens too (this me), and it could hardly be praised for its gender equity.  Evidently, there's much we don't know about Bellona (I'd known almost nothing) - though much of early Rome IS murky.  Was Bellona Italian in origin?  Roman?  Who knows.  She served as a war god in Rome up until Sulla (and if this is true maybe we should consider this another strike against him?).  Should note some comparisons were drawn between her and Mars (who wasn't unloved at Rome).

Kathryn Milne, "The Middle Republican Soldier..."
The soldiery were vilified:  there was nothing inherently noble in serving.  So how did the state manage to ennoble the soldier, which it seems to have done at some point or other?  As they served farther and farther from home, his faraway actions were quite different from what he did when he was at home (and this parallels nicely with more recently materials, which she discusses in her thesis, and which I have a copy of).  One possible means of ennobling was the parade (triumph).  Others include decorations, the volume of spoils, and their exotic prizes.  She put a lot of stress on awards, which had a bonding effect, and which made soldiers feel good about themselves (and all this would be relevant to my research on the sixth century).  It was important that the awards be accepted by the community at large for them to have any meaning.  Some comments were made afterwards about the bodies (what did they do with them at the end of battles) and war's universality.

There are more comments from additional papers, but I'm typing this outside (it's 9:17pm at the moment) and it's getting dark, so I'll stop for the moment.  Cheers

Hannibal Eras Course - What I got from the Roman Military Studies Panel at CCC 2017

As I mentioned in the previous post, more than half of the presentations at the Montreal Celtic Conference in Classics 2017.  Additionally, as I might also have suggested, many of the papers gave me lots to think about for the new 3rd/4th year course I'm teaching in the fall, Hannibal.  Though  Hannibal dominates the title, it's less, specifically, about the man, and more about the three wars between Roman and Carthage.  Hannibal is merely meant to suck people in (though it's not yet clear if that's happening).  The point of putting this here is that it forces me to go over the notes I made, and it allows for something like an outline to come together.

In essence, a number of questions in the papers gave me some questions that might be worth tackling in the course including, in no particular order, and from the specific to the general:

1)  How was the army of the mid-republic organized and how did it fight?  (brings to mind Daly's books - how much face of battle business ought I get in to?  And there's the maniple/phalanx business, discussed by Polybius and Koon)

2)  Why did they (the Romans - it's a Romanocentric course for any number of reasons) go to war at all in each of the three cases (first through third)?  (brings to mind the imperialism discussions - the Romans were excessively bellicose a la Harris, maybe they weren't a al Eckstein)

3)  What were the costs associated for all those involved (the Roman government/state, its people, and more)?  (farms were deserted in the aftermath, maybe they weren't, and what role do slaves play in all of this)

4)  What does it mean for our understanding of things if we're so reliant on later (save, to some degree, Polybius) information (Livy, Appian, etc.)?  How do they colour how the war was initially received?  And they need not be histories alone, for the story of Aeneas and Dido from Vergil's Aeneid provides an interesting case.

5)  Is it at all possible to provide balance to a discussion that will be dominated by pro-Roman sources?

6)  What role did the war play in the expansion of the Roman state and its development?

There are some basic questions, which I jotted down at the conference, though which I'd thought about before, like:

7)  What are the sources for the war/s?

8)  What shape was the Roman state in when they started?  In between?  At the end?

9)  What was the course of events in the war?  This is perhaps the most obvious of questions, and it will undoubtedly make up a big chunk of our discussion.  But I'd like quite a lot of our time spent discussing the big issues.

Then there are some additional notes that I made, relevant, though less questions, per se:

10)  Worth discussing whether there was a religious component to the wars, and what it was.  This could range everywhere from the rituals performed before battles (the sacred chickens) to the opening/closing of the doors of the Temple of Janus.

11)  Evidently, both Livy and Polybius note deserters in the war:  if/when I find the references, it would be worth bringing up and connecting it to how Roman soldiers (regular ones) might have experienced the wars.

Finally, some interesting comments.  One is an interesting characterization of the second Punic war  from Michael Fronda - or at least it's jotted down on his handout. 

12)  The 2nd Punic War could be seen as the "big die off".  

13)  The period after that second war was described as one of innovation.  Along those lines, many people (invariably men) come up and become prominent who have no established background.

14)  There's a big boom in Hellenization after the war, though what kind of Hellenization that might have been wasn't clear to me.  Presumably the bringing of all the art to Rome (conquered Greece quote from Horace), though also the (continued) use of Greek as the language of choice for Roman writers, to a point, and the increasing number of Romans educated by/in Greeks/Greek.

And that's that.  I also made a reading list (which might be too ambitious in the time I have, but it includes books by Eckstein, Rosentein, Hoyos, Lazenby, Fronda, Drogula, and maybe too Boronowski, Levene (how much Livy versus Polybius discussion ought I have?), and the various entries in the Wiley companion).  Here's to hoping these points help make for an interesting course, which proves useful not only for the students, but me too.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

New Directions in the Roman Military and the Celtic Conference in Classics

When I signed up for this conference (i.e., sent in an abstract in the hopes of sharing the fruits of my SSHRC labours, pre-acceptance), I only had 1 daughter and wasn't sure I'd be going (been turned down before).  The abstract was accepted, and I now have two wonderful daughters.

The call papers stated they (the organizers) were looking for work that presented new research and covered any point between about 500 BC and AD 500.  Fortunately I had new work, and my subject matter wasn't too late.  What neither I, nor the organizers, expected, however, was that the topics would land so heavily on the republican (and earlier) side of things.  Once the dust had settled, perhaps just two papers could be classified as expressly imperial (my own included), with at least three that dabbled in the republican and imperial eras. 

On the one hand, this left me with little meaningful to contribute in the first two days' worth or so.  I taught a full-year history of Rome class back in 2009-2010.  Before that, my last serious dabbling in republican matters came in 2003, in my "Roman Constitution" graduate seminar.  So, not a lot, though I've done some reading here and there (and I'm teaching a course on Hannibal in the fall).  On other hand, getting to listen to all this new work on vaguely similar, though still different, subject matter has proved a boon.  I'm still working on the textbook, which will begin with the late republic, so I've been provided with some new ammunition.  Plus, there's that Hannibal class - and I now have a big list of big issues I want to raise with those few students who take the class (and right now it's only a few, sadly).  One last note:  I just saw Dunkirk in 70mm (not showing that way in Winnipeg), and it's a powerful movie.  So I have that side of war floating around my head too.  In sum:  a very fruitful full days.  A number of threads ran through the papers, and I want to get some of them down before they're lost forever.  I hope to return to these again in the next few days, especially as I continue plugging away on other projects.

In early Rome warfare seems to have been dominated by warlords with private bands, and most of it consisted of raids, and little of it consisted of set-piece battles.  This was, then, a stark echo of what I've discussed before (and am building towards) in this project on Procopius.  It's not all entirely new (the late antique stuff), but it does deserve stressing.  In fact, in private discussion (on the Metro no less), Jeremy Armstrong (the organizer) noted that in some (many?) ways the big wars and battles of the mid-to-late republic with their large armies and pitched battles were the exception to the norm of pre-modern combat.  In some ways, then, warfare in early Rome was very much a reflection of wider practices around the Mediterranean (and beyond?), and warfare at the end of antiquity represented a return to this. 

As someone with surface knowledge of the republic only, it was intriguing to hear about the stress upon the Punic War and the Social War.  I knew about some of the important things that happened in the Punic War and their role in later events, but not all of them - or I'd long since forgotten.  And here's where Dunkirk (and the major war that preceded that war) comes into it.  There was general acceptance that the elites of mid-republican Rome, to say nothing of the regular folk, suffered serious losses during the war, and to such a degree that we can speak of a "lost generation" or two.  What's also interesting about this, however, is the impact that this might have had on the usual pattern of republican political offices, or at least the pattern at the time.  There were so many losses (here consuls and praetors - from the senatorial families) that there was a return to repeated terms of office (checks had been put in place for this some 100 or more years earlier.  Once the war was over, there is even evidence for a strong dissatisfaction amongst the regular troops for all the fighting.  In these matters, then, the republican soldiers and their officers are perhaps not so different from their 20th century Anglo-saxon ones.

To touch briefly on the Social War:  it was this that had a significant impact on the transformation of the Roman army near the end of the republic, not the sole efforts of Martial, though they would have played some part.  People who had been allies were now fighting with each other, and it wasn't only Romans versus Italians, for there was a great deal of mingling.  But also too - and I hadn't considered this - Rome found itself with an economic-military problem at the end of the war.  Evidently, it had long been cheaper for Rome to supplement its military with allied forces.  They paid for themselves, both in terms of salary and equipment and arms.  When the number of Romans jumped at the end of the war, suddenly the Romans had to find a way to pay for a huge number of troops (much more than before).

One final point for now:  after this point I'll have to consult my notes (and that requires additional effort).  It's remarkable how evidence contributes to the kinds of questions that scholars pose.  This gaggle of republican scholars were asking the sorts of questions that are vaguely relevant (or more so) to late antique scholars - it's a shame more late antique scholars don't draw on the comparative material of the republican era (but don't worry, I will).  After all, both groups are generally left with lots of texts to work with (the assorted classical, classicizing, and other texts).  But the imperial scholars can't look at those same sorts of issues:  there's very little evidence about the details of the practice of warfare, but quite a lot on organization and social matters, among other things.  In fact, I guess that's where being a late antique person you get to draw on a bit of both (there are some inscriptions, some more papyri, and lots of legal evidence). 

Anyway, as I say, that's enough for now (going on too long - need to finish this cider and head to the hotel to catch a taxi to head to the airport to head home).  Montreal is beautiful.  I had planned a post on it, but it'll have to wait (if it comes at all).

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dating Vegetius' Epitoma Rei Militaris: some circumstantial evidence

I'm getting closer to being ready, or as ready as I'll ever be, to write my Celtic Classics Conference paper for late July.  Whatever I don't get around for the conference, I'll be sure to get to when I work on converting this into a book chapter.

Today, among other things, I've been reading a couple of papers, one a recent by Janniard on the steppe influence on Roman war making, the other, ostensibly, on Procopius' "new" Byzantine army by Breccia (2004).  While reading these two papers (admittedly a touch more to go with Breccia) I've come across some interesting references to Huns I'd likely forgotten about. 

There is, for instance, some extended discussion in Zosimus' New History on the Hunnic incursions in the last third of the fourth century (4.20ff).  A cursory glance suggests to me that he either got some of his information directly from Ammianus Marcellinus, directly from Eunapius (fragmentary so hard to say), or even some sort of intermediary source.  Much earlier in the text, while discussing Aurelian and his trouble with Palmyra, he also gets into some interesting - and ultimately successful - cavalry tactics.  It turns out the Roman cavalry, when up against the Palmyrene heavy cavalry, employed the steppe-feigned flight.  This interesting episode (1.50.3-4) raises three questions:  is this just a stratagem employed by Aurelian for this specific context; is it a regular tactic employed by Roman cavalry in the third century; or is Zosimus projecting contemporary tactics (late 5th/early 6th century) on an event?  I suspect we'll never know, though I'm sure someone or other has delved into this more deeply.

The Vegetius references to Huns are short and sweet:  there are only two, one at 1.20.2, the other at 3.26.36.  For all intents and purposes, what Vegetius says is that the Roman cavalry of his day is so good that the ancients have nothing useful to add that would be of use.  He implies, too, in the first passage that this improved cavalry performance is attributable to the Goths, Alans, and Huns.  In the second passage, where he repeats his belief that the cavalry of his day is sufficient in quality, Vegetius says that emperor (who's elusive, hence the dating issues - we don't know when it dates, late fourth century, first half of fifth century) is as good at archery as the Persians, and as good at horsemanship as the Alans and Huns.  The implication of all this is that the Romans have adopted something of Hunnic cavalry tactics.  Indeed, in his treatise on veterinary medicine (sadly I'm stating this secondhand), Vegetius praises Hunnic horses even more. 

Before I turn to the dating question, much of what I've been reading about Rome's adoption (to whatever degree) of steppe cavalry tactics varies as to when and to what degree.  The most recent case (save Breccia) is Janniard's, and he sees their big change as coming fairly quickly from the late fourth (first coming into contact with Huns c. 370 or later) into the fifth century.  By the time they meet the Huns under Attila at the Catalaunian Plains, their tactics (and assorted things) have improved to such a degree that they're able to emerge from that battle victorious.

So let's now go back to the date of Vegetius' military treatise.  For some, even most, it's the last quarter of the fourth century, and for even fewer it's some point in the second quarter (or so) of the fifth century.  This new-found awareness of Rome's adoption of steppe tactics has me leaning even more heavily towards the fifth than I had been before.  As you can see, these are extremely circumstantial pieces of evidence.  We have two comments in Vegetius that imply they've already made big changes to Roman cavalry, and that they've adopted a Hunnic-approach.  Given that the Huns first enter history for the Romans around 370 (some might differ on this date), and then peripherally, at least for a few years, it seems unlikely that the Romans would have made wholesale changes before really meeting them in battle.  Ammianus implies that the Romans hadn't really come up against the Huns before Adrianople, despite what Zosimus might be implying (and there are all sorts of questions about the reliability of his text).  If full interaction doesn't take place until the end of the 370s or even the 380s, though more likely the former, how likely is it that the Romans would have been able to make progress with their cavalry thanks to the Huns (Veg. 1.20.2 - nam licet, exemplo Gothorum et Alanorum Hunnorumque, equitum arma profecerint) between the late 370s and the death of Thedosius I, 395 (the latest possible date for the early-dating folk)?  Guess that largely on how quickly they could change their cavalry.  Given too that the Notitia Dignitatum (ND), which for the east is now thought to be spot on, the half of the empire most likely to need steppe tactics, and that we see little evidence for an overwhelming shift in that direction, I think we have to entertain the later date far more seriously than most scholars usually do.  Indeed, most of the steppe-like units that we find in the eastern half of the ND are based in the east, not in the Balkans.

Yes, this is all mostly (entirely?) circumstantial evidence, but I think it makes the case for a later date for Vegetius' Epitoma Rei Militaris all that more likely.