Thursday, 19 April 2018

Scrubbing Out Procopius, or the Anti-Kaegi "Procopius the Military Historian"

It's pretty hard to escape the pull of the Procopius-black hole when it comes to the sixth-century East Roman Empire, at least if you're interested in military and political issues.  That's part of the reason why scholars like Roger Scott have devoted so much attention to the other historians like Malalas.  Scott's four pillars of the age of Justinian are:  the construction of Hagia Sophia, the codification of Roman law, the closing of Plato's Academy in Athens, and Justinian's reconquest of the west.  Although Procopius does devote considerable attention to Hagia Sophia in the Buildings, it's the reconquest that garners so much attention in the Wars.  There's no doubt that this presents a skewed view of Justinian's world.  In this post, however, I'd like to flip things around.  To what degree does Procopius' interests in war obscure other pertinent matters, and in turn cause most of us to overlook other important pieces of evidence?  Bearing all this in mind, I want to discuss six aspects of Procopius' military history:  his classicizing vocabulary, his descriptions of combat, his interest in the conquest of Africa and Italy, and his focus on Belisarius in the Wars, his account of the fortifications of the northeast frontier in the Buildings, and his account of the malaise of the empire's soldiers in the Secret History.

Let's begin with the latter, and proceed in reverse order, finishing with Belisarius.  In the Secret History Procopius' emphasizes the suffering of most of the empire's inhabitants, and the soldiers are no exception.  One particular group that Procopius complains suffered a great deal are the border troops, who got into such a sorry state that they effectively stopped being soldiers.  If we forget about Procopius' comments here, and in the other two texts for that matter, in which frontier troops feature hardly at all, and instead look at the surviving evidence we get quite a different picture, at least potentially.  We have plenty of documentary evidence for frontier soldiers in Egypt and Israel/Palestine, and to a lesser degree Jordan.  That material points to thriving frontier communities full of soldiers, who identify as such.  Most seem fully integrated into local life, and if anything the abundance of property documents, not to mention marriage certificates, point to some degree of wealth and prosperity amongst those very soldiers.  So where are they getting their money?  Have they managed to supplement their income through other means, as some has suggested was the case with the soldier from Aphrodito who also served as a boatmen?  Or is their income derived primarily if not entirely from their state income?  If we didn't have Procopius' comments, I suspect the argument would be that the frontier soldiers were flourishing, at least in the sixth-century southeast.  The legal evidence, which is full of material concerned specifically with soldiers, would reinforce these sorts of arguments.

Next we move to the forts of the northeast.  Procopius' love-in for Justinians' building programme has led to a great debate:  just how many of the fortification work we read about is really attributable to him?  Many have highlighted the work of Anastasius, for instance, though in other cases the jury is still out.  What if all we had were the surviving fortifications and a few incidental anecdotes?  Justinian's efforts would certainly be diminished, but then so too might Anastasius'.  There are plenty of forts still standing in Syria (or there were until recently), and plenty more in Jordan.  The date of some of those Jordanian forts are ambiguous, while others are more obviously fourth century in date.  Some seem to have been occupied regularly, though only some have been privy to detailed excavations.  If all we had to go on was these Jordanian (and the neighbouring Israeli/Palestinian forts) forts, we wouldn't see Justinian's reign as an age of considerable frontier work in this part of the frontier, though the comparative epigraphic and papyrological evidence would imply that many if not most of the fortifications continued to the sites of a good deal of activity.

Procopius tends to use archaic vocabulary, vocabulary better suited to the world of Thucydides, or so goes the usual complaints.  This applies to military matters too, and we get hints of this in the words he uses for divisions within the military.  Much of his terminology is vague:  the men with general X, the infantry, the horsemen, etc.  In other cases, his diction has occluded more than it has illuminated.  He likes to use the word katalologos, for instance, a word rarely used by classical or even classicizing historians, when describing groups of soldiers (units or even regiments).  Quite a few have taken this to mean that the term had a more technical meaning, and more specifically that it denoted the army's field units.  It's not an unreasonable assumption if we assume that Procopius is mostly concerned with the field unit soldiers (at the expense of frontier soldiers).  That it features in virtually no other military source for the sixth century should give us pause, however, and A H M Jones is one of the only ones to have done so.  If we didn't have Procopius' Wars narrative where he used words like  katalogos we'd probably devote more attention to the words we do occasionally find in the inscriptions and papyri.  The newly published inscription form Perge would receive a great deal of attention - and scholars would likely be obsessed with how we get from the regiments of the eastern section of the Notitia Dignitatum to the units of Maurice, with no unnecessary - even unhelpful - pauses to consider Procopius.  To some degree this might still happen, though maybe it should happen sooner.  Is it not, for example, interesting that Theophylact can talk of legions on the eastern frontier around the same time that we find the word "legion" in Egyptian papyri - and just a few decades after that Anastasian inscription detailing the structure (it seems) of a legion? 

Turning to combat, Maurice's Strategikon might give the impression that cavalry played a major role in combat at the end of the sixth century.  But it wouldn't explain quite which proportions of the military dominated decades earlier.  Our material evidence is limited, while the other evidence is ambiguous.  If we had to rely on Pseudo-Joshua, we wouldn't get too far.  Corippus' Iohannis, though quite detailed, is a panegyrical epic, and his combat scenes are vaguely Homeric:  they involve single combats, and the dashing to and fro of soldiers into and out of battle.  Agathias, on the other hand, does go to some lengths to describe the experience of combat even if he spends only a little on the finer details. In his most detailed battle, the Battle of Casilinum, there's little in his account that betrays a clear emphasis on either cavalry or infantry.  That might help provide context for the anonymous treatise of political science which includes that fictional debate between Menas and Thomas on the relative merits of the two solitudes to borrow a Canadian literary-cum-historical phrase.  But whether cavalry had supplanted infantry would not yet be clear.

Moving on to the conquest, we would suspect that the campaign in Italy had the smallest of impacts on matters in the capital, which would be in line with some of Scott's arguments.  Even the more local evidence, the Lives of the Popes, devotes only a little bit of attention to the war, with the siege of Rome, such a central feature of Procopius' account, restricted to a few lines.  North Africa, on the other hand, is something else.  Later writers, like Photius and Theophanes, who had read all of part of Procopius, either paraphrase or quote Procopius' narrative of the Vandal Wars.  The aforementioned epic of Corippus also gives the impression that a significant conflict had taken place in the region.  In fact, we could even look to another of the four pillars, Roman law, for yet more evidence of the war's impact.  Besides the overt propaganda at the opening of the Codex of Justinian, there are specific laws that point the acquisition of significant territory in North Africa, and the efforts of the state to administer the new lands.  What this evidence might imply was that a long and significant war had taken place in North Africa, which resulted in a lasting Roman victory.

That North African success brings us to the last point, the reputation of Belisarius.  It seems to me, and many others besides, that his reputation rests largely on the literary efforts of Procopius.  A closer look at the epigraphy, on the other hand, might bring greater attention to Solomon, who published his successes in North Africa quite widely.  Belisarius features in maybe a dozen Latin inscriptions, and a handful of Greek ones.  Solomon, however, features in nearly three times as many Latin inscriptions from North Africa.  On this limited evidence the impression might be that Solomon was the great general of the age, or at least the campaign.  Thanks to Agathias, Narses' reputation might rise too, and though the historian is not unflattering towards Belisarius, his account gives only the vaguest impression of the man's military accomplishments.  Indeed, if all we had to go on was the many later references to Procopius' works, we'd be left wondering what the scope of Belisarius' accomplishment truly was, and perhaps a little baffled the comments of authors like the one who wrote the entry on Procopius in the Suda, or the later Byzantine historian Manasses.

All this is to suggest that the survival of Procopius' long works has not only obfuscated our understanding of the wider world of sixth-century Byzantium, but also more specifically Byzantine military affairs.  While his work has undoubtedly shed a great deal of light on matters like combat, in other instances, such as the careers of "lesser" generals like Solomon or the hardships of the frontier soldiers, what he has provided has obscured other important aspects of the empire's military history.  A greater focus on these other kinds of evidence for sixth-century military affairs might bring a much more about this period to light.

NOTE:  I'd forgotten about Foss' paper on Theodora.  He does this, only with the Secret History.  I've got a copy, but haven't read it yet (will do so now...)

End of Term, Continued

The term may be over, but the deadlines remain.  Besides the pile of marking that awaits, I have a conference paper to write, two book chapters to finish/tweak, a pile of research grants to review, a volume's worth of Phoenix articles to read, and a webinar to think about.  And all of this is due by the 10th of May. 

All that being said, and perhaps not surprisingly, I want to start with Netflix.  I waited with eager anticipation for the arrival of the new Troy show.  The first episode left me wanting, though I was surprised by how varied the quantity of myths connected to Troy they included (death of Menelaus' father, Paris' first love as a shepherd, the Odysseus' madness and his son story).  Because I wasn't enamoured, and all I really want to do is travel the stars, Lost in Space stole me away a little into episode two of Troy.  I'm more than halfway through, and am thoroughly enjoying it.  Admittedly, I tend to like shows like this more for how they stir my imagination (what would it be like to travel the stars) than anything else. 

Anyway, I did manage to go back to Troy, and I think the second episode was thoroughly enjoyable, at least what I've seen so far.  Although Agamemnon was underwhelming at first, once the issue with the winds cropped up, and the decision was made to sacrifice his daughter, I was impressed with how they presented it.  I wondered too, like the fate of the Trojans as a whole, if it was somehow more emotional (for me the viewer) because I knew what was going to happen.  To have to meet Iphigenia, and see how she reacted to her father's confession - and his anguish, Clytemnesra's pain, Odysseus' subterfuge:  that scene to my mind was something else.  Suffice to say, I'm now hooked, even if I've always wished the Trojans had won.  They may have left out ole smelly-foot's abandoning (Philoctetes), or the thrilling landing on the shore at Troy, but I'm looking forward to what comes next.  It's definitely something I'll be using in myth class next year - and Troy as a whole will be getting much more attention. 

Over the next few days, I need to do some thinking about Procopius, as I'll be participating in the Virtual Centre for Late Antiquity's first webinar on Monday (10:30...or 10am CST) on said historian.  We have a few bigger themes that we're going to discuss, and I guess I should get a better handle on where I land on all of them, or even if there is somewhere I land.  I don't want to give the game away - is it possible to build up suspense for a webinar on Procopius - but they're big issues, some I've been thinking about for the purposes of this SSHRC grant that is getting closer to its end.  Along those lines, rather than spilling the beans, I'd like to highlight a question I asked an undergraduate student (Dan Russell) who defended his honour's thesis just a few days ago:  how would you approach the subject if you didn't have Procopius?  Because the central item (Procopius book one sequel) that will emerge from the grant deals with him, I've started wondering that myself.  How would a monograph-length account of military matters in the sixth century East Roman Empire look if you didn't have Procopius?  To some degree, I'll be answering this in my follow-up, which will focus more specifically on limitanei (think all these trips to Jordan).  But it's easier to do in that case as you have inscriptions, papyri, and the physical remains of fortifications, some of which have been fully excavated.  What do you do if you want to focus on matters that pertain to war and that have a direct impact on the heart of the state, and the central activities that an army is engaged in?  Battle would be difficult, though not impossible, without Procopius:  you'd still have Maurice, Pseudo-Joshua, and Agathias for instance.  You could even cover aspects of Justinian's reconquest thanks to authors like Malalas, Corippus, and the author/s of the lives of the Popes.  It would be easier still if you used Theophanes, though given he both quoted and paraphrased Procopius it would seem a bit like cheating.  This (leaving out Procopius) is an easier question to ask/issue to tackle if you're not interested in war.  It's much more difficult if you are.  Would anyone read/accept an article on the things Procopius covers that doesn't include Procopius? Maybe I'll do a post on this over the weekend to get me thinking about the webinar.

I'm going to stop there.  For all the challenges I faced with my Roman army (and myth) class this year, the former's essays were just about the best, collectively, I've ever read.  I'm not sure if this is because I've gone soft, I've forgotten past years, they're cheating (some), or the abstract/outline assignment actually worked, but I'm pleasantly surprised.  And with that, I'm going to do some Procopius reading/thinking, at least when I'm not thinking about the Jets' playoff run - one more tangent.  I seem to have reached a stage in my sports-fan life when there are very few teams that I really care about (i.e. there used to be so many more):  number one the Sens (Ottawa Senators), two the Jets (Winnipeg Jets), and three the Jays (Toronto Blue Jays).  I used to be much more into certain national team things, and random teams from other sports, but really it's Sens, Jets, and then Jays.  Who was I kidding?

Till next time...

Friday, 23 March 2018

End of Term

The term is nearly over, and I for one will be relieved once it's over.  If I've learned anything from the past seven months or so, it's that I should have applied for parental leave.  I'm not really sure how I managed what I managed when there was just the one kid, let alone no kids.  The flip side is they're wonderful, and I couldn't imagine life without them.  I also love their company.  My eldest daughter, Ella, even likes coming to my office - she's come occasionally. A complicating factor has been this southern Manitoba winter.  The cold has been relentless this year, and my wife and I have found this to be the most challenging of them all (this is my ninth), bar none. 

I'd hoped I'd be able to churn out a few posts during my return trip to Jordan, even while I was there, but each of those days proved to be long and exhausting.  I've thought about posting about book reviews and my language failings.  My second book revealed something of a language inadequacy, which is only apparent to those in the field (those in other disciplines, where there is only one language, don't have this issue).  I've thought about the ongoing research project/s, which have stalled to no small measure.  There was the one sentence, basically, peer review of a journal submission of mine (unprofessional to no end - and downright wrong in its estimation).

My frustration in how long it takes things to get out there, and how few actually read it, was reflected in two of my last posts.  I'm also terrified that what I said didn't come out in the way that I intended (a problem I've often had - it makes sense to me, but not to others).  My point had largely been that I'd wished I'd managed to get things out there more quickly than I did.  Along those lines, I'm wondering if I've spent too much time on book chapters at the expense of journal articles, which can sometimes/often have a much greater research, at least with some journals.  I have a few drafts that I aim to send out at some point, though I'm not sure when.

I'll add that I've had many serious doubts about whether I should continue in this line of work.  There have been more than a few times when I've scoured the wanted ads for jobs in other parts of country, especially Ottawa, though also Halifax and Hamilton.  I've managed to find my houses I'd move to...just not the jobs to support the move.  Quite often, the only thing, to my mind, that seems to have come of this job is my wife and my children - and my dog.  A really good lecture, seminar or chat with a student can still immensely satisfying.  I enjoy reviewing things (as editor or peer reviewer).  And much of the subject matter is still fascinating.  But, I still feel a great deal of dissatisfaction. 

Anyway, the point of all that is, I haven't had a chance to post anything. But there has been some progress.  One of the courses I'm teaching is a completely revamped "Roman Army".  I've added quite a lot of material, and I think I've included more interesting stuff.  Whether the students have thought this I'm not sure.  In fact, I don't think it's been quite as successful as I'd hoped, though I have ideas on how to fix this.  Some of it is down to my pitching of the material at what might be too high a level.  All the work has put me in great shape for finishing the textbook, and it's been great to finally devote some attention to at least a portion of it, especially the commemoration and mourning of Roman soldiers.  Van Lommel's perceptive articles on wounded soldiers and veterans has convinced me of a Roman awareness of war trauma, and that it had a measured impact.  I've delved more deeply into treatment too - and been fascinated by what little I've read about medical care.

I've also been taken on by all the wonderful work (Hope, for example) on inscriptions, especially those with surviving sculptural decorations.  I hadn't appreciated just how many of these we have (750 or maybe many more), and what wonderful things we find in them.  For the first time I've looked at clothing, and a little more on weaponry.  There really are a great deal of sword-types.  It's quite something.  

The archaeology of war continues to fascinate me, even thought I'm no archaeologist.  I've also spent a good amount of time on the mechanics of battle, surprisingly, you'd think, a topic I'd not considered for some time, and it seems not in the appropriate depth (or not in such a way that I'd remember what I've read).  I'm much more comfortable with the nuances of light and heavy soldiers, with the light referring to their formation in battle (looser) as does the heavy (more densely packed).  I'd been all too aware of the ancient historians' silence (relative) on what happens when the two sides do come to blows, but as I say I'd forgotten about many of the reconstructions.  I plan to tweak a textbook (Gibbs and Nikolic, heading for a second edition) so that it incorporates some of this stuff, the battle mechanics and the war trauma, even if ever so slightly. 

I've been doing some work on Ammianus, and I'll be giving a conference paper on Cannae, the former slightly, the latter certainly, outside my specific areas of expertise.  Doing new and different stuff does keep me going.  I also have some more thinking to do about this late antique eastern frontier solider project, which is evolving.  And there's the Procopius follow-up.  The other day is was thinking more about how I could incorporate the wonderful Perge edict into my discussion of troops and numbers in Procopius.  I hope to do a bit more on this today.  I'll be spending a lot of time on buses, so I'll have time.

So there we go, a disjointed post on a tangentially related group of topics.  Guess it reflects well where my mind is at the moment. Till next time - and probably more before too long as I get to work on some of these projects.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Back to the Future: More Battles

It turns out, at least for me, that moving from one kid to two kids is a lot more draining than the shift to one.  I've had lots of ideas cross my mind, but I haven't had a chance to write anything down.  At the moment, the dog's locked in the basement, the youngest is happily bobbing away behind me in her chair, while the eldest is sorting out dinosaur-themed number cards.

This term I'm teaching a course on Hannibal, and it's been a great experience for all sorts of reasons.  For one, it's allowed me to revisit a topic and period that I'm very interested, but not thought about for a long time.  While I've sometimes thought that the mid-republic and Punic wars were a bit saturated, it seems clear there's still things to be said.  I've been struck by all the exciting new finds that have added to our understanding (the wrecks of ships of the Egadi Islands from the First Punic War, the remains of Roman and Punic camps from Baecula in the Second Punic War).  As before, I've been fascinated by all the research on the wider context of the wars:  the demographic challenges, the international relations issues, and the difficulties with the historiography.  In fact, in terms of the latter, I find myself contemplating undertaking a lengthy of study of Polybius (and if you've read this blog you know where I'm heading):  Polybius as military historian, with an emphasis on his love of all things tactical and generalship-y, and whether we can deduce underlying hints of his lost Tactica (or how many of it we can).  On the other hand, whenever I decide to write this large book on Justinian's wars of reconquest, I've often thought I'd draw heavily on all this interesting work on the impact of the Hannibalic wars.  So, like I've said, very useful.

I'm in the middle of a discussion of Cannae in the class, which is a bit concerning if only because we've only got a few weeks left.  That said, it's been useful for thinking about this Sensory History of War popular-history book, as well as one of the grant offshoots, the book on battle in classicizing histories from late antiquity.  While preparing for the class I've had the fortune of reading Ted Lendon's new two-part study of ancient battle, which was originally, I've deduced, meant to appear in the Wiley Encyclopedia of Ancient Battles.  My name appears in the study (a bit of a thrill), and he makes, not surprisingly (I'm quite receptive to his views), quite a lot of insightful comments. 

One of the points he argues, which I brought up in class, is that we can't or shouldn't expect to know anything about the specifics of any individual battle from antiquity with a few exceptions.  We can know a lot about the generalities - and so here he's in keeping with work by Goldsworthy and Hanson on the face of ancient battles - but the ancient accounts are just too vague and stereotypical to get much deeper.  He also, quite wonderfully, illustrates and introduces the point by referring to Lucian's True History, which includes some fantastical battles between the people of the Moon and the Sun.  I read it all last academic year in my second year Greek class, and I'll be doing the same again next academic year (2018-2019).  Like him, I noticed all these cliched battle (and historiographical) elements, which added considerably to the story.  I can see myself drawing on it at a later point.

Anyway, I think Lendon's points are well-taken, and it's had me wondering what to do with the late antique battle book.  That book will include, essentially, a series of case studies of big ancient battles in late antique classicizing authors (Ammianus, Jordanes, Procopius, Agathias, Theophylact).  It aims to show the variety in approaches those authors adopted (they're not all the same stereotypical accounts), while staying true, so to speak, to the conventions of the genre.  It'll bring in some narrative theory, look at rhetorical practices, contextualize in terms other late antique approaches to battle (panegyric, imperial monuments, epic poetry, chronicles), and make some comments on the classical tradition.

For all the generalities, there are still a fair few idiosyncrasies in the classical tradition, at least that I've picked up on.  Few of the later historians seem to have adopted Herodotus' specific approach to combat.  There aren't many episodes, like that post-Marathon involving Epizelus, where classicizing historians include anecdotes that could be likened to instances of PTSD.  Herodotus' attention to individual casualties from the Battle of Thermopylae also stands out.  While you could make the case that Herodotus includes this because of the gravity of the situation, it's hard to argue this wasn't the situation in many later battles.  Why no catalogue of the fallen in later historians?  While they often do highlight the exploits of elite individuals (cue Lucian), the regular folk get left out, or grouped together at the very least, with some exceptions - I confess that as I write this I'm revisiting my views on the roles of all those bodyguards in Procopius.

Reading Livy and Polybius in tandem has been useful for this too.  My class was divided into two parts and each told to focus on one version or the other of the Battle of Lake Trasimene.  Because the battle takes place in a fairly distinct spot, at least in geographical terms, we can use those two authors to pinpoint the precise location (a valley and then a plain along the lake on the side closest to Cortona).  While the two accounts are hardly long and detailed, they do indicate that there is quite a lot more room for teasing out the individualities of specific battles than Lendon suggests, even if, in this instance, it is largely a question of location.  On the other hand, this might well be what Lendon was implying:  you can find the specifics by looking for the unusual in the battle accounts.  If an historian mentions things that aren't part of the usual battle fodder, then that probably means that it was something that happened in that particular engagement.  We'll see if there's anything in those five case studies that bear this out.

So, all this is to say that not all is lost.  I'm back to battles a lot more than I'd planned on being.  I've also left out my planned inclusion in an SCS panel on lesser battles (I'm going to write on the Catalaunian Plains, believe it or not), which has given me much food for thought. 

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.