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Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fighters in key battle

 
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Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fighter... - 5/12/2021 10:10:13 PM   
Zorch

 

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I wonder what this kind of analysis would say about other ancient battles...

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2277380-isotope-study-hints-ancient-greeks-used-foreign-fighters-in-key-battle/

The ancient Greeks relied on help from non-Greek mercenaries when it came to fighting their enemies, suggests an analysis of bodies in 2500-year-old mass graves.

The western Mediterranean witnessed several conflicts between about 2600 and 2300 years ago as a number of Greek-led city-states – including Syracuse on the island of Sicily – fought against the Carthaginians, whose base of power lay in what is now Tunisia. The Sicilian wars were documented by contemporary writers, including Herodotus in his book The Histories. But given that Herodotus was Greek, it is possible that his accounts of the conflicts may have been biased to paint the Greek fighters in a favourable light.

In particular, Herodotus suggests that in 480 BC, during the first Battle of Himera, local soldiers received aid from other Greek allies and successfully defeated the Carthaginians. But during a second battle in 409 BC, the local soldiers went unaided and the city of Himera fell to the Carthaginians.

Following the recent discovery of eight mass graves associated with the Battles of Himera, it is now possible to explore whether Herodotus’s account was faithful or not.

Katherine Reinberger at the University of Georgia and her colleagues analysed strontium and oxygen isotopes from the tooth enamel of 62 individuals from the mass graves, which can reveal whether someone was born and raised locally or not.

The team’s analysis revealed that some historical claims could be validated – there were two battles, about two thirds of the Himeran forces in the first conflict weren’t local while only a quarter in the second battle weren’t from there, and Greek soldiers from outside of the city did fight alongside local Himerans. But the contemporary accounts weren’t entirely accurate: the isotope evidence suggests that many of the non-local soldiers weren’t actually Greek, but came from across the Mediterranean.

“Finding evidence of people who were foreign and maybe not even Greek is unusual and interesting and sort of indicates that maybe ancient communities, and definitely ancient armies, could have been more diverse than we originally thought,” says Reinberger. These foreign soldiers might have been hired mercenaries, she says.

“Isotopic studies suggest that these could have been people hired all the way from the Catalan coast, from the Iberian peninsula, or from mainland Greece or even from the Black Sea coast,” says Mario Novak at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Croatia.

“So, this could have been either Greeks but also some Indigenous people that classical sources considered barbarians. Obviously, these ‘barbarians’ were much more incorporated into the everyday lives of the “proper” Greeks than previously thought,” he says.

The team theorises that historical accounts downplayed the involvement of foreign mercenaries in order to create a more Greek-centric narrative and align the victory of the first battle with Greek successes against other forces they were facing at the time, including the Persians under Xerxes the Great.

Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248803





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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 5:32:23 AM   
Orm


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Thank you for sharing, Zorch.

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 5:34:32 AM   
Orm


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Could it be that the soldiers from all around the Mediterranean, and fighting for the Greeks, were classified as Greeks just because they were part of a Greek army?

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 7:30:01 AM   
altipueri

 

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Here's the bit from Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Himera_(480_BC)

I guess the researchers can't believe their luck to get a grant to spend time there - and notice
the nod to the woke diversity :
“Finding evidence of people who were foreign and maybe not even Greek is unusual and interesting and sort of indicates that maybe ancient communities, and definitely ancient armies, could have been more diverse than we originally thought,”

In fact, just read a bit more about the Carthaginians - and their tophets - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tophet




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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 9:14:21 AM   
Grognerd_INC


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This is an interesting article. It really shouldn't come as a big surprise though.

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 3:04:33 PM   
gamer78

 

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Indeed, not surprise for foreign mercanaries- Privateers- and soldiers. Very common even for non-colonial Ottoman in 15th-17th century.

https://www.kitapyurdu.com/kitap/sultanin-korsanlari-amp-osmanli-akdenizinde-gaza-yagma-ve-esaret-15001700/479170.html&manufacturer_id=196016

Privateers and mercanaries from both Islam and Christian tradition in Mediterranean. They respect each other tradition and fight together.

What is interesting is,
“Isotopic studies suggest that these could have been people hired all the way from the Catalan coast, from the Iberian peninsula, or from mainland Greece or even from the Black Sea coast,” says Mario Novak at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Croatia.

“So, this could have been either Greeks but also some Indigenous people that classical sources considered barbarians. Obviously, these ‘barbarians’ were much more incorporated into the everyday lives of the “proper” Greeks than previously thought,” he says.




< Message edited by gamer78 -- 5/13/2021 3:05:23 PM >

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 3:22:54 PM   
Lobster


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The Romans used lots of foreign armies also. I guess the citizenry couldn't be bothered with protecting their own. It did come back to bite them in the butt.

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 9:07:26 PM   
Hardradi


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There are references in the primary sources to the use of mercenaries in and around Sicily. From memory Ligurians, Celts, Spaniards and later Campanians. I guess its a win for the maligned Diodorus Siculus and Herodotus. A test of 62 individuals is not really a telling sample size in my opinion.

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 9:39:24 PM   
altipueri

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: gamer78

Indeed, not surprise for foreign mercanaries- Privateers- and soldiers. Very common even for non-colonial Ottoman in 15th-17th century.

https://www.kitapyurdu.com/kitap/sultanin-korsanlari-amp-osmanli-akdenizinde-gaza-yagma-ve-esaret-15001700/479170.html&manufacturer_id=196016

Privateers and mercanaries from both Islam and Christian tradition in Mediterranean. They respect each other tradition and fight together.

What is interesting is,
“Isotopic studies suggest that these could have been people hired all the way from the Catalan coast, from the Iberian peninsula, or from mainland Greece or even from the Black Sea coast,” says Mario Novak at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Croatia.

“So, this could have been either Greeks but also some Indigenous people that classical sources considered barbarians. Obviously, these ‘barbarians’ were much more incorporated into the everyday lives of the “proper” Greeks than previously thought,” he says.





I've just remembered there was a Greek colony on the Catalan coast at Empuries - a few miles from Rosas (itself named after Rhodes).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emp%C3%BAries

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 10:01:32 PM   
RangerJoe


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Greeks had colonies all over the Med and the Black Sea coast as well. They considered anyone else who even spoke a version of Greek to be barbarians, including the then Macedonians who were Greek.

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RE: Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fig... - 5/13/2021 10:10:54 PM   
RangerJoe


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Lobster

The Romans used lots of foreign armies also. I guess the citizenry couldn't be bothered with protecting their own. It did come back to bite them in the butt.


25 years of service in the Roman Army and surviving meant Roman citizenship.

quote:

Starting from 52 AD, non-citizen (peregrini) auxiliaries in the Roman army were granted Roman citizenship after 25 years of service. They received a diploma civitatis which consisted of two bronze plates joined together.


https://www.romae-vitam.com/roman-citizenship.html#:~:text=Starting%20from%2052%20AD%2C%20non-citizen%20%28peregrini%29%20auxiliaries%20in,which%20consisted%20of%20two%20bronze%20plates%20joined%20together.

< Message edited by RangerJoe -- 5/13/2021 11:03:55 PM >


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