Friday, December 20, 2013

Massalia. When Marseilles was a Greek city(part 1)

Marseille Ancient Harbor
The  ancient  harbor  of  Marseille  (Lacydon).
In  the  7th  century  BC,  the  Greek  navigators  and  colonists  appeared  in  almost  all  the  Mediterranean  coasts,  managing  to  settle  in  the  greater  part  of  them.  In  the  coast  of  Western  Liguria  (modern  SE  France)  the  Greeks  encountered  the  Celts  for  the  first  time  after  the  Mycenaean  era.  But  when  they  arrived  in  the  region  as  traders  (8th  century  BC),  the  indigenous  inhabitants  were  the  Ligurians  (Ligures),  a  people  of  Neolithic  origins  who  had  adopted  centuries  ago  a  variety  of  the  proto-Celtic  Urnfield  culture. The  first  Greek  settlers  –  Rhodians  and Phocaeans  from  Asia  Minor  –  founded  a  trading  post  at  the  modern  site  of  Saint  Blaise  which  soon  became  a  real  city,  possibly  with  the  name  “Heraclea”  or  “Mastrabala.”  But  soon  afterwards,  Heraclea-Mastrabala  declined  due  to  the  deposition  of  silt  in  the  estuary  of  the  Rhone  River  that  disabled  the  city’s  harbor.  Heraclea  was  overshadowed  by  Massalia,  a  new  Greek  colony  founded  around  600  BC  in  a  better  site.
The  foundation  of  Massalia  (modern  Marseille)  was  a  major  event  in  the  history  of  the  Gauls  and  generally  the  Celts,  strongly  affecting  their  ethnogenesis,  culture  and  evolution.  The  Massaliot  cultural  influence  in  the  Celtic  Halstatt  and  La  Tene  cultures  (through  trade  and  other  relations)  was  especially  important.  The  commercial  network  of  Massalia  used  the  major  rivers  of  Gaul  (Rhone,  Loire,  Garone,  Seine  et. al.)  reaching  the  North  Sea  and  the  British  Isles.  The  Laconian  crater  excavated  in  modern  Vix  of  Northern  France  is  a  famous  artwork  which  was  brought  there  by  Massaliot  merchants  on  behalf  of  the  local  royal  family.  Numerous  Greek  elements  were  adopted  in  the  Gallic  culture,  ranging  from  everyday  life  to  artistic  expression.  Marseille  ‘exported’  to  the  Gauls  its  own  Ionic  culture  (the  Massaliots  were  Ionic  Greeks)  and  simultaneously  functioned  as  an  “intermediary”,  spreading  in  the  same  people  the  technology  and  the  culture  of  mainland  Greece  and  the  Greek  colonies  in  Italy (Magna  Grecia).  The  city  grew  rapidly  becoming  the  commercial  harbor  of  most  of  the  Gallic  world,  whose  products  were  channeled  to  Massalia  and  then  they  were  distributed  to  markets  in  the  entire  Mediterranean.  The  Mediterranean  products  followed  accordingly  the  reverse  path,  reaching  finally  the  Galatian  customers.  Massalia  was  the  commercial  and  cultural  “gate”  of  the  Celts  to  the  South.  One  of  its  most  important  contributions  to  the  Celtic  world  was  the  Greek  alphabet,  which  was  spread  to  Gaul  and  a  great  part  of  Britain.
Cratere Vix

The  Laconian  crater  excavated  at Vix.
The  Phocaeans  of  Asia  Minor  were  the  founders  of  Massalia.  The  Gallo-Roman  historian  Pompey  Trogus  quotes  (through  the  book  of  Justin)  the  city’s  foundation  legend.  According  to  him,  Phocaean  seafarers  led  by  Protes,  left  their  homeland  in  order  to  establish  a  colony.  After  a  long  and  dangerous  journey,  they  arrived  at  the  estuary  of  the  Tiber,  the  port  of  Rome  (Ostia  was  not  founded  yet).  The  Romans  were  friendly  to  the  Phocaeans,  and  now  they  allied  themselves  with  Protes’  men  and  gave  them  supplies  for  their  ongoing  colonist  mission.  From  Rome,  the  Phocaeans  sailed  to  the  coast  of  modern  Provence.  The  Greeks  landed  in  the  territory  of  the  native  Segobriges  and  their  king,  Nannus,  welcomed  them.  They  landed  there  in  the  same  day  that  Gyptis,  Nannos’  daughter,  would  choose  a  husband.  According  to  the  local  customs, the  princess  would  make  the  selection  during  a  symposium  in  which  all  the  scions  of  the  local  aristocracy  were  invited.  Nannus  invited  the  Greeks  as  well  in  the  symposium,  without  considering  the  consequences  of  the  invitation.  The  king  gave  a  cup  of  water  to  his  daughter,  asking  her  to  offer  it  to  the  man  who  wanted  as  a  husband.  Gyptis  passed  indifferently  the  Ligurian  suitors  and  offered  the  cup  to  Protes.  Nannos  was  obliged  to  give  his  daughter’s  hand  to  Protes  and  also  a  part  of  his  realm  for  the  foundation  of  the  new  city  Massalia.

Behind   Trogus’  romantic  and  possibly  naive  narrative,  lies  the  historical  reality.  In  my  opinion,  it  seems  that  there  has  been  some  agreement  between  the  Greeks  and  the  Ligurians  with  the  obligation  of  the  natives  to  concede  lands  to  the  newcomers.  This  agreement  was  sealed  by  the  marriage  of  the  Greek  leader  and  founder  (‘oekistes’  in  Greek)  with  the  Segobrigian  princess.  Both  sides  benefited  from  this  agreement.  The  Greeks  were  allowed  to  found  their  colony,  while  the  Segobriges  had  on  their  side  a  military  powerful  ally  for  their  wars  against  neighboring  tribes.  I  must  note  that  the  Segobriges  were  supposed  to  be  Ligurians,  but  their  tribal  name  is  Celtic.  Probably  their  royal  dynasty  and  possibly  a  part  of  their  aristocracy  were  already  Gallic,  thence  their  Celtic  national  name.  But  there  is  also  a  theory  on  the  language  spoken  by  the  Ligurians  in  those  centuries.  According  to  this,  the  Ligurians  abandoned  their  own  language  when  they  adopted  the  Urnfield  culture,  adopting  with  it  a  form  of  proto-Celtic.  This  is  also  an  explanation  for  their  Celtic  tribal  name.
The  original  small  Greek  settlement  of  Massalia  became  gigantic  with  the  passage  of  time,  removing  more  and  more  land  from  the  natives,  now  threatening  their  own  existence.  It  was  a  situation  very  similar  to  the  colonization  of  the  English  and  French  in  the  East  coast  of  North  America,  at  the  expense  of  the  Indians.  Comanus,  Nannus’  successor,  was  planning  to  reverse  this  threatening  situation.  The  Massaliots  already  mistrusted  the  Ligurians  and  allowed  them  to  enter  the  city  only  after  their  disarmament  at  the  gates.  Comanus  had  plans  to  conquer  the  city  with  treason  during  the  great  Greek  feast  of  the  Anthesteria.  According  to  his  plan  –  not  surprisingly,  a  variant  of  the  Homeric  episode  of  the  Trojan  Horse  –  a  group  of  armed  Ligurians  would  be  hidden  beneath  the  foliage  of  the  chariots  of  the  festive  parade  and  thus  they  would  enter  the  city,  waiting  in  their  hiding  places  until  dark.  In  the  night  they  would  open  the  gates  of  Massalia  for  the  assault  of  the  Segobrigan  army,  which  waited  hidden  behind  the  neighboring  hills.
The  Greeks  were  lucky  because  a  native  woman  revealed  the  Ligurian  plan  to  her  Massaliot  lover  and  he  immediately  informed  the  city’s  leaders.  In  the  day  of  the  Anthesteria,  the  Greeks  were  prepared.  They  attacked  first  the  Ligurians  and  massacred  Comanus  with  7,000  of  his  men,  almost  all  the  warriors  of  the  tribe.  The  Segobriges  were  almost  extinct.  It  is  possible  that  the  episode  of  the  Ligurian  plan  for  the  conquest  of  Massalia  is  a  myth.  Most  probably,  the  ongoing  expansion  of  the  Greek  territory  at  the  expense  of  the  Ligurians,  resulted  in  a  total  war  between  the  two  peoples.  Apparently  the  Greek  colonists  (although  far  fewer  in  numbers)  managed  to  defeat  overwhelmingly  the  Segobrigan  army, due  to  their  superior  military  equipment  and  tactics.
Greek (in  red)   and  Phoenician (in  yellow)  colonies  in  the  western  Mediterranean.
After  Comanus’  attempt,  the  attitude  of  the  Massaliots  changed  dramatically.  Their  society  became  closed,  robust  and  significantly  militarized.  The  other  Greek  merchants  and  seafarers  who  arrived  in  Lakydon,  the  harbor  of  Massalia,  observed  that  her  citizens  were  always  unsmiling,  serious  and  strict.  The  small  Massaliot  army  became  very  effective,  due  to  the  continuous  and  hard  training,  while  their  navy  became  one  of  the  strongest  in  the  Mediterranean.  The  development  of  Massalia  was  rapid.  Her  people  subjugated  the  neighboring  Ligurians  and  annexed  the  aforementioned  neighboring  Greek  city-state  Heraclea-Mastrabala  (around  520  BC).  They  also  founded  many  colonies,  ‘channeling’  to  these  the  new  Phocaean  and  other  Greek  colonists  who  arrived  in  Lakydon.  Famous  modern  French  and  Spanish  cities  were  founded  by  the  Massaliots  or  the  Phocaeans.  In  France,  Nice  (ancient  Greek  Nicaea),  Antibes  (ancient  Greek  Antipolis),  Arles  (Thelene),  Avignon  (Avenion),  Agde  (Tyche  Agathe),  Monaco  (Monoecos  Heracles  Limen),  Saint-Tropez  (Athinopolis),  Cannes  (Cannes),  and  in  Spain,  Alicante  (Acra  Leuce),  probably  Barcelona  (Callipolis)  and  possibly  Valencia  and  Elche,  are  only  some  of  them.  Other  major  Greek  colonies  of  the  same  coasts  were  the  cities  of  Tauroeis,  Olbia,  Emporion,  Rhode  (a  Rhodian  colony),  Zacantha  (a  Zacynthian  colony),  Alonis,  Pergantion  and  Hemeroscopeion.  The  Massaliot  sea-fighters  repulsed  many  seaborne  attacks  of  the  Etruscans,  the  Carthaginians  and  the  Ligurian  pirates,  winning  many  victories.
The  Massaliot  naval  force  was  so  strong  that  it  limited  the  powerful  Carthaginian/Punic  navy  in  the  sea  area  south  of  the  Balearic  Islands  and  put  under  the  Massaliot  control  the  entire  coast  from  modern  Alicante  (Spain)  to  Genoa  (Italy) (Genoa  was  an  Etruscan  colony).  The  Late  Classical  Massaliot  state  comprised  most  of  the  80,000-100,000  Greeks  of  the  Far  Western  Mediterranean  and  had  under  its  direct  control  an  area  of  ​​about  3-4,000  sq.  Kilometers  (the  Classical  Athenian  state  covered  an  equal  area  together  with  the  Aegean  islands  of  Imbros,  Lemnos  and  Skyros),  while  the  Massaliot  political  influence  extended  to  another  8-9,000  square  Kilometers  of  territories  of  the  indigenous  peoples  (Ligurians  and  Iberians).  It  seems  that  the  only  other  Greek  cities  of  the  ‘Far  West’  (from  the  ancient  Greek  point  of  view)  which  were  independent  from  Massalia  but  only  occasionally,  were  the  cities  of  Emporion  (Emporium),  Thelene,  Rhode,  Zakantha  and  Nicaea.
Emporiae  coin
Currency  of  the  city-state  Emporion  in  Spain.

The  city  of  classical  Massalia  (5th-4th  centuries  BC)  had  a  population  of  40,000-50,000,  equal  to  that  of  the  major  ‘double  cities’  of  mainland  Greece,  Athens-Piraeus  and  Corinth-Lechaeon.  The  Massaliot  army  consisted  of  Greek  hoplites  and  Gallic  and  Ligurian  light  armed  subjects  and  mercenaries.  The  Massaliot  cavalry  was  also  renowned:  the  Romans  awarded  it  credits  for  its  action  during  the  Second  Punic  War  in  the  Rhone  valley.  Even  more  powerful  was  the  navy  of  Massalia,  comprised  initially  of  penteconters  and  biremes  and  later  (Classical  period)  of  triremes,  and  during  the  Hellenistic  period  possibly  quinqueremes.  Massalia  had  a  significant  arms  industry  because  of  her  militarization,  several  of  which  she  exported  to  the  Gauls  of  the  hinterland.
The  unfortunate  thing  for  Massalia  was  that  her  history  was  mostly  written  by  Latin  writers.  The  city  was  rather  distant  for  the  metropolitan  Greeks.  Thus  the  ‘super-patriotic’  Roman  writers  (among  them  the  Greek  Polybius  as  well)  ignored  significantly  her  history  or  reduced  in  many  cases  her  contribution  in  the  subsequent  Roman  successes,  e.g.  the  important  role  of  the  Massaliot  navy  in  the  victory  of  the  Roman  fleet  against  the  Carthaginian  navy  in  the  estuary  of  the  Iber  River  (217  BC)  according  to  modern  French  historians.  An  English  historian  aptly  notes:  “The  History  of  ancient  Massalia  appears  to  the  modern  world  as  the  tip  of  an  iceberg  that  pops  up  above  the  waves.  We  are  convinced  that  it  is  there,  but  access  to  it  is  almost  impossible.  This  is  the  mystery  of  Massalia.  Massalia  is  the  forgotten  Colossus…”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Byzantine swords

It’s strange that we in the West have not hitherto paid greater attention to the study of the Byzantine world, the lineal descendant of Rome, and that Constantinople is often viewed as somehow disconnected from the Ancient Roman world when in no way was this true. Byzantium was the closest the medieval world came to fielding a super power, was unquestionably the cause of the Renaissance, and was a military force so pre-eminent that victories were routine, while defeats were studied and celebrated by that culture. There is so much to fascinate us there, and yet, we still have a long way to come in terms of appreciating it.
Between the Catholic world and the Islamic however, much has been done to throw sand over the legacy of the Romans; though we have the great fortune to live in an age where the religious and cultural reasons for suppressing the memory of Byzantium are now being swept aside in the interest of knowledge of the longest lived Empire mankind has ever produced.
Byzantine Swords represent a tradition of swords that is both familiar to the Western tradition and completely alien to it. The traditional and well trod Oakeshott Typology, as useful as it is in categorising the swords of the Catholic West, is at odds with the swords of the Byzantine World. However A. Bruhn Hoffmeyer established a typology for Byzantine Swords that is infinitely more relevant in 1966:
There are many swords which have now been identified as Byzantine which will be discussed and examined in due course. Of great use to the student of the Byzantine Sword however is depictions in Byzantine Art, which frequently show in amazing detail the Byzantine Sword as it existed in the Byzantine World contemporary to the artwork.Below is one such example showing a cruciform sword with a Type R (spherical) pommel. It is worth noting here that the Byzantine fondness of the Type R pommel extended from antiquity right through until the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453:
Furthermore sometimes the Type R pommel was not peened but was attached by way of a rivet in the manner of the swords of the cavalry of the steppe:
Here the Byzantine Spherical pommel is depicted on a slightly curved one edged sword referred to as the Paramerion:
Here the Type R pommel is shown affixed to the end of a hand and half or two handed sword of the later Medieval period:
This example shows another classic cruciform design also showing a Byzantine preponderance towards hilt furniture of copper alloy, as well as spherical pommels:

One the many advantages of the Type R pommel is that it allows a pommel to have a smaller profile, as a sphere contains more mass than a disc of the same profile, which can be used to create a pleasing aesthetic such as in these examples:
This example shows a slightly flattened sphere with a Romanesque peenblock:
Below is a sword the Dr. Timothy Dawson has indicated is more likely than not Byzantine in origin, by way of decoration on the blade and its unusual (for the West) globular pommel:
The same sword was examined in Ian Pearce’s Swords of the Viking Age, below is an extract detailing the sword:
A tradition of swords existed throughout Constantinople’s history as a Christian Empire that very closely emulated the slender and long styles of swords of their Persian neighbours. The Hoffmeyer Typology lists examples at numbers 11 & 28 – 31.These swords tend towards a lenticular or pillow cross section and came in single and double edged varieties. More often that not they had parallel edges for most of the blade’s length.
Frequently the swords had a metal cross guard, but either no pommel, or an organic pommel, but in either case it is likely the pommel was a continuous part of the wood of the handle.
In other cases the swords featured copper alloy cross guards with sleeves which extended down the blade, which would enclose the mouth of the scabbard, thereby precluding rain from entering, and a grip and pommel that were attached with rivets. This method of construction extended to other types of Byzantine Swords.
This sword find from the Serce Limani shipwreck has previously been designated as Islamic in origin, but has now been confirmed as Byzantine and corroborated with contemporary pictorial evidence by Professor Valeri Yotov.It features a lenticular blade form, most of which is lost, and shows the Byzantine custom of a sleeve like projection running down the blade. It too is attached to the blade by way of rivets.
Below are accurate measurements of the find for interested parties (for some reason measurements are given in metres):
This is an example of style that was popular in Byzantine in various forms, which featured a square pommel, the square sitting on its corner rather than sitting on its side:
The pommel on this sword is somewhat like a flower bud:
The ‘Spanish’ style of hilt is represented in Byzantine Art, but who influenced whom remains a mystery.
This sword below features the Spanish style of hilt, but this style of blade may or may not have enjoyed contemporary use, or may have been artistic license. Raeffele D’Amato believes forward curved swords were in use in a period continuous from antiquity.
An example of a very large, almost Claymore-like, Byzantine Sword:
This Serbian Warrior Saint is equipped in the Byzantine fashion, the ikon comes from the late Byzatine period.
This fresco, referenced in part above, shows both a beautiful example of a Spathion and a Paramerion.
This image appears to show a Byzantine Sword like the Serci Limani shipwreck example:

A slender, compact cruciform sword from the late Byzantine Period.

There is a high probability that this sword as depicted in Oakeshott’sRecords of the Medieval Sword is Byzantine in origin, given its form being an anomaly in the West, but extremely common in the Byzantine Realms:
Examples of hexagonal pommels:
A beautiful Byzantine Sword showing an offset fuller, much like those still found on Caucasian Qamas.
As previously touched upon the Byzantine way of war frequently utilised a curved sword adapted from the Avar sabre. This appears to have been, for the most part, single edged, though pictorial sources seem to indicate that double edged variants may have existed.
The now defunct Microsoft Encarta hosted this image, which it described as “A Byzantine & German Sword”. While the top sword is definitely Byzantine in form, and the bottom may be Byzantine also, the top sword is definitely not German in origin. Thusly we may conclude that the top sword is the Byzantine.I have so far been unable to find out any other information about this superlative specimen, but continue to be on the look out for it.
The image of the sword comes courtesy of Raffaele D’Amato and shows a find from Bulgaria. It was located at the site of a Byzantine battle and was the possession of a Varangian Guardsman. What is so exceptional about this specimen is that it clearly demonstrates the mixed nature of the panoply of the Varangian Guard, even down to individual items. This is a Viking Sword but with a distinctly Byzantine cross guard.
Below is another example of the mixed nature of Varangian Guardsmen’s gear. This sword (bottom right) is a Viking Sword but with a grip and pommel riveted on in the style of Steppe Swords. It has been identified as Byzantine by Professor Valeri Yotov.
Our Lord and Saviour, comes: “not to bring peace, but to bring a sword…” (Matthew 10:34) Note again the comparatively compact hilt configuration.

Unfortunately it is no longer possible to discern what sort of pommel this sword bore, but the blade and guard are beautiful examples of the Byzantine style.

Compact hilts:

A rare depiction of a Byzantine wielding a dagger. This weapon also bears the pommel style the Byzantines made their own – Type R, or the spherical.
This image from a Byzantine site in Kosovo again depicts J.C., this time with a beautiful onion pommeled sword:
A Byzantine sabre / Paramerion variant:
A spectacular late Byzantine example with a globular pommel and stiff medial ridge:
It is not uncommon to see Byzantine examples of swords with guards which turn downward towards the hand. This configuration is sometimes seen on 20th and 21st century knives. It is surprisingly comfortable when used with a stiff wrist and strong arm.
The onion pommel together with the very Byzantine spherical peen block:
The Tetrarchs from late antiquity bear swords in the Romano-Persian style of the kind that were also implemented by Eastern Romans then and in the early medieval era:
Spherical terminals mark the ends of this crossguard, a very common feature on Byzantine swords:
Another elegant spherical pommel:
Another demonstration, this one particularly exquisite, of the Byzantine preponderance for small and refined sword hilts:
A flattened spherical pommel:
Unknown but remarkable for the detail on the scabbard:
Type R:
This example is best described as bearing the ‘pillowed’ style of guard that found favour in Byzantium:
These examples appear from time to time. I am uncertain whether they are of the ‘mushroom’ style or lobed, in other words somewhat cylindrical or flattened, as a result of artistic license. The mushroom style is corroborated, the lobed I am not as sure about:
A closer picture of Nestor bearing an attractive gold hilted sword:
Paramerions, showing the variety of shapes they came in:
This example from the 13th century:
A very interesting example showing a sword without a crossguard? Μybe a Byzantine Romphaia?

A Varangian Guardsman (An Imperial Guard Unit composed of Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians)

Another compact hilted, spherically pommeled Byzantine Sword.
This exceptional fresco clearly shows a very beautiful Byzantine sword, this examples hails from 14th century Macedonia:

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