Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War/Meetings/2008-March-22

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This is the chat from our meeting on 22nd March 2008 in #thucydides about Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War.

People joining the chat: Daan, Erkan Yilmaz, pietrodn

10:09 <Daan_>Did you both read the text?
10:09 <Erkan_Yilmaz>of course, see
10:09 <Daan_>Good
10:09 <Daan_>And you Pietro?
10:09 <Erkan_Yilmaz>did you ? :-)
10:09 <Daan_>I did
10:09 <pietrodn>Just a moment
10:10 <Daan_>Last week, i suggested to Erkan to think of a theme to discuss, when someone didn't read the text.
10:11 * pietrodn didn't read the text
10:12 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ok, we can start anyway
10:12 <Daan_>A theme that i can think of is siege warfare and naval warfare.
10:12 <Daan_>That was much discussed in the text.
10:12 <Daan_>And we can discuss this theme in general.
10:12 <Daan_>Do you agree?
10:12 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ok, but wouldn't it need also for newcomers involve more knowledge in the warfare from back then ?
10:12 <Daan_>That is right.
10:13 <Erkan_Yilmaz>so let's start
10:13 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ok pietrodn ?
10:13 <Daan_>Or we can just discuss the text.
10:13 <Erkan_Yilmaz>let's see what pietrodn tells
10:13 <pietrodn>let's start

siege of Plataea

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10:14 <Daan_>At the siege of Plataea, the Pelopponesians build a (have to look it up)
10:15 <Daan_>Mound, i think.
10:15 <Erkan_Yilmaz>a dam, rampart
10:15 <Daan_>Yes.
10:15 <Daan_>The Plataeans build a mound.
10:16 <Daan_>So, we have a wall preventing people from entering a city.
10:16 <Daan_>And the Peloponnesians build a dam, so the can walk to the top of the wall and capture a city.
10:16 * Erkan_Yilmaz wonders how big the city walls were back then ?
10:16 <Daan_>The defenders of the city is only 500 men.
10:16 <Erkan_Yilmaz>5-10 meters ?
10:16 <Daan_>It depends on the city.
10:17 <Daan_>The Athenian city walls stretched kilometers.
10:17 <Erkan_Yilmaz>480 men + 110 women
10:17 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ok, I meant the height
10:17 <Daan_>Yes, for some feminist, i mean feminine tasks.
10:18 <Daan_>They could be as long as they wanted.
10:18 <Daan_>If you build high, then you also have to build braod, otherwise the wall collapses.
10:18 <Daan_>broad
10:18 <pietrodn>Athens had very long walls... there was walls also near the harbour
10:18 <Daan_>Yes.
10:19 <pietrodn>*around the harbour
10:19 <Daan_>I will bring my points for these meeting.
10:19 <pietrodn>then Spartans obligated Athens to destroy those walls
10:19 <Daan_> * Siege of Plataea.
10:19 <Daan_> * Naval warfare. Two battles won by the Athenians and an assault on Salamis.
10:19 <Daan_> o We can discuss tactics and engines used for naval and siege warfare.
10:19 <Daan_> * Northern front: Odrysian Thracians, Macedonia, Chalcidice.
10:19 <Daan_> * Invasions of Athenians in Chalcidice and of the Peloponnesians in Acarnania fail.
10:20 <Daan_>Yes, at the end of the war.
10:20 <Erkan_Yilmaz>Thucydides tells, the Lacaedaemonians worked 70 days + nights
10:20 <Erkan_Yilmaz>so can be assumed the walls were large then ?
10:21 <Erkan_Yilmaz>they have to bring earth and put in place
10:21 <Daan_>It depends, maybe the Lacedeamonian army wasn't that big.
10:21 <Erkan_Yilmaz>well, they normally went with two thirds of their army
10:21 <Erkan_Yilmaz>e.g. in the first march to Attica
10:21 <Daan_>The Odryssian Thracians had an army of 150,000 men. And the Greeks were afraid that they would conquer all of Greece.
10:21 <Daan_>So, the Peloponnesian army was smaller than that.
10:22 <Daan_>Perhaps the earth was already there.

battering rams

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10:23 <Daan_>What i didn't get was the battering rams.
10:23 <Daan_>Will look it up in the text.
10:23 <Erkan_Yilmaz>book II, 76
10:24 <Daan_>While the mound was rising the Peloponnesians brought battering engines up to the wall; one which was moved forward on the mound itself shook a great part of the raised building, to the terror of the Plataeans. They brought up others too at other points of the wall. But the Plataeans dropped nooses over the ends of these engines and drew them up; they also let down huge beams suspended at... ...each end by long iron chains from two poles leaning on the wall and projecting over it. These beams they drew up at right angles to the advancing battering-ram, and whenever at any point it was about to attack them they slackened their hold of the chains and let go the beam, which fell with great force and snapped off the head of the ram.[1]
10:24 <Daan_>Now i see.
10:24 <Daan_>Allthough, what is a noose?
10:25 <Erkan_Yilmaz>loop, sling
10:25 <Erkan_Yilmaz>in German: Schlinge
10:25 <Erkan_Yilmaz>in the text are described three use cases for rambocks
10:25 <Daan_>I wonder how these nooses work, because they are very effective.
10:26 <Daan_>Perhaps the battering rams, weren't heavy enough.
10:26 <Erkan_Yilmaz>lets do a wikipedia search
10:26 <Erkan_Yilmaz>
10:28 <Erkan_Yilmaz>here is a pic:
10:28 <Daan_>I can imagine, that these battering rams can be defeated with nooses.
10:28 <Erkan_Yilmaz>here are more pictures:
10:29 <Daan_>A problem is that we both no little about this, so i just don't know what to say about this topic.

Odryssian threat to Greece

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10:30 <Daan_>We could discuss the Odryssian threat to Greece.
10:30 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ok, let's proceed - in the next cyclye we can identify this as a todo
10:30 <Daan_>Yes.
10:30 <Erkan_Yilmaz>pietrodn ?
10:30 <Daan_>We could read aditional literature.
10:30 <pietrodn>I'm not prepared on this part :-(
10:30 <Daan_>That is okay.
10:31 <Erkan_Yilmaz>yeah, how about you ask questions then ?
10:31 <Daan_>The Odryssians had an empire which was of the same size as entire Greece.
10:31 <Daan_>They ruled what is now Bulgaria, Greek thrace, Turkish Thrace and southern Rumenia.
10:31 <Daan_>Romania.
10:32 <Erkan_Yilmaz>pietrodn we are talking now about: II, 95 - II, 101
10:32 <Daan_>They gathered an army of 150,000 men and invaded Macedonia, which was quickly defeated.
10:32 <Erkan_Yilmaz>hm, it was not defeated or ?
10:32 <Erkan_Yilmaz>they invaded it fast

Scythians, horse archers

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10:32 <Daan_>The Thracian army was of a superb quality, they used one of the best working military strategies:
10:32 <Daan_>The horse archer.
10:33 <Daan_>Horse archers with good armour and whom are trained all there life from childhood onwards.
10:33 <Erkan_Yilmaz>something like the Mongolians later on ?
10:33 <Daan_>Yes, exactly.
10:33 <Erkan_Yilmaz>or let's say Indians - so people also get a picture in their head :-)
10:33 <Daan_>Thucydides says that the Scythians are far stronger than the Thracians.
10:34 <Daan_>Yes.
10:34 <Daan_>But, Indians with chain mail.
10:34 <Daan_>The Scythians, if united would defeat every country, even all those in Asia.
10:35 <Erkan_Yilmaz>
10:35 <Daan_>
10:35 <Erkan_Yilmaz>picture:
10:35 <Erkan_Yilmaz>hehe
10:35 <Daan_>Here you see a picture of the Scythian territories.
10:36 <Daan_>If it was a country now, it would be second only to Russia.
10:36 <Daan_>And they were all fierce warriors on horseback.
10:36 <Erkan_Yilmaz>big country
10:36 <Daan_>But, they were no unity, they were fighting eachother.
10:37 <Daan_>Scythians are founders of the Median Empire, and the founders of Zoroastricism, the first major religion.
10:37 <Erkan_Yilmaz>you could say: they were istead getting degenerated doing competition all the time :-)
10:37 <Erkan_Yilmaz>(was about unity)
10:38 <Daan_>yes.
10:38 <pietrodn>That empire was then under the control of Seleucids, right? (in Alessandrian age)
10:38 <Daan_>When?
10:38 <Daan_>In the 5th century?
10:39 <Erkan_Yilmaz>
10:39 <Erkan_Yilmaz>"The Seleucid Empire (312 - 60 BC) was a Hellenistic successor state of Alexander the Great's dominion, including central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkmenistan, Pamir and the Indus valley."[2]
10:39 <Erkan_Yilmaz>
10:39 <Daan_>The Persians were subjects of the Medes, and they rebelled and started the Persian Empire.
10:40 <Daan_>But, most of the scythian territories remained independent of Persia.
10:40 <Daan_>Persians and thracians were related to the Scythians.
10:40 <Daan_>They are all three Indo-Europeans.
10:40 <Erkan_Yilmaz>"In 512 BCE, when king Darius the Great of Persia attacked the Scythians, he allegedly penetrated into their land after crossing the Danube. Herodotus relates that the nomad Scythians succeeded in frustrating the designs of the Persian army by letting it march through the entire country without an engagement. According to Herodotus, Darius in this manner came as far as the Volga river."[3] from
10:40 <Daan_>And the Greeks and Albanians are realted to the Thracians.
10:41 <Daan_>That is typical horse archers strategy.
10:41 <Daan_>The Thracians and the Scythians were nomads.
10:41 <Daan_>and cattle-breeders.
10:42 <Daan_>They moved there home to fresh grass, for their cattle to eat.
10:42 <Daan_>So, they can always move.
10:42 <Erkan_Yilmaz>to come back to the text: Macedonians also did this with their horse riders, II 100 against the large army of Sitalces
10:42 <Daan_>The Persian army is far too slow.
10:42 <Erkan_Yilmaz>but they could not do much besides small attacks with horse riders against the 150000
10:42 <Daan_>Yes, Macedonia also had horse archers.
10:42 <Erkan_Yilmaz>from whom 50000 were horse riders
10:43 <Daan_>The Thracian army was not prepared to conquer.
10:43 <Daan_>They could have easily conquer, i think, but they didn't
10:43 <Erkan_Yilmaz>as it seems they didn't have much food and also winter conditions
10:43 <Erkan_Yilmaz>and some bribing (always when Perdiccas is involved :-) )

Odryssian Thracian Empire paid money, which was distributed to the chiefs

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10:43 <Daan_>Instead of taxes, they gave money to their subjects.
10:44 <Daan_>That is not the way to keep an empire.
10:44 <Erkan_Yilmaz>you mean they had social welfare ?
10:44 <Daan_>People on the outskirts of the Odryssian Thracian Empire paid money, which was distributed to the chiefs.
10:44 <Daan_>No.
10:45 <Daan_>The empire existed in order to have neighbours pay tribute to several cooperating chiefs.
10:45 <Daan_>That was where the power base of king Sitalces rested upon.
10:45 <Daan_>A similar situation existed in afghanistan in the 18th century.
10:46 <Daan_>So, he is very powerfull. But, he can't do much with his power.
10:46 <Erkan_Yilmaz>hmm
10:46 <Erkan_Yilmaz>so you say he has lots of money ?
10:46 <Daan_>The Athenian Empire demands taxes of all subjects, so the Athenian Empire has a stronger structure.
10:46 <Daan_>Yes, and he has to give it to his chiefs.
10:47 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ah and that is because they are more single and not united I assume
10:47 <Daan_>In the Athenian Empire, subjects are forced to pay taxes, and in the Odryssian Thracian Empire, chiefs are forced to accept tribute.
10:48 <Erkan_Yilmaz>forced to accept sounds strange

10:51 <Daan_>Thucydides writes that if chiefs have to acdept tribute, otherwise it is not honourable.
10:51 <Daan_>So, i can imagine, if a chief refuses to get tribute, that he will be an outcast.
10:51 <Daan_>Gaining tribute, and having to go to war in exchange
10:51 <Daan_>Well, they are united to gain tribute, and otherwise the union will end.

10:51 <Daan_>I can imagine that the chiefs of Sitalces are willing to fight for tribute, not fight to fight.
10:52 <Daan_>So, his troops will only go to war for a short period.
10:52 <Daan_>Otherwise Sitalces could lose his power.
10:52 <Erkan_Yilmaz>probably if they are nomad tribes they also have a strong honor system
10:52 <Erkan_Yilmaz>the army was in the field for 30 days when they got back home
10:52 <Daan_>30 days is very short.
10:53 <Erkan_Yilmaz>I remember Spartan army was also maximum 40 days out or ?
10:53 <Erkan_Yilmaz>when they invaded Attica
10:53 <Daan_>Yes, also due to a lack of supplies.
10:54 <Daan_>Sitalces invaded Macedonia, because the Macedonian king supported Sparta instead of athens in Acarnania.
10:54 <Daan_>So, treason was punished severely.
10:54 <Daan_>The Thracians couldn't let that happen.
10:55 <Erkan_Yilmaz>well Sitalces somehow waited also 2 years to attack the Chalcidice what he promised to the Athenians
10:55 <Daan_>They had to show that they were stronger then Macedonia.
10:55 <Daan_>Yes, but there was no honour at stake.
10:55 <Daan_>At that time.
10:55 <Erkan_Yilmaz>but wouldn't the Athenians know anyhow that Perdiccas is unreliable ?
10:55 <Daan_>Of course, he switched sides several times.
10:56 <Erkan_Yilmaz>I mean Perdiccas can't let's say do so much harm in this way
10:56 <Daan_>But, the athenians were not strong enough to deal with Perdiccas.
10:56 <Erkan_Yilmaz>Macedonia is in between Sitalces and Athens friendly Thessaly
10:56 <Daan_>Yes.
10:56 <Erkan_Yilmaz>they could have dealt with them later on also ?
10:56 <Erkan_Yilmaz>so why not first let Sitalces attack the Chalcidice ?
10:57 <Daan_>Who could have dealt with them?
10:57 <Erkan_Yilmaz>Sitalces could have attacked first the Chalcidice
10:57 <Daan_>The athenians have no power over the Thracians.
10:57 <Erkan_Yilmaz>that was more a prob for the Athenians
10:57 <Daan_>Athens can only win the Thracians over by being nice.
10:57 <Erkan_Yilmaz>ok
10:58 <Erkan_Yilmaz>or perhaps he did think while he is in Chalcidice that Perdiccas could get behind him and close him in the Chalcidice ?
10:58 <Daan_>A century later, most of Thrace was conquered by the father of Alexander the Great.
10:58 <Erkan_Yilmaz>again a Philip :-)
10:59 <Daan_>Yep.
10:59 <Erkan_Yilmaz>seems a common name
10:59 <Erkan_Yilmaz>so the result of Sitalces campaing was: nothing ?
10:59 <Erkan_Yilmaz>showing off and going back again
10:59 <Daan_>"or perhaps he did think while he is in Chalcidice that Perdiccas could get behind him and close him in the Chalcidice ?" Who is he?
10:59 <Erkan_Yilmaz>he=Sitalces
11:00 <Daan_>Perdiccas was way to weak.
11:00 <Erkan_Yilmaz>and getting of course the sister of Perdiccas as wife for his nephew with lots of money
11:00 <Daan_>Sitalces only had to worry about food supply.
11:00 <Daan_>Yes.
11:00 <Daan_>Money and booty.
11:00 <Daan_>And a nice wife.
11:00 <Daan_>:-)
11:00 <Erkan_Yilmaz>do we have a picture of her ?
11:00 <Daan_>Sitalces won!
11:01 <Daan_>Maybe.

  • find out how tall the walls of Plataea were


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  2. Seleucid Empire. (2008, March 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:41, March 22, 2008, from
  3. Scythians. (2008, March 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:42, March 22, 2008, from