Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece – A Guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology – Book Review

I received a heavy tome from Pen and Sword books recently and this one is a cracker. It is definitely heavy, weighing in at 1.2kgs and I think the weight is the paper stock used in printing this largely colour work. The basis of this book is a look at ancient battlefields and battles in and around Greece with reference to modern topography. All the battles covered are illustrated with a location map, satellite photographs of the area, many from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), along with any relevant ground based photographs from the authors’ collection.

The USGS maps have battlefield deployments superimposed over the them. As Dr Matthew A. Sears and Dr C. Jacob Butera note in the book’s preface, “This is a book designed for the traveller to Greece, whether the member of a tour group, the independent adventurer, or the curious scholar.” I believe that if one carries this book on tour, your excess baggage charges will increase. However if you have an interest in Ancient Battles and Battlefields or are simply curious to maximise the interesting points from a tour, then this book is worth the effort to lug around.

The book, Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece – A Guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology, by C. Jacob Butera and Matthew A. Sears has been published by Pen & Sword Military. It contains 385 pages, its ISBN is 9781783831869 and it was published on 13 May 2019. It is a cracker of a volume and I have had difficulty putting it down. The writing style of the authors is readable to all and while the subject is wide reaching, the slicing and dicing of their topic has been skilfully performed.

The Introduction discusses the various periods covered by the book with explanations of the Phalanx style and type of warfare, and the armies that used them. It does not restrict itself to simply land battles either but includes some naval warfare – two notable ancient naval battles in particular. The Introduction then discusses briefly Ancient Greek and Roman Warfare, splitting the introduction into:

  • The Archaic and Classical Periods
    • The Hoplite Phalanx
    • Cavalry and Light-Armed Infantry
    • Greek Naval Warfare
  • The Hellenistic Period and Roman Middle Republic
    • The Macedonian Army
    • The Roman Manipular Legion
    • Phalanx vs Legion
  • The End of the Roman Republic
    • The Roman Army of the Late Republic
    • Roman Naval Warfare

There are photos from various museums and collections illustrating items through there as well with items such as, for example, the Lenormant Relief from the acropolis Museum depicting a trireme and its rowers. This section is then concluded with a list of Further Reading covering the topics – and unlike many book lists and bibliographies, this comes with comments. So, for example, the following entry:

Kagan, D., and Viggiano, G.F. (eds), Men of Bronze: Hoplite Warfare in Ancient Greece (Princeton, 2013). — The best resource on the debate surrounding the nature of hoplite warfare, with contributions from the leading voices in the debate

Other entries are similarly marked.

The Book is then divided into four main parts with each part covering three to seven battles for that geographic area:

  • Athens and Attica
    1. The Battle of Marathon, 490 BCE
    2. The Battle of Salamis, 480 BCE
    3. The Battle of Piraeus/Mounichia, 403 BCE
  • Boeotia and Central Greece
    1. The Battle of Thermopylae, 480 BCE
    2. The Battle of Artemisium, 480 BCE
    3. The Battle of Plataea, 479 BCE
    4. The Battle of Delium, 424 BCE
    5. The Battle of Coronea, 394 BCE
    6. The Battle of Leuctra, 371 BCE
    7. The Battles of Chaeronea, 338 and 86 BCE
  • Northern Greece
    1. The Battle of Amphipolis, 422 BCE
    2. The Battle of Cynoscephalae, 197 BCE
    3. The Battle of Pydna, 168 BCE
    4. The Battle of Pharsalus, 48 BCE
    5. The Battle of Philippi, 42 BCE
  • The Peloponnese and Western Greece
    1. The Battles of Naupactus, 429 BCE
    2. The Battle of Pylos, 425 BCE
    3. The Battles of Mantinea, 418 and 362 BCE
    4. The Battle of the Nemea River, 394 BCE
    5. The Battle of Actium, 31 BCE

Each of the battle chapters is then divided into:

  • General Map of the Battle Location on the Chapter facing page
  • Introduction — brief description of the location and the events around the battle
  • Directions to the Site — how to get there and landmarks
  • Historical Outline of the Battle — details of the battle from the primary sources and archeological studies including the USGS maps of the area of the battle with deployments and movements superimposed
  • The Battle Site Today — what the site looks like today including photographs of items of interest
  • Further Reading — this section is broken up into two main areas – Historical Sources, and Modern Sources with the Modern Sources including books and articles

Lastly the book contains a useful index.

Each chapter is about 15 to 20 pages long, a perfect length for reading over a cup of coffee or when there is an hour or so spare. With the references added however, the temptation is to read the chapter then read back in the primary sources but with a greater understanding of the topography of the battle.

The authors are both academics, Dr C. Jacob Butera is an assistant professor of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and Dr Matthew A. Sears is an associate professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Brunswick in Canada.

This is a book is simply great. If you ever wanted a general reference for the battlefields of Ancient Greece, this is the one. It is a bonus that it is clearly written and well illustrated with maps, satellite photographs and photographs of items of interest remaining on the battlefield, and where each chapter identifies the primary sources for the battle as well as modern source material. Well recommended. It is also available in digital form which does lighten the physical load a little.

Advertisements

World War 2 Belgians – Another BKC Army

The full Belgian force

Earlier this year I was looking for something a little different and as Blitzkreig Commander III had been released I flicked through the rules and lists and decided that I would start building some another early World War 2 army or two. I have Western Desert Italians (built for BKC – see this blog post and then this one for colour) back in Australia and had acquired some Early War Germans from Douglas as he sold off figures before his move to Scotland. I had also already built an early war Soviet Army (built for BKC II) and thought to myself, “English, French or something else?” Something else won and I started looking for figures for a Belgian army, circa 1940.

Now I know there have been issues with BKC III resulting in that being pulled but fortunately the only differences in the BKC II and BKC III lists was effectively the removal of the 47mm Anti-Tank Guns. So my army is missing those at the moment but I will add them next time I can afford a figure order.

The models eventually selected to use were the Belgians from Scotia Grendel. I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed with the infantry figures as they suffer from thin legs and poor casting as well as a rather static pose. Having said that, the motorcycles and vehicles are lovely. I selected from the Belgian range, the French range and the Neutral Equipment range.

Overall now, it is a nicely fragile force of early war equipment. The figures have been based ready for sand to be added and painting to commence.

I will update Thomo’s Hole later with painting details as the point goes on.

For the future? I think the next early war forces will be the French, followed by the British prior to Dunkirk then more early Germans. To oppose the Soviets will be slightly later early war Germans and I also have the Japanese. Somewhere along the line I will add so Poles as well.

As to the quality of the figures, see for yourself and make up your own mind.

New British Battleships – 1942 – HMS Anson and Howe

I ended up by accident looking at an old Pathe News clip today – the one where HMS Howe had completed her time in the graving dock and was being made ready for sea. The news report showed the final stages of preparation and the workers leaving the vessel, the provisioning of the ship and the HMS Howe sailing down to then under the Forth bridge.  Some great shots of her at sea and firing her 14″ broadside.

Well worth looking at for a blast from the past, not to mention the 1940s newsreader English, “the ship was got ready”.

French Battleships of World War One – John Jordan & Philippe Caresse – Review

French Battleships of World War One by John Jordan & Philippe Caresse, published by Seaforth Publishing, on 30 May 2017, ISBN: 9781848322547, 328 wonderful pages.

I know John Jordan works from the wonderful Warship series, Warship 2017 sits on my bookshelf waiting for me to get some spare reading time. Jordan has been the editor of that publication for a number of years. Recent books of his for Seaforth Press include French Battleships 1922-1956, followed up with French Cruisers 1922-1956 and lastly French Destroyers 1922-1956. This book then is a prequel to those.

It is, simply, wonderful. French World War One Battleships were perhaps the most stylish, certainly the most distinctive of the period. The large tumblehome, pronounced “ramming” bows and the eccentric grouping of funnels give French Battleships of the First World War such a unique look that it is impossible to mistake them for any other’s battleships.

Philippe Caresse co-authored this work and is himself a respected author of matters nautical, in particular the German Navy of both World Wars.

That Jordan has spent many years researching French warships, especially of this period and immediately before the war, is clear from reading the text. Caresse provided the historical background as well as many of the photos. This book is worth having for the photo collection alone. That is also has line drawings of the class leaders b Jordan, many in both elevation and plan as well as cross-sectional drawings, discussions of propulsion machinery, hull form and superstructure as well as technical tables of the vessels, and periodically comparisons between the main competitors from other navies makes this book an invaluable sourcebook for French Battleships of the period 1890-odd to the mid to late 1920s.

To the above, add 8 pages of watercolour paintings of various vessels from Jean Bladé and here is a book that I will happily sit and just flick through, looking at a picture here, reading some text there, but all the while admiring the style that was the French battleship of the time.

The book has chapeters on:

PART I TECHNICAL SECTION

  • Pre-History 1870-1890
  • The Flotte d’Echantillons
  • The Charlemagne Class
  • Iéna and Suffren
  • The Patrie Class
  • The Courbet Class
  • The Bretagne Class
  • The Normandie Class
  • The Projects of 1913

PART II HISTORICAL SECTION

  • The Fleet and its Ships 1900-1916
  • The Great War 1914-1918
  • The Interwar Period 1918-1939
  • The Second World War

The chapter on the Second World War is because many of the vessels from the First World War were still in service.

If I had to give this book a rating out of five stars, then I would not hesitate to give it 5-stars. Did I mention that it is wonderful?

Another book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the pre-Dreadnought and Dreadnought periods of battleships, a must have on the naval historian’s bookshelves and under the naval enthusiast’s coffee table.

Freeing the Baltic 1918-1920 – review

In 1964 Geoffrey Bennett wrote a book called Cowan’s War. The book centered on the Battles to help free Russia from the Bolsheviks. I remember reading it when I was a teenager as the concept of Britain being involved in another little war immediately after World War One was interesting, and I had just finished reading a book about a motor boat fighting the Bolsheviks (the name of the book eluding me at the moment).

When the opportunity came to review Bennett’s Freeing the Baltic – 1918-1920 it was a great excuse to reread the history and recapture (briefly) the feelings I had when I was a teenager.

Pen & Sword Maritime have released this edition in 2017, ISBN 9781473893078. A preface by Bennett’s son, Rodney Bennett has been added along with an addendum.

The main text of the book covers the complexity of this war. The Entente Cordiale were in the process of negotiating the Versailles Treaty with the Central Powers at the same time as the Russian Revolution was in full swing with the White Russians trying to resist the Bolsheviks (Red Russians). The Entente would have preferred independant Baltic States (as indeed would the states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania). The Germans were still active in the region until the Entente coould direct support there.

Bennett wrote about the Royal Navy admiral, Cowan, who was tasked with supporting the White Russians, ejecting the Germans, supporting the Baltic States in their quest for independence while dealing with his own government, crewmen who had had enough of war and wanted to return to home ports along with mines and all with some light cruisers and destroyers.

It is a boy’s own story and I enjoyed reading it again as a somewhat older boy. That the Baltic States were subjugated by the Soviets or the White Russians were defeated by the Bolsheviks is not because of Cowan’s inabilities but rather an inevitability of the creation of the USSR.

The cover of the book carries a quote from Leon Trotsky, “[The British] ships must be sunk, come what may”. This was the environment Cowan found himself in. The Admiralty assigned 238 ships to the area including 23 light cruisers, 85 destroyers and 1 aircraft carrier with 55 aircraft. The French asl allocated 26 vessels, the Italians 2 and the U.S.A. 14. Over the conflict 17 British vessels were lost to mines, weatrher and the enemy. Sixty-one vessels were damaged and 37 aircraft were lost.

In the area the Soviets had 30 vessels approximately including two battleships.

Bennett’s son added a preface and an addendum to the book containing information uncovered later. Perhaps the most ineresting was Admiral Walter Cowan’s career in World War Two where he served in the Western Dessert with the Indian 18th King Edward’s Own Cavalry, mounted on bren-gun carriers. Captured by the Italians, then later part of a prisoner swap he returned to the dessert. When the Second World War was over he was invited to Indian to become the honourary colonel of the 18th King Edward’s Own, surely the first naval officer to be so honoured.

I loved this book when I was a teenager and I love it now and really appreciate the excuse to read it a second time. The additions by Bennett’s son enhance the book rather than detracting at all from his father’s work. Thoroughly recommended.

Bennett also wrote Battle of the River Plate; Coronel and the Falklands; Naval Battles of World War Two; The Battle of Trafalgar; Naval Battles of the First World War; and the Battle of Jutland.

Battle of Malplaquet

Battle_of_Malplaquet,_1709Just when I was settling into decisions for next years projects it occurred to me that today, 11 September 2013 is the 304th anniversary of the Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Malplaquet fought between England, Austria, Prussia and the Low Countries on one side and France and Bavaria on the other. It was a battle that was famous for the commanders, John Churchill of the English (the Duke of Marlborough) and Prince Eugene of Savoy on the one side and Claude de Villars and Louis Boufflers on the other. Overall there were 86,000 in the armies of the Grand Alliance with 100 guns and and 75,000 and 80 guns on Bourbon side.

The Army of the Grand Alliance found itself at Malplaquet near the modern Belgian/French border. In the morning of 11 September 1709 at 9.00am the Austrians attacked with the support of Prussian and Danish troops. These were commanded by Count Albrecht Konrad Finck von Finckenstein. They pushed back the French left wing into the forest behind them. On the French right wing the Dutch under the command of the Prince of Orange, John William Friso, attacked to distract the French and prevent them from coming to Villars’ aid.

Later a decisive final attack was made on the weakened French centre by British infantry under the command of the Earl of Orkney. This attack occupied the the French redans. Allied cavalry was then able to advance through this line and engage the French cavalry behind. By this stage, de Villars was off the field having been wounded earlier so Boufflers was in command. Boufflers was leading the Maison du Roi and six times drive the Allied cavalry back before finally deciding the battle was lost and surrendering the field.

The victory for the Grand Alliance had come at some cost however with 21,000 casualties from within the alliance compared to 11,000 casualties on the French and Bavarian side.

Now I am torn again between the War of Spanish Succession and the Great Northern War. Of course, I could just do this as Imagi-nations. Oh yes, and I am still planning something with the Thirty Years War.

Lego – this is just insulting

imageAs many folks know, I go by the handle of ‘thomo_the_lost’ when I need a username on a website as it tends to fit my lifestyle of a year or two here, a year or two there. I have even used that handle on the odd financial services website without any issues. However, when trying to join the Lego website (don’t ask why), I was told I could not use that username, even though no one else was using it.

Normally I would not care about that and just change it but this happened to me earlier in Facebook as well. When I tried to use ‘thomo_the_lost’ for my Facebook homepage, Facebook rejected it even though it was not used anywhere else.

imageIn both cases (Lego and Facebook), if I changed my username to ‘thommo_the_lost’ then it worked fine.

What is the difference between the two handles? One ‘m’ only. The words and sounds are still the same. So why does one reject and not the other? Simple really (although it took me nearly 60 seconds to work it out).

‘Thomo’ has the string ‘homo’ in it. To test that this is indeed the reason, I tried to set a username of ‘homo_sapien’. I thought, “that’s a good scientific name for a person”.

imageGuess what? That failed too.

Just to confirm my suspicions and to make sure that I was being fair to Lego before writing this, I tried to login as ‘homo_sapien’ and then clicked on the ‘I forgot my password’ link. I figured that if ‘homo_sapien’ was already used as a username I would be able to see it from the return screen.

imageThe screen to the right was the response to that – there is no login username of ‘homo_sapien’ in the Lego system.

This is the same as Facebook (and I guess a number of other websites as well).

The problem is the ‘homo’ string. It seems that these organisations think ‘homo’ is a sexual or indeed homosexual term and that if that string is allowed in usernames, it will be the end of civilisation as we know it!

What is doubly disappointing to me is that Lego is a Danish ((and just to be sure I checked – the website carries a notice under the terms and conditions section that says, “the Site is owned and operated by LEGO A/S, a corporation incorporated under the laws of Denmark, having its principle office in Denmark.”)) firm and Denmark has strong non-discrimination laws. “Discrimination” I hear you say. “That’s a bit rich isn’t it?”

Well, it must be discrimination – I leave you with my last experimental trial on the Lego website – have a close look at this username!

image

The Buccleuch Arms Hotel, St Boswells

The Buccleuch Arms Hotel, St Boswells
The Buccleuch Arms Hotel, St Boswells
A red sandstone building of the mid 19th century, built by the Duke of Buccleuch for his hunting friends. Now a good place to stop off for a pub lunch.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Gordon Hatton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
It was April 2012 and we were on a drive south – starting at the Glenspean Lodge in the Highlands, we drove along the A86 (the old General Wade’s Military Road in parts) towards Fort Augustus and Loch Lochy, then on the Loch Ness, Inverness, Culloden and then south. We were hoping to make Newcastle ((we have an Australian view of distance so not only were we driving but we also stopped along the loch for a wee bit of lunch and a view over then loch and then stopped at Culloden for a walk with the ghosts of that battle)) but by the time we got to St  Boswell’s on the border, we were feeling a wee bit knackered so stopped for a pint and a comfortable bed.

We stayed at The Buccleuch Arms Hotel in St Boswells where we had a very pleasant chat with the owner over a couple of pints and then a couple of drams … just to help you sleep mind.

Both the Glenspean Lodge and the Buccleuch Arms are places we will happily stay in again, The scenery around the Glenspean Lodge was simply marvellous. The whisky at the Buccleuch Arms was also simply marvellous. The lady also enjoyed the black pudding served at breakfast there.

It was wonderful today to to see that the Buccleuch Arms had won the award for the Scottish Inn of the Year 2013. Just for the record, the Glenspean Lodge has a brace of awards from  the 2010 Scottish Hotel Awards.

We happily recommend, both establishments which interestingly were both hunting lodges.

I should note that the next days drive was from St Boswells to Stonehenge and then back to Heathrow Airport.

Brussels

Montgomery roundabout at 4:30 am - looks cold don't it?
Montgomery roundabout at 4:30 am – looks cold don’t it?

I’m in Brussels at the moment, just down the road from Charleroi and Waterloo. This is perfect for the wargaming but a little unfortunate as I have to work.

Looks cold out there doesn’t it? It has been around 4 degrees in the day time with a lazy wind ((the wind is so lazy that it doesn’t bother flowing around you it just blows straight through you))  blowing from the north. Snow is expected tonight which will make a change from the sleet and rain of the past couple of nights.

I like Brussels with it’s beautiful old four and five storey houses in brick and stone. I particularly like that many folks in the restaurants and such are pretty good at speaking English.

I noted when we arrived at Frankfurt on the way here that you could tell you were in Europe – the first advertisement we say on the skybridge was for ICBC – a Chinese bank.

The down side of the trip so far has been Brussels airport. Getting through to collect the bags was a breeze although it was a long walk from the plane to the baggage hall. Unfortunately, when we collected our bags there appeared as though there must have been a customs strike as the queue to leave through either the green or the red channel was even longer than a terminal 3 immigration queue at Heathrow.

The queue started at the exit the went out to the left (see the next photo). We are at the end of the queue after it had snaked around the baggage hall
The queue started at the exit the went out to the left (see the next photo). We are at the end of the queue after it had snaked around the baggage hall
Here you can see the queue extending off to the left and starting its circling of the baggage hall
Here you can see the queue extending off to the left and starting its circling of the baggage hall

After standing in the queue for about 30 minutes the police or someone decide do just open the customs exit and with a mighty surge we all squeezed out and raced to the taxi rank where another mighty queue formed – this time, however, it was serviced by all the vacant taxis.

Not good Brussels!

Khalkin-gol – Nomonhan 1939 – New Books

A nice parcel arrived from Amazon today with some books I’ve been waiting for. These are three works on the Battle of Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan in the Japanese) that occurred between Russia and Mongolia on one side and Japan and Manchuoko on the other side.

As readers here will know I have a particular fascination with things Mongolian as well as some of the more esoteric areas of the wars of the 20th century (and indeed, the 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th centuries).

The hard copy books go with the Kindle version of Leavenworth Papers – Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat 1939 by Edward Drea that I picked up a while ago.

The three books in today’s bundle were:

  • Nomonhan 1939 – The Red Army’s Victory that Shaped World War II by Stuart D Goldman (ISBN 978-1-59114-329-1)
  • In the Skies of Nomonhan – Japan versus Russia May-September 1939 by Col Prof Dimitar Nedialkov PhD (ISBN 978-0-85979-152-6)
  • Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 by Edward Drea (ISBN 978-1-105-65014-7) – and yes, this is the same as the Kindle version but I wanted a hard copy of it as it is:
    • easier to read in hard copy
    • permanently with me, not at the whim of Amazon.

For those unfamiliar, the Battle at Khalkin-gol started as a border skirmish and escalated.

I have some serious reading to do now – then some research and maybe turn this into a couple of games.