Rome Seizes the Trident – The Defeat of Carthaginian Seapower and the Forging of the Roman Empire – Review

After reading Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World by Owen Rees recently, it only seemed natural to pick up the story by looking at Rome and Carthage. Carthage was famous for its seafaring having been originally a Phoenician colony, the same Phoenicians who participated (we must assume unwillingly) in the ill-fated Persian invasions of Greece. Rome certainly was not famous for its seafaring.

Where the naval battles were mostly fought in  the Ancient Greek World by triremes and to a lesser extent, penteconters, when Rome and Carthage faced off against each other the vessels had become heavier, consisting to quadriremes and more importantly, the peak of the ancient Mediterranean galleys, quinqueremes.

Pen & Sword Books published Rome Seizes the Trident – The Defeat of Carthaginian Seapower and the Forging of the Roman Empire by Marc G DeSantis. The book is 272 pages long (ISBN: 9781473826984) and was originally published on 16 May 2016. It is available in hardback, Kindle and ePub versions with the electronic versions somewhat cheaper than the printed copy.

Owen Rees noted that in the Battle of Catane, part of the Hegemony period, in the the battle between Syracuse and Carthage it appears that this is where the Carthaginians were first exposed to quadriremes and quinqueremes, noting:

Leptines had already shown himself a capable commander, having been in charge of the fleet since the siege of Motya, at the latest. Within his fleet he is said to have had thirty superior ships, a crack force of the same number which had confronted the Carthaginian armada at the beginning of their expedition. It seems extremely probably that these thirty ships, or at least a proportion of them, were of the new designs: quadriremes and quinqueremes.

When Carthage and Rome finally faced off in the Punic Wars, the standard warships at the stage were the quadriremes and quinqueremes Carthage may have been exposed to in Syracuse.

Marc G DeSantis commences his book by a look at the sources, and for this period , the preeminent source is Polybius. Also important of course were Livy although a much later author and concentrating on the Second Punic War and Plutarch, later still with his Parallel lives. Appian is the main source for the final Punic War and the destruction of Carthage. The Byzantine, John Zonaras was an author from the 12th Century but his value here is the summaries in Epitome Historiarum where he recounts information from the now fragmentary Dio with some naval aspects from the First Punic War that Polybius did not mention.

In Part I of his work, DeSantis breaks that section up into the following chapters:

Part I: Breaking Carthage

Chapter 1 – Sources
Chapter 2 – The Contestants
Chapter 3 – Sicily: Theatre of War, History and Blood
Chapter 4 – War at Sea in the Age of the War Galley
Chapter 5 – Breaking Athens: A Case Study

Chapters 4 and 5 are where DeSantis really gets swinging. The early chapters really set the scene, discussing Rome and Carthage and Sicily, for much of the naval aspects of the Punic Wars, the battleground. In Chapter 4 however he talks about the ways galleys fought, and for once he does not draw a straight dichotomy between ramming and boarding tactics, rather noting that both were used by all sides, depending on situation. He does draw a clear distinction, however, between the skilled seafarers who seemed to prefer ramming over boarding, such as the Athenians, the Phocaeans, the Rhodians and the Carthaginians. However he does point out that “ramming and boarding would have been carried out as the opportunities presented themselves”.

He notes the use of lemboi as a means of transferring signals across a fleet by standing off a little and repeating the signals, much like the frigates of the Napoleonic Wars at sea.

Chapter 5 is a review of the breaking of Athens through the negation of naval superiority in the Peloponnesian Wars. He also recounts a Corinthian tactic where the Corinthians at the Battle of Erineus in 413 BCE, slightly outnumbered by the 33 Athenian vessels, had made changes to their rams and adopted the tactic of a headlong charge at the Athenian fleet, looking to ram their vessels straight on and not giving the Athenians a chance to use their superior seamanship.  While no vessels were sunk from either side so technically a draw, the Corinthians looked on it as a victory and the Athenians saw it as a defeat.

After this survey of early naval tactics, DeSantis starts on the meat of his work – the Punic Wars.

Part II – The First Punic War

Chapter 6 – Trouble at the Toe of Italy
Chapter 7 – Opening Moves
Chapter 8 – Mylae, 260 BC: Rome’s Fleet Sails in Harm’s Way
Chapter 9 – After Mylae
Chapter 10 – Ecnomus, 256 BC
Chapter 11 – The Battle of Cape Hermaeum, 255 BC
Chapter 12 – Rome Tries Again
Chapter 13 – Drepna, 249 BC
Chapter 14 – The Debut of Hamilcar Barca
Chapter 15 – Endgame: The Battle of the Aegates Islands, 241 BC
Chapter 16 – Peace
Chapter 17 – Was Seapower Worth the Cost?

DeSantis starts with the trouble at Messana and Rhegium and the effect of the perceived threat from Pyrrhus. Mercenaries and garrisons revolting and taking over, enter Hiero of Syracuse who placed the city of Messana under siege after defeating the Mamertimes at the Battle of Longanus River in 264 BC. The Mamertimes appealed to both Rome and Carthage for assistance. Rome really stepped in to prevent Carthage developing a toehold in Sicily, fearing that the Carthaginians would use that as a springboard to an invasion of Italy.

From this point in and narrative DeSantis examines the moves and counter moves of the protagonists. The Romans built a fleet, copying a Carthaginian galley that had grounded itself on the coast back in 264 when it was trying to oppose the Roman landings in Sicily. The Roman vessels however were not of the same quality as Carthaginian or Greek vessels. DeSantis the follows the course of the war, the defeats and then victories of the Romans, stopping briefly to discuss the Corvus and its origins. The necessity for the corvus was probably because of the poor quality of the Roman vessels and seamanship. The suggestion for the corvus appears to have come from an unnamed Sicilian Greek. The suggestion may have come from within Messana although there are a number of compelling suggestion that it may have come from Syracuse, given the Syracusans being an enthusiastic practitioner of the Corinthian style headlong rush into the enemy. Grappling from that position was a natural extension of that tactic and building a boarding bride, the next logical step.

DeSantis also examines the negative answer to this version of the corvus mounting as well and provides a good counter argument. His discussion of the corvus and the Roman quinquereme versus the Carthaginian quinquereme is a far argument of both sides of the tale. I will admit that his discussion has me reexamining some of my thoughts and perceptions of naval warfare in those times.

He then discusses the more famous battles, Mylae; Ecnomus; Cape Hermaeum; Drepna; and Aegates Islands. To conclude the section on the First Punic War DeSantis looks at the question, “was the seapower worth the cost?”

Part III: Conflicts Between the Wars

Chapter 18 – Illyria and Gaul
Chapter 19 – The Mercenary Revolt 240-238 BC

The two chapters here deal with Rome’s intervention in Illyria in 229 and the overseas deployment, this time across the Adriatic, of the Roman army. The start of this intervention paralleled that of the start of the First Punic War but in this case it was a bunch of Gallic mercenaries seized control of the city of Phoenice in Epirus. The people of the city asked the Romans for assistance and that coupled with the Illyrian pirates attacking Italian shipping the situation became one that Rome could ignore. Polybius even records that previously the Senate in Rome always ignored complaints about the Illyrians. Rome sent a couple of commissioners to Queen Teuta’s court but she dismissed them and apparently had one murdered while he was returning to Rome.

Naval operations got underway with the Illyrians attacking Epidamnus and Corcyra. The Corcyraeans appealed for assistance to the Achaeans and Aetolians for assistance and 10 Achaean ships were sent (quadriremes it seems). Acarnanians allied themselves to the Illyrians and sent seven galleys. A small inconclusive battle was fought off the Paxi Islands. The Illyrians used lighter galleys than the Achaeans but developed an interesting tactic when they faced the Achaeans. The Illyrians lasd their vessels together in groups of four. This was a tempting broadside target for the Achaeans who dutifully increased the stroke rate to ram speed and hit the Illyrians vessels only then to become entangled with the four lashed vessels and as their crews were well outnumbered (about 4 to 1), the Illyrians stormed the Achaean vessels and four Achaean quadriremes were either lost or captured.

The Roman army and fleet became engaged in the area now and the result was around 20 Illyrian galleys and most of the coastal cities captured by the fleet while the army moved inland and took control of cities there.

Part IV: Strangling Carthage

Chapter 20 – The Second Punic War, 218-202 BC
Chapter 21 – A Second War with Carthage
Chapter 22 – Hannibal in Italy
Chapter 23 – Holding the Line in the Adriatic: The War with Macedonia
Chapter 24 – Sicily and Sardinia
Chapter 25 – Carthage’s Spanish Ulcer
Chapter 26 – Africa
Chapter 27 – Seapower and the Second Punic War

The Second Punic War is one that modern readers mostly associate with Hannibal (with or without his elephants); Scipio Africanus; battles such as Cannae, Trebia, Trasimene and Zama; and a small largely mercenary army spending 16 years in enemy territory undefeated. This is not to ignore the contribution of Scipio, especially with the battles he fought in Spain but mostly the Second Punic War is remembered for land actions.

DeSantis makes a good survey of naval action as well as other theatres over this period. The details of the treaty Hannibal struck with Philip V of Macedon, for example, where the Macedonians would assemble a fleet of 200 ships and harry the west coast of Italy as well as operations on land. Once the Romans had been defeated, Macedon would be given control of the Illyrian coast and Hannibal would assist Philip to defeat his Greek enemies.

Over the period of the Second Punic War there were a number of naval expeditions, mostly in and around Sicily. Bomilcar in 212 with 130 war galleys and 700 transport ships sailing to Sicily to rescue Syracuse from the Romans was one such expedition.  Over this period, Rome maintained some measure of control over the sea between Africa and Sicily but there were many other  areas where control of the sea was not so complete.

DeSantis also notes that the Carthaginians may have been reluctant to try their hand against Rome at sea as the First Punic War and the naval defeats there were only a generation previously.

Part V: Destroying Carthage

Chapter 28 – Roman Naval Operation in the East
Chapter 29 – A Third War with Carthage

Interestingly, DeSantis notes as well about this period, “the First Macedonian War (215-205), fought as part of the larger Second Punic War, had sputtered along once the Romans lost interest in it.” In chapter 28 he surveys the Roman naval operations in and around Greece, especially with regards to the Second Macedonian War and makes mention of the monster galley building of the Hellenistic monarchs (for further detail on those monster galleys, I can suggest Giant Hellenistic warships with more than 7000 crew members).

To conclude his work, DeSantis notes a number of changes in Roman Society as a result of the Punic Wars. He contends that the huge influx on slaves after the First Punic War changed the state from one of yeoman farmers into a state with great inequality among the citizenry. The appearance of the patron-client relationship over this period as well would cause issues for the later Republic. This relationship first appeared in the Second Punic War. As more provinces were added to the Roman Empire, the equites or knights became more and more wealthy as the class that were the tax collectors. This stymied any future attempts of the aristocrats to return Italian peasant farmers to the land as well as causing provincial populations to hate the state as a result of the deprivations of the tax collectors.

The Romans also simplified their ship building (as did the Carthaginians for that matter), preparing premade parts and stockpiling them, building the ship as a large kit. Rome settled on two ship designs over the period, the being based on the Carthaginian war galley that had run aground in 264 and the second on the vessel of Hannibal the Rhodian, captured in 250.

DeSantis’ book is a good survey of Rome’s efforts at sea and the effects of the strategy and tactics involved in the period covered. He discusses the effects of battles and political manoeuvring, including its effects on the struggles underway on land. This is a great read, and one I have been waiting to read since I read A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC – Marc G DeSantis last year (yes, I know, read them in the wrong order). I am happy to recommend this book to anyone interested in ancient history, military history, naval history, classic naval warfare. I will admit to having learnt a few new things here, especially about Queen Teuta and her conflict with Rome.

Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World by Owen Rees – Review

I have waited for this to be published since receiving and reading the previous work of Owen Rees, Great Battles of the Classical Greek World and A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC by Marc G DeSantis.

Where DeSantis looked at the trireme then three wars (Archidamian, the Sicilian Expedition, and Ionian War), Rees breaks his work up into the following parts:

Part 1 – The Persian Conflicts
Chapter 1 – The Battle of Lade (494 BC)
Chapter 2 – The Battle of Artemisium (480 BC)
Chapter 3 – The Battle of Salamis (480 BC)

Part 2 – Archidamian War
Chapter 4 – The Battle of Sybota (433 BC)
Chapter 5 – The Battle of the Corinthian Gulf (429 BC)
Chapter 6 – The Battle of Corcyra (427 BC)

Part 3 – The Ionian War
Chapter 7 – Battle of Erineus (413 BC)
Chapter 8 – The Battle for the Great Harbour of Syracuse (413 BC)
Chapter 9 – Battles of the Ionian Coast (412-411 BC)
Chapter 10 – The Battle of Arginusae (406 BC)
Chapter 11 – The Battle of Aegospotami (405 BC)

Part 4 – Turning of the Tide
Chapter 12 – Battle of Catane (396 BC)
Chapter 13 – Battle of Cnidus (394 BC)

The book, Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World was published on 10 January 2019 in Hardback, Kindle and ePub versions. The author is Owen Rees and Pen & Sword Military publish it. The book is 218 pages line and its ISBN is 9781473827301. The URL to the book is https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Great-Naval-Battles-of-the-Ancient-Greek-World-Hardback/p/14504

As you would expect there is also an introduction, glossary, conclusion, endnotes, select bibliography, acknowledgements and index.

While DeSantis covers various parts of the Peloponnesian War in greater detail than Rees, Rees is working to a broader canvas so appears to concentrate on only those battles he consider relevant to the argument.

Rees, as expected, starts his book with a discussion on the trireme, a tool central to any story concerning Greek naval warfare. He also looks at the differences between the different poleis, noting for examples that while a trireme normally carried a marine complement of 14 (10 hoplites and 4 archers), Athenian triremes generally had less to enable them to maintain their manoeuvrability while Corinthian triremes that specialised in boarding generally had more.

Rees follows with a brief discussion of Naval tactics covering the usual diekplous, kyklos, and periplous. The last section of the Introduction is where Rees discusses what a Great Battle is. He also notes that the Battle of Catane is included as part of the Hegemony period but notes its importance as a battle between Syracus and Carthage is perhaps for exposing Carthaginians to quadriremes and quinqueremes for the first time.

Leptines had already shown himself a capable commander, having been in charge of the fleet since the siege of Motya, at the latest. Within his fleet he is said to have had thirty superior ships, a crack force of the same number which had confronted the Carthaginian armada at the beginning of their expedition. It seems extremely probably that these thirty ships, or at least a proportion of them, were of the new designs: quadriremes and quinqueremes. This ships were bigger and more powerful, propelled forward for four or five men to each oar (an attribute which most likely gave the ships their names).

Rees covers each battle in the same manner, initially with a background, referencing a primary source. He indicates as a heading within the chapter the source used and the chapters within that source. After the back ground, the forces are identified (or estimated). The description of the battle itself follows, again with the source identified. There is a map outlining where Rees believes the opposing fleets deployed and then each battle section finishes with a discussion of the aftermath.

I am really enjoying this book (as I did his Classical Greek Warfare and DeSantis’s Naval Warfare of the Peloponnesian War).

Rees has an easy to read style and his book is a delight to read. I do recommend grabbing a copy of this (which is actually on sale currently at Pen and Sword), grab a good java, put your feet up, and then smell the salt in the air as you read of these classical battles of the past. For a wargamer, this will likely drag you into another period. For the general reader of military history, it will remind you of the importance of naval warfare in Classical Greece, as well as suggesting where the quadriremes and quinqueremes of the Punic Wars may have come from.

Well worth purchasing.

A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC – Marc G DeSantis – Review

Apart from reading Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, at the same time I was also reading A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC published by Pen & Sword Maritime in 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 158 9.

The book is the result of DeSantis’s research for his previous book, Rome Seizes the Trident, where he looked at Rome’s eventual defeat of Carthage at sea by the application of simple tactics against a more skillful opponent along with steadfast resolve. The Athenian fleet (skillful mariners) were brought low by Syracusan blunt force, prow-to-prow tactics.

The Peloponnesian War was largely decided by battles and a strategy at sea. When Athens’ control of the sea crumbled, so did its empire. The classical sources used for the book are Thucydides, Plutarch, Diodorus and Xenophon.

The Naval History of the Peloponnesian War commences with a number of maps of the area of operations as well as a map of the Battle of Arginusae. The book is then divided into 5 main parts parts 3 to 5 consisting of the usual split of the war:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Trireme
  3. The Archidamian War
  4. The Sicilian Expedition
  5. The Ionian War

There are also a Preface, Conclusions, Notes, Bibliography and Index. The itself book covers the naval history of the 27 years of conflict that was the Peloponnesian War.

DeSantis outlines the struggle in the Introduction, noting that Sparta supported by Persian gold eventually overcame Athens although it was the loss of the Athenian fleet at Syracuse that signaled the end for Athens rather than any action of Sparta.

DeSantis traces the war from the sources, first looking at the causes of the war presented by Thucydides as he saw it and he mostly relies on Thucydides’s narrative to 411 BC. Xenophon picks up the tale from then along with Diodorus of Siculus. Plutarch of Chaeronea writing some 500 years or so later in his Parallel Lives looks at the biographies of the Athenians Themistocles, Cimon, Pericles, and Alcibiades along with the Spartan Lysander. Lastly the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia also mentions wartime events including the Athenian seaborne campaign in Asia Minor in 409 BC and the Battle of Notium in 406 BC. These then are the classical references used by DeSantis.

DeSantis covers the economics of the naval build-up of Athens, noting that the 100 talents (600,000 drachmae) in silver extracted from the Laurium silver mines was sufficient to build 200 triremes. He then notes that Pericles estimated the same cost for each year of war against Sparta.

In the second section the author examines the trireme (triers in Greek) with Thucydides identifying Corinth as the first to construct a trireme although there is a competing theory that the trireme may have actually originated in the east with the Sidonian of Phoenicia (trikrotis naus) or the Phoenicans themselves constructing the first such vessels.

The construction of the triremes of Athens is covered including details of where the wood and pitch was sourced from along with the number of men required to move a trireme up the 1 in 10 ramp into its shed (140) as well as take it back into the water (110). One thing that had not occurred to me before but perhaps should of is that there were different quality triremes. The best were known as exairetoi (selects) while others were identified as first, seconds or thirds. Old vessels were converted for troop transport – with a converted trireme able to transport 85 soldiers.

Tactics are covered with discussions of sailing with the wind and under the power of oars. Masts and sails were generally taken down before battle and preferably left on shore to lighten the load in the trireme prior to battle. The main battle manoeuvres are described, being the diekplous and the periplous. Less skillful fleets relied on coming alongside and boarding the enemy.

Rounding out his review of the trireme, DeSantis covers shipboard fighting, funding a fleet, the officers on board, payment on campaign, and propulsion.

DeSantis then moves on the Archidamian War which started when Corcyra and Corinth came to blows over Epidamnus. He looks at:

  • The Battle of Sybota
  • Potidaea
  • The Athenian empire and rival coalitions
  • The Battle of Chalcis
  • The Battle of Naupachus
  • The Attack on Piraeus
  • The Revolt at Lesbos
  • The Second Battle of Sybota
  • Pylos and Sphacteria
  • Strait of Messana engagements
  • Expeditions to Corinth and Corcyra
  • Attack on Nisaea
  • Delium
  • Brasidas’s campaign
  • Amphipolis
  • Meude
  • The Peace of Nicias
  • The Fate of Melos

The next part covers the whole hubristic disaster for Athens that was the Sicilian Expedition.

Lastly the Ionian War is examined. After the defeat in Sicily, the Athenians were spurred on to lock down their Ionian allies, and ensure Euboea in particular remained within the empire. The author looks at:

  • Alcibiades’s seduction of Timaea, the wife of King Agis
  • Alcibiades’s undermining Persian efforts to assist the Peloponnesians
  • The Battle of Cynossema
  • The Battle of Abydos
  • The Battle of Cyzicus
  • Alcibiades and the Athenian plundering expeditions
  • Action off Mytilene
  • The Battle of Arginusae
  • The Battle of Aegospotami

DeSantis concludes with the eventual defeat of the Athenian Empire.

While there were many land battles throughout the Peloponnesian War, it was at sea that Athens was at first strong, then later faltered.

I very much enjoyed this book, especially as I was reading it at the same time as Great Battles of the Classical Greek World. There was some overlap between the two books so taking an alternate view on some matters was a benefit.

If you are a naval tragic like me, and an ancient history addict as well, this book will serve well as an overview of the Peloponnesian War from the naval perspective. Thucydides and Xenophon are still the main sources to read but DeSantis’s book is both easy to read and factual.

This is a good book providing a good amount of detail and covering one the more exciting stories from Ancient Greece. I am now looking for my copy of Thucydides to read further into this conflict again, one that I have not looked at for about 30 years. Recommended.

Great Battles of the Classical Greek World – Review

A book I received some time ago and have been slowly reading is Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, published by Pen & Sword Military in 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 729 5. The book is divided into four familiar main subject areas and a conclusion. Each of the parts are then split into between three and six Chapters covering various significant battles:

  1. The Peloponnesian War
    • The Battle of Olpae (426/5 BC)
    • The Battle of Delium (424 BC)
    • The Battle of Amphipolis (422 BC)
    • The First Battle of Mantinea (418 BC)
  2. The Spartan Hegemony
    • Battle of the Nemea (394 BC)
    • Battle of Coronea (394 BC)
    • The Battle of the Long Walls of Corinth (392 BC)
    • The Battle of Lechaeum (390 BC)
    • The Battle of Leuctra (371 BC)
    • The Second Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)
  3. Siege Warfare
    • The Siege of Plataea (429-427 BC)
    • The Sieges of Pylos and Sphacteria (425 BC)
    • The Siege of Syracuse (415-413 BC)
    • The Siege of Drilae (400 BC)
  4. Greco-Persian conflicts
    • The Battle of Marathon (490 BC)
    • The Battle of Plataea (479 BC)
    • The Battle of Cunaxa (401 BC)
  5. Conclusions

I have run across some of Owen Rees’s writing before in the Ancient Warfare magazine. Rees’s narrative style makes this book easy to read with discrete footnoting at key points through each chapter. The footnotes are presented as endnotes and so do not distract from the narrative but still enable the reader to check source material or other references at leisure.

The first two parts of the book examine battles in two key areas of Classical Greek military history – the Peloponnesian War and the Rise and Fall of Sparta. The third part examines Greek Siege Warfare whilst the fourth section deals with the Greco-Persian conflicts. Including this the fourth section was a decision by Rees because it is clear that “the Greeks did not fight the Persians in the same manner in which they fought one another, but placing this conflict at the beginning allows a false image to arise concerning Greek battle, and Greek tactics in turn” (Rees, 2016, p. xvi). Rees therefore covers the internal conflicts of the Greeks first to develop an image of Greek warfare before dealing with their interaction with the Persians.

The structure of each of the chapters is consistent with the first section being the background and identifying the classical sources used for that battle. This is then followed by a description and location (where possible) of the battlefield. The armies are then examined followed by a description of the battle itself, with specific references to the sources as well as maps outlining the probably deployment of the forces present. The last section is the aftermath of the battle.

For example, chapter 3 deals with the Battle of Amphipolis (422 BC). The Background identifies the sources for this battle as Thucydides, (IV.70, 78-88, 102-V.3) and Diodorus (XII.67.3-68.6, 72-3). The Battlefield is identified as outside the walls of Amphipolis and Amphipolis is located by Rees in a U-Bend of the River Strymon. The armies are discussed and any assumptions about troops presented. So for the Battle of Amphipolis, Brasidas’s army is noted as a conglomerate force of allies under his command, some 6,500 men strong. The size of Cleon’s army is not known but it appears that his force was roughly the same size, or a little larger.

The battle itself is then described with the references for that being Thucydides V.6-11 and Diodorus XII-74. The battle description includes three maps representing the three phases of the battle. The Aftermath of the battle is then discussed:

After Brasidas fell in battle, he was dragged back into the walls of Amphipolis where he held on to life, waiting to hear news from the battlefield. A messenger was sent to inform the city of the Athenian rout and, with victory ringing in his ears, Brasidas was able to release his final breath in the knowledge that his legend had been cemented in the history of his beloved Sparta.

Clearidas brought the army back into Amphipolis and, in full armaments, they buried their commander in a tomb at the front of the agora. This spot became the focus of a hero-cult dedicated to the man the Amphipolitans appointed their new founder of the city – replacing the true founder, Hagnon the Athenian.

For Athens, the defeat, alongside the defeat at Delium, was too much for them to consider continuing the war. Similarly the Spartans were still trying to recover from their embarrassing defeat at Pylos and no amount of success in Chalcidice was enough to compensate for this. A ten-year peace was finally agreed and, although in fact it only lasted seven years, this gave both sides time to recover from their tragic losses (Rees, 2016, p. 40).

Apart from the five parts mentioned above, the book also contains a glossary covering technical words from the book, a section of Notes (endnotes) from each chapter, a bibliography, an index and six useful URLs for further research.

Overall, Rees’s book is well supported with tactical diagrams through each chapter. Rees is also willing to challenge popularly held beliefs, such as the invincibility of the Spartans.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to those interested in Classical Greek Warfare or the development of Hoplite tactics. The short chapters make the book the perfect companion with a fine coffee and a spare 20 minutes. The book itself has inspired me to look further into Greek warfare again and to start a collection of Ancient Greek armies to wargame these battles.

World War 2 Start Date

I picked up a copy of the Osprey’s Battles of World War II Poland 1939 last week. It is the first in a series of 52 publications covering the major battles of World War 2, battles such as Okinawa, Leyte Gulf, Caen, Kursk and Crete amongst others. Interestingly, this series of titles starts with the invasion of Poland and notes next to a picture of the German battleship, the Schleswig-Holstein,

it is usually credited with firing the opening shot of the war when it began bombarding the Polish garrison on Westerplatte in the early hours of 1 September 1939

I wondered why we credited the start of World War 2 with the invasion of Poland. Or was it that we accept that the first shot of the Second World War was the one that was fired then with the actual war starting earlier, maybe with the annexation of the Sudetenland.

I wondered why we didn’t credit the opening shot with the battle between Japan and Russia at Khalkhin-gol (Nomonhan) which was over the period 11 May – 16 September 1939 or perhaps, even the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War which started on 7 July 1937. A pity too that Osprey Publishing didn’t start their series with Khalkhin-gol at least – early tanks, two slightly different tactical doctrines and two antagonists that had locked horns before.

Khalkhin Gol or Nomonhan

From 11 May to 16 September 1939 Japanese and Manchurian forces clashed with Mongolian and Soviet forces on the border of Mongolia and Manchuria (at that time called Manchukuo by many nations) around the village of Nomonhan near the Khalkhin gol (Khalkhin River). Having spent time in Mongolia my office at the bank used to look out on Jukov Square, next to the Jukov Museum. Jukov is the Mongolian spelling of Zhukov, as in Georgy Zhukov (well, it’s the Mongolian spelling when it’s Latinised). Zhukov, having given the combined Mongolian Soviet Army a victory over the Japanese is a hero in Mongolia. For the record, the Mongolians fought with the Russians during the Second World War with Mongolian troops marching into Berlin as part of the Red Army forces in that campaign.

It all started when a Mongolian cavalry unit of about 90 men went searching for grazing in the area between Nomonhan an the river. Manchukuo cavalry attacked the Mongolians and then forced them back over the Khalkhin gol. Two days later the Mongolians returned in greater numbers and the Manchukuans were not able to force them back this time.

The next day elements of two Japanese army arrived and forced the Mongolians out. Then a combined force of Mongolian and Soviet forces surrounded the Japanese causing many casualties. It all escalated. The 2nd Japanese Air Brigade then launched an unauthorised air attack on the Soviet air base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia losing some aircraft but destroying more Soviet aircraft.

Lt. Gen. Georgy Zhukov then arrived to take control of the Soviet-Mongolian forces and so began a battle that lasted until 31 August with the defeat of the Japanese in the area. I’ll provide more detail about individual engagements at a later time. The battle though was significant as it was the first reverse the Japanese Army took in World War 2. At the same time, the result of this battle was that Japan looked southwards for the future which released valuable Soviet (and Mongolian) divisions to the fighting in the West.

Some selections from the Canberra Times about the fighting in Manchukuo and Mongolia.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 4 July 1939

JAPANESE DEMANDS ON BRITAIN AND FRANCE

Threat of Force to Achieve Objectives

LONDON, Monday.

A message from Peking declares that the Japanese controlled Chinese Government dispatched to the English and French Embassies a list of demands for a basis of settlement at Tientsin, and said that the Japanese army in North China supported them.

The Japanese spokesman declares that no compromise regarding the demands would be accepted and force may be used to obtain the objectives.

They include demands that the English and French Concessions support the new Japanese currency; secondly, that the Peking Government be allowed to inspect banks and business houses in the Concession; thirdly, that a rigorous control be exercised over publications and organisations acting contrary to the policy of Peking, and fourthly, that, a Chinese – speaking Government be appointed to control the Concession.

The army spokesman announced that gendarmes are holding in custody Mr. E. T. Griffiths, a British engineer from a British steamer, allegedly for insulting the Japanese army.

He added that the reported stripping of John Anderson at the Concession barricades yesterday was being investigated.

Renewed Fighting in Manchukuo

DARIEN, Monday.

It is officially announced that the Japanese army launched an offensive against the Soviet-Mongolian forces with the object of expelling them from Manchukuan territory.

The British United Press reports heavy fighting on the western border of Manchukuo and Outer Mongolia. Tanks, machine guns, cavalry and planes are engaged.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 18 July 1939

RUSSIAN AIR RAIDS IN MANCHUKUO

TOKYO, Monday.

Eight Russian planes dropped bombs in the vicinity of Nalunarshan railway station, 30 miles inside the Manchukuan frontier, and injured four Manchukuans, as well as destroying four carriages and setting fire to a number of buildings.

The Japanese have protested to Moscow.

In an earlier raid on Sularki station, 180 miles north-west of Harbin, seven were injured.

The Canberra Times Thursday 27 July 1939

MANCHUKUO

JAPAN CALLS UP TROOPS CONTINUED TROUBLE ON BORDER

TOKYO, Wednesday.

In “view of continued trouble on the Manchukuan border, the Government has announced the reinforcing of forces throughout the Japanese Empire.

An army communiqué claims that 59 Soviet war planes were brought down on the Manchukuan frontier on Tuesday.

Japanese artillery heavily bombarded the Soviet position on the west bank of the Khalha River throughout the day.

and lest we forget that the Japanese were fighting the Chinese at the same time, this piece followed in the same issue of the Canberra times the following article was found:

Japanese Claim Major Victory

TOKYO, Wednesday.

The Japanese north of Hankow claim lo have trapped 30,000 Chinese as a result of a fierce offensive launched on Tuesday.

Supported by aircraft, the Japanese are advancing to the north along he Pekin-Hankow railway.

A second force is manoeuvring in order to cut off the Chinese retreat.

From the Canberra Times Thursday 31 August 1939

TO MANCHUKUO

Effect of Russo-German Pact

TOKYO, Wednesday

Large forces are being sent lo Manchukuo as the result of the Russo-German pact

The Premier (General Abe), in a nation-wide broadcast viewed with delicacy the international situation, and stated that the Government was establishing independent diplomacy, and also taking measures at home and abroad with the Chinese incident
as a focal point.

General Abe appealed to the nation for co-operation.

The four Chinese, who were arrested at Tientsin, are to be handed over to the Japanese on August 31.

From the Canberra Times of Tuesday 11 June 1940

SOVIET AND JAPAN AGREE ON FRONTIERS

TOKYO, Monday.

The Foreign Office issued a communiqué that Mr. Toga and M. Molotov, Ambassadors for Japan and Russia, reached an agreement yesterday on the precise demarcation of the frontier of Nomonhan area with mutual recognition of interests.

by special arrangement: Reuter’s World Service in addition to other special sources of information is used in the compilation of the overseas intelligence published in this issue and all rights therein in Australia and New Zealand are reserved.

I’ll give more detail on the battle and the Orders of Battle of both sides of the conflict in a later post.

Franco-Thai War of 1940-41

It was back on 2 January 2007 in an earlier version of Thomo’s Hole that I noted:

Er, and for consistency, have you heard this o­ne before?


I still have that research o­n the French-Thai War of 1940-41 – just not with me at the moment. It is done – just the articles need to be written. Aircraft in 1/300th scale have been purchased for this as well. The research I have with me. The aeroplanes are still in Australia. I will get to this eventually. I had pressed my Old mate Bill in Boston into service in this regards too and hopefully I will be able to bring up an article o­n the Battle of Koh Chang as a starter. I almost made it to Koh Chang this Christmas to have a look around … next holiday down this way.

Well, I need to add to that:

  1. Er, I did not get to Koh Chang … although it is still on my list of places to visit
  2. I do still have all my research notes for this
  3. I do still have the 1/300th scale aircraft – they are under the house at mum’s and I will get them out for some paint this year … maybe
  4. I do have access to the appropriate Conway’s for ship details as well so will get around to writing that up as well. I’ll also look for appropriate ship models to allow the Battle of Koh Chang to be recreated on the tabletop … perhaps with it being a little less one-sided this time
  5. And maybe, just maybe, I might do something based around Blitzkrieg Commander for some land battles (which really never occurred apart from the odd artillery bombardment near as I can see but which would make an interesting addition for a wargame).

So yes, Gunna Thomo will get around to it … honest!

More Blog Searches

There have been some more interesting searches here in Thomo’s Hole … although the number of times folks are searching here and not finding something is getting smaller. Seems my readership is still a mix of general readers, friends, acquaintances, the boss and wargamers.

So, what were the unsuccessful searches over the last two weeks or so? Some interesting ones this time:

  • hms ashanti
  • korean schools
  • Naval engagements Danish-Prussian War
  • Naval engagements First Schleswig War
  • Naval engagements Second Schleswig War
  • Puma IFV

So, some interesting ones there and ones that will have me doing some research this weekend. HMS Ashanti is a fairly easy one … that would be a Tribal class British destroyer and rather a well known one so that will probably be first article off the ranks.

The Puma IFV will also be fairly quick as well.

Korean schools is an odd one I guess. Not sure if this is for Korean schools in Australia or Korean schools in Korea. I am guessing that it may be the first one and if it is, then as far as I know, there are no specific Korean schools in Australia. Most Korean school students in Australia seem to head to Australian schools but I’ll check with my Korean friends. Of course, it could also be someone searching for Korean language schools in Australia and if that is the case, then try looking at http://en.askedu.net/Australia/Korean_1.htm

Now, the remaining searches. They are really interesting ones and are fascinating questions for me, knowing so little as I do about those particular wars. I mean I know they occurred and have a general idea what happened but I have never really read about them in any detail. I can see I shall have to spend more time on this. A trip into Conway’s for the Schleswig Wars will also be necessary as I am sure that there may have been something – and the second Schleswig War was fought in 1864 so Conway’s volume 1 will cover that time period.

The Danish-Prussian War was in 1849 and I believe it was in 1824 that Henri-Joseph Paixhans developed explosive shells which were used in Naval vessels (and unlike the previous explosive shells which needed to be fired from howitzers, these could be fired over flat trajectories – such as a gun on the side of a wooden warship fired). Of course, explosive shells and wooden warships are a combination where the only winner is going to be the shell. I believe these shells were used in 1849 (remember, La Gloire and Warrior did not come along until 1859 and 1860 and the true steam powered ironclads a few years after that). So, there was naval combat in the 1849 Danish-Prussian War, so I will need to look that up.

OK, looks like there will be some interesting pieces coming up here in the near future as well.

The Battle of the Java Sea

IJNS Haguro running at speed
IJNS Haguro running at speed

I was walking through the city today on the way to a meeting next to Martin Place and there was a commemorative service occurring around the Cenotaph. Ex-servicemen and the Navy band, governor-general (I think) as well as representatives of the Dutch, English and American forces as well. The reason? Today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea, the battle that occurred on 27 February 1942.

The battle is important to Australian military tradition, especially in regard to the loss of HMAS Perth a couple of days later. Perth’s captain, Hector Waller, was a childhood hero of mine as I read about the way the Perth, all ammunition expent, was firing practice rounds at the Japanese ships that she was fighting. Waller also was the commander of HMAS Stuart in the Mediterranean, one of the member’s of the Scrap Iron Flotilla.

Continue reading

De Grasse

The last unsuccessful search term from the unsuccessful searches here at Thomo’s Hole was De Grasse. Now this is an interesting one as there are a number of nautical De Grasse’s in particular and I am not sure whether the reader of the blog was looking for the Admiral or the ship. Well, true to form, I’ll give you both.

Admiral de Grasse

François Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse
François Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse

François Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse (1722 – January 14, 1788) was a French admiral. The potted history of de Grasse really starts in 1776, during the American Revolution. The French Navy was assigned to assist the Americans and de Grasse was a commander of a division. He served under Louis Guillouet, comte d’Orvilliers at the First Battle of Ushant from July 23 to 27, 1778.

In 1779, he joined the fleet in the Caribbean under the command of Count d’Estaing. De Grasse distinguished himself in the battles of Dominica and Saint Lucia in 1780 and Tobago in 1781. He was involved in the capture of Grenada and fought against Admiral Rodney in the Battle of Martinique, where the French were commanded by Guichen.

De Grasse came to the aid of Washington and Rochambeau when he brought 3000 men from Saint-Domingue, landing these reinforcements in Virginia. He then won perhaps his greatest victory when he defeated the British fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake in September 1781.

His later fortune was somewhat less successful however, being defeated at the Battle of St. Kitts by Admiral Hood and then being defeated and taken prisoner by Admiral Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes.

De Grasse – the Ships

The French Frigate, D612 De Grasse, a frigate of the F67 Type
The French Frigate, D612 De Grasse, a frigate of the F67 Type

There have been five ships carrying the name de Grasse, two in the French Navy and three in the US Navy.

French De Grasse 1

The first French vessel carrying the name De Grasse was an anti aircraft cruiser of the Coubert class. This cruiser was designed in the late 1930s, of a similar design to the preceding La Galissonnière class cruisers although heavier and with improved anti-aircraft equipment. The other two ships of this class, Chateaurenault and Guichen were cancelled.

De Grasse was launched eventually in 1946, commissioned in 1956 and finally scrapped in 1974.

The general characteristics of De Grasse were:
Displacement: 9,389 t (9,241 long tons)
Length: 199.3 m (653 ft 10 in)
Beam 21.5 m (70 ft 6 in)
18.6 m (61 ft 0 in) w/l
Draft: 5.54 m (18 ft 2 in)
Propulsion: 2 × Rateau turbine groups from Chantiers de Bretagne, 27,000 hp (20,134 kW) each
4 × boilers
Speed: 33.8 knots
Complement: 70 officers
160 warrant officers
750 men
Armament: • 8 × twin turrets 127 mm AA
• 10 × twin turrets 57 mm Bofors (later removed)
Armour: Belt: 100 mm (3.9 in)
Deck: 38 mm (1.5 in)

French De Grasse 2

The Second French vessel carrying the name De Grasse is a type F67 frigate, still in service. This vessel is the one illustrated above and was laid down in 1972, launched in 1974, commissioned in 1975 and went into service in 1977. The De Grasse is still in service in the French Navy.

Tourville class frigate

Details of the vessel are:
Class and type:
Displacement: 4580 tonnes (6100 tonnes fully loaded)
Length: 152.75 m
Beam: 15.80 m
Draught: 6.60 m
Propulsion: 2 Rateau steam turbines, double reduction
4 multitubular boilers
Fuel: Gazoil
Propelers : 2 fixed propelers
Power : 58000 hp (42 MW)
Speed: 32 knots
Range: 1900 nautical miles (3500 km) at 30 knots
4500 nautical miles (8300 km) and 18 knots
Complement: 24 officers
160 non-commissioned officers
115 men
Sensors and processing systems: 1 DRBV 51B surface sentry radar
1 DRBV 26A air sentry radar
1 DRBC 32D targeting radar
2 DRBN 34 navigation radar
1 DUBV 23 hull sonar
1 ETBF DSBV 62C sonar
1 DSBX 1 tugged sonar
1 Syva torpedo alert system
Electronic warfare and decoys: 1 ARBB 32 jammer
1 ARBR 16 radar interceptor
2 Syllex decoy launchers bubble belt SENIT
3 SEAO/OPSMER HF, UHF, VHF and SHF liaison systems Syracuse 2 Inmarsat
Link 11
Armament:
Anti-air * 1 Crotale EDIR system (8 missiles on launcher, 18 in magazine)
* 2 x 100 mm turrets (1968 model)
* 2 x 20 mm cannons
* 4 x 12.7 mm machine guns
Anti-surface
* 6 Exocet MM38 anti-ship missiles launchers
Anti-submarine
* 2 x L5 torpedoe launchers, 10 torpedoes on board (L5 mod 4)
Aircraft carried: 2 Lynx WG13

And yes, I have my Conway’s back 🙂

American De Grasse 1

The first De Grasse in the US Navy was the yacht shown below, in service in 1918. Details of this vessel are sketchy and there is no listing for this vessel in Conway’s. The US Naval Historical Center notes:

USS De Grasse, an 81′ 2 1/2″ long section patrol boat, was built in 1917-1918 at Neponset, Massachusetts, as the steam-turbine powered pleasure craft of the same name. Though ordered taken over for World War I Naval service in June 1917, she was not placed in commission until her construction was completed about a year later. De Grasse briefly served in mid-Atlantic coastal waters before being returned to her owner, J.L. Redmond of New York City, in early November 1918.

The yacht, USS De Grasse in 1918
The yacht, USS De Grasse in 1918

American De Grasse 2

The second US Navy vessel to bear this name was a Crater Class Cargo vessel during World War II. With a displacement of 4,023 tons this Liberty ship was active in the Pacific Theatre from November 1943 until decommssioned in April 1946, going on to serve as a general cargo vessel after that date until being scrapped in 1970. The De Grasse was awarded three battle stars.

American De Grasse 3

The third US Navy ship to bear this name was the USS Comte de Grasse (DD-974), named for Admiral Francois-Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse (1722-1788), was a Spruance-class destroyer built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was laid down 4 April 1975, launched 26 March 1976 and commissioned 5 August 1978.

General Characteristics:
Class and type: Spruance-class destroyer
Displacement: 8,040 (long) tons full load
Length: 529 ft (161 m) waterline; 563 ft (172 m) overall
Beam: 55 ft (16.8 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: 4 × General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, 2 shafts, 80,000 shp (60 MW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) at 20 knots
3,300 nautical miles (6000 km) at 30 knots
Complement: 19 officers, 315 enlisted
Sensors and processing systems: AN/SPS-40 air search radar
AN/SPG-60 fire control radar
AN/SPS-55 surface search radar
AN/SPQ-9 gun fire control radar
Mk 23 TAS automatic detection and tracking radar
AN/SPS-65 Missile fire control radar
AN/SQS-53 bow mounted Active sonar
AN/SQR-19 TACTAS towed arrayPassive sonar
Electronic warfare and decoys: • AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System
• AN/SLQ-25 Nixie Torpedo Countermeasures
• Mark 36 SRBOC Decoy Launching System
• AN/SLQ-49 Inflatable Decoys
Armament: 2 x 5 in (127 mm) 54 calibre Mark 45 dual purpose guns
2 x 20 mm Phalanx CIWS Mark 15 guns
1 x 8 cell ASROC launcher (removed)
1 x 8 cell NATO Sea Sparrow Mark 29 missile launcher
2 x quadruple Harpoon missile canisters
2 x Mark 32 triple 12.75 in (324 mm) torpedo tubes (Mk 46 torpedoes)
2 x quadruple ABL Mark 43 Tomahawk missile launchers
Aircraft carried: 2 x Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk LAMPS III helicopters.

De Grasse was decommissioned and struck in 1998, eventually being sunk as a target in 2006.

USS Comte De Grasse (DD-974) entering port at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia
USS Comte De Grasse (DD-974) entering port at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia