Ancient Warfare Volume V, 2

Theme: Swords around the throne: bodyguards of kings and emperors

Introduction: Sean Hussmann, 'Introduction to the theme'.

When in 561 BC the city of Athens was politically divided between the followers of Lycurgus and those of Megacles, a certain Peisistratos took advantage of the division and seized sole power over the city, thus becoming what the Greeks termed a tyrant. Nowadays when we think of tyrants, we think of unconstitutional, literally tyrannical regimes, but in ancient Greece, the terms ‘tyrant’ and tyrannis were relatively neutral words, simply describing the monarchical rule of one man. It was not until Plato and Aristotle wrote their political works that the tyrannis as a form of government became synonymous with despotic and arbitrary domination of the body politic by a single ruler who stood above the law.

The source: Michael J. Taylor, 'Laughing at the Praetorian Guard - Juvenal's Satire 16'

“Say Gallius, who can number the rewards of happy military service? if only the favored camp would open its gate to accept me as a quaking recruit under a favorable star. one hour of this Benign fate is worth more than A letter from Venus commending us to Mars, seconded by his mother Juno, who delights in sandy samos. Let us first consider the universal advantages of soldiering, not the least of which shall Be that no Roman civilian dares to beat you. nay, if beaten himself, he keeps quiet and does not dare to show the praetor his broken teeth, the dark clot swelling blue on his face, and the single remaining eye for which the doctor promises no cure.” (Juvenal 16.1-12)

Theme: Nicholas Sekunda, 'Cavalry about the court - The Ptolemaic horse guard'. Illustrated by Johnny Schumate.

Following the death of Ptolemy Philopator (204 BC), his chief minister Agathokles wished to prolong his power by ensuring his guardianship over his successor, the boy-king Ptolemy Epiphanes. The dramatic incidents surrounding these events provide us with a detailed account of the Ptolemaic royal court and the troops responsible for guarding it.

Theme: Ilario Lorusso, 'Portraying Praetorian Guardsmen'

The Praetorian Guard is well attested in our literary sources. There is a selection of surviving tombstones depicting guardsmen as well. The most detailed, however, are several reliefs in Rome in which Praetorian guardsmen figure prominently. The question with those, wonderfully seductive as they are, is how dependable they are in their detail. Were the cheek pieces of the Guard’s helmets decorated with scorpions – as visible on page 10 – or were they plain, as seen here?

Theme: Sidney E. Dean, 'Crethi and Plethi and "Mighty Men" - The bodyguards of king David'. Illustrated by Angel Garcia Pintó

The Bible is not strictly a religious document. The Old Testament in particular has been proven to be – at least in some portions – a valuable source of military history. Among these valuable sources are the sections known as the First and Second Books of Samuel and the First Book of Kings. These books describe the wars and military reforms conducted by the ancient Israelites under Kings Saul, David and Solomon. The estimated timeframe of events runs from the middle of the 11th Century BC to the middle of the 10th Century BC.

Theme: Scott Rusch, 'Protecting Sparta's kings - ...and the role of the Hippeis'. Illustrated by Igor Dzis

The kings of the two royal houses of Sparta had the honor of a bodyguard force, which many scholars identify as the Hippeis, “Horsemen”, a picked ba nd of 300 Spartiate hoplites. However, others have disputed this view, saying the evidence is weak and that guarding kings was not a standard duty for the Hippeis. What ca n we say with certainty about the bodyguards of Spartan kings and the nature and role of the Hippeis?

Theme: Cezary Kucewicz, 'Luck, divine providence and an elite - Alexander's bodyguards in times of war and peace'

The status of Alexander the Great as one of the most successful military leaders of antiquity is undeniable. It was his tactical genius, combined with the supreme martial prowess of the Macedonian king that enabled him to defeat Darius III and conquer the vast plains of the Persian Empire. Alexander’s courage and bravery, which he displayed on numerous occasions during the campaign, earned him many great victories and the reputation of being a man who did not hesitate to risk his own life.

Theme: Ross Cowan, 'Peculiar Praetorian pila'.

Like the legionaries of the early Roman empire, praetorian guardsmen were equipped with the traditional Roman panoply of pilum, gladius and scutum. By the end of the second century AD, most legionaries had replaced their archetypal pila with spears and various forms of javelins. it seems, however, that the praetorian infantry retained their pila for much longer.

Special: Duncan B. Campbell, 'Far travelled horsemen - the Ala Siliana'.

It is virtually impossible to reconstruct the history of individual auxiliary units. Unlike the legions, which often shaped the course of Roman history, the auxilia maintained a lower profile. Dotted across the vast expanse of the Roman empire, the majority served out their existence in the unglamorous role of garrison troops. Still, there were others that found themselves at the heart of great events. the Ala Siliana was one such unit.

The debate: Fernando Quesada-Sanz, 'Guerrilleros in Hispania? The myth of Iberian guerrillas against Rome'

Commonly accepted wisdom says that the ‘tribes’ that stood against the Roman conquest of the Iberian peninsula were only capable of quite primitive warfare in strategic, logistical, organizational and tactical terms. If they could resist the might of the regular Roman legions for so long, it was because of the warlike nature of the peninsular peoples, because of Rome’s other, more pressing commitments elsewhere and because their style of guerrilla warfare was notoriously difficult to deal with. in fact, some of these points can be shown to be misleading or plain wrong.

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