From: "Andrew Bollen"
Subject: Re: (urth) Immortals and Archaic Rome Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 18:27:03 +1000 Matthew says: > The ancient historians had a pretty clear idea of what were Persians and > what were other nations conquered by the Persian Empire. Just as they > made the distinction between Romans by origin, Roman citizens and subjects > of Roman Empire. I don't know but I suspect that Medes, Parthians, > Assyrians etc in the Immortal Guard would have been worth of comment. > > Of course I'm assuming that Herodotus didn't just make it up. ;-) Anyway, the relevant passage is Ch 37 of Mist for Thermopylae: Latro addresses "the hundred" (I guess he is acting as centurion, if that term existed then): "While the Immortals are gone, we could have no higher honor than to be the protectors of the Universal King ...". Her 8.210-224 gives the background. The Medes go in on the first day, failing & making it plain to the King "that although he had plenty of troops, he did not have many men." The Immortals are then sent in, but they do no better - fighting in a restricted area, with spears shorter than the Greeks'. Then Ephialtes the traitor reveals a path thru the mountains, allowing the Persians to attack from a more favorable position. The engagement takes place outside the narrows; Persian conscripts whipped on by their officers die like flies (as in Latro's account); but in the end appear to overwhelm the Spartans by weight of numbers. The Spartans fight with swords, their spears broken, their spears broken, and Leonidas falls but with no deatils given. The Immortals are not mentioned. So there's a blank space here concerning the Immortals, and the precise details of Leonidas' death, which GW has painted in. I think his premiss is that the light infantry Medes and bowmen, not just the conscripts but probably the Immortals also, have shown themselves inferior to the hoplite & the phalanx, and Latro's heavy-armed, disciplined Romans are recognized as being a better "force-on-force" solution. This of course makes sense historically, since the Roman tactical organization which GW describes (the two pila, the short stabbing sword etc) was to prove superior to the hoplite/phalanx combination, but maybe anachronistic? For Plataea, the passage is Ch 24 of Mist: Latro sees the red cloaks of the Spartiates in their falling-back manouevre. He sees Mardonius on his white stallion in the midst of the Immortals - so presumably the Roman unit is somewhere close by, I imagine for the reason I give above. The lightly-armed Medes and bowmen charge ahead, totally disrupting Latro's formation, and smash themselves up on the reformed Spartan shield wall. The Persian forces are completely disorganized during this charge, and are routed by the counter-attack. "We broke ... Even when they made a new shield-wall we were only a mob behind it. The Medes took the spears in their hands and broke them, died. The arrows were no good ..." This all squares reasonably well with Her 9.59-9.63. The "shield-wall" is the wall of the Persians' wickerwork shields mentioned in 9.61. The Lacedaemonians attack this in 9.62, knocking it down, and the battle moves to around the temple of Demeter. The Persians grapple their spears & break them, but are defeated due to their lack of body armor. For whatever reason, it's clear that Latro's Romans have been given a place of honor, with the Persians, against the Spartans. Her 9.31 gives the disposition of his army, mentioning "only the most important ones by name - the ones which were particularly prominent and famous ...". The Romans *should* be included in this list, but of course they're not - hey, it's a novel. Her 9.65 is interesting. "I find it surprising that although the battle took place by the gove of Demeter, not a single Persian either entered the precinct or died there ... I think the goddess kept them away because they ahd burnt her temple at Eleusis." Somewhere in that, I suppose, is the story of what happened between Latro, "bearer of the wolf's tooth", and the Goddess, which I hope we'll someday get to hear. --