Senate 1001 Days That Shaped the World! Disc. Gauls Attack Rome & Lay Siege to the Capitol (July, 390 BCE)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Rogue1-and-a-half, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Democracy is Born
    Cleisthenes introduces an early form of democratic government to Athens.
    507 BCE

    Democracy is often linked to the reforms set up Cleisthenes to combat corruption in Athens. Prior reforms in Athens under Solon, and others, had taken steps in the direction of Cleisthenes? reforms, but most historians place the tipping point with Cleisthenes.

    Under Cleisthenes, the focus point of political life became the assembly, or ekklesia, where non-elected members of society could participate in direct democracy. Voting was primarily by show of hands with the voter required, obviously, to be present at the meeting. On more significant matters, voting was via the tossing of either a white stone or a black stone into an urn which was then shattered to allow the votes to be counted.

    Office holders were not elected, but rather chosen by lot, in an effort to keep the offices from being filled by the wealthy who could afford to campaign. Of the nearly 1200 officials that ran the Athenian government, only about 100 were elected, with the rest being chosen by lot.

    Cleisthenes called his reforms isonomia, equality in law, rather than demokratia, rule of the people, indicating that his primary focus was less on being completely representative of the people and more on seeing that all were treated fairly.

    This is obviously a very primitive form of democracy, but one see the beginnings of a government with responsibility toward the people. The effort is appreciated and certainly this laid the foundation for much of what we know today.
  2. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    An aside on Athenian women's lib:

    Socrates claimed that Sparta fell apart because women were largely equal in Spartan society.

    Ancient Greece as a whole is pretty fascinating as you can spot pieces of our modern societies-equality before the law, standing militaries, diplomatic alliances, democracy, etc.-but they're right alongside things that would never fly in today's societies: Slavery, treatment of women and children as property, and child abuse as culture (the Agoge, and Spartan child-rearing in general). It's a pretty bizarre stew, but I've say we've done pretty well in picking the non-crappy parts.
  3. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

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    "Socrates" was just speaking what Plato and Xenophon (and the rest of the authors whose works have been now lost) wrote. What we have of him is just a distorted ghost animated to serve the political needs of other men. One could say the same about Greek "democracy"; it has come to serve many a later master, mostly who saw it - deliberately or not - distorted by their own time and customs, and put to serve their own purposes.

    By thinking that "our" democracy is much the same as theirs tends to just lead to that bafflement in other areas, when we falsely think, want them to be like us in this and other issues. The so-called "West" is more interested in seeing in the ancient Greeks (and Romans) as themselves than what these people really were like. What is wanted from the past is for it to act as a mirror where we can see an admirable reflection of ourselves.
  4. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Well put and that's rather what I was getting at when I said that these stories are more important than their historical reality; the lens through which the West views so many things is made up of exactly these stories.

    The Master?s Message
    Confucius leaves Lu to spread the message of good government
    497 BCE

    Confucius was born in the Lu State of China to a wealthy warrior father; upon the father?s death, Confucius? mother lost everything, not being her husband?s primary wife, but only his concubine. Confucius was raised in extreme poverty; eventually, after reaching adulthood, he is reported to have gone to the capital city of Lu and attempted to talk to the officials there about his new philosophy of government. After he was laughed to scorn, he set into the world, trusting that someone, somewhere would listen to him.

    He found an ever growing number of disciples and taught them orally. Years after his death the central text of Confucianism, The Analects, was compiled. Confucius? teachings are generally in the form of oblique aphorisms and he emphasized, above all else, that everyone must think for themselves. His ethics are generally pragmatic and humanistic; he taught that the family was the primary unit of society and even of government and that all people are born with a natural sense of right and wrong that they should strive to adhere too. The spiritual trappings and rituals of Confucianism are generally based around ancestor worship. In short, it was a philosophy destined to become something more ? its pragmatism, wit and warmth still come across through the text.

    Debate still goes on as to whether Confucianism is truly a religion or simply a philosophy. Whatever it was, and is, the figure at its heart remains a wise, witty, likable figure teaching a simple, basic morality that is as appealing as it is cross-cultural.
  5. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    I think this one is a philosophy...
  6. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Athenian Army Victorious at Marathon
    Athenians defeat the Persian army on the plain of Marathon, north of Athens
    September 12, 490 BCE

    The Battle of Marathon was the climax of the Persian Empire?s first attempt, made under Darius I, to conquer and subjugate Greece. At the plain of Marathon, the Persian Army, perhaps with as many as 100,000 soldiers, met the Athenian Army, with a much smaller force of some 11,000 soldiers. The Athenians, however, were able to immediately control both exits from the plain and hold the Persians to a stalemate for five days.

    At the end of those five days, the Athenians, for reasons that seem entirely unclear, given the vast Persian numerical strength, decided to attack. And, shockingly, given their tactics and greater weaponry, the Athenians prevailed. Herodotus notes some 6,000 of the Persians were killed in the conflict, while not even 200 of the Athenians were killed.

    The Battle of Marathon ended the first Persian invasion and sent Darius I?s armies back to Persia, tail between legs. The defeat was not entirely decisive; some ten years later, Darius I?s son, Xerxes, would again send his armies against Greece; and in fact, we?ll talk about some of the events of that conflict in our next two entries in this thread. But, for the moment, Greece was in ascendency and the world had learned, in a very visceral way, that the Persians were not all-conquering.

    Legend has it that a single runner was sent from the plain of Marathon to dash quickly back to Athens and alert the populace that the Greeks had been victorious. He arrived, blurted out his news and promptly dropped of exhaustion. From this event came the institution of the marathon race, with the distance being fixed at the approximate distance between the plain and the city, 25 miles.

    I suppose this would a particularly meaty subject for our resident history experts to get all ?What If? on us. What if the Battle of Marathon had gone the other way? Would the Persian aesthetic have achieved the iconic status of the Greek aesthetic?
  7. MeBeJedi Jedi Grand Master

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    I can't believe you're espousing this tripe on a Star Wars board...have you not seen the films? o_O
  8. Champion of the Force Force Ghost

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    Dec 27, 1999
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    Re: Marathon. Pretty damn important battle, and one that highlights very well the superiority of the Greek phalanx vs the Persians. Those figures given for the Persians though are almost certainly exaggerated by ancient sources - modern historians tend to put the number of Persians somewhere around 20,000-30,000 - still larger than the Greeks but not ridiculously overwhelming.
  9. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Some ancient sources stated that the Persian forces numbered 600,000. Which is just way out there. I think 100,000 is like the absolute envelope now on estimates of the Persians. And, as you say, most historians are much more conservative, probably correctly so.
  10. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    Do you get the distinct feeling that we are getting the edited version?
  11. Champion of the Force Force Ghost

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    Almost certainly. Pretty much all our sources for the Persian Wars come from the Greek side. From memory the only thing we have that comes close to a Persian account is some palace reliefs from Xerxes reign (some Greeks paying him tribute I believe).
  12. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    Oct 14, 2001
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    Hmmm...that wouldn't play in Peoria.
  13. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Leonidas & the Three Hundred Spartans
    Victory over the Greeks comes at huge cost for the Persian army.
    September 17, 480 BCE

    It should be noted that the date in the book is the one noted above. Most historians believe that the battle took place in August and this battle is placed, in the book, ahead of other events in this same war that took place in early September. So, I think, just a misprint on the date there.

    At the Battle of Thermopylae, as if anyone remains who doesn?t know the story, Spartan King Leonidas took an incredibly small force of only 300 Spartans to meet the vast Persian army. The Persians, after their decisive defeat at the Battle of Marathon, had lain quiet for ten years, but with the ascension of Xerxes to the throne of his father, Darius, the Persians once again began their efforts to take over the Greek world.

    Leonidas, knowing that the council would refuse him the right to take a large army, was forced into taking the smaller one, but with a force cobbled together from other cities, there were far more than just 300 soldiers under Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae. Leonidas? force was able to hold off the far numerically superior Persians for two full days; on the third day, the Greek force was betrayed and the Persians were able to flank them.

    Leonidas sent many of his soldiers away, but remained with some 1500 soldiers, including his 300 Spartans; when the dust cleared, the Persians were victorious, the Greek force was slain to a man (legend tells us) and the Persians had lost three days and some 20,000 troops.

    The immediate result of the defeat was that the Greek strategy, which had required holding both Thermopylae and Artimisium had been foiled. The Greek navy was forced into a massive withdrawal. Leonidas? efforts had been great, and would rightly enter the annals of wartime heroism, but the war was swinging the Persian way. Would Xerxes succeed where his father had failed? Or would the Greeks find another Marathon to turn the tide? That question will be answered next time, as we talk about another decisive battle in this war. Am I the only one digging all these battles?
  14. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    Not at all. Fascinating part of history.
  15. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

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    I would only note how decisive terrain was in this encounter. While, certainly, Perisan forces were ill-matched for Greek heavy infantry (as Marathon before it and Platea afterward would demonstrate), that wasn't the operative factor here. The fight was over in well less than 24 hours of the time a single goat pass was discovered--that including the time it took to move troops along said route. While their fighting was no doubt brave, their position was far more fortuitous.

    The other thing I'd note about this battle is it's ideological significance. As manifested most recently in the film 300, it (and the Greco-Persian Wars more broadly) have become invested with a pretty virulent strain of narrative about Western culture superiority and "Eastern" bestiality/cruelty/barbarism/backwardness.
  16. Champion of the Force Force Ghost

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    Dec 27, 1999
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    The reluctance of the Spartans to dedicate a larger force is a recurring theme in the Persian Wars - their idea of defending Greece was to fortify the Isthmus of Corinth and wait for the Persians to come to them; needless to say the other Greek cities weren't too keen on this idea as they would all be conquered before the Persians even got there (not to mention that, with a fleet, the Persians could quite easily circumvent it anyway).

    Just to add a bit more info considering the Persians - the 10 year wait wasn't intentional. From what evidence we have it seems as though Darius fully intended to follow up his initial invasion, this time personally leading it himself, however a revolt in Egypt and his death delayed that action. His successor, Xerxes I, then had to put down the Egyptian revolt himself, afterwhich Babylon then revolted as well :oops:. By the time that revolt was also crushed and Xerxes had cemented his rule only then could he turn his attention back to Greece.

    Xerxes is an interesting fellow - he wasn't the oldest and most obvious successor, however crucially his mother was Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great) whom Darius had married after he obtained the throne; it was this link back to Cyrus that gave Xerxes the edge in the succession over his brothers. He has also in the past been identified as the Persian king in the Biblical Book of Esther, however modern historians tend to now identify that king with later rulers.
  17. Lady_Sami_J_Kenobi Force Ghost

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    Jul 31, 2002
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    I love ancient history, too. I have a book on the Ancient Greeks that explains much about the Spartans and why every Spartan male was required to be a soldier. The Spartans had conquered the original inhabitants of the plain and made them slaves, so 2/3 to 3/4 of Spartan society was made up of slaves, who often revolted.

    It also covers the testing of the young boys that began when they were very young, I think 7 or 8 (I don't have the book with me today), and ended when they were strong enough to fight, so maybe 16 - 18 years old. So, that means 9 or 10 years of beatings, fighting, etc.

    The testing was very rigorous and entailed forcing the boys to steal food without getting caught.

    It also made it clear that, contrary to what is presented in 300, the king's son was never tested/trained the way the other boys were. It would have been a catastrophe if the king's son did not measure up.

    One other comment on 300, the Persian king would never have worn more chains, even if they were made of gold, than a slave.




  18. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

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    May 11, 2005
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    Yes, it's a curious case how a despotic, thoroughly militarized and oppressive state like Sparta can be seen as fighting for modern "Western" style freedom or overall for "West". People just want to sent back in time their own ideas of cultural rifts and thus ancient Persia of 490-479 BCE becomes an enemy of the everything that later became to exist in Europe and in it's overseas extensions, all their achievements, and the Greeks (those who fought against the Persians, those who fought for them tend to be forgotten) become defenders of the same. So that Greeks "fought for Europe" and such nonsense; it's not like that in reality a Greek defeat would have led to Europe dominated by Persia, just to mostly political - pro-Persian rulers established in Athens and Sparta etc - and in lesser extent military domination (a garrison here and there, at most, on land) of the eastern part of the Greek "world" by Persia.

    And the time when Greece lost it's "freedom" because of Rome, ends up seen as necessary for the benefit of all that came afterwards, even when the actual effects for the Greeks alive in 179-146 BCE were greater than a defeat against Persia in 480-479 BCE would have likely been to mainland Greeks of the time.
  19. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

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    Nov 7, 2007
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    Something that I've had issue with in most recreations and historical tellings is in part of the odds that the Greeks were up against. I use the term 'Greek' because this represents soldiers from various city states, of which only 300 were Spartan. The odds really weren't stacked so high against the Greeks as many have come to believe. By the time that the Greek army had assembled their forces at the pass, it consisted of roughly 4000 hoplite infantry. That was more than sufficient for bottlenecking the Persian invasion indefinitely.

    Where the odds were really stacked against them was at sea, where the Athenian fleet had to contain the Persian navy. Outnumbered five to one, the Athenian General Themistocles held off the Persian fleet for three days, and was largely responsible for the Greek victory in 480 BC. Had Persian ships penetrated the Athenian blockade established by Themistocles, they would have been able to land troops behind the Greek lines and overwhelmed their forces.

    Themistocles also was largely responsible for fortifying the Athenian navy in advance of the second Persian invasion. Whereas most Athenians believed the battle of marathon was a triumph of ground over navy forces, he came to believe the navy was a better investment for Athens. Certainly the Persians could easily have landed troops behind Greek lines if the Athenian navy were ill equipped to hold them off, but it was their ability to maintain supplies of food to their massive army which made them vital. The belief was that Athens could effectively render the Persian army impudent if Athens became the dominant naval power of the Mediterrainian Sea. In addition to that was the ability to recruit low-wealth citizens as oarsmen, whereas hoplites had to be wealthy individuals to afford their armour and training.

    Most speak of Leonidas and the 300 Spartans, but much of the real credit belongs to Themistocles for his part in the battle. On the third day of the battle, the majority of the 4000 Greek troops were pulled back and the last stand was made by the 1500 Spartan and Thesbian troops. Never really did fewer than 1500 troops hold off the Persian army, but people always seem to focus on those 300 Spartans and hardly take notice of the troops from other Greek city states, nor the Athenian navy's role in the victory.
  20. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Well, to be fair, even at the low, super-conservative estimate of 20,000 Persians, 4,000 Greeks effectively blocking them is still pretty impressive-that's 5 to 1 odds.

    I think the main reason for the Spartan emphasis is how good at PR the Spartans were. They were famous for their never-retreat, never-surrender doctrine, mostly because they did follow it the majority of the time. Plus the Romans had the hots for Sparta, and that eventually turned into the BE idolizing them, and well, there you go.
  21. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

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    Nov 7, 2007
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    I'm not discounting the numbers the Greeks were up against, but they did ultimately have the advantage in how their soldiers fought. Because they chose to bottleneck the Persians on terrain where they couldn't use their cavalry, the Greeks essentially negated the Persians' strength in numbers.

    Because of the shield wall, only a few hundred soldiers could fight at any one time; so it wouldn't have mattered if the Persian army was a million strong. Until day three, thousands of Persians were dead for the loss of only a few dozen hoplites from the Greek side. That was the advantage they had in terms of their armour, which ultimately made the phalanx nearly impenetrable. Even the Persian Immortals were ill-equipped to match only a few thousand hoplites in formation.

    Absolutely the Greeks had the upper hand for as long as their could hold the pass.
  22. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Yeah, the Persians were lightly equipped to be sure; when one sees representations of them and realizes they're carrying around wooden shields and wicker armor, you realize these guys are never gonna be a match for Greeks without manuever. Which is more or less exactly what happened.

    The thing about 300 that annoys me the most really is that it strips away all of the stuff that makes Sparta an actually interesting culture: the two royal families, and dual kings on the throne, the nature of the Peloponnesian League (less NATO, more Warsaw Pact), the Ephors not being religious fundamentalist Palpatine lookalikes but rather elected tyrants with powers that actually eclipsed the kings, the Helots and the Perioci...it's all been replaced by this extremely bland pretend Sparta. Which sucks. :p
  23. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    Sep 19, 2000
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    The thing that annoys me most about 300 is its color scheme... that movie will be spectacularly unwatchable in ten years' time. So I guess we'll all be waiting for "300: The True Story".
  24. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

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    Nov 7, 2007
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    I really wished they made the fighting at least remotely accurate in 300. I don't know if anyone noticed, but I don't vaguely remember the Spartans ever taking up the phalanx formation. No armour, either? Who are those guys, Scotts?

    No, THEY'RE SPARTANS!!!

    I seriously believed that a movie about the battle of Thermopolea would have been amazing, but now I doubt they'll ever try it again. That movie was just... *Shudders* The worst part was that they could have told it as it really was, and it would have been equally compelling. That whole thing was like pure fiction with a touch of historic accuracy.
  25. Danaan Jedi Master

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    Apr 23, 2008
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    I could maybe be argued, if you're generous, that they held the Phalanx formation at the very first Persian assault. You know, when the mass of Persians is pressing up against them. Personally I liked that part, because it makes a point of showing how organized combat wins over unorganized rabble. And that's a rare thing in Hollywood pre-modern war flicks which all seem to get their notion of medieval (and earlier) style battles from Braveheart; two hordes of men meet in the middle and duke it out in complete chaos (Alexander being the exception).

    But that's the only part of the film that's watchable, the rest simply exposes Frank Miller's fascistoid leanings - all enemies are corrupt, dark, deformed and degenerate, while the Spartans are pure and beautiful in body and soul. [face_sick] The flick actually has me worried - how many young impressionable people who haven't studied history properly have now been inspired by fascist ideals through that movie? [face_worried]

    It should have made a point of just how ruthless and merciless the Spartan society was - and that it was nothing close to representing democracy or freedom. It also neglects to mention the battle of Salamis in the epilogue...maybe because that day was won by those pancies in Athens [face_laugh]

    By the way, aren't there older movies, from the 60s and such that portrays this battle, too?

    Edit: History channel's show on Thermopylae is kind of fun, it uses the Rome:Total War computer game to illustrate the battle. And it gets a lot more accurate than what the movie did...;P