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The Warriors Of Paros
Hellenic News ^ | 12-19-2004 | Foteini Zafeiropoulou/Anagnostis Agelarakis

Posted on 12/19/2004 11:52:54 AM PST by blam

The Warriors of Paros

Earliest Polyandria (Soldiers' burials) found in Greece offer clues to the rise of Classical Greek City-States and Phalangeal War Tactics.

by Foteini Zafeiropoulou and Anagnostis Agelarakis

Soldiers' bones in urns-evidence of a forgotten battle fought around 730 BC. Did these men perish on their island home of Paros, at the center of the Aegean Sea, or in some distant land? The loss of so many, at least 120 men, was certainly a catastrophe for the community, but their families and compatriots honored them, putting the cremated remains into large vases two of which were decorated with scenes of mourning and scenes of war. Grief-stricken relatives carried the urns to the cemetery next to the ancient harbor in Paroikia, the island's chief city and placed them in two monumental cist graves.

Excavation of the ancient cemetery began after its discovery during construction of a cultural center in the mid-1980s. It proved to be a veritable guidebook to changing funeral practices, the cemetery yielded up seventh and sixth c. BC burials in large jars, fifth-century marble urns and grave stelae, and Hellenistic and Roman marble sarcophagi on elaborate pedestals. But the two collective burials of soldiers from the late eighth century are the most important of the finds; as the earliest such burials (polyandria) ever found in Greece [dated 240 years earlier that the Marathon polyandrion of 490 BC] their very existence offering evidence for the development of city-states at this time. By about 1050 BC the Late Bronze Age civilization of Greece had collapsed, and the great palace sites destroyed or abandoned. Many explanations for this have been proposed--invasion, internecine war, earthquake, drought, economic disruption--but none can be proved. Regardless, the old social system was gone. Kings, supported by a warrior caste and administrative officials, had ruled over a larger class of serfs. Now that was all swept aside.

On Paros, the island's main Late Bronze Age center in Paroikia, located at a hilltop site on the shore, was destroyed and then reoccupied in the tenth century, but was soon exceeded during the Geometric times by a growing town supported by the new harbor of Paroikia. The people prospered, for Paros is ringed with fertile coastal plains and its marble, of the highest quality, was famed throughout antiquity. But its real wealth came after Paros colonized the northern Aegean island of Thasos circa 680 BC, seizing its abundant timber and productive gold mines.

What sort of society did the late eighth and early seventh-century inhabitants of Paros and contemporary Greek cities have? The soldiers' burials in Paroikia offer some clues. Two out of the 140 vases, most of which could be dated to ca. 730 BC, show typical funeral scenes of the time. The rest of the vases are like similar pots found in individual graves in the Kerameikos, Athens' early cemetery, and elsewhere (just with Geometric designs).

One of the two vases with the figured scenes mentioned above, slightly older (dated to approximately 750 BC-was it a heirloom used for the burial?) than the other, captures the images of a skirmish with a warrior fighting from a chariot with dead combatants laying next to him, cavalry men in action (one of whom is mounted with a smaller round shield), and foot warriors one of whom carries a large figure-eight shaped shield (a type known to have been in use in the Late Bronze Age) while fighting with the sword, whereas an other carries a larger round shield (typical in size and shape of the shields to be used in phalanx formation). The other of the two vases with the figured scenes (dated to approximately 730 BC) captivates the themes of war and mourning, showing in a continuous narration the killing of a warrior in battle, fighting over his body, and laying out the corpse (in prothesis) before cremation. The body is laid out on a high bed or bier. Mourners stand alongside, women with both hands raised (perhaps tearing their hair) and men with one hand uplifted (possibly in a gesture of grief or salute to the dead). The battle scene depicts the instance of a fight for claiming the body of a fallen warrior while cavalry men mounted with helmet, shied, and spear, supported by moderately equipped bowmen and flying arrows proceed against a team of lightly armed sling shouters, loading and throwing their missiles (the first and earliest time sling shouters are ever depicted in battle scenes in Greek vase paintings), situated in relative vanguard yet in formation with a larger group of heavily armed foot warriors each carrying two spears and a round shield, called the hoplon, the same basic type that would be used throughout the Classical period and would give its name to the citizen-soldier, the hoplite. Moreover, the soldiers are depicted acting in unison.

In the Late Bronze Age, elite members of society fought on foot or from a chariot, using a throwing spear, sword, and large figure-eight or rectangular "tower" shields. Hoplites, by contrast, were heavily armed infantry, equipped with a thrusting spear and sword, breastplate, greaves, closed helmet, and round shield or hoplon. But the difference was more than just what the soldiers carried, it was also in how they fought. War in the Aegean Late Bronze Age area was carried out in the form of individual duels rather than combat in organized formations; with hoplites came the tactic of fighting in close packed lines several men deep, known as the phalangeal pitched battle. The two vases from the Paroikia tombs show both older and newer fighting methods, recording an important change in society. Scholars have long debated the role hoplite warfare played in the rise of social institutions that supported Classical city-states. It was thought that hoplite gear and phalanx were adopted around 700 BC. The new style of warfare, the argument went, shifted the state's military power from an elite warrior class to farmers, tradesmen, and other common people. Subsequently these new soldiers claimed a voice in the affairs of their cities, diluting the power of the aristocracy and laying the ground for citizen assemblies. It was seen as a social revolution. This interpretation, however, was criticized as being far too simplistic. Moreover, close study of depictions on vases from ancient Greece suggested that hoplite gear was introduced piecemeal between 750 and 700, the phalanx coming shortly afterward, further discrediting the idea of such a single revolution event. Now, however, the two vases from the Parian polyandria offer evidentiary data that hoplite warfare was already established by about 730, making necessary a reconsideration of the matter.

The most celebrated of the ancient inhabitants of Paros, both in antiquity and possibly even today, is the early half of the seventh century BC soldier-poet Archilochus, who took part in the colonization of Thasos. Many of his lyric poems and epigrams deal with his experiences as a soldier. Some provide eyewitness testimony of tactics of his day, including one alluding to battle in a phalanx formation, which we now know was pioneered by his forebears:

“Psyche, my psyche perplexed with the immeasurable troubles that have found you, stand up. Ward off the dreadful assaults that lie in wait, aiming toward your chest, by standing resolute close to the face of the enemies”.

We will likely never know what battle claimed the lives of these Parian citizen-soldiers. There were conflicts between Paros and nearby Naxos island, Archilochus himself having been involved in them, but in general we still know little of them. Ancient authors also speak of a long-running war between Chalkis and Eretria, the two largest cities on the island of Euboia, between the mid-eighth and mid-seventh century BC. It was known as the Lelantine War, after the name of a plain that both cities claimed. "On this occasion the rest of the Hellenic world did join in with one side or the other," wrote Thucydides in the fifth century. Centuries later (first c. AD), geographer Strabo recorded an inscription that told of an agreement between the belligerents to ban missile weapons such as sling stones, arrows, and throwing spears; considered as courageously unenvious and undesirable fighting methods compared to the austere discipline and organization required for the phalangeal frontal attack.
Archilochus' verses about the war suggest Paros was involved in it: “Not even the bows will be repeatedly stretched, not even the teeming slings when Ares gathers the toil and moil of war in the plain, there the grievous swords will start the job of caising many sighs, for the lords of Euboia are the demons of this battle, famed for their spears.”

Do the bones from the Paroikia tombs reflect such savage warfare? The study of the human cremated bones is only beginning, but some preliminary observations can be made. The cremated remains of the majority of the 120 individuals were deposited as multiple interments in the funerary vases. They are all males, and of those for whom we could determine an approximate age at death, most were between 18 and 45 years. Some of the remains do show trauma from battle, such as cut marks on cranial bone fragments, on limb bone fragments and the bones of the thorax as for example the sternum (or breastbone). More dramatic is a fragment of an iron spear point embedded into still adhering bone components.
Given this grim evidence, Archilochus was probably speaking for many of his fellow soldiers when he mocked in the following verses the do-or-die approach espoused by the Spartans, who admonished their men to bring back their shields or be carried home dead on them: “Thrilled is one of the Saians(a Thracian) with that unblemished shield I left unwillingly behind in the bushes. But I saved myself, so what do I care about the shield, the hell with it; Iʼll obtain an equally good one”.

These two collective burials, the earliest known in the ancient Greek world, provide testimony of the social conditions at the dawn of Classical city-states. That the dead were interred as a group rather than in individual family graves, the usual practice, suggests a state supported funeral of the sort first described by Thucydides in Athens 300 years later. This is an indication of their status as citizens and their inclusion in the workings of the city.
And two of the burial vases show the earliest evidence of citizen-soldiers fighting in cohesive units rather than as individuals. Clearly, the people of Paros were acting as an organized state by 730 BC. And this possibly explains their ability to successfully colonize Thasos a few decades later, overpowering after many battles the local Thracian tribes.
The community identity and centralized decision-making processes necessary to undertake such an ambitious expedition were already in place.

Today, despite the increasing logistical needs of an active archaeological site the cemetery serves as an archaeological park, with interpretive panels overlooking the site, visited day and night by a large number of people on a yearly basis.
The in situ grave monuments, funerary stelae, and sarcophagi are constantly documented, checked and restored as needed, whereas the funerary vases, burial artifacts, marble statues, all anthropological remains and additional organic materials recovered are stored at the archaeological museum of Paroikia located in great proximity (5 minute walk) to the site.

Reaching into the past through archaeological recovery, the study of the monuments and the human remains from the polyandria and contemplating the lives of those memorialized here we may be reminded of both Archilochus' social criticisms bitterly reminding one of the lost privileges of the dead “Once dead one has no more claim to respect and fame among the people of the city, whereas we that are alive rather seek grace and kind feelings from the living, therefore it will for ever be the worst for the dead”, and of Aeschylus' 5th c. BC writings on aspects of the phalangeal war "men go to war and in their place urns and ashes return to their home". And yet although we may never know the names of those whose bones we have the privilege of studying, we realize in retrospect that the incidence of their death wasnʼt fruitless. It contributed significantly to the foundations of the social and political environment of future generations in ancient Paros, and beyond.
With notions of unpretentious respect to their memory and through our work we are trying to elucidate further aspects of their lives and heroic deeds, and speak of them to others.

Dr. Foteini Zafeiropoulou is Ephor Emerita of Antiquities in the Greek Archaeological Service. Dr. Anagnostis Agelarakis is a Professor of Physical Anthropology and Archaeological Anthropology at Adelphi University. The English versions of Archilochus' poems and excerpt of Aeschylus that appear in this article are a free translation by A. Agelarakis.

Acknowledgements: A. Agelarakis wishes to thank Dr. F. Zafeiropoulou, the Greek Archaeological Service, and the personnel of the Paros archaeological museum for their support; further he wishes to recognize the pleasant and hospitable people of Paros, and to express thanks to the team of his Adelphi student-assistants for their sensitivity and respect to the antiquities, and commitment to science.

Image captions:

1) Paros polyandion funerary vases in situ, holding cremated soldier remains
2) Map of Greece with highlighted areas of Paros, Euboia, Naxos, Thasos, and marking the locus for Athens (all mentioned in the article)
3) Statue of Gorgon, a monstrous beast of the ancient Greek mythology, recovered from the proximity of the Paroikia burial ground, exhibited in the Paros archaeological museum (dates around 580 BC) (photo A. Agelarakis)
4) Site view of the Paroikia burial ground (annotates specific features…)
5) Iron spearhead component with adhering fragments of human cremated bone. (photo A. Agelarakis)
6) Thoracic body fragment showing a moderate Schmörlʼs mode; caused by ante mortem axially oriented load pressure impact--a traumatic event. (photo A. Agelarakis) (was not included)
7) Site view of the Paroikia burial ground with an outlook to the ancient harbor and the Aegean Archipelago
8) Close up view of vase dated to 730 BC showing a battle scene over a dead soldierʼs body with sling shouters, hoplites, bow men and cavalry.
9) One of the funerary vases with figure scenes dated to approximately 750 BC showing chariot warrior, dead combatants, and foot warriors equipped with Late Bronze Age shield, and hoplon shield respectively.
10)Close up view of vase dated to 730 BC showing hoplites and cavalry forces
11) Field laboratory archaeological-anthropological activities showing two conservators of the Greek Archaeological Service in the foreground, and a team of Prof. Agelarakisʼ student assistants in the background. (photo A. Agelarakis)


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancientgreece; archaeology; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; paros; trojanwar; warriors

1 posted on 12/19/2004 11:52:54 AM PST by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.


2 posted on 12/19/2004 11:53:57 AM PST by blam
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To: blam
>The Warriors Of Paros

Excuse me. Sorry.
But this sounded so much like
a Dr. Who thread!

3 posted on 12/19/2004 12:02:31 PM PST by theFIRMbss
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; SunkenCiv; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; 4ConservativeJustices; ...
Thanks Blam.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
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5 posted on 12/19/2004 5:26:35 PM PST by SunkenCiv ("All I have seen teaches me trust the Creator for all I have not seen." -- Emerson)
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bttt with a few related GGG / FR topics:

Amazon Warrior Women
PBS ^ | Current | PBS
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http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1185293/posts

The Argonaut Epos and Bronze Age Economic History
Economics Department, City College of New York
Revised May 14, 1999 | Morris Silver
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http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1199756/posts

Arzawa
The House of David (not the vanished religious sect by that name)
circa 2002 by David R Ross
Posted on 11/26/2004 7:32:25 PM PST by SunkenCiv
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The Linear B Tablets and Mycenaean Social, Political, and Economic Organization
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Revised: Friday, March 18, 2000 | Trustees of Dartmouth College
Posted on 08/29/2004 8:19:46 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
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Non-Attic Characters
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Archaeology ^ | May/June 2004 | Manfred Korfmann
Posted on 07/29/2004 11:43:38 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
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6 posted on 12/19/2004 5:53:22 PM PST by SunkenCiv ("All I have seen teaches me trust the Creator for all I have not seen." -- Emerson)
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To: Molly Pitcher; Renfield; TooBusy
Sorry, I'm back home, and neglected to update the home copy of the ping list before I pinged. Usually I'm much more organized.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

7 posted on 12/19/2004 6:10:26 PM PST by SunkenCiv ("All I have seen teaches me trust the Creator for all I have not seen." -- Emerson)
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To: blam
"The loss of so many, at least 120 men, was certainly a catastrophe for the community" Not for the lads left alive... party time.
8 posted on 12/20/2004 3:33:40 PM PST by -=Wing_0_Walker=-
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To: lepton

bookmark bump


9 posted on 12/20/2004 7:31:39 PM PST by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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Just updating the GGG information, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
Gods, Graves, Glyphs PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
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10 posted on 06/10/2006 7:43:16 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (All Moslems everywhere advocate murder, including mass murder, and they do it all the time.)
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To: blam

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 
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Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

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11 posted on 11/04/2009 5:39:03 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__Since Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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