Latest TTC course was Great Battles of the Ancient World by Garrett G. Fagan: same chap who did the Rome course.
Wasn't sure it would work beforehand: thought it might rely too much on diagrams, and might get a bit boring with just descriptions of battles. However, he avoids concentrating too much on details of the battles, and basically tells the story of the evolution of warfare in the ancient Mediterranean.
The sparseness of the ancient sources is a help here, since it's very unclear what actually happened in many battles. Fagan repeatedly complains about the poor sources. They generally omitted stuff that everyone knew, like how people actually fought, in favour of formulaic descriptions of the enemy being routed. They also overstated the roles of prestige units: if the aristocracy fought in chariots they talked about chariots; if the dominant class fought as hoplites, they stressed the important of hoplites.
When the descriptions are most detailed they often don't actually make sense. For instance Livy has detailed descriptions of how he thought Roman legions fought, but he has skirmishers somehow positioned behind the main lines.
The result is that we know remarkably little of how Roman legions or Greek hoplites actually fought. The consensus view is that hoplites fought in close formation, but Fagan believes they may actually have been positioned about six feet apart.
Despite this, Fagan does a good job of presenting everyone's best guesses. He also puts quite a bit of effort into attacking a theory presented by Victor Hanson and others that the Greeks invented a unique "Western way of war" which was different and superior to everyone else's. He demolishes it very effectively, practically jumping up and down on the little pieces, but I'm not sure he needed to spend that much time on it.
Overall, a very good course.
Some things that surpised or interested me.
- Once one side got an advantage, casualties for the losers were incredibly heavily: more died in one day at Cannae than the bloodiest day of the battle of the Somme.
- The ancient Greeks were very poor at sieges, basically just trying to starve their opponents out. This is despite the Assyrians and other Eastern civilizations having sophisticated siege warfare
- Philip and Alexander revolutionized things by creating the Macedonian Phalanx. This was 16 deep instead of the usual Greek 8, had longer underarm spears to be held in both hands. It was tightly integrated with cavalry who would drive the enemy against the phalanx.
- Alexander's adoption of siege tactics and artillery also seems to have been very helpful to him while conquering the known world.
- The Achaemenid Persian Empire was very decentralized: it liked to retain local rulers as satraps, and they were even allowed so much independence they were allowed to fight small wars with their neighbours. So a Persian victory against Greece would not have affected civilization that much: the Ionian cities under Persian control were allowed to continue as normal.
- These days, we do know where Alesia is.
Predator Rap (6 min):
Random. Most mindwarping Eighties cartoons.
Secondly, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Loyalists and Republicans became engaged in a series of murderous tit-for-tat attacks, in which atrocities by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) became especially savage and indiscriminate. Loyalists would simply gun down Catholics at random. A terrified Catholic community implored the IRA to call a ceasefire as a consequence. In previous Peter Taylor programmes, former UVF and UFF members have boasted that it was they who beat the IRA by killing people at random. I fear it is an awful truth.
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