Recent Posts

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10
1
If the population was high enough we could check gender ratios or age distribution to see whether a set of people had been removed for the purpose of slavery/wives etc.

Quote
A lack of osteological evidence for females among the dead suggests that the massacre at Sandby borg may have been gender-biased towards the male inhabitants. This theory is weakened, however, by the relatively small area of the site excavated to date, and may be refuted through further excavation and analysis. The discovery of infant bones reveals that women were present at the site, although not necessarily at the time of the attack.

All due reservation as to small sample size, but it does look possible that the adult females were being carried off as slaves.
2

But they are not independent small farmers; they are part of a highly cohesive community, a tribe or a polis.


I am afraid I am going to have to politely disagree with that statement.
3
In Herodotus VII.118 we get the information that Antipater son of Orges reckoned that it cost the Thasians 400 talents to feed Xerxes' army for a day and that this was pretty much the experience of other communities.

How much grain could a talent buy? Any way of arriving at an approximate figure?

After a quick look-around I get an Attic talent equivalent to 6000 drachmae, and a half-drachma enough to feed a family of three for one day. So, doing the sums, 400 talents supplies a day's minimum sustenance to 400 x 6000 x 2 x 3 people = 14 400 000 men. That number can be brought down somewhat by assuming the soldiers were fed more than the bare minimum and by the cost of feeding the Persian VIPs with fancier food along with the gold and silver cups and bowls, but we are definitely not in the 200 000 man category (a talent BTW consists of 26kg of silver so most of the 400 talents - 10,4 tons of silver - did not go into the tableware).

According to this source a loaf of barley bread cost 1 obol (6 obols to the drachma). I can't find out how much the loaf weighed.

The meal BTW would have cost the Thasians about US$ 8,000,000.00 in contemporary terms.
4
Or slave raiding - not much of the settlement is excavated yet so getting a perspective on whether the dead represent the whole population or just a portion is hard to judge.

This is a good thought. Although there is a high body count among the non-combatant / potential slaves e.g. children - inconsistent with slave raiding.

If the population was high enough we could check gender ratios or age distribution to see whether a set of people had been removed for the purpose of slavery/wives etc.
5
In Herodotus VII.118 we get the information that Antipater son of Orges reckoned that it cost the Thasians 400 talents to feed Xerxes' army for a day and that this was pretty much the experience of other communities.

How much grain could a talent buy? Any way of arriving at an approximate figure?
6
One characteristic that both Thracian Tribes and Greek City states share is that hey are not command economies. It is not that simple to get a lot of independent small farmers to increase production so dramatically so as to feed an army of several million,even supposing they had the ability to do so.

But they are not independent small farmers; they are part of a highly cohesive community, a tribe or a polis.

We are not necessarily looking at a dramatic production increase; we are looking at an effort to make up margins in the face of a massive obligation.  The main obligation was met through drastic depletion of stocks.  The additional animal and avian increase was presumably to ensure no shortfall in the Persian nobility receiving only the finest meats and their followers receiving at least something containing protein.
7
Also, the figure of 3,000 tons calculated at the beginning was wrong on the figures being used at the time (It should be 3,500 tonnes at 1 kg per man per day) and that was before we realised there are at least 4.5 million people to feed according to Herodotus, so we need 4,500 tonnes.  Then we placed all the grain in amphorae, which cut the weight of grain a 50 ton ship could carry by half (the other half being ceramic).  So you need the equivalent of 9,000 tonnes of stores offloaded per day.  That is assuming you can source your fodder locally.  So, the true figure is around 1,800 50 tonne ships.  I leave the plausibility of that in the context of the time to others.

Some curious arithmetic here.

1,800 ships for 9,000 tons is 5 tons per ship; on Anthony's figures it should be 25.  The number of ships is thus 1,800/5 = 360.

Tonnage in a merchantman is generally reckoned in gross registered tonnage rather than deadweight tonage and thus is not so much weight as volume; putting grain in amphorae may double the weight but it does not double the volume.  Hence the 50-tonner could be carrying 50 tons of grain in 50 tons of amphorae, or more likely 40 tons of grain in 40 tons of amphorae if we consider amphorae to add 20% to overall volume.  This would take the daily complement of ships down to 225.

With little refinement, we can see some obvious flaws that mean productivity is lower.  Half the population would have been children and ate less.  Half the adults would be women, who would also eat less.  We assume constant harvests and no spoilage.  We assume that full scale up could be achieved in a year (where did the extra seed come from, have you got that much spare growing land under your control that you can clear and plant it?)  The point was to give a ball park idea of what the "each city could feed the army for a day" theory represents. 

A good idea.  The impression Herodotus gives is that the cities routinely kept in store something like six months' supply (1,800,000 person-days or so), which suggests (along with a lot of other incidental information) that yields were habitually well above subsistence.  In Herodotus VII.118 we get the information that Antipater son of Orges reckoned that it cost the Thasians 400 talents to feed Xerxes' army for a day and that this was pretty much the experience of other communities.  This hints at (without proving) a certain amount of buying-in (as opposed to importing per se) to make up what was needed.
8
Can we have some numbers please as to how large an increase in production you imagine Xerxes demanded? How many men they were supposed to feed as opposed to being fed from imports.
By this time Greece was almost certainly dependent on grain imports anyway

Disagree about Greece being dependent upon grain imports: that did not happen for another century, when Egypt sent corn to whichever cities were prepared to send troops to help it out.  Even Athens was self-sufficient in 480 BC; fuss about Black Sea corn does not begin until Thucydides makes mention of it.

As for numbers, we make our own guesses from Herodotus VII.119:

"Similar accounts were returned by the officers in the other towns. Now the dinner, about which a great deal of fuss had been made and for the preparation of which orders had been given long ago, proceeded as I will tell. [2] As soon as the townsmen had word from the herald's proclamation, they divided corn among themselves in their cities and all of them for many months ground it to wheat and barley meal; moreover, they fed the finest beasts that money could buy, and kept landfowl and waterfowl in cages and ponds, for the entertaining of the army. They also made gold and silver cups and bowls and all manner of service for the table. [3] These things were provided for the king himself and those that ate with him. For the rest of the army they provided only food. At the coming of the army, there was always a tent ready for Xerxes to take his rest in, while the men camped out in the open air. [4] When the hour came for dinner, the real trouble for the hosts began. When they had eaten their fill and passed the night there, the army tore down the tent on the next day and marched off with all the movables, leaving nothing but carrying all with them."

What the above indicates is that there were no imports but a lot of drain on local resources.  One notes incidentally the corn being 'in their cities' - the above (Perseus' Godley) translation incidentally seems to have a phrase out of place: "they divided corn among themselves in their cities and all of them for many months ground it to wheat and barley meal" is elsewhere translated as: "the inhabitants made a division of their stores of corn and proceeded to grind flour of wheat and of barley for many months together".  It seems more sensible that they ground many months' grain allowance at once than that they spent months grinding grain ... either way, that was the equivalent of their winter store gone to feed Xerxes' army for a day.

What you have to beware of here is that Germanicus and Chronicles may well have got their information from the same, flawed, source. They don't need to be independent.

Germanicus had Egyptian inscriptions translated; would the writer of Chronicles have bothered to acquire information from such a source?  The Chronicler in any event did not take his numbers for chariots or cavalry from that source.  I think we can safely conclude that they were independent.

Quote
What you must remember is that the Bible does have a penchant for large numbers, the number of Israelites which Moses is supposed to have led may have been larger than the population of Egypt.

This was exactly what worried the pharaoh who decided to end the Hebrews' work-free, tax-free status, and his successor, who wanted their male children out of the way.

The question about persistent large numbers in the Bible is whether they were persistently large because of several generation of writers' constantly overheated imagination or because the numbers really were large.  If it were only the Bible which mentions armies of hundreds of thousands, we migth be justified in assuming exaggeration.  But all major cultures of the period record themselves and/or their opponents as fielding massive armies.
9
Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Late-fifth-century Swedish massacre site excavated
« Last post by Holly on April 25, 2018, 06:38:49 PM »
Very interesting.
It begs the question - why.

Sufficient valuables were recovered to perhaps suggest that looting/theft/profit was not a high priority.
The lack of weapons and the placement of the victims suggest the event was unexpected/no obvious threats.
Obviously the buildings or location were not occupied so the motive was perhaps not territorial.

Which leaves us with what motive for the attack?

revenge....?
10
I'm not sure we can dismiss looting.  There seem to be a number of scattered goodies, possibly missed or dropped.  Without an idea of the wealth of the settlement, it is hard to say what proportion of lootable stuff has been left behind.

Another motive might simply be to remove a rival group - a feud, or revenge for a previous raid (reaping the whirlwind) or even claimants for land or title.  Or slave raiding - not much of the settlement is excavated yet so getting a perspective on whether the dead represent the whole population or just a portion is hard to judge.

Just some random thoughts.
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10