Friday, 12 October 2012

Xerxes at Themopylae

Xerxes had provided carts to march alongside the army, but these were not intended for long distance transport. Instead they were expected to carry out short term duties only. Within the Persian empire they would have carried supplies from one pre-prepared supply dump to the next. In Greece, where there were no such prearranged food supplies, the carts would have been intended to carry food from a port where the fleet had put in to the army camped a short distance away. In hostile territory they could have carried supplies looted from the local populace.

Some idea of how seriously bad road transport was in the ancient world can be gathered from events in the Roman province of Coele, now northern Syria, in ad362. A drought struck the area and famine resulted. The drought had not affected the entire region and large stocks of food were available in granaries at Tyre some 70km away.  But the drought that had caused the famine had also dried off all fodder crops, effectively halting the ox carts. Unable to transport food to the people, the government ordered the people to walk to the food. Thousands died along the road, but there was nothing that could be done to help them.

This then was the problem facing Xerxes. His food was running out and he had no way of getting any more except to batter his way through the Pass of Thermopylae to the rich, fertile plains of Boeotia beyond.

The time of waiting was over. The time of killing was about to begin.

from THE BATTLE OF THEMOPYLAE by Rupert Matthews.
Buy your copy HERE

About the book
Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie. One of the most remarkable actions in ancient or modern military history took place at Thermopylae in 480BC. Rupert Matthews has personally examined the battlefield in order to try to explain how 300 Spartans could hold at bay the hordes of the Persian Emperor Xerxes. This was no vain sacrifice; the delay gave breathing space for the Greek states to organise their defence, and ultimately defend successfully their homelands. Among other intriguing revelations the author explains the importance of the half-ruined wall that sheltered the Spartans against the onslaught. With concise diagrams and maps of the entire campaign, the reader can begin to understand the extraordinary, apparently impossible outcome of the war.

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