Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ancient Greek Warfare - after the battle

It is impossible to be certain when dealing with statistics from a time from which records have survived in only patchy form, but there are some clues as to how deadly hoplite warfare could be. In the instances from which figures survive, it would seem that about 5% of the victorious army was killed in the fighting, while up to 15% of the defeated would not survive the day.

This was carnage indeed for a battle that might have lasted only an hour or two from start to finish. The dense formations, close quarter fighting and lethal weaponry meant that casualties would inevitably be high. But given that most wars were settled in a single day, the death toll was not unsustainable. There were rarely long-drawn out campaigns in which battle followed battle and which led to civilian starvation and epidemic disease. Hoplite warfare ensured that campaigns were short, brutal and decisive.

The herald of the defeated city would then appear, usually later that same day, to arrange a truce and ask for the bodies of the dead for burial. Once this was agreed, the business of peace negotiations would begin. Most of the wars in ancient Greece were fought over disputed patches of border territory. The loser would hand over the disputed region, and both armies would go home to return to their usual jobs as potters, farmers or fishermen.

On rare occasions a war was more serious. The victor might impose tribute on the defeated, or even declare the defeated state to be absorbed into that of the victor. Sometimes the defeated were treated as little better than slaves, at other times they negotiated free status for themselves or even equal voting rights as citizens of the amalgamated state.


Friday, 29 July 2011

The Spanish Armada - the Fighting Begins

But before any serious fighting could begin, the courtesies and formalities inherited from the chivalric medieval period had to be observed. Medina Sidonia acted first by hoisting to the top of his mainmast a vast banner. This flag was embroidered with religious images and had been blessed on the altar of Lisbon Cathedral in a lengthy service before the Armada had set sail. Howard chose to issue a challenge in the English fashion. A pinnace was sent to dash forward at high speed. It got between the trailing tips of the crescent, then bore about and fired its gun at the enemy fleet. The pinnace was out of range of its tiny gun, but that did not matter. Defiance had been shouted in approved fashion. The formalities over, the battle began.

As with all the battles that were to follow, the scene is confused for historians by the fact that no one observer was in a position to see everything. The distance from tip to tip of the Armada was over a mile. The hulls and sails of the ships restricted the view of any man substantially.

Once the gunfire began, the smoke obscured vision even further. Gunpowder in the 16the century produced great billowing clouds of grey-black smoke that clung to the ground, or sea, and would not disperse unless blown away by a wind. Some land battles became so densely covered in smoke that the sun was blotted out and men could see barely 20 yards - a situation which gave rise to the phrase ‘the fog of war’. At sea things were rarely that bad as there was usually a wind of sorts blowing and in any case the guns were not so closely grouped nor as stationary as in land battles. Nevertheless, gunfire did make it very difficult to see what was going on.

This situation is made worse by the fact that some of the key players in the drama left no written account, either because they were later killed or because nobody asked them to do so. From reading the various accounts, however, it is possible both to follow the general outlines of what happened and to pick out some details.

The action began on the Spanish right wing. The majority of the English force, led by Howard, came rushing down in a straggling line ahead. They stayed at long range, using their culverins to fire at the Spanish while staying out of range of the enemy cannon. As they swept past the rear of Bertondona’s Squadron of the Levant, the English fired, then passed on to turn, return and fire again.

The impact of the English guns was impressive. It was not that they inflicted a huge amount of damage, when the fight was over it was found that they had not, but the psychological impact proved to be major. The men on the Spanish ships were accustomed to fighting a boarding battle, but this concentrated and prolonged gunfire was something new. Usually there would be one or salvoes of cannon fire before the boarding took place and the cannons were replaced by the pops of musketry and the ringing of edged weapons on armour.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Alexander the Great's Dedication after the Battle of the Granicus

The Persian dead on the field of the Granicus were not simply corpses to be stripped of anything useful and buried, they were also a source of propaganda benefit for Alexander. Whether or not Alexander had his writers exaggerate the number of the dead, he certainly now engaged in a clever bit of publicity. Most of what was not needed by the army was packed up to be sent back to Macedon for sale or to be stored against future use.

However, 300 of the finest sets of armour stripped from the bodies of the Persian dead was packed and shipped off to Athens. They were dedicated to the Temple of Athene, and tradition demanded that they should be hung as trophies in the temple precincts. Alexander sent with the armour a written message. It read: “Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks (except the Spartans) dedicate these spoils that were taken from the Persians who dwell in Asia”.

The wording was very clever. Alexander described himself modestly as merely “son of Philip”, using none of his official titles. He was not a king or a leader, merely a man like any others. And his fellow dedicators of the spoil were the Greeks. In fact there were precious few actual Greeks on Alexander’s side at the Granicus. Most of those that were with his army were absent, only the 600 cavalry being present. The rest of the army was made up of Thessalians, Macedonians, Agrianians and others.

If this were not clever enough, Alexander added the words “except the Spartans”. This was a dig at Sparta, the only city state that had refused point blank to join the crusade against Persia. Sparta famously fielded the finest soldiers in Greece, but this great victory had been won without them. And Alexander knew that many city states in Greece, including Athens, had suffered at the hands of the Spartans before. It would do no harm at all to remind them that Alexander was not on good terms with the Spartans.

Then the dedication goes on to say that the spoils were taken from the Persians. In fact the enemy army had included many Greeks, possibly more than were actually in Alexander’s army on the day of battle. It did not pay to remind people back home of that uncomfortable fact, so Alexander spoke only of the Persians.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Background to the outbreak of the Hundred Years War

The Battle of Crecy was the first major land battle in the long drawn out series of wars that are today collectively known as the Hundred Years War. But lengthy and complex as the war was to prove to be, it was itself only part of a longer struggle between the ruling dynasties of England and France which was already generations old by the time the armies met at Crecy.

The trouble had begun in 1152 when Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, had divorced King Louis VII of France and married instead King Henry II of England. It was not so much lovelorn jealousy that caused ill feeling as the fact that Eleanor took with her the Duchy of Aquitaine. Eleanor’s family had ruled this vast and enormously wealthy Duchy for centuries. It had originally been an independent state and although the Dukes of Aquitaine had acknowledged French overlordship for some generations, the area was not fully integrated into the French kingdom.

There were several long-running disputes between France and Aquitaine about jurisdiction, fealty, loyalty, taxation and other matters. These had led to frequent conferences, numerous agreements and occasional wars. When Eleanor died and Aquitaine passed to her descendants, the kings of England, the situation changed radically. The Duke of Aquitaine could now draw on the resources of England in his long running disputes with the King of France. And a whole host of new disputes quickly arose that had much to do with the feudal intricacies of the political landscape of the time. Feudal obligations were both personal and official. When a duke promised fealty to a king, he was accepting a personal relationship as much as a political one. Now that the Duke of Aquitaine was also King of England the problem arose of the nature of the relationship with the King of France.

Sorting out what taxes and revenues were due from Aquitaine to France was complex enough. Trying to understand if promises made by the Duke of Aquitaine also bound the King of England – who was, of course, the same person – were intractable. The lords of Aquitaine would support their Duke in one course of action, the barons of England would urge their king to follow another. And if the kings of France and England went to war, where did that leave Aquitaine? Should the forces of the duchy muster to support their duke or their king?

In the two centuries that followed the marriage of Duchess Eleanor to King Henry there had been many disputes between the monarchs of England and France over Aquitaine. Mostly these were solved by diplomatic compromise, though fighting did break out on occasion. Even when warfare did erupt, it was rarely serious. It was in neither kingdom’s interest to embark on a major war. After a few sieges and much bluster, the wars fizzled out as the diplomats again took over.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Royal Hampshire Regiment

The Royal Hampshire Regiment was formed in 1881 and ceased to exist in 1992. However, the regiment has a much longer and prouder tradition than these dates would indicate. It has been one of the hardest fighting regiments in the British Army and has racked up a list of battle honours that is the envy of many
The regiment dates back to 1702 when Thomas Meredith was asked by Queen Anne to raise a regiment of infantry in Ireland, Meredith coming from a noted Anglo-Irish family. Within months Meredith’s Regiment was marching off to war against the French in Europe. As was the custom in the British Army at this date, the regiment continued to be known by the name of its colonel until 1747 when numbers were assigned instead. What had by then become Dejean’s Regiment thus became the 37th Regiment of Foot.
In 1758, the 20th Regiment of Foot was divided in two, with half the men mustering in as the new 67th Regiment of Foot. This new regiment was raised specifically to take part in the war against the French then raging in North America. The colonel tasked with raising the regiment was a 31 year old named James Wolfe, a man soon to be raised to the rank of Major General and put in charge of the siege of Quebec. Wolfe was killed at the moment of his triumph and the 67th Regiment lost its first colonel barely a year after being formed.
In 1782 the British infantry was reformed so that each regiment recruited primarily from one specific area, after which it was to be named. The 37th Regiment thus became the 37th North Hampshire Regiment while the 67th became the 67th South Hampshire Regiment. In 1881 another round of reforms saw all British infantry regiments standardised to have two regular battalions and two militia battalions, all based on a county. The 37th and 67th therefore joined to form the Hampshire Regiment, which was to become the Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1946. Officially the numbers of the 37th and 67th were done away with, but unofficially the 1st Battalion of the new regiment kept the tag 37th, while the 2nd Battalion was the 67th. In 1990 the Options for Change reforms saw the British army drastically reduced in size as politicians sought to save money after the end of the Cold War. The Royal Hampshire Regiment was amalgamated with the Queens Regiment to form The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
The Battle Honours gained by the Royal Hampshire Regiment, and by its predecessors the 37th and 67th Regiments, remain attached to the new Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. They tell the history of the regiment through the bloody battles and campaigns that the men have waged. The practice of a regiment having battle honours is an ancient one. At first it was left to the commanding officer of the regiment whether or not to award an honour to his men.
By the time the 37th Regiment was formed in 1702, however, it had become the custom to award an honour only if the regiment actually fired a volley of musketry at the enemy. Such honours remained in the gift of the colonel and were not officially recognised. Then in 1784 the army decided to allow regiments to embroider the names of Battle Honours on to their flags. This necessitated a formal list of Battle Honours recognised by the army. The 37th and 67th, along with all other regiments, hurried to get their list of honours officially recognised. Not all of the older, informal Battle Honours were recognised by the general staff. After 1784 a colonel had to apply to the general staff for permission to add a Battle Honour to his regimental list.
This system has remained in place down to the present day — except that in 1882 a special Battles Nomenclature Committee was set up to decide whether an action constituted a “battle” and, if so, whether any Battle Honours should be awarded for it. In addition to Battle Honours, there are also what are known officially as Theatre Honours. These are awarded when a regiment takes part in a campaign, but does not take place in any of the actions designated “battles”.
Traditionally the most impressive or important of the Battle Honours are embroidered on the flag of the regiment, painted on its drums and written on the drum major’s mace. This book follows that practice by concentrating on the Battle Honours that the Royal Hampshire Regiment chose to embroider on its flag, drums and mace. All the Battle Honours are featured in this book, but only those acknowledged by the regiment itself to be of prime importance are treated in depth.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Ivar the Boneless at war in Northumberland

The 9th century was a harsh time for Northumberland. The Vikings were at their most active at this time. Several bands of pagan raiders came over the North Sea to loot and pillage the countryside, combining into large armies whenever resistance materialised, then scattering again to steal everything they could when no English armies were nearby.

In 867 Ivar the Boneless, the leading Viking leader, crushed a Northumbrian army, killed the English king and set up an obscure nobleman named Egbert to be the puppet ruler of Northumbria. In 873 Egbert died, whereupon the Northumbrian nobles elected a man named Ricsige and declared that no more tribute would be paid to the Vikings. Ivar was by this date dead, his place taken by his brother Halfdan who was busy fighting in southern England. Once a truce had been arranged, and tribute gained, in the south, Halfdan ordered the Viking army back north to crush the Northumbrians. Half the Viking army refused to obey, preferring to pillage East Anglia instead. Nevertheless, Halfdan arrived in the Tyne in the spring of 875 with a sizeable army, perhaps some 10,000 strong.

King Ricsige decided against facing the fearsome Vikings in open battle, preferring instead to wage a war of raid, ambush and skirmish. His key aim appears to have been to deny either food or money to the Vikings. Ricsige knew the Vikings were after loot and hoped that they would not stay in Northumbria long if they did not get much of it. Food was just as important to a raiding Viking force, so Ricsige ordered his subjects to hide all food stores and drive their cattle into the dense forests and high mountains of Northumberland.

Halfdan countered by dividing his force and sending them deep into the Northumberland interior with orders to find and kill Ricsige, while gathering as much food and loot as possible. Sometime in the summer of 875, the date has been lost, one force of Vikings rowed their ships up the coast to the Aln, beached their ships at Alnmouth and marched up the river.

The details of the subsequent battle have been lost for the simple fact that almost nobody survived the slaughter to tell the tale. We do not even know the names of the rival commanders. Nevertheless, the outline of events can be traced fairly accurately.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Caesar invades Britain 54bc

The Roman invasion of Britain in 55bc is one of the most memorable dates in British history. In reality, however, it was no more than a scouting expedition. The real invasion and the serious fighting took place the following year in 54bc. It was as part of that campaign that the Battle of Bigbury was fought.

For several years the Roman general and politician Julius Caesar had been fighting against the Celtic tribes of what was then Gaul, and is now France. By 56bc he had subdued all of Gaul, either by outright conquest or by threatening the tribes into surrender. Caesar now found himself at the head of a large but idle army. Caesar needed at least one more impressive victory to keep his name popular with the Roman voters, and he needed something to keep his troops occupied. Seizing on the pretext of punishing those Celtic tribes in southern Britain who had helped the Celts of Gaul, Caesar decided to invade Britain.

The raids and reconnaissance missions of 55bc convinced Caesar that the best place to strike would be Kent. This gave him the opportunity to defeat the local Cantium tribe before the larger Catuvellauni confederacy, based in Hertfordshire, could move south to intervene. He landed near Sandwich sometime late in June 54bc.

It took Caesar several days to land his five legions, along with around 2,000 cavalry and some 10,000 light auxiliary infantry. Each legion was composed of heavily armoured infantry and, in theory, numbered around 4,000 men. Caesar’s legions had been on campaign for more than four years, and we know he left detachments to guard key points in Gaul. He probably had around 12,000 legionaries with him when he landed in Britain.

The landings at Sandwich were unopposed. Caesar took time to build a wooden fortress near the beach to secure his base. He probably moved inland in early July taking with him all his cavalry and auxiliaries, but leaving perhaps two or three thousand legionaries in the fortress under the command of his deputy commander Quintus Atrius. Thus it was with an army of about 10,000 legionaries, 2,000 cavalry and 10,000 light infantry that Caesar marched to invade Britain. He met the defending British in the Battle of Bigbury.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Armies Manoeuvre at Modbury, Devon

2) In Modbury town centre find the Exeter Arms Hotel on the left.
The skirmish of December 1642 proved to be only a temporary setback for the king’s cause in Devon. Hopton was an energetic and skilled soldier who quickly overcame his difficulties to build up a sizeable army which he was determined to get trained to a semblance of professional efficiency before leading it into battle. By January he had established a secure land blockade around Plymouth. Although the Parliamentary garrison could bring in supplies and reinforcements by sea, the normal life of the city was to be slowly strangled by the blocking of all roads in and out of the countryside surrounding Plymouth.

Modbury was in a key strategic position as it commanded the narrow gap between the heights of Dartmoor and the sea a few miles east of Plymouth. Hopton stationed Sir Nicholas Slanning and Colonel Trevanion in the town with about 2,000 men. The senior officers lodged in the Exeter Arms Hotel. Their orders were to patrol the roads leading to Plymouth. Everyone using the roads was to be stopped and searched, with anyone suspicious being arrested and taken away for questioning. Slanning and Trevanion did their job well and the eastern roads into Plymouth were securely blocked.

The winter of 1642-43 was exceptionally mild, which allowed armies to operate when they would normally be shivering in winter quarters. On 19 January Hopton’s main army of 8,000 men defeated some 5,000 Parliamentarians under Colonel Ruthin. Ruthin and his men had been trying to reach Launceston, but were stopped at Braddock Down and rolled back to Liskeard.

Meanwhile a second Roundhead army was on the march, and this time it had not been spotted by Hopton’s scouts. This army was some 8,000 strong and was marching down from Bristol with the aim of breaking through to Plymouth and raising the blockade of that city. On 19 February the army marched into Totnes unopposed for there were no Royalist troops present. They strode out at dawn and that evening camped at Kingsbridge. A local man managed to get away on horseback, riding hard for Modbury to alert Slanning and Trevanion to the approaching danger.

Early on the morning of 21 February Slanning and Trevanion mustered their men in the little village square. They had some 1,500 men with them, the rest being off on patrol. Messengers were sent out to gather the scattered units and bring them back to Modbury, but that would take time. Even if all the patrols came in the Royalists would still be outnumbered by 4:1. A rider was sent off to find Hopton and give him the news.

After giving their men a good breakfast to sustain them through the coming day Slanning and Trevanion led them out to take up a defensive position east of the village.

3) Head east along the A379. Where the main road turns sharp right go straight on into Galpin Street. Follow this steep lane up and out of the village. Just past the last house on the right a footpath leaves the lane by way of a flight of steps and a stile. It then strikes off across the open hillside, crossing several fields and stiles as it does so. After about 150 yards the path tops the crest of the hill.

It was on this hilltop that the Royalists formed up to face the coming onslaught.


Monday, 11 July 2011

Window and the RAF

The first new device that Harris planned to use in 1943 went by the name of “Window”, a radar-jamming device. Work on Window had begun almost as soon as radar was itself being developed. Since it was thought that the Germans were some years behind the British in producing radar it was, at first, given a low priority. It was not until 1941 that trials began and by early 1942 the system was perfected.

Window consisted of bundles of paper coated with thin metal foil and cut into strips the length of which matched the wavelength of the German radar waves. As the bundles were dropped from an aircraft they separated to form a vast cloud of metallic strips. When one of these came square-on to the German radar beam it sent back an exceptionally strong echo out of all proportion to its true size. Strips in other positions returned much smaller echoes.

At first it was intended that the air should be filled with Window strips so that the German radar was faced by a veritable blizzard of echoes. This would render the radar next to useless. If each bomber on a formation dropped one bundle of 2,200 strips each minute the jamming of German radar would be complete. This operation generally began about 60 miles from the target so that the short-range Wurzburg radar controlling flak and nightfighters around the target would be effectively jammed. This was especially useful if the bomber stream changed course at the last minute to bomb a target different from that which they had been seeming to head toward. It was considered impractical to jam the longer range Freya radar system as that would have involved dropping Window for the entire mission.

Later it was realized that a more sophisticated use could be made of Window. By carefully controlling the number of bundles dropped and the interval of time between the dropping, a single aircraft could give an echo mimicking that of a large formation. The Germans would, it was hoped, respond accordingly by sending their nightfighters to attack the nonexistent formation. The nightfighter crews would then be tired and low on fuel when the real formation came in.

As soon as Window was ready for use, it ran into a problem. The head of Fighter Command, Air Marshal Sholto Douglas, objected to its use. It was clear that the Germans would soon pick up the millions of strips and quickly deduce how they jammed the radar. The German bombers would soon be equipped with Window of their own to jam British radar during raids on British cities. The dispute went all the way to the War Cabinet with Harris wanting to use Window to protect his crews, and Douglas objecting. The War Cabinet decided that the risks outweighed the benefits.

Harris did not give up, however, and he repeatedly requested the use of Window. By the spring of 1943 he could argue persuasively that the bulk of the Luftwaffe bombers were operating over Russia and that few raids on Britain were taking place. He also pointed out that far more British bombers were now heading to Germany than had done a year earlier. On 15 July it was agreed that the benefits now outweighed the risks. Harris was given permission to use Window on an operation of his choice so that it could be evaluated. He chose Operation Gomorrah.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Great Games of Pompey the Great

In 79BC the victorious general Gnaeus Pompeius returned from Africa having defeated a rebellion with remarkable speed and efficiency. On his return to Rome, Pompey was heaped with praise by the dictator Sulla, who gave him the surname ‘ Magnus, meaning ‘The Great’. In celebration of his victory, Pompey announced that he was to put on a series of games.

At first Sulla tried to stop Pompey fearing that the increasingly popular general, although a firm supporter of his, might gain too much favour from the mob and become a rival. Sulla invoked an old law stating that a Roman who did not belong to the Patrician class, as Pompey did not, could not stage games unless he had first held a senior government post. Pompey was 35 years old at the time and had spent his career in the army, not in government. Pompey had a clear sense of the importance of the mob of Roman citizens and appealed to them directly, over the heads of the magistrates and the law. Sulla gave way with grace, though he later cut Pompey from his will, and the great games of Pompey went ahead.

Pompey announced that his games were to be so lavish that they could not be held in the Forum with the crowd watching from temporary wooden stands. Instead Pompey commandeered the Circus Maximus. This vast stadium was built for chariot racing and could seat over 100,000 people at this date. Although the seating was ready made, Pompey put men to work, this time erecting iron gratings and other barriers between the crowd and the floor of the race track. Gladiators were so heavily guarded that there was little likliehood that they would attack the crowd or seek to escape, so the citizens wondered what the barriers were for. Pompey had a surprise.

During his campaign in North Africa, Pompey had been forced to face war elephants. These animals were highly trained and would attack cavalrymen or infantry. They could be ordered to trample any living creature which got in their path, or to use their trunks to hurl victims high into the air, to crash to their deaths. Even the elephants’ tusks were brought into play to spear unfortunate victims or to crush them against the ground. Over a century earlier, Hannibal had brought a handful of elephants to Italy over the Alps, but it was in North Africa that the Romans had had to face war elephants in any great numbers.

Pompey had brought 20 of these formidable animals to Rome to take part in his spectacular games. To face these ferocious beasts, Pompey had two groups of men. The first were a band of unfortunates who were to be little more than victims - they were probably condemned criminals. These men were given weapons and armour before being sent into the Circus Maximus but, without any sort of training, were no match for the war elephants. They were swiftly killed.

The second group Pompey had to hand were highly skilled hunters from the nomadic Getuli tribe of North Africa. These men had been recruited by King Bocchus of Mauretania, a country on the northwestern edge of the Sahara. The Getuli were famed in North Africa for their ability to kill or capture elephants, but this was unknown in Rome. To the tens of thousands of Romans watching Pompey’s games the foreigners appeared to be just another group of men being sent to the slaughter.

As the elephants roamed the bloodstained arena, the Getuli moved in on one individual. As the elephant rushed forwards, the Getuli pretended to flee, but a single man stood his ground. The Romans fully expected him to be reduced to a mangled pulp in seconds. Instead, the hunter threw his heavy hunting spear so that it struck the elephant just below the eye, smashing through the skull bones, which were thin at that spot, and penetrating the brain. The elephant fell dead on the spot. The crowd cheered.

Next the Getuli surrounded a lone elephant and began running around it. As the bewildered animal tried to concentrate on the swiftly moving men, the Getuli hurled spears at its feet, literally nailing it to the arena floor so that it could not move. A hunter then closed in and slit the elephants throat. The crowd cheered again.

The Getuli tried the same trick on the next elephant, but this one tore its feet free, and made a grab for the hunters. It got hold of a shield, which it tore from the hunter’s arm and threw aside. Now the Getuli had to run in fear. The crowd loved it and roared with laughter.

Pompey, prominently seated in the stands, must have beamed. His games were proving a huge success and popularity was bound to follow. Then things went wrong.

After a few more elephants had been killed, the survivors gathered into a herd at the centre of the Circus Maximus. The Getuli hunters tried to separate individuals out from the herd, but the elephants were having none of it. As one, they suddenly charged forwards, straight towards the crowds of Romans citizens. The charging beasts crashed into the iron grills, which buckled and partly collapsed. Quickly the Getuli moved in to hamstring and cut down the leading elephants.

The few surviving beasts retreated to the centre of the Circus Maximus. There they put on a remarkable display, recorded by an ancient writer. “The beasts withdrew from the fight covered with wounds. They walked about with their trunks raised towards heaven, weeping so bitterly as to give rise to the report that they did not do so by mere chance but were crying out against the oaths in which they had trusted when they crossed over from Africa and calling on the gods to avenge them. It was recalled that they had refused to board the ships before they received a pledge from their handlers that they would not be harmed at all in Rome.”

The crowd, frightened by the elephants’ charge and by the risk of sudden death if the elephants had got through the barriers, began to curse Pompey. They blamed him for not taking proper precautions, and some demanded that the surviving elephants should be allowed to live and be sent back to Africa.

Somewhat chastened, Pompey the Great went back to the army and postponed his political ambitions for another 8 years. His idea of staging animal hunts was, however, a daring one. It was to be copied by other politicians eager to court publicity and fame, though they took great care to ensure the safety of the crowd.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Gladiators and Politicians

Imperial Shows
After 27bc Rome was ruled by emperors. Elections still took place for less important government posts, but only men approved by the emperor were allowed to stand. The emperor had to give permission before a show could be organised. A statue of the emperor stood in every arena.

Political Violence
Gladiators were sometimes hired to beat people up during elections. In ad366 a priest named Damasus hired gladiators to attack the people who supported his rival Ursinus in the election to become pope. The gladiators killed 137 people and Damasus won the election.

Rich Rewards
The emperor Nero loved music as well as gladiatorial shows. In ad63 a murmillo gladiator named Spiculus won a fight. He then picked up a lyre and sang a song that he had written. Nero was so impressed that a man could be good at fighting, composing and singing that he gave Spiculus a house in Rome and a farm in the country.

Emperor’s Bodyguard
The emperor Caligula hired a group of Thracian gladiators to be his bodyguard. The gladiators paraded in their armour and followed Caligula everywhere. They did not save him from being murdered by soldiers who ambushed him in a narrow corridor.

Stopping a Fight
Some people opposed gladiator fights. In ad404 the Christian monk Telemachus leapt into the arena to stop a fight and make a speech saying that the fights were cruel and should be stopped. He was killed by angry spectators.

The End
Gradually the views of Christians such as Telemachus became more popular. The last gladiator fight took place in about ad445. Fights between gladiators and wild animals continued until about 680.

Cook a Gladiator Meal

Ask an adult to help with the cooking.
You will need:
60g porridge oats
40ml water
Pinch of salt
50g ham
5 dried figs
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp dried rosemary

1. Chop the ham and figs. Fry them in the olive oil with the rosemary.
2. Place the oats, water and salt in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Pour the oats into a bowl, scatter over the ham and figs.


Friday, 1 July 2011

Family Life in Ancient Egypt

Toys and Games
Egyptian children had toys made from wood or clay to play with. These included dolls, toy animals and toy soldiers. Balls were made from strips of leather or linen wrapped tightly together.

Noble Pastimes
Richer families could afford more elaborate toys for the children and games for the adults. One of the most popular games was senet. This was played by moving pieces around an oblong board marked with squares. Nobody knows exactly how senet was played because nobody wrote the rules down.

Looking Beautiful
Rich Egyptian women used different sorts of make up to make themselves look as beautiful as possible. Colours were ground up in pots and mixed with oil before being applied8  with a small brush. Some women shaved their heads so that they could wear elaborate wigs.

Egyptian wigs were made from real human hair that was grown long, then cut off and shaped into complex designs. The wigs were cared for using combs, pins and hooks. Most clothes were made from white or cream linen. Shoes made of leather or woven reeds were usually in the eh form of open-toed sandals.

Scribe School
Only boys were sent to school to learn how to read and write. They began attending at the age of nine and stayed to the age of 16. There were more than 700 symbols in the Hieroglyph method of writing and a boy had to learn them all before he could become a scribe.

Jewellery for all Tastes
Egyptians wore much jewellery. Poor people wore pieces made from coloured shells or painted wood. Richer people could afford gold, silver and precious stones. Jewellery was often made in the shape of animals, especially those sacred to a god.

That’s Amazing
Most houses had a small figure of Bes, the god of marriage. He was shown as a short, ugly dwarf with a long beard.