Myke covers A LOT of ground here in Section 1 chapter 1! A lot. This is also the bit you really, really need if you want to have, well, a modern shepherd’s hope in hell of understanding what is going on in Book II of Xenophon’s Anabasis.
Hi, I’m Andrea. I go by NeolithicSheep over most of the internet because I’m a shepherd and amateur historian concentrating in zooarchaeology, that is the study of animals in the archaeological record. I’m also a dab hand at quite a lot of experimental archaeology, and my sheep are nearly identical to the very first sheep to reach Britain at the dawn of the Neolithic. I’m training my first ox these days. Anyway! Assassin’s Creed Odyssey rekindled the interest in Classical Greece I’d had when I was a teenager, and I’ve started learning Classical Greek again, which led me to Xenophon’s Anabasis, which led me to “what in the actual hell is going on here?” A twitter friend asked Myke Cole to recommend a Greek edition of Anabasis for me, which is how I found out about him and his new book, and that’s how we’ve all ended up here.
And there’s so much fascinating stuff going on just in the first chapter! Although mentions of Frank Miller’s 300 make me grumble, because now everyone “knows” that it was Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae — in actuality, per Herodotus it was Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, Demophilus and his 700 Thespians, and around 400 Thebans. Also probably 900 either helots (Spartan slaves) or perioikoi (free non-citizens who performed skilled labor in Sparta). The early mention of Miller’s rendition of Thermopylae ties in very nicely to the later discussion of historiography!
There’s also a lot to chew on in terms of the objectivity of historians and what ancient historians thought they were doing, the context of the battles we’re going to look at later, and then the section titled The Fundamentals of Ancient Battle is especially meaty if you want to know what was happening on any battlefield that featured a phalanx. It’s also important to keep in mind when we read the word “cavalry” that the soldiers were using their horses to get somewhere then jumping off and fighting. Mounted combat techniques weren’t quite there yet.
So hey, where do we want to go? We’ve got a lot to chew on and we’re not even specifically talking the phalanx yet! That’s the next chapter. I’m game to complain about Frank Miller in the context of historiography, mutter direly about the erasure of the fact that non-citizen Spartans outnumbered the 300 Spartiate soldiers 3 to 1 probably and ALSO got wiped out at Thermopylae, etc etc. Maybe also introduce yourself if you’re feeling froggy?
Oh and a note: I tend to transliterate on my own. Myke does a great job with his transliterations in the book! But neither he nor I are generally using what you’d normally see outside of academic circles when using Greek terms, because we’ve ditched the problems that came when we inherited most of those terms via Rome.