The Strategypage is a comprehensive summary of military news and affairs.
May 19, 2019

CIC 471

Past Issues
CIC 470
CIC 469
CIC 468
CIC 467
CIC 466
CIC 465
CIC 464
CIC 463
CIC 462
CIC 461
CIC 460
CIC 459
CIC 458
CIC 457
CIC 456
CIC 455
CIC 454
CIC 453
CIC 452
CIC 451
CIC 450
CIC 449
CIC 448
CIC 447
CIC 446
CIC 445
CIC 444
CIC 443
CIC 442
CIC 441
CIC 440
CIC 439
CIC 438
CIC 437
CIC 436
CIC 435
CIC 434
CIC 433
CIC 432
CIC 431
CIC 430
CIC 429
CIC 428
CIC 427
CIC 426
CIC 425
CIC 424
CIC 423
CIC 422
CIC 421
CIC 420
CIC 419
CIC 418
CIC 417
CIC 416
CIC 415
CIC 414
CIC 413
CIC 412
CIC 411
CIC 410
CIC 409
CIC 408
CIC 407
CIC 406
CIC 405
CIC 404
CIC 403
CIC 402
CIC 401
CIC 400
CIC 399
CIC 398
CIC 397
CIC 396
CIC 395
CIC 394
CIC 393
CIC 392
CIC 391
CIC 390
CIC 389
CIC 388
CIC 387
CIC 386
CIC 385
CIC 384
CIC 383
CIC 382
CIC 381
CIC 380
CIC 379
CIC 378
CIC 377
CIC 375
CIC 374
CIC 373
CIC 372
CIC 371
CIC 370
CIC 369
CIC 368
CIC 367
CIC 366
CIC 365
CIC 364
CIC 363
CIC 362
CIC 361
CIC 360
CIC 359
CIC 358
CIC 357
CIC 356
CIC 355
CIC 354
CIC 353
CIC 352
CIC 351
CIC 350
CIC 349
CIC 348
CIC 347
CIC 346
CIC 345
CIC 344
CIC 343
CIC 342
CIC 341
CIC 340
CIC 339
CIC 338
CIC 337
CIC 336
CIC 335
CIC 334
CIC 333
CIC 332
CIC 331
CIC 330
CIC 329
CIC 328
CIC 327
CIC 326
CIC 325
CIC 324
CIC 323
CIC 322
CIC 321
CIC 320
CIC 319
CIC 318
CIC 317
CIC 316
CIC 315
CIC 314
CIC 313
CIC 312
CIC 311
CIC 310
CIC 309
CIC 308
CIC 307
CIC 306
CIC 305
CIC 304
CIC 303
CIC 302
CIC 301
CIC 300
CIC 299
CIC 298
CIC 297
CIC 296
CIC 295
CIC 294
CIC 293
CIC 292
CIC 291
CIC 290
CIC 289
CIC 288
CIC 287
CIC 286
CIC 285
CIC 284
CIC 283
CIC 282
CIC 281
CIC 280
CIC 279
CIC 278
CIC 277
CIC 276
CIC 275
CIC 274
CIC 273
CIC 272
CIC 271
CIC 270
CIC 269
CIC 268
CIC 267
CIC 266
CIC 265
CIC 264
CIC 263
CIC 262
CIC 261
CIC 260
CIC 259
CIC 258
CIC 257
CIC 256
CIC 255
CIC 254
CIC 253
CIC 252
CIC 251
CIC 250
CIC 249
CIC 248
CIC 247
CIC 246
CIC 245
CIC 244
CIC 243
CIC 242
CIC 241
CIC 240
CIC 239
CIC 238
CIC 237
CIC 236
CIC 235
CIC 234
CIC 233
CIC 232
CIC 231
CIC 230
CIC 229
CIC 228
CIC 227
CIC 226
CIC 225
CIC 224
CIC 223
CIC 222
CIC 221
CIC 220
CIC 219
CIC 218
CIC 217
CIC 216
CIC 215
CIC 214
CIC 213
CIC 212
CIC 211
CIC 210
CIC 209
CIC 208
CIC 207
CIC 206
CIC 205
CIC 204
CIC 203
CIC 202
CIC 201
CIC 200
CIC 199
CIC 198
CIC 197
CIC 196
CIC 195
CIC 194
CIC 193
CIC 192
CIC 191
CIC 190
CIC 189
CIC 188
CIC 187
CIC 186
CIC 185
CIC 184
CIC 183
CIC 182
CIC 181
CIC 180
CIC 179
CIC 178
CIC 177
CIC 176
CIC 175
CIC 174
CIC 173
CIC 172
CIC 171
CIC 170
CIC 169
CIC 168
CIC 167
CIC 166
CIC 165
CIC 164
CIC 163
CIC 162
CIC 161
CIC 160
CIC 159
CIC 158
CIC 157
CIC 156
CIC 155
CIC 154
CIC 153
CIC 152
CIC 151
CIC 150
CIC 149
CIC 148
CIC 147
CIC 146
CIC 145
CIC 144
CIC 143
CIC 142
CIC 141
CIC 140
CIC 139
CIC 138
CIC 137
CIC 136
CIC 135
CIC 134
CIC 133
CIC 132
CIC 131
CIC 130
CIC 129
CIC 128
CIC 127
CIC 126
CIC 125
CIC 124
CIC 123
CIC 122
CIC 121
CIC 120
CIC 119
CIC 118
CIC 117
CIC 116
CIC 115
CIC 114
CIC 113
CIC 112
CIC 111
CIC 110
CIC 109
CIC 108
CIC 107
CIC 106
CIC 105
CIC 104
CIC 103
CIC 102
CIC 101
CIC 100
CIC 99
CIC 98
CIC 97
CIC 96
CIC 95
CIC 94
CIC 93
CIC 92
CIC 91
CIC 90
CIC 89
CIC 88
CIC 87
CIC 86
CIC 85
CIC 84
CIC 83
CIC 82
CIC 81
CIC 80
CIC 79
CIC 78
CIC 77
CIC 76
CIC 75
CIC 74
CIC 73
CIC 72
CIC 71
CIC 70
CIC 69
CIC 68
CIC 67
CIC 66
CIC 65
CIC 64
CIC 63
CIC 62
CIC 61
CIC 60
CIC 59
CIC 58
CIC 57
CIC 56
CIC 55
CIC 54
CIC 53
CIC 52
CIC 51
CIC 50
CIC 49
CIC 48
CIC 47
CIC 46
CIC 45
CIC 44
CIC 43
CIC 42
CIC 41
CIC 40
CIC 39
CIC 38
CIC 37
CIC 36
CIC 35
CIC 34
CIC 33
CIC 32
CIC 31
CIC 30
CIC 29
CIC 28
CIC 27
CIC 26
CIC 25
CIC 24
CIC 23
CIC 22
CIC 21
CIC 20
CIC 19
CIC 18
CIC 17
CIC 16
CIC 15
CIC 14
CIC 13
CIC 12
CIC 11
CIC 10
CIC 9
CIC 8
CIC 7
CIC 6
CIC 5
CIC 4
CIC 3
CIC 2
CIC 1

War and the Muses - Archilochos, History's First "Soldier-Poet"

Homer’s tales of Troy and Odysseus laid the foundations of the Western literary tradition. Not much is known about Homer, beyond that he was a bard. And certainly nothing in the fragmentary bits and pieces of information that allegedly relate to his life suggests that he was actually ever a soldier; indeed, the strong tradition that he was blind suggests otherwise. Quite different was Archilochos, the first “soldier-poet” known to history.

Almost forgotten today, Archilochos was quite famous in Classical Antiquity. Meleager (fl., c. 100 B.C.), himself no mean versifier, called Archilochos "a thistle with graceful leaves," referring to the poet’s often bitter satire. The Greeks and Romans considered him the finest satirist, and in modern literary criticism ill-natured satire is known as “Archilochian Bitterness” in his memory. But he also wrote lyrics, elegies, and fables. Tradition credits him with inventing iambic verse, in which a short unstressed syllable is followed by a long stressed one, as in the King’s speech before Agincourt in Shakespeare’s Henry V,

If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

Archilochos is also credited with telling the first known animal fables in any European language, providing in the process the first known reference to apes, and with being the first poet to actually refer to himself in his work.

Archilochos’ life is rather better known than Homer’s. He hailed from the Aegean island of Paros, where he was born around 680 B.C. “Archilochos” may not actually be his real name, for it can mean “Company Commander” or “Captain,” and perhaps was adopted as a pen name. He was the son of Telesicles of Paros, a member of a distinguished family. Enipo, the poet’s mother was a slave. Although his father granted recognition to Archilochos, local law apparently barred him from inheriting. As a young man, Archilochos was for a time engaged to a young Parian woman, Neobulé, but her father, Lycambes, married her off instead to a wealthier man. Bitterly disappointed, Archilochos took his vengeance in the form of verses that painted the woman and her sister as being promiscuous. His language was so graphic (it’s “Triple X” explicit even for our times) that tradition has it both girls and their father committed suicide from shame. Perhaps as a result of this episode, when Archilochos was about 25 he went to Thasos, in the northern Aegean, where many years before his father had established a Parian colony. His stay in Thasos was short, however, for in a battle against the Saians of Thrace Archilochos is alleged to have dropped his shield, the better to get away from the foe, for which he was ostracized.

After this, Archilochos roamed a great deal. A mercenary – “I shall be called Soldier of Fortune” – he made his living by the sword, and sought solace from his troubles and vengeance on his enemies in his verse. True to the literary form of a roving adventurer, he had a side-kick, one Glaukos, a Thasoan, whom he often addressed in verse.< We know only a little about Archilochos’ military career. Aside from the Thracians, there are hints in tradition and in his poems of service against the Chalkians of Euboia, the Samnians, the Naxians, and perhaps the Ephesians, as well as the city-states of Croton and Sybaris, in Southern Italy, when he was in the service of Siris. He also seems to have fought for Sparta during the Second Messenian-Spartan War (650-630), in which case he may have met the younger war poet Trytaios. Eventually Archilochos returned to Paros. When he was about 45 or 50, old for the times, and even older for a mercenary, he took part in a battle between the Parians and the Naxians, from a neighboring island, during which he was killed in action by one Calondas. So great was Archilochos’ reputation as a poet, even in his lifetime, that when, years later, Calondas chanced to visit the Oracle at Delphi, the priestesses refused to admit him until he had undergone rites that propitiated the soul of the slain servant of the Muses..

Archilochos wrote about nature, the sea, the gods, fate, sex, sports, love, comradeship, politics, figs, people, life, death, and pretty much everything else. But he especially wrote about war and soldiering, about which he knew quite well.

For example,

Give the spear-shy youths
Courage.
Make them learn
The battle's won
By the gods.

Of the short, brutal clashes of Hoplites that characterized the origins of what has come to be known as “The Western way of war,” Archilochos wrote,

Few bows will be stretched and not many will be
the slings, when Ares at last brings war
into the plain. The brutal work will be for swords.
Our enemy yonder are masters of such warfare,
Lords of Euboia, famed for their spears

and,

Soul, my soul, bemuddled with impossible cares,
stand up and defend yourself hurling your breast
right at the enemy’s ambushes, stand full against them,
foot firmly planted.

In a sentiment undoubtedly familiar to many a soldier who had to serve under some aristocratic chucklehead,

I do not like a tall commander, strutting about,
primping in curls or with only half a beard.
Give me a short leader you can clearly see,
bandy-legged, solid on his feet, and full of heart.

He was also aware of the oddity of his status as both a soldier and a poet. Thus,

Comrade to Enyalios,
The great god War,
I do double duty.
With poetry, the lover’s gift,
I serve the Lady Muses.

Archilochos seems to have had no illusions about war. He was a no-nonsense soldier, who believed “appearance is not important in battle.” There is little about “glory” in his work, and much about the reality of war, writing that “Ares is a democrat, there are no privileged people on a battlefield.” In one place we find him saying “Fields fattened by corpses” and in another “of the seven lying dead, whom we overtook on foot, we, a thousand slayers,” and in yet another comments that there were times in battle when “feet are the most valuable" of one’s resources

So it’s understandable that the Spartans, who urged their sons to “return with your shield or upon it,” would expel him from their lands lest he corrupt their youth; what else could they do with a guy who wrote,

Some Thracian barbarian
Sports my shield today.
When the fight got hot,
I left it by a bush and ran
To save my precious hide.
It was a beautiful shield,
But I can get another,
Just as good.

Still, he was enough of a professional soldier to understand eagerness for combat, in one fragment saying "I long for a fight with you, just as a thirsty man longs for drink."

Archilochos was quite famous in ancient times. Some two centuries after his death, the great comic playwright Aristophanes wrote favorably of him, and three centuries later the equally great Roman orator Cicero classed him with Homer, Pindar, and Sophocles, while Horace imitated his metrical forms. Yet little of Archilochos’ work survives today, some 300 fragments altogether, plus a few paraphrases, mostly because they were cited in works by other writers. Although a number of these fragments are quite long, running several stanzas, most are no more than four or five verses long, and some just a single phrase. The recent discovery in Egypt of some 30 lines hitherto unknown led to headlines in some serious newspapers around the globe, though most refrained from quoting them, due to their graphic nature.

In ancient times Archilochos’ grave on Paros – much of which survives – bore the inscription “Hasten on, O Wayfarer, lest you stir up the hornets," for by tradition it was home to a nest of the insects, drawn there by the bitterness of the poet’s aura.

© 1998 - 2019 StrategyWorld.com. All rights Reserved.
StrategyWorld.com, StrategyPage.com, FYEO, For Your Eyes Only and Al Nofi's CIC are all trademarks of StrategyWorld.com
Privacy Policy