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‘Soldier’s Heart’
Battle fatigue - did it affect soldiers in the ancient world? By Lindy Beige

After viewing the video listed above I was unable to find it again and have included at the bottom of the page a link to the video I used for the second half of the article.

Soldier’s heart it was called in the American Civil War, shell shocked in WWI, Battle Fatigue in WWII and PTSD in the Forever War Continuum. There was not a word for it in the medieval or ancient world for various reasons, though some men were noted to have felt its effects.

“Visions carve on the mind”


“Epizelus,” struck blind at Marathon without being hit was accepted as war hero.


‘Buyer Beware’

Slave defects in ancient Rome had to be declared when selling humans and included formerly pregnant, suicidal, and had your slave ever been attacked by a bear or a lion which left unmarked mental illness caused by trauma. Battle was normal, a privilege rather than duty, with a minimal of 10 years’ service to qualify for political office. So, to the ancients, the sissy, civil preconditions for PTSD did not exist.

Modern findings

After 80 days in action, a soldier’s performance peaks, then declines.

Effectiveness curve, low to high to low, is just like in prize-fighting

Men in WWII were considered fit for duty for 200-400 days.

The impersonality of modern war, where 98% of casualties are inflicted by crew served and automated weapons and only 2% by personal weapons or small arms, instills a lack of agency, like being in a car accident as a passenger compared to the driver. Lack of control and input places the modern warrior in circumstances that would have previously been explained as the actions of gods in a world were such causes are actively denied by the collective.

Elements of Modern War which undermine the war-fighter’s mental health are:

-Constant peril due to artillery and airpower, imagine if dragons had really flown ancient skies—that is what the modern warfighter deals with

-Malefic, extra-human, “Lovecraftian” agency

-Dispersal and atomization

-Breaking of aggression taboos counter to childhood programing

-Material worship of the human body as divine and then breaking the greatest taboo by killing, puts the soldier in the position of a blasphemous assailant of God

-Sleep deprivation is a modern feature, as ancient armies wanted rested fighters and modern armies just need place-holding boots on the ground to call in the 98% of killing potential embodied in support weapons.

-Shelling is mind shattering and after 60 days of shelling 98% of people go insane, with psychopaths immune.

Shooting to kill - how many men can do this?

1% of fighter pilots accounted for 50% of kills

Shoot to kill rates of 2% are the same as shelling break point

1% are psychos, being half of all willing killers

1% valorous killers, such as Victoria Cross winners, fought with high in-group empathy for their mates with the majority being eldest siblings, guardians of younger siblings. Nathan Bedford Forest had this history.

“Paralysis of the hand,” in the American Civil War and “trigger finger frost bite” among Germans in WWI, reflect the high level of human resistance to killing humans, as does the habit of murderers shooting victims in the back of the head.

A lack of tribal identity and the fact that a modern soldier has more in common with his enemy than his officer, in a monetized society, especially in European on European conflicts, where most data was gathered, certainly bears on reluctance to kill.

18th Century musket tests showed 500 balls hitting home in testing against targets to actual casualties inflicted of 3, with the soldier firing from the third standing rank, more likely to shoot the kneeling man in the front row by flinching downward.

Civil War muskets were found to have been loaded up to 7 times without being fired, as it was not possible to fake loading.

Marksmanship, for which 50% of soldiers qualify, is only part of sniping, with initiative and the willingness to kill non-threatening persons also of key importance.

Throwing stones in WWI occurred on occasion on the Western Front when patrols surprised each other, even dropping their guns to engage in basic primate disapproval rites.

B. F. Skinner’s theory of conditioned reflexes after 1947 was applied by the U.S. military and conditioned soldiers to shoot humans reflexively to 50% in Korea, Falklands 95%, Gulf War, 98% shooting to kill up from 20-25% to in WWII to nearly 100% today. This method of reflexive shooting, also practiced extensively by law enforcement with pop-up, human-like target courses, conditions the modern war-fighter to shoot to kill at center of mass without deciding and setting him up for deep, unresolved guilt for acting with finality counter to the greatest humanistic cult taboo, killing.

It is notable that 13% of the U.S. population kills 56% of the murder victims, indicating an extraordinarily high level of psychopathy.

Shelters for the Self

The Captured Diary of Petty Officer Second Class Koyama

Add Comment
KmanJune 11, 2019 3:01 PM UTC

James, the 3% that account for half of our murders number represents all of the racial age group in question. Not like say fighter pilots where the 1% number that make 50% of the kills. That 1% is a subset of a group of very highly selected and trained men. Fighter pilots as a subset of their national age group are a number too small for me to even begin to guess.
responds:June 11, 2019 12:24 PM UTC

PolymarchusJune 11, 2019 11:50 AM UTC

Have you read van Crevald's Pussycats? From what I've read he touches on this topic. (He also observed that PTSD didnt exist in the ancient world the way it does today.)

Interesting read. Wondering if center mass shooting if largely a way to avoid eye contact with your target.
responds:June 11, 2019 8:23 AM UTC

Center mass shooting has the side benefit of avoiding eye contact but was developed to address more prosaic concerns. It is mostly just snipers and pistol shooters that have to deal with facial recognition of the human target. A rifleman is usually shooting at ranges that prohibit eye contact.
KmanJune 9, 2019 7:45 PM UTC

All the above info has been available in Lt. Col David Grossmans fine books, "On Killing and "On Combat" with a great deal of background information.

I take issue with the "13% accounting for 56% of the murders. When one factors in that the old, the young and females are much less likely to kill the number is more like 3% of our population (black males) are accounting for 50% of the murders.
responds:June 10, 2019 10:57 AM UTC

Maybe that 3% is 2% and fits in perfect with the military numbers?

Somewhen, maybe 6 years ago I reviewed Grossman's book on this site.

Thanks, Kman.