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▶  More from Histories Red-Face-Island War
‘The Number of the Dead’
The Red-Face-Island War #11
CHAPTER XI
Year of the War—Campaigns of Demosthenes in Western Greece—Ruin of Ambracia
Book 10 ended with the Athenians invading Magna Grecia, the prosperous colonies of Southern Italy, the theater of war that would eventually spell total ruin for the citizen-soldiers of Democratic Thought.
It is a commonality of history that periods of climatic cooling are marked by increased earthquake, volcanic activity, respiratory epidemics and astronomical anomalies. The postmodern, Volcano and Earthquake Prediction science suggests that these things are related to reduced sunspot activity. Might this relate, in the ancient mind, to Apollo being both the god of the Sun [Helios, The Shinning One] and of plague?
“The winter following, the plague a second time attacked the Athenians; for although it had never entirely left them, still there had been a notable abatement in its ravages. The second visit lasted no less than a year, the first having lasted two; and nothing distressed the Athenians and reduced their power more than this. No less than four thousand four hundred heavy infantry in the ranks died of it and three hundred cavalry, besides a number of the multitude that was never ascertained. At the same time took place the numerous earthquakes in Athens, Euboea, and Boeotia, particularly at Orchomenus in the last-named country.”
Concerning Southern Italy:
“In Hiera the people in those parts believe that Hephaestus has his forge, from the quantity of flame which they see it send out by night, and of smoke by day…”
Below is an example of the kind of flood often experienced in such times:
“The next summer the Peloponnesians and their allies set out to invade Attica under the command of Agis, son of Archidamus, and went as far as the Isthmus, but numerous earthquakes occurring, turned back again without the invasion taking place. About the same time that these earthquakes were so common, the sea at Orobiae, in Euboea, retiring from the then line of coast, returned in a huge wave and invaded a great part of the town, and retreated leaving some of it still under water; so that what was once land is now sea; such of the inhabitants perishing as could not run up to the higher ground in time. A similar inundation also occurred at Atalanta, the island off the Opuntian Locrian coast, carrying away part of the Athenian fort and wrecking one of two ships which were drawn up on the beach. At Peparethus also the sea retreated a little, without however any inundation following; and an earthquake threw down part of the wall, the town hall, and a few other buildings. The cause, in my opinion, of this phenomenon must be sought in the earthquake. At the point where its shock has been the most violent, the sea is driven back and, suddenly recoiling with redoubled force, causes the inundation. Without an earthquake I do not see how such an accident could happen.”
Just as war between England, Spain, France and Holland marked the foundation of Plantation American, so did it encourage colonial foundations among the ancient Greeks. Note the ancient ideal of nationality and race as a localized thing with culture as the expansive expression:
“made the Lacedaemonians eager to found the place. After first consulting the god at Delphi and receiving a favourable answer, they sent off the colonists, Spartans, and Perioeci, inviting also any of the rest of the Hellenes who might wish to accompany them, except Ionians, Achaeans, and certain other nationalities…”
Yet another expedition involving an assault on a sanctuary of Apollo seems to offer the Athenians as conducting a religious war against Apollo:
“While the Leucadians witnessed the devastation of their land, without and within the isthmus upon which the town of Leucas and the temple of Apollo stand…”
The wide-ranging imperialism of Athens—with that state often called to action by antagonists of local feuds, is shown to be full of low regard for rural war-fighters of the light type, typical of British disregard for Colonial, Union underestimation of Confederate and American dismissal of Vietnamese combatants, a seemingly a common degradation of the warrior ethic of the civilized materialist and certainly reflected in the modern despising of rural Americans by urban and suburban people.
“The Aetolian nation, although numerous and warlike, yet dwelt in unwalled villages scattered far apart, and had nothing but light armour, and might, according to the Messenians, be subdued without much difficulty before succours could arrive…
“…After bivouacking with the army in the precinct of Nemean Zeus, in which the poet Hesiod is said to have been killed by the people of the country, according to an oracle which had foretold that he should die in Nemea, Demosthenes set out at daybreak to invade Aetolia.”
The engagement ends with the triumph of predatory light warfare over confrontational heavy warfare that is the hallmark of the freedom fighter.
“Meanwhile the Aetolians had gathered to the rescue, and now attacked the Athenians and their allies, running down from the hills on every side and darting their javelins, falling back when the Athenian army advanced, and coming on as it retired; and for a long while the battle was of this character, alternate advance and retreat, in both which operations the Athenians had the worst.
“Still as long as their archers had arrows left and were able to use them, they held out, the light-armed Aetolians retiring before the arrows; but after the captain of the archers had been killed and his men scattered, the soldiers, wearied out with the constant repetition of the same exertions and hard pressed by the Aetolians with their javelins, at last turned and fled, and falling into pathless gullies and places that they were unacquainted with, thus perished, the Messenian Chromon, their guide, having also unfortunately been killed. A great many were overtaken in the pursuit by the swift-footed and light-armed Aetolians, and fell beneath their javelins; the greater number however missed their road and rushed into the wood, which had no ways out, and which was soon fired and burnt round them by the enemy. Indeed the Athenian army fell victims to death in every form, and suffered all the vicissitudes of flight; the survivors escaped with difficulty to the sea and Oeneon in Locris, whence they had set out. Many of the allies were killed, and about one hundred and twenty Athenian heavy infantry, not a man less, and all in the prime of life. These were by far the best men in the city of Athens that fell during this war.”
The note on the dysgenic nature of broad-based commitment to war as a positional pursuit with focus on taking ground rather than prevailing by wits and thrift [the ethics of the hunt] serves as a sorry exclamation.
The Athenians in this next season attempt to mend their relationship with Apollo and the author quotes Homer:
“Phoebus, wherever thou strayest, far or near,
Delos was still of all thy haunts most dear.
Thither the robed Ionians take their way
With wife and child to keep thy holiday,
Invoke thy favour on each manly contest,
And dance and sing in honour of your conquest.”
The agon was reinstituted by the Athenians at Delos with, what this reader sees as a far call to the spirit of Apollo, the most Aryan deity, being the father of Cantor the horse-man and the subject of a wolf cult:
“with the novelty of horse-races.”
And the gods still looked cruelly away:
“In the first days of this spring, the stream of fire issued from Etna, as on former occasions, and destroyed some land of the Catanians, who live upon Mount Etna, which is the largest mountain in Sicily. Fifty years, it is said, had elapsed since the last eruption, there having been three in all since the Hellenes have inhabited Sicily. Such were the events of this winter; and with it ended the sixth year of this war, of which Thucydides was the historian.”
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