Friday, October 18, 2019

Recent(ish) articles

A grab bag of articles I've recently enjoyed:

"The Puzzles of Thermopylae" by Chris Carey
The story is well known and easily told. But the battle throws up a number of lasting puzzles. We have no contemporary account. Our earliest source, Herodotus, began his research perhaps 30 years or more after the event. He had no written records to draw on, so he had to rely on oral sources. For the last stand in particular credible witnesses were hard to find. The Persians were meticulous record keepers; but no Persian source has survived. On at least one key detail Herodotus’ informants were sound: excavations at Thermopylae in the 1930s unearthed arrowheads of an Anatolian design in large numbers on a hill in the pass, confirming both the location and the manner of the deaths. But by the time Herodotus began work the battle had long passed into legend.

"Wisdom in Your Pocket" by Tracy Lee Simmons
I recently posted on the Thucydides volume in Princeton University Press' Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers Series. This article takes a look at the series.

Together, these volumes remind us of the classical distinction that should always be made between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge begins with what is made of information and fructifies after long effort. Wisdom transcends knowledge and is never new. It is a firm grasp of the Good and True that does not consult our druthers—or, as I often tell my students, wisdom is that which is true whether we wish it to be or not.

"Mordecai Gist's Maryland Macaronis: The Maryland Battalion and the Battle of Long Island" at American Battlefield Trust
During the American Army's retreat after getting routed on Long Island, Mordecai Gist and his Marylanders found themselves responsible for delaying (Thermopylae-like) the advancing British.

In spite of the carnage and high percentage of casualties the Marylanders bought precious time for the rest of the American Army. To History they became known as the “Immortal 400.” Looking back on the affair, Gist and his men bought “an hour, more precious to American liberty than any other in history.”

Mordecai Gist's headstone reads “To the Memory of General Mordecai Gist. While in command of the First Maryland Battalion he so valiantly covered the retreat of American forces at the Battle of Long Island, August 1776. That his troops became known as the Bayonets of the Revolution”
A Tribute from the Sons of the American Revolution


mudpuddle said...

interesting pieces... from the little bit i've read, Herodotus seems to have been fairly accurate in most of his reporting...

Dwight said...

Since Herodotus traveled a lot, he was able to see many of the things he wrote about, but he still relied on second-hand reports for a fair portion of the Histories. The accuracy of the second-hand information ranges from fairly accurate to a kernel of truth to fantastical. And then, as the article notes, is a question of the historical information he presents and how much of that had changed to legend. It's still a great read and one of my favorites.