The Impenetrable Wall of Men

The Phalanx

There was nothing new about a fighting line by the time the Greeks came to power, but it is what they did with that line that changed everything. Homer described the phalanx in his poems as something of an organized battle line (I). Instead of man on man fighting, the phalanx would fight as one in a large pushing match, sometimes four to fifty rows deep (II), in an attempt to break the battle line of the opposing army. In most cases, the first line to break would lose the battle.

The Hoplite


The Phalanx of Greece, consisted of heavily armed men called Hoplites, who would stand shoulder to shoulder, overlapping shields to create a shield wall (II). The name Hoplite comes from the name large round shield called a Hoplon (II). The hoplon, was a wooden shield covered with bronze measuring three to three and a half feet wide, usually big enough to cover from a mans face to his knees, that he would hold in his left hand and use to protect his left side and the right side of the man to his left. The hoplites were expected to supply their own equipment, at the least his armor and weaponry, and were generally recruited from the Greek upper class, due to the high cost of the equipment (I). The most important piece of hoplite equipment, besides his massive shield, was his thrusting spear called a Doru (II). Usually six to ten feet long, later reaching up to eighteen feet long, the thrusting spear was wielded by a hoplite in his right hand, and used over his shield to strike at his enemy as the phalanx tried to push back and break the enemy line. The length of the spear, mixed with the very close quarters of the hoplites, enabled men from the first two rows to effectively thrust their spears into the enemy line (II). Once the enemies line was broken the hoplite would transition to his secondary weapon, a short double edged sword called Xiphos, usually no more than 60cm long (III), to fight and finish off the enemy in close-quarters combat. After the enemies line is broken, the hoplite is not exactly alone. The Greek Light Infantry, usually recruited from the lower class, steps in for support. Being lightly armored and fast, the light infantry is able to chase retreating armies and strike fast blows in battle (IV).

The Flaws

The Phalanx, as used in fighting an unorganized enemy is an amazing formation, but it does have several major flaws. The first is that since every man protects his left side and his neighbors right side, the man on the far right side is unprotected. This made the phalanx vulnerable and slightly weaker on its right flank (I). The second is that a tightly packed group of heavily armed fighters is not very maneuverable. The failure to maneuver and adjust during battle became more evident when fighting very fast and maneuverable fighters like the Roman Legion (I). The third major flaw is in a hoplite’s armor. Although the armor is great in the phalanx, after the enemies line is broken and the hoplite must now fight hand-to-hand, he is wearing an enormous amount of weight that can slow him down and exhaust him very quickly, making him more vulnerable if the Greek light infantry fail to back him up (IV).


Picture: Vase Painting of a Hoplite

  1. Lendering, Jona. 27, July, 2013.

  2. Greeks and Phalanxes. 2011.

  3. Cartwright, Mark. Hoplite. 9 February, 2013.
  4. History of Warfare- Greek Citizen Armies: from the 7th Century BC. Page 3.

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The Amazon Queen, Thalestris, and Alexander the Great

Johann_Georg_Platzer_-_Thalestris_im_Lager_Alexander_des_Großen (1)

Alexander’s campaigns in 330 BCE brought him around the Black Sea, where he received many emissaries from tribal leaders negotiating peace, surrender, or joint military campaigns. One of those emissaries is said to be representing Thalestris, a supposed Amazon warrior-queen with the intent to carry Alexander’s child in her belly. According to the legend, Thalestris strode boldly into Alexander’s camp with a company of 300 women dressed as warriors, and suggested the great Macedonian King mate with her in order to provide a strong child worthy of both well-accomplished leaders.

The reliability of this account was circumspect even to early authors of the tale. Plutarch, in Lives (46-119 C.E.) quotes Alexander’s General, Lysimachus, as saying “Where could I have been at that time?” when he was given an account of the supposed encounter, indicating that no one believed the fantastical tale of the Amazon warrior-queen and Alexander. Arrian, in The Campaigns of Alexander (146 C.E.), mentioned the story, but also discounts the tale, stating that the Amazons had all vanished long before the reign of Alexander the Great.

However, the tale has been passed down to us today as an account of Alexander’s prowess and magnificence. The identity of the Amazon Queen has intrigued both modern and ancient writers, as historians try to work out why this tale has been included within the ancient writings.

In a 2001 journal article “Alexander and the Amazons,” Elizabeth Baynham presented the argument that Thalestris is actually a daughter of a Scythian king who was presented to Alexander as a condition of treaty, and that her 300 female warriors were a gift to Alexander’s generals. Baynham argued that since Alexander sent the 300 females away with the intent to protect them from abuse by his own army, Alexander did not view this female escort to be a legitimate force. Baynham argued that true female warriors would be able to take care of themselves and would not have needed Alexander’s protection. She stated that these were most likely prostitutes sent by the Scythian king to please Alexander’s men, dressed up in play-armor and taught how to ride for Alexander’s amusement.

Another argument for a likely tale of the Amazon Queen was presented in 2015 by Adrienne Mayor. In “When Alexander met Thalestris” Adrienne stated that there were nomadic raiders near the Black Sea that sometimes banded together in same-gender groups. Mayor stated that often, the strongest female warriors would be sent out to find the strongest male warriors and mate with them, producing strong offspring to carry on their traditions. These groups often had similar custody arrangements that Thalestris arranged with Alexander, that the resulting female child would remain with the mother however, if the child was a male he would be sent back to be raised by the father. Adrienne pointed to recent archeological evidence to prove her point, consisting of graves of females adorned with weapons and grave goods that included drawings of armed women on horseback.

Whether the Amazon Queen was the daughter of a Scythian king or a nomadic raider in her own right, the enchanting tale of Thalestris and Alexander the Great delights the ear of all who hear this fantastic tale. The more cultural implications of these conflicting viewpoints have been lost to time, though it is clear from the skeptical tone of the contemporary writers that the story may have been nothing more than a propaganda tale showing Alexander’s greatness and glory.


Arrian. The Campaigns of Alexander. Translated by Aubrey De Selincourt. London: Penguin Classics, 1987.

Baynham, Elizabeth. “Alexander and the Amazons.” The Classical Quarterly 51, no. 01 (July 2001): 115-126.

Mayor, Adrienne. “When ALexander met Thalestris.” History Today 65, no. 1 (January 2015): 10-17.

Plazer, Johann Georg. “The Amazon Queen, Thalestris, in the camp of Alexander the Great.” Christie’s. sale 7609. London: Wikimedia Commons, 2008.

Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives. Translated by Dryden. Vol. 2. New York: A. L. Burt Company, n.d.

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Kyla Johnson

Blog post 2

Etruscan tombs

Featured image

I had originally wanted to look at Etruscan architecture to see what kinds of things they built and what kind of houses they lived in but as I was researching it didn’t turn out the way I expected. It turns out that the more I looked into architecture the more I found out about their tombs. Most people would think weird why would the resting places of the dead come up when you’re looking for architecture? Well it isn’t so weird when you find out like I did that the best examples we have of Etruscan architecture is their tombs. The Etruscans didn’t build tombs like we do neatly lining people up in cemetery’s instead they built the tombs like cities with streets small squares neighborhoods. The huts and houses built in this city of the dead provide amazing insights to structural details of Etruscan houses that we would not have had otherwise. A well-known example is known as the “Hut Shaped Tomb” in imitating houses we find out that they had things like gabled roofs and a main cross beam it even has stone couches next to the walls. The tombs like the real city buildings differed depending on social status and wealth.

Featured imageAnother great thing about Etruscan tombs is that they also tell us about daily life and art because a lot of them have a wealth of paintings in side. These paintings show daily life, ordinary tasks, religious ceremonies and animals like birds and dolphins. So in all reality the best clues we have about the lives of the Etruscans is not from looking at how they lived but looking at what they did for their dead.


<a title=”By Franck Schneider (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons” href=””><img width=”512″ alt=”Le tombe etrusche dipinte 07″ src=”//”/></a>

“Norchia Nekropolis” by AlMare – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

“Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia.” – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. UNESCO World Heritage C Entre, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

“Classic Court.” Tombs of the Etruscans « The Toledo Museum of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Elena. “Etruscan Architecture.” Art History Summary Periods and Movements through Time. 2015 Raindrops Entries RSS, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

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Solon and the Foundation for Democracy


(Bust de Solon, collection Farnèse, Musée national archéologique de Naples.)

“Solon”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

    When one thinks of the city of Athens, one thinks of the roots of democracy and a democratic system of government – perhaps the very first seen in world history. If indeed Athens was one of the earliest if not first political state to institute a democratic form of government, where did the ideas for such a system originate? Although it would be impossible to pinpoint one single person or group in Greek history, one could argue very persuasively that if one man is to be considered the father of Athenian democracy that man should be Greek Axial Age thinker and Athenian statesman, Solon.

Solon taught that the citizenry of a state should be responsible in forming a collaborative political effort to create a stable form of government and together devise solutions to societies’ problems. To achieve this he formed an assembly open to all male Athenians. Solon’s main goal was to lead Athens on the road to a more democratic form of government. He set out to accomplish this goal by abolishing farmer’s debts, enslavement for debt, and by formalizing the rights and privileges of each class of Athenian society according to wealth. To Solon wealth was a better way to determine access to public office over birth. He created a comprehensive code of law made available on tablets so that the Athenian citizens could see how they were being governed and what their specific rights were. Solon also created a set of census ratings for each adult citizen to have their wealth recorded in order to have access to public offices. When the people of Athens wanted Solon to assume tyranny of the city, he, some would say nobly, rejected the offer.

Solon’s reforms and ideas were not always immediately accepted openly by some in Athens. In fact democracy would not be fully instituted in Athens until fifty years after Solon’s death. Despite this, there is no denying Solon’s influence and contributions in setting Athens on the road to democracy.


“The Axial Age.” The Human Journey: Axial Age Greece. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

“The Internet Classics Archive | Solon by Plutarch.” The Internet Classics Archive | Solon by Plutarch. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Hertzoff, Andrew. 2008. “Eros and Moderation in Plutarch’s Life of Solon.” Review Of Politics 70, no. 3: 339-369. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 26, 2015).

“Solon”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

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Class Systems Under Alexander the Great


Battle of Issus

Alexander overthrew Darius III as king of Persia in 333 BC and, therefore, became king of Persia. Dominating almost every country in the known world, Alexander the Great lived up to his name and was the ultimate king- the conqueror of the time.  People lived their lives while he acquired country after country. Power struggles and class systems always seem to begin when a civilization starts to establish itself. It was already apparent when Alexander took the throne but was an important part of the people and society. Usually the establishment of a new group of people involves the break off from one civilization, resulting in the creation of another.

There were two distinct groups within Persian society while Alexander ruled: the upper and lower classes. Although “Macedon was a male-dominated society, the queens and royal mothers were greatly respected” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80)


Alexander The Greate and Roxane

This respect was shown because they came from wealthy families and would be the ones to produce the next heir to the throne. Struggle for power occurred regularly between the queen, the king’s mother, and even his advisors.

The king, aristocracy, and religious priests made up the upper class. Most of the aristocracy within the upper class was in command of the army as generals or in the cavalry. Their preferred interests were “fighting, hunting, and heavy drinking. The king could only gain respect from the nobility if he was an expert in all these activities” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80). Alexander loved to hunt and ended up heading a huge army with an enormous camp of followers trailing behind him.


Alexander with the Spear

Although the spear is long gone, this statue shows the “conqueror” part in Alexander’s title. He was a true Macedonian and king of Persia. His love for fighting proved correct when he led his men into India and other countries ultimately conquering what was seen as the “world”.

The lower class lived very different lives from upper society. Most of these people were workers or laborers. “Freemen got paid and could choose where they worked. Bondsmen were serfs and slaves, and had little or no choice about where and for whom they worked” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80).

Works Cited

(2009). Part II: Society and Culture. In D. Skelton, & P. Dell, Empire of Alexander the Great. New York: Chelsea House.


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Imhotep: One of the most influential physicians in Ancient Egypt

Doctors have been essential in society for centuries upon centuries. Whether or not they were knowledgeable in medicine and on the subject of the body through modern contraptions, or saw illness as the requirement for spiritual purification, physicians have been looked upon as crucial healers within the public eye.


“Imhotep, the vizer and physician of King Zoser.”


One very important historical physician, Imhotep, lived during the Pyramid Age in ancient Egypt (Worrall, 504). Before this genius, physicians tended to lean towards the spiritual or magical.


“Page from Edwin Smith surgical papyrus”

However, Imhotep “was the author of a medical treatise remarkable for being devoid of magical thinking: the so-called Edwin Smith papyrus containing anatomical observations, ailments, and cures” (Wikipedia). Many of the ailments on the papyrus included:

27 head injuries (cases #1-27)

6 throat and neck injuries (cases #28-33)

2 injuries to the clavicle (collarbone) (cases #34-35)

3 injuries to the arm (cases #36-38)

8 injuries to the sternum (breastbone) and ribs (cases #39-44)

1 tumour and 1 abscess of the breast (cases #45-46)

1 injury to the shoulder (case #47)

1 injury to the spine (case #48) (Wikipedia)

After him, many other Egyptian physicians “examined [their] patient by inspection, palpitation, and smell (Worrall, 504). There are several statues depicting this man, who eventually became known as a god in Egypt. The one shown resides in the Louvre Museum. However, this statue is one out of three that have the same pose.



One of the other statues identical to this one that is pictured dwells in the Princeton Art Museum. This allows visitors to come and observe what this amazing man may have looked like. It is interesting to note that several figures depicting Imhotep are dressed in the same type of attire which includes a tight cap, a wide collar which was set upon the shoulders and along the chest, and a pleated skirt almost reaching his ankles (Turnure, 25-26). This may, in fact, be an excellent example of how important men in the ancient time periods of Egypt dressed.


Imhotep. (n.d.). Retrieved 03 08, 2015, from Wikipedia:

Turnure, J. H. (1952). A Statuette of Imhotep. Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, 11(2), 25-26.

Worrall, G. (1967). Without Prejudice. British Medical Journal, 2(5550), 504.


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Ancient history

 Ishtar gate


The beautiful city of Babylon with its hanging gardens with their beautiful colors and the amazing 8th gate of Babylon called the gate of Ishtar named so because it was dedicated to the goddess Ishtar goddess of love, sex, and war. Though there are various other animals on the gate to pay homage to various other Babylonian deities. Lions, Dragons and Bulls are set up in rows all up and down the Ishtar gate the lions are associated with the goddess Ishtar the bulls with the god Adad the weather god and the Dragons with Marduk who was the national god of Babylon. The Ishtar gate is on the most important road through the city called the Processional Way which leads from the inner city though the Ishtar gate to the House of the New Year’s Festival or Bit Akitu. The Processional way was used for the new year celebrations in which statues of deities would parade down the path to the temple of Marduk .The gate is covered with glazed brick which allowed a colorful presentation that is not possible of regular brick. Ny_Carlsberg_Glyptothek_-_Ishtar-Tor

The gate has rows of dragons and bulls in yellow and brown tiles surrounded by beautiful blue tile that is still being debated on what is in it some think it is lapis lazuli. The gate was excavated by Robert Koldewey between 1902 to 1914 CE they found 45 feet of the original foundation and 1930 they reconstructed in the Pergamon museum in Berlin. Due to space though only front smaller half of the gate was reconstructed. The gate was so well known and so amazing that it was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World until I got replaced later. The gate was an amazing work of art and is a testament to how the people of the ancient world were capable of amazing and inspiring things.


“Berlin-mitte-pergamon-ischtar-tor” by Balou46This file was imported from Wikivoyage Shared. – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Brittany Britanniae. “Ishtar Gate,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 23, 2013. /Ishtar_Gate/.

“Lion Relief from the Processional Way.” Lion Relief from the Processional Way. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015. Associates in Fine Arts, Yale University, “Handbook: A Description of the Gallery of Fine Arts and the Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 5, nos. 1–3 (1931): 7, ill.

Raymond P. Dougherty, “The Lion of Ishtar,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 4, no. 3 (1932): 144

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“Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek – Ishtar-Tor” by Wolfgang Sauber – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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