A Preview of The Greco-Persian Wars

I am pleased to announce that my second book, The Greco-Persian Wars: A Short History with Documents, is coming out in just a few days. This book tells the story of the wars between Greeks and the Persian Empire in the early fifth century BCE through translations of ancient documents.

While the wars of the early fifth century in Greece dominate modern histories of Greco-Persian interaction, they were only part of a larger history in which the main actors were not Greeks but Persians, and whose events played out not simply in Greece but across the eastern Mediterranean. Looking at a broader history allows us to put the Greco-Persian Wars into a more meaningful context. The story of Persia’s engagement in Greece is not one of East-West cultural clashes or Greek ascendancy, but of Persia’s success in adapting to the challenges of an unstable, frequently violent frontier region, and that is the history my book explores.

This book features over eighty-five separate selections translated from Greek, Old Persian, Elamite, Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Egyptian, and Lycian, each with contextual notes. They are accompanied by a short historical introduction, a glossary, a chronology, maps, and a select bibliography.

Here is a selection from one of the documents. In this text, set some hundred years after the famous battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea, we see how complicated relations between Greeks and Persians remained. This text is a useful reminder that we have to think not of relations between Greece and Persia but between Greeks and Persians. On both sides, individuals had their own motivations and interests that could lead to unexpected alliances and tricky rivalries.

* * *

Friendship and its complications

Xenophon, Hellenica 4.1.31-39

Relationships of xenia, or guest-friendship were a traditional way in which Greek aristocrats formed personal relationships across the boundaries of the polis. Similar relationships were also extended to Persians who dealt with the Greek frontier. While these relationships could be channels for diplomacy and political negotiation, they could also create conflicting loyalties. The exchange between the Spartan king Agesilaus—at that time ravaging the Persian-held territories in Ionia—and the satrap Pharnabazus in 395 or 394 BCE shows both the potentials of xenia and its dangers.

First they greeted each other and Pharnabazus held out his right hand. Agesilaus clasped it. Then Pharnabazus spoke first, since he was the elder.

“Aegsilaus, and you other Spartans here,” he said, “I became your friend and ally when you were fighting the Athenians. Not only did I support your fleet with money, but I myself fought alongside you on horseback and we drove your enemies into the sea together. You cannot accuse me of ever having played you false, like Tissaphernes. Yet despite this, you have now left my land in such a state that I cannot even feed myself, unless I gather up the scraps you leave behind like an animal. All the beautiful houses and woods full of trees and beasts that my father left me, which I used to enjoy so much, I now see either cut down or burned up. Well, if I don’t know what is righteous and just, you tell me how these are the acts of men who know how to repay favors.”

The thirty Spartans were ashamed and said nothing, but then after a time Agesilaus spoke up.

“Pharanbazus,” he said, “I think you understand that in the Greek cities, people also become guest-friends to one another. But when their cities go to war, such people fight on behalf of their homelands against their friends, and even kill them, if it should so happen. In the same way, since we are now at war with your king, we are compelled to treat everything of his as enemy territory. However, we would think it the best thing in the world to become your friends. Now, if it were a matter of throwing off the king to be ruled by us instead, I certainly would not advise it, but if you side with us now you will have the chance to flourish without having any master or humbling yourself to anyone. I think freedom is, after all, worth any amount of money. Even so, we are not urging that you should be free and poor. Rather, by taking us as your allies, you will increase your own power, not the king’s, and by subduing those who are now your fellow slaves you will make them your own subjects. You will become both free and rich—what else could you need to have perfect happiness?”

“In that case,” said Pharnabazus, “shall I tell you plainly what I will do?”

“That would be a good idea,” said Agesilaus.

“Well then,” he said, “if the king sends another general here and makes me subordinate to him, I will gladly become your friend and ally. On the other hand, if he gives the command to me, ambition is such a powerful force that I will fight you to the best of my ability.”

When he heard these words, Agesilaus grasped Pharnabazus’ hand and said:

“My dear friend, I hope you will be our ally! But know this: I will leave your territory now as quickly as I can, and in the future, even if the war continues, we will leave you and your land alone as long as we have other foes to fight.”

That was the end of the meeting, and Pharnabazus mounted up and rode away, but his son Parapita, a fine young man, stayed behind. He ran up to Agesilaus and said:

“Agesilaus, I make you my guest-friend.”

“For my part, I accept,” Agesilaus replied.

“Remember it,” said Parapita. He at once gave the beautiful javelin he was carrying to Agesilaus. In return, Agesilaus took a splendid decoration from the horse his secretary Idaeus was riding and gave it to Parapita. Then the young man leapt upon his horse and followed after his father.

* * *

If you’ve found some of my previous posts about Persians, life in the Persian Empire, and the complicated relationships between Persians and Greeks interesting, you may enjoy The Greco-Persian Wars.

The Greco-Persian Wars: A Short History with Documents comes out February 24th from Hackett Publishing.

Hardcover: $49 / Paperback: $18 / e-book versions available

You can pre-order directly from Hackett or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or from your local bookseller.

Image: Greco-Persian Wars paperback cover by Hackett Publishing

Announcements from your hosts.

 

A Farewell to Cards

Back in the 1990s, in my high school and college days, I used to be into Magic: The Gathering, the granddaddy of trading card games. I’ve dabbled a little since then, but it’s twenty years since I played the game with any seriousness. I really enjoyed the game, especially the challenge of coming up with interesting decks (I was what they used to call a “Johnny” player), but it isn’t part of my life any more, so I’ve decided its time to get rid of my collection.

After doing a little research on ways of selling Magic cards (and thinking about which ones are viable in the midst of a pandemic), I decided to list my cards on Cardsphere, a website created by and for Magic fans.

So far, I’ve only sold a handful of cards, but I keep my eye on the offers and little by little I’m working the collection down. I was never much into the collecting aspect of the game, so I don’t have many of the high-value cards (although I do have a couple of old dual lands that I’m hoping to sell for a few hundred dollars apiece). Most of what I’ve sold so far has gone for pocket change, and I know I’m losing money on postage on some transactions. Still, it is a pleasure to know that these cards I no longer have any use for are going to make someone else happy.

The process of sorting, organizing, listing, and sending off my cards has meant I’ve spent more time looking at my collection in the past few months than I did in the previous couple of decades, and in a way that has been good for me. It’s nice to be reminded of happy days long ago and to say a proper goodbye to the old dears.

My card inventory is visible here, if anyone wants to check out what I have to offer.

Image by Erik Jensen

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

May You Have as Restful and Relaxing a Thanksgiving as Possible

With this awesome geeky Perler bead wreath, I wish our U.S. readers as restful and relaxing a Thanksgiving as possible under the circumstances.

Minted Strawberry Aki Perler Bead Geeky Xmas Wreath

May the writers’ room have an exceedingly boring 2020 season ender in store for all of us. The world sure could use a respite from the coronavirus.

Stay safe!

Image and tutorial by Aki at Minted Strawberry

Announcements from your hosts.

Five Years of Co-Geeking

It’s been five years since we started blogging together here at Co-Geeking, and it’s safe to say those are five years we’ll never forget. Join us for a little look back at our highlights from the past year.

Our favorite posts

Erik:

The post I have most enjoyed writing in the past year is The Past is Haunted, a Halloween rumination from last October about how we often connect the sense of hauntedness and the supernatural with the traces of earlier people’s lives, even to the point of sometimes deliberately invoking that sense in artificial ways. It was fun to take the spookiness of the season and think historically about it.

Eppu:

Aah, a tough one, but I’d have to say the post on the reconstructed Staffordshire Helmet. That (plus the March 2020 post on the Essex burial chamber) were little trips to the past for me, since they reminded me of my master’s studies in Finland. Plus, the helmet and the model wearing it make such an amazing photo!

 

Our favorite geeky thing that happened in the past year

Eppu:

The release of the Captain Marvel movie! Obviously, I’m not superpowered in any way (well, perhaps, if I’m very, very, VERY lucky I may be) but the tenacity and persistence that Carol Danvers displays speaks to me a lot. (In Finland, we call the quality sisu, and it’s highly appreciated.) It was a great screen adaptation of a supe origin story. Plus, every scene between Danvers and Fury keeps getting better and better with every viewing; Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson play together so well it’s a joy to watch.

Erik:

This is a hard one for me to answer. A lot of the interesting things happening in geekdom right now are on tv (and even more so now that the novel coronavirus is keeping so many of us at home), but the two of us are always late to those parties because we don’t have cable or any streaming services, so we mostly have to wait to buy things on dvd or get them from the library. We’re old-fashioned like that. So, while we are aware of the existence of things like young Yoda and old Picard, we haven’t actually seen them yet.

So my answer is a little different this year. Not long ago I dug out my old collection of Magic: The Gathering cards. I haven’t played in years, and I decided it was finally time to get rid of them. Going through them all brought back so many memories of playing with my friends. I loved to build decks around weird cards or bizarre ideas and see if I could make them work. Often they just flopped in play, but I still had so much fun tinkering around with mechanics and combinations. Those days are behind me now, but I cherish the memories.

On another note, is anyone in the market for an old collection of nothing-special Magic cards?

We look forward to another year with you all.

Image: Holy hand grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail via tenor.com

Announcements from your hosts.

Four Years of Co-Geeking

We’ve been keeping Co-Geeking going for four years now, and it’s still as much fun as when we started back in 2015. Here’s a quick look back at the past year.

 

Our favorite posts

Eppu:

My favorite post from the past year is not a major one, but it was delightful to write: the comparison of Dalaran cupola library in World of Warcraft to real-world libraries. I’m so used to libraries with regular ranks of shelves and perpendicular walkways that doing a search on rounded shapes made for a very nice departure.

Erik:

It may be self-serving of me, but my favorite post from the past year is still the preview of my book, Barbarians in the Greek and Roman World. That project was a big part of my life for several years. It took a lot of work and I can’t help being proud of the result.

 

Our favorite geeky thing that happened in the past year

Erik:

Battle for Azeroth. The latest expansion to World of Warcraft has had its ups and downs, but on the whole I’ve found it very enjoyable. Gorgeous landscape design, new and different gear for transmogging, and chatty turtle people have all enlivened my gaming time this past year.

Eppu:

Of the things I’ve talked about here, my favorite thing is the release of two Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero movies with women up and front: Ant-Man and the Wasp plus Captain Marvel. Mind you, both movies do have their problems, but they nevertheless have the most successful treatment of female characters Marvel has put out to date. (Outside of Black Panther, of course.)

Pandemic Breaking Out New Boardgame

Also, we were introduced to the cooperative board game Pandemic. If you haven’t tried it, it’s about a team of various scientists and experts (2 to 4 players, with 5 possible specialist roles) racing to find a cure to 4 virulent diseases that have broken out throughout the world. It’s challenging but fun. (And apprently there’s a computer version of Pandemic on Steam!)

 

We hope you’ll be with us for another year of Co-Geeking.

Image by Eppu Jensen

Announcements from your hosts.

Happy New Year 2019!

2018 was a tough one for us, but it’s almost done now—phew!

Two Candles for FIN Independence

May 2019 simply be better for you in any way you’d like to define it.

I’d like to finish with a quote from Executive Director and diversity educator Shay Stewart Bouley‏:

“Centering yourself and treating yourself with the love you give to others allows you to be in the work and have a healthy perspective. Less reactionary. I can extend grace when I’m well. I can see what’s real and what’s not.”

Stay safe.

Image by Eppu Jensen

Announcements from your hosts.

Happy Holiday Wishes with Northern Lights Seen from the ISS

I grew up seeing Northern Lights every winter, so for me they’re not a novelty—except when seen from space.

NASA Instagram ESA Alexander Gerst Northern Lights from Space

This amazing photo was taken by the European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst at the International Space Station.

I think it’s fair to say we’re living in an age quite unlike any previous one from a scientific and research perspective. It’s amazing and incredible.

We’re vacationing for a week or so. Until then, Happy Merry!

Image: Northern Lights from space ESA/NASA-A.Gerst via NASA at Instagram.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Arisia: A Point of No Return for Us

We take this stand as a response to Crystal Huff’s blog post where she shared her experiences with Arisia’s response to serious safety concerns, including stalking both during the convention and elsewhere.

Arisia is a volunteer-run con for fans of science fiction and fantasy, in all forms of media, held annually in January on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in Boston.

The con staff and/or Arisia Executive Board have failed in following and enforcing their own Code of Conduct and problem reporting process. This failure has been long-standing, and has had the practical effect of protecting a stalker.

Therefore, we will not return to Arisia nor recommend the con in the future. It is unacceptable to hold people to a different set of rules depending on who they are.

Read more at Crystal’s blog (content note: references to rape, trauma, sexism, gaslighting, harassment, intimidation, and stalking) or Eppu’s open letter (note: an f-bomb or two).

Announcements from your hosts.

Barbarians in the Greek and Roman World Preview

What did the ancient Greeks and Romans think of the peoples they referred to as barbari? Did they share the modern Western conception—popularized in modern fantasy literature and role-playing games—of “barbarians” as brutish, unwashed enemies of civilization? Or our related notion of “the noble savage?” Was the category fixed or fluid? How did it contrast with the Greeks and Romans’ conception of their own cultural identity? Was it based on race?

These are the questions that my first book addresses. Barbarians in the Greek and Roman World will be published in the fall of 2018. The book explores both the realities of interaction among peoples of different cultures in the ancient Mediterranean and the ways in which Greek and Roman thinkers interpreted these interactions to create the idea of the “barbarian.”

Here’s a preview, discussing the experience of the Greeks in their colonial settlements around the Mediterranean Sea:

* * *

The history of Greek settlement in Egypt demonstrates the complexity of colonial interactions. In the late 600s BCE, Egypt was under Assyrian dominion. An Egyptian noble, Psammetichus, had been appointed as governor, but when the Assyrians were distracted by internal conflicts, Psammetichus raised a rebellion, bolstered by mercenaries from Greece and Caria, a region of southwestern Anatolia. When the fighting was done and Psammetichus had become king of a newly independent Egypt, he settled the remaining mercenaries in the Nile delta. These settlements also attracted other foreigners, such as Phoenician crafters who made imitation Egyptian artworks on the site for export.

The mercenaries remained in Egyptian service, and it appears their descendants did as well, since some were deployed to southern Egypt under Psammetichus II decades later. One such band carved graffiti on the temple of Abu Simbel to commemorate their adventures: “When King Psammetichus came to Elephantine, this was carved by the companions of Psammatichus, son of Theocles, who sailed beyond Kerkis as far as the river went.” The mercenary Psammatichus was evidently named after the pharaoh by his Greek father. Some families went beyond names and embraced Egyptian culture, as shown by the burial of Wahibre-em-akhet, whose name and hieroglyph-inscribed sarcophagus are conventionally Egyptian; the only clue to his foreign ancestry are the Greek names of his parents, Alexicles and Zenodote. Other soldiers left graffiti at Abu Simbel in Carian and Phoenician, another testament to the cultural and linguistic diversity of those traveling and trading around the Mediterranean at this time.

Sometime after 570, the pharaoh Amasis reorganized the Nile delta settlement. Land was granted for the construction of a Greek colony, which, unusually, was collectively founded by nine Greek cities from the coast of Anatolia. Representatives from these cities jointly governed the new community now called Naukratis. Greek ships were banned from landing anywhere else in Egypt for trade. The colony thus became the primary site of exchange between Greeks and Egyptians. Trade connections brought people of many different backgrounds to Naukratis and connected its people to a wider world. One visitor was Charaxos, the brother of the poet Sappho, who traded wine from his home city Mytilene to Naukratis. He met a slave courtesan there, a Thracian woman named Rhodopis who had been brought to Egypt by her Samian owner. Charaxos fell in love with Rhodopis, bought her, and freed her, after which she chose to remain in Naukratis to ply her trade. To celebrate the fortune she had amassed in her work, Rhodopis later made a rich dedication at Delphi in Greece. A hieroglyphic inscription on a stele erected by the pharaoh Nectanebo in the fourth century, dedicating revenues from Naukratis to the temple of Neith, shows that the pharaohs kept an active interest in the administration of the colony. Naukratis retained its importance and trading privileges after the Persian Empire conquered Egypt in 525. It continued to welcome not only traders but tourists and other travelers, like Herodotus, who visited Egypt and whose writings record the existence of a local industry of tour guides and interpreters. The Greeks who settled in Egypt did not exist in isolation but had productive relationships with traders, artisans, and the ruling class alike.

The interactions in and around Naukratis are a window into the complexity of the colonial world. There were Greeks trading with Egyptians, but also Phoenicians making knockoffs of Egyptian art, Greeks assimilating into Egyptian culture, Thracians and Carians negotiating the needs of Egyptian and Greek patrons, and Egyptians making a living off showing the wonders of their country to curious foreigners. Interactions like these were happening all around the Mediterranean. There is no simple way to describe Greek relations with non-Greek peoples in the archaic and classical periods because those relations were never simple.

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed some of my posts about ancient trade connections, the diversity of ancient armies, individuals crossing cultural boundaries, modern peoples’ attempts to claim ancient peoples’ identities for themselves, and the variety of different kinds of “barbarian” you may find something to enjoy in Barbarians in the Greek and Roman World.

Barbarians in the Greek and Roman World comes out in September from Hackett Publishing.

Hardcover: $48 / Paperback: $16

You can pre-order directly from Hackett or on Amazon.

Image: Barbarians paperback cover by Hackett Publishing

Announcements from your hosts.