Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Trying to get a handle on fleet organisation from original sources I have compiled all numerical entries in Thucydides. Is there a relation between the size of units he describes and the number of commanders?
To see if a basic organisation underlies his information I plotted a simple scatter diagram of 'number of commanders' versus 'number of ships'.
At first sight there is a nice progression of  more ships giving more commanders.(The trend line is hand drawn)
Unfortunately the influence of the many instances when Thucydides just gives us the name of the force commander is strong. Upon removing all the solo commanders the diagram changes.
The absence of the solo-commanded forces gives a flat line focussed on forces led by 2 or 3 commanders. This is typical for the time. A leader plus one in charge of each wing or a triumvirate to encourage consultation and control in command - this is especially true of Athenian command.
Adding the whole set of 32 entries gives no better result. 
It is also apparent that Thucydides has a bias in his data. Unsurprisingly he has more information about Athenian forces than Peloponnesian.

The meaning is that basic stats will not reveal much from the information Thucydides provides. It will need a combination of basic arithmetic and textual analysis and slogging through each instance to see what they together reveal.

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