Monday 14 January 2019


I recently got an interesting edition of Ancient Warfare magazine. VolXII Issue 4. It is a special edition dealing with Successors at Sea, supposedly.
Get it HERE
I reproduce some illustrations from the article in question in the interests of  debate/criticism. The magazine is good value for money and well-produced. Buy it to see the whole thing and much else.

Many things caught my eye while reading it but none more than' THE MACHIMOI, WARRIOR SAILORS OF THE PTOLEMIES'. The title was a neon lighted misunderstanding for a kick-off. Warriors AND sailors. Tribal maritime raiders tend to be both sailors and fighters such as Vikings or Mycenaeans but Ptolemaics doing a time when soldiers, sailors and oarsmen were three different professions.... mm let's see.

Machimoi is Greek for 'warrior' meaning a lower order of personnel than well-trained/professional troops i.e. 'the rest' - the rest in Ptolemaic Egypt were also non-Greek. Not really rated as good material. In Ptolemaic Egypt 'the rest' means the nonethnic -Greek (or part-Greek) citizens. How the author of this piece knows the ethnicity of Ptolemaic 'marines' is not explained.(1)

The main ilustration of the piece is a 'marine machairophoros'. Obscurantist language which is unecessary to entitle a man armed with a machaira if that is what one means. A machaira is a single-edged slashing sword or knife. This man is armed with a gladius. Why the contradiction? Why is he not a gladiophoros ? Or even a kopisophoros or even a xiphophoros ? This is a common trope in Osprey type books where a name must be found for an ancient troop type because soldier or spearman is not considered good enough. An ancient language must be invoked for authenticity.
MACHISMOs ? Not in that dress.Nice bracelet.
 Next, let's see what the latest style is this Spring for our machimos/machairaphoros.

The well-dressed machimos apparently wears padded or quilted armour. This is a sleeveless garment with a high round neck and vertical stitching. The author suggests this is a multi-layer garment made 'thickly padded' with wool or cotton. He uses the terms kasas and bambakos for this garment. Kasas is apparently Egyptian but we get no information as to what it means. Bambakos is a Greek term for padded armour known from the Byzantine period and this word just means 'stuffed' or 'padded'.
Bambakioi a go go. In the Byzntine era.
 Why this man wears this garment is an interesting story.

The author presents two pieces of evidence which are used to support the synthesis of this garment.

First is a fragment of an oil lamp from the British Museum which was found in Egypt. Here this fragment is said to show 'the padded garments of the soldiers'.

Second is a wall fresco from Kom Madi, illustrated from 'archaeologist Guidotti' - no further reference given.(3) This shows a procession of men with near identical equipment to each other. The procession illustrated is purported to show the deification of Alexander the Great.The author has decided the men shown are 'naval soldiers who seem to be wearing completely padded or quilted armour.'
Third, there is reference in the article to 'Roman triumphal monuments' but these are not further discussed or illustrated. Again, they are said to show 'naval soldiers who seem to be wearing completely padded or quilted armour.' (what could incompletely padded mean ?) illustration of Romans in quilted armour on triumphal monuments.......

Lets have a closer look.

The lamp fragment is dated to 20BC to 20AD and is considered to refer to the Battle of Actium. (4)
It is 6 by 5 cm in size.It may be copied from Italian originals. If we examine it do we see soldiers with padded armour or do we see barely defined figures. One of which has a tunic with folds. All have Attic-type helmets and long shields which may be rectanguler or oval. One is holding a short sword en garde. 
foto Guy Ulrich and B.M.

You have to make your own mind up if this is a special padded garment or simple illustration of the folds of a tunic.  As indicated in many other works.

  In the absence of any supporting evidence I would suggest there is no evidence of a special garment. The author has form for seeing padded garments instead of clothing folds.
 This type of lamp was mass produced. A negative mould was made in burnt clay or plaster. Raw clay was pressed into the form to impress the decoration, pulled out, and trimmed and fired to make the finished item. The areas for decoration are small. The finished item has to survive the production process unscathed and we must still consider how far it represented reality in its pristine state. The impression can be incomplete or distorted. Time and use can also do their work.

Many items show figures with folded cloth represented like this. Another lamp.......
MON AMOR OR MON ARMOUR ? - armoured matresses must be solid, durable, absorbent?

The wall fresco has no demonstrated connection with 'naval infantry'. The men all have pleated garments. But are they padded armour?

If we look at the figure - he has 7 vertical lines of stitching on his 'quilted armour'. If we look at the fresco the men have 10/11 strips on their torso and 15/16 on the skirt- The skirt reaches the knee and is full. The illustration has a short stiff skirt - as a quilted armour garment must be. The 'quilting' on the fresco run down off the shoulder of the men as if they are loose fabric. The illustration is given an armless garment ' to allow the arms to move more freely'.
 It is difficult to see how the fresco garments have any relation to the synthesised illustration at all.

I make replica jewellery. There is a basic law that a copy will always lose detail. Anything gained is noise. If one does not count repeated ornament elements carefully one cannot make a replica, just a 'similar-ish' thingy. Or, the lowest blow - ' imaginative reconstruction'/ 'artists impression'.               True replication or re-creation is something different from this.  Dare I say it.

Third. Roman triumphal monuments. ?  ...?  ..? Waiting...

The last details of the synthesised figure are his sword and shield.
The sword is taken from an Egyptian find which is as good an example of a 'Spanish' sword or gladius as one could hope to see. Perfect for our 'machairophoros' ? The sword they are shown with on the fresco is actually much more interesting !!!!!! It is like a cross between a rhomphaia and a machaira. Write about that ! It is interesting !  It is Egyptian ......!!!???? Possibly a khepesh?

The shield of the illustration is a round 'leather covered' shield with a simple small boss and a centre grip. No reference for this is given. But for some reason it was not suitable to try and recreate the shield of either the lamp soldiers or the fresco soldiers. Eh?!

Oh , and 'small boots' complete the equipment. Hopefully not too small for his feet ? Ouch.

The boots are important, because they are the only item accurately represented from the fresco.

The text with the illustration again says .. 'the wool/felt/cotton armour, visible on a variety of monuments.' Which ones ? One asks.
 Back to the frescoes. The fresco warriors have what in any other context one would describe as thureos type shields common in the  Hellenistic world. But we have no date for this fresco.....
The fresco warriors also carry what can only be described as machaira if they were in a Hellenistic context. These men can be described as machairophoroi. Contrary to the synthesised illustration. Now, how about changing that word to 'invented' or 'hypothesised'. Certainly not 'reconstructed'.
The last detail is quite revealing. The extreme left figure is not armed as far as we can see. It also looks feminine. Possibly a priest or aristocrat or royalty? Anyway, this figure has its clothing depicted in the same way as the 'naval soldiers'. But it is longer. Is this another example of special quilted armour?. So long one could not walk in it? Or is it a figure in a long robe/tunic - meaning the figures all wear loose pleated -folded garments suitable for the Egyptian climate? Or of rich stuff?
Oh yes, imagine being a 'naval soldier' in quilted armour in Egypt. The Crusaders found it ...warm...And if one ended in the drink... lots of absorbent stuff there.... not good. Although the lack of protection for the arms in a fight would mitigate the tendency to sink or cook, maybe.

The rest of the article discusses Ptolemaic sea power. It is brief and debateable. Did the Ptolemaic kingdom spend 80% of its wealth on the military ? Did the Ptolemaic navy undergo a revolution because or to avoid impressment ? That  'the ethnic composition of the marines, officers naval troops(what are they?!) and sailors was typical of the Hellenistic Age' is difficult to dispute. But then the author states that officers were mostly Greeks. .........

The final point is that the author has decided that the men on the fresco are Egyptian rather than Greek.  How he does this is not apparent. The colour of the man in the illustration is much darker than the flesh tone of the fresco.

Way to go signor D'Amato. For it is he.

Left: Imagination -
Right : Pre-Ptolemaic Super-Heavy Egyptian lotusophoros.
Note quilted armour that appears surprisingly light and handy to wear.

3: The reference to Guidotti is as follows - from World Cat
Bresciani, E. (2003). Kom Madi 1977 e 1978: Le pitture murali del cenotafio di Alessandro Magno. Pisa: ETS.
4: Williams, H. 1981 A ship ofActium on a Roman Lamp-. IJNAUE 10.1

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