The World of Christian Cameron

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Glossary Related to the Long War Series

Akinakes — A Scythian short sword or long knife, also sometimes carried by Medes and Persians.
Andron — The “men’s room” of a proper Greek house—where men have symposia. Recent research has cast real doubt as to the sexual exclusivity of the room, but the name sticks.
Apobatai — The Chariot Warriors. In many towns—towns that hadn’t used chariots in warfare for centuries—the Apobatai were the elite three hundred or so. In Athens, they competed in special events; in Thebes, they may have been the forerunners of the Sacred Band.
Archon — A city’s senior official, or in some cases, one of three or four. A magnate.
Aspis — The Greek hoplite’s shield (which is not called a hoplon!). The aspis is about a yard in diameter, is deeply dished (up to six inches deep) and should weigh between eight and sixteen pounds.

Basilieus — An aristocratic title from a bygone era (at least in 500 BC) that means “king” or “lord.”
Bireme— A warship rowed by two tiers of oars, as opposed to a trireme which has three tiers.

Chiton — the standard tunic for most men, made by taking a single continuous piece of cloth and folding it in half, pinning the shoulders and open side. Can be made quite fitted by means of pleating. Often made of very fine quality material – usually wool, sometimes linen, especially in the upper classes. A full chiton was ankle–length for men and women.
Chitoniskos — A small chiton, usually just longer than modesty demanded – or not as long as modern modesty would demand! Worn by warriors and farmers, often heavily bloused and very full by warriors to pad their armour. Usually wool.
Chlamys — A short cloak made by a rectangle of cloth roughly 60 by 90 inches. It could also be worn as a chiton if folded and pinned a different way. Or slept under as a blanket.
Corslet/Thorax — In 500 BC, the best corslets were made of bronze, mostly of the so-called “bell” thorax variety. A few muscle corslets appear at the end of this period, gaining popularity into the 450s. Another style is the “white” corslet seen to appear just as the Persian Wars begin – reenactors call this the “Tube and Yoke” corslet and some people call it (erroneously) the linothorax. Some of them may have been made of linen – we’ll never know – but the likelier material is Athenian leather, which was often tanned and finished with alum, thus being bright white. Yet another style was a tube and yoke of scale. A scale corslet would have been the most expensive of all, and probably provided the best protection.

Daidala — Kithairon, the mountain that towered over Plataea, was the site of a remarkable fire–festival, the Daidala, which was celebrated by the Plataeans on the summit of the mountain. In the usual ceremony, as mounted by the Plataeans in every seventh year, a wooden idol (daidalon) would be dressed in bridal robes and dragged on an ox cart from Plataea to the top of the mountain, where it would be burned after appropriate rituals. Or, in the Great Daidala, which were celebrated every forty–nine years, fourteen daidala from different Boeotian towns would be burned on a large wooden pyre heaped with brushwood, together with a cow and a bull that were sacrificed to Zeus and Hera. This huge pyre on the mountain top must have provided a most impressive spectacle; Pausanias remarks that he knew of no other flame that rose as high or could be seen from so far.

The cultic legend that was offered to account for the festival ran as follows: When Hera had once quarreled with Zeus, as she often did, she had withdrawn to her childhood home of Euboea and had refused every attempt at reconciliation. So Zeus sought the advice of the wisest man on earth, Kithairon, the eponym of the mountain, who ruled at Plataea in the earliest times. Kithairon advised him to make a wooden image of a woman, to veil it in the manner of a bride, and then to have it drawn along in an ox cart after spreading the rumour that he was planning to marry the nymph Plataea, a daughter of the River God Asopos. When Hera rushed to the scene and tore away the veils, she was so relieved to find a wooden effigy rather than the expected bride that she at last consented to be reconciled with Zeus. (Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, P. 137-38)

Daktyloi — literally digits or fingers; in common talk, “inches” in the system of measurement. Systems for measurement differed from city to city. I have taken the liberty of using just one, the Athenian units of measurement.
Despoina —Lady; A term of formal address.
Diekplous — A complex naval tactic about which some debate remains. In this book, the Diekplous or through–stroke is commenced with an attack by the ramming ship’s bow and cathead (picture the two ships approaching bow to bow or head-on) on the enemy OARS. Oars were the most vulnerable part of a fighting ship, something very difficult to imagine unless you’ve rowed in a big boat and understand how lethal your own oars can be—to you! After the attacker has crushed the enemy’s oars, he passes, flank to flank, and then turns when astern, coming up easily (the defender is almost dead in the water) and ramming the enemy under the stern or counter as desired.
Doru or Dory— A spear, about ten feet long, with a bronze butt spike and a spearhead.

Eleutheria — freedom
Ephebe — A young, free man of property. A young man in training to be a hoplite. Usually performing service to his city, and in ancient terms, at one of the two peaks of male beauty.
Eromenos — The “beloved” in a same–sex pair in ancient Greece. Usually younger, about seventeen. This is a complex, almost dangerous subject in the modern world—were these pair-bonds about sex, or chivalric love, or just a “brotherhood” of warriors? I suspect there were elements of all three. And to write about this period without discussing the eromenos/erastes bond would, I fear, be like putting all the warriors in steel armour instead of bronze…
Erastes — The “lover” in a same-sex pair bond — the older man, a tried warrior, twenty–five to thirty years old.
Eudaimonia — (Classical Greek) Literally “well-spirited.” A feeling of extreme joy.
Exhedra — The porch of the women’s quarters—in some cases, any porch over a farm’s central courtyard.

Helot — The “race of slaves” of Ancient Sparta—the conquered peoples who lived with the Spartiates and did all of their work so that they could concentrate entirely on making war and more Spartans.
Hetaera — literally a “female companion.” In ancient Athens, a Hetaera was a courtesan, a highly skilled woman who provided sexual companionship as well as fashion, political advice, and music.
Himation — A very large piece of rich, often embroidered wool, worn as an outer garment by wealthy citizen women or as a sole garment by older men, especially those in authority.
Hoplitodromos — The hoplite race, or race in armour. Two stades with an aspis on your shoulder, a helmet, and greaves in the early runs. I’ve run this race in armour. It is no picnic.
Hoplomachia — A hoplite contest, or sparring match. Again, there is enormous debate as to when hoplomachia came into existence and how much training Greek Hoplites received. One thing that they didn’t do is drill like modern soldiers–there’s no mention of it in all of Greek literature. However, they had highly evolved martial arts (see Pankration, below) and it is almost certain that Hoplomachia was a term that referred to “The martial art of fighting when fully equipped as a hoplite.”
Hoplomachos — A participant in Hoplomachia
Hypaspist — Literally “Under the shield.” A squire or military servant—by the time of Arimnestos, the hypaspist was usually a younger man of the same class as the hoplite.

Kithara — A stringed instrument of some complexity, with a hollow body as a soundboard.
Kline — A couch
Kore — A maiden or daughter
Kylix — a wide, shallow, handled bowl for drinking wine.

Logos — Literally the “Word,” in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy the word that is everything—the power beyond the gods.
Longche — A six- to seven-foot throwing spear, also used for hunting. A hoplite might carry a pair of longche, or a single, longer and heavier, dory.

Maenad — The “raving ones”; ecstatic female followers of Dionysus.
Mastos — A woman’s breast. A mastos cup is shaped like a woman’s breast with a rattle in the nipple — so when you drink, you lick the nipple and the rattle shows that you emptied the cup. I’ll leave the rest to imagination…
Medimnoi — A grain measure. Very roughly, thirty-five to a hundred pounds of grain.
Megaron— a style of building with a roofed porch.

Navarch — An admiral

Oikia — the household– all the family and all the slaves, and sometimes the animals and the farmland itself.
Opson — Whatever spread, dip, or accompaniment an ancient Greek had with bread.

Pais — A child
Palaestra — The exercise sands of the gymnasium.
Pankration — The military martial art of the ancient Greeks—an unarmed combat system that bears more than a passing resemblance to modern MMA techniques, with a series of carefully structured blows and domination holds that is, by modern standards, very advanced. Also the basis of the Greeks sword- and spear-based martial arts. Kicking, punching, and wrestling, grappling, on the ground and standing were all permitted.
Peplos — A short over-fold of cloth that women could wear as a hood or to cover the breasts.
Phylarch — A file leader – an officer commanding the four to sixteen men standing behind him in the phalanx.
Polemarch — The war leader.
Polis — The city – the basis of all Greek political thought and expression, the government that was held to be more important—a higher good—than any individual or even family. To this day, when we talk about politics, we’re talking about the “things of our city.”
Porne — A prostitute.
Porpax — The bronze or leather band that encloses the forearm on a Greek aspis.
Pyrrhiche — The “War Dance.” A line dance in armour done by all of the warriors, often very complex. There’s reason to believe that the Pyrrhiche was the method by which the young were trained in basic martial arts and by which “drill” was inculcated.
Pyxis — a box, often circular, turned from wood or made of metal.

Rhapsode — a master-poet, often a performer who told epic works like the Iliad from memory.

Satrap — A Persian ruler of a province of the Persian Empire.
Skeuophoros — Literally a “shield carrier”; unlike the hypaspist, this is a slave or freedman who does camp work and carries the armour and baggage.
Sparabara — the large wicker shield of the Persian and Mede elite infantry—also the name of those soldiers.
Spolas — Another name for a leather corslet, often used of the lion skin of Herakles.
Strategos — In Athens, the commander of one of the ten military tribes. Elsewhere, any senior Greek officer—sometimes the commanding general.
Synaspismos — The closest order that hoplites could form–so close that the shields overlap, hence “shield on shield”.

Thetes — The lowest free class—citizens with limited rights.
Thugater — daughter. Look at the word carefully and you’ll see the “daughter” in it…
Trierarch — the captain of a ship – sometimes just the owner or builder, sometimes the fighting captain.

Zone — A belt, often just rope or finely wrought cord, but could be a heavy bronze kidney belt for war.



Author’s Note

I am an amateur Greek scholar. My definitions are my own, but taken from the LSJ or Routledge’s Handbook of Greek Mythology or Smith’s Classical Dictionary. On some military issues I have the temerity to disagree with the received wisdom on the subject.