sexta-feira, 30 de julho de 2010

Character Series nº 3 - Alcibiades

(Part III)

The good news: I have a perfectly good excuse for missing the last two deadlines for posting this wonderful and well researched historic text - I was enjoying a vacation in a land "Far-Far-Away-From-The-Office" (and it is only in my office that I can find inspiration for doing this, and a good reason for doing no work at all).
The bad news: The vacation is over.

Now that I got this out of my system, I can proceed with the story of good old AL.

(The Sicilian Expedition)

Those of you that bothered to read my last post noticed that at some point in the Peloponnesian War, AL managed to get himself a nomination as military commander of the Athenian forces. And together with Nicias and Lamachus, our boy AL was one of the leaders of that strange military endeavour known as the Sicilian Expedition, which took place between 415 and 413 BC.
As always, Thucydides gives us a very interesting insight of the motivations behind this endeavour, and how at that time (as nowadays) men usually manage to use reason and logical arguments to justify the elimination of the dangers inherent to a course of action they most prefer and resort to the most absurd and illogical considerations to justify their preferences.
This was precisely the case, regarding the Sicilian Expedition, where the Athenian Empire made full use of its resources and allies to organize a magnificent and well equipped fleet and army (the largest ever organized by a Greek city state), in what (in their mind) promised to be a military promenade to distant Sicily, without due regard to the numerous and powerful enemies they still had right in their backdoor - The Spartans and their allies.

And AL played his part in justifying this adventure.

As usual in such cases, his motivations where - without a doubt - purely selfish. This guy was used to a lavish and luxurious life style, and that particular expedition promised to become a fountain of gold and silver - for him. Once a guy starts reading about historic events related to war, mostly, if not always, there is this common denomination: there is always someone set to make a huge profit from war, without the minimum regard to the pain and sufferings caused by it to thousands or even millions of human beings.
And, also almost invariably, this objective is disguised under patriotic, religious or other "political correct" motives, that help motivate the masses to the slaughter.
It so happens that in this case AL's objectives were frustrated - by his own doing. Just before the expedition started, someone thought it would be fun to decapitate the Hermai (plural) extant in Athens. The Herma (singular) were stone sculptures with a human head above a plain squared lower section, that also had male genitals carved at the appropriate height. These sculptures had a significant religious and social meaning in Athens at the time and the decapitation performed on the lower head (...) of the sculptures caused much consternation.
This (together with another episode called the violation of the Eleusinian Mysteries, also imputed to AL) caused some serious uproar at the time and, in my opinion, this is also just the sort of thing that good old Al would do just for fun, while on a drunken rampage - although he denied it at the time. Just remember the facts (I only mentioned some) you read about AL in my first post, regarding his idea of fun.
Well, since AL had the full support of the fleet/army at the time, his enemies in Athens did not manage to prevent him from setting sail to Sicily. But they started his public trial just after the departure of the military forces and AL was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death. A special trireme was sent after the fleet to find him and bring him back to Athens to face his fate.
However, AL was not a man that was ready to face a fate he could not influence. Therefore he got the "Hell out of Dodge", before anyone could catch him.
Can you guess where he went and hide ? To Sparta!
And the strange thing is that they welcomed him!
Once again, in time those poor Spartans would have serious reasons to regret that merciful act.
I will tell you all about of these days.

quinta-feira, 15 de julho de 2010

Wellington in Defence 1810 - Publicação

Para deleite de alguns camaradas da Brigada Tripeira, aqui fica a informação relativa à publicação de uma obra repleta de imagens, cujo tema é a Batalha do Buçaco, ou do "Bussaco".

Pode ser adquirido em:

Aqui fica a informação do editor.

Wellington in Defence 1810
Bussaco and the Lines of Torres Vedras
Charles S Grant
ISBN: 978-1-85818-605-4
160 pages, well illustrated
248mm x 168mm

As Wellington’s victorious army retired from Talavera towards the Portuguese border and into winter quarters in late 1809, news reached Wellington that the French war with Austria was over. The obvious conclusion was that the Emperor could once more turn his attention and his armies to the Peninsula next year. A third invasion of Portugal by France could be anticipated in 1810.

Now we see Wellington not just as a great tactical commander but as a strategist of the first order. Anticipating the French invasion, Wellington sent a memorandum to Colonel Fletcher, his Engineer officer, giving instruction in great secrecy for the construction of a series of defences that were to become known as the Lines of Torres Vedras.

Wellington in Defence – 1810 describes the defence of Portugal against Massena, the Light Division’s action at the Coa Bridge, the battle of Bussaco and the formidable Lines of Torres Vedras which brought the French invasion to a halt. As with previous books in the series, much of the story is told through extracts from firsthand accounts.

The uniforms of the British and French armies are covered in details and in this volume special attention has been paid to the Portuguese Army. Bob Marrion has provided more than 40 new illustrations to bring the uniforms, both regulation and campaign dress, to life.

Wellington in Defence – 1810 continues this series on Wellington’s campaigns, marking the 200th Anniversary of both Bussaco and Torres Vedras.

PS: Por uma questão de curiosidade e como prova de que esta batalha foi importante, vejam a moeda em prata comemorativa e editada na República de Palau.


sexta-feira, 9 de julho de 2010

Character Series nº 3 - Alcibiades

(Part II)

And here we are folks, the dream you have all been dreaming of: a chance to read another fantastic post in this wonderful Series!
Maybe some of you thought I had forgotten all about this gig; that I was lazy; that I did not deserve to write this kind of nonsense in this most elevated and cultured web space... Well, I hope I am wrong about these thoughts of yours, otherwise you guys will be getting into serious trouble with me. In extremis, I might even ask  MM to let his wild cat loose on you!
By the way: MM, when are we getting more pics of your cat? At least we can see all his details clearly - I cannot say the same about most of your 1/300 models paint jobs ;-)

Enough about trivial matters. AL's story is waiting to be told!

I will be mentioning a few facts in this post that can only be understood if you already know something about that momentum event that took place in the V century B.C.: The Peloponnesian War (431-404)! For those of you that do not know anything about it, this would be a good time to start. On the other hand, you can do as JF usually does: ignore this history investigation thing, and continue reading.

By 425 B.C. Athens had the upper hand, in the war being waged by the Athenian Empire against the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. As you all know (this is wishful thinking...) Sparta and her allies were more numerous and powerful in land forces. The skill and prowess of the Spartan hoplites was already well established. The Athenian edge lay on the sea. Her fleet was huge and her sailors were among the best in the ancient world. In 425 B.C. Athens managed to secure a foothold in Spartan territory, more precisely in the peninsula of Pylos, in the province of Messenia (south-western Peloponnesus). The Pylos campaign (battles of Pylos and Sphacteria) brought Athens numerous advantages, in military and moral terms. They not only defeated and captured large numbers of Spartan (about 400) hoplites, but also created a focus for the defection of the helots (a large population enslaved by Sparta). These factors contributed to depress the fighting spirit of the Spartans, and combined with a few others made them do the unthinkable at the start of the war: sue for peace.
With this in mind, a delegation from Sparta arrived in Athens, claiming to have full powers to negotiate a peace treaty. Well, our boy AL was against any kind of peace, since it could only drastically reduce his unlimited political and personal ambitions.
Therefore, AL persuaded the Spartan delegates to deny in the presence of the Assembly of the Athenian people, sheduled to convene to appreciate the peace proposal, that  they had full plenipotentiary powers to negotiate. He also claimed that, by doing so, he would be in the position to obtain the favour of the Athenians in order to conclude a peace treaty in very favourable terms to Sparta.
Well, those poor delegates believed him.
In the day of the Assembly, the Spartan delegates denied having plenipotentiary powers, in reply to a question made by AL himself. Imediatly after that, AL went on a rampage, publicly calling the delegates untrustworthy liars, because they dared appear before the Athenian people to negotiate a peace treaty, without having full powers to that effect.
Very nice, huh? 
With the Spartan delegates thoroughly humiliated and the Athenians full of confidence in victory, peace became a forlorn hope.

Well, with whom do you think some guys in politics nowadays learned to say one thing and do precisely the opposite? With good old AL, of course!

This way Athens lost a golden opportunity to negotiate a very favourable peace treaty, while on the upper hand. A similar opportunity would not appear in this war, with gruesome consequences to the Athenian Empire.
But AL got what he wanted: public recognition as defender of the State interests and a nomination as military commander. And he set about promoting and organizing what would prove to be another cataclysmic event to Athens - The Sicilian Expedition.

Hopefully, you will know more about in in my next post.