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Et ex Arcadia ego

N. Fields (University of Edinburgh)

 

— x —

 

He a poore mercenary serves for bread
George Sandys

 

Throughout history pastoral economies and areas of mountain and poor soil, which invariably go together, have been providers of surplus manpower and thus prime recruiting grounds for large bodies of mercenaries: Switzerland is a notable example from the early modern period. According to J.R. Sallares the demographic consequences of mercenary service should not be underestimated. In the early modern period mortality among Swiss mercenaries mopped up thirty-five to forty per cent of the natural increase of the population of the Swiss cantons.1 In one year alone, 1495, despite the formal prohibitions issued by the Diet of Cantons, 20,000 Swiss — around one fifth of the total male population of the Confederation — came down the alpine passes looking to enrol as mercenaries in the French army of Charles VIII, which was then campaigning in northern Italy.2 Having recently secured the independence of their country from the Burgundians and the Habsburgs, the Swiss were now poised to hire themselves out as mercenaries in just about every army in Europe, a trend that was to continue for the next three hundred years. As the late sixteenth-century English traveller, Fynes Moryson, noted:

Nature and necessity have framed them [the Swiss] to the warre, for a mountainous region, and woody ... breedes a rude people, patient of hardnesse, and of warlike disposition, and as taller trees and larger cattle, so stronger bodies of man, so as they seem to be borne souldiers.3

Switzerland was in effect a nation of mercenaries, indeed one whose whole raison d’être was supplying mercenaries. “Borne souldiers”, mercenary service for the Swiss was a useful supplement to their frugal way of life. And so, the factor of poverty gave way to a sense of vocation, example, tradition and government encouragement. Some bands were pledged by cantons, which had signed capitulations with foreign rulers, whereas in other cases it was individual captains who negotiated and recruited. Nevertheless, both methods were carried out within a framework of arrangements made by the Diet and mercenary service soon became a source of income for the cantons.

Like the Swiss, the Arcadians were tough mountaineers from an impoverished region, and, like the Swiss, they constantly served abroad as mercenaries. Lykomedes of Mantineia, the first leader of the Arcadians after the establishment of the Arcadian League in 369/8 BC, is reputed to have boasted: “When anyone wants mercenaries, they choose Arcadians second to none” (Xen. Hell. 7.1.23). In the same inaugural speech, Lykomedes also claims that the Arcadians were the most populous ethnic group in Greece, the strongest physically, and the bravest of peoples.4 Although his points form the backbone of a political statement, Lykomedes’ sentiments are echoed across the centuries and their like can be read in Baedeker’s travelogue entry for the Arcadian town of Dhimitsana:

As in many other mountain communities of Arcadia, its inhabitants have become more numerous than the land can maintain, and many of them emigrate to Athens or even abroad as traders or artisans.5

There is, of course, a subtle difference here: the Arcadian emigrants of Lykomedes’ day were artisans of war and not cobblers, blacksmiths, carpenters or labourers. Paradoxically, literary Arcadia is an idyllic, abundant landscape, a place of nymphs and shepherds, of poetry and music, where love, not survival, is the dominant concern of its inhabitants. The prime objective of this paper, therefore, is to explain why Arcadia was the main supplier of Greek mercenaries during the archaic and classical periods.

 

 

The geo-political landscape

 

The simple mannered delights of “Arcady” are the creation of late and sophisticated folk seeking to retreat from the pressures and complexities of urban life, but Arcadia has always been, and still is, a pastoral country.6 Her stock epithet in ancient literature was “of the many sheep” (Il. *B 605; Hes. Her. 1; To Pan 29; Bacch. 38.94-5; Pind. Ol. 6.100; Theoc. 22.157; Anth. Pal. 73.5), while her people were traditionally portrayed as “acorn-eaters” (Alc. fr. 54 Edmonds; Hdt. 1.66; Paus. 8.1.6; 42.6; Artem. 2.25; Philostr. VA 8.7, cf. Od. E 242).7 Likewise, her warriors were seen as wild and uncouth highlanders who would rush headlong into battle wearing only the skins of wolves, bears or sheep (Paus. 4.11.3, cf. 8.1.5). Polybios, himself an Arcadian, calls his fellow countrymen “primitive” (4.21.2), while Strabon, a non-Arcadian, describes them as “wholly mountaineers” (8.1.2). Although this simplicity of the Arcadian character was to be idealised by Roman poets, the Arcadians did not possess an equal reputation for intelligence. Juvenal calls a blockhead an “Arcadian youth” (7.160), and even as late as the third century AD we witness Philostratos describing the Arcadians as “the most boorish of men” who lived in “squalor” (VA 8.7.12). Mountaineers they unquestionably were, but to characterise the Arcadian as a simple and uncultivated person was a convenient caricature and should not be taken too seriously. In reality, the land of the Arcadians is still one of hard beauty, situated as it is in the elevated centre of the Peloponnese and ringed by an irregular bulwark of elevated folded-limestone mountains, which, until fairly recently, were the habitat of numerous bears, wolves, polecats and even jackals.

The western and eastern parts of Arcadia differ considerably in their physical features. In the former the mountains are wild, lofty and bleak, closely piled upon one another and possessing valleys that are so deep that even today travel is difficult. Here and there is an abundance of permanent rivers fed by numerous streams and springs, the whole region being drained by the Alpheios, the principal river of the Peloponnese. On all gentle slopes there is good soil cover and the natural vegetation is comparatively luxuriant: at higher elevations cling fir trees, while lower down there are deciduous oak to be found. The one exception to all this ruggedness is the plain of Megalopolis, which lies in the heart of south-west Arcadia, a moderately hilly basin stretched either side of the Alpheios. The surface of this plain is diversified with copses and undulating downs and hillocks, refreshed by numerous streams shaded with plane trees and oak. Even with the arrival of the Megalopolis power-station complex and the recent expansion of the modern town, the whole plain is still notable for its sylvan beauty. In contrast, the Mantiniki dominates the eastern region of Arcadia, a bare monotonous flat upland plain unrelieved by trees (apart from cultivated deciduous fruit trees) or rivers enclosed by an amphitheatre of steep barren mountains.8 Similar, albeit smaller, plains lie to its north, and as a consequence, almost all the major Arcadian poleis — Tegea, Mantineia, Orchomenos, Kleitor, Pheneos, Alea and Stymphalos — were situated in this region.

It was this rugged alpine terrain that went a long way towards preventing any one Arcadian polis from dominating another in the way, for example, Thebes dominated all Boiotia. In particular, the Mantiniki and its water supply was usually squabbled over by two inveterate rivals, the poleis of Tegea and Mantineia (Thuc. 5.65.4, cf. 4.134.2). Tegea commanded the southern half of this plain and barred the direct route into Lakonia, while Mantineia — whose existence very much depended on the maintenance of the neighbouring sink-holes — held sway over the northern end.9 Further north, Orchomenos, from its acropolis perched high between two enclosed upland plains, was able to control the surrounding region and the mountain passes to Corinth. This control, however, could easily be curtailed if Orchomenos’ more powerful southern neighbour, Mantineia, flexed its muscles, or if matters went badly for the polis during one of the many border skirmishes it fought with Kleitor, a rival polis to the north-west (e.g. Xen. Hell. 5.4.36). Since the Arcadians were not united by any political league, and rarely acted in concert until the foundation of Megalopolis in 369/8 BC, their history down to this date is the local history of their individual poleis and village settlements.

If the mountainous character of Arcadia has never really been favourable to the forming of one central ruling power, it has also prevented foreign powers from dominating it. The connections of Arcadia with the outside world were scarce, and somewhat limited to the eastern and south-western regions only. The natural obstacles that separate Arcadia from the Isthmus, the Argolid and Lakonia were, until the opening of the Corinth-Tripolis highway in January 1991, a hindrance to regular and easy communications. The isolated position of inland Peloponnesian states was clearly stressed in a speech of the Corinthians to the assembly of the Peloponnesian League in 432 BC (Thuc. 1.120.2), a point taken up by both Strabon (8.8.1) and Pausanias (8.1.3) when they specifically mention Arcadia.

Although they bowed to Sparta’s orders as to the dispositions of their military forces as members of the Peloponnesian League, the Arcadians maintained their collective independence and never became Sparta’s obedient allies during the fifth and early fourth centuries BC. The Mantiniki, Arcadia’s largest plain, was directly linked with the Eurotas valley through the northern Lakonian hills by at least two major routes. Other routes out of this upland plain gave access to the Megalopolis plain to the south-west and thence Messenia, to Hysiai and Argos to the east, and to Orchomenos to the north. It was desirable, therefore, for Sparta to have the poleis of Mantineia and Tegea subservient to her interests. These were the two leading Arcadian states that, unless policed, could often establish hegemony over the smaller and weaker Arcadian settlements, which would, in turn, threaten Sparta’s vital domination of the Peloponnesian League (Thuc. 4.134.1-2; 5.28.3-29.2; 33.1-3; 81.1). Hence the Mantiniki often became the cockpit in which pro- and anti-Spartan alliances settled their differences, as in 418, 370/69 and 362 BC.10 Moreover, the existence of Mantineia was important because the security of its walls encouraged Mantineian autonomy in foreign policy and the development of an independent democratic political system (Xen. Hell. 5.2.1-2, cf. Thuc. 5.29.1). It was after the Persian Wars, according to Strabon (8.3.2), that both Mantineia and Tegea synoecised out of their respective village settlements, and it is this event that can be linked with the anti-Spartan movement that culminated in the battle of Tegea (Hdt. 9.35). Conversely, when synoecism led to the adoption of a democratic constitution, life in village settlements fostered oligarchic rule and thus encouraged loyalty to Sparta’s own interests (Paus. 8.8.9, 10; Xen. Hell. 5.2.7; 6.4.18, cf. 5.3-5).

Pausanias recalls (8.53.10) how the Tegeans once beat the Spartans because of the bitter and unforgiving Arcadian weather conditions:

As it was snowing, they [the Spartans] were chilled, and thus distressed by their armour ... [the Tegeans] untroubled by the cold donned, they say, their armour, went out against the Lakedaimonians, and had the better of the engagement.

It is Arcadia’s most famous son, Polybios, who writes (4.21.1) that the harshness of the Arcadian character was the direct result of “the cold and gloomy atmospheric conditions” that prevail in Arcadia. It has been argued that the pattern of inter-annual climatic variability in ancient Greece was very similar to the modern pattern.11 Today, the mountains and high plateaux of Arcadia have an alpine climate in modified form, and so, as elsewhere (e.g. the Pindhos), the altitude modifies the intense summer heat and lowers the winter temperatures sufficiently for much of the precipitation to fall as snow. The seasonal distribution of rainfall is transitional in type, and though summer is the season of minimal rainfall the summer drought is not complete as in other parts of Greece with showers a common occurrence. Heavy and continuous rain is frequent in autumn and winter, while rainstorms break all year round on the loftier ranges. When the redoubtable Colonel Leake rode through Arcadia he made the following observation:

There is, indeed, a great difference between the maritime climate of the Peloponnesus and that of the Arcadian mountains. “E’ un’ aria troppo rigida” observed to me the Ragusan consul at Methoni, speaking of the interior of the peninsula. The average climate of Arcadia is in fact cooler, by several degrees, than that of the consul’s native town, though the latter is situated so much farther north.12

In general, the altitude of Arcadia and its enclosed mountain setting result in annual mean temperatures as low as those of parts of northern Greece.13 In particular, this low temperature affects the winter growing season, especially if we consider that days of frost can easily extend into the month of April.14 And so, in Thucydides’ catalogue of fertile regions, which certainly included the Peloponnese (Thuc. 1.2.3, cf. Hdt. 7.102), Arcadia is omitted.

 

 

The human landscape

 

It would appear that Arcadia, with its wild, lofty and bleak terrain, was a place to get away from. Nevertheless, not every Arcadian was equally likely to become an emigrant, let alone a mercenary. Mobility tends to be the last resort, with movement abroad frequently signalling final abandonment of the old way of life for pastures new. Tegean colonists, according to Arcadian tradition (Conon 26 FGrHist F 36; Paus. 8.53.4), crossed over to Crete and founded the polis of Gortyn. Other Arcadians, in this case of unspecified provenance, built a polis that retained the ethnic of its founding fathers “Arcades”. This particular settlement can be traced from the protogeometric period onwards.15 Herodotos mentions (7.90) that some of the inhabitants of Cyprus originated from Arcadia. Other Arcadian overseas settlements from the period of Greek colonisation, however, are not evident.

Christian Callmer argues that a fifth-century BC population explosion in Arcadia forced many Arcadians to become mercenaries and this hypothesis could help explain why, unlike many other parts of the Greek world, Arcadia had so few colonies.16 Of course, this particular population explosion does not coincide with the period of colonisation, it occurs much later, yet there is evidence to suggest Arcadian mercenaries were common even as early as the archaic period if not earlier. Already, lord Agapenor, under the banner of Agamemnon, had led to Troy his Arcadians who were, even in those most fabled and ancient times, famed as excellent warriors (Il. B 611). Strabon, quoting Ephoros of Kyme, says (5.2.4) that both Greeks and barbarians alike had attested Arcadian martial skills since the very dawn of history. Earlier in his work Strabon makes a general observation in which he claims that “the cold mountainous regions [of Europe] furnished by nature only a wretched existence to their inhabitants”. Strabon expands upon this observation and makes the interesting comment that in the mountainous parts of Europe “everything tends to make men warlike and courageous” (2.5.26). In other words, the dearth of Arcadian colonies could best be explained by the following hypothesis. Prior to the fifth century BC there already existed a long tradition of Arcadians’ serving overseas as mercenaries. To these generations of men, with a reputation as hardy warriors second to none, mercenary service was a necessary response to Arcadia’s harsh physical environment, which, like most rugged and mountainous lands, yielded little in terms of human sustenance or material wealth.

The ancient sources, unfortunately, give little away with regards to the human landscape of Arcadia, and what little they do give tends to be conflicting. One early fourth-century BC decree (IG V2 3.1-2) provides evidence that in Arcadia livestock formed a part of every farmer’s strategy, and here should be mentioned the Arcadian coins that bear livestock motifs on their reverse face.17 Alternatively, a late fourth-century BC decree (IG V2 3.6) deals with the restoration of Tegean exiles by Alexander III, many of whom, incidentally, may have been mercenaries serving the Great King of Persia. One of its provisions allows each repatriated Tegean a dwelling with a garden (vegetable plot?). In his account of the siege of Mantineia, namely that conducted by the Spartan king Agesipolis in the summer of 385 BC, Xenophon (Hell. 5.2.4) makes reference to Mantineia’s grain supply, which was in abundance owing to the bumper harvest of the previous year. In his account of Second Mantineia, Xenophon remarks there were cattle grazing and labourers toiling outside Mantineia’s walls. Whether or not these labourers were hired or slave labour is not made clear, but Xenophon does say (Hell. 7.5.14-15, cf. 6.5.15) that the entire population was out working the fields. From Polybios (4.21.1) we learn explicitly that the Arcadians worked the fields themselves; perhaps this is what Perikles was referring to when he insultingly called the Peloponnesians “ones who work their land themselves”, in other words poor farmers (Thuc. 1.141.3). Perhaps there is evidence for a changing landscape, for in a late second century AD source, Philostratos (VA 8.7.12), Arcadia is seen as a region of grassland and forest. Equally, it is now populated with “a great many labourers, many goat-herds and swine-herds, and shepherds and drivers either for the oxen or the horses ... and wood-cutters, a craft to which they are trained from boyhood”. Strabon (8.8.1) may have identified this transformation some two hundred or so years earlier. It was then that the geographer had confessed to his lack of knowledge of Arcadia because of “the complete devastation of the country” through the recent civil wars, namely those of the last years of the Roman Republic. In earlier days, he explains, Arcadia had been noted for its cities, although the “tillers of the soil” had disappeared with the foundation of Megalopolis. This phenomenon, if indeed he is correct, might explain why Strabon saw many pastures for cattle, asses and horses, the last being a “most excellent breed”.18 Varro (2.1.14; 7.1, cf. Plaut. Asin. 2.2.67; Pers. 3.9; Plin. nat. 8.68), likewise, notes that Arcadia was famed for its horses, adding that its mules and asses were especially esteemed.

Although it is difficult to imagine what would have been the state of the Arcadian landscape in antiquity, it seems highly probable that Arcadian poleis and settlements were characterised by their pastoral life, with a small amount of arable farming and perhaps some hunting.19 It is particularly instructive to note the Arcadian bronze statuettes of the archaic period representing peasant-farmers and shepherds. A number of these are dressed in high felt hat or conical leather cap, short embroidered cloak or tunic and a pair of stout walking boots. A few are armed with hefty sticks or crooks. Some have discarded cloak, tunic and boots, but not the hat, which was, and still is, a necessary protection against the blistering summer sun. Others appear wrapped from head to foot in heavy sheepskin cloak, pinned at the throat with a large pin — appropriate protection against the hard Arcadian winters.20 In addition, there are a few that represent certain deities in the likeness of Arcadian shepherds and Arcadian women. More important, perhaps, are those statuettes burdened with animals: a ram tucked under an arm, a calf laid across the shoulders, or a dead fox carried by its tail. Seventy-five per cent of these statuettes were discovered in south-west Arcadia around Mount Lykaios. A few came to light in the sanctuary of Zeus Lykaios itself, but the bulk of them were unearthed at Berekla, the probable site of a sanctuary to Pan as attested by Pausanias (8.38. 5).21 Two of the statuettes from this region were found in the sanctuary of Pan at Melpea, near to the modern village of Andritsaina, and, unusually for Arcadian bronzes, are inscribed. One, a shepherd in a conical felt hat and fringed cloak with tassels, bears the inscription: “Dedicated to Pan by Phauleas”. The second, a similar bronze shepherd, has the simple inscription: “To Pan from Aineias”.22 Both Xenophon (An. 4.7.13; Hell. 7.3.1) and Pindar (Ol. 6.88) attest Aineias as an Arcadian name; it is particularly rare outside the Peloponnese.

Traditionally, Arcadia was the favourite haunt of the pastoral god Pan, his birthplace being Mount Mainalon (Paus. 8.36.8). The cult of Pan was especially strong throughout the whole region: grottoes, springs, blasted trees and crags being particularly sacred to him. Not only was Pan commonly represented on later Arcadian League coins, but also the region abounded in sanctuaries and altars dedicated to him.23 It appears, therefore, that the bronze statuettes were dedicated by the Arcadians in their own likeness and left to stand, in the main, in a shrine sacred to Pan, “lord of Arcadia” and guardian of flocks and herds. However, although most of these bronzes represent Arcadian shepherds and peasant-farmers, occasionally Hermes himself, god of flocks and herds, is portrayed. Hermes, if not naked, is usually in typical Arcadian garb and carries a ram, in which case he is only distinguishable from his worshippers by his badge of office, the wings on his boots or on his cap.24 Hermes, again according to tradition, was also born in Arcadia, either on Mount Kerkaios or on Mount Kyllene. At the former location the god had two temples dedicated to him, and here he was respected as “the ram-bearer” and “the foremost fighter”.25 As a final point here, Pausanias notes (8.42.11, cf. 37.1) that the offerings from the Phigaleians to Demeter — Mount Elaios, hard by Phigaleia in south-west Arcadia, has a cave sacred to the goddess — not only included grapes, cultivated fruits and honeycombs, but also “raw wool still full of its grease”.

As already noted, in antiquity Arcadia was noted for its many flocks and herds. Although ovicapines are less efficient converters of plant matter into meat than pigs or cattle, they do have valuable secondary uses. Herd management geared towards wool and milk production is certainly implied in a comedy fragment by Antiphanes (fr. 21 Kassel-Austin). As Athenaios later says (9.375), here quoting an old law according to Androtion, “they should not sacrifice a sheep that has not been shorn, or that had not had a lamb”. Furthermore, sheep and goats are light and mobile, and thus can certainly cope with steep and rough terrain as well as thrive on poor pastures. Goats, in particular, can also exploit the pasture further upland and thus be removed to higher elevations where natural evergreen shrub vegetation has not been heavily grazed through the winter. Sheep, on the other hand, produce an abundance of raw wool and this thick oily fleece enables the animal to survive extremes of cold better than a goat. Hesiod poetically talks (Op. 515-16) of “the keen Boreas” being able to piece the coat of a goat but not the fleece of a sheep, and, likewise, there is Aristotle’s remark (HA 610b33) that sheep survive the cold better than goats. Additionally, sheep are efficient converters of stubble, fallow and post-harvest vines into manure, and thus contributes greatly to the maintenance of soil fertility. Xenophon, himself a farmer, recommends (Oik. 20.10) that farmers ought to collect manure for use as fertiliser. Finally, sheep and goats can also be readily fed, especially in times of little pasturage, on straw, maize, green barley, barley seed, (which increases milk yield quotas), dried vetch, oats, millet, almond husks, carob, dried figs, and a wide array of household waste products and minor surpluses. High in elevation and remote from the sea, the alpine climate of Arcadia readily supports sheep and goats, which in turn provide its inhabitants with wool, milk, butter and cheese.

 

 

Farming strategies

 

In ancient Arcadia the right to pasture animals may have been limited to citizens or those to whom a specific grant was made.26 If this argument is valid, however, there are sound reasons for questioning the belief that the citizen-farmers of Arcadia practised transhumance, in summer migrating to upland pastures with their flocks or herds. Summer was the very time of year when their military services were normally required on expedition or in defence of their polis. P.D.A. Garnsey’s alternative model for their cultivation and herding would have suited the poleis and settlements of Arcadia handsomely. Crop rotation would have provided summer fodder, and livestock would then have provided manure as well as consumed weeds.27 By employing this mini-mobile system of pastoralism ancient subsistence farmers could have kept livestock on or near their land all year round. Pausanias records (8.8.2) an Arcadian tradition concerning the birth of Poseidon. Rhea saved the newly born Poseidon from being swallowed by Kronos by hiding him among a flock of sheep pastured around a spring on the Mantiniki. In fact, livestock is very much in evidence throughout the plain to this day, with many flocks of sheep, each numbering some thirty to fifty animals, as well as herds of goats higher up the slopes grazing upon the maquis covering them. The maquis is not only an important resource for grazing, but also for the collection of firewood and wild herbs: besides vegetables and legumes, the local villagers eat a wide variety of “weeds” (chorta) in the winter. In the villages themselves, the villagers tend to keep free-range chickens and the occasional turkey around their dwellings. In addition, a small number of pigs are housed in sheds and sties. The pigs are generally butchered at Christmas, much of the meat being cooked with salt and put into large storage jars between layers of rendered lard, thus providing pork for consumption over the next six months or so. Of special interest, although obviously not applicable to the ancient period, are the numerous heaps of rotting orange pulp piled here and there, imported from the Argolid and used as winter-feed for livestock.

The Mantiniki itself is also given over to arable farming with cereals predominating; especially wheat and maize or Indian corn being cultivated in the wetter parts more suitable for summer than winter crops. The maize is sown at the end of April and the beginning of May in the Mantiniki, in other words when the inundated parts of the plain are just clear of water. Unlike wheat, this quick growing grain copes well with marshy soil and is ready to be reaped in September. Vegetables (spinach, radishes, celery, garlic and chicory) occupy a much smaller but significant area and substantial areas are given over to other annual crops such as potatoes, cabbages and legumes (peas, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and broad beans). All bar one of these vegetables and all the legumes are recognisable both in archaeological finds and in classical texts, but as there is a strong bias towards Athens, especially in the latter, it is difficult to develop a picture of the commonly used foodstuffs of ancient Arcadia. Hekataios of Miletos (FGrHist 1 F 9, cf. Harmodios FGrHist 319 F 1) regarded barley bread (mâza) and pork as the basis of the Arcadian diet. Barley did better, and still does, in the dry and rocky areas of central and southern Greece, hence the proverbial dictum “plant wheat in mud, but barley plant in dust” (Plut. mor. 915e). So much more reliable than wheat, barley has in all periods been crucial to food and survival. It must not be forgotten, moreover, that maize, along with tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco were completely alien to the ancient world. English, French and Spanish adventurers not only plundered the New World of gold and silver, but also brought back to early modern Europe tobacco and other products such as maize and the potato. Ancient Arcadia also lacked the olive tree, an actuality that should not be taken lightly considering the central importance of the olive in the ancient Greek world — the chief source of edible fat, of the best soap and of fuel for illumination. In contrast with most areas of southern Greece the olive was, and still is, not grown in Arcadia because of the high elevation and low temperatures.28

Yet, if we return to the agricultural cameo painted by Xenophon in his account of Second Mantineia (Hell. 7.5.14-15), we can glean from it the following pieces of information. First and foremost, Epameinondas attempts a coup de main against Mantineia because, as it was harvest time, he reckoned that both its people and their cattle would be outside the city walls. Second, when the Theban and Thessalian cavalry arrive at Mantineia, they discover all the Mantineian labourers and cattle outside the city walls. Third, there were many children and older men from among the citizens of Mantineia who found themselves in the same predicament. Points one and three are later re-endorsed by Xenophon when he says (Hell. 7.5.17) that the timely intervention of the Athenian cavalry saved for the Mantineians “everything that was outside the walls”.

Xenophon’s version of events raises a very pertinent question; namely the actual whereabouts of the Mantineian hoplites during Epameinondas’ lunge against their city. According to Aristotle (Pol. 1291a30, cf. Plut. Ages. 26.3-5) the peasant farmer was the backbone of the citizen army. Since it was harvest time and the cattle were grazing outside the city walls, it would be reasonable to assume that Mantineia’s hoplites would be there also in their capacity as farmers, i.e. reaping grain or tending to livestock (cf. Thuc. 4.88.1; Ain. Takt. 7.1). This, however, may not have been the case. Earlier in his narrative, when dealing with the initial stages of the campaign, Xenophon says (Hell. 7.5.7, 9) that the anti-Theban alliance opted to gather its forces at Mantineia itself, finally taking up “a strong position in the neighbourhood of Mantineia”. Following Xenophon, therefore, it could be argued that the Mantineian hoplites were in the immediate vicinity of their city, perhaps even involved in the harvesting. Alternatively, if Diodoros’ account of the same campaign is consulted, and perhaps here he is drawing upon Ephoros of Kyme, it is evident that the Mantineian hoplites had left their city “in force to assist the Lakedaimonians” (Diod. 15.84.1, cf. Xen. Hell. 7.5.14). The arrival of the Mantineians in Lakonia, according to Diodoros, gave Epameinondas an opportunity to outwit his enemies. Leaving his camp outside Sparta intact, Epameinondas marched back to Tegea and “hurried to fall suddenly on those left behind in Mantineia” (Diod. 15.84.1), i.e. Xenophon’s labourers, old men and children busy with the harvest who, according to Diodoros (15.84.2), never expected Epameinondas to swoop out of the blue. Meanwhile, realising they had been fooled, the Spartans and Mantineians march north for Arcadia, finally “making an appearance outside Mantineia” (Diod. 15.84.3). It seems the Mantineian harvest of 362 BC was, despite the rude interruption, collected even though the majority of the polis’ hoplites were on campaign and therefore absent.

There is an old Maniote song, which vividly describes the ability of women to gather the harvest while their men folk are away at way,29 and modern anthropological studies have demonstrated that in times of crisis the division of labour within a peasant household can enable male members to leave home. H.A. Koster, for instance, studied a number of subsistence farming households in the highlands of the Argolid, in the north-east Peloponnese, and his work revealed that a heavy proportion of the herding tasks fell to the household head’s spouse. Although this was due to such factors as the ability of the household head as a ploughman, it does show that women are capable of turning, at the very least, their hand to the tending of flocks and herds. In the month of May, for example, the spouse in Koster’s study worked no less than 387 hours with the sheep (fifty-two per cent of the month), a key time for milk production as well as ploughing. The following month the spouse was again with the flock, but this time with the aid of her son for two weeks during his school holiday, while her husband was grafting and planting new olives as well as sowing the summer crop of irrigated potatoes. The spouse, now freed from the task of shepherding, then assisted her daughter in the preparation of planting seed potatoes. Throughout the year, incidentally, the daughter ran the house, i.e. making beds, preparing the daily meals, cleaning, feeding and caring for the household animals, mending and washing clothes, and baking bread.30 It should be noted here that pastoralism, in contrast to straight arable farming, relies upon a much smaller work force and in many cases one or two individuals are all that is needed to make a go of it. Interestingly, literature throughout the ages is well stocked with references to the “lonely shepherd” and Varro, for example, offers (rust. 2.2.20) the statistic of one man per 100 rough-fleeced sheep in the Epeiros of his day.31

Generally, the anthropological studies indicate that women’s tasks are undemanding in terms of brute strength, but they are frequently tedious or involve bending over for long periods of time. Nevertheless, women regularly do jobs that are considered the man’s preserve, such as climb olive trees, ploughing and digging. When push comes to shove, the women of the household can cope. Leake, on his travels through Arcadia, had already seen this for himself:

Here [Krathis] we meet no less than one hundred women, each bearing on her back a great bundle of wood, equal to half a load of an ass. In these, as well as many other mountainous parts of Greece, agriculture and outdoor labour of every kind are added to the domestic duties of women; the men, for the most part, being employed with their horses as carriers, or tending the flocks, or residing abroad as artisans and traders.32

And thus, on entering Arcadia via the southern Arcadian settlement of Eutaia during the summer of 370 BC, the only inhabitants Agesilaos finds were the old men and the women and children; the men of military age had left the settlement in order to join the Arcadian forces (Xen. Hell. 6.5.12).

 

 

Survival strategies

 

According to Garnsey there was one crisis that was endemic in the Mediterranean world, and that was the shortage of food. Harvest failure was the underlying cause of food shortage, but wars, shortfalls in yields and endemic diseases all played their calamitous part.33 Crop failure and the resultant poverty could drive communities to emigrate in search of greener pastures. A seven-year drought apparently forced the Therans to reduce their island’s population by establishing a colony at Kyrene (Hdt. 4.151-3, cf. Pind. Pyth. 4.100). Truly, in all its provisions, the foundation decree suits these circumstances: first, compulsory enlistment; second, severe limitations on the right to return to the mother-city; and third, fierce threats against defaulters (SEG IX.3.28-37). In like manner, according to Strabon (6.1.6), the Chalkians from Euboia participated in the foundation of Rhegion because of a failure of crops. Again, an anecdote from Plutarch (mor. 773a-b) according to which Archias’ foundation of Syracuse was the direct result of drought and plague in Corinth. Finally, Thucydides postulates (1.15.1) that the underlying cause of Greek colonisation was the need for land; cultivable land is precious while bare rocks are so plentiful, and it is of the former that he speaks.34 It must be stressed that if food crises were common in antiquity, famine itself, on the other hand, was rare.34

As insurance against such calamities subsistence farmers, in general, would have had a number of survival strategies.36 These strategies included diversification of crops (Theophr. HP 8.1.2),37 inter-cropping (Theophr. HP 8.3.5; 5.6; 6.1; CP 3.6.1), fragmentation of land (IG I3 421-30),38 storage (Xen. Hell. 5.2.4)39 and “sky-watching” (Xen. Oik. 17.12-13; Theophr. HP 8.1.4; 6.1). In the event of an actual crisis and his survival strategies having been exhausted, the farmer would be forced to consider a number of emergency options, some of them dire in the extreme. First, the household diet could be eked out with “wild things” such as leafy plants, nuts and berries (Theophr. HP 3, 7; CP 1-2; Athen. 2.50-8; Gal. 6.14; 15; 32; 38; 39, cf. Thuc. 3.111.1),40 but these foodstuffs are low in calorific content and soon vanish if all and sundry are harvesting them. Coupled with this reliance upon country vegetation, a hungry household could also hunt for small game and fish. A more extreme measure would be that of asset stripping whereby a household would either slaughter or sell off livestock. The Corinthians, for example, resorted to living off their cattle when their city was threatened by the Spartans in 390 BC (Xen. Hell. 4.5.1). Into this category can also go the selling of valuable family land (Od. L 488-91), and according to the rhetoric of Isokrates (Paneg. 168) destitute bucolic families were roving overseas in vagabond bands looking for a means to survive. Another desperate response to a crisis would have been that which involved the removal of dependants from the embattled household. One method was either to surrender the children to better off relatives (Lys. 3.6; Xen. Mem. 2.7.2) or to try to mortgage them ([Dem.] 59.18, cf. Hdt. 8.105), a practice parodied by Aristophanes (Ach. 729-35) when he has the bumpkin from Megara passing off his daughters as piglets in order to sell them.

To spare the innocent children, an adult male could opt to leave the household and attempt to earn a wage, which would hopefully secure the family’s fortune. Noteworthy are Varro’s perique pauperculi (1.17.2), owner cultivators and small tenant farmers who were forced by poverty to seek additional income and were free to do so because of the rhythm of the farming year. In the late republic many of these preferred to serve in the legions than till their land or work as seasonal labourers, and this was especially so after Gaius Marius had opened up the army to the capite censi. During the classical period, on the other hand, there was a ready market for rowers, especially in the service of Athens’ busy imperial fleet. In one of his forensic speeches, Demosthenes describes how an angry gang of rowers confronted a ship’s captain who was short of cash and thus was unable to pay them their wages, which they needed in order “to feed their families” (50.11). Not satisfied with the pleas of the captain, the crew jumped ship en masse, thereby leaving the Athenian master high and dry and without rowers for his vessel. Nevertheless, after securing a loan through family connections, he promptly hired a new crew on the spot (Dem. 50.18, cf. Isokr. Paneg. 116). Admittedly, the relevance here with ancient Arcadia is somewhat obscure, it being a landlocked region not noted for its hired rowers.41 Arcadia was (and still is) a rugged and mountainous area, which, coupled with its harsh physical environment, its land-locked isolation and its lack of political unity, provided little in terms of human sustenance or material wealth. Add to this combination of factors the ever present threat of a food crisis, be it through the folly of man or the caprice of nature, and there exists the potential scenario in which many an Arcadian subsistence farmer and his household, struggling to survive at the best of times, eventually went under. The anthropologist David Arnold grimly sums it up: “Peasants, one of the most long-lived forms of human organisation known to recorded history, seem always to walk a razor-thin line between survival and extinction”.42 There was, as alluded to earlier, a traditional economic lifeline for Arcadian households who walked the “razor-thin line between survival and extinction”, and that was for one or more of their male members to serve abroad as mercenaries.

 

 

Mercenary service

 

In general, mercenary service would have worked in two ways. First, it provided the opportunity for subsistence level households to rid themselves temporarily of any excess male mouths to feed either because of poverty or short-term lack of victuals. A fragment of Menander’s Xenologos (fr. 354 Kassel-Austin) merits note as it tells of a young man who seeks his fortune as a mercenary in order to save his father from poverty. Often, campaigning mercenaries had families to return to (Xen. An. 6.4.8) provided of course, that they made the return trip (Xen. An. 7.1.36; 2.6; Diod. 16.63.5). Second, when face with dire poverty and imminent loss of land or life, mercenary service presented a man with a full-time career. To be more specific, the survival of the peasantry in ancient Arcadia depended not only upon their success in following a low risk farming strategy, but also upon their readiness to take up the mercenary calling when needs must. And so, in the words of a popular fourth-century BC proverb: “I’ll do as the Arcadians”, because the Arcadians fought as mercenaries and won victories for others.43 Indeed, the expression “I’ll do as the Arcadians” was taken up by the Attic comic poet, Plato (fr. 106 Kassel-Austin), in order to describe his wretched life-style:

A fighter born, a victory of mine own
I’ve never scored, though more than one or two
Of other people’s, as Arcadians do.

Here, the poet claims that he survives in the manner of an Arcadian mercenary; shackled by his poverty stricken existence “he provides others with comedies he wrote himself”.44

The first Arcadian mercenaries mentioned in surviving texts appear to be those who, after the battle of Thermopylai, approached Xerxes and promptly offered him their services. This, however, was not another case of Greeks medising, as did, for instance, the Thebans. On the contrary, the motive that placed this small band of Arcadian hoplites into the camp of the Persian king was purely financial and not political. For, in the words of Herodotos (8.26), these were “poor men seeking employment”. Earlier in his account covering Thermopylai, Herodotos says (7.202) that 500 Tegeans, the same number of Mantineians, 120 Orchomenians and 1000 hoplites “from the rest of Arcadia” were present during the initial phases of the campaign. Later, when Herodotos covers the campaigning season of the following year, he clearly states (9.28; 77, cf. 8.72) that 1500 Tegeans and 600 Orchomenians were present at Plataiai, the Mantineian contingent arriving too late for the battle. Puzzlingly, Herodotos fails to mention whether the 1000 other Arcadian hoplites present at Thermopylai fought at Plataiai. Are these the Arcadians who offered to hire themselves out to Xerxes?

Earlier evidence only hints at the existence of Arcadian mercenaries. According to Pausanias (8.39.4) the southern Arcadian settlement of Oresthasion despatched “one hundred epikouroi” to aid the Phigaleians in the attempt to liberate their settlement from the Spartans during the Second Messenian War (ca 660-640 BC). There are, unfortunately, a number of valid reasons why an argument that viewed these Arcadians as mercenaries could be doubted. First, Pausanias does not specifically call these soldiers mercenaries — on the contrary, he describes them as “hand picked men” who had volunteered for the mission. Second, he says (8.41.1) that in the agora of Phigaleia stood the tomb of the “picked men of Oresthasion.” It seems the Phigaleians respected these warriors as heroes, they having fallen to a man in the victorious battle against the Spartans (Paus. 8.39.5). Last, but by no means least, is Pausanias’ evidence here trustworthy? The “saga” of Aristomenes taints his whole account. Needless to say, other evidence for Arcadian participation in the Second Messenian War is just as nebulous. In the second year of their struggle against Sparta the Messenians received some form of military assistance from the Arcadians, as they did also from the Argives and the Sikyonians. This does strongly suggest that all these Peloponnesian troops stood alongside the Messenians at the so-called battle of “Boar’s Tomb” as unpaid allies and not as hired mercenaries (Paus. 4.15.7). Much later in the war the Arcadians joined forces with the Messenians at the engagement that became known as the battle of the “Great Trench” (Paus. 4.17.2). Again, there is no evidence to suggest that these Arcadians were mercenaries, and Pausanias only offers (8.6.1) a bland statement concerning the Arcadian help given to the Messenians “in their struggle against Lakedaimon”. Strabon, on the other hand, makes a chance remark (362) concerning a poem by Tyrtaios in which the Messenians are said to have taken “the Argives, Eleians, Pisatans, and Arcadians as allies and revolted”. Neither the text of Pausanias nor the extant fragments of his sources for this account actually use the noun epikouroi. H.T. Wade-Gery, however, offers the quaint notion that the Phigaleians donated the bronze cult statue of Apollo Epikourios from Bassai to Oresthasion (Megalopolis’ predecessor: Paus. 8.27.3) for services rendered.45

Evidence of a less obscure nature for the employment of Arcadian mercenaries during the archaic period comes from a coin struck circa 514-510 BC by the powerful Athenian Alkmeonidai clan. In 510 BC the Alkmeonidai launched a successful coup to overthrow the Peisistratid tyrant, Hippias: according to Herodotos (5.62-5), their effort had the military support of Sparta. On the basis of a triskeles emblem assigned to an Alkmeonidai mint and the fact that one such coin was unearthed in Arcadia, C.T. Seltman tentatively suggests that the clan also employed Peloponnesian mercenaries in its bid for power. It goes without saying that, if the clan really did employ mercenaries, they would have included Arcadians in their ranks.46 From Herodotos it is known that the opposing Peisistratid faction had often relied upon hired soldiery. Although Peisistratos began his long career with a humble bodyguard of citizen club-bearers (Hdt. 1.59, cf. Arist. Ath. Pol. 14.1), he had, after his second comeback from exile, begun to surround himself in true tyrannical fashion with a more effective bodyguard, i.e. one composed of mercenaries (Hdt. 1.64). With regards to the possible employment of mercenaries by the Alkmeonidai, it is important to take note of the later Athenian tradition that supported such a view.47

The historical record is somewhat more substantial when dealing with Gelon, the aristocratic tyrant of Gela and master of Syracuse. One of the acts of this ruler was to enlarge Syracuse by transplanting to it the whole or part of the populations of other Sicilian-Greek poleis. In addition he also enfranchised over 10,000 “foreign mercenaries” who were in his pay (Diod. 11.73.3, cf. 11.28; Arist. Pol. 1304a6). Herodotos says (7.158) Gelon commanded an extremely large body of hoplites, having offered, in exchange for the position of commander-in-chief, 20,000 of them to the Hellenic League in 480 BC. Some of these, without doubt, were mercenary-hoplites and these would have included Arcadians, for there is evidence to demonstrate that a number of them became Gelon’s close-companions (hetairoi) and thus occupied positions of trust within the tyrant’s Syracusan court. One of them is known from an ode that Pindar dedicated to Gelon. This was Hagesias of Syracuse, a victor in the Olympic mule-car race of 472 BC: he was formerly from the Arcadian polis of Stymphalos (Pind. Ol. 6.80-4; 93-100). Although not strictly a soldier, Hagesias was a military mantis who belonged to the Iamidai, a priestly clan the members of which were found in all parts of Greece. In the same clan, for example, was Tisamenos of Elis, a mantis who extracted full-citizenship from the Spartans for his services (Hdt. 9.33-5). We know of another Arcadian via a dedicatory offering from Olympia. Pausanias (5.27.1) identifies this offering as belonging to a certain Phormis who had “crossed to Sicily from Mainalos to serve Gelon ... distinguishing himself in the campaigns of Gelon and afterwards of his brother Hieron”. Phormis of Mainalos, through his martial services to these tyrants, had amassed a small fortune and was thus able to make dedications not only at Olympia but also at Delphi. Pausanias describes the Olympic offering as consisting of a statue group composed of two horses and two charioteers, a charioteer standing by the side of each of the horses. Dionysios of Argos and Simonides of Aigina undertook these impressive works of art. On the flank of the first of the horses ran the inscription: “Dedicated by Phormis, formerly of Arcadian Mainalos, now of Syracuse”. Other offerings, according to Pausanias (5.27.7), included three statues of Phormis in combat, dedicated by Lykortas of Syracuse, an Arcadian comrade-in-arms perhaps (Polybios’ father, for instance, was called Lykortas). Each bears an inscription saying the soldier fighting is Phormis of Mainalos. Again an Olympic inscription, in this case upon a stone statue base, verifies the existence of another Arcadian soldier-of-fortune, this time from Mantineia, in the service of Gelon. Dated by L.H. Jeffery to the first quarter of the fifth century BC the inscription imparts that the donor was Praxiteles son of Krinios, who describes himself as being of Syracuse and Kamarina, having migrated to Sicily from Mantineia in “Arcadia of the many sheep”.48 Kamarina, according to Herodotos (7.156), was levelled by Gelon in 484 BC. Her citizens were subsequently settled in Syracuse to increase that city’s population, and were to remain there until Kamarina was rebuilt ca 461 BC after the fall of the Deinomenids (Diod. 11.76.5).

By at least the second half of the fifth century BC, Arcadian mercenaries had become proverbial. From the Attic poet Hermippos, for example, there is the satirical poem Phormophoroi, a catalogue of the provenance of Athenian imports written ca 425 BC. Although the work survives only in part there is the line “Phrygia sends us servants; Arcadia soldiers for pay” (... A)PO\ D) *A)RKADI/AS E)PI/KOUROS: fr. 63.18 Kassel-Austin).49 And so, with his ill-fated Sicilian armada, Nikias took 250 Mantineians “and other mercenaries” (Thuc. 6.43.1, cf. 22.1). With the line from Hermippos’ poem still in mind, it can be safely assumed that a fair number of these other mercenaries were also from Arcadia. Later, in the same theatre of operations, the Corinthians despatched a number of Arcadian mercenaries, under a Corinthian general, to the aid of the besieged Syracusans (Thuc. 7.19.4). Thucydides remarks (7.59.9) that both sides employed Arcadian hoplites during the Sicilian campaign, stressing that the Mantineians recruited by the Athenians “were accustomed to go against any who at anytime were pointed out to them as enemies, and at this time were led by the desire for gain [my italics] to regard as enemies the Arcadians that were with the Corinthians”. Two very important inferences can be drawn from Thucydides’ observations here. First, the implication is made that at the time of the Sicilian campaign it was already customary for the Arcadians to serve abroad as mercenaries. Second, in what can be recognised as a hallmark of the true professional, the Arcadian mercenary fought purely for gain regardless of whom he might find himself opposed to. Much like the English mercenary-captain Sydnam Poyntz who, during the Thirty Years’ War, changed sides more than once. Such an attitude is best illuminated upon by the shrewdness of Sir James Turner, a Scot who fought for both Sweden and Denmark during the 1630s and, like his contemporary Poyntz, left an interesting account of his services abroad:

That soe we serve our master honestlie, it is no matter what master we serve; so without examination of the justice of the quarrell, or regard of my duetie to either prince or countrey, I resolved to goe with the ship I first recounterd.50

Here lies the essence of the mercenary who has taken up soldiering as a way of life to alleviate a definite lack of means.

 

 

With the Ten Thousand

 

Arcadians, it seems, were leaving their homeland and making mercenary service a permanent career. When the Arcadian general, Kleanor of Orchomenos, came to command one of the contingents that made up the remnants of the Ten Thousand, his force is described by Xenophon (An. 4.8.18) as the “Arcadian hoplite force”. More enlightening is the later comment of Xenophon’s in which he says (An. 6.2.10) that “the rest of the army amounted to nothing” (in truth more than half the army did consist of Arcadians and Achaians). Consequently, at Pontic Heraklea, we find all the Arcadians and Achaians — over 4000 of them — separating from the remnants of the Ten Thousand and marching off for a looting spree under ten newly elected generals with collegiate powers (Xen. An. 6.2.12, 16).51 Scrutinising more closely the figures supplied by Xenophon in the Anabasis reveals just how many Arcadians had signed up for this particular adventure. To begin with, it is known, as Xenophon makes clear, that more than half of the Ten Thousand were composed of Arcadians and Achaians. Furthermore, at this stage of the campaign the rest of the army amounted to some 4140 men (Xen. An. 6.2.16) and, therefore, the combined strengths of the Arcadians and the Achaians would have stood in the order of 4200 hoplites minimum.

There is little reason to assume that any one body of hoplites had suffered more than another body on the march until this point. True, the Arcadians and Achaians lost heavily when they went it alone (Xen. An. 6.3.4-9), but that was later. Therefore, the original number of these mercenaries can be restored by applying the proportions given by Xenophon (An. 6.2.16) to the original strength of the Ten Thousand. In other words, 4200 Arcadian and Achaian hoplites to 3100 others (plus 100 peltasts and forty horsemen) when applied to the figure 10,400 (the original hoplite strength) produces the approximate figure of 6000 Arcadians and Achaians, thus leaving 4400 as the total for the others. Unfortunately, Xenophon does not provide his readers with the relative proportions of the Arcadian and Achaian hoplites, but some other considerations may help to divide them. K.J. Beloch points out that the area of Achaia was about half that of Arcadia,52 and from Diodoros (15.31.2) it is known that under the reform of the Peloponnesian League forces in 377/6 BC, Achaia contributed one unit while Arcadia contributed two. Beloch concludes by offering the idea that the population of Achaia was about half that of Arcadia, all very dubious but helpful nonetheless. This is especially so if the number of named individuals from those regions, as given by Xenophon, is taken into account: sixteen Arcadians and seven Achaians. This certainly does bear out the two-to-one ratio of Arcadians to Achaians almost exactly. Furthermore, Xenophon usually identifies Arcadians in particular not only as such but also by their locality in Arcadia.53 More importantly, however, by applying the two-to-one ratio to the total of 6000 given above, the tidy sum of 4000 Arcadians and 2000 Achaians is arrived at. In other words, the Arcadians make up thirty-eight-and-half per cent of the total hoplite strength of the Ten Thousand, a mercenary force composed of no less than twenty-four different ethnic identities. Even if the peltasts et al. are included, the Arcadians still make up thirty-one per cent of the whole army.

More revealing is the fact that the vast majority of the 4000 Arcadians appear to have been drawn from the pool of Peloponnesian hoplite-mercenaries under Cyrus’ own garrison commanders (Xen. An. 1.1.6; 2.1, 3). In other words, the Arcadians were already under contract within the Persian empire before Cyrus the Younger attempted to overthrow his elder brother, Artaxerxes II. It is known for certain that in 405 BC 300 hoplites formed Cyrus’ personal body-guard under the command of the Arcadian, Xenias of Parrhasia (Xen. An. 1.1.2) and, according to one of Artaxerxes’ court physicians, Ktesias of Knidos (FGrHist 688 F 15.52), it had been common practice for Arcadian hoplites to seek permanent employment within the bounds of the empire during the Peloponnesian War. It should be noted that Arcadia did not suffer devastation, as did Attica during this war. J. Roy rightly argues that even before his bid for the throne, Cyrus could rely upon no less than 10,000 hoplite-mercenaries who were already in Asia Minor: the 4000 hoplites Cyrus lent to Aristippos of Larissa for a campaign in Thessaly against the latter’s political rivals (Xen. An. 1.1.10); the 4000 Peloponnesian hoplites Xenias of Parrhasia brought to Sardis (Xen. An. 1.2.3);54 the 300 hoplites Pasion the Megarian took to Miletos and then on to Sardis (Xen. An. 1.2.3); and, lastly, the skeleton force of Peloponnesian hoplites left to garrison the Ionian cities during Cyrus’ march into the heartland of the empire (Xen. An. 1.2.1). In the words of J. Roy, “mercenaries or potential mercenaries must have been numerous in Ionia”.55

 

 

Service with Persia

 

Each year, according to Xenophon (Oik. 4.6), the Persian king would review his troops under arms and amongst those inspected were the empire’s hired soldiery. Indeed, small bodies of Arcadians often acted as the bodyguard (DORU/FOROI, i.e. “spear-bearers”) of the various imperial satraps during this period, if not before. In the year 428 BC, for example, the satrap of Sardis, Pissouthnes, despatched “mercenaries, both Arcadian and barbarian” to aid one of the warring factions in Notion, and the name of their Arcadian commander, Hippias, is also recorded (Thuc. 3.34.2-3).56 This family tradition of employing Arcadian hoplites — back in 440 BC Pissouthnes had lent a force of 700 mercenaries (Arcadians?) to the anti-Athenian faction on Samos (Thuc. 1.115.4, cf. schol. Ar. Vesp. 283; Diod. 12.27.3; Plut. Per. 25.2-3) — was maintained by Pissouthnes’ bastard son, Amorges, the ally of Athens. For, in 412 BC, Amorges led a revolt in Karia against his master, Dareios II, which was backed with the experienced muscle of hoplite-mercenaries, many of whom were “from the Peloponnese” (Thuc. 8.5.5). A late fifth-century BC document, known as the Xanthian Stele, may be of use in further identifying these Peloponnesian mercenaries. The document itself records the proud boast of a certain Lykian dynast, [? Gerg]is the son of Harpagos, who claims to have slain, in a single day, seven Arcadian hoplites who were in the pay of one of the Persian king’s satraps.57 These unfortunate Arcadians may have been among the ranks of those Peloponnesian mercenaries recruited by Amorges. Once Amorges’ rebellion had been crushed and its leader hauled off to the Persian king in chains, his mercenaries promptly found further employment in the enemy camp, i.e. with the Peloponnesian forces in league with the loyal satrap, Tissaphernes. Amorges’ mercenaries were immediately put under the command of a Spartiate, Pedaritos, and detailed to garrison Chios (Thuc. 8.28.5; 32.2; 38.3; 55.3). The reason for employing Amorges’ mercenaries, according to Thucydides (8.28.4), was quite simple as “most of them were from the Peloponnese”. In other words, it appears that Amorges’ mercenaries where Arcadians who had gone to the East with the strict intention of staying there.

To strengthen the argument that the Arcadians were already holding imperial contracts prior to 401 BC, there is the evidence from coins bearing the head of Pan, which have been attributed to Cyrus the Younger. Roy argues that these coins cannot have been struck during Cyrus’ advance into the empire’s heartland, since there would not have been the time available to do so at Kaystrupedion, the only occasion on which he paid the Greeks in his army (Xen. An. 1.2.11-12).58 If properly attributed to Cyrus these coins are earlier. In other words, the coins were either struck as pay for his Arcadian hoplite garrisons in Ionia, or as part of the bonus the prince handed out to the 300 hoplites who escorted him to his father’s court in 405 BC (Xen. An. 1.4.12, cf. 1.2). Xenias of Parrhasia, their commander, had honourably served Cyrus for a good number of years and had even put roots down in the empire. For, when he finally deserted Cyrus’ cause at Myriandos — along with the Megarian general, Pasion — his wife and children, as well as those of Pasion, were still in Karia (Xen. An. 1.4.8). Mercenaries will occasionally adopt their contract-country as their new home. In Egypt, for instance, there is a tomb painting at Siwa, dated to the fifth century BC, which depicts a Greek who took the name Si-Amun (“the man of Amun”). The Greek is shown with his son in Egyptian pose but bearded, and with his son’s dress rendered in the Greek manner.59 The list of names contained in the early sixth-century BC inscription scratched by Greek mercenaries on the left leg of a colossal statue of Rameses II at Abu Simbel suggests that at least one of them, Psammetichos son of Theokles, was a second-or third-generation descendant of an earlier Greek mercenary-cum-settler.60 These men were in the pay of the Saite pharaoh Psammetichos II, and it is feasible that the father or grandfather of the Greek Psammetichos was originally a mercenary who served the founder of the Sa‹te dynasty, Psammetichos I, who, as Herodotos records (2.152), employed East Greek and Karian hoplites. There is also Herodotos’ reference (3.26) to a group of Samians who had settled, ca 525 BC, in the so-called “Isle of the Blessed”: these men may have been veteran mercenaries who had finally opted for a quite life.

It should be stressed, at this juncture, that Xenophon’s objective judgement on the reasons why men joined Cyrus’ adventure was biased, especially when we consider that he needed to defend his own dubious actions. Despite his obvious partiality, however, we should bear in mind the one explicit analysis of the mercenaries’ motives he does offer (An. 6.4.8). From this passage the following salient points are evident. First, Xenophon is speaking of mercenaries “who had sailed away from Greece”. Second, these mercenaries had signed up “not because their means were scanty”, indeed, some of them had “brought other men with them”, while others “had even spent money” to do so. Third, once their contract with Cyrus had expired, these men wanted to return “to Greece”. In other words, this passage is clearly referring to the mercenaries who had come out from Greece, and not those already serving the empire, namely the Arcadians (and Achaians) who made up more than half of Cyrus’ hoplite force. Furthermore, these newcomers were men of means, being either well-heeled Athenians like Xenophon himself, or recruiting officers who had collected recruits from mainland Greece.61 In sum, this passage is no doubt true as regards part of Cyrus’ force, but only a small part. Xenophon has clearly opted to inflate the social standing of his fellow mercenaries (cf. Isokr. Paneg. 146). Indeed, the bulk of the Ten Thousand had already made the profession of soldiering their permanent vocation. Five years later, the remnants of the Ten Thousand are still active and serving under Agesilaos, who was then campaigning in Ionia (Xen. Hell. 3.4.20). Later still, when the Spartan king had left Ionia, their diminished ranks could still be counted amongst his army at Second Koroneia where, like hard bitten professionals, they rendered their paymaster sterling service (Xen. Hell. 4.3.15-18; Ages. 2.10-11). It should be noted that the majority of Agesilaos’ mercenaries had actually wanted to remain in the east as opposed to returning to Greece (Xen. Hell. 4.2.5). Curiously, Pausanias (8.6.2) makes reference to a group of Arcadians who had crossed over to Ionia with Agesilaos in 396 BC, and there is the mute possibility that these men regarded themselves as a second generation of Cyreans en route to boost the now thinning ranks of the “old guard”.

 

 

Beyond the Persian empire

 

In the light of all this evidence, other areas outside the Persian empire in which Arcadians could readily pick up mercenary contracts should now be considered. One isolated field for employment was under the native tyrants of Tauric Chersonese. Satyros I, king of the Cimmerian Bosporos ca 433-387 BC (Lys. 16.4), employed a Greek, Sopaios, to command his army (Isokr. Trap. 3). It was the Stoic, Chrysippos of Soloi (fl. 230 BC) who once asserted that if a wise man could not become a king then he should at least seek employment as a soldier and “go campaigning with a king the kind Idanthyros the Scythian was or Leukon of Pontus” (Plut. mor. 1043c-d, cf. 1061d; Strab. 7.3.8; 4.4; Dio Chrys. or. 2.77). This advice, even if post eventum, was obviously taken up by one group of Arcadian mercenaries as is shown by the dedicatory inscription they set up to honour Leukon, their wise employer.62 Satyros’ eldest son, Leukon was the powerful ruler of the kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporos ca 387-347 BC. Aineias Taktikos (5.2), himself possibly an Arcadian and probably a mercenary for some part of his life, laconically records that Leukon sacked those of his bodyguard who fell into debt as a result of dice playing and further testimony to his canniness can be found in Polyainos (6.9). A fitting parallel can be found in the 1542 garrison regulations for Berwick-upon-Tweed, which, quite naturally, expected the worst from a soldier’s nature when he was idle. These regulations prescribed penalties (varying from pay stoppages to terms of imprisonment and death) for, amongst other misdemeanours, gambling for money rather than drink. A brief mention should be made of Leukon’s not so wise grandson, Satyros II (fl. 330 BC), who came to inherit the Spartokid throne after a bloody power struggle with his brothers. In Diodoros’ account (20.22.4; 23.6) both sides appear to have relied heavily on hoplites- mercenaries, Satyros himself employing no less than 2000 of them under the leadership of one Meniskos. Satyros clung to power for a mere nine months, falling in a stubborn battle in which Meniskos and his mercenary command played no small part (Diod. 20.23.6-8).

Not all Arcadians, naturally, went east for full-time employment and the subject of those who served the tyrants of Sicily has already been touched upon. In 432 BC the Corinthian general, Aristaios, was despatched north to the polis of Poteidaia leading a force composed of fellow hoplite-citizen volunteers and Peloponnesian hoplites whom he had “persuaded by pay” (Thuc. 1.60.1). Though not identified as Arcadians by Thucydides, it is probable that these particular mercenaries were either from Arcadia or, perhaps, Achaia. For when contemporary ancient authors, especially Thucydides, describe hoplite-mercenaries as “Peloponnesian” it is reasonable to assume the mercenaries in question were Arcadian or Achaian.63 In Peloponnesian service full-time mercenaries would have been useful on distant expeditions into the outer reaches of the Athenian empire, especially when it is considered that the Peloponnesian citizen-hoplite, in the main, was not much accustomed to face the discomforts and perils of long campaigns. Thucydides (3.15.2) notes that Sparta’s Peloponnesian allies, prior to the invasion of Attica set for the late summer of 428 BC, were slow in mustering at the Isthmus as “they were busy with the harvesting their crops and tired of military service”.64 Returning to the subject of the Peloponnesian mercenaries hired by Corinth and subsequently despatched to Poteidaia, it is apparent that two years later the Athenians had released them after their successful, albeit protracted, siege of the city (Thuc. 2.70.3). The following year the same mercenaries are to be found in the employ of the Chalkidians and fighting alongside them at the battle of Spartolos (Thuc. 2.79.3). Five years after that, when the Spartans conduct a campaign in far away Akarnania, the Spartiate Eurylochos’ force included a contingent of Mantineian hoplites. It is likely that these Mantineians were among a number of mercenaries hired by Sparta specifically for this overseas adventure and, during a clash with the Athenians and their local allies, demonstrated their professionalism by keeping their hard pressed ranks as the rest of Eurylochos’ command disintegrated around them (Thuc. 3.108.3). The justification for viewing the Mantineians as hired soldiers is strengthened by a reference by Thucydides (3.109.2) to Eurylochos’ force as “the miscellaneous crowd of mercenaries”. More telling, perhaps, is the Mantineians willingness to go along with the surviving Peloponnesian commanders in agreeing to desert their former allies when granted unconditional leave to return home (Thuc. 3.109.2; 111.1-3). This was not the first time that the Athenians had allowed mercenaries to go scot-free for, as noted above, they did just that after the fall of Poteidaia. It seems expedient for Athens to regard mercenaries as a necessary evil and, as such, the commodity was worth protecting. She certainly employed Arcadian hoplites at a later date.

 

 

In conclusion

 

The pressures that drove Greeks to hawk themselves as mercenaries were manifold. In the case of the Arcadians who, along with the Achaians, provided the largest percentage of hoplite-mercenaries available for hire, the prime reason was, without doubt, poverty. The evidence is more than sufficiently confirmed by the number of Arcadians seeking a full-time livelihood in the Persian empire. It is fashionable for scholars touching on this subject to make a blanket claim that the root cause for the evident rise of mercenary service during the fourth century BC was the poverty brought about by the decline of the polis. There is abundant literary evidence for this general explanation in the source material dealing with this turbulent century. Take, for example, Diodoros’ account (20.40.6-7) of Agathokles of Syracuse’s campaign against Carthage in 307 BC. Here the author stresses that most of the Greek soldiery hoped to get rich by joining this adventure, especially in view of the fact that Greece itself “had become poor and miserable”. Again, by simply skimming through Isokrates’ polemic pamphlets the reader will find the same argument (e.g. Paneg. 168; Phil. 97; Archid. 15.57-8).65 In the case of the Arcadians, however, who continued to make up the majority of Greek mercenaries employed, the poverty of an area lacking natural resources was always the main consideration.

In his historical novel of the life of Cyrus the Great of Persia, Xenophon relates how Cyrus reorganised his army into an efficient fighting-machine. Amongst the soldiery recruited by him for this purpose were men from Chaldaea. These Chaldaeans enjoyed serving as mercenaries for a number of interrelated reasons: “they are fond of war and poor of purse; for their country is mountainous and only a small part of it is productive” (Xen. Cyr. 3.2.7, cf. 2.1.15; An. 4.3.4). The Cyropaedia was written during Xenophon’s comfortable old age and one wonders if, when looking back over his soldiering years within the ranks of the Ten Thousand, Xenophon was also thinking of the many Arcadians mercenaries he encountered there when he described the Chaldaeans.

Lykomedes of Mantineia, in his speech, implies that Arcadia, if she so wished, was now able to stand by herself (Xen. Hell. 7.1.23). This was no idle boast, for under his leadership the Arcadian League had the backing of the Eparitoi, a recently commissioned body of 5000 hoplites, which was maintained and paid for by the League’s members (Xen. Hell. 7.4.22; Diod. 15.62.2; 67.2). It is highly probable that these professional hoplites were recruited and selected from among the numerous Arcadian mercenaries who had, until now, served in foreign armies. In other words, Arcadian professionals were now utilising their martial skills in the interests of the League instead of foreign paymasters. Initially, in order to pay for this standing army a special coinage was struck by the League.66 By 363 BC, however, the Arcadian leadership had been sadly reduced to plundering the sacred treasures of Olympia in order to support them (Xen. Hell. 7.4.33). It was not long before Arcadia’s first professional army dissolved. The ex-mercenaries simply drifted back to their former mercenary careers as the coffers of the League ran dry (Xen. Hell. 7.4.34, cf. 7.5.3), for, like the Chaldaeans, these men were accustomed “to making their living through the business of war” (Xen. Cyr. 3.2.25). Although the literary and epigraphical evidence is lacking, this hypothesis accords with the Arcadian practice of leaving their homeland to fight for others prior to the establishment of the Arcadian League. To close this paper, it would be particularly instructive to compare the fate of the Eparitoi with the rise of the Free Companies after the shattering defeat of the French at Poitiers in 1356. In his lengthy reminiscences to Froissart, the Bascot de Mauléon touches upon the fate of the paid soldiery of both sides after peace was finally declared between France and England. As a result of the cessation of active hostilities “large numbers of poor companions trained in war came out [of the forts and castles they once held] and collected together”. He continues, explaining that “though the kings had made peace, they had to live somehow”.67 Composed of English, Welsh and Gascons released after Poitiers by the Black Prince, as was customarily in order to avoid further payment to soldiers, they had acquired in the prince’s campaigns a taste the ease and riches of plunder. Along with German mercenaries, Hainault adventurers, and French knights ruined by the ransoms of Poitiers, they were soon to gather in armed bands of twenty to fifty around a professional captain. Each man had no option other than to turn away from peace and grasp the proffered mercenary contract.

 

 

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