magic starSummarize by Aili

Fireside Friday, April 12, 2024

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the topic of "Warfighting other than Battle in the Late Classical and Hellenistic World" that the author is moderating a roundtable on at the upcoming Society for Military History conference. The author reflects on the tendency to label certain types of warfare as "irregular" or "unconventional", and argues that this is a mistake as "unconventional" warfare is actually the oldest form of warfare. The article also explores the blurred lines between the actions of large state armies and smaller irregular forces, as well as the rhetorical tendency of ancient sources to label any resistance or opposition to large empires as "banditry" in order to delegitimize it.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Tendency to Label Certain Warfare as "Irregular" or "Unconventional"

1. What is the author's main argument regarding the tendency to label certain types of warfare as "irregular" or "unconventional"? The author argues that this is a mistake, as "unconventional" warfare, such as raiding, ambushes, and popular resistance to imperial authority, is actually the oldest form of warfare, while the "battles-and-sieges agrarian system" is the newer one. The author contends that even large "conventional" state armies engaged in activities that resemble "unconventional" warfare, such as raiding villages, foraging, and abducting and enslaving people.

2. How does the author view the distinction between the actions of large state armies and smaller irregular forces? The author argues that there is not a "bright line" between the two, and that it is more of a continuum. Large state armies also engaged in activities that could be considered "unconventional", while smaller irregular forces sometimes fought in pitched battles. The author sees the distinction as more of a matter of degree rather than a clear categorical difference.

3. What role does the rhetoric of ancient sources play in this issue? The author notes that ancient sources, written by the literate, wealthy administrators of large empires, often label any resistance or opposition to these empires as "banditry" in order to delegitimize it. This rhetorical move represents an attempt to separate the "honorable" violence of the state from the "dishonorable" violence of non-state actors.

[02] The Roman Conception of Honor

1. How does the author describe the Roman conception of honor as presented in C.A. Barton's book "Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones"? The author highlights Barton's focus on how the Roman concepts of honor, virtus, and other related ideas were deeply felt and embodied by Romans, shaping their actions and worldview. The author notes Barton's emphasis on the Roman's conception of the "discrimen or certamen" - the moment of testing and decision that was seen as central to the expression of Roman virtues and the attainment of honor.

2. What are the two key aspects of Barton's approach that the author finds distinctive?

  1. The focus on how these ideas of honor and virtue made Romans feel and act, with the "man of honor" shining, glowing, and commanding deference.
  2. The way Barton engages extensively with primary source quotations to convey the Roman perspective in their own words.

3. What are the potential strengths and weaknesses of Barton's approach as described by the author? Strengths:

  • Vividly conveys the emotional and embodied nature of Roman honor
  • Extensive use of primary source quotations allows the Romans to speak for themselves


  • The wide chronological range covered can make it harder to address changes over time
  • The focus is more on the core Roman values rather than a strictly chronological analysis
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