The Natural Philosophy of Archery

Quintus Claudius, in the nineteenth of his Annals, was describing a town being assaulted by Metellus and the attacks down from the walls by the townsfolk, and wrote, “The archers on both sides, along with the slingers, shot very powerfully and with great enthusiasm; but when you fire an arrow or a stone downwards versus upwards, there is a difference. It is not possible to fire either one accurately in a downward direction, yet it is much better to fire either one upwards. This is why fewer of Metellus’ soldiers were wounded, and what is most important, they easily repelled the enemy from the wings.”

I asked Antonius Julianus, the rhetorician, why it happened in the way that Quadrigarius had said, that shots are closer and more direct if you fire off either a stone or an arrow from below rather than above, since a shot is sharper and easier from a high point to a lower one than from a low point to a high one. Then Julianus, after the line of questioning was praised, said, “What he said about an arrow and a stone could be said about almost every projectile weapon. Now, it is more easy to throw, as you have just said, if you throw downwards—and if you want to throw more so than strike. But when the direction and movement need to be measured and moderated, then, if you are throwing downwards, that moderation and measurement is ruined by the very downward movement of what is thrown and the weight of the falling projectile. But if you are firing upward, and line up your hand and your eye to strike something higher up, then the projectile that you have thrown will go right where the motion you gave it carries it.

Quintus Claudius in undevicesimo annali, cum oppidum a Metello proconsule oppugnari, contra ab oppidanis desuper e muris propugnari describeret, ita scripsit: “Sagittarius cum funditore utrimque summo studio spargunt fortissime. Sed sagittam atque lapidem deorsum an sursum mittas, hoc interest: nam neutrum potest deorsum versum recte mitti, sed sursum utrumque optime. Quare milites Metelli sauciabantur multo minus et, quod maxime opus erat, a pinnis hostis defendebant facillime.”

Percontabar ego Antonium Iulianum rhetorem, cur hoc ita usu veniret, quod Quadrigarius dixisset, ut contigui magis directioresque ictus fiant, si vel lapidem vel sagittam sursum versus iacias quam deorsum, cum proclivior faciliorque iactus sit ex supernis in infima quam ex infimis in superna. Tum Iulianus comprobato genere quaestionis: “quod de sagitta” inquit “et lapide dixit, hoc de omni fere missili telo dici potest. Facilior autem iactus est, sicuti dixisti, si desuper iacias, si quid iacere tantum velis, non ferire. Sed cum modus et impetus iactus temperandus derigendusque est, tum, si in prona iacias, moderatio atque ratio mittentis praecipitantia ipsa et pondere cadentis teli corrumpitur. At si in editiora mittas et ad percutiendum superne aliquid manum et oculos conlinies, quo motus a te datus tulerit, eo telum ibit, quod ieceris.”

—Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 9.1.1–6

Iphicrates on Vigilance

Iphicrates, the Athenian general, was holding Corinth with a garrison, and on the approach of their enemies, he himself was keeping watch. A guard was sleeping, so he pierced him through with a spear; some rebuked this act as though it were cruel, but he said, “As I found him, so I left him.”

Iphicrates, dux Atheniensium, cum praesidio Corinthum teneret et sub adventum hostium ipse vigilias circumiret, vigilem, quem dormientem invenerat, transfixit cuspide; quod factum quibusdam tamquam saevum increpantibus “qualem inveni”, inquit, “talem reliqui.”

—Frontinus, Strategemata 3.12.2

Constantine II Dies

Not long after this, Constantine the younger, who was the brother of Emperor Constantius and was named after their father, invaded the territory of his younger brother Constans and engaged with his soldiers. He was killed by them in the consulship of Akindynos and Proklos [340 C.E.].

Μετ΄ οὐ πολὺ δὲ ὁ τοῦ βασιλέως Κωνσταντίου ἀδελφὸς ὃς ἦν ὁμώνυμος τῷ πατρὶ͵ ὁ νέος Κωνσταντῖνος͵ ἐπιὼν τοῖς μέρεσι τοῦ νέου ἀδελφοῦ Κώνσταντος͵ συμβαλών τε τοῖς στρατιώταις αὐτοῦ͵ ἀναιρεῖται ὑπ΄ αὐτῶν ἐν ὑπατείᾳ Ἀκινδύνου καὶ Πρόκλου.

—Socrates Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica 2.5

Interesting to specify the soldiers in particular; Constantine died in a minor action outside Aquileia, not a pitched battle between armies, and his body was thrown into the nearby Alsa River.

Arnobius on the Gods

The reaper’s scythe, for instance, which is attributed to Saturn—that had been something to inspire fear in mortals, that they should prefer to live peaceably and cast off their malicious desires; and Janus, with his doubled head, or that toothy key by which he is distinguished; Jupiter, with a cloak and beard, holding in his right hand a piece of kindling fashioned like a lightning bolt; that gauntlet of Juno, or the little girl lurking under a soldier’s helmet; the mother of the Gods, with her drum; the muses, with their flute sand with their lutes; winged Mercury; shining Asclepius, with his serpent-bearing staff; Ceres, with her large breasts, or the drinking cup hanging in Liber’s right hand; Mulciber, with his craftsman’s clothes, or Fortune, with her horn filled with apples, figs, and autumn’s bounty; Diana, with her thighs half-covered, or Venus, naked and stirring up desire; Anubis, with his dog face, or Priapus, less important than his own genitals.

Falx messoria scilicet, quae est attributa Saturno, metum fuerat iniectura mortalibus, vitam vellent ut pacificam degere ac malitiosas abicere voluntates, fronte Ianus ancipiti aut dentata illa qua insignitus est clavis, riciniatus Iuppiter atque barbatus, dextra fomitem sustinens perdolatum in fulminis morem, Iunonius ille caestus, aut militari sub galea puellula delitiscens, deum Mater <cum> tympano, cum tibiis et cum psalteriis Musae, Mercurius pinnatus, anguifero nitens Aesculapius baculo, Caeres mammis cum grandibus aut in Liberi dextera pendens potorius cantharus, Mulciber fabrili cum habitu aut Fortuna cum cornu pomis ficis aut frugibus autumnalibus pleno, semitectis femoribus Diana aut ad libidinem concitans Venus nuda, Anubis canina cum facie aut genitalibus propriis inferior Priapus.

—Arnobius, Adversus nationes 6.25.1

Another Latin author specifying Liber (and Mulciber!) instead of Dionysus/Bacchus; see the post on Jerome here. I also love how the fear-inspiring attributes get less and less fear-inspiring as the passage goes on, right up until the kicker.

Rabbit Sappers in Ammianus

While these things were being done by light, and openly, it was reported to the emperor [Julian], who was stretched thin by the diligence of his observation, that the legionary soldiers under orders to make “rabbit” tunnels had penetrated to the deepest parts of the foundations. Their paths underground were excavated and the beams hung up, and now, if he should direct it, they would breach.

And so, though most of the night had passed, a signal was given by a blast from the trumpet blowers to advance to the fight and they rushed to arms. As was planned, the fronts of the walls were attacked on two sides so that while the defenders ran around this way and that to ward off the danger, the nearby sound of the iron digging tools would not be audible and also, on the inside, there would be nothing preventing the bands of “rabbit” men from suddenly emerging.

When these things had been set up as it had been planned, and while the defenders were occupied, the mouths were opened up and Exsuperius, a soldier from the Victores unit, flew out; and then Magnus, a tribune, and Jovian the notary; and following them a whole courageous group. They first killed those whom they found in the building through which they had come out into the daylight; then they went forward on tiptoes and cut down all the watchmen, who, acting in the custom of their people, were singing praise for the justice and good fortune of their king with melodious voices.

Dumque haec luce agerentur ac palam, nuntiatur imperatori pervigili cura distento, legionarios milites, quibus cuniculorum erant fodinae mandatae, cavatis tramitibus subterraneis sublicibusque suspensis ima penetrasse fundamentorum, iam, si ipse disposuerit, evasuros.

cum itaque noctis plerumque processisset, aeneatorum accentu signo dato progrediendi ad pugnam, ad arma concursum est: et consulto murorum invaduntur utrimque frontes, ut, dum propulsaturi pericula defensores ultro citroque discurrunt, nec proxima fodientis audiretur ferri tinnitus nec quoquam intrinsecus obsistente cuniculariorum subito manus emergat.

quibus ita, ut convenerat, ordinatis et occupatis prohibitoribus patefactisque latebris evolat Exsuperius de Victorum numero miles, post quem Magnus tribunus et Iovianus notarius, quos audax multitudo secuta, his prius confossis, quos in aede, per quam in lucem prodierant, invenerunt, suspensis gradibus procedentes obtruncarunt vigiles omnes, ex usu moris gentici iustitiam felicitatemque regis sui canoris vocibus extollentes.

—Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 24.4.21–23

“Sappers” just doesn’t get across what an interesting Latin term this is.

Aurelian and Military Garb

He was likewise the first to allow common soldiers to wear golden fasteners, though previously they had had silver ones. He was also first to give embroidered clothes to soldiers, though previously they had received only straight-woven purple ones, and indeed, to some he gave ones with single bands, to others those with two bands, to others those with three bands and even up to five bands, like the linen ones of the present day.

ut fibulas aureas gregarii milites haberent idem primus concessit, cum antea argenteas habuissent. paragaudas vestes ipse primus militibus dedit, cum ante non nisi rectas purpureas accepissent, et quidem aliis monolores, aliis dilores, trilores aliis et usque ad pentelores, quales hodie lineae sunt.

Historia Augusta, Aurelian 46.5–6