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"Are there any battles that were recorded by historians ..." Topic

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879 hits since 14 Feb 2017
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2017 3:59 p.m. PST

…of the time (e.g. medieval and ancient) that historians today aren't sure actually happened?.

"Most textbooks on the history of Archaic Greece prominently feature the Battle of Hysiae, in 669 BC. Supposedly, this was the first battle in which hoplites fought in a phalanx formation; the brilliant tactical innovation of Pheidon of Argos allowed the Argives to inflict a crushing defeat on the Spartans.

This is a very neat story. Unfortunately, it is based on practically nothing.

First, the battle of Hysiae is mentioned only by a single source: the travel writer Pausanias (2.24.7). He was not a historian, and his work dates to the 2nd century AD. That is to say, our only evidence for this battle comes from an uncritical source written eight hundred years after it supposedly happened. No other author, including historians like Herodotos who wrote extensively about the rise of Sparta, has anything to say about Hysiae.

Second, Pausanias does not tell us who was king of Sparta or Argos at the time, so it is very poorly grounded in what little else we know about the period. The year 669 BC is derived from a dialect reading of an Olympic victor's name mentioned by another author. However, Pausanias himself tells us that the Spartans were busy battling the Messenian Revolt at this time; it is unlikely that they would have their hands free for a major war, and even more unlikely that they would have fought such a war with Argos, whose territory lay beyond Sparta's still hostile neighbour, Tegea. Pausanias, then, probably didn't record a serious historical tradition. In all likelihood, he was told some garbled tale by his Argive guides, who had themselves forgotten the origin of a particular mass grave in their territory…"
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If the answer is right…Are there someone in Medieval Times?


Timbo W14 Feb 2017 4:15 p.m. PST

Rather less dramatic but in the early part of the English Civil War the unregulated news-sheets (forerunners of today's tabloids in many ways) were pioneers of "fake news" occasionally going so far as to invent great victories in remote parts eg the Welsh marches to impress the impressionable of London.

There is a nice account of a battle at Tewkesbury that Ronald Hutton showed was bogus as the Parliamentarian forces supposed to have won it were up to something completely different at the time. This was considered a real event by earlier historians until 2 and 2 were put together.

Great War Ace Inactive Member14 Feb 2017 6:03 p.m. PST

I suspect that Froissart concocted detailed battles throughout his history. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions a passel of battles against the Vikings that are questionable "battles". Did Shakespeare believe that there really was a battle of Dunsinane? Caligula conducted a battle against Neptune, where his legionaries threw their pila into the sea and collected shells as "booty". This was published as an actual battle, and woe betide anyone who called the emperor's battle a fake news thing. In the middle ages (12th century, iirc) there were Jewish "historians" who concocted whole books that were referenced in the Old Testament as "lost books". The Book of Jasher and the Book of Enoch both refer to "history" in the most real terms. And none of it is real. The Book of Jasher bears an unmistakable resemblance to the campaigns of Hannibal. None of the battles of Jacob and his sons ever happened. But you can bet that rabbis taught their flock from the "discovered" books.

uglyfatbloke15 Feb 2017 3:42 a.m. PST

You might try Grey's 'Scalacronica'. He was n't present at all the actions he describes and he makes that clear but he was a career soldier and is a valuable source.
At the other end there's Blind Harry's detailed description of the battle of Biggar and there's a website with a wonderful construction – with site-photos, maps and diagrams – of the massive battle of Roslin, showing the dispositions of 8000 Scots and 30000 English. It's utter bunkum of course; Roslin was an action between a few hundred men-at-arms and Biggar never happened at all.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 10:41 a.m. PST

Quite interesting… thanks!.


TKindred Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 2:14 p.m. PST

Procopius gives good accounts of the Reconquest of Rome (Italy) by Belisarius. He was there for most of those 6th century engagements.

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