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The war cry in the ancient Mediterranean world

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posted on 2022-03-28, 18:04 authored by James Edward Gersbach
This project will consider the term battle expression as a suitable replacement for the term war cry as an ancient interaction between military forces in the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean world. The battle expression was a means for military forces to interact on many different levels. According to the surviving literary record, military forces from different cultural groups in the Mediterranean world of the Graeco-Roman period (8th century BC-6th century AD) used the battle expression to unite and motivate those who undertook it, but, in contrast, to intimidate and invoke fear in those who experienced ("received") it. The source tradition refers to the importance of the battle expression for those that utilized it, suggesting it was an integral feature of ancient military life. Yet this ancient military phenomenon has been overlooked and misconstrued by modern scholars and media forms. This research connects with an ancient military phenomenon that appears to have been a fundamental aspect of ancient military life but has since become disconnected from our historical understanding. Importantly literary and archaeological sources reveal that the term war cry no longer satisfies to account for the battlefield customs undertaken by Graeco-Roman armies. Instead, a new term, battle expression, will be used to account for the culturally homogenous undertakings of ancient military forces in the lead up to, during and/or post battle. This thesis provides a typology for the battle expression, categories evident through the practices of different cultural groups of the ancient Graeco-Roman world. Close study of ancient battlefield customs will explore the relationship between this phenomenon and a variety of contemporary historical and socio-cultural features: religious belief and ritual practice; socio-political ideology; military strategy, training regimes and battle preparedness; culture-specific humour; the psychological dimension of battle in antiquity. This project provides a fresh outlook on an ancient military tradition that held significant meaning to those who undertook it and demonstrates sophistication and cohesion that has not been acknowledged -- abstract.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Graeco-Roman literary and archaeological sources -- Chapter 3. Group cohesion -- Chapter 4. Intimidating the enemy -- Chapter 5. The religious dimension of battle in antiquity -- Chapter 6. Socio-political and military identity -- Chapter 7. Battlefield oaths -- Chapter 8. Conclusion -- Appendix


Bibliography: pages 344-352 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Peter Keegan


Copyright James Edward Gersbach 2019 Copyright disclaimer:




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