Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Roman Soldiers and Camels at Nessana Continued

Been delving a bit deeper into the world of Roman soldiers and camels today.  Might be a little while yet before I actually get to the soldiers and their varied relationships.

As noted in the last related post, there are two papyri from Nessana that deal with camel requsitions.  Haven't looked at them, or the discussion about them, in detail just yet, but Kraemer was of the opinion that P.Ness. 35 had to do with camels used, at least in part, with combat, while P.Ness. 37 had to do with camels for transport.  Interestingly, the former includes both related terms, κά(μηλος) and δρο(μεδάριος), the latter just κ(άμηλος).  To the unitiated, namely me, the appearance of both kamelos and dromedarios was a bit surprising, since to me a camel was a camel was a camel, though some obviously have one humps and others two (Arabians mostly one).  This even though I had a trip to the local zoo a few months ago and they had both of the one- and two-humped variety.  Obviously, I had to get to the bottom of this, and dromedary seems to be the term used most often to refer to the one-humped variety, camel to the two-humped variety.  With that said, and just to complicate things even more, the Latin names of the two species are a little less than helpful:  the one-humped variety is the camelus dromedarus (!!), while the two-humped variety is the camelus bactrianus.  Ok, fair enough. 

The presence of the two terms in these Nessana papyri would seem to suggest that in these official circles (if we can call it that), there was an awareness or at least knowledge of the two varities.  On the other hand, what few known units of camel-riders we have are all (an earlier one called the ala I Ulpia dromedarium Palmyrenorum and a few units listed in the Notitia Dignitatum in Egypt and Palestine) called dromedarium (or some cognate).  One other sixth century source, my dear friend Procopius, does get into the military's use of camels: in his Secret History in the midst of one of his many diatribes he complains about Justinian's abolition of the camels set aside by the state for the transport of people and goods (SH 30.15-16).  The term he uses, however, is κάμηλος.  Although Procopius isn't, perhaps, the best item of comparison, and given my research, thus far, has been rather preliminary, is it possible that there wasn't a widespread awareness of the two different varieties, at least among the general populace?  Would not those with experience in the (Near East that is) most likely have been familiar with the one-humped variety.  I'm wondering two if the distinction should be between κάμηλος as simply camel, and δρομεδάριος as the camel-rider, though P.Ness. 35 doesn't really suggest this. 

All of this early work has to do with my attempts at determining, or at least revisiting, the nature of the soldiers based at Nessana, for I'm still not convinced that they should be considered a unit of dromedarii, simply because the evidence isn't good enough.  Indeed, following this thread I ended up taking a glance at the finds from Dura Europos, for most see the cohors XX Palmyrenorum as comprised partly of camel-riders (dromedarii).  This clincher for this argument (and not everyone refers to this, quite disappointingly) is one of the Dura papyri, particularly P. Dur. 82, which reads, early on, "...ṣ[esq(uiplicarius)] ị drom(adarii) xxxiiii in his sesq(uiplicarius)..." (find it in Campbell 1994, 180, Fink's RMR 47).  The papyrus is in Latin, and it's fragmentary, but it seems to refer to a umber of dromedarii under the command of someone at Dura - at least 34 of them, perhaps.  This has, in part, led to some speculation that this particular unit was equitate (cohortes equitatae).  Cohorts tended to be infantry, while alae tended to be cavalry.  Equitate cohorts were those composed primarily of infantry, with a few cavalry tacked on.  Indeed, in that same papyrus, what has been called a morning report (essentially a summary of what the troops at a locale were up to), we find several references to equites.  I wonder though if these dromedarii were necessarily attached to the unit, even if they were likely based at the site. 

Anyway, the point is I'm not entirely convinced that there were camel riders specifically attached to the Palmyrene cohort at Dura.  In turn, I'm still not convinced that the unit at Nessana was a camel-unit, per se, whatever that would have entailed.  Neither relevant papyri are very long, and I don't think we know if the names listed represent a suitable sample of the garrison at the base.  They might just include those soldiers who made use of camels to undertake the unit's various duties.  This could be simply the travelling from point A to point B, and they might not have made up a significant part of the total animals present.  Indeed, although I haven't gotten very far in my reading on camels at el-Lejjun, what I have found for that other desert near-eastern-locale is that there were all sorts of animals present, and this on the basis of the animal bones found on site.  Some were camels, but there were a whole lot of other animals.  There were sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, chickens, and so forth.  The majority were domestic, and used for a variety of things (working animals, and for consumption, for instance).  There might have been all sorts of other animals at Nessana, which for whatever reason haven't surfaced in our surviving evidence (in this instance consisting of papyri).  They might have made extensive use of horses for combat.  It could just be that the receipts or what have you detailing their requisition haven't survived.  It seems highly likely that all sorts of other animals were there too used by the military in some of the same ways that we find at el-Lejjun. 

Maybe the soldiers were somehow involved in the raising and selling of camels to units or government officials in Egypt - which is where some of the camels listed in P. Ness. 37 seem to be off to?  As noted, there were units of dromedarii in Egypt found in the Notitia Dignitatum, and maybe Nessana was a region known for its raising of camels.  It's also not 100% certain that P. Ness. 35 and 37 were official documents.  They certainly seem to have involved soldiers, but the soldiers might have been operating in an unofficial capacity.  There might not have been a whole lot going on at Nessana, and so they passed their time in other ways (dealing in property, raising families, selling camels). 

In the end, and so far (in this research), I'm leaning towards this unit not being particularly comprised of camel-riders, though that doesn't mean that camels weren't a significant part or at least involved in the unit's activities, particularly when it came to transport, and maybe even scouting.  Although only indirectly relevant, I also have my doubts about the cohort at Dura - not a camel unit (though they likely used).  Not quite sure if the distinction was made between camel types in the ancient world.  That will require some more reading.  Anyways, as always, more to come...

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Justinian's Foreign Policy

This term, while continuing work large-scale Procopian things, I'm also leading a seminar on the Caesarean scholar himself, and we just held our discussion of the Persian Wars.  I re-read it again for the first time in a while, and with what could be called fresh(-ish) eyes a few things struck me, one of which was Justinian's policy in the east.

As many know, our principal source for these wars is Justinian, even if there are some other accounts out there, including those of Malalas, Pseudo-Joshua, and Pseduo-Zachariah, among others.  As many also know, the personality conspicuously absent from the narrative is Justinian.  Where Khusro gets personally involved in his own western wars - we find him at the front, yelling at his soldiers and  involved in negotaiations - Justinian remained in Constantinople.  Both Procopius and Agathias complained bitterly about his foreign policy, Procopius in the Secret History, Agathias in the Histories.  They, of course, weren't alone in this, and both ancients and moderns alike have found fault with the emperor, and not just for his military policy (tyranny, spending habits, etc.).  Upon further review, however, and in keeping with recent work by Greatrex (Histos article/s) and Stewart (various blogposts), I wonder whether these assessments aren't a little harsh, at least in part. 

The Justinian of the Secret History is all sorts of things, and I wonder if the figure that Procopius' writing conceals is a workaholic - the long nights, the lack of sleep, and so on all seem to suggest as much.  Given his foreign policy challenges, to say nothing of all the other problems Justinian faced (many of which, including the foreign policy stuff, were his own creation), to have any measure of success it seems likely thast he would have had to put in some serious hours.  The Romans were at war on at least four fronts, and I think if we bear that context in mind his decision to stay at home, and the varied approach that he took, seems to make a great deal of success.

Although Procopius himself provides all sorts of explanations for Belisarius' movements, the initial explanations, that is those offered in the Wars (and I'm assuming the relevants there were written first) to my mind make the most sense.  Belisarius starts off in the east.  We see something of his rise and the ranks and the successes he has.  Then he gets shipped out west, and to two different spots, before returning the east, and then back west, and so forth.  For much of that period Belisarius was the highest ranking of generals, or at least hte one whom Justinian held in the highest regard, even if his views changed depending on results.  Would it have been feasible for Justinian to have done all that travelling himself, or even sensible, especially if Justinain wasn't the most qualifed of generals?  Why go marching about, something which your immediate predecessors hadn't done, when you had perfectly capable and loyal generals at hand?  

Plus, with Justinian back in Constantinople, presumably with reasonable information at hand about the situation on the various fronts, it would be much easier for him to deploy whatever resources he had at his disposal.  Justinian seemed willing to use a number of approaches to Persian aggression.  At times he sent in the troops.  Some of these came from newly conquered territories/defeated peoples, though it's likely there was a sizeable body of men already available for military action in the east in the various fortifications and cities.  At times he decided to pay off the Persians to prevent them from causing (more) harm. 

Just a few generals comments - with maybe more to come - but at least with respect to affairs in the east, Justinian's approach was, I think, sensible, and even practical (if I ignore the complications caused by his decision to go to war in the west, admittedly).

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Nessana, Forts, and Camels

I'm in the process of doing some resarch on a paper to be presented at the upcoming CACW here in Winnipeg, and something I plan on turning into a journal article at the conference's conclusion.  That paper's on the military and the wider community in sixth century Nessana, a village in the north/central Negev, and how the military interacts within that community.  I have vague designs on completing some sort of network analysis, though I'm not entirely sure how feasible that is (not enough people, not enough in a generation, will it give any kind of meaningful results, etc.).

Getting back to Nessana, probably the most remarkable thing about this site is the survival of a fairly significant cache of papyri, many of which detail the military's involvement in local life.  That brings me to the subject of the paper, and this entry - on my thoughts so far.   Initially the view was that the fort (kastron) at Nessana was built in the fifth century, possibly in the later end of the century too.  More recently, however, the view is that it was constructed in the fourth century, and in particular during the reign of Theodosius I.  One of the catches from this redating is the absence of the site from the Notitia Dignitatum, which purports to be, or I guess which for many people is, a resonably accurate indication of the disposition of the military in the east and west of the empire around 400 (generally speaking - the dates vary a little for east and west, and with respect to their relative dates of occupation).  What does this mean?

If the fort was built in the fourth century, especially later in that century, then we should expect the troops listed therein to appear in the document somewhere, particularly under the Dux Palaestinae (Nessana's province shifted back and forth a few times in late antiquity, and Palaestinae is one of its provinces).  There are other sites from the region listed under that frontier commander such as Birsama and Zoara, for instance.  So if the fort was built in time for the publication of the ND, what were the soldiers that were presumably there?  Why were they left out?  It's too early for Arab federates, which tend to be a later addition (6th century), and limitanei were well-used at this stage.  Is it the case that what we call a fort shouldn't be?  Not everything with walls is necessarily a fort (and this is something I'll have to take a look at - excavation reports).  Unfortunately none of the papyri go back that early, so it's not like we can find evidence for soldiers in their midst (though we do not doubt they were there later).  So maybe soldiers weren't there from the get-go and the fortified place shouldn't be considered a fort, at least in thes sense of a fort being associated with soldiers.  On the other hand, the ND is not without its problems, and it's entirely likely that some details were left out - and Nessana was hardly the heart of the empire.

The other issue to discuss for the moment is the identity of the soldiers who were later there.  They were originally thought to be part of the Arithmos of the Most Loyal Theodosians.  Now, this is disputed.  In truth, the evidence isn't strong enough to make a case one way or another.  We have the unit title but once in the archive, and it comes in reference to two soldiers, who say they're from Nessana, but are based in Rhinocorura.  The thinking now, generally speaking, is that if they're soldiers based in Rhinocorura in the Theodosian unit then it would stand to reason that that is where they are based, and the "from Nessana" (apo kwmhs Nessanwn) bit should be discarded.  And yet, soldiers were regularly stationed away from their main unit, and for all that a day's march is a considerable distance in antiquity, we have plenty of evidence for soldiers operating much further from their units in other places.  Does apo in this context have to designate the place they're from?  I admit the inclusion of kome is, perhaps, suggestive, but I have my reservations.

Regardless of identity, there is good reason to believe that camels made up a significant part of their retinue, at least on the basis of two camel lists/orders (P. Ness. 35 and 37).  Does this mean they were camel-cavalry?  Maybe - why else would you order a bunch of camels?  This, at least, is what most people assume (they used camels).  On the other hand, it's not impossible that the soldiers could have been infantry who relied on camels for transport alone of supplies, though possibly too of men.  That doesn't necessarily mean that they fought on camels.  Indeed, camels would make a lot of sense given the environment.

In sum, what do I think so far?  I need to see the excavation reports so that I can see why people have dated the fort the way that they have.  I still have doubts about the fourth century date.  Also, I'm not 100% convinced that the unit isn't the Arithmos of Most Loyal Theodosians.  Why can't they be off on some other duty as part of a unit mainly based in Nessana?  Could they not also be from Nessana too (born there - and working for the unit based there)?  Also, must they be camel-warriors?  Again, not convinced.  Not sure there's much in the way of equipment-finds that might be suggestive one way or the other, but I don't see why they might not be just for transit.

And there we have it.  More to come, most likely...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Auxiliary Constitutions and Recruitment: some thoughts

It's become quite clear that spending too much time with one person is bound to bring some disquietude.  And, I've been spending too much time with Procopius.  So, where possible, I've taken a little break to continue work on finishing up a project on the Roman military in the Moesias.

Today I've been thinking about auxiliary constitutions (the official citizenship document in Rome) and diplomas (the copies, the ones found all across the empire), and the related matter of recruitment.  Just read a paper by Paul Holder on copies of constitutions.  He calculated that if every province with auxiliary units had men eligible for discharge every year there could have been some 4,000 men "recorded on the original bronze constitutions set up at Rome".  That's a staggering number - and as I said just an estimate.  The figures that supported his claim include:  c. 50% of serving men lasted 25 years and so were eligible for discharge; 10 men each year from a quingenary unit (about 500-man unit); 18 men from a milliary unit (about 800-1000-men); 370 units in existence during the reign of Hadrian.  A number of questions popped into my mind upon reading this (and some of this other observations).

First, if those numbers hold up, and they don't seem unreasonable to me at first glance, how many bronze constitutions might have been produced and stored in Rome each year?  Would there necessarily have been just the one constitution issued per province per year?  Would the government want a record of each soldier?  Depending on how the numbers add up, we could be dealing with a staggering number of documents kept by Rome.  Would there be some sort of file for each soldier that tracked his record throughout his career?  Would this be in Rome, or would it just be an outline, so to speak there, with the details in his respective province?  Or, would it all be kept in his province?  And yet, many soldiers moved around (or those with some initiative might), and so would a file move with him?  Perhaps these would have been on less permanent materials, and only the really important stuff, like discharge certificates, would be recorded on permanent materials.  Anyway, it might be that this is unanswerable, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

The other issue alluded to above was recruitment.  Should we expect regular recruitment, that is a consistent number of men each and every year?  Or was it always, or partly, a hodgepodge approach?  Things are happening in province X, how many men are in province X, and so let's then raise Y men to compensate.  Most likely it always did vary - we know additional units (both auxiliary and legionary) were raised at different times.  Some units were lost, some were depleted, and some additional ones were needed for major campaigns, like Trajan's war of conquest.  I guess that means we should expect some 25 years or so after the start of a major campaign that there should be an explosion, of sort, of men available for discharge.  And yet, these new units often weren't disbanded once a war ended.  A unit might move on, but they didn't get dissolved just because a war was over.  Perhaps then it's a series of steady periods of recruitment followed by giant spikes at war time (major war).

I think I might be rambling stop.  Besides, I have some diplomas to read/compare, and some more reading to do.  Thinking too about the merits of updating Watson's The Roman Soldier.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Procopius' Authority: autopsy, bias, and the truth

As I slowly work away on this book and some of these source questions, this blog might be transforming itself into a forum where I can share my thoughts about how things are progressing.  This might be a useful exercise.  I should stress, as I might have done before, that since this is a blog, I don't spend much time on the revising (it comes out after I write it).

With that in mind...

Procopius writes in the tradition of classical historians like Herodotus and Thucydides.  In fact, in many ways his work engages directly with those very historians.  One of the many parts of his Wars where this is particularly evident is the preface, where the historian is to set out his task and state his claims and argue why he (invariably) is the man for the job.  If you read Procopius' preface, it reads very much like the preface of a host of earlier classical historians.

Most of the claims that he makes serve to establish his authority, the why he's the man for the job bit. So he includes the claim, from me previous post, in which he discusses the importance of autopsy, at least from his perspective.  He was well suited to this task - describing the wars of Justinian - because he happened to become an advisor to Belisarius, the famous general and participant for most of the action, and because Procopius himself saw almost everything that he describes (1.1.3).  Autopsy stressed:  Procopius is a sensible historian.

Of course, someone could easily come along and question whether Procopius was as trustworthy as he claims to be.  It's all well and good to emphasize autopsy, and to have been an eye-witness, but readers will need to know why they can trust you and your experiences.  Questions had been raised about the value of autopsy for some time.  Luckily for modern and ancient readers alike, Procopius is no slouch.  No, he goes on to set out why exactly it is that he deserves to be believed.  He claims (1.1.4) that truth is the most relevant thing to history (well ξυγγραφῇ ), and that this is what he's writing.  So, Procopius was an eyewitness, he's written a history, and he argues that truth is the most important thing in history.

There is still room for shoddy writing, and to counter any other possible criticisms, most notably claims of bias (and Belisarius is undoubtedly the obvious target of this), Procopius then comes out (1.1.5) and says that he's gone and written everything exactly as it is (with accuracy that is) about those he knows, whether they did good things or bad things.  He even stresses that he hasn't concealed their failures.  Just after this, before he gets to his oft-discussed comparison of contemporary and Homeric archers, he comes back to the role of truth.  For he says that the events that he's about to describe are the best, at least if someone wants to base their judgements on the truth.

To take stock then:  Procopius has said I'm the best man for the job because I had a prime position to see and experience everything and was there for most things, truth is highly valued in history and if you do too you'll see that my work is the best, and I have not given any signs of bias, but rather have said everything about those concerned.  Thus, on the basis of his own criteria, if we are to evaluate Procopius' own discussion then we can see that he's up to the job.  We can afford him the kind of respect that we do Thucydides and Polybius, for instance.  Of course, conscientious modern historians don't take Procopius at his word - much more work is needed.  But, the fact that he's gone and said this often does allay some fears.

One issue that complicates things is Procopius' statements in the much debated Secret History.  There he states that he couldn't say everything that he wanted in the Wars because things were, essentially, too precarious.  He seems to imply that he feared for his safety if he was to come out and openly bash some of the key participants, and Justinian is the one he has particularly in mind.  Does this mean we should toss out the Wars?  Well, no, because we are conscientious, and he doesn't, for example, spend a whole lot of time explicitly discussing Justinian in the Wars anyway, at least relatively speaking - though he's always there, somewhere, looming in the background, so to speak.  Moreover, based on what work I've done on Procopius in the past, he does seem to be forthright about most things, and where things might have been sketchy, he simply doesn't discuss them (he's not lying, he's just being selective).

Anyway, that's essentially the setting out of the claims of Procopius himself about whether he should trust him - the basis on which discussions of autopsy are based, or how far we should believe them.  As always, more to come...

Procopius' Use of Autopsy

When the issues of veracity and reliability in ancient historians surface in the scholarly literature, discussion regularly turns to three ways that an ancient historian gathered (invariably) his information:  autopsy, oral accounts, and written sources.  Autopsy is usually, but not always, the highest ranking of the lot.  

Although seemingly straightforward, autopsy has different meanings.  There is the careful examination of a corpse - this is not what is meant in these cases, obviously.  It can mean the personal observation or experience of a thing (or what have).  But it can also mean the critical examination of something (subject, work).  So, it should be clear that the autopsy referred to by scholars could fall into either of those second two categories; and, it should be clear why the lack of clarity might be a cause of concern.  When the word opsis is used, it's easy to see what the person has in mind.  But in others it's less so.  With that said, most modern scholars usually have the former in mind:  personal observation and experience (there is a significant discussion of it in Marincola's 1997 book that I must have read a decade or so ago, but which is a bit hazy in my mind at present).

In both cases, it can be hard to work out which one an ancient historian is employing.  If it's the former, sometimes ancient historians will make comments in the first person or otherwise which imply that they had seen something which makes it easy enough to determine.  If it's the latter it's a bit trickier, but sometimes historians will make a comment about something they've read or seen and what they think about it.  They'll even make comments, rarely, about competing accounts.  The one historian who seems to be explicitly engaged in a fair amount of autopsy of both kinds of Herodotus, and his impact has been significant.

I've already made some comments in an earlier post - and will do so in more final versions of all this - about Procopius' own experiences, which in turn hinted at autopsy in the Wars (I've left out the Buildings and Secret History, though my first impressions that is that with the SH much of the information is purportedly autopsy, and that it is harder to say with the Build.).  Procopius does hint at the role of autopsy in his own account, as one (ancient historian) should, in the preface.  He says he's well suited to the task, writing the wars of Justinian:  "Furthermore he had assurance that he was especially competent to write the history of these events, if for no other reason, because it fell to his lot, when appointed advisor to the general Belisarius, to be an eye-witness to practically all the events to be described" (1.1.3).  So, pretty explicit stuff.

As I said the character Procopius acts on occasion in the Wars, though given his position in Belisarius' army and what he's said in the preface, there has been little doubt that he did see a great deal of what he describes.  Even for Procopius himself, then, autopsy ranks highly - following in the vein of Herodotus and Thucydides, amongst others.  Now, this second large project, well, like most of my other work, deals with military stuff, and so that includes battles, sieges, campaigns, and the like. But we know, and have known for some time, that these things are hard to describe in part because of the mass chaos that ensues, especially in combat.  This might not apply quite so much with respect to campaigns (marching, supply gathering, etc.), but still things might not have been as straightforward as they appear.

One question/issue that springs to mind with all of this is:  where would Procopius have been when all the action was going on?  If he was the advisor/secretary to Belisarius, then he was invariably engaged in all sorts of important tasks, and would have been in a position (here, more metaphorically - not physically but vis-a-vis his relationship to Belisarius) to acquire good information.  When it came to witnessing things, what then?  If we accept that one of Procopius' duties was to write up battle reports - and some think he was at least responsible for sending the letters that sometimes pop up in the Gothic Wars - is he much more likely to have been in a position to see things with his own eyes - engage in this autopsy?  In a battle then, if we assume a Hellenistic or Odyssean general is assumed we he be seated on a horse at the back of the Roman side beholding all that transpired before him?  In this case it would matter a great deal if the topography of the site enabled such a vantage point.  It would be easier, too, to wittiness combat in a siege if he was on the defensive side, like Rome in 537/538.  One could easily imagine a Procopius on the walls looking down on the Goths with appropriate record-keeping materials observing all that transpires.

Yet, those sorts of positions, at the back of a battle or at the walls of a city during a siege, aren't the safest of places in the best of times.  If he had been in those positions from the get-go, and if he was simply a writer with little combat experience or ability, it is something of a surprise that he was able to survive all of the engagements that he described.  Is this reasonable?  Well, yes:  not all war reporters are killed in war zones.  Procopius could have survived all such instances.  With that said, it is not more reasonable to assume that he wasn't close by watching, but rather safely ensconced in the camp or within the city walls when skirmishes were breaking out?  How much autopsy then went into his battle descriptions?  Perhaps not a whole lot.  Even so, it would be difficult for anyone to describe any of these battles or sieges, whether simply a participant relaying activities to friends or family, or a general or member of staff reporting the results to the higher ups. This also raises questions about what might actually have been in the battle reports that might have been made.  Could there have been any expectation that there would be any real detail in these?  Or would they be the bare bones, the most relevant of details (as many have surmised) instead?

On the other hand, does this then take things too far into post-modern territory?  In other words, can we recover nothing?  I don't think so.  There's just a number of interesting questions that pop up in these sorts of discussions.

More to come...

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Value of Sources and the Face of Procopian/Justinianic Warfare

Back to it.  Strike while the ember's hot and all that.

Do the references to Procopius' own actions in the sixth century contained within the Wars make a difference to whether we think he's a good historian or not, or at least whether we really ought to use his text?  It can, I guess to some degree, provide evidence of his own worth, his authority for discussing the material that he's narrating.  This was an age old authority trick by the time Procopius was writing.  If he was a participant then would seemingly provide some insight into what happened, though the problems with human memories and eye witnesses demonstrate that we shouldn't put too much stock in affairs.  What it probably is really useful for is putting him in a position to get to the materials he'd need to write what he wrote, and to see, with his own eyes, how things worked.  Too often we sort of assume, however, that he spent an ordinate amount of time making detailed and accurate notes, when we contain no such definitive evidence.

Even if we are able to get a sense of what kinds of sources he used in different situations, we still have to rank that material.  Should things he saw himself rank higher than the rest?  Than oral after that?  And then dispatches and reports?  Or should the order be switched some way?  All those references to they say cause problems of their own.  There are some examples where they might seem to referring to a particular person or persons, and others where it seems more likely that he's relying on written materials.  Often, however, the statements aren't anywhere near clear enough, and in most of the Wars, like any good classicizing historian, he tends to shy away from identifying particular authors.  There are exceptions, like Arrian, Herodotus, and Homer, but many of those come from book VIII, and it should be apparent that they have little bearing on current events.

Is this attempt to uncover his sources for particular military events all an exercise in futility?  Even if I can uncover any of it, can it really tell us what we should believe?  Probably not a whole heck of a lot - rather, we'd need comparable evidence, where it exists.

One last note:  back to the doryphoroi.  Discussion has often centred on whether Procopius was advocating an era of horse-archery at the expense of the infantry, and it's been suggested that this was partly (or largely) the result of Procopius' attachment to Belisarius.  The general himself seems to have used a lot of cavalry, so Procopius would, unsurprisingly, use it and highlight it at the expense of others.  Is this mere "bias" on the part of Procopius?  Or is he actually reflecting reality?  Rance has made a good case that he's not being exactly forthright.  What all this thinking about sources has got me thinking, however, is whether the conversation should be shifted towards private armies versus public armies, not cavalry versus infantry.  Is this the face of Procopian combat?

It seems that there was a shift towards cavalry, regardless of whether Procopius was overzealous in his reporting of their actions.  But he also hints at a shift towards private armies.  OK - you could say that the abandonment of the heavy infantry that won Rome its empire is cause for concern.  But what about the failure of the state to pay for the armies to keep the empire secure?  Or make the desired conquests easier?  In some sense, then, what we see is a return to the profiteering of the late republic: soldier-generals fighting each other for power and prestige, while in the process nearly ruining the state.  In the republic's case, it was fortunate enough, depending on your perspective, to have a guy like Octavian come round and right the ship.  Without him, it's hard to imagine a Rome existing in the form that it did by the time Justinian came around.  The sixth and seventh century state, however, didn't have anyone like that.  Sure, Heraclius deserves lots of credit for what he did to prevent the ship from going down, but we all know that the empire would never again reach the geographical extent that it once did (and assuming that's the best sign of the strength of an empire - it might not be).

So, more for me to ponder.  Yes, think more about sources.  Think more about how to evaluate his worth.  Think more about he characterizes the various militaries who feature in his works.  But think too what was the most significant of those (if there is such a thing).

As always, more to come...