ClaudiusPtolemy on July 20, 2009, 08:38:40 am
Nobody in the whole room thought to bring a bow of his own, or even throwing knives?

For that matter, why wouldn't somebody try throwing his sword up at the balcony? No telemachus in the way, and less chance of being decapitated.

At least one shot of Odysseus braining a would-be archer would really help retain suspension of disbelief.

Technomad on July 20, 2009, 12:51:34 pm
In general, the ancient Greeks were not good archers.  Paris, in The Iliad, is derided because he's an archer, instead of standing up toe-to-toe with the likes of Achilles.  Odysseus' archery might be explained by his being from a border area of Greece. 

Also, nobody was expecting real trouble. 

SDGrant on July 20, 2009, 01:51:05 pm
Besides the above, bows are distance weapons. used for hunting or war, not for self-defense.  They'd bring one to a drinkup in a closed room why?  For self-defense you bring a knife, a sword or an ax.

- Grant

Rocketman on July 22, 2009, 08:30:57 pm
Considering how many different factions were trying to become the next king, I would have thought that at least a few of them would have had enough foresight that there might be a conflict to have been dressed in full body armor and carrying a good sword and shield.  I see some swords and knives but nothing else.  L. Neil once described life as an intelligence test, looks like they flunked.  ;D

illern on July 27, 2009, 03:54:37 am
I agree, they flunked. I guess though that they was expecting all struggle to be of a more civil form like boxing/wrestling/pankration on the palestra, by gifts and so on. Also I think that one point of the story was to tell that Odysseus was thinking outside the box and maybe one needs to show off the competitors as less creative than they might be in a real life situation.

Rocketman on July 27, 2009, 10:33:35 am
Illern:  Your right in that they weren't considering what ended up happening.  If they thought it was going to be more civil then they should have had some of their armed supporters hidden just down the street from the building with one unarmed man just outside to listen for sounds of fighting who then could have had gone and warned them.  Oh well too late now.  ;D

SDGrant on July 28, 2009, 01:28:35 pm
Illern:  Your right in that they weren't considering what ended up happening.  If they thought it was going to be more civil then they should have had some of their armed supporters hidden just down the street from the building with one unarmed man just outside to listen for sounds of fighting who then could have had gone and warned them.  Oh well too late now.  ;D

I suspect after ten years of little more than drink-ups and a civil understanding of not hacking each other up that they probably didn't expect much trouble, even if Penelope was supposed to be making a decision...  By that point, how many of them would even have thought they legitimately had a chance?  They'd've hung around just for the free booze and the party...

- Grant


J Thomas on July 29, 2009, 09:35:11 am
There were enough of them that one faction couldn't expect to come in armed and armored and slaughter the rest. So they were reasonably safe from each other. Somebody who did come in armed and armored would look paranoid and maybe scary, and might cause trouble for himself.

They did have enough knives etc to handle little personal duels if those happened to come up.

Then they found themselves facing a very small group of attackers who won by tricks. And the doors were barred against them so they couldn't run away.

I read a retelling of the story where a family of the roughest suitors noticed that the ceremonial weapons and shields had been removed from the wall, and they thought that over and left before the fighting. That story was told by a princess named Nausicaa who went through something kind of similar and then insisted that Homer help her create the story....

The story might have been _Homer's Daughter_ by Robert Graves, but I just looked at the first couple of pages of that online and it looked entirely unfamiliar.

Trico on August 07, 2009, 10:28:21 am
The ancients supposed that no success was distinguished or secure unless they defeated their adversary by bravery in open battle. For this reason they actually agreed among themselves not to use hidden or long-range missiles against each other, and they considered that only hand-to-hand, close-range combat counted as a true trial. Hence they gave each other notice in advance of wars and battles, where they proposed to make their stand and where they would march out in battle formation.

This shows that the greeks saw no honour in ranged combat; a true warrior would test his mettle in hand-to-hand combat, looking straight into their opponent's eyes.

With other words; bows are for cowards ^^ (or for smart-asses who didn't believe in traditions and conformity, such as Oddyseus the rebel ;) )

wdg3rd on August 08, 2009, 02:30:11 am
The ancients supposed that no success was distinguished or secure unless they defeated their adversary by bravery in open battle. For this reason they actually agreed among themselves not to use hidden or long-range missiles against each other, and they considered that only hand-to-hand, close-range combat counted as a true trial. Hence they gave each other notice in advance of wars and battles, where they proposed to make their stand and where they would march out in battle formation.

This shows that the greeks saw no honour in ranged combat; a true warrior would test his mettle in hand-to-hand combat, looking straight into their opponent's eyes.

With other words; bows are for cowards ^^ (or for smart-asses who didn't believe in traditions and conformity, such as Oddyseus the rebel ;) )

You've read too many Darkover novels, there was no compact about distance weapons, the ancient Greeks had no qualms over killing from distance, but goatherders rarely develop skill as archers.  And while I'm a very good archer (not Olympic grade, but a human torso is a huge target), I prefer firearms.  Yeah, I also carry a knife for close work, but the idea is to avoid close work.  (As a wise man said, a pistol is to distract the other guy until you can reach your rifle).  F u c k honour.
Ward Griffiths        wdg3rd@aol.com

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.  --  Denis Diderot

Rocketman on August 08, 2009, 01:40:00 pm
I agree.  If the other guy has a BB gun, I want a 45acp pistol, if he's got a .45 then I want a shotgun, and if he has a shotgun then I want a main battle tank.  There's only one rule in combat and that is that is to kill the other guy as quickly as you can so he doesn't have the chance to kill you.  Anything else is rubbish.

J Thomas on August 10, 2009, 03:13:33 am
Yes, however....

there was a tradition about fighting that was of course not always followed. You get a couple of guys who have these big oxhide shields, and they have dinky bronze knives or spears. Hard to hit somebody when he's standing behind that shield. The time he's particularly open is when he's trying to hit you.

So you stand there and sass each other, you come up with great insults, and if you can get him so mad that he attacks without thinking then you've got him. I think this might be where part of the legendary greek talent for invective comes from.

Or if you're super-strong and you can punch through the shield nobody else can, or toss yours down and grab his away from him, etc -- it doesn't have to follow the script. But the default is you stand there in the sun waiting to see who can best take advantage when somebody chooses to do something risky....

Or you can have a bow. An archer can't hold a shield while he shoots, so he has to stand back. His arrows will mostly bounce off a shield or maybe stick in it. So your enemy is walking toward you, and you shoot and fall back, shoot and fall back, and maybe you'll get just the right shot and you'll hit him. If somebody else is fighting him maybe you can get behind him. But if somebody else is fighting him you could do that with a sword and shield too.

I get the impression that a bow was a specialty weapon. It might come in real handy. A bowman might injure or kill more than his share of opponents. But it was maybe considered unlikely to be decisive.

Similarly with slings. You're about to fight, and your slingers throw rocks at the other guys, and their slingers throw rocks at you, and maybe some guys on both sides get knocked out or get ringing headaches or a few of them might even be killed. Maybe one side gets a signficant advantage that way. Then the real fighters get close enough to make that impractical, and the slingers either stand aside or pick up their swords and shields and join in, and the real fight starts.

Rocketman on August 10, 2009, 08:58:45 am
Every weapon has it's own advantages and disadvantages.  That's why you need to have a combination of short, medium and long range weapons to really be effective.  If you have a roman short sword and a axe for example someone can stand off out of the range of your weapons and take you down with a bow and some arrows.

J Thomas on August 10, 2009, 01:57:10 pm
Sure, but if you have an axe and armor or a good shield, the guy with the bow and arrows can't keep you from going where you want to. Other things equal he can outrun you, but he can't stop you until he gets a lucky shot. If he wants to stop you from burning down his house he needs a better method.

Of course if you can shoot an arrow hard enough to punch through the armor, then you win. And if nobody else can string your bow there's a good chance you hit harder....

I've seen the claim that various armies were deficient in ranged weapons throughout antiquity. Particularly they were deficient in mobile ranged weapons, bowmen on horses. The romans were deficient that way, they had occasional auxiliaries with slings or bows, but they didn't do much of that themselves. Some of their most spectacular defeats came facing enemies that had adequate archers.

SDGrant on August 11, 2009, 02:38:33 pm
Maybe.  The problem of shields is that one hefty enough to be a good defense against arrows - given their velocity and form, arrows have been known to puncture shields, and if you raise a shield against arrows raining down on you from above, that makes your chest a pretty good target for arrows shot at eye level; the best use of a shield against arrows is to duck and cover, but that effectively immobilizes you for the duration, so even with a shield arrows get kind of problematic - is difficult to move quickly in close-in combat.  A fairly light shield can be fairly effective against close-combat weapons, especially if they're used to deflect rather than absorb blows, but the lighter the shield the more susceptible it is to puncture from arrow shots, which can have considerably more velocity than sword or knife shots.

The problem of armor is the same.  To be functional, it has to be fairly light or it slows down your movements, not to mention quickly wears you out, to the point where you're a sitting duck.  But the lighter the armor the less protection it is...

Bowmen on horses were a Persian specialty, as I recall.  It's difficult to get good aim from any moving platform with any distance weapon, unless it's powerful enough that a near miss is equivalent to a hit, like with a fragmenting mortar or a nuke.  The more precise the weapon, say an arrow, the more difficult the shot.  It's hard enough to get good aim from a distance weapon when standing still...

- Grant