Friday, January 24, 2014


Location of Wounds

In ancient Greek and Roman warfare, a wound in the back was generally considered disgraceful, because it meant that the man struck was fleeing, and it was shameful to flee in battle. By contrast, a wound in the chest or belly was considered honorable, because it meant that the wounded man was facing his foe and fighting bravely when struck. I discussed some examples in the following posts:
I recently came across another example in Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 2.11.2 (on Lucius Sicinius Dentatus, tr. J.C. Rolfe):
It is said that he fought with the enemy in one hundred and twenty battles, and had not a scar on his back, but forty-five in front...

is pugnasse in hostem dicitur centum et viginti proeliis, cicatricem aversam nullam, adversas quinque et quadraginta tulisse...
There is a very extensive discussion of the location of wounds (citing this passage from Aulus Gellius among many others) in Matthew Leigh, Lucan: Spectacle and Engagement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 208-231.

One small bit of evidence is not mentioned by Leigh. W. Kendrick Pritchett, The Greek State at War, Part V (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), chap. I (Stone Throwers and Slingers in Ancient Greek Warfare), pp. 1-67 (at 49-53), divides inscriptions scratched onto lead sling bullets into the following categories: names of enemy states, names of military leaders, names of military contingents, invocations to gods, recommendations addressed to the bullets, abuse addressed to the foe, and names of the artisans who fabricated the bullets. An example of "recommendations addressed to the bullets" is Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum I.682: Pet(e) culum Octavia[ni], i.e. Attack Octavian's arsehole. The implication is that Octavianus (the future Augustus) would be disgracefully fleeing when the bullet struck his hind end.

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