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Optimates

(1,147 words)

Author(s): Burckhardt, Leonhard (Basle)
[German version] The Latin term 'Optimates', found only in the plural and derived from opti mus, means 'the best'; in the works of Cicero, by far the most important source for the evidence, but also in other authors such as Livy (3,35,4; 3,39,9; 6,39,6), the word 'Optimates' is used to refer to the Roman leadership class, especially when emphasizing the difference between senatores and plebs or between Optimates and Populares . In his speech on behalf of Sestius, Cicero invests the term with considerable moral and political significance and coun…

Media, Wall of

(377 words)

Author(s): Burckhardt, Leonhard (Basle)
[German version] The wall of Media (Μηδίας τεῖχος, Mēdías teîchos) is only mentioned with this designation by Xenophon in his Anábasis, initially just in passing in connection with a defensive ditch at the Euphrates, built at the order of Artaxerxes [2] II (Xen. An. 1,7,15). Xenophon gives a comprehensive description of the wall in his report of the events following the battle of Cunaxa in 401BC (An. 2,4,12): it was supposedly 20 feet ( c. 6 m) wide, 100 feet ( c. 30 m) high, and 20 parasangs ( c. 80 km) long, built from fired bricks placed in asphalt. According to Xenophon (An. 2,1…

Mercenaries

(1,073 words)

Author(s): Burckhardt, Leonhard (Basle) | Campbell, J. Brian (Belfast)
[German version] I. Greece Mercenaries (μισθοφόρος/ misthophóros or μισθωτός/ misthōtós, ξένος/ xénos) - soldiers who fought in foreign service as professional soldiers in exchange for payment ( misthós) - had existed in Greece since ancient times. In the 6th cent. BC they served Egyptian or eastern kings (Egypt: Hdt. 2,154; ML, No. 7; Babylon: Alc. 350 Lobel/Page); Greek tyrants like Peisistratus [4] or Polycrates [1] needed mercenaries to protect them (Hdt. 1,61; 3,45). Only from the Peloponnesian War onwards did the po…

Thorax

(592 words)

Author(s): Burckhardt, Leonhard (Basle) | Welwei, Karl-Wilhelm (Bochum) | Lohmann, Hans (Bochum)
(θώραξ; thṓrax). [German version] [1] Cuirass Cuirass. As a part of Greek hoplite armour, the thorax protected the chest an…
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