Camp Notices: Lessons from Syracuse Edition

Not Dionysus of Syracuse

The King’s Speech
Less than a hundred years ago, in the eighth regnal year of my predecessor Archelaus I, Carthage captured the cities of Selinus and Himera in Sicily. They took 3,000 Greeks hostage and sacrificed them to their gods. This despicable act preceded an attack on Acragas and then Gela. As Carthage captured the former and lay siege to the latter, Dionysus I of Syracuse was elected strategos autokrator in his home city and charged with its defence.

Over the next few years, he rebuilt the Syracusian army in preparation for a counter strike. His work was concluded in the second year of the joint kingship of Orestes I and Aeropus II. That year, he marched out against the Carthaginians defeating them in Motya following a hard fought battle.

The bloodshed was so bad, Dionysus worried that there would be no Carthaginians left to be sold as slaves. Carthage had suffered a terrible loss, but it was not was defeated; a year later, Himilco of Carthage attacked Dionysus’ forces. Syracuse and Carthage then fought each other for four years until (i.e. in the second and last regnal year of Argaeus II and first regnal year of Amyntas II) Himilco was forced to sign a peace treaty.

The treaty gave Carthage a presence on Sicily. Why? Dionysus had won the war. Well, he wanted an excuse to continue as strategos autokrator, that is to say, as a tyrant. What better way to ensure this than by signing a treaty that kept the Syracusians looking over their shoulders at their enemies.

So, why do I mention all this? Well, now that I am the Lord of Asia, I know that some of you are wondering why we are now marching north to Ekbatana and not to Babylon and home.

The reason is Darius III Codomannus. He lives, and while he lives, he remains a rival to my throne; the throne that he once sat upon. Now, you might argue that as he has been deposed from it, he cannot be considered a threat. But this is a short sighted view. For as long as Darius remains alive, he may gather a new army to himself that could threaten my rule. Of course, I could do what Dionysus I did and come to terms with him. But he (Dionysus), as I have stated, only did that in order to maintain his own authority. I intend to pursue and apprehend Darius in the interest of long term Greek safety and unity between peoples. I have peace in mind, not power.

I know some of you would like to return home; you shall – and with even more riches than you currently own – but I would not have you leave here under threat of a surprise attack. When you leave, you shall look only forward, not over your shoulder as the men of Syracuse were forced to do. It is for this reason that we go north; and it is for this reason that I warn you to look out for Darius as we ride for I fully expect him to challenge me once more.

When he does I will defeat him. Then, he will either be dead or will submit to my authority; when that happens the ghost of Dionysus I of Syracuse that haunts us now will be banished forever and the peace that he could not give his people shall be given by me to mine.


The Ironic Enrinys
On Minoa

“Look, you’ll only get rid of the ear wax if you put your finger IN your ear.”

“I always told the children that they would be back from the Labyrinth in time for tea.”
“Sheep were more popular than bulls on Minoa.”
“Minoan men were frightened of women’s breasts.”
“The Dorian Greeks only invaded Minoa because they were provoked.”

Book Charts
courtesy of the mobile library

1. The Iliad by Homer (no change)
2. The Odyssey by Homer (no change)
3. Odes by Pindar (new)
4. Histories by Herodotus (down one place)
5. Anabasis by Xenophon (down one place)

The new chart shows no change in the top two positions for the five hundredth year and 2600 (ish) week in succession. Below it, however, Pindar has shot into third place displacing Thucydides from the top five. What has led to Pindar’s sudden popularity? Who can say but maybe it will inject a bit of life in this frankly moribund chart. Perhaps we’ll just start making it up; Would you like that? Let me know, or, why not just come to the library and take another bloody scroll out!
Sarcastic Amyntas

Ptolemy a few years hence

Ptolemy Lagides
On how to tell a story

I. Don’t be afraid to involve your audience.

Every night in the Pella Wine Tent I see men telling stories about things that have happened to them, the gods or some other subject and as they speak (or sing) they recline on their couch as if their audience has the plague or bad B.O.

This is very bad practice.

A good story-teller wants to make his audience feel as much part of the story as possible. If it is a peaceful one (e.g. about what you did at home/while marching) why not insert a reference to food or drink into the narrative; if you do you will have an excuse to provide one or the other or even both to the people listening to you. This is particularly useful if you sense that your audience is getting bored.

Similarly, if your story is about war, don’t be afraid to stab or smack, punch or strangle one of your listeners. They won’t complain (on account of being dead) and the surviving members will leave you afterwards with the satisfaction of having got as close to the action of the narrative as one can without having jumped into the story itself. You will be thanked for this and adored by generations to come as a second Homer (Possibly).


Demaratus, Macedon’s biggest cry baby, talks about what makes him teary
3. Democracy

“Oh my! Oh, oh my! Oh, oh, oh my! Giving men the right to vote! The right to decide their future! OH MY! IT’S ALL TOO, TOO MUCH!!!!!!!!”

[Interview stopped as Demaratus gets confused and tries to kill himself so that he can die happy]

Next Week: Demaratus cries over his Boot Straps

Camp Notices
Now that we are on the road again, all meetings will be after sundown unless otherwise stated

Proxenus and the Engineering and the Chicken Soc.
Aristobulos informs the Camp Notices that due to the success of last week’s talk, during which he and Proxenus made a model of the Royal Tent using only leaves and twigs, they will be teaming up again this coming hemera selenes to make a full sized model of the ark of the covenant out of according to the directions laid out in the Israelites’ holy book. To add to the challenge, both objects will be made out of whatever material guests bring with them.

* Aristobulos’ chicken will not be eating any food used in the challenge this week as she has been feeling under the weather for the last few days. Please pray to Asklepios for her recovery as Aristobulos has been feeling very lonely without her.

Pneuma Soc
Last week’s discussion on ‘What do the words of a drunk man mean?‘ will continue on the hemera Areos this week. The talk will be followed by a workshop during which one male and one female guest will be invited to get drunk so that their words can be analysed for possible meaning.

* If you would like to volunteer to be one of the drunk guests, please let Deep Thoughts Amyntas know by midnight on the hemera selenes.

Get drunk. Dance.

Pork Chop Soc
The PCS regrets to announce that following last week’s real life massacre during a game of Rome: Total War Bastard for children it will not be starting a children’s division of the club. Destroying one’s enemies in the context of a game is one thing but doing it in real life because you lost or ‘wanted total and utter victory’ is another. The PCS thanks the UMM for not destroying it in any revenge action as a result of the unfortunate bloodshed.

Wine Sarissa Soc
Scythian Extra Strength Rot Gut, acquired from some shady camel traders on the first day after we left Persepolis, will be used at this week’s meeting on the hemera Hermu. There are currently three vacancies for places in the society; if you would like to join it and are prepared to drink the Rot Gut+ you will be given free membership for two years instead of one. If you die in the attempt, the society promises to crucify the traders should they ever be seen again.

Union of Macedonian Mothers
The UMM understands that women like to beautify themselves in whatever way possible and applauds this; however, please do not let any man pierce ANY PART OF YOUR BODY with his xyston or sarissa. These weapons are WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE TOOLS FOR PIERCINGS. And no, it does not matter if he does it when sober rather than drunk.

Men who attempt to pierce their wives with a spear are reminded that the UMM know where you live.

Kaloi k’agathoi Soc
This coming hemera Dios the KkS will be holding a discussion in the Pella Wine Tent on ‘The Beauty of the Gorgon”. You would have to have a heart of stone to miss it.

Loot Soc
Have you ever looted something that you no longer want? If so, Loot Soc is for you. The Society of Looters and Pillagers (to give it its full name) is a friendly society dedicated to helping members get rid of loot they don’t want and acquiring looted goods that they do over a flagon of wine or two. We will be holding our next buy-or-exchange session in the Aegae Wine Tent next hemera Aphrodites.

The Good Macedonian Sex Guide
Your questions answered by Lady Aphrodite who does it at the end of the baggage train with aplomb

Dear Lady Aphrodite who d etc etc

Theognis said that “there is nothing sweeter than an honest wife”. Is this true?

Thinking about marriage

Sweet as.

Dear Thinking about marriage,

Yes it is; but I would add, there is nothing spicier than a whore. Which you go with just depends on your taste.

Lady Aphrodite who does it at th etc etc

Camp Notices
Editor: Eumenes of Cardia
Deputy Editor: Leonnatus Son of Anteas

Wise Words

“A man’s homeland is wherever he prospers”

(Aristophanes Plutus)

Worth remembering – Alexander

Alexander on the ‘net
Twitter: @AlexanderIIIFacebookand Pinterest

Categories: Camp Notices | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Camp Notices: Lessons from Syracuse Edition

  1. As ever, “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece” and “Sexual Life in Ancient Greece” were very helpful in writing the ‘Camp Notices’ – AOS.


  2. Fran

    Oh! Didn’t I send you the sex one, AOS? *chuffed*


  3. A second Achilles eh? Well, perhaps the title is deserved, though I have some opinions and ideas about what Homer was doing in juxtaposing the vainglorious Achilles with the ‘people’s man’, Odysseus, which do not put Achilles in such a rosy light as is usually cast upon him.

    Most commentors on the Iliad seem to miss the significance of the fact that Achilles spends most of his time at Troy sulking; refusing to fight because he was peeved over the taking of a slave girl he fancied as ‘spoils of war’ by Agamemnon. So Achilles doesn’t really care about anything more than his own personal glory; certainly he doesn’t care about the success of the expedition: When he finally does come out to fight, it is not as a general and commander of a vast and fierce army of myrmidons but as a single individual in a vengeful rage which, while successful in disposing of Hector and thus demoralising the Trojans, also, in some versions of the tale, leads to his being killed by the ‘coward’, Paris via the old ‘arrow in the Achilles heel’ trick, so the expedition were in any case deprived of whatever leadership they were depending on him for.

    You see, I think that in the Iliad Homer was putting one, traditional and very ancient notion of what constituted a ‘hero’ side by side with another, newer type of ‘hero’ of a contrasting nature specifically for the purposes of comparison by his readers:

    Odysseus finally proves himself the real ultimate hero of Troy with the old ‘Trojan Horse’ trick… and, where Achilles motives were egoistic and individual, those of Odysseus were social and communal; even the plan for the horse was arrived at democratically; the point being, of course, that the new kind of lifestyle represented by living in large cities rather than the older semi-nomadic cultures which first spawned the individualistic ‘Achilles’-type heroes (eg, the Sumerian Gilgamesh…) was requiring different and more civically-responsible behaviour from their citizens and this in turn is reflected by a new and different type of hero, who, of course, now exhibits all the new ‘virtues’ which emerge as a response to the new more intensely social demands placed on heroes… though there is a foreshadowing of this new type of hero, to some extent at least, in Cyrus. However, with Cyrus I think the ‘social-hero’ thing is more accidental and arose more out of a natural love of almost everybody which was returned also by almost everyone, rather than out of a sense of ‘civic duty’ in the greek sense of the term… In Cyrus’ time, though still ‘civilized’ enough to have cities, the people were still largely nomadic and their societies were still organised according to tribal laws; the idea of ‘nationhood’ was still very young.

    With the passing of time, cities grew in size and density and governing them meant the imposition of a more intensely hierarchical structure as the only way of socially controlling their ever-increasing populations… eg. nomadic cultures have no ‘police forces’… and as I say in my book, Aesthetics of Violence, hierarchy = violence and violence = hierarchy, so the process of becoming ‘civilized’ (a term which really only means ‘living in cities’) really entailed a parallel proces of becoming more and more ‘uncivilized’ (or ‘barbaric’ in the modern sense of the term) towards anyone outside one’s own culture; towards the ‘barbarians’, in other words!

    BTW, thank you so much for nominating my blog for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award; I’d be honored to accept… do I need to do anything?

    ‘Bye for now; see you again soon…

    (aka: theseustoo, aka: Cynicure)

    (Crikey! Must apologize about the length of my ‘comment’; it just sorta grew… like ‘Topsy’; it’s almost long enough to be an article in its own right! If you want to post it as such, I have no objections… Anyway, I’ll try to keep comments shorter from now on; sorry!)



    • Astyages,

      Thank you for your most informative comment; I appreciate the time and effort you have put into it very much. The title of the blog has its origin, of course, in how Alexander perceived himself – as revealed, for example, when he and Hephaestion ran round the tombs of Achilles and Patroclus at Troy. Regarding Achilles’ sulk – I have always thought it funny that he spends almost the whole poem in his tent, but then, Agamemnon does disrespect him really quite badly for their age, doesn’t he.

      Never mind your comment being worth a blog post or two, I’m sure you could write an essay based on the very interesting ideas that you mention!

      Thank you again for writing. I don’t mind how long or short your comments are. If they are good as this one, they can be as long as they like.



  4. Great pleasure in reading this.


  5. Dear AOS, thank you for your kind words and warm reception.

    Because there are many who are likely to chide me for heresy at the merest suggestion that Achilles was anything less then the ‘perfect hero’, I feel it is perhaps wise at this point that I should underline that the ideas I spoke of earlier are my own opinion, based on a moderate, though not exhaustive knowledge of the classics and my own anthropological understanding of social and historical process, the process of mythification and the techniques of literary analysis…

    The new type of hero understands that the expedition is more important than his own ego; his own glory.

    However, it is perhaps also worth pointing out that of all the ‘heroes’ in the Iliad, the only one who really comes out of it smelling of roses is Hector, whom I suspect actually represents Homer’s own ideal…

    ‘Bye for now,



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