to the history page. Today we are going to deviate rather radically from our usual
format in order to report on an event which happened only last week: The Archaeology
Seminar 2001'. This annual lecture series is organised and subsidised by Ibiza's
Archaeology Museum and constitutes a veritable highpoint for the island's ancient
This year the talks were held at Ibiza's branch
university (located at the former Island Council building) and featured the acclaimed
author and lecturer, Dr. Fernando Quesada Sanz. This award-winning scholar earned
his doctorate in Prehistory and Archaeology from the University of Madrid, and
went on to do further research at the universities of Oxford and Rome. Today Quesada
is the head of the Archaeology Department at his alma mater as well as a prolific
contributor to various historical publications, both scholarly and popular.
usual, the seminar consisted of three hour-long presentations spread over the
course of three evenings. Dr. Quesada proved to be a captivating and extremely
well prepared lecturer whose seminar was entitled 'From Heroes to Mercenaries:
War and Society in Ancient Iberia'. Quesada is expert in this field of research,
having written three books on the subject and over 150 articles for specialised
journals. Although the talks did not touch on Ibiza, their content was so interesting
and so well presented that I cannot help but divulge a few of the choicest morsels.
Classical World: An Overview
With a mind to historical
synthesis, all of Quesada's arguments concerning Ibieria were carefully prefaced
by earlier trends in the Classical World, i.e. social and political customs which
inevitably foreshadowed the later developments of the western Mediterranean. He
led his audience along a fascinating road of martial practices, beginning in Homeric
times with the 'hero' or 'champion', an exalted personage whose fighting skills
were showcased, as it were, against a backdrop of more or less anonymous colleagues.
Toward the 4th and 3rd centuries BC (the era of the Peloponnesian
Wars between Athens and Sparta) this 'cameo' style of warfare gave way to the
phalanx, a solid mass of soldiers, eight rows deep, which would advance machine-like
on the enemy. This battle tactic downplayed the importance of the individual warrior,
and also required significantly greater numbers to keep up the formations. Sweeping
social changes accrued in that a much larger slice of the population was admitted
into the prestige circle of the warrior. It could be said that city-states evolved
toward greater democracy with citizen militias as the basis of social organisation.
From the 3rd to the 1st centuries BC, the primary orbit
of war revolved around the western Mediterranean. The Punic Wars (which Quesada
likens to the World Wars of antiquity) dominated the international picture and
demanded an intense escalation of manpower: out of necessity, the mercenary was
born. Naturally, Ibiza was a staunch Punic supporter, however, in Iberia, there
was a division of loyalties. Some sectors fought in Hannibal's ranks, while others
were won over by Scipio and comprised the first non-Italic auxiliary troops to
fight on Rome's behalf.
My Favourite Bits: Bravery Exalted
first lecture was my personal favourite. It dealt with the 'heroic' values that
dominated warfare from approximately the 7th to the 5th centuries BC. At this
stage in Greek society, warriors were exclusive to the aristocratic class for
the simple reason that only the wealthiest citizens could afford to equip themselves
with the expensive armament need for warfare. Even city-states that did not display
marked belligerence, Athens, for example, engaged in war on an average of two
years out of every three. Greek society was therefore dominated by a philosophy
of military virtues that included sacrifice, duty and competitiveness, the redeeming
values of the day.
Military Service Confers Civic Right
this period, the concept of battle was fundamentally confined to hand-to-hand
combat between two noble adversaries who were honour-bound to prove their personal
excellence in the theatre of war. The privilege (in terms of both financial station
and physical prowess) of fighting for one's land was inexorably tied to civil
rights, for only those who were willing to shed blood for their 'polis' were entitled
to vote or to take part in the running of state. Interestingly, sport was also
an exclusively aristocratic activity, being considered a non-violent extension
of the competitive, honour-bestowing military drive.
went on to compare and contrast these mores to those that guided the conduct of
war in the Iberian Peninsula. Despite suppositions to the contrary within the
academic world, Quesada maintains that the elite quality of the warrior class
was also a feature of ancient Iberia. His arguments were well documented with
slides, maps and graphs of archaeological data, derived primarily from necropolises.
burial rites are one of the most faithful reflections of ancient societies; for,
not only do grave goods report on the material aspect of a society, but also on
its deepest-held values. For example, all items of armament found in Iberian tombs
were deliberately smashed or bent so as to render them useless. This practice
reflected the belief that only he or that which has been broken by earthly life
will be restored to perfection in the afterlife. A certain symmetry was thus maintained
in the sense that when one is born, he is delivered new and perfect. By inverse
reasoning, only lifeless bodies and unusable objects should pass into the spirit
world where they will be made whole and new again.
One of the virtually omnipresent finds among
warriors' funeral dowries (in both Classical and Iberian necropolises) were combs.
This item reflects the common practice, throughout the Mediterranean, of warriors
wearing long hair. The comb also tells us that it was important to keep the hair
well groomed. Care in personal appearance, then, was clearly an important concept
to the warrior elite throughout the ancient world. This conclusion illustrates
what it known as 'historical convergence', that is, a common thread that runs
through many different societies and time periods.
is so much more to tell, but no time to tell it. Anyway, that's about all the
excitement a body can stand in a single week of life! Next week we'll get back
to 'business as usual' with Santa Eulària's festival of flowers. Please
give us a read.