THE STORY: (53 minutes) Agamemnon’s 100,000-strong army finally makes it to the beaches of Troy, and readies itself for one day of glorious, decisive, “winner-take-all” battle against Hector’s Trojan army. But the Trojans appear to have other plans. And it soon becomes clear that the Greek troops will not be making it home for Christmas – at least not for any Christmas in this decade.
THE COMMENTARY: WEAPONS, ARMOUR & BATTLEFIELD REALITIES c. 1250 B.C.E. (30 minutes; begins at 53:00) Some episodes ago I spent the post-story commentary shamelessly geeking out on Greek vs. Trojan warships and naval tactics. In this episode I turn my equally geeky attention to Bronze Age weapons, armour and military tactics. But rather than contrasting Greeks vs. Trojans, I instead contrast “warlord heroes” vs “cannon-fodder grunts”. First I discuss the “warlord heroes” as presented by Homer and his contemporaries: heroes like Achilles, Ajax, Hector, Odysseus and Agamemnon. I review the sort of armour that they wore, and the weapons that they would have most preferred. Then I note the protein-rich diet, and the lifetime of professional training, that these warlord heroes would have benefitted from, and that made them seem so “larger than life” to the common foot soldiers on the battlefield. Next I turn my attention to those common foot soldiers –the men who would have comprised the overwhelming majority of fighting forces on the plains of Troy. I note that if there actually were 100,000 Greeks on the Trojan beach, then well over 99,500 of them are not beneficiaries of the “Homeric epic treatment” in Bronze Age accounts of this war. I explain that these common foot soldiers would have been poorly fed, poorly trained, poorly armoured and poorly provisioned. They would have gone into battle with what bits of armoured protection they could cobble together (often nothing but hardened leather), and for weapons would have utilized whatever was readily at hand. Finally I turn to the horrifying realities of injury, mutilation and dying on a Bronze Age battlefield: a battlefield with no anaesthetics, antibiotics or accurate understandings of surgical procedure. Not a pretty picture.