ubikcan

June 11, 2010

Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist Decoded: Persian troops: melophoroi

Filed under: Gene Wolfe, Greece, Soldier of the Mist — ubikcan @ 1:33 pm

Part III of a series begun here.

Here are some explanations of the places, people and events as we find them in the opening chapters of the book. Where Wolfe has provided explanation in the Glossary this is indicated in red. Text from the novel is indicated in blue.

Persian troops: melophoroi

Parsa–The country of the Great King, the location of Persepolis and Susa.

Persepolis–The capital of the Empire, largely a governmental and religious center.

Susa–The largest city in Parsa.

Soldiers hurry by me, sometimes running, never smiling. Most are short, strong men with black beards. They wear trousers, and embroidered tunics of turquoise and gold over corselets of scales. One came carrying a spear with an apple of gold. He was the first to meet my eyes, and so I stopped him and asked whose army this is. He said, “The Great King’s,” then made me sit once more and hurried off. p. 4

Herodotus:

7.41 In this way Xerxes rode out from Sardis; but whenever the thought took him he would alight from the chariot into a carriage. Behind him came a thousand spearmen of the best and noblest blood of Persia, carrying their spears in the customary manner; after them a thousand picked Persian horsemen, and after the horse ten thousand that were foot soldiers, chosen out of the rest of the Persians. One thousand of these had golden pomegranates on their spear-shafts instead of a spike, and surrounded the rest; the nine thousand who were inside them had silver pomegranates. Those who held their spears reversed also carried golden pomegranates, and those following nearest to Xerxes had apples of gold. After the ten thousand came ten thousand Persian horsemen in array. After these there was a space of two stadia, and then the rest of the multitude followed all mixed together.

Commentary

The Persian elite troops carried spears with counterweights made of silver and gold “apples.” Melon μῆλον means “apple” in Greek, and these troops were known as μηλοφόρος melophoroi, “apple-bearers” (How and Wells Commentary on Hdt. 7.41). Latro sees one of these melophoroi.

Pierre Bryant From Cyrus to Alexander (2002) quotes the little-known historian Heraclides of Cyme whose Pericles is not extant but is quoted by Athenaeus:

These formed his bodyguard (doryphoroi), and all of them were Persians by birth, having on the butt of their spears golden apples, and numbering a thousand, selected because of their rank (aristendēn) from the 10,000 Persians who are called the Immortals” (in Athenaeus, XII 514c, The Deipnosophists).

They were called the Immortals, not because they didn’t die, but because there were always 10,000 of them.

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