Manuscript reveals battle between Greeks and Goths at Thermopylae

The Thermopyles site. Credit: Fkerasar / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

An ancient manuscript that was recently revealed indicates that in 262 BC there was another battle at Thermopylae which essentially saved Greece from the Goths.

In 2007, Jana Grusková, PhD, of Masaryk University, discovered a manuscript fragment containing a piece of lost ancient Greek history.

The fragments date from the 13th century and have gone unnoticed for centuries because the pages were palimpsests, or manuscripts where the original handwriting was washed or scraped off in order to write something new on the same page.

Technology now allows historians to read fragments that belong to a 3rd century text that describes a battle at the Thermopylae Pass, the site of the famous battle where Leonidas and his 300 brave men fought against the almighty Persian army. .

The battle took place during the period of the Germanic invasions of Roman territory

The fragments date from a period when there are few reliable historical sources – the decades after the start of the Germanic invasions of Roman territory in 238 BC.

The palimpsest fragments appear to be lost passages from a historical 3rd century work detailing the wars between Rome and the Goths, a Germanic people known as the Scythian.

The author of this work is also considered the Athenian historian Publius Herennius Dexippus, a reliable source according to historians today.

The fragment regarding the Battle of Thermopylae details events that likely took place in 262, according to an article in the Journal of Roman Studies.

The fragment says that an army of Goths was making their way through Thrace and Macedonia, plundering the countryside. But when they attempted to plunder the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, Thessaloniki (now Thessaloniki), they were refuted.

The Goths then set their sights on Athens and Achaia, considering votive offerings of gold and silver and the many processional objects in Greek shrines, according to Dexippus.

The Greeks faced the Goths at Thermopylae

The Greeks, however, got wind of the plan and chose to stop the Goths at the point of access to Athens from the north – the Thermopylae Pass.

“Some carried small spears, others axes, others wooden pikes covered with bronze and iron spikes, or whatever anyone could arm themselves with. And when they got together, they completely fortified the perimeter wall and rushed to protect it, ”the fragment reads.

The Greek army was located at the site of one of the most famous battles in history, so intelligent generals used it to their advantage: from the value of their ancestors, so that they would take on the whole war. with more heart and do not give up… ”

The fragment records part of the speech given by Marianus, the head of the Greek army:

“O Greeks, the occasion of our preservation for which you have gathered and the land on which you have been deployed are both truly apt to evoke the memory of virtuous acts. Because your ancestors, fighting there in ancient times, did not let Greece down and deprive it of its free state… So maybe it is good fortune, according to the daimonion [heavenly power], that the Greeks were credited with fighting the barbarians in this region (indeed, your own principles of fighting wars have proven to be valid in the past).

According to historians, the Goths were driven back by Marianus and his army.

“Thermopylae once again saved Athens from a darker fate,” the story concludes.

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