Papremis, take IIa

OK, I could have used the existing thread, but this way I generatw more blog entries :-)

The thing now is: how could an army able to resist a siege in Memphis against the lybian/egypt rebels and the Greek army/navy that went to assist them for about four years have lost the battle at Papremis against the rebls only?

Hoplologically speaking, there are certain possibilities, but all of them are a bit far-fetched, to say the least. First of all, I dunno how was Papremis at the time, so I'm making up most of this, also considering that the information of these events is basically close to nil. The setup is that Papremis has a fluvial, important harbor, not far from the town, which is located in "high" land, to avoid the annual flooding of the Nile. The conecction between harbor and town could be walled, but it's unlikely, as it would have served to channel the waters into the city in the annual floodings: not a brilliant idea, really... But if physical conditions about terrain are given, it could be possible.

In any way, and therefore, before the flood, the town is (must be) sieged by the rebels, who have (necessarily) taken control of the harbor as well, when the satrap's forces arrive. After some fluvial conflicts to try and re-take the harbor under loyal control, the scene is set-up for the ground battle.

The only know fact about this is that Achaemenes was killed or badly hurt by Inaros during that battle, and that the rebels won the upper hand, and managed to ask for Greek help to storm into Memphis.

Now, the fun begins: the satrap's army must have been good and strong, after all it was Lower Egypt's army, and it's remnants, without a power figure to back 'em up, managed to resist the combined force of Lybian rebels and Delian League army for four years, giving time to Artaxerxes I to send Megabyzos with a huge army (to be discussed sometime in the future) and re-take Memphis and siege the rebel and allied forces.

Therefore, it was not a tiny, bad, or poorly equiped army. It must have been abig, strong one, considering the Egyptians relationship to the Persians, and this being the second big time rebellion (the first one ca. 485 bloodily repressed) I wouldn't think Achaemenes would have taken it too lightly, but instead, in his place, I would have sent, if not most, at least a big and powerful army, to smash the rebellion, and as a showoff/display of strength and power to the populace, just in case anyone else thought they could rebel as well...

thus, we can agree in a powerful, loyal-side army, with Persian and Median forces displaced to Egypt, plus mercenaries, plus local conscripts, and a so-far successful rebel army, formed mainly by mercenaries Inaros's money could muster from the local garrisons, and cities in the western Delta (I have included greek Cyrenaic mercenaries, as they fall within this sphere of influence) and then by conscripted lybians and egyptians following their "rightful" pharaoh, plus anything Inaros could have had under his arm when living in Mareia, I've supposed so far a palace guard (he was of royal blood, after all... If Darius didn't kill him, why leave him completely unprotected?), and some secretly trained pluses... therefore, including all the recruiting he could have done after winning over Mareia, Naucratis and Sais, he couldn't have had such a big army to use at Papremis...

Therefore, how does a small army win a bigger, better prepared one?

Motivation is one way. Sound strategical and tactical work is another. Even pushing both into one, it was a tremendous feat... My take is that the mercenaries Inaros had, in my case the Cyrenian mercenaries, managed to take over a part of Achaemenes's army long enough to allow Inaros to fight him. Face to face combat may seem romantic, but it's feasible that both generals were up-front ahead of their armies and seeking each other; at least Persian kings were expected to lead their armies personally, despite the accounts we have by Greek historians, and Darius III's own behavior before Alexander II of Makedon... I can't see why Egyptian military traditions were to be different (Ramses II is always depicted at the Battle of Kadesh leading the army on his chariot...).

Once Inaros wounded/killed Achaemenes, morale on the persian side would have fallen very quickly, and the rest, as it is said, is History.

Another possibility is a massive (or at least big enough) betrayal of locally conscripted egyptians in the Persian, faced at the possibility of liberation from Persian rule... But that's not documented, and it would have weakened the Persian position for the battle of Memphis, which is unlikely, given the results...

Okay, the dilemma is served, what happened? I may start answering it later today, when I resume my writing, as I am writing exactly this part, but your thoughts and insights will be very welcome anyway...



Scott Oden said...

One way the rebels could win -- and it's attested to in far too many battles -- is if Inaros had as his core a phalanx of Cyrenaean or Greek hoplites and Achamenes was relying on Egyptian levies and his own Persian satrapal forces (which he would have had as the core of his force). Or, suppose Inaros had only native Egyptians and Libyans at his disposal. His best ally, then, would be the terrain: choose a marshy spot (Papremis is in the western Delta, which is one big happy marshland) where Achamenes' heavier forces would get bogged down, allowing the rebel's lighter-armored troops to run roughshod over them.

Plus, the siege of Memphis wasn't a siege of the city itself, but of the fortress Ineb-Hedj (White Walls), a fortification on a man-made acropolis some 90 feet high. The actual city of Memphis had no walls to speak of -- though it had several temples with high walls (one roughly the size of Karnak). I don't know how active this siege was, either. Probably more of a 'surround them and starve them out' situation, with skirmishes, rather than a full-blown escalade.

The Persians had great contempt for Egypt's native military (Cambyses called the army facing him at Pelusium in 525 a 'rabble of artisans'), so I wouldn't discount Achamenes having much the same reaction to an uprising of Egyptians led by a Libyan pretender.

Good luck! I look forward to reading it!

Excalibor said...

Scott, thanks for your advice. True, the greek mercenaries could have done a great impact, even a small number of them. But it sounds a bit cliché, and considering I will need them to fight at Memphis, and that huge Delian navy will be coming, I may try the marshes approach first.

I had already been adviced about this, but, alas, forgot completely about it! Even this late in the year (these events are happening some months after the flooding, probably December or January, or they wouldn't happen at all, but way before the harvest, in April or May) the marshes should still be pretty full of water, leeches, and whatnot... :-)

The Greeks will arive in time to storm over Memphis and take most of the harvest there, needed to feed a huge army, and to push on the siege. I agree that it was probably more of a "light" thing, but somehow Memphis must have had a way to produce food and water enough for the defenders, else they would have perished... I'll tack that problem later, papremis is interesting enough by itself now...

So, how does it sound a guerrilla warfare around the marshes against the Persians, with Papremis sieged and the satrap unable to retake it because he lost control of the Nile, and the Cyrenian mercenaries don't allow them to go full ahead against Inaros?

After some time with skirmishes all around the place, where light infantry is the rule, Achaemenes will finally loose his head an order a full blown-out attack, where his conscripted lose faith and the mercenaries help to save the day?

Most of the Persian troops would retreat back to Memphis, and make there their stronghold, while this would let us time enough to call the Greeks, make all preparations and so... OTOH it will give time for Memphis to send help out to the Eastern side of the Delta and cry out for help, where the mentioned Samian captains will have an important naval victory over a Phoenician navy sent out to relieve Papremis.

It actually sounds like it's starting to fall into place... :-)

thanks a bunch!

Pierre said...

The Archeology of the Delta is rather poorly known. I'm not aware of any excavations done at Papremis so just how the site was organized is a bit speculative. Herodotus mentions that Papremis was the site of some religious festivals.

Regarding Herodotus comments here are a few:

"Now of the Egyptians there are seven classes, and of these one class
is called that of the priests, and another that of the warriors, while
the others are the cowherds, swineherds, shopkeepers, interpreters,
and boatmen. This is the number of the classes of the Egyptians, and
their names are given them from the occupations which they follow. Of
them the warriors are called Calasirians and Hermotybians, and they are of the following districts,--for all Egypt is divided into districts. The districts of the Hermotybians are those of Busiris, Sais, Chemmis, Papremis, the island called Prosopitis, and the half of Natho,--of these districts are the Hermotybians, who reached when most
numerous the number of sixteen myriads."


"Moreover, it is true also that the Egyptians were the first of men who
made solemn assemblies and processions and approaches to the temples,
and from them the Hellenes have learnt them, and my evidence for this
is that the Egyptian celebrations of these have been held from a very
ancient time, whereas the Hellenic were introduced but lately. The
Egyptians hold their solemn assemblies not once in the year but often,
especially and with the greatest zeal and devotion at the city of
Bubastis for Artemis, and next at Busiris for Isis; for in this last-
named city there is a very great temple of Isis, and this city stands
in the middle of the Delta of Egypt; now Isis is in the tongue of the
Hellenes Demeter: thirdly, they have a solemn assembly at the city of
Sais for Athene, fourthly at Heliopolis for the Sun (Helios), fifthly
at the city of Buto in honour of Leto, and sixthly at the city of
Papremis for Ares."


"To Heliopolis and Buto they go year by
year and do sacrifice only: but at Papremis they do sacrifice and
worship as elsewhere, and besides that, when the sun begins to go down
while some few of the priests are occupied with the image of the god,
the greater number of them stand in the entrance of the temple with
wooden clubs, and other persons to the number of more than a thousand
men with purpose to perform a vow, these also having all of them
staves of wood, stand in a body opposite to those: and the image,
which is in a small shrine of wood covered over with gold, they take
out on the day before to another sacred building. The few then who
have been left about the image, draw a wain with four wheels, which
bears the shrine and the image that is within the shrine, and the
other priests standing in the gateway try to prevent it from entering,
and the men who are under a vow come to the assistance of the god and
strike them, while the others defend themselves. Then there comes to
be a hard fight with staves, and they break one another's heads, and I
am of opinion that many even die of the wounds they receive; the
Egyptians however told me that no one died. This solemn assembly the
people of the place say that they established for the following
reason:--the mother of Ares, they say, used to dwell in this temple,
and Ares, having been brought up away from her, when he grew up came
thither desiring to visit his mother, and the attendants of his
mother's temple, not having seen him before, did not permit him to
pass in, but kept him away; and he brought men to help him from
another city and handled roughly the attendants of the temple, and
entered to visit his mother. Hence, they say, this exchange of blows
has become the custom in honour of Ares upon his festival."

The above should be of interest especially the stuff about a warrior tribe of "Egyptians" living at Papremis, perhaps they had something to do with Achaemenes defeat and death.

I rather doubt that the Persian forces hugely or at all outnumbered the rebels. As for Cyrenean mercenaries. Thats a interesting idea given that it appears that Cyrene became independent from Persia sometime during the revolt it seems. Certainly the Cyrenean monarchy, which was apparently associated with Persia as a subject ally also fell at the sametime. Pinder the Lyric poet wrote some odes for at least one Cyrenean king, including the one who was overthrown and killed. So if Cyrene rebeled and overthrew the monarchy shortly after the rebellion started perhaps they sent some troops to help ou and thus help protect themselves from retaliation.

Regarding the size of the Persian army, which would include plenty of non-Persians I rather doubt it was hugely, if at all larger than the rebel army. Since Achaemenes was Satrap of Egypt, and not sent to Egypt with an army his forces would be local garrison troops, with a leaven of local Egyptian upper Egypt. I rather doubt that Achaemenes faced the rebels at Papremis with many "ouside" troops.

What happenned at Papremis I have no idea, I discount Ktesias' story of personal combat and wounding, not only is it duplicated later in his account of the revolt, i.e., the relief of the white castle by Megabyzus, but it is duplicated frequently in his Persica, its a Ktesian cliche. However it is dramatic so why not use it!

I stongly suspect that Achaemenes underestimated his enemy and so blundered into a trap of some kind or did something rather foolish, like instead of waiting for the rest of his army foolishly attacked the rebels with only a small portion of his army and got killed in the process. I rather like the ambush idea esspecially being lured by a feigned retreat into the Nile marshes and was destroyed.

After the battle and the Athenians joining in Inaros moves to besige the "white Castle" of Memphis. However to his fury he finds out that the upper Egyptians do not join him, and that supplies and men continue to ber funneled in from Upper Egypt into the fortress and attempts to invade upper Egypt are stymied.

Thats all for now.


Wynn Bexton said...

Well isn't if fun trying to figure these things out? That's why I love research! wynn