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Thracian peltast, fifth to fourth century BC.

The history of Thracian warfare spans from ca. 10th century BC up to the 1st century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Thrace. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Thracian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Thracians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Thracian tribes too.

Sica,national weapon of the Thracians

Contents

Mythological

Instances of Thracian people engaging in armed conflict occur in the Iliad of Homer and in Greek mythology. The Greek Temenids ousted the Thracians from Pieria (later central Macedonia)[1].The Thracians ,prominent warriors who became allies of Troy came from the Aegean coast[2].In the Odyssey there is only one instance of Thracians, that of Cicones again on the coast but they are weak[3].

Tribal wars

Thracian tribes fought amongst each other and they allied themselves with the Greeks against other Thracian tribes.

Kingdoms

Map of the Odrysian kingdom

The Odrysian kingdom (Ancient Greek, "Βασιλεία Όδρυσων") was a union of Thracian tribes that endured between the 5th century BC and the 3rd century BC.The Odrysian state was the first Thracian kingdom that acquired power in the region, by the unification[4] of many Thracian tribes under a single ruler, King Teres[5] 5th century BC. It became involved in wars and military conflicts against the Romans, Greek colonies, the kingdom of Macedon and the Diadochi, the Persian Empire, Paeonians, Dacians, Celts[6], Scythians and Thracian tribes. Sometimes it was allied with various Ancient Greek tribes or Greek city states. During the Peloponnesian war Thracians were the allies of Athens[7]. The Thracians fought alongside Athenians and Macedonians against the forces of the Spartans. Greek generals like Iphicrates[8] fought for the Odrysae as well. The Thracians served under Scythian kings at 310 BC[9].Odrysian military strength was based on intra-tribal elite[10] making the kingdom prone to fragmentation.

The Sapaeans ruled Thrace after the Odrysians till its incorporation to the Roman Empire as a province. Thrace became a Client state of Rome at 11 BC and was annexed at 46 AD.

Thracian troop types and organization

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Infantry and Cavalry

Thrace had the potential to must a huge number of troops[11] though this never occurred.Thracians honoured warriors and according to Herodotus despised all other occupations[11]. The Thracians fought as peltasts using javelins and crescent[12] or round wicker shields called peltes. Missile weapons were favored but close combat weaponry was carried by the Thracians as well. These close combat weapons varied from the dreaded Rhomphaia[13] & to clubs(used to knock the heads of the spears in Xenophon's Anabasis by Thynians) ,one and two sided axes, bows, knives, spears, akinakes and long swords.Thracians shunned armor and greaves and fought as light as possible favoring mobility above all other traits and had excellent horsemen[14]. The sica was considered their national[15] weapon.[16] The Bithynian Thracians had contributed a number of 6,000 men (60,000 according to Herodotus) in Xerxes I of Persia campaign of 480 BC but in general resisted Persian occupation and turned against Mardonius's army as he retreated[1]. The Triballi frequently used Scythian and Celtic equipment[17]. Thracians[18] decorated their bodies with tattoos like the Illyrians and the Dacians.[19]

Thucidides writes of their infantry tactics when attacked by Theban cavalry[20],

"dashing out and closing their ranks according to the tactics of their country"

Arrian writes of a tactic using wagons[21].

Archaic

A thracian javelinman would wield a crescent wicker shield and a couple of javelins[22].This troop type would persist into the classic & Hellenistic era.Organized groups of spearmen or javelin throwers were not used[23].

Classical

In the 4th century BC troops both infantry and cavalry start wearing helmets[24] (some of leather[25]) and some peltasts are seen with greaves[24].

Principal weapons in the 4th century BC as well as earlier were the spear and short knife[26].

Armor when it was available (for the nobility) was at first leather or bronze but iron armour started appearing in the 4th century BC[27].

Thracian cavalry would wear leather armor[7] or no armor and would be armed with javelins[28] a bow or[29] a spear. Only royal cavalry would wear armor[30].Oval shields and peltes (even by heavy cavalry) were later used.Thracian cavalry was numerous[31].

Helmet type used mostly was the Chalcidian type helmet[32] and in a much lesser extent the Corinthian type helmet (one has been found), Phrygian type helmet[33],Attic type helmet and Scythian type helmet (an open face helmet) with many hybrid types occurring[24].We must note that not a single Illyrian type helmet has been found in the east Balkans[34].

Hellenistic

A thracian footman (3rd century BC - 1st century BC) could wield a Rhomphaia, a helmet, two javelins and a light oval wooden shield[35]. No Thracian infantry would wear greaves until the 4th century BC[30]. Later native and Greek types started being used, the Greek type being rarer[30]. Thracians used mixed Thracian and Greek equipment and armors from different time periods to point of wearing armors that ceased to be used elsewhere something they did even in the classic era.[24].Later the would adopt the Roman armaments[24].

Thracian mercenaries

Thracians were highly[36] sought as mercenaries due to their ferocity in battle[11] but they were infamous for their love of plunder[11]. Thracian mercenaries played an important[17] role in the affairs between Athenians and Spartans. The Odomantii were described as expensive mercenaries[20]. In once instance at 413 BC Dii mercenaries was so expensive to pay that Athenians sent them home[20]. They were hired occasionally by Persians[37].Croesus had hired many Thracian swordsmen for the Lydian army[38].

Nobility

A Thracian chieftain could have access to armor and helmets.One could be equipped with[20] a Chalcidian type helmet, a breastplate (this sort of armor is rarely found outside Crete[39] and only one has been found in Thrace,a bell-type[40] cuirass) with a mitrai (a plate attached to the bottom of the cuirass to protect the adbomen[41]) a wicker pelte two javelins and a sword.Body armor was restricted to nobles and army commanders[27].Greek armor was in use in Thrace before the classical age[27].Nobles would sometimes wear pectorals on their chests as a sign of rank[25].

Navy

There was no Thracian navy but there were instances of Thracians turning to piracy[citation needed].

Fortifications

Even though Thracians attempted to built only one[42] polis they had forts in hills built as places of refuge. Thracian villages had basic fortifications as Xenophon witnesses in Anabasis. Tacitus in his Annals describes a Roman attack against a hill fort.

External influences

Scythian

Scythians[17] akinakes,Scythian saddles and horse archer equipment to the Scythian type helmet also called Kuban type[43].It was an open face bronze helmet that stopped halfway(like a skullcap) and had leather flaps with sewn bronze plates that protected the back part of the head including the nape and the sides of the face.The scythian cavalry wedge had been adopted by the Thracian cavalry[44].Despite the power of the Odrysians they were still weaker than the Scythians militarly[10].Scale armor was adopted[45] as well as a composite metal cuirass[46].

Celtic

Thracian warfare was effected by Celts[17] in a variety of ways like the adoption of certain long swords though this must not have been universal among them.The Triballi had adopted Celtic equipment.An other weapon,the sica was called Thracian sword[47] (Ancient Greek,"Θρακικον ξίφος") though it did not originated from there despite its popular usage[48] (it was considered their national weapon[15]). The sword's utmost origin was the Hallstatt culture[49] and the Thracians may have or adopted or inherited it.

Hellenic and Hellenistic

Chalcidian type helmets worn by Thracians,mid 4th century BC and older forms

Greek[50] effected thracian warfare early on with the xiphos[51] and other swords ,Greek type greaves, breastplates, a variety of helmets and other equipment.Durin the Hellenistic period more Greek armaments were adopted.Seuthes had adopted a Greek tactic for a night march[52].Thracian kings were the first to be Hellenized[53].After some time Thracians became fully Hellenised[54].

Roman

Thracians of the Roman client states[55] used Roman equipment[24].From 11 BC and onwards Thracians would start resembling Roman legionaries.Thracians in Moesia, Dacia and the North were Romanized[54]

Notable events

Barbarians

Thracians were considered were regarded as warlike, ferocious, and savagely bloodthirsty[56][57]. Thracians were seen as "Barbarians" by other peoples, name the Greeks and the Romans. Plato in his Republic considers them, along with the Scythians,[58] extravagant and high spirited and his Laws considers them war-like nations grouping them with Celts, Persians, Scythians, Iberians and Carthagianians[59]. Polybius wrote of Cotys's sober and gentle character being unlike that of most Thracians[60].Tacitus in his Annals writes of them being wild, savage and impatient disobedient even to their own kings[61].Polyaenus and Strabo write who the Thracians broke their pacts of truce with trickery[62].The Thracians struck their weapons against each other before battle[63] and enganged in night attacks[64].Diegylis was considered one of the most bloothirsty chieftains by Diodorus Siculus.An Athenian club for lawless youths was named after the Triballi[17].The Dii[65] were responsible for the worst[20] atrocities of the Peloponnesian war killing every living thing, including children and the dogs in Tanagra and Mycalessos[65]. Thracians would impale Roman heads on their spears and Rhomphaias such as in the Kallinikos skirmish at 171 BC[66]. Herodotus writes that "they sell their children and let their wives commerce with whatever men they please"[67].

List of Thracian battles

This is a list of battles or conflicts that Thracians had a leading or crucial role in- usually as mercenaries.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 4
  2. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 94
  3. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 93
  4. ^ Readings in Greek History: Sources and Interpretations by D. Brendan Nagle and Stanley M. Burstein, ISBN 0195178254, 2006, page 230: "... , however, one of the Thracian tribes, the Odrysians, succeeded in unifying the Thracians and creating a powerful state ..."
  5. ^ The Oxford Classical Dictionary by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, ISBN 0198606419, page 1515, "Shortly afterwards the first King of the Odrysae, Teres attempted to carve an empire out of the territory occupied by the Thracian tribes (Thuc.2.29) and his sovereignity extented as far as the Euxine and the Hellespont)"
  6. ^ Nikola Theodossiev, "Celtic Settlement in North-Western Thrace during the Late Fourth and Third Centuries BC".
  7. ^ a b The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 5
  8. ^ a b c The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292,page 9
  9. ^ a b c The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292,page 12
  10. ^ a b The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald,1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 149
  11. ^ a b c d The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 3
  12. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 203
  13. ^ Christopher Webber, Angus McBride (2001). The Thracians, 700 BC - AD 46. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1841763292.
  14. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 2: The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries BC (Hardcover) by John Boardman (Editor), I. E. S. Edwards (Editor), E. Sollberger (Editor), N. G. L. Hammond (Editor), 1992, ISBN 0521227178, page XVI, "Very different from the Phoenicians were the Scythians and the Thracians who had no interest or skill in seafaring but excelled in raiding and horsemanship"
  15. ^ a b Completely parsed Cicero: the first oration of Cicero against Catiline by Marcus Tullius Cicero, LeaAnn A. Osburn, Archibald A. Maclardy, ISBN 0865165904, 2004, page 122, "and was the national weapon of Thracians"
  16. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, ISBN 0198150474, 1998, page 203,""
  17. ^ a b c d e f The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 6
  18. ^ The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes,1996,page 198,"their armor is Celtic but they are tattooed like the rest of the Illyrians and Thracians"
  19. ^ The World of Tattoo: An Illustrated History by Maarten Hesselt van Dinter, 2007, page 25: "... in ancient times. The the Danube area Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians all decorated themselves with status-enhancing tattoos, ..."
  20. ^ a b c d e f The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 7
  21. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 10
  22. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 42
  23. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 202
  24. ^ a b c d e f The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 20
  25. ^ a b The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 199
  26. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 257
  27. ^ a b c The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 21
  28. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 35
  29. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald,1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 204
  30. ^ a b c The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 22
  31. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 205
  32. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 201
  33. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 254
  34. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 201
  35. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 16
  36. ^ The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes, 1996, ISBN 9780631198079, page 168, "Like Thracians to the east the Illyrians were an important source of military manpower, and often served as separate contingents under their own leaders"
  37. ^ a b The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 8
  38. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 33
  39. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 34
  40. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 197
  41. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 198
  42. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 by Christopher Webber, ISBN 1841763292, 2001, page 1,"the city of Seuthopolis seems to be the only significant town in Thrace no built by Greeks"
  43. ^ Scythians 700-300 B.C. (Men at Arms Series, 137) by E.V. Cernenko and Angus McBride, 1983, ISBN 0850454786, page 11
  44. ^ The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare: Volume 1, Greece, The Hellenistic World and the Rise of Rome by Philip Sabin, Hans van Wees, and Michael Whitby, 2007, page 221,"... The Scythian cavalry wedge, adopted by the Thracians
  45. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474,page 201
  46. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474,page 255
  47. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, ISBN 0198150474,1998,page 203,""
  48. ^ Complete Encyclopedia Of Arms & Weapons (Hardcover)by Rh Value Publishing, ISBN 0517487764, 1986
  49. ^ HaA(1200-1000), HaB(1000-800)
  50. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 19
  51. ^ The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 258
  52. ^ Xenophon and the Art of Command by Godfrey Hutchinson, ISBN 1853674176, 2000, page 66
  53. ^ The Peloponnesian War: A Military Study (Warfare and History) by J. F. Lazenby, 2003, page 224,"... number of strongholds, and he made himself useful fighting `the Thracians without a king' on behalf of the more Hellenized Thracian kings and their Greek neighbours (Nepos, Alc. ...
  54. ^ a b Quiles, Carlos. A Grammar of Modern Indo-European. Carlos Quiles Casas, 2007, ISBN 8461176391, p. 76. "Most of the Thracians were eventually Hellenised - in the province of Thrace - or Romanized - Moesia, Dacia, etc. -, with the last remnants surviving in remote areas until the 5th century.
  55. ^ Thracian Kings, University of Michigan,"On the death of the last Astaean king in 11 BC, the emperor Augustus conferred all Thrace to his Sapaean uncle Roimētalkēs I. In 46, on the murder of Roimētalkēs III by his wife, the kingdom of Thrace was annexed to the Roman Empire by the emperor Claudius I."
  56. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 1,"... getting to the spoils explains Thucydides VII, 29: `For the Thracian race, like all the most bloodthirsty barbarians, are always particularly bloodthirsty when everything is going their ...
  57. ^ Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars 359 BC to 146 BC: organisation, tactics, dress and weapons by Duncan Head, Ian Heath, 1982, page 51
  58. ^ Plato. The Republic, "Take the quality of passion or spirit;--it would be ridiculous to imagine that this quality, when found in States, is not derived from the individuals who are supposed to possess it, e.g. the Thracians, Scythians, and in general the northern nations;"
  59. ^ Plato. Laws, "Are we to follow the custom of the Scythians, and Persians, and Carthaginians, and Celts, and Iberians, and Thracians, who are all warlike nations, or that of your countrymen, for they, as you say, altogether abstain?"
  60. ^ Polybius, Histories, 27.12,"Cotys was a man of distinguished appearance and of Character of Cotys, king of the Odrysae, an ally of Perseus. great ability in military affairs, and besides, quite unlike a Thracian in character. For he was of sober habits, and gave evidence of a gentleness of temper and a steadiness of disposition worthy of a man of gentle birth".
  61. ^ Tacitus.The Annals,"In the Consulship of Lentulus Getulicus and Caius Calvisius, the triumphal ensigns were decreed to Poppeus Sabinus for having routed some clans of Thracians, who living wildly on the high mountains, acted thence with the more outrage and contumacy. The ground of their late commotion, not to mention the savage genius of the people, was their scorn and impatience, to have recruits raised amongst them, and all their stoutest men enlisted in our armies; accustomed as they were not even to obey their native kings further than their own humour, nor to aid them with forces but under captains of their own choosing, nor to fight against any enemy but their own borderers. Their discontents too were inflamed by a rumour which then ran current amongst them; that they were to be dispersed into different regions; and exterminated from their own, to be mixed with other nations. But before they took arms and began hostilities, they sent ambassadors to Sabinus, to represent "their past friendship and submission, and that the same should continue, if they were provoked by no fresh impositions: but, if like a people subdued by war, they were doomed to bondage; they had able men and steel, and souls determined upon liberty or death." The ambassadors at the same time pointed to their strongholds founded upon precipices; and boasted that they had thither conveyed their wives and parents; and threatened a war intricate, hazardous and bloody."
  62. ^ ThraciansThe Thracians."The Thracians fought against the Boeotians by lake Copais, and were defeated; then they retreated to Helicon, and made a truce with the Boeotians for a certain number of days, to give time for agreeing the terms of peace. The Boeotians, who were confident because of their recent victory and the truce that followed it, celebrated a sacrifice in honour of Athene Itonia. But at night while they still were intent on the ceremony, and engaged in festivities, the Thracians armed, and attacked them; they cut many of them to pieces, and took a great number prisoners. When the Boeotians afterwards charged them with a breach of the truce, the Thracians replied that the terms of the truce expressed a certain number of days, but said nothing concerning the nights. [see also: Strabo, 9.401 (9.2.4)]"
  63. ^ Polyaenus,Clearchus,"who brandished and struck their weapons against each other in the Thracian manner."
  64. ^ Polyaenus,Clearchus,"In order to test their readiness to meet a sudden attack, he chose a very dark night and in the middle of it, he appeared before his own camp at the head of a small detachment, who brandished and struck their weapons against each other in the Thracian manner. His troops, assuming that they were the enemy, immediately formed up to resist them. Meanwhile the Thracians really did advance in the hope of surprising them while they were asleep; but the Greeks, being already dressed and armed, confronted the assailants. The Thracians were unprepared for such a ready and vigorous resistance, and were defeated with great slaughter."
  65. ^ a b The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) by Z. H. Archibald, 1998, ISBN 0198150474, page 100
  66. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292
  67. ^ Herodotus THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS, Translated into English by G. C. Macaulay, IN TWO VOLUMES, VOL. II, "Of the other Thracians the custom is to sell their children to be carried away out of the country; and over their maidens they do not keep watch, but allow them to have commerce with whatever men they please, but over their wives they keep very great watch"
  68. ^ a b The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 11
  69. ^ The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, 2001, ISBN 1841763292, page 14

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