View Full Version : Estimating the casualties of war in ancient battles

20-05-14, 19:05
For example, in the battle of Marathon Herodotus says that the casualties for the Greeks were 192 Athenians and 11 Plataeans. Yet this is not believable by historians nowadays who increase the number to 1000-3000.

One can say that this difference is quite high.

My question here is this: what kind of techniques modern historians use to make these estimates?

20-05-14, 19:41
That is strange. I've heard the opposite, that ancient records have casualties and total soldier numbers to high. In subsistence cultures, like most ancient cultures, it would be difficult to logistically supply and sustain a large army. The idea of large armies battling to the end, where one annihilates the other is more propaganda than fact I believe. I imagine the casualties were a lot fewer than actually recorded.

20-05-14, 20:05
It depends on the hatred, annoyance level and psychological makeup of the combatants. Arrows kill a lot of people.

22-05-14, 14:52
Casualties were quite high in ancient times, since everybody was always at war with someone. For example during the Punic Wars at one point in time, 20% of the Roman young men were killed by Carthagenians. And Rome was one of the largest cities at the time.
In Asia things were even more brutal, Genghis Khan is known to have wiped out entire populations. from Wiki:
Steven R. Ward wrote that "Overall, the Mongol violence and depredations killed up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people. Some historians have estimated that Iran's population did not again reach its pre-Mongol levels until the mid-20th century."[ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genghis_Khan#cite_note-62)