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Old September 6th, 2017, 05:02 PM   #1
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Athenians cut thumbs off Aeginetans

I came across a reference in Cicero to the Athenians having cut off the thumbs of the Aeginetans. Can anyone provide a contemporary reference; Thucydides?
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Old December 23rd, 2017, 04:55 AM   #2
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While not a direct reference, the Aeginetans are noted in the thirteenth volume of the American Journal of Archaeology to have made marble sculptures depicting archers drawing back bowstrings with their thumbs. As there is a long and bloody history of claims involving chopping off archer's favored fingers, it stands to reason any conflict involving captured archers between Athenians and Aeginetans could plausibly include loss of thumb. Thucydides' record that all the captives had been killed is, however, equally plausible, since that takes them out of the fight entirely.

There is a footnote referencing this in the book Athenian Generals: Military Authority in the Classical Period by Dr. Debra Hamel, an expert in ancient Greek law and military history, which states that the idea of Aeginetans having their thumbs cut off may have been a mix up with a previous decree to chop off the hands of enemy captives should they win an upcoming naval battle at Aigospotami (they lost). Still, such a tactic would serve as both deterrent and a way to decrease the fighting forces of the enemy while still leaving the maimed soldiers alive to spread the word and, hopefully, panic.

Last edited by Phasmophobia; December 23rd, 2017 at 05:00 AM.
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Old December 29th, 2017, 09:07 AM   #3
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Although not directly answering your question concerning the cutting off the thumbs of archers the English archers of the 14th and 15th centuries whose longbow was the guided missile of the day would if captured have their first and second fingers (the two fingers that draws the bow) cut off. Therefore, while waiting to be attacked they stuck the two fingers in the air towards the enemy to show they could still pull a bow. This gesture came to represent telling someone to `get lost` or words to that effect
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Old December 29th, 2017, 10:03 AM   #4

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Aelian Varia Historia 2.9., here is an old translation:

"What Decrees did the Athenians make, and those in a Democracy ? That every one of the Æginetæ should have his thumb cut off from his right hand, so that he might for ever after be disabled from holding a Spear, yet might handle an Oar. That all the young men of Mitylene should be put to death : Which Decree was made at the instigation of Cleon son of Cleænetus. That such as had been taken Prisoners by the Samians should be branded in the face with the mark of an Owl. This also was an Athenian Decree. I wish, O Minerva, Guardian of the City, and Jupiter Eleutherius, and all the Gods of the Grecians, that the Athenians had never done these things, and that it might never have been said of them!"

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