Monday, March 29, 2021

Legends of Troy: Troy Game, Troy Dance

A few notes on what are known as the Troy Game and the Troy Dance.

For the most part, a Troy Game is a Roman military exercise known as a lusus Troiae.  The main source is Virgil.  

The fullest description of the exercise is given by Vergil, Aeneid 5.545–603, as the final event in the games held to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Aeneas's father, Anchises. The drill features three troops (turmae) — each made up of twelve riders, a leader, and two armor-bearers — who perform intricate drills on horseback. 
... The column split apart
As files in the three squadrons all in line
Turned away, cantering left and right; recalled
They wheeled and dipped their lances for a charge.
They entered then on parades and counter-parades,
The two detachments, matched in the arena,
Winding in and out of one another,
And whipped into sham cavalry skirmishes
By baring backs in flight, then whirling round
With leveled points, then patching up a truce
And riding side by side. So intricate
In ancient times on mountainous Crete they say
The Labyrinth, between walls in the dark,
Ran criss-cross a bewildering thousand ways
Devised by guile, a maze insoluble,
Breaking down every clue to the way out.
So intricate the drill of Trojan boys
Who wove the patterns of their prancing horses,
Figured, in sport, retreats and skirmishes …
Complex intertwining manoeuvres as a display of horsemanship were characteristic of Roman cavalry reviews on the parade ground. The Greek military writer Arrian describes these in his book The Art of Military Tactics (Technē Taktikē), and says they originated among the non-Roman cavalry units provided by the allies (auxilia), particularly the Gauls (that is, the continental Celts) and Iberians. The Troy Game, however, was purely ceremonial and involved youths too young for military service.  ... 

Augustus established the lusus Troiae as a regular event. Its performance was part of a general interest in Trojan origins reflected also in the creation of the Tabulae Iliacae or "Trojan Tablets," low reliefs that illustrate scenes from the Iliad and often present text in the form of acrostics or palindromes, suggesting patterned movement or literary mazes.

Above is a Tabula Illaica, showing scenes from the trojan war, with fine text covering its central column. 

In addition to the equestrian routine known as a Troy Game, there may have been a war dance performed by soldiers on foot that was also named for the city of Troy.   Below are sketches of the 4 scenes on the Etruscan Wine Jug from Tragliatella,  The bottom line shows a labyrinth with the word TRUVA.  The third line shows what may be a war dance, perhaps a Troy Dance.  

The foot placement of the soldiers on the third line is odd, perhaps they are doing a war dance.  

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