Warpaint: body art as a tool for the alteration of perception in militar contexts (a case study in Herodotus)

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Warfare is largely based on the senses and on psychomotor capabilities of those involved; soldiers and commanders need to be aware of their surroundings and of the enemy in order to fight. Any disruption which leads to alteration of perception can prove disastrous, and Ancient Warfare has numerous such cases. In Herodotus, the case study of the usage of whitewash by the Phocians against the Thessalians is a good example of the effect’s deception can have in the perception of reality by an enemy army, leading them to lose their north and consequently lose the battle. In other words, deception is a key element in warfare, due to its ability to shift the state of mind of the enemy, causing them to become confused, and hence less proficient in their tasks.
In my communication, I intend to approach the topic of deception as a disruptor for the experience of battle, supporting my statements with evidence collected from the aforementioned battle between Phocians and Thessalians, recounted by Herodotus in his Histories (book 8, sections 27 and 28). Furthermore, I will also aim to provide an overview of the importance of perception as a whole in the topic of battle, and how perception (or the disruption of perception) contributes to the outcome of military episodes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventInternational Congress ’In thy arms I lost myself’.: Images, Preceptipons and Productions in/of Antiquity - NOVA FCSH, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 9 Oct 201911 Oct 2019


ConferenceInternational Congress ’In thy arms I lost myself’.


  • Ancient Warfare
  • Body Art
  • Herodotus
  • Paint
  • Sensory Perception


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