Cat Shields

The Battle of Pelusium was the first major battle between the Persian Empire and Egypt, soon to be conquered by its growing foe.  The Persians easily routed the Egyptians and won a great battle, and they did so in the following way, according to Polyaenus.  The Egyptians held cats to be sacred and inviolate, and refused to harm one for any reason.  Cambyses, who disdained such religious devotion, took advantage of this.  He had his men carry cats in front of them as they advanced, as shields, preventing the Egyptians from launching their arrows at the Persians, lest they wound and kill the cats instead.  In this way, the Persians ended the independence of Egypt, which it would not regain for more than a millennium.

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Ruler of the Waves

Cnut the Great ruled England, Denmark and Norway for a brief period during the 11th century.  He was a pious man, and once wished to show his ever-flattering courtiers the limits of earthly power.  He had his throne placed on the beach and ordered the tide to stop and the waves not to wet his robes.  When, inevitably, the waves reached him, he stood up and declared, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”  And thus he showed the weakness of kings and men against the natural world.

The Sacrifice of Hamilcar

The Battle of Himera was one of the largest battles between the Greeks and Carthaginians over control of Sicily.  Hamilcar was leading the Carthaginians against the Greeks, and, as was proper for a general, was making sacrifices to the gods in order to ensure a good outcome to the battle.  Greek cavalry had, by trickery, gained access to the Carthaginian camp, and when the battle began, their actions caused great confusion, leading to a Carthaginian rout.

Hamilcar only noticed that the battle was turning against him once he finished his sacrifices.  Seeing the battle was nearly lost, he made the ultimate sacrifice to the gods.  He threw himself into the sacrificial flames, hoping to change the outcome of the battle through his piety.  Unfortunately, it was all for naught, and the Greeks won a stunning victory, placing Sicily firmly in the Greek world until the Roman conquest.