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WIU History Students Up in Arms; Plan (Mock) Battle April 1

March 25, 2005

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MACOMB, IL - - Some 30 Western Illinois University students in Lee BriceÂ’s history class are up in arms, literally. And they plan to meet for their 1 p.m. Friday, April 1 class on the University Mall, dressed to kill - - some as Greek hoplite warriors and others as ancient Roman soldiers.

The field exercise is a new twist Brice, an assistant professor, added to his History 430G Topics in Ancient History course, which this spring focuses on ancient and medieval militaries.

Students, who must make their armor, spears and swords out of found objects (nothing purchased), will stage a mock battle April 1. Brice said the process will help demonstrate to the students how effective certain tactics and weapons were, and how difficult warfare was.

Greeks were trained to fight in a formation called a hoplite phalanx (FAY lanks). They fought in lines, shoulder to shoulder; their rounded shields provided protection to the men down the line and made it difficult for enemy spears to penetrate the line. Originally only aristocrats could fight, because each hoplite had to pay for his armor. With the introduction of a money economy in the 7th century, working class men were able to join the phalanx, serving side-by-side with the wealthy.

In addition to fashioning ancient armor, senior history major Steve Catania (Naperville, IL) is putting the finishing touches on a hand-crafted trebuchet (trey boo shay), a heavy projectile throwing device, which will be put to the test during another (Friday, April 29) class session.

The trebuchet was used as a siege engine during medieval times, throwing large rocks and other heavy items into castles and other fortifications, Brice said. The hurling activity is part of a lesson on how sieges worked, as well as the economics of a siege compared to a battle.

Brice said he incorporated the field exercise activities into this class after an experiment last semester. On a beautiful fall day he opted to stop lecturing, took his class outside and “walked” them through a history lesson that demonstrated how changes in military equipment and tactics led toward broader participation in government.

“The students liked it because it made it real,” Brice said.

Four students in the current class will get an even closer look and understanding of ancient history when they join Brice and 11 other Western Illinois and Monmouth College students on the study abroad trip, “The Glory that was Greece,” May 18-June 5.

“I’m excited to share this travel study opportunity with our students,” said Brice, who visited Greece over spring break week to prepare for the trip as well as to conduct research on the coinage of Corinth.

The second-year Western Illinois faculty member plans to write a book on the topic of coins, which he also uses in teaching.

“Coins can tell much about the political and economical state of a society,” said Brice, whose master’s thesis topic at the University of Houston (1993) was “The Function of Coinage in Archaic Sicily, A Numismatic Study.”

He has delivered several papers on the study of coins and history to the American Numismatic Society, the Classical Society of Virginia and for the Mary J. Pearl Lecture at Sweet Briar College, where he was a visiting lecturer during the 1995-96 academic year.

Brice is currently preparing a session for WesternÂ’s 30th annual History Conference (April 29-30) to share with social studies/history teachers at all levels.

His session, “Through the Looking Glass: Ancient History and Film,” will challenge educators to look for teaching tools within movies and films which their students enjoy.

“Movies offer many vignettes to use in teaching about history,” said Brice, who will show clips from films such as “Gladiator,” “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Time Bandits,” “Monte Python’s Life of Brian,” “The Fall of the Roman Empire” and others in his presentation.

Among his awards and honors is a United State Military Academy summer Fellowship (2001), the Mowry History Fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2000), and the American Numismatic Society Summer Prize (1993) and Summer Fellowship (1993).

Brice serves as president of the Society of Ancient Military History and is a member of the American Historical Association, the American Philological Association, the American Numismatic Society, the Association of Ancient Historians and the Society for Military History.

Prior to coming to Western Illinois, Brice served as a visiting faculty member (2001-02) and a teaching assistant (1993-95 and 1999-2001) in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph.D. (2003). His dissertation was on “Mutiny and Unrest in the Roman Imperial Army, 31 BCE -69 CE.” Brice earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from Virginia Commonwealth University (1988).

Webpage for Dr. Brice

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