Strontium and oxygen isotope analyzes have shown that it was not Greek soldiers who died in 480 BC. A city in ancient Greece helped defeat its enemies, but foreign mercenaries, which contradicts reports of contemporary historians.

An image showing a painting of the battle as envisioned by a 19th century Italian painter.  It shows a line of people running away and crouching as soldiers on horseback.

Several battles took place between Greek forces and Carthage in the ancient Greek city of Himera in northern Sicily, Italy. The contemporary historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus wrote that the first battle 480 BC. Was won by Himera due to the support of the surrounding Greek provinces. In contrast, it was reported that the later engagement in 409 BC. Mainly only affected fighters from Himera themselves, which led to the fall of the city.

To evaluate the veracity of these reports, a team from the United States and Italy examined the skeletal remains associated with the two battles. The study included 51 soldiers who died in the battle of 480 BC. Were killed, 11 from the battle of 409 BC. And 25 non-combatants from the area to create an isotopic signature for the general population of Himera.

An image showing the outline of Sicily filled with different colors in a heat map style

The team focused on strontium (87Sr and 86Sr) and oxygen-18 isotopes, which are absorbed from food and water to be incorporated into bones and tooth enamel. By analyzing the isotope ratios present in the teeth, the team identified likely locations where the soldiers lived when they were between one and eight years old, the time enamel formed.

Their results showed that the battle of 409 BC. According to historians, it affected Himeran natives, but the earlier battle was fought by soldiers outside the Greek world, probably mercenaries.

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