Litter

oskhen

Senior Member
Norwegian
Greetings

I'm reading a novel about a soldier who's serving under Alexander the Great during his campaign in Afghanistan. In it I found the following (after a guy had died):

He calls our half-section together. The second litter will have a new Number One: me.
Can he be joking?
"You're promoted to corporal, Matthias. Congratulations." [Matthis is the "me"]
From that day I attendedall command briefings.


It seems that a litter is some sort of military unit, but could somebody please clarify? I didn't find any such meaning of the word in any dictionary.

Thanks in advance
 
  • Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I suspect it means a litter as a carriage. I think that´s why it says "Can he be joking" as it´s not a job people want and they had to promote him. Today the collapsible stretchers in the army are called litters but I think in your context they would be used to carry people or machinery.
    Does that fit in?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palanquin
     

    jforres1

    Member
    Canada/ English
    Lis48 could be entirely right, but I would read it as you did, to mean a group. Just like a litter of kittens, you could have a litter in the army to represent a group.
     

    oskhen

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I suspect it means a litter as a carriage. I think that´s why it says "Can he be joking" as it´s not a job people want and they had to promote him. Today the collapsible stretchers in the army are called litters but I think in your context they would be used to carry people or machinery.
    Does that fit in?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palanquin

    Thanks, but I don't think that's the meaning here. I didn't think of explaining it, but I think the "can he be joking" is because Matthis doesn't think he deserves the promotion. There isn't anything that indicates that "litter" here is what you indicate. They are common infantery, and it seems like he's become boss over some of his fellow infantrymen.
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    I agree with Lis48.

    A litter of kittens is not just any group of little cats; it's the cats who were born together.

    The fact the Matthias thinks himself unworthy doesn't indicate that litter in this context means anything except somme device to carry something.
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I can´t think of any other interpretation oshken, but obviously you know the context better than me. Alexander the Great was always carried in a litter. If you google "Alexander the Great" and "litter", avoiding all the cats called by that name, you will see examples. e.g.
    Barely a week after being injured, and with his wound incompletely closed, Alexander arranged to be carried by ship down the river Hydraotes to the main camp. As the ship docked, his guard brought out a litter, but Alexander refused it.
    http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/a-b/ancientsurgery4.html
     

    oskhen

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I can´t think of any other interpretation oshken, but obviously you know the context better than me. Alexander the Great was always carried in a litter. If you google "Alexander the Great" and "litter", avoiding all the cats called by that name, you will see examples. e.g.
    Barely a week after being injured, and with his wound incompletely closed, Alexander arranged to be carried by ship down the river Hydraotes to the main camp. As the ship docked, his guard brought out a litter, but Alexander refused it.
    http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/a-b/ancientsurgery4.html
    Ok, but there are no indication of any such litter. Besides, Matthias is far from having anything to do with Alexander except fighting for him. He's not carrying him or anything
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I can only assume that this means "number one among the men who carry the second litter". Quintus Curtius records that when Alexander was wounded in the leg by an arrow, there was rivalry between the cavalry and the infantry over who would bear the litter on which Alexander rode.
     

    oskhen

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I can only assume that this means "number one among the men who carry the second litter".
    The problem is, it doesn't fit.

    I got 1 match on "litter of soldiers": He wakes up bloody and stumbles around finding Hassan badly wounded amidst a
    litter of soldiers cluthing the stumbs of where limbs used to be yelling for ...


    I didn't find the rest of the context, though. When I searched only "litter", only in one of the matches on 12 pages it could mean what I wanted it to-
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    In the example you found, the word "litter" means "confused debris"; the soldiers are being compared to jumbled bits and pieces of things lying on the ground.

    Although it does not fit, the only meaning I can think of for ancient Greek soldiers assigned to a "litter" is the complement of soldiers carrying one. Since at least four, and possibly six or eight, soldiers would be needed to carry a large "litter", the "number one" of the group would in effect be commanding a squad.
     
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