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Were ancient (Greek) battles fought like duels between heroes?

Were ancient (Greek) battles fought like duels between heroes?

In dramas on TV and film we are often shown a "hero" standing in front of the army, fighting alone against a "villain". Their soldier comrades don't help out much, as we would expect them to do in modern warfare.

Did armies in the ancient world, and particularly in ancient Greece, actually stand off and allow the the bravest individuals to engage in single-combat against each other? I know we hear of this in Homer (particularly in the Iliad), and the Wikipedia page on single combat in antiquity has a few examples, but how common would it have been in reality?


While there are records of single combat in ancient warfare, it definitely appears to have been the exception, rather than the norm. However, we can be reasonably certain that the tradition can be traced all the way from the Bronze Age to the later classical period.


As you mentioned, the Iliad contains many references to individuals engaging in single combat in the Bronze Age. Now, as noted above in the comments, we must be cautious when using Homer as an historical source. However, we also have records from other Bronze Age civilisations from the Eastern Mediterranean. An example would be the Tale of Sinuhe from Ancient Egypt.

We should also remember that many details from Homer that were previously thought to be just for dramatic effect have since been confirmed by archaeology. A famous example is the boar's-tusk helmet given to Odysseus in book 10 of the Odyssey. Given that single-combat was attested in other cultures in the region, and certainly continued in later tradition (where we have better records), it seems reasonable to give Homer the benefit of the doubt on this one.


By the seventh (or perhaps even eighth) century BC, the Hoplite had become the standard heavy-infantry in the ancient Greek world. Hoplites were not professional soldiers, but rather were the citizen-soldiers of the ancient Greek City-states. Their primary weapon was a spear, and they fought in a formation known as a phalanx.

That said, Greek armies did include significant numbers of "support troops" - soldiers other than hoplites. This included cavalry forces, light infantry (Psiloi), javelin throwers (akontistai), slingers (sfendonitai) and archers (toxotai).

What is sometimes forgotten is that among these "support troops" were often professional "single-combat specialists". This was a feature of ancient Greek warfare examined by G. L. Cawkwell in his article Orthodoxy and Hoplites (registration required).


The traditional view of Roman armies is of vast legions fighting together in formation. However, we even find examples of single combat in battle from the Roman world. These can be found from the early Roman Republic through to the late Roman period.

In the fifth-century BC, the Roman general Aulus Cornelius Cossus defeated the King of the Veientes, Lars Tolumnius, in single combat (Livy, IV, 19).

In another example, in the Numantine War (143-133BC) we hear of Scipio Aemilianus engaging in single combat with the King of the Celtiberians.

Much later, at the Battle of Dara between Rome and Persia in 530AD, we find yet another record of single combat being fought between the main opposing armies:

"But one Persian, a young man, riding up very close to the Roman army, began to challenge all of them,[29-36] calling for whoever wished to do battle with him. And no one of the whole army dared face the danger, except a certain Andreas, one of the personal attendants of Bouzes, not a soldier nor one who had ever practised at all the business of war, but a trainer of youths in charge of a certain wrestling school in Byzantium. Through this it came about that he was following the army, for he cared for the person of Bouzes in the bath; his birthplace was Byzantium. This man alone had the courage, without being ordered by Bouzes or anyone else, to go out of his own accord to meet the man in single combat. And he caught the barbarian while still considering how he should deliver his attack, and hit him with his spear on the right breast. And the Persian did not bear the blow delivered by a man of such exceptional strength, and fell from his horse to the earth. Then Andreas with a small knife slew him like a sacrificial animal as he lay on his back, and a mighty shout was raised both from the city wall and from the Roman army."

Procopius of Caesarea - History of the Wars


Source

Cawkwell, G. L: Orthodoxy and Hoplites, The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2 (1989), pp375-389


Main keywords of the article below: greek, occurred, history, ancient, greece, onward, warfare, dark, ages, battles.

KEY TOPICS
Warfare occurred throughout the history of Ancient Greece, from the Greek Dark Ages onward. [1] The rise of the Macedonian Kingdom is generally taken to signal the beginning of the Hellenistic period, and certainly marked the end of the distinctive hoplite battle in Ancient Greece. [1] This web site is dedicated to the facts and figures of the battles involving ancient Greece, and breaks it down even further with people, places and names and their relationships with one another as well as tactics, alliances and historical events that were happening at the time. [2]

The Greco-Persian Wars (499-448 BC) were the result of attempts by the Persian Emperor Darius the Great, and then his successor Xerxes I to subjugate Ancient Greece. [1] Fisher, Nick, "Hybris, Revenge and Stasis in the Greek City-States," in Hans van Wees, War and Violence in Ancient Greece, London and Swansea: Duckworth and the Classical Press of Wales, 2000, pp.83-124. [1] Krentz, Peter, "Deception in Archaic and Classical Greek Warfare," in Hans van Wees, War and Violence in Ancient Greece, London and Swansea: Duckworth and the Classical Press of Wales, 2000, pp.167-200. [1]

Van Wees, Hans, "The Development of the Hoplite Phalanx: Iconography Reality in the Seventh Century," in Hans van Wees, War and Violence in Ancient Greece, London and Swansea: Duckworth and the Classical Press of Wales, 2000, pp.125-166. [1] Rawlings, Louis, "Alternative Agonies: Hoplite Martial and Combat Experiences beyond the Phalanx," in Hans van Wees, War and Violence in Ancient Greece, London and Swansea: Duckworth and the Classical Press of Wales, 2000, pp.233-260. [1] Hornblower, Simon, "Sticks, Stones, and Spartans: The Sociology of Spartan Violence," in Hans van Wees, War and Violence in Ancient Greece, London and Swansea: Duckworth and the Classical Press of Wales, 2000, pp.57-82. [1]

The scale and scope of warfare in Ancient Greece changed dramatically as a result of the Greco-Persian Wars, which marked the beginning of Classical Greece (480-323 BCE). [1] The rise of Macedon and her successors thus sounded the death knell for the distinctive way of war found in Ancient Greece and instead contributed to the'superpower' warfare which would dominate the ancient world between 350 and 150 BC. [1] The scale and scope of warfare in Ancient Greece changed dramatically as a result of the Greco-Persian Wars. [1] The hoplite was an infantryman, the central element of warfare in Ancient Greece. [1] At least in the Archaic Period, the fragmentary nature of Ancient Greece, with many competing city-states, increased the frequency of conflict, but conversely limited the scale of warfare. [1] Following the eventual defeat of the Athenians in 404 BC, and the disbandment of the Athenian-dominated Delian League, Ancient Greece fell under the hegemony of Sparta. [1] This category contains sub-categories of Category:Battles by country which describe the states of Ancient Greece. [3]

Although the Spartans did not attempt to rule all of Greece directly, they prevented alliances of other Greek cities, and forced the city-states to accept governments deemed suitable by Sparta. [1] The Battle of Marathon, which took place during the first Persian invasion of Greece, was fought between the combined forces of Athens and Plataea against King Darius’ Persian army. [4] Ancient Greece Project By: Wyatt Rebbe Battles/Wars of Greece The Battle of Marathon took place during the first Persian invasion of Greece, fought between the combined forces of Athens and Plataea against King Darius’ Persian army. [5] Historians tend to agree that the Battle of Salamis was the single most important battle of ancient Greece and potentially of all human history. [5]


Finally Phillip sought to establish his own hegemony over the southern Greek city-states, and after defeating the combined forces of Athens and Thebes, the two most powerful states, at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, succeeded. [1] In an attempt to bolster the Thebans' position, Epaminondas again marched on the Pelopennese in 362 BC. At the Battle of Mantinea, the largest battle ever fought between the Greek city-states occurred most states were represented on one side or the other. [1]

A united Greek army of c. 40,000 hoplites decisively defeated Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea, effectively ending the invasion. [1]

Hoplites were the citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek City-states. [1] Ancient Greek marble relief c. 330 BC depicting a soldier in combat, holding his weapon above his head as he prepares to strike a fallen enemy the relief may have been part of an official Athenian state memorial from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek collection. [1]

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity (ca. AD 600). [6] A map showing ancient Greece at the time of Theban hegemony, 371 BCE to 362 BCE. [7] Artist's impression of how a harbour scene in ancient Greece may have looked. [7]

There followed the Persian invasion of Greece that led to Darius’s defeat at the Battle of Marathon late in the summer of 490 bc. [8] Although the Persian invasion was ended by the battles at Plataea and Mycale, fighting between Greece and Persia continued for another 30 years. [8]

The Greeks held off the Persians for 7 days with 3 vicious battles, often epitomized as famous last-stand battles in history. [9] Battle of Salamis is part of the Greco-Persian wars, fought between the Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in 480 BC. Despite being heavily outnumbered by Persian soldiers, the tactics of the Greeks outmaneuvered their enemy in the narrow streets. [9] Tha Battle of Salamis in 480 BC (#3) had nothing to do with the Roman Republic and Parthian Empire (neither yet existed) and the titles saying so must be an editing mistake because the description has it right: it was between the allied Greeks, predominantly Athens, since she had to only great Navy, and the Persian Empire. [9]

The Persians met the Greeks in battle over a period of three days in August 480. [8] Although heavily outnumbered, and having lost previous two battles, the Greek Allied navy was urged by the Athenian general, Themistocles, to engage the Persian fleet into battle again. [5] While the battle raged at Thermopylae, the Persian fleet attacked the Greek navy, with both sides losing many ships. [8] Often taken as first ever recorded naval battle, the Battle of Salamis ended up with a Greek victory. [9] Although the rebels found wide support in the Greek cities of the Propontis region, at the Bosporus, and in Caria, Lycia, and Cyprus, they lost the decisive sea battle at Lade in 495 bce. [8] After the continuous two-day battle, Greek resident Ephiatles revealed the secret pass, where the Persian army could enter. [9]

From the East he attacks central Greece, from the West his allies the Carthagenians and Etruscans attack the Greek colonies in Italy. [10]


The young fight our wars in ancient Greece, war knew no age. [11] The poor usually fight our wars in ancient Greece, war knew no class. [11] Ancient Greece consisted of several hundred more or less independent city-states. [6] You are right, however, that miasma was a hugely significant component of daily life in Ancient Greece and played a multitude of roles in how they approached issues from births to deaths. [12] Ancient Greece is where Zeus rapped during his second verse in Zeus vs Thor. [6] An example from ancient Greece reveals an unexpected depth to this dictum. [11]

Frequent subjects were the battles, mythology, and rulers of the area historically known as ancient Greece. [13] Without Spartan participation in the war against Persia at the beginning of the fifth century B.C.-- especially their heroic stand at the critical Battle of Thermopylae in 480--the Persians may well have conquered Greece. [14] He led this team of generals in devising a tactic that would minimize the Greek soldier’s exposure to the Persian fire archers at the Battle of Marathon (Martin). [15] Sparta might face an existential threat, prompting its participation in the Battle of Plataea in 479 B.C., which effectively ended all Persian attempts to invade the Greek lands. [14] As the battle came to an end, an Athenian messenger ran approximately 26.2 miles from this village to Athens in order to tell of the Greek victory as well as advise the Athenians within this city-state to guard themselves against a coming naval attack by the Persian fleet the invaders could potentially try to take Athens by approaching from the coast. [15] Before this battle, Miltiades spoke the following to Callimachus in order to obtain his help in rallying the Greek forces: "Athens is on the point of experiencing the greatest of vicissitudes. [15] All across Marathon, he found graves dedicated to Plataeans as well as their slaves since, for the first time in Greek history, slaves fought alongside their masters in battle. [15] The Greeks, knowing the time for battle had come, began to move forward. [16] He states that "the army of the Greeks was drawn up in order of battle on the declivity of a mountain…because they feared the cavalry" (Anacharsis, Maps 51). [15] If I may, I'd like a follow up question about Greek post-battle practices: I saw a movie (I think it was Oliver Stone's Alexander but my memory is fuzzy ATM) where at the conclusion of a battle a Greek medic walks among the wounded with a kit which included a hammer and awl it's implied that this is for euthanizing gravely wounded soldiers who have no hope of recovering. [12] At this battle, the Greek soldiers were frightened by the outlandish looks of their invaders, who wore frightening and unfamiliar outfits. [15] The battle raged for two days, and, similarly to the Persians’ strategy at Thermopylae, they attempted to surround the Greek fleet, which proved to be mightier than Xerxes could have anticipated. [17] The Battle of Thermopylae demonstrated the Greeks’ "ambition of glory, the love of their country, all the virtues were carrier to their highest elevation, and the minds of men exalted to a degree hitherto unknown," despite ending in Greek defeat. [17] The Greeks also were thought to have not fought alone in this battle, claiming that Heracles helped them in this conquest. [15]

If Herodotus borrowed from Homer the way the later tradition of historical battle description described fighting, adapted the array of the armies from the Homeric catalogue, and himself invented the "weighing’, the historian's declaration about why one side defeated the other, Thucydides was the creator of the battle speech - the paraklēsis or parainesis, cohortatio in Latin - that so frequently became a part of the depiction of ancient battles. [18]

Little remains of the ancient city of Sparta, capital of the Laconia region, situated on the Peloponnesus peninsula in modern Greece, but the impact of its unique culture is impossible to ignore. [14] Jason K. Foster is a London-based teacher and historian specializing in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. [16]

Hoplites were not professional soldiers, but rather were the citizen-soldiers of the ancient Greek City-states. [19] By the seventh (or perhaps even eighth) century BC, the Hoplite had become the standard heavy-infantry in the ancient Greek world. [19] This was a feature of ancient Greek warfare examined by G. L. Cawkwell in his article Orthodoxy and Hoplites (registration required). [19] There are a few examples of this in Ancient Greek and Roman history. [12] It is only now that humankind has become truly stupid, maintaining ancient Greek tactics in an age of advanced technology, thus transforming armies into killing machines that the Greeks were incapable of imagining. [11]

Fought between the ancient Greek city-states and the Persian Achaemenid Empire near the small town of Plataea (in Boeotia, central Greece), the numbers involved in the Battle of Plataea primarily come from Herodotus. [20] As a result of this battle, Persia abandoned its plans to invade Greece, and that was a pretty exciting victory for the Greeks. [21] The Battle of Thermopylae is the most famous battle of the Second Persian Invasion of Greece and one of the most famous battles in European ancient history. [22] The Battle of the Eurymedon was an important event in ancient Greek history, as many Greecian cities came together and defeated a major naval force of the Persians under between 469 and 466 BCE. It was a battle that helped shape the future of Western civilization, and that is pretty exciting. [21]

Despite overwhelming numerical odds, the tactical supremacy of the Greek forces proved more important than mere numbers and, as such, Miltiades’s Greeks triumphed in a battle that resulted in thousands of Persian deaths, and the end of Darius’s failed invasion. [23] This battle marks the time that two important battles fought on land and sea during the second, more elaborate invasion of the Greek city-states by the Persian juggernaut. [23] One of the most recognizable battles of all time, Marathon involved thousands of defending Greeks versus hundreds of thousands of invading Persians. [23] In any case, by the time this battle concluded, anywhere from 159 to 10,000 Greeks had been lost to as many as 257,000 Persians. [23] In any case, the battle started out when the Persians had retreated and then fortified themselves beside the town of Plataea, as a counter to the amassing of Greek forces that marched out of Peloponnese. [20] Shortly afterwards, the Greeks finished off the Persian invasion at the Battle of Mycale on August 27, 480. [23]

The battle was the final, decisive battle of the First Persian Invasion of Greece. [23] Rather than have yet another city-state dominate Greece, the northern kingdom of Macedon crushed the Sacred Band of Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC,) in which Alexander participated. [23]

With Sparta enjoying supremacy in Greece, a sizable number of Greek hoplites, looking for adventure and employment, went over to the forces of a rebel leader within the Persian Empire, all the way by Babylon. [23] This majestic bronze, found in the sea off Greece, conveys the magic of Greek mythology. [24] Their dominance in Macedonia and Greece - two of the greatest pillars of past Greek power - was at an end. [25]

As for the numbers game, most sources concur that the battle was a significant event in the annals of Indian history, with Greek traveler Megasthenes pointing out how the Kalinga forces fielded more than 60,000 soldiers and 700 elephants (along with a very high number of armed civilians), while the Mauryan army probably consisted of over 100,000 soldiers. [20] Anyhow, the overall battle may have still involved around 200,000 men which is an incredible scope considering the logistics required for such a high number and generally fractious nature of the Greek city-states. [20] Through its portayal of the epic subject matter of the Trojan War, the stirring scenes of bloody battle, the wrath of Achilles and the constant interventions of the gods, it explores themes of glory, wrath, homecoming and fate, and has provided subjects and stories for many other later Greek, Roman and Renaissance writings. [26] Greek vs Roman, legion vs phalanx, this inevitable battle is to decide which culture will reign supreme. [25] Vintage engraving of Spartans warriors at the Battle of Plataea using the Greek Hoplite Phalanx formation. [25] The battle was a punitive expedition by Great King Darius I of Persia to punish Athens for supporting the Ionian Greeks in a revolt against Persia that had occurred earlier in the 490's. [23] The conflict, in which thousands of Greek mercenaries participated, pitted the rebel Cyrus the Younger against the Great King Artaxerxes II. In the decisive battle, Cyrus died, leaving his 10,000 surviving Greek mercenaries stranded in the heart of the Persian Empire. [23] Despite the misgivings of his wife, Andromache, the Trojan hero, Hector, son of King Priam, challenges the Greek warrior-hero Ajax to single combat, and is almost overcome in battle. [26] Agamemnon is wounded in the battle and, despite the heroics of Ajax, Hector successfully breaches the fortified Greek camp, wounding Odysseus and Diomedes in the process, and threatens to set the Greek ships on fire. [26] Owen Rees, 'The Battle of Leuctra,' Great Battles of the Classical Greek World, Pen and Sword, 2016, pp.41-52. [25]

From the plains of Iran to the mountains of Northern Greece, these aspiring 'Successors' would engage each other in great battles, risking everything for power in this post-Alexander era. [25] Trained pikemen from Greece, swift horses from Iran, bladed chariots from Syria and armoured elephants from India all would compete in this great battle. [25] He had already witnessed its deadly effectiveness in battle and its critical role in Philip's quick ascendancy to dominance in mainland Greece. [25]

This list covers the ten most significant battles or sieges fought during these ancient wars, and are the battles from this era that are frequently the subjects of documentaries or cinematic reenactments and are essentially the ones that routinely are mentioned in textbooks as well. [23] Without further ado, let us check out five such huge battles fought by various ancient factions that made their bloody mark on the course of human history. [20] This is a list of five OF the bloodiest battles in ancient history, as opposed to five BLOODIEST battles in ancient history. [20] The numbers were still lopsided in Persia’s favor at the next crucial battle, at least according to the ancient sources. [23]

Ancient historian Herodotus claimed that 110,000 Greeks opposed 300,000 Persians, though modern historians believe it was more like 80,000 Greeks versus a more comparable 70,000 to 120,000 Persians. [23] Inspiring playwrights such as Euripides and Aristophanes, famed philosophers like Socrates and Plato and builders of brilliant art and architecture namely Phidias and Polykleitos all people that helped the Ancient Greeks reach their zenith in the aftermath of victory in the Persian Wars. [25] According to ancient Greek myth, soldiers from Greece laid siege to the city of Troy for ten years, but could not conquer it. [27] The Greek soldier shown on this ancient Greek vase from 450 BC struggles against an Amazon warrior on horseback. [27] If someone asks you what were the greatest cities of the Ancient Greeks, anyone would forgive you for instantly thinking of famed places such as Sparta, Athens or Corinth. [25]


As they spread along the Mediterranean coast, the Persians began to set their sights on the prosperous cities of ancient Greece. [21] In the second Persian invasion of Greece, 300 Spartans with allied troops were charged with stopping an enormous Persian force at the narrow pass of Thermopylae, while Greek armies mustered in the rear. [28] You study the Persian invasions of Greece (490-479 B.C.E.), examining the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea that decided this titanic clash. [28] The Battle at Salamis: When the Persian king, Xerxes, invaded Greece in the spring of 480 BCE, he did so at the head of a vast army. [29]

The Spartans gathered together an army from the rest of the Greek city-states and met the Persians at Platea for one of the last Persian War battles. [29] Between 469 and 466 BCE, the Greek Delian League (led by the city-state of Athens ), attacked the Persian Achaemenid Empire at the Battle of the Eurymedon in Asia Minor. [21] The tide turned when during the battle, a Malian (member of a Greek tribe) named Ephialtes, revealed a path that led the Persians around the mountain towards the back of the defending force. [22] In the text, Dexippus said the commander of the Greek force, a general named Marianus, tried to raise morale by reminding the Greeks of the battles their ancestors had fought at Thermopylae in the past, including the famous fifth-century B.C. battle between the Persians and a Spartan-led force. [30] The Battle of Marathon saw the forces of the Persian superpower defeated in the first major confrontation between Greeks and Persians on the Hellenic mainland. [28] The Battle of Thermophylae was undoubtedly a defeat for the Greeks, which allowed the Persians to continue their march into Greece. [22] The Battle of the Eurymedon was part of a larger series of wars between the Greeks and Persians for control of the northeastern Mediterranean. [21] This boosted the morale of the surviving Greek soldiers, who went on to defeat the Persians in the Battles of Salamis and Plataea, which effectively ended the Second Persian Invasion. [22] For the Greek battle plan to work, they needed the Persian ships to be close together. [29] On the third and final day of the battle, the Persians had moved behind the Greek position and surrounded them in both directions. [22] When the battle started, the Greeks pretended to retreat in front of the Persians as planned, just as the "traitor" had said they would. [29] The Persians had lost two major battles to the upstart Greeks. [29] The Spartans and their allies were again defeated by the Thracians and Epaminondas in the largest battle ever fought between the Greeks at the battle of Mantinea (362 BC). [31] Although the 300 Spartans were the most famous combatants on the Greek side, they were not the only Greeks present at the battle. [22] The standard view of battle mechanics adopted by opposing armies of Greek hoplites is that they advanced shoulder-to-shoulder in close-ordered formation and crashed into each other head-on. [28] The translated text, detailed in the Journal of Roman Studies, describes the Thermopylae battle: At the start of the fragment, "battle columns" of Goths, a people who flourished in Europe whom the Romans considered barbarians, are attacking the Greek city of Thessalonica. [30] Together, the other Greek city-states supplied another 200 triremes for the battle of Salamis. [29] Unlike other battles, however, it was not a victory for the Greeks, but a defeat. [22] Most people would be aware that the leader of the Greeks during the battle was Leonidas of Sparta. [22] To the honor-driven Greek warriors, the front was where they wanted to be! In their martial culture, warriors sought glory in battle, and a general placed his best men in the front ranks. [31] Even with his fighting elites engaged in battle, however, Xerxes' troops made little progress against the Greeks. [29] Herodotus gives the actual number of Peloponnesians at the battle alone as 3,100 or 4,000, and a grand total of over 5,000 Greeks. [22]

We don't know exactly when the Battle of the Eurymedon occurred, but at some point between 469 and 466 BCE, the Persians responded to the growing power of the Delian League by planning another assault on Greece. [21] Darius was unable to launch an offensive in Greece immediately because of rebellions in other sectors of his empire and in 486 BC, while he was quelling these, he was killed in battle. [22] In late August or early September of 480 BC, Xerxes launched his offensive upon Greece in what is now known as the Battle of Thermopylae. [22] Realistically, the Battle of Eurymedon secured the Aegean and Greece, making it a pretty important moment for all of Western civilization. [21]

When Philip attacked Greece (356-338 BC) the divided and exhausted Greeks could not stop him. [31]

On the issue of whether the Greek hoplites at Marathon charged the Persians across the one-mile gap separating the armies, as described by the ancient historian Herodotus, Professor Fagan notes that experiments carried out at The Pennsylvania State University with physical education majors suggest that Herodotus was wrong. [28] Victor Davis Hanson, a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, is extremely prolific on the subject of ancient war his most recent book, "Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think" (Doubleday $27.50), is his fourteenth in twenty years. [32] Zack Snyder’s 2007 fantasy historical film, 300, has probably made the Battle of Thermopylae one of the most famous battles of the ancient world. [22] I Bought this about a month ago and it is as good as it gets.Any history buff looking for a course on ancient battles will love this one.5 stars and more. [28]

The pride that the ancient Greeks felt over winning this war started a new age - the Golden Age of Greece. [29] Fragments of an ancient Greek text telling of an invasion of Greece by the Goths during the third century A.D. have been discovered. [30] The ancient Greeks did not need spies to tell them that the Persians would be back in great numbers. [29] Ancient Greek warriors were citizen soldiers, except for the professional army of Sparta, and warfare became somewhat standardized to allow for soldier-farmers to tend to their farms. [31] According to ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Leonidas was the son of King Alexandridas and his first wife, an unnamed woman who was also the king’s niece. [22]

More interestingly (though less significantly), it led to the creation of marathon running, which was inspired by an inaccurate story about a Greek messenger running to Athens from Marathon with news of victory. [4] To this end, the Greeks were able to lure the Persian fleet into the straits of Salamis and, in a battleground where Persian numbers again counted for nothing, they won a decisive victory, justifying Themistocles' decision to build the Athenian fleet. [1] The Greek navy, despite their lack of experience, also proved their worth holding back the Persian fleet whilst the army still held the pass. [1]

Hodkinson, Stephen, "Warfare, Wealth, and the Crisis of Spartiate Society," in John Rich and Graham Shipley, (eds.), War and Society in the Greek World, London: Routledge, 1993, pp.146-176. [1] Tactically the Peloponnesian war represents something of a stagnation the strategic elements were most important as the two sides tried to break the deadlock, something of a novelty in Greek warfare. [1] After the war, ambitions of many Greek states dramatically increased. [1]

Although alliances between city-states were commonplace, the scale of this league was a novelty, and the first time that the Greeks had united in such a way to face an external threat. [1] The eventual triumph of the Greeks was achieved by alliances of many city-states (the exact composition changing over time), allowing the pooling of resources and division of labour. [1] Many Greeks city-states, having had plenty of warning of the forthcoming invasion, formed an anti-Persian league though as before, other city-states remained neutral or allied with Persia. [1] The losses in the ten years of the Theban hegemony left all the Greek city-states weakened and divided. [1] The Greek 'Dark Age' drew to a close as a significant increase in population allowed urbanized culture to be restored, which led to the rise of the city-states ( Poleis ). [1]

Though heavily outnumbered, the Greek forces managed to defeat the lightly armed Persian army after only five days. [4]

The Persians had acquired a reputation for invincibility, but the Athenian hoplites proved crushingly superior in the ensuing infantry battle. [1] The second Persian invasion is famous for the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. [1] The Battle of Marathon was significant because it proved to the world that the Persians could be defeated. [4]

To understand behind the reasoning of the battles there is a detailed history of Athens, Sparta and Persia. on this site we start with the Lelantine War. [2] Set-piece battles during this war proved indecisive and instead there was increased reliance on naval warfare, and strategies of attrition such as blockades and sieges. [1] One of these is particularly notable however at the Battle of Lechaeum, an Athenian force composed mostly of light troops (e.g. peltasts) defeated a Spartan regiment. [1] The Spartan hegemony would last another 16 years, until, at the Battle of Leuctra (371) the Spartans were decisively defeated by the Theban general Epaminondas. [1] The Spartans suffered a large setback when their fleet was wiped out by a Persian Fleet at the Battle of Cnidus, undermining the Spartan presence in Ionia. [1] Epaminondas deployed tactics similar to those at Leuctra, and again the Thebans, positioned on the left, routed the Spartans, and thereby won the battle. [1] At the decisive Battle of Leuctra (371 BC), the Thebans routed the allied army. [1] The Chigi vase, dated to around 650 BC, is the earliest depiction of a hoplite in full battle array. [1]

Casualties were slight compared to later battles, amounting to anywhere between 5 and 15% for the winning and losing sides respectively, but the slain often included the most prominent citizens and generals who led from the front. [1]

Demoralised, Xerxes returned to Asia Minor with much of his army, leaving his general Mardonius to campaign in Greece the following year (479 BC). [1] The revenge of the Persians was postponed 10 years by internal conflicts in the Persian Empire, until Darius's son Xerxes returned to Greece in 480 BC with a staggeringly large army (modern estimates suggest between 150,000-250,000 men). [1]

Darius was already ruler of the cities of Ionia, and the wars are taken to start when they rebelled in 499 BC. The revolt was crushed by 494 BC, but Darius resolved to bring mainland Greece under his dominion. [1] Darius attempted to invade Greece after the Athenians had sent aid to Ionia to help with their revolt against the Persians. [4] As the massive Persian army moved south through Greece, the allies sent a small holding force (c. 10,000) men under the Spartan king Leonidas, to block the pass of Thermopylae whilst the main allied army could be assembled. [1] In the aftermath, the Spartans were able to establish themselves as the dominant force in Greece for three decades. [1]

Whatever the proximal causes of the war, it was in essence a conflict between Athens and Sparta for supremacy in Greece. [1] The peace treaty which ended the Peloponnesian War left Sparta as the de facto ruler of Greece ( hegemon ). [1] This established a lasting Macedonian hegemony over Greece, and allowed Phillip the resources and security to launch a war against the Persian Empire. [1]

Regardless of where it developed, the model for the hoplite army evidently quickly spread throughout Greece. [1] After effectively shutting down the revolt, the angry king turned his attention to Greece, first capturing Eretria, then sailing into Marathon for vengeance. [4] With revolutionary tactics, King Phillip II brought most of Greece under his sway, paving the way for the conquest of "the known world" by his son Alexander the Great. [1] Now unable to resist him, Phillip compelled most of the city states of southern Greece (including Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos but not Sparta) to join the Corinthian League, and therefore become allied to him. [1]

Lazenby, John F., "Hoplite Warfare," in John Hackett, (ed.), Warfare in the Ancient World, pp.54-81. [1]


The Greeks tried to hold the Persian force with 300 Spartiates and 7000 hoplites under the leadership of King Leonidas in a narrow pass. [9] Greco-Persian Wars, also called Persian Wars, (492-449 bce ), a series of wars fought by Greek states and Persia over a period of almost half a century. [8] On the second night a Greek traitor guided the best Persian troops around the pass behind the Greek army. [8] At sea a detachment of 200 Persian ships attempted to surprise the Greek fleet, but the Greeks, forewarned, engaged the main Persian navy. [8] The Persian navy was defeated at Mycale, on the Asiatic coast, when it declined to engage the Greek fleet. [8] After the defeat of the Lydian king Croesus ( c. 546), the Persians gradually conquered the small Greek city-states along the Anatolian coast. [8] Darius I, the Persian King and Pharaoh of Egypt, starts an expedition against the Greeks. [10] In the summer of 480 BC, an unparalleled Greek force of 7,000 men, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, blocked the outnumbered Persian army at the pass. [9]

The Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC, a battle between the forces of the Persian King Dareius III and Alexander the Great in a place today in Irak. [10] The decisive battle between Alexendar the Great and the Persian Achamenid Empire took place on October 1, 331 BC. Despite his small military force (compared to the Achaemenid Empire), Alexender's tactics worked effectively. [9] Instead the Persian navy beached its ships and, joining a land army, fought a losing battle against a Spartan force led by Leotychidas. [8] Athenians engaged with the Persian force in the nearby straits of Artemisium, resulting the Battle of Thermopylae. [9] Persian General Mardonius took charge of the battle with a huge force. [9] The Persians were then outmaneuvered and badly beaten by the Greeks’ ships in the ensuing naval battle. [8] This battle allegedly happened on the same day at the Battle of Mycale and marked the end the invasion started by the Persians. [9] Often considered one of the costliest battles of Alexander The Great, the Battle of the Hydaspes River was fought between King Porus of the Hindu Paurava kingdom and Alexander The Great in 315 BC. During this battle Alexander attempted to cross the river during a monsoon, despite the great Indian force waiting for him in the opposite side. [9] The decisive battle of Chu Han Contention, fought in 202 BC between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu ended with the victory of Liu Bang. [9] The Battle of Chalons was the part of Hunnic Invasions of Gaul, fought between the Roman Emperor Aurelian and Emperor Tetricus I of the Gallic Empire.This battle was remembered for years because of the high death toll. [9] The battle ended the Gallic Empire and reunified it with the Roman Empire after 13 years of separation. [9] Crassus was killed in the battle, which led to the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of Roman Empire. [9] Alexander's ingenious tactics worked so effectively that the battle led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire. [9] What about one of the greatest battle of yarmouk between the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim Arab forces of Rashiudin Caliphate. [9] It was finally driven from the country after the battle of Plataea in 479 bce, where it was defeated by a combined force of Spartans, Tegeans, and Athenians. [8] Liu Bang snared Xiang Yu’s 100,000 armies with his prodigious 300,000 forces at night, as the battle continued. [9] Battle of Kadesh did not involve the Roman and Carthage armies as listed above. [9] Surena decisively won the battle, slaughtering and capturing most of the Roman Soldiers. [9]

The first European to acquire elephants was Alexander, after subduing Porus and the power of the Indians after his death others of the kings got them but Antigonus more than any Pyrrhus captured his beasts in the battle with Demetrius. [10] Sparta thought that attacking the productive land of Attica, it would pressurize Athens to come forward to start the battle in a formal manner. [5] The Battle of Kadesh is the oldest ever recorded military battle in history in which the details of formations and tactics are known. [9]

On land the Persians attacked the Greeks at Thermopylae for two days but suffered heavy losses. [8] The Spartan general Leonidas dispatched most of the Greeks south to safety but fought to the death at Thermopylae with the Spartan and Thespian soldiers who remained. [8] The Greeks decided to deploy a force of about 7,000 men at the narrow pass of Thermopylae and a force of 271 ships under Themistocles at Artemisium. [8] The unprecedented size of his forces made their progress quite slow, giving the Greeks plenty of time to prepare their defense. [8]

Between 500 and 386 bc Persia was for the policy-making classes in the largest Greek states a constant preoccupation. (It is not known, however, how far down the social scale this preoccupation extended in reality.) [8] In 500 bce the Greek city-states on the western coast of Anatolia rose up in rebellion against Persia. [8]

Athens and Eretria had sent a small fleet in support of the revolt, which Darius took as a pretext for launching an invasion of the Greek mainland. [8] Xerxes I ("The leader of Heroes") the son of Darius I, 10 years after his father was defeated in Marathon, starts a new expedition against the Greeks. [10]

In the summer of 479 BC, the large Persian force lead by King Xerxes invaded Greece. [9] Darius’ attempted to invade Greece as he was angered after the Athenians had sent aid to Ionia in a revolt against the Persians. [5]

Although Xerxes returned to Persia that winter, his army remained in Greece. [8] The fighting was most intense during two invasions that Persia launched against mainland Greece between 490 and 479. [8]


He ran approximately 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens in order to tell of the Greek victory as well as advise the Athenians within this city-state to guard themselves against a coming naval attack by the Persian flee. [15] Over this 13 year period, each side experienced major victories and setbacks the Persians were defeated at Marathon, Salamis, and Platea and the Greeks at Thermopylae. [17] At the same time that the Greek army was preparing to guard the pass at Thermopylae, the Greek fleet prepared to meet the Persians at Artemisium, "where the wide Thracian sea contracts until the passage…is but narrow". [17] Due to the considerable damage to the Greek fleet and the disastrous situation developing at Thermopylae, the Greeks were forced to retreat to Salamis, where they eventually defeated the Persians. [17]

Marathon smashed the myth of Persian invincibility, an achievement that lent a critical measure of confidence to the Greeks who fought the Persians again at Salamis and Plataea. [16] Confronting the Persians at Marathon offered the Greeks several tactical possibilities. [16] This team of generals, led by an aristocrat names Miltiades, devised a tactic that would minimize the Greek soldier’s exposure to the Persian fire archers. [15] Familiar with the tactics and strengths of their enemy, the Greeks knew the Persian cavalry had to be taken out of the calculations. [16] When the day was over, the Greeks had won one of history’s most famous victories, claiming to have killed about 6,400 Persians for the loss of only 192 Athenians. [16] Not to you in particular, but did the Greeks (other than Alexander) ever travel far enough to end up fighting people who were not of a reasonably similar civilisation/tradition? For example, I wouldn't consider the Persians to be dissimilar enough. [12] The Greek cities in Asia Minor eventually decided to throw off the Persian yoke. [16] The Persians longed to expand their empire, primarily by attacking the Greek islands. [15] The absence of Persian cavalry is one of the reasons for the Greek victory. [16] The Persians sailed home without attempting to take this city causing the Greeks to rejoice in their unlikely victory. [15] The Greeks then drove the Persians into a nearby swamp, where all those who were unable to escape to the ships along the coast "could be picked off at the attackers’ leisure" (Martin). [15] Both sides suffered heavy losses in the fighting that ensued, but with the help of bad weather, the Greeks destroyed 200 Persian ships. [17] On the second day of fighting, the Greeks maintained their strong hold until Ephialtes, a local farmer, gave information to Xerxes about another path, the Anopaia path, which would enable the Persians to bypass the Greek troops and infiltrate behind the Greeks’ formation. [17] As the Greeks ran across the plain, their "metal armor clanked across the open space between the two armies under a hail of Persian arrows fired like an artillery barrage" (Martin). [15] That said, Greek armies did include significant numbers of " support troops " - soldiers other than hoplites. [19] After reorganizing, the Greek army consisted of approximately 6,000-7,000 soldiers due to disputes amongst the poleis, the sacred games in Olympia, and the Spartan religious festival, Karneia, the actual size of their force was smaller. [17] According to Anacharsis, the Greek fleet consisted of 240 ships and was led by Eurybiades, a Spartan this is particularly noteworthy because the Athenians made up an overwhelming portion of the fleet and were known for their naval abilities, whereas the Spartans contributed 10 ships and were more known for their land fighting. [17] Pausanias, a Greek historian who visited the remains of Marathon, states that "the plain is the grave of the Athenians, and upon it are slabs giving the names of the killed according to their tribes" (Pausanias). [15] On the morning of September 17, 490 bc, some 10,000 Greeks stood assembled on the plain of Marathon, preparing to fight to the last man. [16]

A lifelong dedication to military discipline, service, and precision gave this kingdom a strong advantage over other Greek civilizations, allowing Sparta to dominate Greece in the fifth century B.C. [14] At other times, Sparta engaged in disputes with its rival Greek city-states, especially Athens and Thebes. [14] A prolific writer on Sparta and Athens, Antonio Penadés teaches Greek History at the L’iber Museum in Valencia, Spain. [14] A Greek helmet from the fifth century B.C. At the peak of their power, the Spartans defeated the Persian army, and then turned their ire on neighboring Athens. [14] Geographically, Thermopylae is located approximately 150 kilometers from Athens and is surrounded by steep mountains on one side and swampy land on the other "these places, then, were thought by the Greeks to suit their purpose " (Herodotus, 7.177). [17]

By waging war courageously and standing their ground, the Romans and Greeks gained "virtus (virtue)" and 'κλεος (honor),' the greatest rewards one could hope to attain. [17] Both the Roman and Greek generals were able to capitalize on the small resources they had available and used their location strategically, bringing all their soldiers into a small area to start a concentrated offensive. [17] They were what the Greeks called hoplites: citizen soldiers who carried their own armor and weapons. [11]

The Persian army, consisting of "a hundred thousand foot and ten thousand horse" was also much larger than the Greek army composed of "ten thousand Athenians, and one thousand Plataeans" (Anacharsis, Maps 49). [15] While the Greeks resided on this tumulus, the Persian army was spread randomly across the surrounding plain, since "eastern nations usually fought without much regularity" (Anacharsis, Maps 51). [15]

The overwhelming number of troops that Xerxes had at his disposal--estimated at around 80,000--made it nearly impossible for the Greeks to stage any viable fight. [17] Despite losing approximately 400 ships due to bad weather, the Persian fleet still grossly outnumbered that of the Greeks. [17]

According to Martin, the Persians were expected to win the battle at Marathon against the Athenians, for this battle marked the first time that the Athenians and Plataeans would meet the Persian forces (Martin). [15]

RANKED SELECTED SOURCES(35 source documents arranged by frequency of occurrence in the above report)


During the Bronze Age, starting around 1600BC, the ancient Greeks fought in the heroic style of Homer. Each warrior fought for personal glory instead of in an organized formation. Battles usually started with taunts and jeers, followed by duels between champions. If neither side lost its nerve, a general battle would begin. Ancient Greek warriors had already started to wear cumbersome, but effective, armor, and casualties were usually light during the melee. Men fought armed primarily with spears and short swords, and the Greek warriors had already jumped ahead of their contemporaries in the use of shields and armor. They considered ranged weapons, like the bow, to be cowardly and avoided them. Much like in later phalanx warfare, the real carnage started when one side was routed. Fleeing enemies could not make use of their shields and made excellent targets. Warrior kings like the semi-legendary Agamemnon ruled from massive stone hill-top fortresses, raiding and making war for profit and glory.

Eventually during 12th century BC, for reasons not completely understood, Greece entered into a dark age of slow decline. Written language was lost, and the great palaces and cities were destroyed or abandoned. A dark age settled across much of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East at the same time, and there are many theories as to why. Regional droughts, changes in warfare and natural disasters have all been blamed. It was most likely several converging factors, but we don&rsquot truly know at this time.

Starting around 800 BC, Greece began to recover. Over the next 400 years, the Greeks developed democracy, theater, poetry and philosophy, as well as rediscovered written language. Some time before 650 BC, they developed the phalanx, and their warriors and warfare itself began to change as well. Warfare in Greece had always been dictated by the terrain the rough ground was unsuitable for chariots. In earlier times when their contemporaries developed chariot warfare, Greek warriors concentrated on heavy infantry. Besides Thessaly, the Greeks also neglected the development of cavalry in their military. However, their concentration on heavy infantry would pay off in the power of their hoplite warriors and phalanx formation.

Ancient Greek warriors were citizen soldiers, except for the professional army of Sparta, and warfare became somewhat standardized to allow for soldier-farmers to tend to their farms. Only after the harvest had been brought in from the fields would the Greeks take up arms. The different Greek city-states would then settle their many issues during the campaigning season. Warriors would settle scores on pre-selected battle fields, usually a plain between the two warring city-states. The warriors would form up into the famed phalanx on opposite sides of the mountain-surrounded plain.

Greek Hoplites and Phalanxes
The Greek warriors were called hoplites, named after their shield, the hoplon. Hoplons were heavy, bronze-covered wooden shields about 3 to 3.5 feet in diameter. It spanned from chin to knee and was very heavy (17- 33 pounds). These shields had a revolutionary design their rounded shape allowed them to be rested on the shoulder for additional support. They also featured a new grip and forearm straps that gave them great amounts of mobility and allowed them to be used offensively to bash opponents. The Greek warriors overlapped their shields, forming a shield wall. The left part of each warrior&rsquos shield protected the right side of the hoplite to his left. A phalanx would consist of rows of spear-armed hoplites, all protecting each other and presenting a wall of shields and spear points towards their enemies. The first two rows of a phalanx were able to stab at opponents with their spears that protruded from between the shields. The first three rows, or ranks, of a phalanx could stab their opponents, while the back ranks would brace the front rows, prevent the front rows from retreating and support the all-important cohesion of the formation. Phalanxes could be 4, 8, 16 or more men deep, up to 50 rows in some extraordinary instances. This made the back rows relatively safe, giving them little reason to flee a battle, while the front rows were pressed between their own forces and an enemy bent on killing them. Yet, to the honor-driven Greek warriors, the front was where they wanted to be! In their martial culture, warriors sought glory in battle, and a general placed his best men in the front ranks.

Greek Warriors Armor
Greek warriors were required to arm and armor themselves. Hoplite armor was extremely expensive and would be passed down through families. The amount of armor a Greek warrior wore varied. Peasant hoplites may have only carried a shield and maybe a helmet or secondary weapon, while battle-hardened Spartan veterans would have been armored from head to toe. The rich upper-class hoplites typically had the &ldquoworks.&rdquo They wore bronze breastplate fashioned in the bell or muscled style, a bronze helmet that protected their face, and greaves for shin protection. The bronze breast plates alone could weigh an astounding 50-60 pounds! A slightly less well-off hoplite may have linothorax armor, made from stitched and laminated linen fabrics that were sometimes reinforced with bronze scales and/or animal skins. Linothorax armor was the most common type, offering decent protection at a moderate price. Helmet designs varied over time and offered varying amounts of protection. Innovations including cheek plates and visors were added for additional protection. Each city state had its one design on the crest of their helmets.

Greek Warriors Weapons
Hoplites were armed with long spears, called doru. Doru were that were around 7 &ndash 9 feet in length, although this varied. Greek warriors carried their spears in their right hands and their shields strapped to their left. Greek warriors probably employed both underhand and overhand grips, depending on the situation and amount of leverage required. Holding the spear underarm may have been optimal for the front line of the phallanxs while Hoplites in the second and third ranks would almost certainly have made overarm thrusts. The rear rows held their spears in an underarm grip, and raising them upwards on an angle to provide an extra defense against incoming missiles. Doru often had curved leaf shaped spearheads and had a spiked point, called a sauroter, at the opposite end. The spear could be spun around if something happened to the spearhead in battle, but it was more commonly used to stand the spear up by planting it into the ground. This practice gave the sauroter its name, sauroter is Greek for &ldquolizard killer&rdquo. It was also used by the back ranks to dispatch fallen enemies as the phalanx advanced over them when they held their spears in the upright position. The sauroter also served as a counter weight, balancing out the spear.

Ancient Greek warriors also carried short swords, called xiphos, as a secondary weapon. They were used when spears snapped or were lost in combat. They may have also been used when a hoplite needed to discard his spear and shield in order to chase down routing enemies. The xiphos usually has about a 2 foot blade however the Spartans blades were often only 1 &ndash 1.5 feet long. This shorter xiphos would advantageous in the press that occurred in the front row when two phalanxes smashed together. In this crush of men there was no room to use a longer sword, however a short sword could be thrust through gaps in the enemy's shieldwall and into an unprotected groin, armpit or throat. Smaller xiphos would have been particularly useful during the Peloponnesian War (431 BC - 404 BC) when many hoplites began using lighter armor, even abandoning it, in favor of mobility. Alternatively, Greek warriors could carry the curved kopis, a particularly vicious hacking weapon that earned it a reputation as a &ldquobad guys&rdquo weapon in ancient Greece. Spartan hoplites were often depicted using the kopis instead of the xiphos in the art of their arch rivals the Athenians. (See also Spartan Weapons)

Greek Light Infantry & Cavalry
Not every Greek warrior was a hoplite, and though often neglected, Greek armies were usually accompanied by other troop types. Light infantry and cavalry troops were used as skirmishers and to protect the vulnerable flanks of the ponderous phalanxes. Javelin throwers called peltasts would be used as skirmishers, harassing enemy formations and masking troop movements behind them. They were armed with several javelins. Peltast warfare was developed in Thrace while the Greeks were developing an heavy infantry almost exclusively. This led to many of the light infantry being mercenary troops, hired from outlying regions of Greece. For instance, the Agrianes from Thrace were well-renowned peltasts, whilst Crete was famous for its archers and the Beleric Islands and Rhodes were famous for their slingers. During and after the Peloponnesian War use of light infantry became more common. This was dui to the Battle of Lechaeum (391 BC) when an army of Peltasts defeated an army of hoplites for the first time. Astonishingly a force of 600 Spartan hoplites was defeated using hit and run peltast tactics. Of the Greek City states, only Thebes developed their cavalry, a development noted by Phillip of Macedonia and Alexander the Great. Theban cavalry would be the model for the Macedonian Companion cavalry and eventual serve beside them under Alexander.

Hoplite Warfare
From its dawn around 700-650 BC, hoplite and phalanx tactics dominated warfare. Phalanxes triumphed over disorganized enemy hordes and quickly spread through Greece and beyond. The Greeks perfected hoplite tactics though endemic warfare.

Hoplite tactics hit their high water mark when smaller Greek armies defeated two massive Persian invasions (499-448 BC). Hoplite formations decimated the lightly armored Persian infantry in famous battles like Marathon (490 BC) and Thermopylae (480 BC). However, the Greeks never capitalized on their victory over the world&rsquos super power. Having defended Greece from foreign control the Greeks went back to their insistent warfare against each other. They then launched themselves into another series of wars. First the leading Greek cities of Sparta and Athens warred for supremacy in a decade&rsquos long war, dragging most of the other Greek cities into the conflict (Peloponnesian War 431 BC - 404 BC). Only ten years later the Spartan hegemony was challenged in the Corinthian War (395-387 BC). Sensing the Spartan weakness, an alliance of Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos, supported by their enemy the Persians, sought to escape from the hegemony, and increase their own power. This was fought to a stalemate, but Thebes then led yet another war against Sparta. At the decisive Battle of Leuctra (371 BC), the Thebans routed the Spartans and their Allies. The battle is famous for the tactical innovations of the Theban general Epaminondas. Defying convention, he strengthened the left flank of the phalanx to an unheard of depth of 50 ranks, at the expense of the centre and the right. The centre and right were staggered backwards from the left flank and away from the enemies. This 'echelon' formation allowed the phalanx to advance obliquely. The Theban left wing was thus able to crush the elite Spartan forces on the allied right, while the Theban centre and left trailed behind and avoided engagement. After the defeat of the elite Spartans and the death of the Spartan king, the rest of the Allied army retreated. This is one of the first known examples of both the tactic of local concentration of force, and the tactic of 'refusing a flank'. The Spartans and their allies were again defeated by the Thracians and Epaminondas in the largest battle ever fought between the Greeks at the battle of Mantinea (362 BC). Spartan hegemony had been broken, but the Thebes had lost many warriors, including their ingenious general, Epaminondas.

Unfortunately for the Greeks the Macedonian King, Phillip, had taken note of the tactics Thebes had used and even improved on them. Philip doubled the length of the spear used by his phalanxes and reduced the shields his warriors used, allowing them to hold their spears with two hands. He also understood that while a phalanx is almost unstoppable from the front they are vulnerable from the flanks and rear. Phillip wisely used combined arms tactics, incorporating cavalry and light infantry to protect his phalanx. His phalanxes would then pin down opponents forces while his mobile forces outflanked them. When Philip attacked Greece (356-338 BC) the divided and exhausted Greeks could not stop him. Phillips son, Alexander the Great, then took the Greeks, their way of warfare and Hellenistic culture on a world tour of conquest. Persian, Egyptian and even Indian armies were defeated but the Greeks had forever lost their position as the world's top warriors. However, with Alexander and his sucessors Greek culture, civilization and ideas were spread across the known world.


A crafty and capable warrior, Odysseus was the king of Ithaca. His exploits in the Trojan War were documented by Homer in the "Iliad" and further in the "Odyssey," which chronicled Odysseus' 10-year struggle to return home. During that time, Odysseus and his men faced numerous challenges, including being kidnapped by a cyclops, menaced by sirens, and finally shipwrecked. Odysseus alone survives, only to face additional tests before finally returning home.


Contents

Hoplite Edit

Along with the rise of the city-state evolved a brand new style of warfare and the emergence of the hoplite. The hoplite was an infantryman, the central element of warfare in Ancient Greece. The word hoplite (Greek ὁπλίτης, hoplitēs) derives from hoplon (ὅπλον, plural hopla, ὅπλα) meaning a large, round shield, as they were named after their most notable gear. [1] Hoplites were the citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek City-states (except Spartans who were professional soldiers). They were primarily armed as spear-men and fought in a phalanx (see below).

Hoplite armor was extremely expensive for the average citizen, so it was commonly passed down from the soldier's father or relative. Alexander’s Macedonian army had spears called sarissas that were 18 feet long, far longer than the 6–9 foot Greek dory. The secondary weapon of a hoplite was the xiphos, a short sword used when the soldier's spear was broken or lost while fighting.

The origins of the hoplite are obscure, and no small matter of contention amongst historians. Traditionally, this has been dated to the 8th century BC, and attributed to Sparta but more recent views suggest a later date, towards the 7th century BC [ citation needed ] . Certainly, by approximately 650 BC, as dated by the 'Chigi vase', the 'hoplite revolution' was complete. The major innovation in the development of the hoplite seems to have been the characteristic circular shield (Aspis), roughly 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter, and made of wood faced with bronze. [2] Although very heavy (8–15 kg or 18–33 lb), the design of this shield was such that it could be supported on the shoulder. More importantly, it permitted the formation of a shield-wall by an army, an impenetrable mass of men and shields. Men were also equipped with metal greaves and also a breastplate made of bronze, leather, or stiff cloth. When this was combined with the primary weapon of the hoplite, 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) long spear (the doru), it gave both offensive and defensive capabilities.

Regardless of where it developed, the model for the hoplite army evidently quickly spread throughout Greece. The persuasive qualities of the phalanx were probably its relative simplicity (allowing its use by a citizen militia), low fatality rate (important for small city-states), and relatively low cost (enough for each hoplite to provide his own equipment). [2] The Phalanx also became a source of political influence because men had to provide their own equipment to be a part of the army.

The hoplite phalanx Edit

The ancient Greek city-states developed a military formation called the phalanx, which were rows of shoulder-to-shoulder hoplites. The Hoplites would lock their shields together, and the first few ranks of soldiers would project their spears out over the first rank of shields. The Phalanx therefore presented a shield wall and a mass of spear points to the enemy, making frontal assaults much more difficult. It also allowed a higher proportion of the soldiers to be actively engaged in combat at a given time (rather than just those in the front rank).

The phalanx formed the core of ancient Greek militaries. Because hoplites were all protected by their own shield and others’ shields and spears, they were relatively safe as long as the formation didn't break. When advancing towards an enemy, the phalanx would break into a run that was sufficient to create momentum but not too much as to lose cohesion. [3] The opposing sides would collide viciously, possibly terrifying many of the hoplites of the front row. The battle would then rely on the valour of the men in the front line, while those in the rear maintained forward pressure on the front ranks with their shields. When in combat, the whole formation would consistently press forward trying to break the enemy formation thus, when two phalanx formations engaged, the struggle essentially became a pushing match, [4] in which, as a rule, the deeper phalanx would almost always win, with few recorded exceptions.

When exactly the phalanx was developed is uncertain, but it is thought to have been developed by the Argives in their early clashes with the Spartans. The chigi vase, dated to around 650 BC, is the earliest depiction of a hoplite in full battle array. The hoplite was a well-armed and armored citizen-soldier primarily drawn from the middle classes. Every man had to serve at least two years in the army. Fighting in the tight phalanx formation maximised the effectiveness of his armor, large shield and long spear, presenting a wall of armor and spear points to the enemy. They were a force to be reckoned with.

Hoplite warfare Edit

At least in the Archaic Period, the fragmentary nature of Ancient Greece, with many competing city-states, increased the frequency of conflict, but conversely limited the scale of warfare. Unable to maintain professional armies, the city-states relied on their citizens to fight. This inevitably reduced the potential duration of campaigns, as citizens would need to return to their jobs (especially in the case of farmers). Campaigns would therefore often be restricted to summer. Armies marched directly to their target, possibly agreed on by the protagonists. Sparta was an exception to this rule, as every Spartiate was a professional soldier. Spartans instead relied on slaves called helots for civilian jobs such as farming.

If battle was refused by one side, it would retreat to the city, in which case the attackers generally had to content themselves with ravaging the countryside around, since the campaign season was too limited to attempt a siege. [ citation needed ] When battles occurred, they were usually set piece and intended to be decisive. These battles were short, bloody, and brutal, and thus required a high degree of discipline. At least in the early classical period, hoplites were the primary force light troops and cavalry generally protected the flanks and performed skirmishing, acting as support troops for the core heavy infantry.

The strength of hoplites was shock combat. The two phalanxes would smash into each other in hopes of quickly breaking the enemy force's line. Failing that, a battle degenerated into a pushing match, with the men in the rear trying to force the front lines through those of the enemy. [4] This maneuver was known as the Othismos or "push." Thucydides described hoplite warfare as othismos aspidon or "the push of shields". [5] Battles rarely lasted more than an hour. [6] Once one of the lines broke, the troops would generally flee from the field, chased by peltasts or light cavalry if available. If a hoplite escaped, he would sometimes be forced to drop his cumbersome aspis, thereby disgracing himself to his friends and family. Casualties were slight compared to later battles, amounting to anywhere between 5 and 15% for the winning and losing sides respectively, [7] but the slain often included the most prominent citizens and generals who led from the front. Thus, the whole war could be decided by a single field battle victory was enforced by ransoming the fallen back to the defeated, called the 'Custom of the Dead Greeks'. [ clarification needed ] .

Other elements of Greek armies Edit

Greek armies also included significant numbers of light infantry, the Psiloi, as support troops for the heavy hoplites, who also doubled as baggage handlers for the heavy foot. These included javelin throwers (akontistai), stone throwers (lithovoloi and petrovoloi) and slingers (sfendonitai) while archers (toxotai) were rare, mainly from Crete, or mercenary non-Greek tribes (as at the crucial battle of Plataea 479 B.C.) Greek armies gradually downgraded the armor of the hoplites (to linen padded thorax and open helmets) to make the phalanx more flexible and upgraded the javelineers to lightly armored general purpose infantry (thorakitai and thyreophoroi) with javelins and sometimes spears. Eventually, these types effectively complemented the Macedonian style phalanx which prevailed throughout Greece after Alexander the Great.

Cavalry had always existed in Greek armies of the classical era but the cost of horses made it far more expensive than hoplite armor, limiting cavalrymen to nobles and the very wealthy (social class of hippeis). During the early hoplite era cavalry played almost no role whatsoever, mainly for social, but also tactical reasons, since the middle-class phalanx completely dominated the battlefield. Gradually, and especially during the Peloponnesian war, cavalry became more important acquiring every role that cavalry could play, except perhaps frontal attack. It scouted, screened, harassed, outflanked and pursued with the most telling moment being the use of Syracusan horse to harass and eventually destroy the retreating Athenian army of the disastrous Sicilian expedition 415-413 B.C. One of the most famous troop of Greek cavalry was the Tarantine cavalry, originating from the city-state of Taras in Magna Graecia. [8]

Campaigns were often timed with the agricultural season to impact the enemies or enemies' crops and harvest. The timing had to be very carefully arranged so that the invaders' enemy's harvest would be disrupted but the invaders' harvest would not be affected. Late invasions were also possible in the hopes that the sowing season would be affected but this at best would have minimal effects on the harvest.

One alternative to disrupting the harvest was to ravage the countryside by uprooting trees, burning houses and crops and killing all who were not safe behind the walls of the city. Uprooting trees was especially effective given the Greek reliance on the olive crop and the long time it takes new olive trees to reach maturity. Ravaging the countryside took much effort and depended on the season because green crops do not burn as well as those nearer to harvest.

War also led to acquisition of land and slaves which would lead to a greater harvest, which could support a larger army. Plunder was also a large part of war and this allowed for pressure to be taken off of the government finances and allowed for investments to be made that would strengthen the polis. War also stimulated production because of the sudden increase in demand for weapons and armor. Shipbuilders would also experience sudden increases in their production demands.

The Greco-Persian Wars Edit

The scale and scope of warfare in Ancient Greece changed dramatically as a result of the Greco-Persian Wars. To fight the enormous armies of the Achaemenid Empire was effectively beyond the capabilities of a single city-state. The eventual triumph of the Greeks was achieved by alliances of many city-states (the exact composition changing over time), allowing the pooling of resources and division of labour. Although alliances between city states occurred before this time, nothing on this scale had been seen before.

The Greco-Persian Wars (499–448 BC) were the result of attempts by the Persian Emperor Darius the Great, and then his successor Xerxes I to subjugate Ancient Greece. Darius was already ruler of the cities of Ionia, and the wars are taken to start when they rebelled in 499 BC. The revolt was crushed by 494 BC, but Darius resolved to bring mainland Greece under his dominion. Many city-states made their submission to him, but others did not, notably including Athens and Sparta. [9] Darius thus sent his commanders Datis and Artaphernes to attack Attica, to punish Athens for her intransigence. After burning Eretria, the Persians landed at Marathon.

An Athenian army of c. 10,000 hoplites marched to meet the Persian army of about 25,000 troops [ citation needed ] . The Athenians were at a significant disadvantage both strategically and tactically. Raising such a large army had denuded Athens of defenders, and thus any attack in the Athenian rear would cut off the Army from the City. Tactically, the hoplites were very vulnerable to attacks by cavalry [ citation needed ] , and the Athenians had no cavalry to defend the flanks. After several days of stalemate at Marathon, the Persian commanders attempted to take strategic advantage by sending their cavalry (by ship) to raid Athens itself. [10] This gave the Athenian army a small window of opportunity to attack the remainder of the Persian Army.

This was the first true engagement between a hoplite army and a non-Greek army. [ citation needed ] The Persians had acquired a reputation for invincibility, but the Athenian hoplites proved crushingly superior in the ensuing infantry battle. To counter the massive numbers of Persians, the Greek general Miltiades ordered the troops to be spread across an unusually wide front, leaving the centre of the Greek line undermanned. However, the lightly armored Persian infantry proved no match for the heavily armored hoplites, and the Persian wings were quickly routed. The Greek wings then turned against the elite troops in the Persian centre, which had held the Greek centre until then. Marathon demonstrated to the Greeks the lethal potential of the hoplite, and firmly demonstrated that the Persians were not, after all, invincible.

The revenge of the Persians was postponed 10 years by internal conflicts in the Persian Empire, until Darius's son Xerxes returned to Greece in 480 BC with a staggeringly large army (modern estimates suggest between 150,000–250,000 men). Many Greeks city-states, having had plenty of warning of the forthcoming invasion, formed an anti-Persian league though as before, other city-states remained neutral or allied with Persia. Although alliances between city-states were commonplace, the scale of this league was a novelty, and the first time that the Greeks had united in such a way to face an external threat.

This allowed diversification of the allied armed forces, rather than simply mustering a very large hoplite army. The visionary Athenian politician Themistocles had successfully persuaded his fellow citizens to build a huge fleet in 483/82 BC to combat the Persian threat (and thus to effectively abandon their hoplite army, since there were not men enough for both). Amongst the allies therefore, Athens was able to form the core of a navy, whilst other cities, including Sparta, provided the army. This alliance thus removed the constraints on the type of armed forces that the Greeks could use. The use of such a large navy was also a novelty to the Greeks.

The second Persian invasion is famous for the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. As the massive Persian army moved south through Greece, the allies sent a small holding force (c. 10,000) men under the Spartan king Leonidas, to block the pass of Thermopylae whilst the main allied army could be assembled. The allied navy extended this blockade at sea, blocking the nearby straits of Artemisium, to prevent the huge Persian navy landing troops in Leonidas's rear. Famously, Leonidas's men held the much larger Persian army at the pass (where their numbers were less of an advantage) for three days, the hoplites again proving their superiority.

Only when a Persian force managed to outflank them by means of a mountain track was the allied army overcome but by then Leonidas had dismissed the majority of the troops, remaining with a rearguard of 300 Spartans (and perhaps 2000 other troops), in the process making one of history's great last stands. The Greek navy, despite their lack of experience, also proved their worth holding back the Persian fleet whilst the army still held the pass.

Thermopylae provided the Greeks with time to arrange their defences, and they dug in across the Isthmus of Corinth, an impregnable position although an evacuated Athens was thereby sacrificed to the advancing Persians. In order to outflank the isthmus, Xerxes needed to use this fleet, and in turn therefore needed to defeat the Greek fleet similarly, the Greeks needed to neutralise the Persian fleet to ensure their safety. To this end, the Greeks were able to lure the Persian fleet into the straits of Salamis and, in a battleground where Persian numbers again counted for nothing, they won a decisive victory, justifying Themistocles' decision to build the Athenian fleet. Demoralised, Xerxes returned to Asia Minor with much of his army, leaving his general Mardonius to campaign in Greece the following year (479 BC).

However, a united Greek army of c. 40,000 hoplites decisively defeated Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea, effectively ending the invasion. Almost simultaneously, the allied fleet defeated the remnants of the Persian navy at Mycale, thus destroying the Persian hold on the islands of the Aegean.

The remainder of the wars saw the Greeks take the fight to the Persians. The Athenian dominated Delian League of cities and islands extirpated Persian garrisons from Macedon and Thrace, before eventually freeing the Ionian cities from Persian rule. At one point, the Greeks even attempted an invasion of Cyprus and Egypt (which proved disastrous), demonstrating a major legacy of the Persian Wars: warfare in Greece had moved beyond the seasonal squabbles between city-states, to coordinated international actions involving huge armies. After the war, ambitions of many Greek states dramatically increased. Tensions resulting from this, and the rise of Athens and Sparta as pre-eminent powers during the war led directly to the Peloponnesian War, which saw further development of the nature of warfare, strategy and tactics.

The Peloponnesian War Edit

The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), was fought between the Athenian dominated Delian League and the Spartan dominated Peloponnesian League. The increased manpower and financial resources increased the scale, and allowed the diversification of warfare. Set-piece battles during this war proved indecisive and instead there was increased reliance on naval warfare, and strategies of attrition such as blockades and sieges. These changes greatly increased the number of casualties and the disruption of Greek society.

Whatever the proximal causes of the war, it was in essence a conflict between Athens and Sparta for supremacy in Greece. The war (or wars, since it is often divided into three periods) was for much of the time a stalemate, punctuated with occasional bouts of activity. Tactically the Peloponnesian war represents something of a stagnation the strategic elements were most important as the two sides tried to break the deadlock, something of a novelty in Greek warfare.

Building on the experience of the Persian Wars, the diversification from core hoplite warfare, permitted by increased resources, continued. There was increased emphasis on navies, sieges, mercenaries and economic warfare. Far from the previously limited and formalized form of conflict, the Peloponnesian War transformed into an all-out struggle between city-states, complete with atrocities on a large scale shattering religious and cultural taboos, devastating vast swathes of countryside and destroying whole cities. [11]

From the start, the mismatch in the opposing forces was clear. The Delian League (hereafter 'Athenians') were primarily a naval power, whereas the Peloponnesian League (hereafter 'Spartans') consisted of primarily land-based powers. The Athenians thus avoided battle on land, since they could not possibly win, and instead dominated the sea, blockading the Peloponnesus whilst maintaining their trade. Conversely, the Spartans repeatedly invaded Attica, but only for a few weeks at a time they remained wedded to the idea of hoplite-as-citizen. Although both sides suffered setbacks and victories, the first phase essentially ended in stalemate, as neither league had the power to neutralise the other. The second phase, an Athenian expedition to attack Syracuse in Sicily achieved no tangible result other than a large loss of Athenian ships and men.

In the third phase of the war however the use of more sophisticated stratagems eventually allowed the Spartans to force Athens to surrender. Firstly, the Spartans permanently garrisoned a part of Attica, removing from Athenian control the silver mine which funded the war effort. Forced to squeeze even more money from her allies, the Athenian league thus became heavily strained. After the loss of Athenian ships and men in the Sicilian expedition, Sparta was able to foment rebellion amongst the Athenian league, which therefore massively reduced the ability of the Athenians to continue the war.

Athens in fact partially recovered from this setback between 410–406 BC, but a further act of economic war finally forced her defeat. Having developed a navy that was capable of taking on the much-weakened Athenian navy, the Spartan general Lysander seized the Hellespont, the source of Athens' grain. The remaining Athenian fleet was thereby forced to confront the Spartans, and were decisively defeated. Athens had little choice but to surrender and was stripped of her city walls, overseas possessions and navy.

Mercenaries and light infantry Edit

Although tactically there was little innovation in the Peloponessian War, there does appear to have been an increase in the use of light infantry, such as peltasts (javelin throwers) and archers. Many of these would have been mercenary troops, hired from outlying regions of Greece. For instance, the Agrianes from Thrace were well-renowned peltasts, whilst Crete was famous for its archers. Since there were no decisive land-battles in the Peloponnesian War, the presence or absence of these troops was unlikely to have affected the course of the war. Nevertheless, it was an important innovation, one which was developed much further in later conflicts. Sileraioi were also a group of ancient mercenaries most likely employed by the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse

Spartan & Theban hegemonies Edit

Following the eventual defeat of the Athenians in 404 BC, and the disbandment of the Athenian-dominated Delian League, Ancient Greece fell under the hegemony of Sparta. The peace treaty which ended the Peloponnesian War left Sparta as the de facto ruler of Greece (hegemon). Although the Spartans did not attempt to rule all of Greece directly, they prevented alliances of other Greek cities, and forced the city-states to accept governments deemed suitable by Sparta.

However, from the very beginning, it was clear that the Spartan hegemony was shaky the Athenians, despite their crushing defeat, restored their democracy but just one year later, ejecting the Sparta-approved oligarchy. The Spartans did not feel strong enough to impose their will on a shattered Athens. Undoubtedly part of the reason for the weakness of the hegemony was a decline in the Spartan population.

This did not go unnoticed by the Persian Empire, which sponsored a rebellion by the combined powers of Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos, resulting in the Corinthian War (395–387 BC). This was the first major challenge Sparta faced.

The early encounters, at Nemea and Coronea were typical engagements of hoplite phalanxes, resulting in Spartan victories. However, the Spartans suffered a large setback when their fleet was wiped out by a Persian Fleet at the Battle of Cnidus, undermining the Spartan presence in Ionia. The war petered out after 394 BC, with a stalemate punctuated with minor engagements. One of these is particularly notable however at the Battle of Lechaeum, an Athenian force composed mostly of light troops (e.g. peltasts) defeated a Spartan regiment.

The Athenian general Iphicrates had his troops make repeated hit and run attacks on the Spartans, who, having neither peltasts nor cavalry, could not respond effectively. The defeat of a hoplite army in this way demonstrates the changes in both troops and tactic which had occurred in Greek Warfare.

The war ended when the Persians, worried by the allies' successes, switched to supporting the Spartans, in return for the cities of Ionia and Spartan non-interference in Asia Minor. This brought the rebels to terms, and restored the Spartan hegemony on a more stable footing. The peace treaty which ended the war, effectively restored the status quo ante bellum, although Athens was permitted to retain some of the territory it had regained during the war. The Spartan hegemony would last another 16 years.

The second major challenge Sparta faced was fatal to its hegemony, and even to its position as a first-rate power in Greece. As the Thebans attempted to expand their influence over Boeotia, they inevitably incurred the ire of Sparta. After they refused to disband their army, an army of approximately 10,000 Spartans and Pelopennesians marched north to challenge the Thebans. At the decisive Battle of Leuctra (371 BC), the Thebans routed the allied army. The battle is famous for the tactical innovations of the Theban general Epaminondas.

Defying convention, he strengthened the left flank of the phalanx to an unheard of depth of 50 ranks, at the expense of the centre and the right. The centre and right were staggered backwards from the left (an 'echelon' formation), so that the phalanx advanced obliquely. The Theban left wing was thus able to crush the elite Spartan forces on the allied right, whilst the Theban centre and left avoided engagement after the defeat of the Spartans and the death of the Spartan king, the rest of the allied army routed. This is one of the first known examples of both the tactic of local concentration of force, and the tactic of 'refusing a flank'.

Following this victory, the Thebans first secured their power-base in Boeotia, before marching on Sparta. As the Thebans were joined by many erstwhile Spartan allies, the Spartans were powerless to resist this invasion. The Thebans marched into Messenia, and freed it from Sparta this was a fatal blow to Sparta, since Messenia had provided most of the helots which supported the Spartan warrior society. These events permanently reduced Spartan power and prestige, and replaced the Spartan hegemony with a Theban one. The Theban hegemony would be short-lived however.

Opposition to it throughout the period 369–362 BC caused numerous clashes. In an attempt to bolster the Thebans' position, Epaminondas again marched on the Pelopennese in 362 BC. At the Battle of Mantinea, the largest battle ever fought between the Greek city-states occurred most states were represented on one side or the other. Epaminondas deployed tactics similar to those at Leuctra, and again the Thebans, positioned on the left, routed the Spartans, and thereby won the battle. However, such were the losses of Theban manpower, including Epaminondas himself, that Thebes was thereafter unable to sustain its hegemony. Conversely, another defeat and loss of prestige meant that Sparta was unable to regain its primary position in Greece. Ultimately, Mantinea, and the preceding decade, severely weakened many Greek states, and left them divided and without the leadership of a dominant power.

The rise of Macedon and the end of the hoplite era Edit

Although by the end of the Theban hegemony the cities of southern Greece were severely weakened, they might have risen again had it not been for the ascent to power of the Macedonian kingdom in northern Greece. Unlike the fiercely independent (and small) city-states, Macedon was a tribal kingdom, ruled by an autocratic king, and importantly, covering a larger area. Once firmly unified, and then expanded, by Phillip II, Macedon possessed the resources that enabled it to dominate the weakened and divided states in southern Greece. Between 356 and 342 BC Phillip conquered all city states in the vicinity of Macedon, then Thessaly and then Thrace.

Finally Phillip sought to establish his own hegemony over the southern Greek city-states, and after defeating the combined forces of Athens and Thebes, the two most powerful states, at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, succeeded. Now unable to resist him, Phillip compelled most of the city states of southern Greece (including Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos but not Sparta) to join the Corinthian League, and therefore become allied to him.

This established a lasting Macedonian hegemony over Greece, and allowed Phillip the resources and security to launch a war against the Persian Empire. After his assassination, this war was prosecuted by his son Alexander the Great, and resulted in the takeover of the whole Achaemenid Empire by the Macedonians. A united Macedonian empire did not long survive Alexander's death, and soon split into the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Diadochi (Alexander's generals). However, these kingdoms were still enormous states, and continued to fight in the same manner as Phillip and Alexander's armies had. The rise of Macedon and her successors thus sounded the death knell for the distinctive way of war found in Ancient Greece and instead contributed to the 'superpower' warfare which would dominate the ancient world between 350 and 150 BC.

The innovations of Phillip II Edit

One major reason for Phillip's success in conquering Greece was the break with Hellenic military traditions that he made. With more resources available, he was able to assemble a more diverse army, including strong cavalry components. He took the development of the phalanx to its logical completion, arming his 'phalangites' (for they were assuredly not hoplites) with a fearsome 6 m (20 ft) pike, the 'sarissa'. Much more lightly armored, the Macedonian phalanx was not so much a shield-wall as a spear-wall. The Macedonian phalanx was a supreme defensive formation, but was not intended to be decisive offensively instead, it was used to pin down the enemy infantry, whilst more mobile forces (such as cavalry) outflanked them. This 'combined arms' approach was furthered by the extensive use of skirmishers, such as peltasts.

Tactically, Phillip absorbed the lessons of centuries of warfare in Greece. He echoed the tactics of Epaminondas at Chaeronea, by not engaging his right wing against the Thebans until his left wing had routed the Athenians thus in course outnumbering and outflanking the Thebans, and securing victory. Alexander's fame is in no small part due to his success as a battlefield tactician the unorthodox gambits he used at the battles of Issus and Gaugamela were unlike anything seen in Ancient Greece before.


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Aegina

Aegina is an island city which is separated from the coastal area of ancient Greece. It’s a triangular city. This city is the site of various temples constructed during the 5th century BC. This city is the site of many tourist attractions.

Aegina was settled when the Dorians made their attack in the 11th century BC. This was an important center where commercial activities of the country were carried out successfully. But gradually, as Athens rose to prominence, the significance of this city subsided. This island was conquered by Athens later. After the Peloponnesian war, the natives were all expelled by the Athenians.

Troy is an ancient city of Asia Minor. This city has been made famous by Homer’s epic poems. In the poems, Iliad and Odyssey, Homer describes the battle which the city fought for 10 years to recover Helen whom Paris abducted. This city serves as an excellent site of archaeological findings.

Most people, till the close of the 19th century, regarded Troy as a fictitious city. This city was relocated by a German scholar Hissarlic.

Thebes

This was an ancient city in Greece in the district of Boeotia. It is a very old city and its legendary hero is a part of Greek mythology. Mythology says that its founders were Cadmus and five warriors who were formed from a dragon.

In the late 6th century BC, Thebes and Athens became foes. In 480 BC, a Theban force joined other Greek forces against Persians. But Thebes then supported Persia. Thebes and Sparta were united against Athens. After the triumph, Thebes and Sparta fell out. Sparta conquered Thebes

Ithaca

It is an island situated in the Ionian Sea. In Homers Iliad, it is the native land of Odysseus.

Mycenae

This is the wealthiest and the most powerful ancient Greek city. According to legends, this was the native place of Agamemnon (the leader of the Greeks in their battle against Troy).These were some of the ancient Greek cities.


RITUAL AND SACRIFICE

A ritual (or religious ceremony) consists of a sequence of actions and words (or rites) that are performed or spoken as part of religious worship. The ancient Greeks and Romans performed many rituals in the observance of their religion. Some rituals, such as the recitation of prayers, were simple. Others, such as animal sacrifices, were very elaborate. Sacrifices, the most important of the ancient religious rituals, were offerings to the gods. Although offerings were usually animals, other typical sacrificial gifts included cooked food, plants, pottery, or even a stone or flower.

Rituals. In ancient Greek and Roman religion, performing a ritual according to specific tradition and custom was crucial. Failure to do so rendered the act meaningless. Thus, preserving rituals and passing them from one generation to the next became an important social function. Some of the earliest accounts of rituals and sacrifices are found in the epic* poems of Homer, in the historical writings of Herodotus, and in the plays of Aeschylus. Priests were the main keepers of ritual knowledge. They maintained written records of specific rituals, such as those involving magic. Mystery cults*, such as the Eleusinian Mysteries, had rituals of an exceptional and secret nature, and little is known about them.

The elements of ritual often included prayer, washing, and libations (the pouring of liquids), as well as incense or flowers, food, and objects of value. An individual might pray on his or her own to a household god. If the person wished to address the god of a particular shrine*, he or she would enlist the help of a priest.

Cleansing oneself with water to remove the dirt of daily life or specific impurities was almost always done. Purification was an important part of Greek and Roman religious practices. The aim of purification, or cleansing, was to rid the person or the community of pollution. Pollution could be caused by an act of impiety* or failure to carry out a religious obligation properly. For example, performing a sacrifice without first washing one&rsquos hands caused pollution. Committing murder caused serious pollution, and a murderer had to perform special acts to rid himself of the victim&rsquos blood. (Blood shed in battle was more easily washed away.) One common Greek purification ritual involved associating the pollution with an object (such as an animal or a human scapegoat) and then burning the animal or banishing the human beyond the walls of the city.

* epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style

* cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god

* shrine place that is considered sacred because of its history or the relics it contains

Ritual actions were set apart from usual behavior in several ways: the wearing of special clothing and adornments, the avoidance of certain behaviors or foods, the burning of incense, or the offering of flowers and branches. Food was also used in many rituals. Cakes, fruit, or grain was offered to the gods as a gift. Sometimes special ingredients were cooked together to prepare a ritual dish. Libation of wine, milk, water, oil, or honey was another type of offering.

Sacrifices. One of the main rituals of both Greek and Roman religion was animal sacrifice. Sacrifices established the appropriate relationships among gods, humans, and animals. The gods were superior and immortal*, whereas humans were mortal and ought to be pious and submissive to the deities. Animals existed to be used by humans in their worship of their gods. Sheep and goats were the most common sacrificial animals, although some special sacrifices involved bulls. Certain animals were associated with certain gods. For example, dogs were sacrificed to Hecate, a goddess of the underworld*. The Greeks believed that she traveled at night accompanied by ghosts and howling dogs.

A sacrifice (thusia in Greek) to the gods was the most important activity in Greek religion. According to the Greek philosopher* Theophrastus, the Greeks sacrificed to the gods for three reasons: to honor them, to thank them, or to request a favor from them. Sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle, as well as fish and birds, were offered to the gods. The sacrifice of an animal was carried out according to strict guidelines. First, the animal was decorated with flowers and garlands and led in a procession to the sanctuary* of the god. At the sanctuary, participants washed their hands in water and sprinkled a few drops on the victim. The priest or leader recited a prayer declaring the reason for the sacrifice. The sacrificial victim was killed quickly by having its neck cut with a knife. Large animals were first stunned with a blow from an ax and then similarly killed with the knife. The victim&rsquos blood was spattered over the altar in the sanctuary. Then assistants butchered the animal and divided the parts. The thighbones were wrapped in fat and, along with small portions of meat cut from the limbs, were placed on the altar and burned as a gift to the gods. Wine was poured on the burnt offerings. Occasionally, these gifts were placed on the knees of a statue of the god. Next, the liver, lungs, heart, and other internal organs were roasted and shared by all the participants. The rest of the meat was boiled and either eaten at the altar or taken home. Omens were often taken from the burnt offerings to the god.

A typical Roman sacrifice consisted of four phases. The first involved the purification of the participants and the victim. Purification was followed by a procession to an altar. At the altar, participants honored the gods with the pouring of wine and the burning of incense, marking the beginning of the sacrifice. The leader of the sacrifice then poured wine on the victim&rsquos brow, sprinkled its back with salted flour, and then passed a knife over the animal&rsquos spine. These actions symbolized the transfer of the victim from mortal ownership to that of the god. In the next phase, the animal was killed and then butchered. Its heart and other internal organs were examined. If the entrails* looked suspicious or unhealthy, the sacrifice was deemed unacceptable to the gods, and another animal had to be sacrificed. The final phase of the Roman sacrifice was the banquet. The sacrificial meat and entrails were cooked and offered to the god. Then the rest of the animal was cooked and eaten by the participants or distributed for sale in butchers&rsquo shops. Sometimes the banquet was attended only by the aristocracy*. At other times, the banquet was financed by a wealthy benefactor for the public at large. (See also Cults Divinities Festivals and Feasts, Greek Festivals and Feasts, Roman Religion, Greek Religion, Roman.)

* impiety lack of respect for the gods

* underworld kingdom of the dead also called Hades

* philosopher scholar or thinker concerned with the study of ideas, including science

* sanctuary place for worship

PURIFYING THE TOWN FOR APOLLO

The Thargelia was the main festival of the god Apollo. It was held in Athens during the months of May and June. Prior to the festival, the city was purified by the expulsion of human scapegoats (pharmakoi in Greek), A man was chosen to represent the city's inhabitants. After being led around the city to "absorb" its pollution, he was stoned with rocks, beaten with tree branches, and then driven from the city. The Athenians believed that the scapegoat took all the sins of the city and of its inhabitants with him.


The Most Incredible Sword Fights in History

First up are the Ancient Fights. With details often obscured by centuries of exaggeration, these stories are the trickiest to pin down. But the ones we've chosen below are based in fact, and sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.


First to Win a Pyrrhic Victory
Destruction:
Skill:
Honor:

In ancient times the sword wasn't the weapon of first choice. Metallurgy hadn't advanced far enough to create dependable swords with a reach that competed well with the spear, and the sword usually existed as backup blade.

One of the exceptions was a fight between the Macedonian king Pyrrhus and an unnamed Mamertine soldier sometime during the 3rd Century A.D. As King Pyrrhus withdrew from the battle temporarily because of a head wound, a cocky Mamertine stepped between the battle lines and challenged him to single combat.

Drenched in his own blood, Pyrrhus broke through his own retainers and charged the Mamertine warrior furiously. One blow of his sword cleaved through helmet and armor and left the barbarian in two pieces on the battleground.

This sudden response made a lasting impression on the remaining 1,000 Mamertines. Plutarch of Chaeronea, the author of the account, mentions that during the rest of his army's journey to the city of Tarentum, the Mamertines caused King Pyrrhus no further problems.

Destruction:
Skill:
Honor:

The battle between the assassin Jingke and the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Ti, inspired many popular kung fu movies including the Jet Li epic, "Hero."

Accounts of the actual battle depict a fight in which events went wrong for all involved. Employed by the crown prince of the Kingdom of Yan to eliminate the Emperor, Jingke and one companion smuggled a poisoned dagger into the Emperor's palace, rolled up in a map intended as a ceremonial gift. Jingke's companion lost his nerve and became useless.

The Emperor spotted the weapon when Jingke unrolled the map and evaded the first thrust. No one in that part of the palace carried a weapon except the Emperor, but his own sword hadn't been designed for actual fighting. The Emperor nearly met his demise while trying to free the unusually long blade from its scabbard.

Meanwhile, Jingke threw his poison dagger, but missed. Once he did free his sword, the Emperor wounded Jingke nine times before guards arrived and put Jingke to death.

Destruction:
Skill:
Honor:

Epic films often depict the clash between Achilles and Hector as a matter of intricate swordplay, but in Homer's version the story plays out quickly. In this most famous heroic clash, the action begins and ends with spears.

Once believed to be nothing more than legend, the story of "The Iliad" now appears to accurately depict a genuine battle for the city of Ilium in the western part of Turkey. As the contest between the two heroes begins, Hector casts his only spear, which Achilles deflects with his shield. At that point, Hector shifts to his sword but already senses things are coming to a close. As Hector charges with sword in hand, Achilles runs his spear through a chink in Hector's armor, slashing his throat.

Fortunately for Homer, Hector's vocal cords were not damaged, and the heroic Trojan had time for a dramatic speech before he died.


Achilles on the Battlefield
Destruction:
Skill:
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Gladiatorial combat gave swordplay a new stage during the centuries of the Roman Empire's dominance of Europe. Bouts between well-trained and well-matched fighters armed with gladius and shield often took more than a few minutes to settle. Although such fights were common, only one first-hand description survives.

The bout between Priscus and Verus, both proven champions, became the subject of a poem honoring the inaugural games of the Roman Coliseum in 80 A.D. Both men were friends, and both were equally determined to survive, continuing the sword fight even after the adoring audience shouted for Caesar to free them. According to some interpretations of the poem, at Caesar's suggestion both gladiators raised their fingers at the same time, signaling defeat for both and ending the matter peacefully.


Russell Crowe in "Gladiator"
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Trust the Vikings to come up with one of the best sword battles, as well as one of the most likely to be true. In the "Heimskringla" or "The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway," we get a close look at the battle tactics of Viking sailors and a finishing fight in close combat with swords and shields.

King Olaf Trygvason lashed the boats of his fleet together to repel the forces of three opposing kings, fighting an heroic but ultimately losing battle as ship by ship his longboats were boarded, conquered, and set adrift. Towards the end, King Olaf noticed that his men's swords were striking but had little effect on the enemy. One Viking explained that their swords were so blunted and notched that they failed to cut — a common problem in days when swords were made of inferior metal.

King Olaf had planned ahead, and handed out new weapons he'd stowed in a chest beneath his throne. The fight renewed with more efficiency, but in a berserker rage many of the embattled Vikings forgot they weren't on land, leaping towards the enemy boats and drowning in their battle armor.

When the battle had clearly been lost, Olaf leaped overboard himself to escape capture, apparently drowning beneath his own shield. Since Olaf's body never surfaced, doubts arose as to his fate.

Olaf had been an unusual athlete, capable of impossible feats like running around his longship on the blades of its raised oars. Some believed Olaf shrugged out of his chain mail beneath the waves and swam beneath the enemy boats to a friendly vessel from Vindland. The only certainty is that King Olaf never returned to Norway.

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During the reign of Denmark's Viking King Harald, the leader of one of Denmark's prominent Viking bands had a little too much mead during a public feast and boasted that he and his men would run Earl Hakon out of Norway.

Although in the morning it seemed more rash, honor bound Sigvald to give it a try, and sixty Viking ships soon sailed on what would be a doomed mission.

After much successful pillaging along the coast, Sigvald's band fell for a peasant's trick and were led into an encounter with Hakon's fleet of three hundred ships. Although Hakon was hard pressed during the fierce battle, and according to the history did resort to conjuration of thunderstorms and lightning-casting trolls, the battle ended poorly for the Viking raiders.

Sigvald escaped with thirty-five of the fleet's ships and returned to Denmark. Sigvald's brother gave up the fight shortly afterward and led twenty-five ships homeward. In the end only the Viking Vagn's one boat remained. Vagn and thirty-six compatriots fought bravely but were taken prisoner.

Hakon selected a trustworthy fellow named Thorkel to behead the men, and after eighteen successful operations Thorkel came to Vagn, the Danish leader. Since he had a special hatred for Vagn, Thorkel gripped his sword with both hands and charged him. Undeterred by the misfortunes of the day, Vagn rolled at Thorkel's feet, knocked him over, and then quickly dispatched Thorkel with the executioner's own sword.

In recognition of his bravery, Hakon released Vagn and the surviving members of his band.

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The last battle of Roland, Paladin of Charlemagne, will always be remembered, but usually not accurately. Roland's military adventures became the foundation for epic tales. The "Chanson de Roland" by Turoldus describes Roland's death as a glorious battle between Christian knights and Saracen warriors, embellished by an unbreakable sword called Durendal and timely interventions by famous angels.

Roland couldn't be harmed by the enemy's blades even though his armor had been battered and slashed to pieces, but burst his temples fatally by blowing a battle horn to summon Charlemagne's forces.

In real life, Roland — actually Hroudland — of Brittany, died during a disastrous rear-guard action on Charlemagne's retreat from Spain. The Basques, not the Saracens, opposed Charlemagne's forces during the battle, which took place in the Pyrenees Mountains at Ronceveaux Pass. Roland had been assigned to lead the rear guard, which lagged far behind the main force because of its heavy load of looted goods. Basque fighters hid alongside the pass and let Charlemagne's main army through unchallenged, but ambushed Roland's command as it struggled through the narrow divide.

According to the few historical accounts of the action, the French fared poorly because their heavy armor limited their movement in the difficult terrain, while the lightly equipped Basques attacked at will and outmaneuvered any pursuers. Roland and several other commanders died along with their troops on August 15th, 778.


9. Javelin Throwing

The javelin throw was among five events in the ancient Greek Olympic pentathlon. The competition took place on a running track where the athletes ran a few meters to the starting point and then threw the javelin as far as possible. The wooden javelin was about the height of a man. The difference between the contemporary javelin throw and the ancient technique is that a leather loop was attached to the spot at which the javelin was held. The athlete could then artificially extend the length of the arm by placing one or two fingers in the loop. This also gave the advantage of greater acceleration of the javelin over a longer distance. Moreover, the loop made the javelin rotate on its axis which gave more stability to the throwing process.


Watch the video: Ο ΜΕΓΑΛΕΣ ΔΥΝΑΜΕΙΣ ΚΑΙ Η ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΕΠΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ (December 2021).