The period from 1600 to 336
The period from 1600 to 336
Mycenaean civilization, named after the citadel of Mycenae in southern Greece, emerged about 1600
For uncertain reasons, Mycenaean civilization began to collapse around 1250
The centuries (1100-750
Athenian Empire, Fifth Century
The hoplite was a heavily armored spearman who fought alongside his fellow citizens in a close-order formation called a
The great achievement of the hoplite system was not so much military as political. Hoplite warfare demanded teamwork. There was no room for displays of individual heroism. The communal structure of the phalanx thus reinforced the community spirit of the polis. The hoplite system also helped confine the destructiveness of war to decisive single-day struggles that would not interfere with farming. It therefore gave middle-class agrarians a monopoly on organized violence. Aristocrats were relegated to the cavalry, which usually played only a minor battlefield role. Poor men who could not afford arms and armor were left out of battle altogether, unless they served as slingers or rock throwers.
For more than two centuries, the hoplite reigned supreme on Greek battlefields. The Greco-Persian
In the last half of the fifth century
To take advantage of this mobility, a new type of soldier began to appear: the
The long and agonizing Peloponnesian
The Peloponnesian War also spurred the growth of military
Although shaken, the hoplite system was not totally overthrown by the Peloponnesian War. Indeed, its best practitioners, the Spartans, took comfort in the fact that they had triumphed in the major phalanx clashes of the conflict. During the Corinthian War(395-386
The real blow came in 371
Thus by the mid-fourth century
Philip II of
The new Macedonian army, then, was a true combined arms force. Many of its elements had surfaced before in Greek warfare–Philip reputedly drew inspiration from both Iphicrates and Epaminondas–but they had never been fully developed. Only a large monarchy such as Macedon, not a traditional polis, could afford to maintain such an army. Philip himself added the final ingredient to the Macedonian way of war. A master diplomat, he combined intrigue and negotiation with swift military strikes. By 348
Philip never lived to enjoy the fruits of his victories. He was assassinated in 336
Both weapons and armor improved during the height of Mycenaean power.
Striking changes in weapons and armor accompanied the last years of Mycenaean power. Between 1250 and 1150
The Peloponnesian Wars
New types of arms and armor accompanied the development of the hoplite phalanx during the eighth century
Some Athenian helmets.
Peltasts wore little or no armor and carried light animal-hide shields. Often they attached a throwing-loop to their
In the fourth century
Virtually nothing is known about Mycenaean military organization. Linear B tablets from Pylos suggest an army divided into ten units with attached officers. The tablets also mention an official called the lawagetas (“people-leader”), who might have been the kingdom’s wartime commander. Dark Age military structure remains similarly obscure. Chieftains together with clansmen and retainers probably fought as loose warrior bands.
In the hoplite era, each polis had its own military structure, usually reflecting its civic organization. At Athens, for example, the
The Spartan phalanx possessed a defined tactical organization, but its details remain disputed. According to Thucydides, it consisted of seven
During the fifth and fourth centuries
The basic unit of the Macedonian phalanx was the syntagma of 256 men, comprising 16 files of 16 men apiece. Macedonian
Nothing certain can be said of Mycenaean or Dark Age military doctrine. The essential doctrine of the hoplite system, however, is clear: to engage in decisive phalanx battle. This principle undergirded Greek warfare from the rise of the polis on through the fourth century
The Peloponnesian War did see the development of Greek strategy. Athens, a sea power, sought to avoid hoplite battle by relying on its navy. Sparta, supreme on land, undertook annual invasions of Athenian territory in a fruitless attempt to lure the Athenian phalanx out to battle. These disparate strategies ensured that although neither side lost, neither side won a clear victory. Attempts in the middle years of the war by both belligerents to break the deadlock failed. Although each side had minor successes in the other’s territory, neither side could win the war unless it beat the other at its own game. Ultimately the Spartans did exactly this. They deployed their own fleet, defeated Athens at sea, and blocked the city’s grain imports. The Athenians could have prevented this outcome, but they overconfidently squandered much of their naval strength in a failed attempt to capture the island of Sicily.
As with strategy, there was not much to traditional hoplite tactics. Commanders were aware that advancing phalanxes tended to drift to the right, each man trying to get behind the shield of the man next to him, and they sometimes took measures to forestall this. The Spartans, with their intricate tactical organization, were able to maneuver effectively on the battlefield. This ability won them the day on several occasions. Otherwise, the main tactic of phalanx battle, even for the Spartans, was head-on collision. The development of light troops in the late fifth century
Use of the Macedonian phalanx during the Battle of the Carts (mid-fourth century
On the battlefield, the combined arms tactics of the Macedonians gave them a decisive edge over even the best Greek troops. Perhaps more important, though, was Macedon’s consistent strategy. From his accession, Philip proceeded methodically first to stabilize his kingdom, then to subjugate its neighbors, and finally to consolidate power over all Greece. Unlike the Greeks, the Macedonians were not tied to the doctrine of decisive battle. Indeed, Philip achieved some of his major victories through diplomacy and political intrigue.
The Macedonians also made logistics a keystone of strategy. The hoplite system gave little consideration to the requirements of extended campaigning. Traditional phalanx clashes, after all, occurred close to home. Furthermore, classical hoplites went to battle followed by slave servants bearing rations and equipment. When hoplites deployed far afield, as in the Peloponnesian War, they could usually depend on a fleet to carry supplies. The Macedonians, on the other hand, learned to conduct extended land campaigns without naval supply. Philip eliminated slave porters and made his troops travel light. He successfully employed coercion to ensure that food supplies would be ready and waiting when his troops entered new territory. Just as he trained Alexander’s army, Philip developed the logistical and strategic thought that made feasible his son’s conquests.
For all periods of Greek warfare from 1600 to 336
The Iliad (c. 750
In his Historiai Herodotou (c. 424
The works of the Athenian author
Finally, the Roman magistrate and writer known as
Anderson, J. K. Military Theory and Practice in the Age of Xenophon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. De Souza, Philip, and Waldemar Heckel. The Greeks at War: From Athens to Alexander. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2004. Ducrey, Pierre. Warfare in Ancient Greece. Translated by Janet Lloyd. New York: Schocken Books, 1986. Everson, Tim. Warfare in Ancient Greece: Arms and Armour from the Heroes of Homer to Alexander the Great. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Sutton, 2004. Ferrill, Arther. The Origins of War. Rev. ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997. Hanson, Victor Davis. The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Hanson, Victor Davis, and John Keegan, eds. The Wars of the Ancient Greeks: And Their Invention of Western Military Culture. London: Cassell, 1999. Kern, Paul Bentley. The Greeks in Ancient Siege Warfare. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. Lendon, J. E. Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005. Montagu, John Drogo. Greek and Roman Warfare: Battles, Tactics, and Trickery. St. Paul, Minn.: MBI, 2006 Raaflaub, Kurt A., ed. War and Peace in the Ancient World. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2007. Rawlings, Louis. The Ancient Greeks at War. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2007. Sage, Michael M. Warfare in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 1996. Santosuosso, Antonio. Soldiers, Citizens, and the Symbols of War: From Classical Greece to Republican Rome, 500-167 B.C. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997. Decisive Battles: Gaugamela. Documentary. History Channel, 2005. Greek and Persian Wars. Documentary. Cromwell Productions, 2009. In Search of the Trojan War. Documentary. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1985. Troy. Feature film. Warner Bros., 2005.
Greek and Hellenistic Warfare from Alexander to Rome
Roman Warfare During the Republic
Roman Warfare During the Empire
Tribal Warfare in Central and Eastern Europe