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Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience

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Incorporating research found in ancient literary, iconographic, epigraphic, and archaeological sources, this book explores the experiences of the soldiers who conducted battle on the small plains of ancient Greece.
The volume, which draws on the accumulated expertise of nine American and British scholars, emphasizes the actual techniques of fighting and practical concerns as the use of commands, music in warfare, the use of "dog-tags", and ritual on the battlefield.

The collection of hitherto unpublished essays brought together by Victor Davis Hanson in this book may be seen as the first scholarly approach we have had to what actually happened in a major battle between Greek city-states in classical times.–The Classical Review. . . indispensable for any serious student of Greek warfare or Greek society. . . . readily accessible to a wide audience.–Classical World Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Classics at California State University, Fresno.

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Book details

  • PDF | 304 pages
  • Routledge; 1 edition (November 17, 1993)
  • English
  • 2
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Review Text

  • By The Historian on October 14, 2009

    If you loved John Keegan's Face of Battle with his realistic portrayal of the common soldier's experience in bloody battle from Agincourt to W.W.I, then then you will love the collection of superb articles by acknowledged experts in ancient Greek Hoplite warfare asembled by V.D. Hanson. Instead of dry and boring descriptions of military strategy and tactics written by ancient and modern historians who spotlight kings and generals, each expert in Hanson's volume describes almost every aspect of ancient archaic and classical Greek hoplite battle from contemporary technology, the action in the killing zone of battle with its horrific wounds and injuries suffered by warriors,to the ritual sacrifices before battle, and the aftermath...victory and defeat; most of all, the contributors wrote from the viewpoint of the hoplite within the phalanx or phalange and the battle leader's place within it. Furthermore,the evolution of the role of the "general" is traced from ancient to modern military history. This is a must read for martial artists of all styles and systems and for enthusiasts of ancient world history of all periods and places. I'm thrilled that I have my copy of Hanson's valuable book.

  • By anthens on February 1, 2018

    Nice read

  • By Leslie Hulkower on October 12, 2016

    a lot of words ,but to much left unknown ,no answers to everyhing

  • By George R Dekle on August 20, 2002

    In ancient Greece, men dressed themselves in armor, armed themselves with pikes, stood shoulder to shoulder eight ranks deep facing another group of similarly armed and arrayed soldiers, and then charged into each other with homicidal intent. The resulting carnage was horrific. There was no maneuver, no strategy, and little room for skill at arms. Only strength, stamina, and courage mattered.As bloody and unpleasant as the hoplite battle was, it was really a system designed to limit non-combatant casualties. Only the soldiers on the chosen field of battle exposed themselves to injury while the city-states themselves suffered little behind their stout walls. Hoplite warfare was sort of like settling international disputes by means of a very bloody football game.The essays in this volume explore all aspects of the very bloody sport that was classical Greek combat. Arms, armament, drill, ritual, and all other appurtenances of Greek warfare are examined exhaustively. There is even a whole chapter devoted to the "salpinx," the Greeks' version of the bugle.The writing is somewhat uneven (some of the contributors seek to display their extensive vocabulary rather than enlighten the reader) and the work suffers greatly from a dearth of illustrations. Several chapters refer extensively to paintings on pottery, but the pottery isn't depicted in the book. Despite these shortcomings, I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in ancient military history.If you'd like an overview that doesn't delve quite as deeply into the details of hoplite battle, you might prefer two other works: F.E. Adcock's "The Greek and Macedonian Art of War," and Victor Hansen's "The Western Way of War," both available from Amazon.com.

  • By Mike J. Arledge Jr. on August 29, 2005

    I think Hanson has more than made the point in his other works that it was the Greek free land owning farmer and not the city dweller who dominated the rise of greek warfare and culture which culminated in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. Before the Persian invasion but after the "Heroic Age" a unique form of warfare evolved in Greece. The central figure of which was the free farmer of the Greek countryside who donned nearly 80 pounds of armour in the hot summer, lined up with his fellows and charged a muderous row of brass tipped spears to settle border disputes in a single climactic clash.This book explores not the tactics, the generals, nor the historical perspective of hoplite warfare, but instead focuses on the actual experience of battle. What was it like to wear the brass armour and carry a shield, what was the importance of sacrifice before giving battle? Why would someone willingly enter such a zone of death?Many reviewers I feel fail to notice that this book does not claim to glorify hoplite battle as an artful waging of war, nor does it attempt to be a complete study of the political dynamics that affected Greek warfare, when clearly Hanson's goal as editor is more to turn our attention to the experience itself in the eyes of the people who stood in the 8 deep ranks of men. Most of the articles focus on our evidence of vases and early histories. From the book we are given an image of battle that will shape how western armies wage war and form the importance of decisive battle. It is to the common Greek hoplite farmer that we owe this legacy, and we owe it to them to understand what this form of battle was like.


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