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Soldiers and Ghosts

Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity

J. E. LENDON
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 480
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nptvk
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  • Book Info
    Soldiers and Ghosts
    Book Description:

    What set the successful armies of Sparta, Macedon, and Rome apart from those they defeated? In this major new history of battle from the age of Homer through the decline of the Roman empire, J. E. Lendon surveys a millennium of warfare to discover how militaries change-and don't change-and how an army's greatness depends on its use of the past.Noting this was an age that witnessed few technological advances, J. E. Lendon shows us that the most successful armies were those that made the most effective use of cultural tradition. Ancient combat moved forward by looking backward for inspiration-the Greeks, to Homer; the Romans, to the Greeks and to their own heroic past. The best ancient armies recruited soldiers from societies with strong competitive traditions; and the best ancient leaders, from Alexander to Julius Caesar, called upon those traditions to encourage ferocious competition at every rank.Ranging from the Battle of Champions between Sparta and Argos in 550 B.C. through Julian's invasion of Persia in A.D. 363,Soldiers and Ghostsbrings to life the most decisive military contests of ancient Greece and Rome. Lendon places these battles, and the methods by which they were fought, in a sweeping narrative of ancient military history. On every battlefield, living soldiers fought alongside the ghosts of tradition-ghosts that would inspire greatness for almost a millennium before ultimately coming to stifle it.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12899-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PROLOGUE QUANG TRI PROVINCE, VIETNAM, 1967
    (pp. 1-4)

    Lordy, Lordy, it’s July the Fourth. Here we go again. Hot dog. Hot time in the old town tonight. Bet we make big contact. I’m sure we’re going to have an exciting day of fireworks.”

    “Fuck you, Hatfield, we don’t need that.”

    At dawn on the Fourth of July, two battalions of U.S. Marines began to advance cautiously into the elephant grass south of the DMZ. The regulars of the North Vietnamese army were waiting for them. The Vietnamese were dug in, well concealed, and supported by heavy artillery from North Vietnam, only a few miles to the north. And...

  6. INTRODUCTION MILITARY CHANGE IN CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY
    (pp. 5-14)

    The shrine began as a bubbling hot spring in a peat bog, draining down a gully to the river Avon, and sacred to the Celtic goddess Sulis. When the Romans ruled Britain a great temple was built there, and Sulis, in the comfortable ancient way, was identified with Minerva, the Roman Athena. But amidst the pompous Roman building, the old spring remained the ear of the goddess, and folk threw their coins in for luck and wrote their curses upon sheets of lead and cast them into the water: “I curse him who has stolen my hooded cloak . ....

  7. THE GREEKS
    (pp. 15-19)

    They built long citadels, the eldest of the Greeks, and they built them low and strong, not thrusting into the sky but clinging to the rocks, with walls of great stones piled up and cisterns dug deep. In time of peace they laid up chariots in their magazines, their wheels detached, and in time of war rode them forth by their hundreds. They wrought their swords of bronze, these men we call the Myceneans, and they knew the spear and the shield and the bow: all the important tools of ancient combat except the riding horse. Their walls and their...

  8. I FIGHTING IN THE ILIAD THE NURSERY OF GHOSTS
    (pp. 20-38)

    It should have been a moment of high heroism in theIliad,but the gods had a different plan. The wrath of Achilles had set Zeus against the Achaeans, and so the Trojans had driven them back to their ships. As the ships began to burn, Achilles’ warmhearted companion Patroclus borrowed the great hero’s armor and led Achilles’ retainers, the Myrmidons, to drive the Trojans back. Having killed Sarpedon, a great Trojan hero, and turned the Trojans to flight, Patroclus harried them back to the walls of Troy, heedless of his promise to Achilles that he would save the ships...

  9. II THE LAST HOPLITE THE ORIGINS OF THE PHALANX
    (pp. 39-57)

    Diomedes was lord over Argos, sang the poet, and Menelaus ruled Lacedaemon across the hills. And the two princes went forth to Troy with Agamemnon, high king of Mycenae. But this friendship was not to endure, and Argos and Lacedaemon (we know it as Sparta, from its capital) became rivals for the lordship of Peloponnese and long, intimate enemies. Ever jousting for the heirship of Agamemnon, the two proud cities fought many bitter wars against each other, and they battled especially over Thyrea, a bloodstained scrap of land on the coast where their territories met. In the most famous of...

  10. III TWO STUBBORN SPARTANS IN THE PERSIAN WAR CITY AND DISCIPLINE IN THE PHALANX
    (pp. 58-77)

    They bore shields stretched with the skins of cranes, when they marched against Greece, and they wore horses’ foreheads as helmets, with the manes streaming down the back and the ears thrust up in front. They marched with the Indians, with their garments of cotton and bows of reed, but even with the Indians they made but a tiny part of the host that Xerxes, the Great King of Persia, had summoned forth from the recesses of his empire. For there were Persians with golden pomegranates on their spear-butts and Medes and Assyrians with helms of twisted bronze and Bactrians...

  11. IV THE GUILE OF DELIUM GENERALS AND TACTICS IN THE PHALANX
    (pp. 78-90)

    The flight of the Persians left two Greek states great in power and in pride: on the one side Sparta, leader of the Greeks in the war, with her indomitable hoplite army; on the other Athens, with her glittering wealth and great fleet. In the years after Plataea, Athens carried the war against Persia into the east and made the Greek cities of the Aegean her allies and then her subjects. Usually feuding and sometimes fighting, Athens and Sparta fell finally into a fatal contest, the twenty-seven-year Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), recorded by the historian Thucydides.

    In the first...

  12. V THE ARTS OF WAR IN THE EARLY FOURTH CENTURY BC PELTASTS, CAVALRY, AND TRAINING
    (pp. 91-114)

    Short and angry was the peace between Athens and Sparta that followed three years after Delium. By 418 BC, Athenian and Spartan soldiers faced each other again at the great battle of Mantinea, which pitted Argos against Sparta in yet another round of their struggle for lordship of the Peloponnese. Thucydides’ celebrated description of that combat is the basis of modern understanding of the methods and customs of hoplite fighting. Once again the Spartans prevailed over the Argives. By 415 the Athenians were fighting in Sicily, and by 413 their great expedition there had met with disaster; but even before...

  13. VI ALEXANDER THE GREAT AT THE BATTLE OF ISSUS HOMER AND MACEDONIAN WARFARE
    (pp. 115-139)

    On the European side of the Hellespont arose a great barrow, shaded by a stand of elms. The trees that rooted there grew up just high enough to catch a glimpse of Troy across the water—before dying away in sympathy, it was said, with the hero buried beneath the mound. For this was the tomb of Protesilaus, by far the first of the Achaeans to leap down into the surf upon the Trojan foreshore, and the first to go down in death, when a Trojan man slew him. And at this tomb Alexander, the young king of Macedon, sacrificed...

  14. VII HELLENISTIC WARFARE (323–31 BC) COMPETITION, COMBAT, AND INNOVATION
    (pp. 140-155)

    The death of Alexander in 323 BC left his gigantic conquests without a steersman, but with plenty of his hard-eyed friends eager to try their hands at the helm. Alexander’s body was hardly cold when the fighting began. For twenty years Alexander’s generals and governors fought over his sprawling empire. After the battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, three major successor states emerged, ferocious Macedonia, rich Egypt of the Ptolemies, and the vast Seleucid realm based upon Antioch, slowly shedding its eastern extents as if afficted by political leprosy. These kingdoms fought each other. They fought internal wars of succession....

  15. THE GREEKS CONCLUSION
    (pp. 156-162)

    Try a thought experiment. Suppose a modern, familiar dynamic of technological progress in which better methods are invented or imported and drive out the old, and then are replaced in turn by still better, had applied to ancient Greek warfare. What would Greek military history have been like if the Greeks had climbed a set of well-defined steps to ever more efficient ways of killing?

    In such a world the classical phalanx, the close-knit, exclusively speararmed phalanx of Thucydides and Xenophon, might have been expected to prevail soon after the appearance of hoplite equipment before 700 BC. But in reality...

  16. THE ROMANS
    (pp. 163-171)

    A grimy village huddled against the river Tiber, young Rome gazed out with fierce love and hate at similar villages near and far, villages that spoke the same tongue and shared familiar rites: the Latins. Across the Tiber the proud, alien Etruscans held their sway and collected their Greek vases; upriver, in the Apennine hills, lurked tribes of brooding strangers. The Latins rustled and raided ceaselessly among themselves, their combats more like murderous feuds than the wars of nations. In early days the Etruscans pushed over the river, perhaps ruling Rome itself for a time, and in latter days the...

  17. VIII EARLY ROMAN WARFARE SINGLE COMBAT AND THE LEGION OF MANIPLES
    (pp. 172-192)

    The Romans told a curious story about how Marcus Valerius Corvus, “the Raven,” got his nickname. A vast host of Gauls was camped in the Pomptine country to the south of Rome. The Gauls, Rome’s most feared enemies, had sacked the city forty years earlier, vagrant armies of Gauls wandering over Italy brought frequent panics, and Gallic attacks had brought Rome’s neighbors to the north, the haughty and refined Etruscans, to the verge of destruction. The Roman army marched against the Gauls, but the Roman war leaders, the consuls, were alarmed by the number and strength of the ancestral foe....

  18. IX THE WRATH OF PYDNA COMMAND, DISCIPLINE, AND COURAGE IN THE ROMAN REPUBLIC
    (pp. 193-211)

    The Romans knew that a war against Macedon would be great and terrible. The consul who led the Roman army over to Greece in 171 BC was authorized to enroll especially large legions and forces of Italian allies, to draft tough veterans and centurions past the legal age limit, and to handpick his officers, the tribunes of the soldiers. So many grizzled senior centurions were called up that there were not posts for all, and some were ordered to serve in lesser capacities. A political furor erupted, with the tribunes of the plebs taking the side of the aggrieved centurions....

  19. X CAESAR’S CENTURIONS AND THE LEGION OF COHORTS MILITARY CULTURE AND GREEK INFLUENCE IN THE LATE REPUBLIC
    (pp. 212-232)

    One hundred and ten years and over ninety significant Roman battles separated Aemilius Paullus’s departure from Macedonia from Julius Caesar’s arrival in Gaul: battles in Spain, Gaul, North Africa, Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor; battles against German marauders, the Cimbri and Teutones; battles against foreign magnates, Jugurtha and King Mithridates of Pontus; battles against impertinent Greeks and Carthaginians—and Greece was made subject, and Carthage destroyed; battles against Roman slaves, brave Spartacus and others; and battles against Rome’s own Italian allies, the tragic Social War. And if all that were not enough, this was the era when the Romans learned...

  20. XI SCENES FROM THE JEWISH WAR, AD 67–70 FIGHTING, WORKING, AND TRAINING IN THE ROMAN IMPERIAL ARMY
    (pp. 233-260)

    In AD 67, Levantine Ptolemais looked seaward to the calm of the Roman Mediterranean and inland to the storms of a rebel Galilee. The year before, the province of Judaea had flown to arms against a monstrous Roman governor. The hapless legate of Syria had descended with a legion to suppress the revolt but had been driven back with loss, abandoning his siege engines. Now Nero’s new general, Vespasian, marched south from Antioch with two of the legions of Syria, and his son Titus marched north to meet him at Ptolemais with a legion from the garrison of Egypt.¹

    His...

  21. XII SHIELD WALL AND MASK THE MILITARY PAST IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE
    (pp. 261-289)

    It was in the days of Marius that the nations of the Germans first opposed themselves to Roman arms, at the turn of the last century BC. After Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, Rome’s dominion bordered their misty realm. In AD 9, the ambition of the emperor Augustus to bring the Germans under Roman rule was shattered by the slaughter of Varus’s three legions: from then on the Rhine would be the boundary between the Roman order and the wild. For centuries the Germans raided across the Rhine, and for centuries the Romans sent armies to punish them. In the...

  22. XIII JULIAN IN PERSIA, AD 363 TRIUMPH OF THE GHOSTS
    (pp. 290-309)

    Julian, the victor of Strasbourg, had a horse by the name of Babylonian. Soon after Julian commenced his fatal campaign east into the realm of the Persians, as he prepared to mount Babylonian, the horse collapsed writhing in sickness to the ground, casting off its gold and jeweled adornment. Julian cried out in joy at the omened success of his expedition: “Babylon had fallen to the ground despoiled of her ornaments!” But the emperor’s rapture was itself a darker omen. Babylon of the Hanging Gardens had been a windy ruin for centuries. Julian appears not to know whether he was...

  23. THE ROMANS CONCLUSION
    (pp. 310-316)

    Procopius of Caesarea wrote of the wars that Justinian, Emperor of the Romans, fought against the barbarians.” So the great historian of the sixth century AD, opening his work in imitation of Thucydides, who wrote nearly a thousand years before. Thucydides compared his war, the Peloponnesian War, to the Trojan War to illustrate its magnitude: so does Procopius. But the mention of Homer kindles anger, the elegant mantle of literary allusion slips, and suddenly, bizarrely, Procopius is extolling the archers of his day by contrast to those in theIliad.The archers of Justinian were mounted, wore armor, and carried...

  24. AUTHOR’S NOTE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 317-320)
  25. Chronology of Greek and Roman Warfare
    (pp. 321-330)
  26. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 331-334)
  27. NOTES
    (pp. 335-388)
  28. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 389-392)
  29. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
    (pp. 393-440)
  30. INDEX
    (pp. 441-468)