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Men of Bronze

Men of Bronze: Hoplite Warfare in Ancient Greece

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 336
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    Men of Bronze
    Book Description:

    Men of Bronzetakes up one of the most important and fiercely debated subjects in ancient history and classics: how did archaic Greek hoplites fight, and what role, if any, did hoplite warfare play in shaping the Greek polis? In the nineteenth century, George Grote argued that the phalanx battle formation of the hoplite farmer citizen-soldier was the driving force behind a revolution in Greek social, political, and cultural institutions. Throughout the twentieth century scholars developed and refined this grand hoplite narrative with the help of archaeology. But over the past thirty years scholars have criticized nearly every major tenet of this orthodoxy. Indeed, the revisionists have persuaded many specialists that the evidence demands a new interpretation of the hoplite narrative and a rewriting of early Greek history.Men of Bronzegathers leading scholars to advance the current debate and bring it to a broader audience of ancient historians, classicists, archaeologists, and general readers.

    After explaining the historical context and significance of the hoplite question, the book assesses and pushes forward the debate over the traditional hoplite narrative and demonstrates why it is at a crucial turning point. Instead of reaching a consensus, the contributors have sharpened their differences, providing new evidence, explanations, and theories about the origin, nature, strategy, and tactics of the hoplite phalanx and its effect on Greek culture and the rise of the polis.

    The contributors include Paul Cartledge, Lin Foxhall, John Hale, Victor Davis Hanson, Donald Kagan, Peter Krentz, Kurt Raaflaub, Adam Schwartz, Anthony Snodgrass, Hans van Wees, and Gregory Viggiano.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4630-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxiii)

    The study of ancient Greek warfare begins with what scholars might infer about fighting techniques from the archaeological remains of the late Bronze Age (1600–1100 BC). It appears that, similarly to the situation in the contemporary Near East, the war chariot was the main offensive arm of the king’s military. But during the chaos that attended the collapse of Bronze Age civilization, infantry seems to have become capable of breaking the charges of the palace’s chariot forces. The ensuing period from the eleventh to the eighth century, which scholars often call the Dark Age,¹ is notable to the military...

  6. [Maps]
    (pp. xxiv-xxvi)
  7. CHAPTER 1 The Hoplite Debate
    (pp. 1-56)

    The study of war has not only interested military historians from the ancient world to the modern day; many scholars have held that the way in which societies organize for and fight war lies at the foundation of civilization itself. Cultural historian Lewis Mumford has remarked:

    War was not a mere residue of more common primitive forms of aggression. . . . In all its typical aspects, its discipline, its drill, its handling of large masses of men as units, in its destructive assaults en masse, in its heroic sacrifices, its final destructions, exterminations, seizures, enslavements, war was rather the...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Arms, Armor, and Iconography of Early Greek Hoplite Warfare
    (pp. 57-73)

    Although elements of the bronze panoply associated with the classical hoplite began to appear in the late eighth century, what set the hoplite apart from his predecessors was above all his distinctive heavy wooden shield with a double handle, which is first attested circa 700 BC (see below, fig. 2-4). This date may therefore be regarded as the beginning of the hoplite era. A great deal of the debate about the origins of the classical phalanx centers on what the adoption of this type of shield might imply about the nature of hoplite fighting and battle formations.

    The simple scene...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Hoplitai/Politai: Refighting Ancient Battles
    (pp. 74-84)

    I was myself at one time an actively engaged participant in the intellectual gymnastics that are, inevitably, the default mode for the study of early Greek hoplite warfare.¹ But, in or around 2001, I effectively retired from the lists.² So my involvement here is largely that of a former combatant, and interested spectator, somewhat bloodied by the latest thrusts and cuts of scholarly rapiers and bludgeons but yet largely unbowed.

    Once, perhaps, “2001” might have conjured up images of Stanley Kubrick and futurology, but today it is all too gloomy retrospective visions of the destructive mayhem in New York City...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Setting the Frame Chronologically
    (pp. 85-94)

    If there is nowadays a consensus that discussion of the Greek hoplite must start from Homer and the descriptions of fighting in theIliad, then this is a fairly recent development. For most historians and Homerists of little more than a generation ago, Homer stood outside the issue and theIliad’s battles would be mentioned only to be excluded from the discussion. There is an obvious analogy here with a bigger topic, one so closely linked with the hoplite as to be often thought inseparable from it: the rise of the polis. The same shift has occurred here: where there...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Early Greek Infantry Fighting in a Mediterranean Context
    (pp. 95-111)

    Some of my work has long focused on two projects: to understand “Homeric or epic society,” including epic battle descriptions, and to situate the emergence of political thinking in archaic Greece in a broader Mediterranean context.¹ I posit that the Greek polis with its institutions, and political thought or, to put it differently (without intending to pursue this here), the polis and “the political,” developed in a long interactive process.² Polis institutions included political (assembly, council, offices) as well as religious (cults, festivals, rituals), social (for instance, ritual dining in public contexts), and military ones. I have therefore suggested that...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Hoplite Revolution and the Rise of the Polis
    (pp. 112-133)

    In his seminal 1937 article, “When Did the Polis Rise?” Victor Ehrenberg notes that it is impossible to give exact dates for the “rise” and that the polis was no doubt the product of a long evolution.¹ He acknowledges that “rise” can only mean true origin, which scholars as a rule place long before the sixth or fifth century. However, “some strange pronouncements in a contrary sense,” the assertions of Berve in particular, provoked Ehrenberg to reassert the orthodox position. Earlier Ehrenberg had protested² against Berve setting the formation of the Greek state as late as the turn of the...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Hoplite Hell: How Hoplites Fought
    (pp. 134-156)

    If W. Kendrick Pritchett built the stage set for our understanding of Greek warfare and Anthony Snodgrass provided the costumes, Victor Davis Hanson made the actors come alive. Hanson’s grittyWestern Way of War, in particular, has had an enormous impact on popular understanding of how Greeks fought, from Steven Pressfield’sGates of Fire(1998)—in which Pressfield created anothismósdrill that he called, memorably, “tree-fucking”—to Zack Snyder’s movie300(2007), in which the Spartans fight with the underhanded grip favored by Hanson. So any discussion of how hoplites fought (or what one of my friends, after reading...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Large Weapons, Small Greeks: The Practical Limitations of Hoplite Weapons and Equipment
    (pp. 157-175)

    During the entire period when hoplites held sway over Greek land warfare, they were defined above all in terms of their primary offensive and defensive weapons, namely, the spear and the peculiarly characteristic shield; indeed, it is nearly impossible to conceive of the idea “hoplite” without these. Of these weapons, it was first and foremost the hoplite’s shield that was his defining characteristic; and it was this shield that effectively set him apart from any other troop type in the Greek world. Moreover, whereas all other items in the hoplite’s equipment were subject to differing degrees of change and development...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Not Patriots, Not Farmers, Not Amateurs: Greek Soldiers of Fortune and the Origins of Hoplite Warfare
    (pp. 176-193)

    In the eighth and seventh centuries BC, Greek soldiers adopted a new way of making war that has become known as the hoplite tradition. Hoplites were heavily armed infantry who carried large shields oraspides—circular, convex, and manipulated with double grips—and who typically confronted their opponents in phalanx formation. The first hoplites appeared on the historical scene in the mid-eighth century BC, and remained an essential part of Greek life throughout the Archaic and Classical periods.

    What circumstances gave rise to the invention of hoplite arms and tactics? And who exactly were the first hoplites? To answer those...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Can We See the “Hoplite Revolution” on the Ground? Archaeological Landscapes, Material Culture, and Social Status in Early Greece
    (pp. 194-221)

    The issue of the emergence of hoplite phalanxes in early Greek communities offers a challenging case study for exploring the ways in which archaeological and historical data can be combined, or not, to address questions about social and political developments central to Archaic poleis. A hoplite is not just a material cultural assemblage, although at one level he is defined by scholars by the particular assemblage(s) of weaponry he wore and carried (van Wees 2005: 47–52). Hoplite equipment appears to have varied regionally, over time, and even between individuals, but the core elements were the spear and shield (van...

  17. CHAPTER 11 Farmers and Hoplites: Models of Historical Development
    (pp. 222-255)

    Insofar as modern histories of ancient Greece have a grand narrative at all, it is almost always the story of the rise of democracy—too selective and limited even as an account of Athenian history, never mind the history of the Greek world at large. A rare exception is Victor Davis Hanson’sThe Other Greeks(1995), which writes the economic, social, political, and military history of Greece as the story of the rise and fall of the independent “yeoman” or “middling” farmer and his culture of “agrarianism.” This is an admirable attempt to construct a more comprehensive model of historical...

  18. CHAPTER 12 The Hoplite Narrative
    (pp. 256-276)

    There are few controversies in Greek history as spirited as those over the origins and nature of hoplite battle. The dilemma arises because we have few prose accounts of set battles before Marathon (490 BC). Consequently, it is far easier to take exception to a particular element of a general reconstruction than it is to risk offering a likely comprehensive scenario of the nature of the hoplite phalanx from meager evidence.

    Surviving battle descriptions in later historians are fragmentary, and dependent largely on a prior oral tradition. Battle references to hoplites and/or mass fighting in Homer’s epics and the subsequent...

    (pp. 277-278)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 279-286)