Understanding Greek Warfare  book cover
1st Edition

Understanding Greek Warfare

ISBN 9781138288607
Published February 18, 2019 by Routledge
234 Pages

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USD $140.00

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Book Description

Understanding Greek Warfare offers a wide-ranging survey of Greek warfare, from the Mycenaeans through to the Hellenistic kingdoms’ clashes with Rome. Each chapter provides an overview of a particular theme and historical period, and a detailed discussion of the relevant sources, both ancient and modern. This volume covers not only the development of equipment, tactics, strategy, and the major wars of Greek history – the "drums and trumpets" – it also examines the political, social, and cultural importance of warfare in each period. Each chapter outlines major scholarly debates, such as the true nature of hoplite battle and whether Alexander the Great had a strategic vision beyond conquest, and includes several short selections from the primary literary evidence.

Readable yet scholarly, this book is an ideal companion to courses on Greek warfare and society, and offers detailed suggestions for further reading and research. Understanding Greek Warfare will be a crucial resource for students of war in the ancient Greek world, and of the ancient Greeks in general.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements

List of Figures

List of Maps

Chapter 1: Bronze Age and Homeric Warfare: Achilles vs. Hector?


The Mycenaeans and War

Homer and His "Heroes"

Homeric Receptions

Homeric Battle: The Duel of Paris and Menelaus, and Its Aftermath

Further Reading


Chapter 2: The Hoplite Phalanx: The Rise of the Polis


The Phalanx: Its Rise, Equipment, and Tactics

Hoplites: The World’s First Citizens

Hoplite Battles: Thermopylae and the Nemea River

The Iconography of the Citizen-Soldier

Further Reading


Chapter 3: Greek Naval Warfare: Ruling the Aegean


Greek Navies

Thalassocracy: The Naval Mob and Empire

Naval Battles: Salamis and Naupactus

The Navy in the Athenian Visual Landscape

Further Reading


Chapter 4: Total War: Athens vs. Sparta


Thucydides, Author of the War

An Overview of the Peloponnesian War

Strategy and Tactics beyond the Phalanx

A New Breed of Leader

War and the Greek Mind

Further Reading


Chapter 5: The Fourth Century BCE: Mercenaries and Scoundrels


The Heyday for Mercenaries?

Professional Generals and the Art of War

Federal States and Strongmen

Does the Phalanx still Matter? Epameinondas and the Rise of Thebes

Case Studies: Lechaeum and Second Mantinea

Further Reading


Chapter 6: Philip and Alexander of Macedon: Crushing the Polis, Conquering the World


Sources for Philip and Alexander

Philip’s Military Reforms

Alexander and his War Machine

Case Studies: The Siege of Tyre and the Battle of Gaugamela

Alexander’s Legend

Further Reading


Chapter 7: Warfare in the Hellenistic World: The Coming of Rome


Hellenistic Kingdoms and the Polis

Hellenistic Armies

Phalanx vs. Legion

Case Studies: Pyrrhus of Epirus and Hannibal of Carthage

Conclusions: The End of the Hellenistic World – and the Roman Republic

Further Reading


Select Bibliography


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Matthew A. Sears is an Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. He writes on ancient Greek history, society, and culture, and is the author of Athens, Thrace, and the Shaping of Athenian Leadership (2013) and co-author of Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece: A Guide to their History, Topography, and Archaeology (forthcoming).


"This is a hugely impressive, and just as importantly, enjoyable book that offers the reader much more than the usual general survey of this fascinating subject. Its pages are packed with the author’s evaluation of evidence, discussions about scholarly debates, and explanations of the evolving art of war, all the way from the Mycenaeans to the Macedonians. This is, then, a fresh new look at a topic that continues to captivate a wide audience that transcends the boundaries of academia." - Jason Crowley, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK


"Ancient military history remains a booming area of Classical Studies. In the last decade, major collective works have been published. While these publications provide wide-ranging overviews of various periods and aspects of ancient warfare, their design (and price) is better suited for specialist scholars than for undergraduates. We are therefore grateful to the publishers for including a volume dedicated to ancient Greek warfare in their Understanding the Ancient World series of introductory textbooks; as such, it is the first book on this topic especially designed for tertiary teaching purposes... Sears’ book offers a detailed presentation of the vast and difficult topic. As regards its suitability as a textbook for educational purposes at the tertiary level, it will have significant utility." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review


"Sears has created a comprehensive and scholarly textbook on ancient Greek warfare, from the time of the Myceneans through the Hellenistic era. The book is concerned not only with surveying Greek warfare and martial culture in various periods, but also with demonstrating continuity and tracking change over time. Each chapter contains important observations and questions of the sort that any instructor would want introductory-level students to consider, particularly on matters of source use and scholarly debate... This book is an eminently readable and praise-worthy survey of ancient Greek warfare. Students are encouraged throughout to consider carefully what they are reading and explore further the many debates on Greek warfare. One of the great virtues of this book is that the author constantly presents the reader with many sides of a debate, which he reasons through with examples and case studies, effectively demonstrating the concepts outlined in each chapter. For these reasons, the book would make an excellent companion to any course on Greek warfare, history or culture... Sears' book will no doubt delight students and instructors alike and find a home in many a classroom." - Classical Journal


"As an introduction to Greek warfare, there is not much to find fault with about this book. Not only is it eminently readable, but also the coverage is wide and varied." - Mouseion


"Matthew Sears has done an admirable job ... Sears writes lucidly and in an engaging way ... Understanding Greek Warfare is highly recommended if warfare in Ancient Greece is still somewhat new to you, or if you'd like to freshen up your knowledge of the overall context or the current academic 'state of play'." - Jasper Oorthuys, Ancient Warfare magazine 2019


"In this relatively slim volume Prof. Sears (New Brunswick, Canada) rather impressively manages to produce an overview of some 1,200 years of warfare in ancient Greece." - The NYMAS Review