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The Ancient Greeks--who believed that war is the most important thing humans do--bequeathed to the West an incomparable military legacy that still influences the structure of armies and doctrine. Understand the reasons why their unique approach to fighting was so successful and so relentless, its role at the heart of classical culture, the rise of the city state, agrarian The Ancient Greeks--who believed that war is the most important thing humans do--bequeathed to the West an incomparable military legacy that still influences the structure of armies and doctrine. Understand the reasons why their unique approach to fighting was so successful and so relentless, its role at the heart of classical culture, the rise of the city state, agrarian duels, the emergence of Athenian and Spartan power, the development of war as a specialized science, and the collapse of Greek warfare after Alexander the Great. 224 pages, 70 color illus., 80 b/w illus., 7 3/4 x 10 3/8.


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The Ancient Greeks--who believed that war is the most important thing humans do--bequeathed to the West an incomparable military legacy that still influences the structure of armies and doctrine. Understand the reasons why their unique approach to fighting was so successful and so relentless, its role at the heart of classical culture, the rise of the city state, agrarian The Ancient Greeks--who believed that war is the most important thing humans do--bequeathed to the West an incomparable military legacy that still influences the structure of armies and doctrine. Understand the reasons why their unique approach to fighting was so successful and so relentless, its role at the heart of classical culture, the rise of the city state, agrarian duels, the emergence of Athenian and Spartan power, the development of war as a specialized science, and the collapse of Greek warfare after Alexander the Great. 224 pages, 70 color illus., 80 b/w illus., 7 3/4 x 10 3/8.

30 review for The Wars of the Ancient Greeks & their Invention of Western Military Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Josho Brouwers

    This is a very general introduction to ancient Greek warfare that will only be of interest to those who are completely unfamiliar with the topic. Hanson's first chapter deals with "Early Greek fighting", here dated 1400 to 750 BC, and is clearly out of his depth when dealing with Mycenaean and "Dark-Age" warfare. His treatment of Homeric warfare borrows liberally from Hans van Wees's seminal treatments of the topic. Predictably, the second chapter, which focuses on the period between 750 and 450 This is a very general introduction to ancient Greek warfare that will only be of interest to those who are completely unfamiliar with the topic. Hanson's first chapter deals with "Early Greek fighting", here dated 1400 to 750 BC, and is clearly out of his depth when dealing with Mycenaean and "Dark-Age" warfare. His treatment of Homeric warfare borrows liberally from Hans van Wees's seminal treatments of the topic. Predictably, the second chapter, which focuses on the period between 750 and 450 BC, is entitled, "The rise of the city-state and the invention of Western warfare". He gets to repeat a lot of material that he has gone over time and again with the same lack of source criticism that has marked much of his other work. The other chapters are more or less rote summaries of major military events: the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars plus some later developments (chapter 3), the Macedonian war-machine (chapter 4), and finally Alexander and the successors (chapter 5). The conclusion, entitled "The Hellenic legacy", retreats yet more of the same tiresome material that was already treated extensively in his The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece and is completely superfluous. The glossary is too basic to be useful. The suggestions for further reading tend to be good, even if the reader is not generally pointed in the direction of works that disagree heavily with Hanson's own notions, though his recommendation of the "excellent articles" in A.B. Lloyd's Battle In Antiquity is commendable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rick Brindle

    This is an excellent book that does exactly what it says on the tin. From 1400BC through to Alexander and beyond, this book gives a great insight into how the Greeks fought, and their impact on modern warfare. Many modern parallels are drawn, and the analysis of Alexander is interesting and unusual, flying in the face of popular opinion, but still balanced. An excellent, very informative read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    In this book we find out something quite intriguing--how the author pays to keep his farm in operation and at the same time lament the passing of the yeoman farmers of the Greek classical age while at the same time dishing out unpleasant contemporary prophecy about the similar demise of our own independent family farmers.  This volume finds the author in a somewhat gloomy mood about Greek warfare [1] and able to give a great deal of insight about the changes in Greek warfare over the period from In this book we find out something quite intriguing--how the author pays to keep his farm in operation and at the same time lament the passing of the yeoman farmers of the Greek classical age while at the same time dishing out unpleasant contemporary prophecy about the similar demise of our own independent family farmers.  This volume finds the author in a somewhat gloomy mood about Greek warfare [1] and able to give a great deal of insight about the changes in Greek warfare over the period from Mycenaean Greece to the close of the Hellenistic period.  These changes are notable and worthwhile, not least because they demonstrate increasing violence in the heart of the West and its rulers and provide some supporting evidence to various biblical understandings, although the author shows no interest whatsoever in biblical history or morality.  Even so, this book is an example of an accessible popular book of military history that may not burnish the author's reputation in the eyes of his fellow classicists, but certainly helped make him a household name among those of us in the misfit world of scholarly military history. This book is a glossy and compact volume of just over 200 pages, part of the Smithsonian History of Warfare, edited by noted "Face of Battle" military historian John Keegan.  The book itself begins with a helpful map list and a list of Greek wars that took place over the (more than a) millennium of history covered in his volume.  The author introduces the Greek military legacy by pointing out the historical parallels between contemporary efforts at building Western-style militaries and the original of the species.  The author talks about early Greek fighting in a relatively short chapter (1) that spans the history from 1400-750 and includes the fragmentary information we know from Homer and from archaeological research about the fighting of that time.  Considerably more time is spent looking at the rise of the city state and the invention of hoplite warfare (2).  AFter this the author looks at the history and ramifications of the series of wars fought between 490 and 362 that included the Persian Wars, first and second Peloponnesian Wars, and the wars of the brief Theban hegemony (3).  The author then writes about the military revolution wrought by Philip of Macedon during his lifetime that ultimately doomed the independent Greek poleis (4) before concluding with a discussion of Alexander the Great's destruction of Persia and the bloody warfare of the Hellenistic period (5) before ending with a downbeat discussion of the Hellenic legacy and various closing material including a glossary, appendix of notable Greek warriors, suggestions for further reading, statistics of the casualties of ancient battles, and index and photo credits. There are a few things to say about this book that are notable.  For one, this book appears to be a very worthy textbook for undergraduate (or maybe even graduate) coursework on Greek warfare.  It is gorgeous, filled with worthwhile maps and photos, and gives a broad overview of Greek warfare along with some great suggestions for further reading through the subtle use of classical citations.  The author clearly has something to say about the changing warfare of the Greeks and his own preference for hoplite warfare fought by conservative agrarians, whether he is speaking about Greek warfare or our own.  The author's comparison of our own age with the rising inequality and declining civic virtue of the Hellenistic age is notable and concerning.  The book as a whole is accessible and it manages to shine a light on aspects of Greek military history that are seldom noted by those who are not very well read in the classics or in Greek history as a whole.  By and large, this is a book to celebrate, even if it has a melancholy approach to making Greek military history relevant to today's readers. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016...

  4. 5 out of 5

    GoldGato

    When reading the many myths of ancient Greece, one factor always stands out...constant battle. From Minoan to Mycenaean to Achaean to Dorian to Spartan to Macedonian, each tribe fought, fought, fought, fought. The Greeks felt that war, not culture or art, best symbolized civilization. This volume starts with the legendary wars of Troy and ends with the domination of Alexander the Great. Well laid-out, with each chapter corresponding to a specific era, the reader never loses interest nor does the When reading the many myths of ancient Greece, one factor always stands out...constant battle. From Minoan to Mycenaean to Achaean to Dorian to Spartan to Macedonian, each tribe fought, fought, fought, fought. The Greeks felt that war, not culture or art, best symbolized civilization. This volume starts with the legendary wars of Troy and ends with the domination of Alexander the Great. Well laid-out, with each chapter corresponding to a specific era, the reader never loses interest nor does the author get too wordy. Major battles get plated diagrams of troop activity and the Classical Greek phalanx is well-explained for its influence on medieval pikemen. Recommended to anyone studying or just plain interested in the city-states and their armour plates. Book Season = Summer (before the harvest)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeffry

    I love Hanson ... he edits here. Kind of a Greek war 101.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    One in a twenty-one-volume series, The Cassell History of Warfare, this covers, in 228 pages, the wars of the ancient Greeks (hence its title) from 1250 (Troy) to 146 (hello, Rome) B.C. The first five hundred years doesn’t get that much coverage, much of it being Greece’s “Dark Age,” Dorian invasions and all. It’s when we get to the “Classical” and “Hellenistic” periods where Dr. Hanson gets to his main points. It’s during these periods when war “progresses” from “a quasi-ritualized warfare in wh One in a twenty-one-volume series, The Cassell History of Warfare, this covers, in 228 pages, the wars of the ancient Greeks (hence its title) from 1250 (Troy) to 146 (hello, Rome) B.C. The first five hundred years doesn’t get that much coverage, much of it being Greece’s “Dark Age,” Dorian invasions and all. It’s when we get to the “Classical” and “Hellenistic” periods where Dr. Hanson gets to his main points. It’s during these periods when war “progresses” from “a quasi-ritualized warfare in which fighting was frequent but did not seem to imperil the cultural, economic and political renaissance of the Hellenic city state” (p. 52) through the full-scale warfare between alliances (the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars), culminating in wars and battles of whole-scale slaughter and enslavement starring Philip II, Alexander the Great, and a host of would-be Successors. Warfare has been in the latter stage since then (witness Hiroshima and Nagasaki), although the spate of recent rebel actions and internal struggles indicates a lessening of scope. Dr. Hanson is not a fan of Alexander. His boy wonder is a far cry from the mostly noble representations of him in literature past (and the 2004 movie). There is no examination of any of the battles themselves, but Marathon, Platea, and Gaugamela are pictured as representations of the stages of progress. Wars were also expensive; there are many examples of costs. Worth the read; we seem to have inherited more from Ancient Greece than just epic poetry and classical art.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ella Grunt

    This book packs a huge wallop of historical fact and perspective in a small, nicely illustrated package. Its sure to fire anyone up about Ancient Greece, and it has a great thesis regarding Western warfare. This book is great to tear apart over a long weekend, its fairly brief, and worth re reading every decade or so. Very clearly and concisely written!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sara Laor

    Excellent overview. I never realized how warlike the ancient Greeks were. We choose to talk about theater, poetry, architecture and democracy -- but there was a bellicose foundation to all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tres Herndon

    I learned a lot, which may mean nothing to some. If you're already conversant with Greek warfare, you won't learn much, except VDH's opinions. I would argue that they are worth the price of admission. I never expected him to compare Alex the Great to Hitler, but he did in a convincing way. As to learn, I learned about Greek combat in the old times and in the Dark Ages, how things changed in the classic hoplite era, and how they changed again in the Hellenistic era. This era is most relevant now b I learned a lot, which may mean nothing to some. If you're already conversant with Greek warfare, you won't learn much, except VDH's opinions. I would argue that they are worth the price of admission. I never expected him to compare Alex the Great to Hitler, but he did in a convincing way. As to learn, I learned about Greek combat in the old times and in the Dark Ages, how things changed in the classic hoplite era, and how they changed again in the Hellenistic era. This era is most relevant now because, as the author says, if we in the West prosecuted war as Alexander did we probably would not be alive to write about it. But then again, because we are so timid in war now, such as in Libya, our ancestors would not recognize us, and would not respect us, because our new way yields only death, not results. The Greek way of war is important to know now as it was long ago. I highly recommend this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Juliew.

    An account of the wars of the ancient greeks starts with the collapse of Mycenaean greece and ends with the Roman conquest.The first chapter covers early greek fighting and includes Mycenaean warfare and tactics,armour, and the palace systems of the times.It also discusses the Homeric battlefield.Other highlights for me in the chapters were hoplite battle gear,tactics,the so-called nomima or rules of battle and background on Sparta. The battles covered are too numerous to discuss here but mention An account of the wars of the ancient greeks starts with the collapse of Mycenaean greece and ends with the Roman conquest.The first chapter covers early greek fighting and includes Mycenaean warfare and tactics,armour, and the palace systems of the times.It also discusses the Homeric battlefield.Other highlights for me in the chapters were hoplite battle gear,tactics,the so-called nomima or rules of battle and background on Sparta. The battles covered are too numerous to discuss here but mentioned are Thermopylae,Salamis,Peloponnesian,Chaeronea,Granicus and Gaugamela.Each being discussed over a few pages if not less.The book shows the progression and advancement of warfare throughout.It was not only educational but seemed well researched with the exception of a few conclusions.I would recommend it for the warfare enthusiast.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    I learned a lot about the Greeks, including how much we just don't know. The ancient Greeks are like Sherlock Holmes, someone adds an "element" to the character in a film, and then 100 years later we think that element of the character is a true known fact. The author writes quite a bit about what the Greeks' military history says about their changing moral values, which is a valuable aspect of the book. I learned a lot about the Greeks, including how much we just don't know. The ancient Greeks are like Sherlock Holmes, someone adds an "element" to the character in a film, and then 100 years later we think that element of the character is a true known fact. The author writes quite a bit about what the Greeks' military history says about their changing moral values, which is a valuable aspect of the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alain

    If you have the time to read only two books on the nature of war, then you read this one and Keegan's "The face of battle". This is concision, analysis, description and writing at its best. Most of Hanson's other books are repetitions of this one, with a bit more detail. If you have the time to read only two books on the nature of war, then you read this one and Keegan's "The face of battle". This is concision, analysis, description and writing at its best. Most of Hanson's other books are repetitions of this one, with a bit more detail.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yago de Artaza Paramo

    Very concise account of the military development of the Greek city-state.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    Good, but too short.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    An extremely strong book analyzing the development and execution of military strategy and tactics in the Athenian and Spartan cultures. It should be a core work in anyones study of military culture.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wanja

    ...pa i Grci se tukli!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alexandre Assine

  18. 5 out of 5

    A

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Loy

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Harrison

  21. 4 out of 5

    Philippe

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hanna Carlina

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  25. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Landes

  26. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  27. 5 out of 5

    Owen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  30. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

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