Ancient History & Civilisation


Early Greek Infantry Fighting in a Mediterranean Context

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 the polis as a type of community, the form and composition of its army, and its fighting tactics evolved together and in interaction as well.3 If I see this particular evolution as a long process, I do not exclude ruptures or accelerated spurts of development, but I expect continuity and integration of innovations into an ongoing process to prove more important than revolution or abrupt new beginnings. Among others, Hans van Wees, too, emphasizes a “slow and steady process” that, he thinks, lasted “throughout the archaic and classical periods which transformed Greek infantry tactics from the kind of fluid long-range skirmishing found in ‘primitive’ societies into the kind of close-order hand-to-hand combat found in more developed city-states.”4 I shall return to this later. I have discussed elsewhere why and to what extent I think “epic society” reflects a historical society, and take this for granted here.5 To forestall criticism, even if I deliberately simplify and generalize here, suggesting a uniform “Greek” development, I am very much aware of vast differences among Greek regions, individual poleis, and between poleis and ethnē, but this is not the place to emphasize these.6

To return to my overall thesis, if polis, institutions, and political thought evolved in an interactive process, political thought must be studied in this broader social and political context. It matters, for example, that already around the mid-seventh century in Cretan Dreros “the polis decided” (literally: tad’ ewade poli) to enact a law limiting iteration of the chief office, and the Spartans regulated the process of communal decision making and formally attributed the final decision (kratos and nikē) to the assembly.7 Such rules and laws reflect a high level of communal awareness and a certain priority attributed to the community (as opposed to individual leaders or groups of elite families).8 This could not but influence the political thinking that emerged in these communities and among their members. The same, I suggest, is true if members of this community (whatever the criteria determining participation) regularly met for communal feasting, eating, and drinking, or if many of its men (whatever criteria determined inclusion or exclusion) fought in the communal army to defend community and territory. I am therefore interested in early Greek military practices in themselves (because of Homer’s description of wars and battles) but also because they were a crucial part of the social context in which early Greek political thinking evolved.

Moreover, the archaic Greeks interacted intensively with the highly developed civilizations in the ancient Near East (from Anatolia to Egypt). They absorbed an enormous range of cultural impulses, from crafts and technology to law and literature.9 My project tries to assess the impact of all this “orientalizing” on early Greek political thought.10 Here I wonder about “orientalizing” influences on early Greek military developments, especially, of course, on that of the hoplite phalanx.

After Anthony Snodgrass’s seminal work,11 little attention has been paid to this aspect. As far as I can see, Hans van Wees pretty much ignores it. In the recent Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare, Everett Wheeler observes: “A definite command structure and the use of column and line formations characterize state (as opposed to pre-state) warfare, so the phalanx need not be a Greek peculiarity. A lack of detailed information for Bronze and Iron Age Near Eastern infantry deployments precludes proving either that the phalanx developed independently or that it imitated Near Eastern practice.”12 True enough: such detailed information is lacking, but this does not need to be the end of the story.

Although some continuities in equipment are documented through the Dark Age, I do not think that Near Eastern influences on Greece in the Bronze Age matter for our present purposes. At the end of the Bronze Age and again from the tenth century Greek civilization experienced major changes, if not ruptures, and these deeply affected military culture and customs as well. Moreover, by the eighth century pieces of equipment that may have been “imported” from the Near East more than four hundred years earlier would long have been firmly integrated into Greek military tradition.13 For my present purposes the period in which polis and phalanx developed (eighth to early fifth century) is more immediately important. From this period we have some information about warfare in the Near East, especially about Neo-Assyrian and, later and to a lesser degree, Persian military practices.14 A comparison seems promising, and I suggest focusing on three aspects. One is the composition and organization of armies, that is, their recruitment (citizens vs. professionals, seasonal vs. standing), the categories of fighters, and the emphasis placed on each category (chariots, cavalry, infantry, and, among the latter, heavily vs. lightly armed and specialists such as spearmen, archers, and slingers). A second aspect concerns arms and armor: here we explore possible connections between early Greek military equipment and Near Eastern models, and examine the way the Greeks adapted such “imports” to serve their own (and possibly new and different) purposes. A third aspect involves formations and fighting tactics. By combining comparison of these three aspects, we may be able to determine more precisely what the Greeks borrowed from the Near East, how they adapted it, and how this contributed to the development of phalanx fighting. This in turn will allow us to define more precisely the Greeks’ own contribution, and especially how this contribution relates to communal development.

I limit my comparison primarily to the Neo-Assyrian empire because the evidence (both textual and pictorial) is rich and authentic (rather than, as is the case with the Persians, seen and conveyed largely through Greek eyes and pens) and because we know that Greeks both served as mercenaries in the Near East from at least the early seventh century and were aware of military and other aspects of Assyrian culture.15 It suffices to mention here Sarah Morris’s brilliant explanation of the Trojan horse as reflecting knowledge of Assyrian siege engines that indeed look somewhat like giant battle horses, and Erwin Cook’s recent comparison of Alkinoös’ palace in the Odyssey with specific features of Near Eastern palaces.16

First, then, the composition of armies. Although Homer mentions agrarian property only when speaking of the leaders and Hesiod largely ignores war when talking about the life of his farmers, there is no good reason to doubt that Greek polis armies (as opposed to raiding bands of individual warlords) consisted early on of independent farmers (elite and “middling,” wherever the line was drawn on the lower end): all members of the community who were capable of doing so and met the criteria set by each community fought in the polis’s wars.17 These same men (and those beyond fighting age) formed the assembly and played there a communally indispensable political role.18 A couple of generations after Homer, Tyrtaeus’ Sparta illustrates all this well, and Sparta was not unique even if these matters for specific reasons were probably more pronounced there than elsewhere. Importantly, already Alcaeus alludes to the formula “the men are the polis.”19

True, archers and other lightly armed missile specialists initially seem to have played a more significant role and may have continued to do so longer than we used to think:20 early poetry, images on vases, as well as, for example, Spartan lead figurines of bowmen leave no doubt about this. Yet this role should not be overestimated, and it seems to have decreased over time. For example, the masses of Spartan lead figurines from the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia show two types of archers in the seventh century and only one in the sixth, but a large variety of “hoplite” types, increasing from fifteen to twenty-six in the same period; those from the Menelaion reflect the same distribution; moreover, the “hoplites” are spearmen and always wear helmet and shield, sometimes greaves; the archers do not.21 The fragments of Archilochus’ poetry mention (non-Greek?) archers in the context of a siege and the storming of a city but spears, javelins, and swords everywhere else; as we shall see, heavy protective armor appears already by the late eighth century, the Iliad emphasizes the dominant role of heavily armed fighters in large numbers, and by the second half of the seventh century illustrations on vases, dedications in sanctuaries, reflections in poetry (esp. Tyrtaeus), and new polis institutions leave no doubt that, despite the presence of missile specialists (lightly armed archers, slingers, javelin or stone throwers), in military importance, social prestige, and communal status the hoplite predominated.22 As far back as we can see, therefore, the Greek polis army consisted of soldiers who were “citizens,” farmers, and primarily heavily armed spearmen.

Assyrian evidence reveals a different picture. True, the Assyrians, often receiving land assignations in border areas, were obliged to serve in the army. In the early phase of the Neo-Assyrian state (the “Old Empire”), Assyrian armies consisted largely of citizen levies. But the kings of the “New Empire,” beginning with Tiglath-pileser III in the mid-eighth century, used large-scale citizen levies mostly in emergencies but otherwise relied on standing armies under their own command or assigned to provincial governors.23These were largely recruited among provincial populations and regularly replenished by large contingents of soldiers from among defeated enemies and thus from newly subjected peoples. For example, after his conquest of Carchemish, Sargon says: “I created a contingent of 50 chariots, 200 men on horseback and 3,000 foot soldiers and added it to my royal corps.” At another occasion, he integrated into his standing army 10,000 archers from Philistia and 30,500 from Bit-Jakin and Elam (as well as the same number of shield bearers).24

These figures are illuminating: bowmen apparently were by far the largest force in the army, several times outnumbering all the others together. According to Sargon II’s Annals, the king assigned to the governor of a new province an army consisting of 150 chariots, 1,500 horsemen, 20,000 bowmen, and 1,000 spearmen.25 Such disproportion is all the more remarkable as each bowman, naturally unable to protect himself with a shield, worked in tandem with a shield bearer. The preponderance of archers is confirmed in other texts and in pictorial reliefs where they are highly prominent.26 The Assyrian army thus relied primarily on the long-distance impact of a hail of arrows and on the assault of cavalry and chariots. Infantry capable of hand-to-hand fighting was limited to relatively small units of spearmen armed with a heavy spear and shield.

The Achaemenid Persian armies that invaded Greece in the early fifth century reflect similar preferences. They too were recruited in the whole empire and thus were ethnically mixed (although, as Pierre Briant has demonstrated brilliantly, the fighting army must be distinguished from the “parade army” displaying the ethnic contingents’ native dress and equipment).27 According to Herodotus, Persians preferred to fight in terrain that was suitable for cavalry. At Marathon, he says, they were shocked to see the Athenians attack without support of archers and cavalry—by implication, Greeks commonly expected Persians to rely heavily on such support. Miltiades ordered his hoplites to attack on the run—obviously to minimize their exposure to Persian arrows, and the Persians were handicapped decisively by lacking (for whatever reasons) the support of their cavalry. In close combat the more lightly armed Persian infantry was no match for Greek hoplites, hence the extraordinary disproportion in losses.28 Herodotus says so explicitly when describing the battle of Plataea, where Persian cavalry and archers, bombarding the enemy from behind their shield barrier, caused serious problems for the Greeks but resistance faded quickly once the cavalry general had fallen, the cavalry retreated, and the shield barrier was overrun; the latter also sealed the fate of the Persians at Mycale.29 In his description of the Persian army on the march Herodotus gives for the core contingent of Persians equal numbers of horsemen and spearmen, which may indicate that the Persians placed more emphasis than the Assyrians on the capacity of their armies to sustain close combat, but archers and cavalry apparently still dominated the battlefield. In Persae, Aeschylus famously pits the Greek spear against the Persian bow. Yet Herodotus’s report about the Persians fighting at Plataea seems to suggest that, unlike their Assyrian predecessors, Persian infantrymen were both archers and spearmen: they pelted the enemy with arrows before the armies closed, then fought in the melee with spears and swords.30

Next, equipment. The Greeks themselves were aware of their military borrowings from others. According to Herodotus, they appropriated three inventions from the Carians: “fitting crests on helmets, putting devices on shields, and making shields with handles.” Modern scholars have doubts about these “Carian inventions” or modify them.31 Overall, despite the debt the Greeks owed to the Near East in terms of technology—most importantly, the knowledge of ironworking32—imitation of specific armor and weapons is surprisingly limited.

The first Greek iron swords may have come from Cyprus and the Levant, but Greek smiths soon mastered the challenge.33 The bronze-plate corselet appears first around 725; it is definitely not Near Eastern (where the scale corselet dominated) and was most likely modeled after a European type ultimately derived from the Celtic urnfield culture, which may in turn have been influenced by Greek Bronze Age technology.34 While earlier helmet types have analogs in a wide area of the eastern and western Mediterranean, the “Corinthian” helmet, usually hammered out of one sheet of bronze and covering the entire head except for a small opening for eyes, nose, and mouth, is Greek and originated in the late eighth century.35 The same is true for the greaves, first visible on vases about 675 but now archaeologically attested some fifty years earlier.36

Round shields were used by the sea peoples, in late Bronze Age Greece, and through the Dark Age; their bronze bosses have analogs on Cyprus. Round shields are frequent too in Neo-Assyrian battle depictions. Where we see their interior, it is clear that they were light, made of wicker, and covered with leather. All these shields were held by a single grip in the middle and could presumably be carried by a strap around the neck. Scholars assume a common origin of this shield type in late Bronze Age Anatolia or Assyria.37 The Greek hoplite shield, larger than earlier round ones, made of wood with bronze applications around the rim or even covering the entire surface, and markedly concave, with its characteristic two handles (porpax and antilabē), was an entirely new, Greek invention, even if it is possible that, as Snodgrass thinks, the “very large round shield of sheet bronze carried by Assyrian infantrymen, though it had only a single central hand-grip, … influenced the evolution of the Greek type.” But this, he emphasizes, “detracts little from the Greek achievement.” This shield, too, was in use by the end of the eighth century.38

In the aspects, then, that are most characteristic of the Greek hoplite, his defensive body armor made of sheet bronze and his shield with double handle, borrowings from the Near East are not decisive, perhaps even marginal; many of the crucial technological advances were made in Greece. Most remarkably, all this equipment shows up in the late eighth century. Although initially not many fighters may have worn all of it, by the second half of the seventh century vase paintings show the entire assemblage and document that a uniformly equipped line of hoplites had become the ideal.39 Although Snodgrass concludes “that the archaeological facts give little ground for believing that any unity of purpose lay behind the development of the various items of the panoply,” it seems worth thinking along the lines suggested by Victor Hanson:40 all pieces of this equipment, whatever their origin and original purpose, and whenever they appeared in Greece, were ultimately adapted or combined for one single purpose: fighting straight forward in relatively dense formation. Hence, for example, the Corinthian helmet radically prioritized safety over hearing and peripheral vision. If the spear broke, the sharp iron butt provided a useful weapon before the hoplite had to use his even shorter sword. Corselet and shield were heavy: again, protection was more important than maneuverability. True, the perfection of this fighting system took time, and missiles initially played a significant role. Still, the idea or principle of close-order frontal fighting must have been developed early on, apparently earlier than 700. It is tempting to think, as Hanson does, that fighting mode and equipment developed hand in hand, in an interactive process—for which there was no Near Eastern model either—but this is not provable, and I will not press it here.

Third, fighting tactics. Snodgrass thinks that “massed heavy infantry had long been in use among the Oriental kingdoms,” but finds it remarkable that the Ionian Greeks, with their close contacts to the Near East, were not among the Greek pioneers of these tactics. Kendrick Pritchett refers to the famous “Stele of the Vultures,” interpreted by Yigael Yadin as a “heavily armed phalanx of soldiers in a column of six files.”41 Unfortunately, a third-millennium relief is not helpful to us. Neo-Assyrian texts, although effusive about royal campaigns and victories, and often describing the difficulties the king had to overcome, suffice only to make clear that the Assyrian army, in Arther Ferrill’s words, “was an integrated force of heavy and light infantry, consisting of spearmen, archers, slingers, storm troops, and engineers,” relying on chariot corps and cavalry as its major strike force.42 But these texts do not give detailed descriptions of battle formations and tactics. The pictorial record is rich, though, like the Greek vase paintings, stylized, using its own conventions and “language,” and thus not necessarily realistic enough for our needs.43

At any rate, these images delight much more in dramatic sieges than in field battles.44 With good reason. As Israel Eph’al writes, “After the Assyrian Empire had consolidated its power and its military supremacy had been duly demonstrated, there was a considerable decline in its involvement in pitched battles. Assyria was so much more powerful than most of its opponents that only rarely did they dare to confront her in the open field. Accordingly, the massive offensive activities of the Assyrian army, both within and, to some extent, beyond the empire, were aimed at ensuring victory by conquest of cities.” This helps explain the importance of archers in the composition of Assyrian armies: in siege warfare, where walls separate the armies and the attackers fight largely from a distance, archers necessarily assumed a crucial role. Where we do see infantry in battle, archers therefore dominate; the spearmen with shields, helmets, and swords are shown in intensive, chaotic fights in the open field, intermixed with horsemen and archers, and, more often, in their advance, in single files, against a besieged city.45 The latter is due to the constraints of relief sculpture with largely two-dimensional representation that, moreover, juxtaposes in one image sequential scenes and is thus limited in space. Still, so far I have seen evidence for mass battle but nothing that would suggest dense formation, even in the stylized way the Chigi vase and other Greek vase paintings represent this.

In Greece we know the result of the evolution: the hoplite phalanx, arranged in somewhat dense formation, with a wide front, several rows deep. After clashing, the two armies engaged in fierce hand-to-hand fighting, those in the hind rows replacing those who fell in front, perhaps at some point engaging in a veritable shoving match, until one line broke, turned, and fled.46 The details (how closely packed and how “purely hoplite” this phalanx was, how much fighting occurred before the “shoving match,” and how exactly we should imagine the latter) can be endlessly debated, but they matter less for my present purpose than that, as far back as we can see, the Greeks fought intercommunal wars primarily by meeting each other in frontal assault and fighting it out in person-to-person combat: missile-to-missile, spear-to-spear (by throw and thrust), hand-to-hand. Although the hoplite could fight individually, his strength lay in the formation.47 We grasp this formation in the second half of the seventh century.

In our intense debates over every detail we tend to forget what seems to me crucial: both Tyrtaeus’s poetic exhortations and Homer’s descriptions of armies marching into battle, clashing, and fighting convey in numerous ways an impression not only of mass fighting but also of relatively dense formations. I have argued for this in detail elsewhere and will say here only that all the Homeric evidence adds up to an impression that made at least Polybius, an experienced general, think of a phalanx. We may try to prove him wrong, but that is the way he read it, and, I think, this corresponds to the poet’s intention.48

I have also suggested that Homeric battles, lasting all day, are stitched together from large-scale but infinitely varied type scenes by alternating between “normal battles” and “chaotic flight and aristeia scenes,” in which the poet gives his fantasy free rein, heroes reach spectacular levels of achievement, “special effects” are frequent, and gods as well as chariots play an important role. By contrast, I argue, the “normal battles,” lasting from march into battle in dense formation and intense fighting in a long line of duels to flight of one side, essentially reflect a reality familiar to poet and audience. If we look for anything coming close to historical reality, we have to focus on these “normal battles.”49 Even here, as I have insisted all along, Homer does not describe anything resembling the fully developed hoplite phalanx. But what he depicts is much closer to at least a “protophalanx” than the much looser and disorganized model, the “kind of fluid long-range skirmishing found in ‘primitive’ societies,” that Hans van Wees sees in Homer.50

At any rate, my reconstruction of epic fighting fits well with the date established by archaeology for the emergence of various pieces of hoplite equipment. By the time Homer’s epics were composed, therefore, that is, by the early seventh century at the latest, the Greek development toward the hoplite phalanx was well under way.51

Let me summarize and draw some conclusions. The Assyrian kings’ armies consisted of levies from among citizen farmers, mostly for seasonal campaigns, and, from the mid-eighth century, increasingly of standing armies composed largely of provincials and replenished by units formed from among subject populations. These armies combined various types of arms; in numbers and importance, archers (protected by shield bearers), chariots, and cavalry dominated, while shock troops of spearmen (some more heavily, some more lightly armed) seemed to be less important. The Persians continued to rely heavily on archers and cavalry, while assigning a more significant role to shock troops: their archers were also spearmen. In both empires the latter attacked and fought en masse, though often intermixed with archers and horsemen and apparently not in tight formation. Although Assyrian spearmen are mostly represented as wearing light round wicker shields, it is possible, as Snodgrass suggests, that in some cases the shields were larger, heavier, and covered with metal. If so, this is the only Near Eastern piece of military equipment that may have influenced the development of the Greek hoplite panoply.

On the Greek side independent citizen-farmers fight in the communal army. Despite Homer’s focus on the great leaders, it is clear that all fighters matter and contribute, and they all share in the booty that is distributed by “the army,” that is, by collective communal authority.52 Although archers, slingers, and javelin throwers play a nonnegligible role, the battle is dominated already in Homer both numerically and physically by the heavily armed spearmen. As it will be for centuries to come, this battle is decided in frontal clashes of mass (and somewhat massed) armies and in person-to-person combat. With the possible exception of some aspects of the shield, none of the defensive armor of the future hoplite is derived from Near Eastern models. Crucial inventions and adaptations (the Corinthian helmet, the shield’s porpax, antilabē, and typical concave shape, the greaves, and the iron spear butt, among others) that were used to develop and perfect frontal fighting in the phalanx’s massed formation—these are all Greek. All parts of the hoplite equipment seem to have been in use before 700. Homer’s battle descriptions reflect some awareness of the value of dense formations and close support among fighters.53 Hence, as said before, by Homer’s time the development that would result in the phalanx seems to have been well under way, both in terms of equipment and in terms of fighting tactics. This is why I have been arguing that, as big, profound, and perhaps “revolutionary” as this transformation was overall, it was mostly the result of a long process of gradual change in which I do not see one specific moment for a “hoplite revolution” of the kind that was postulated in the past.54

Overall, then, the military development that eventually produced the phalanx was essentially a Greek one.55 As said at the beginning, by 700, and perhaps earlier, Greek mercenaries and their elite officers were fighting in the Near East; Homer reflects awareness of Assyrian military motifs. Information about Assyrian armies and ways of fighting was thus available in Greece. Yet the Greeks of the early seventh century did not have any use for the Assyrians’ highly developed siege technology and tactics, and they did not do what military specialists have been telling them forever they should have done: they did not develop, in imitation of the Assyrians, an “integrated force of skirmishers, light infantry, heavy infantry, and light and heavy cavalry,” although, as Ferrill insists, such forces are “more effective and less demanding on society,” especially, as already Herodotus’s Mardonius points out, in a country that seems mostly unsuitable for hoplite armies.56 Chariots were not useful for fighting in Greece,57 but horses were available, at least in modest numbers, outside Thessaly and Macedonia, and bows, arrows, and slings were much cheaper than the panoply. Yet the Greeks did not imitate the eastern empires’ systematic use of large corps of archers. Archery remained the specialty of geographically marginal areas (Crete and Thrace), and the tendency, clearly attested in the fifth century, to look down on the archer is perceptible already in the Iliad.58 Instead, the Greeks developed an army focused predominantly on heavily armed spearmen.

In the military aspects of Greek social culture, it seems, therefore, that Near Eastern influence can be ruled out almost entirely. Why this is the case is of great interest and crucial importance. Many scholars have tried to explain this Greek peculiarity, focusing on the phalanx as part of the Greek “way of life, a code of manliness and morality” and on the essential correspondence, characteristic of Greek social values, between tilling the land and fighting.59 Reluctantly, I refrain from entering this debate here: it would exceed the scope of this chapter. Instead, I mainly want to draw attention to what this tells us about the nature of early Greek polis communities. I suggest that by the time information about Assyrian armies and modes of fighting began to arrive in Greece, conveyed by credible informants (that is, Greeks, and preferably elite Greeks who had personal experience of these matters),60 Greek poleis were already well under way in developing their characteristic social and political institutions and achieving an increasing degree of cohesion, based not only on their elites but on a much broader class of independent farmers. These were the men who mattered in the early polis and who therefore manned the assembly and the polis army. In Homer they fight not for prosaic goals such as defending or conquering land—as they did in contemporaneous real life (after all, this is the age of the Messenian Wars and other well-attested wars between neighboring poleis about the control of contested territory)—but they already fight in straight man-to-man combat. They are the ancestors of those whom we see a little later fighting on their land for their land and in those increasingly competitive and ritualized forms that have sometimes been exaggerated but should not be entirely discarded.61

This brings me back to my initial thesis about the interactive development of polis, institutions, and political thought. I draw two conclusions—which in turn serve as hypotheses for my continuing research. One is that the crucial role in the early polis of these “citizen” farmer-soldiers was responsible for the communal ethos that pervades the earliest extant epic and elegiac poetry. Clashing with growing elite aspirations and tendencies toward exclusiveness, this communal ethos underlies the earliest attestations of Greek political thinking.62 The other conclusion is that the Greek poleis around 700 were no longer entirely open communities, ready to absorb any outside influences.63 They did this in many ways, but as far as communal structures were concerned, they were already set in their ways and, I think, more developed than is usually believed. Hence, based on a number of partial explorations such as that conducted here,64 I begin to think that in the sphere of “the political”—and perhaps only in this sphere—Greek borrowings from the Near East were much more limited than one might expect. Naturally, a much broader investigation will be required to confirm or refute this.


    1. The paper I offered at the conference at Yale University was based largely on one that has now been published (Raaflaub 2008a). Although several parts of that paper await further development, I prefer to offer for public discussion a related paper that was presented at meetings of the European Network for the Study of Ancient Greek History at Oxford University in late March and the Midwestern Consortium of Ancient Historians at the University of Michigan in late April 2009. I thank all participants for valuable criticism and suggestions; in addition, I am grateful to Ryan Balot and Adam Schwartz and to two anonymous referees for helpful comments. This is work in progress. I am aware that more needs to be done to confirm and solidify my results, but what I need most at this point is feedback from knowledgeable colleagues.

    2. Raaflaub forthcoming. On “the political,” see Meier 1990: pt. 1.

    3. Raaflaub 1997b; see also 1999. On the emergence of the Greek polis, see, e.g., Hall 2007: ch. 4; Osborne 1996: ch. 4, and chs. by Snodgrass and Raaflaub in Hansen 1993.

    4. Van Wees 2004: 152. For recent summaries of scholarly debates about the emergence of the hoplite phalanx, see Osborne 1996: 170–85; van Wees 2004: ch. 12; Hall 2007: ch. 7; Singor 2009.

    5. Raaflaub 1998; see also Ulf 1990; van Wees 1992; Donlan 1999. Osborne 1996: ch. 5; Osborne 2004; and Shear 2000, among others, offer differing views.

    6. See also Paul Cartledge’s important chapter in the present volume.

    7. Dreros: ML 2. Sparta’s “Great Rhetra”: Tyrt. 4 West; Plut. Lyc. 6; on the general issue of communal awareness and “people’s power” in early Greece, see Raaflaub and Wallace 2007.

    8. See, from different approaches, I. Morris 2000: pt. 3; Raaflaub and Wallace 2007.

    9. See, recently, Burkert 1992, 2004; S. Morris 1992; West 1997. A more complete bibliography is in Raaflaub 1993: xvii–xix.

  10. See esp. Raaflaub 2008b, 2009, in preparation a; see also 2004a, 2004b.

  11. Snodgrass 1964b, 1965, 1999 (1967); the update (1999: 134–38) does not record major changes.

  12. Wheeler 2007: 193.

  13. On Greek Bronze Age military equipment, see Snodgrass 1999: 14–34, 132–34. Dark Age: ibid., ch. 2; 1964: ch. 20. On changes and ruptures: e.g., Snodgrass 1971; Raaflaub 2003: 312–23; Dickinson 2006.

  14. For recent work on Assyrian warfare, see Malbran-Labat 1982; Stillman and Tallis 1984; Bahrani 2008; see also Ussishkin 1982; Bleibtreu 1990; Eph’al 1995. Hamblin 2006 covers the period to 1600 BCE. (I thank J. Novotny for some of these references.) On Persian warfare, see Briant 1999: 107: there “exists at this point no comprehensive monograph on the Achaemenid armed forces, their composition, the methods of their recruitment, their financing, their command structure, or their fighting tactics.” Owing to the scarceness of Persian evidence, which forces us to rely far too heavily on Greek sources with their specific agendas and biases, this has not changed (Briant, written communication); see generally Briant 2002.

  15. Evidence: Kuhrt 1995: II, 500–505. Greek mercenaries: Bettalli 1995: 43–52; Raaflaub 2004: 206–10 with biblio. See also Luraghi 2006.

  16. See Morris 1995 on Near Eastern sources for the Trojan horse; Cook 2004 for Alkinoös’s palace.

  17. Homer and agrarian property: Hennig 1980; Donlan 1999: 303–20; cf. id. 1997: esp. 654–61. Hesiod and war: Wade-Gery 1949: 91–92. Farmers and fighters: No direct contemporaneous evidence exists to support this view (nor, for that matter, any other). When we first see such evidence (in Sparta at the time of the Great Rhetra and the emergence of the homoioi system, and Athens at the time of Solon’s timocracy: Raaflaub 2006), the hoplites are farmers; I don’t see why their predecessors should have been different. See also Raaflaub 1999: 134–38. Van Wees 2004: chs. 3–4 emphasizes elite hoplites. Polis army: this requires dropping the model of a “hoplite revolution” based on Arist. Pol. 1297b16–18 and outdated views of tyrants relying on hoplites and early Greek warfare being predominantly an affair of elite warriors; see n. 54 below.

  18. Assembly: Ruzé 1997; Raaflaub 1997a; Hölkeskamp 1997.

  19. “The men are the polis”: Thuc. 7.77.7; cf. Hdt. 8.61; Alc. fr. 112.10; 426 Campbell. On Sparta, see, e.g., Murray 1993: ch. 10; Osborne 1996: 177–85; Thommen 1996; Luther at al. 2006; Hall 2007: 178–209.

  20. See esp. van Wees 2000; 2004: ch. 12.

  21. Spartan lead figurines (I thank L. Foxhall, J. Hall, and Stephen Hodkinson for references): for Artemis Orthia, see Wace 1929: 262, 269, pls. 183, 191, 197 (archers: 2 varieties throughout the seventh century BCE, only one in the sixth; hoplites: 15 varieties 700–635, 18 or 21 635–600, 26 in the sixth century); Menelaion: Wace 1908–9: 130, 137 with pls. 10 and 7; Cavanagh and Laxton 1984. See also Boss 2000: 55–72 (warriors), 78 (naked archers; are they hunters?), and in the future Cavanagh’s chapter on the lead votives in the forthcoming publication of the BSA Menelaion excavations.

  22. Archilochus (West 1971; Gerber 1999) fr. 98 (siege with attack by Thracian [?] archers); frs. 2, 3, 91, 96, 113, 139, et al. (spears, javelins, swords). Predominance of hoplites: Snodgrass 1980: 99–106; Raaflaub 2007: 134 with biblio. Battlefield evidence might be helpful, but I doubt whether reliable statistics are available; D. Blackman (oral communication) has seen large piles of arrowheads at Himera, but these could be more Carthaginian than Greek.

  23. Manitius 1910; though outdated, this article is still cited with approval; cf. Saggs 1963; Reade 1972.

  24. Recruitment and replenishing of standing armies: Manitius 1910: 220–24; see also Dalley 1985; Oded 1979. Specific examples: Yadin 1963: II, 293; Manitius 1910: 128, 131.

  25. New provincial army: Manitius 1910: 129. Preponderance of bowmen: confirmed by the evidence of the Sargonid letters found in Niniveh: Malbran-Labat 1982: 79–80 (often also recruited for specific campaigns from the local population).

  26. Bowman working in tandem with shield bearer: Manitius, 1910: 130–32; Malbran-Labat 1982: 81–82 (though pointing out that shield bearers appear in other contexts too); see illustrations, e.g., in Yadin 1963: II, 418, 424. Spearmen armed with heavy spear and shield: Manitius 1910: 125–27; Yadin, 1963: II, 420.

  27. Fighting army vs. “parade army” (described by Hdt. 7.61–99): Briant 1999: 116–20.

  28. Preference for “horse country”: Hdt. 6.102 (Marathon); 9.13.3 (Boeotia). References to battle of Marathon: 6.112.1–2. Losses: 6,400 vs. 192 (6.117.1).

  29. Superiority of heavily armed hoplites over much more lightly armed enemy: Hdt. 9.62–63. Significance of shield barrier: 9.61–63; cf. 102.2–3 (Mycale). Archers at Thermopylae: 7.218, 225–26 (when the Persians shoot their arrows, the sun disappears). Plataea and Mycale: archers shooting hails of arrows protected by barricade of wicker shields: 9.61, 99, 102; cavalry attacks at Plataea: 9.20–25, 40, 49–50, 52, 57; cavalry blocking passes of Kithairon to prevent reinforcements and supplies from reaching the Greeks: 9.39. On Persian use of cavalry, see now Tuplin 2009.

  30. Persian army on the march: 12,000 horsemen and spearmen (Hdt. 7.40–41). Greek spear vs. Persian bow: Aesch. Pers. 813; cf. 280, 725, 1001–3. Archers and spearmen identical: Raaflaub in preparation b.

  31. Borrowings from Carians: Hdt. 1.171.4; cf. Asheri et al. 2007: 192–93; Snodgrass 1964a.

  32. Ironworking: Snodgrass 1967: 36; 1971: ch. 5; Wertime and Muhly 1980.

  33. Swords: Snodgrass 1964b: ch. 4; 1967: 37.

  34. Corselet: Courbin 1957; Snodgrass 1964b: ch. 3; 1967: 41–42; see also Catling 1977; Jarva 1995.

  35. Corinthian helmet: Snodgrass 1964b: 11, 13, 20–28; 1967: 51; J. Borchhardt 1977: esp. 72.

  36. Greaves: Snodgrass 1964b: 66–68; 1967: 52; Kunze 1991.

  37. Round shield and bosses: Snodgrass 1964b: ch. 2; 1967: 43–44; H. Borchhardt 1977: 28–36; on Assyrian depictions: H. Borchhardt 1977: 36–37; Hrouda 1965: 90–91; Yadin 1963: II, 294–95, with ill.; common origin: H. Borchhardt 1977: 39 with biblio.

  38. Hoplite shield: Snodgrass 1964b: 61–68 [quotes 66, 68]; 1967: 53–55. On the crucial significance of this shield for hoplite fighting: Cartledge 1977; 2001; this vol.; Osborne 1996: 175–76.

  39. Hoplite ideal: Snodgrass 1967: 58; see illustrations in Salmon 1977. Uniformity prevails even if, for example on the Chigi vase, the fighters still carry both javelin and spear.

  40. Snodgrass 1964b: 90. Adaptation to straight-forward fighting: Hanson 1991.

  41. Snodgrass 1967: 59; Pritchett 1985: 8, with reference to the third millennium “Stele of the Vultures” (Yadin 1963: I, 134–35).

  42. Ferrill 1997: 70, 99.

  43. See Eph’al 1995: 51 on the questionable realism of the reliefs. Spearmen in battle: Yadin 1963: II, e.g., 431–32, 442–43. Stylized mass formation on Greek vases: Salmon 1977; van Wees 2004: 178 fig. 21; pls. 18–21. A systematic investigation of battle depictions on Greek vases with the purpose of “deciphering” the artists’ conventions and “language” is an urgent desideratum.

  44. E.g., Ussishkin 1982; Bleibtreu 1990. Eph’al 1995 (quote: 50).

  45. See, for example, for a battle in the open field, Yadin 1963: II, 442–43; for sieges: ibid., 418–25, 428–37, 448–49, and passim; Ussishkin 1982; Bleibtreu 1990.

  46. On phalanx fighting, see, e.g., Thuc. 5.66–74; 6.66–71; Anderson 1970; Pritchett 1985: 1–93; Hanson 2000. Further biblio. in Raaflaub 1999: 149 n. 12. More recently, see van Wees 2004: ch. 13; Hall 2007: 163–70 raises important questions, as does Osborne 1996: 170–85. This is not the place to deal with these. For counterarguments, see, e.g., Schwartz 2002 and 2009.

  47. Schwartz 2002: 31 reemphasizes what seems essential: “hoplites were unfit for single combat, and the weaponry was invented for use in the already existing phalanx. Assessments of iconography and literature yield the same results: the hoplite was always intended for phalanx fighting.” See also Schwartz’s contribution to this volume.

  48. Homeric fighting: Raaflaub 2008a. Pol. 13.3.4; cf. Walbank 1967: 416.

  49. “Normal battle” vs. “chaotic flight and aristeia scenes”: Raaflaub 2008a: 479–83.

  50. Van Wees 1997: 690: “The heroic army is composed of many small and loosely organized bands of warriors, held together by personal ties of subordination and companionship. Battles are fought in open order; at any particular moment the majority of men remain at a distance from the enemy, while a substantial minority of individual ‘front-line warriors’ venture closer to fight with missiles or hand-to-hand. There is much mobility back and forth as every man in the army is expected to join combat at least occasionally, and even the bravest heroes retire from battle every so often.” See also 2000; 2004: ch. 11, with figs. 14–17. Contra: Schwartz 2002. Further biblio. on Homer’s battle description is listed in Raaflaub 2008a: 470 n. 8.

  51. I have defended this date in Raaflaub 1998: 187–88.

  52. Raaflaub 2008a: 476–78 (booty: 478).

  53. Ibid., 477–78.

  54. For discussion of the “hoplite revolution,” see, among others, Snodgrass 1965, 1993; Cartledge 1977, 2001; Raaflaub 1997b; 1999: 132–41; Hall 2007: 157–59.

  55. So too Snodgrass 1965: 110: “The combination of all these elements [of the panoply] together was an original Greek notion; as was their later association with a novel form of massed infantry tactics, the phalanx.”

  56. Criticism of the inadequacy of Greek hoplite fighting: Ferrill 1997: 144; cf. Hdt. 7.9b. A rare testimony for an archaic battle about a fortified city is Arch. fr. 98 West, where the attackers are non-Greek (n. 22 above).

  57. Crouwel 1992; see also Greenhalgh 1973.

  58. For contempt of archers, see, e.g., Soph. Ajax (Teucer) and Eur. Heracles. Typically, in the Iliad Paris and Pandaros are bowmen, and Odysseus left his prized bow at home! Conversely, despite the primacy of the spearman in the Iliad, Troy cannot be taken without the assistance of Philoctetes, an archer, and the use of deception; see Mackie 2008: 70 and ch. 3.

  59. Ferrill 1997: 145. Values: Aymard 1967. See also, generally, Cartledge 2001; Hanson 1995.

  60. Raaflaub 2004a; on mercenaries and elite Greek mercenary commanders: 206–10. Hdt. 2.152, 154 comments on the flow of information to Greece from mercenaries settled in Egypt.

  61. Ritualized warfare: Connor 1988. On the model of the early polis underlying my reconstruction, see Raaflaub 1991, 1993, 1997b, 1999; also, for example, Starr 1977, 1986, 1992; Stein-Hölkeskamp 1989: chs. 2–3; Donlan 1999.

  62. Early Greek political thought: Raaflaub 2000; Hammer 2002. That armies (such as those of Assyria and Persia studied in this paper) drafted to a large extent from subjected populations and serving an autocratic, divinely sanctioned king and his officers, who were wielding absolute power over them, did not and could not develop a comparable communal ethos is obvious. The structures of leadership, command, and obedience would offer another fruitful aspect of comparison.

  63. Open and closed communities: Ulf forthcoming.

  64. See n. 10 above.


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