Background information 4
War, rather than peace, was the normal state of affairs for the Ancient Greeks.
b) Had to be prepared to fight local inhabitants.
c) Traders during the 7th and 6th centuries grew rich enough to challenge traditional aristocracies. New prosperity reflected a change in warfare - replaced hand to hand fighting with heavily armoured hoplites. The new 'middle-classes' could afford hoplite armour and weapons, which gave them a claim to the state's power.
- a) Extensive colonization in the 8th and 7th centuries - mainly seaborne.
- b) Had to be prepared to fight local inhabitants.
Greek navy was important due to geographical nature of Greek islands, and their policy of colonization (see above).
Navy was the most costly instrument of warfare (sheer numbers involved in rowing ships).
War ships in the 6th / 7th centuries BC were triaconters (30 oared) and penteconter (50 oars) etc.
Preferred tactics were to ram enemy boats, rather than board them.
- (see point 'c' of Commercial Rivalry) Hoplites were generally citizen landowners - about 30-40% of adult male population.
- A hoplite phalanx or formation meant that closed ranks or lines of soldiers formed a nearly solid wall of bronze and wood shields.
- The essence of Greek infantry tactics was its formations and its drill. Battles were between armies, not individuals.
- hoplites were heavily armoured Greek infantrymen.
- hoplite armour consisted of bronze helmets, corselets, greaves, shields (called a hoplon, which is where their name hoplite, derived from), thrusting spears and the short sword.
- The most important single item was the shield.
- Each warrior-landowner bought his own armour and kept it at home.
- Weapons were designed to inspire terror as much as hurt.
- The fineness of the workmanship of armour was more for generating confidence in the wearer!
- Helmets came in a great variety of shapes and sizes but all served the same purpose in the same way. The most popular was the Corinthian style.
- Despite impression of Iliad etc, Greek lands were unsuitable for horses.
- Because of this, horses were highly prized, being expensive and difficult to keep.
- Chariots were therefore more symbolic than functional.
- Unlike contemporary connotations, mercenary means 'being for hire.'
- Mercenaries were used a lot, especially in the 4th and 5th centuries.
- Being a poor, rugged area, Arcadia provided the majority of mercenaries. One particular group was the 'Ten Thousand,' a group of some 13,000 men, more than ½ being from Acadia. (5th C. BC)
- Any discussion on warfare leads us to Sparta very quickly! The Spartans were famed for their courage and military achievement.
- Despite Sparta being known for warfare, they were reluctant to undertake campaigns far from home in case of helot revolt during the army's absence. The helots were state-owned serfs.
- Only 5% of the population were actually Spartans.
- Full time soldiers owed total allegiance to the state and were liable for military service for between 30 and 60 years.
- Central Spartan values were strength, valour, courage and victory.
- Between the ages of 12 & 18, boys entered a full-time military training cadetship.
This was meant to encourage war-like instincts in the children, and included harsh treatment and food shortages etc - as well as military training.
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