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GREEK WARFARE in the Classical period


source is taken from a Protocorinthian vase painting which shows two hoplite armies marching towards each other in formation. The boy is playing an aulos, a wind instrument. The music helped keep the soldiers in formation.

The Hoplite and the idea of Citizenship

One of the most obvious changes in the way Greeks functioned ( is in the way they conducted warfare.  In the Archaic period, duels between heroes were the standard way the Greeks fought skirmishes.  However, upon the end of this period, there was a shift in the preferences from fighting in single contests to fighting in formation called Hoplite warfare.  This form of battle tactics was actually much easier for the more of the people to participate in because there was hardly any training involved and hence they were able to continue to work on their fields until conflicts ensue .  In addition, the large body of men called the phalanx, which comprised the Hoplite army, was usually made of friends, neighbours, and colleagues therefore giving a semblance of familiarity among the soldiers .  Therefore,  the shift from individual combat to group warfare may have been the key to wide spread acceptance of the concept of equality  as citizens.   I

--The primary objective of the phalanx offensive was to push through the enemy's line.  This is done by heavily reinforcing one’s line of battle with multiple lines of armoured soldiers up to 8-12 lines deep.  Furthermore, only the front lines actually engage in battle using large, rounded shields and long thrusting spears while the rest of the lines pushed forward.  Upon the defeat of the soldier in the front line, the man behind him takes his place in battle thus covering the gap in formation .  Because of this method of combat, even the most unskilled fighter can participate in the skirmish and thus be integral in the result of the conflict.  This is because the emphasis of the Hoplite strategy is not on individual fighting prowess but is instead highly dependent on the number of men working together to defeat the enemy In addition, the weapons and the armour of the Hoplite soldier were standardized for all fighters that many of the citizens could supply their own weapons and in the 4th century the state often supplied them.  Such equipment would be  bronze helmets, bronze breastplates, large shields, short swords, thrusting spears, and bronze shin guards.  Because the part-time soldier can continue to work on his fields due to the low requirement for training, he can raise enough wealth to acquire such relatively expensive armaments.  Thus, because of the greater availability of these weapons and the low requirement of training necessary to wield them, many  who wished to could participate. 

In addition, because of the lack of specialization in this type of warfare, the generals and nobles of high rank did not have any unique purpose in the conflict.  Therefore, on account of this, even the leaders of the armies participated in the battle alongside the common soldiers .  Epaminondas,  a Theban general and strategist, still fought and died alongside his men in the phalanx as did the Spartan kings.   The general had no better task, since he could not influence the course of the battle after it has begun.  Therefore, because of the lack of specialization in this type of battle strategy, no man can elevate himself and make him superior over the body of soldiers by doing anything out of the ordinary.  Thus, due to this, the champion who was once believed to have been a demigod is now made obsolete.  Furthermore, the warrior of noble rank has now become a soldier who serves alongside common fighters and functions with them as a single body.  Because of this, it is then apparent that the inability of any one man to distinguish himself in the field of battle may have led to parity.  Moreover, the necessity of working together as one entity also may have greatly influenced the idea of equality.  Therefore, through the inception of the Hoplite army, the concept of equality (regardless of rank, title, or occupation) became a more palatable notion and thus eventually was incorporated into the Greek culture and later into the political system.

Through the equality the Greek men experienced in the battlefield, the concept of citizenship was perhaps formulated and thus applied into the government.  Because of this, Greece enjoyed a new type of political organization that mainly focused on the upholding of equality within the populace.  Furthermore, with the onset of the Hoplite army, any man (noble or base) was given the chance to serve his country and thus instilled in him the idea of civic duty and the desire to serve his homeland.  Perhaps because of this, men may have realized their ability to serve politically regardless of their rank or occupation.  Such an idea may have then started the notion that it is not only the aristocrats who were capable of holding office, but also those who were competent and willing to serve if the public agreed on it.