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Hoplite Warfare Communal Excellences of the Warrior “All are involved ceaselessly in a lifelong war against all states.” (Plato, Laws, 625e)

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Presentation on theme: "Hoplite Warfare Communal Excellences of the Warrior “All are involved ceaselessly in a lifelong war against all states.” (Plato, Laws, 625e)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Hoplite Warfare Communal Excellences of the Warrior “All are involved ceaselessly in a lifelong war against all states.” (Plato, Laws, 625e)

2 I would not say anything for a man nor take account of him For any speed of his feet or wrestling skill he might have, Not if he had the size of a Cyclops and strength to go with it, Not if he could outrun Boreas, the North Wind of Thrace, Not if he were more handsome and gracefully formed than Tithonos, Or had more riches than Midas had, or Kinyras too, Not if he were more of a king than Tantalid Pelops, Or had the power of speech and persuasion Adrastos had, Not if he had all splendors except for a fighting spirit. For no man ever proves himself a good man in war Unless he can endure to face the blood and the slaughter, Go close against the enemy and fight with his hands. Here is courage, mankind's finest possession, here is The noblest prize that a young man can endeavor to win, And it is a good thing his city and all the people share with him When a man plants his feet and stands in the foremost spears Relentlessly, all thought of foul flight completely forgotten, And has well trained his heart to be steadfast and to endure, And with words encourages the man who is stationed beside him. Tyrtaeus, Spartan Poet, Seventh Century BCE

3 For they who were the chosen bravest Awaited the Trojans and noble Hektor, fencing spear with Spear, and shield with serried shield; shield pressed on Shield, helmet on helmet, and man on man; and the horse- Hair crests on the bright helmet ridges touched each other As the men moved their heads, in such close array stood They by one another, and spears in bold hands overlapped Each other as they were brandished, and their minds Swerved not, but they were eager to fight. Homer, Iliad

4 Hoplite Warfare: the Basics  Hoplon (“tool,” “weapon,” “shield”)  Hoplite soldier’s equipment: helmet, shield (bronze), spear (nine feet long), short iron sword, shin-guards or greaves (bronze), breastplate (cuirass), weighing about sixty pounds  Citizens of poleis possessing enough wealth to equip themselves with full personal armor (in Athens, the zeugitae of Solon’s property classes)  Phalanx: Formation of hoplites (at least four men deep), marches to paean, flutes, drums providing cadence, breaks into run and attempts to hold formation before collision.  Position of Honor and Phenomenon of Right-Drift

5 “Corinthian” Hoplite Helmets (ca. 600 BCE)

6 Hoplite Breastplate, Greaves (Leg-Guards), and Shield

7 Hoplite Panoply

8 Spartan Figurines of Hoplite Warriors Memorial to King Leonidas (?)

9 Macedonian Phalanx (Fourth Century BCE)

10 From this it is easy to imagine the likely nature and force of the whole phalanx as it advances to charge, sixteen deep. The soldiers behind the fifth rank are unable to take part in the fighting with their lances, and therefore do not lower them man against man, but carry them over the shoulders of the ranks in front, to protect the formation from above, repelling with the massed lances any missiles that fly over the front ranks and could fall on those behind. As they advance, they press on those in front with the sheer weight of their bodies, adding force to the charge, and making it impossible for the first rank to face about. Polybius, Histories 18.30

11 Imagining the Experience: Terror and Religious Awe in the Hoplite Encounter  Ritual Preparations: Taking the Omens (Hepatoscopy); Delays  Rhythmic Marching (trance-like state of march, drums, flutes, shield clashing, battle song)  War Cry (see, for example, Xenophon, Anabasis, )  Sacrifices during Battle (see, for example, Herodotus, Histories, )  Mitigating the Terror: Alcohol (see, for example, Xenophon, Hellenica, )  Charge and Defecation (see, for example, Plutarch, Life of Aratus, 29.5)  Altered States of Consciousness: Supernatural Interventions (see, for example, Herodotus, Histories, 6.117)

12 “To a much greater extent than modern warfare, every phalanx battle was the decisive action—a sudden one-shot do-or-die experience that each man in the ranks had to confront without psychic preparation.” Victor Davis Hanson, The Western Way of War

13 Hoplites Engage (Video Game)

14 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 5.70 And after this battle was joined. The Argives and their allies for their part went forward eagerly and wildly, but the Spartans slowly and in time to the many flute-players who were at their side--not out of any religious custom, but rather so that they might march evenly and their order might not disintegrate—a thing which large numbers are prone to do as they march forward to battle.

15 Hoplites and Flutist

16 Herodotus, Histories, An Athenian, Epizelus, son of Cuphagoras, who was in the thick of the fighting, and fighting bravely himself, lost the sight of his eyes. He was not struck on any part of his body or hit by a missile, but he continued blind from that day, all the rest of his life. But I heard that he told the story of the matter like this: that he saw confronting him a huge man-at-arms whose beard covered all his shield. This ghostly spirit passed by Epizelus himself but killed his comrade beside him. That is what I understood Epizelus to have said.

17 Ares Enyalius (God of Bloody War)  “In Sparta they immolate puppies to the bloodiest of the gods, [Ares] Enyalius.” (Plutarch, Moralia, 290-d)  “Before the fighting [the Spartans] sacrifice in the Phoebaeum [“Place of Fear”], which is outside the city, not far distant from Therapnē. Here each company of youths sacrifices a puppy to [Ares] Enyalius, holding that the most valiant of the tame animals is an acceptable victim to the most valiant of the gods.” (Pausanias, )

18 Battlefield Epiphany: Marathon In after times…the Athenians were moved to honor Theseus as a demigod, especially by the fact that many of those who fought at Marathon against the Persians thought they saw an apparition of Theseus in arms rushing on in front of them against the barbarians. (Plutarch, Theseus, 35)

19 Naval Battle Epiphany: Salamis It is said, too, that a phantom of a woman appeared and shouted her commands loud enough for all the Greek camp to hear, taunting them first with the words, “You crazy Greeks, how long will you continue backing water?.” (Herodotus, Histories, 8.84)

20 Hoplite Battle and Greek Culture Ritual and Rules of the Battlefield

21 Owl-Hoplite (Athens): Army as Polis

22 In war the occasions and places of action are infinite, while there is only one occasion and one kind of ground on which the phalanx can do its job. If anything forced the enemy to accept the times and places suited to the phalanx when they were about to fight a decisive battle, those who employed the phalanx would naturally always carry off the prize, according to what I have just said. But if the enemy can easily evade the phalanx, how can that formation still be formidable? It is acknowledged that a phalanx requires flat, open country, without such impediments as ditches, ravines, hollows, cliffs, or riverbeds, all of which are sufficient to hinder it and break it up. Everyone would also agree that it is practically impossible, or at least very rare, to find an expanse of two- and-a-quarter miles or more with no such obstacle. But let us grant that it has been found. If the enemy does not descend into it, but goes about sacking the towns and territories of our allies, how will the phalanx help us? If it remains on the ground that suits it, it will not only fail to help its friends, but will not even be able to save itself, for the enemy will easily cut off its supplies, since they control the open country. But if it leaves its proper ground to take some action, it will be an easy prey to the enemy. Polybius, Histories 18.31

23 Hoplite Battle as “Civilized” Agon  Hoplites as Homoioi of the Polis: Fosters notions of political egalitarianism (of adult male citizens of the requisite property class)  Wars suspended in religious truces (Olympic Games)  Warfare accommodates agricultural calendar  Warfare restricted to circumscribed, if horrifically brutal, encounters of short duration  Symbolic, not total, victory (tropaion)

24 Arming of Hoplite with Divine Observance (Athena)

25 A Hoplite’s Departure

26 Victor Davis Hanson, The Western Way of War “That the Greeks relegated horsemen, archers, and light-armed missile troops to a minor role in the fighting clearly indicates that for the first time in the history of armed conflict, their value was only incidental, rather than essential, to the warfare, which was exclusively infantry battle. Maneuver and the application of overwhelming force against a weaker opponent were also not welcome, since battle was ‘by convention,’ a reciprocal agreement on both sides to draw everyone down from the hills and out from the walls to confront each other in a battle that would result in a decisive victory. If it spelled certain death for hundreds involved, at least the intent was to limit, rather than glorify, war, and thereby save rather than destroy lives.”

27 Carrying the Fallen

28 Polyaenus, Strategemata, 1.17 Spartan hoplites inscribed their names on their shields “so that when it came to time to collect their dead they might be known to their friends.”

29 Victor Davis Hanson, The Western Way of War The hoplite class of the Greek classical age chose to ignore the bow and the javelin in preference for the spear and massive bronze armor in a desire to eliminate entirely the critical ‘distance’ that elsewhere traditionally separated men in battle. They alone introduced to us a novel type of frontal attack, where warriors of like class sought to eye each other at close range as they killed and died….Battle was seen only as the domain of those men who actually experienced the carnage of spear and sword thrust, and these had no desire to make anything else out of it than the acknowledgment of unavoidable and necessary killing. No wonder theirs was a type of warfare which the poet Pindar called “a sweet thing to him who does not know it, but to him who has made trial of it, it is a thing of fear.” (Fragment 110)


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