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The Wars Of The Ancient Greeks (CASSELL'S HISTORY OF WARFARE) Paperback – 13 Dec 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (13 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304359823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304359820
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.1 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,137,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

The history of warfare in Ancient Greece: the foundation of ¿the western way of war¿

About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Classics at California State University. His particular interest is in the military history of the Greek city-states, and his books have revolutionized the study of the subject. Victor Davis Hanson lives in Selma, California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Squirr-el TOP 50 REVIEWER on 20 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The full title of this book is `The Wars of the Ancient Greeks and their Invention of Western Military Culture', a theme that the author has been preaching since his first book - The Western Way of War in 1990.

The Contents are
P017: Introduction - The Greek Military Legacy
P030: Early Greek Fighting (1400-750) - The collapse of Mycenaean Greece; plundering and raiding in the Greek Dark Ages; The Homeric battlefield.
P048: The Rise of the City-State and the Invention of Western Warfare (750-490) - The coming of the hoplite; the agrarian duels; the emergence of Athenian and Spartan military power.
P082: The Great Wars (490-362) - The defence of Greece; The Peloponnesian War; an army to remember.
P136: The Second Military Revolution (362-336) - Philip of Macedon and the reinvention of Greek warfare; war as a specialized science.
P166: Alexander the Great and the Creation of Hellenistic Warfare (335-146) - marching through Asia; total war; the Successors, the coming of Rome, and the collapse of Greek warfare.
P204: Conclusion - The Hellenistic Legacy
P208: Glossary, Further Reading, Statistics, Index
18 maps, mostly 2-pagers

From the Introduction - "The military mastery of the Greeks can be summarized broadly by eight general military customs and beliefs which are unique to the Hellenic and indeed later European tradition, and which remain thematic throughout the four-century life of the city-state (700-300):
1. Advanced technology
2. Superior discipline
3. Ingenuity in response
4. The creation of a broad, shared military observance among the majority of the population
5. Choice of decisive engagement
6. Dominance of infantry
7. A systematic application of capital to warmaking
Read more ›
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By on 30 Mar. 2001
Format: Hardcover
A superb well-illustrated and comprehensive history of the Ancient Greek states from the earliest times to the Hellenic period . The informative maps and illustrations of battle tactics are particularly interesting. A well constructed and valuable addition to any Ancient History collection.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Aug. 2002
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is completely wrong. It should be How Warfare effected the Society of the Ancient Greeks. Although a few battles are described in a little detail the main content of the text details the effect the wars and warfare had on the political and social structures of the various greek city-states. If you want information on the individual battles and wars look elsewere.
My other gripes with this book are the illustrations. Although quiet good it would be more helpful if they were anywhere near the text that refers to them. Some illustrations are pages before they are mentioned and others are several pages later. The author also has a rant at the end of the book with regards to Alexander the Great. He spends pages putting his argument that Alexander should be compared to Hitler than actually telling us about his great campaign across Persia.
I was very disappointed with this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Great book, great new format 5 Jun. 2002
By Susan Paxton - Published on
Format: Paperback
The series of Cassell's History of Warfare, edited by John Keegan, started coming out a couple of years ago in an oversized hardback format encrusted with graphics and large type in the style of the age. Thank God that Cassell has reissued Victor Davis Hanson's excellent contribution in this new compact trade paperback format. Most of the illustrations are gone, the remaining ones are well chosen, and compared with the hardback version I believe that all of the maps have been retained. In addition, the book is really well bound and promises to hold up.
Hanson, for those who somehow have missed him until now, is a professor of Classics at California State and also is a part time farmer, both of which have contributed to his writing as a military historian. As a classicist, Hanson is well versed in the sources in their original Greek, and as a farmer he understands how agriculture affected the experience of the Greeks at war. For it was the farmers of the early Greek polis who developed modern western warfare. Unlike other cultures, the Greek farmers couldn't afford to support professional armies or hire mercenaries, and they couldn't spend a great deal of time away from their farms campaigning. The Greek way of war was to gather up the militia, which comprised all the able bodied men of property who could afford the armor and equipment of a hoplite, march out to a convenient flat field to meet the men of the polis they were warring with, and in a matter of hours, get it over with in quick, brutal, decisive battle. Expounded at greater length in Hanson's ground-breaking "The Western Way of War," Greek battle is covered well here, from its earliest heroic developments in the Bronze Age, through the classic Greek era of the democratic polis, the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars, and finishing with Alexander, the misnamed "Great." Important battles, including Marathon, Plataea, Delium and Gaugamela, are covered in depth.
Anyone interested in the ancient Greeks owes it to themselves to read this and, if possible, "The Western Way of War." It is utterly impossible to properly understand Hellenic culture without understanding how and why they fought. I recall with some hilarity the introduction to a book of poems by a well-known feminist writer who proclaimed that America must choose to be either Sparta or Athens, her obvious thesis being "Sparta - Warlike! Bad! Athens - Peaceful and Artistic! Good!" It's not that simple. Sparta admittedly was fascist, but pretty much stayed at home oppressing the helots, while Athens became a predatory imperialist democracy, bringing tragedy on itself and the Greeks in the process. It's also important to remember, as Hanson points out, that the great artists, writers, and philosphers were warriors at need. It may be hard to imagine Socrates or Aeschylus in the bronze panoply of a hoplite, but it happened.
This book is a great value in this format and at this price. It needs to be in the collection of anyone interested in military and/or classical history. And here's hoping that Cassell releases the rest of this series in this format!
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Overview 1 Dec. 2000
By R. Albin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent summary of Victor Davis Hanson's views on Greek warfare presented in the format of a coffeetable-style book. This volume is superior to most books of this type because Davis Hanson's analysis is really a social history of Greek warfare, not the usual compendium of battles, campaigns, and military technology. Davis Hanson does a very nice job of presenting the historical development of Greek warfare from the emergence of citizen hoplite militias associated with the classical polis to the large standing armies associated with large Hellenistic states. For Davis Hanson, Greek military history is a key feature of classical history. The hoplite militia and hoplite battles are the ultimate expression of the relative egalitarianism and solidarity of the polis. Changes in military technology become semi-independent forces in classical history and an important aspect of the development of the polis and its replacement by authoritarian Hellenistic states. This book is a clear digest of Davis Hanson's very interesting views of classical history. His analysis is bold and largely convincing. One area, however, where I think he is on shaky ground is his assertion that the Greeks invented heavy infantry combat and set the pattern for Western warfare. He asserts further that this is distinctive feature of Western culture. While it is true that military innovators of the early modern period did draw on classical models, it is much more likely that the development of assault infantry in early modern Europe is re-invention, as opposed to re-discovery. Similarly, heavy infantry assault was independently developed by disparate non-Western societies such as the Zulus and the medieval Japanese. I think Davis Hanson has identified something that is characteristically human, as opposed to characteristically Western.
39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Too much of a stretch! 11 Nov. 2003
By Sailoil - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book examines the development of war in ancient Greece through the dark ages after the collapse of Mycenean civilization and through the Classical period, Hellenic Period and up to the conquest of Greece by Roman Legions.
First of all it is important to be aware that the author assumes the readers knowledge of primary texts of the era. He refers frequently to books such as Herodotous Histories, Thucydides Peloponnesian war, Xenophon's Anabasis and the works of Plutarch, Arrian, Polybius and Xeno amongst others.
Victor Davis Hanson believes that the way we fight today is a direct descendant of the Greek method of fighting. He contends that the successes of the Greeks against Persian armies dictated the development of war down to the present day.
This is a huge contention and one that I believe he fails to support. He speaks at length about the "Western way of war" without establishing how this differed significantly from other military systems. His contention that it was only in Greece that shock battle developed is flawed. Shaka, king of the Zulu nation, independently developed shock battle tactics, and he can be only one of many who came to the same end result from different starting points.
At times I felt that Hanson was trying to be sensationalist in making contentious statements that are ill supported by argument. Some examples of this tendancy are the following brave assertions!:
"The great Chinese military strategist Sun-tzu is sometimes cryptic, often mystical, and always part of some larger religious paradigm."
"Too many scholars like to compare Alexander to Hannibal or Napoleon. A far better match would be Hitler...."
"[The Hellenic Siege engine] was impractical gigantism on a magnitude comparable to the contemporary B-2 American bomber...."
However, in the end of the day what this book does give the reader is a well detailed account of some of the most important battles of the classical Greek and Alexandrian campaigns. Hanson focused primarily on infantry actions and comments little upon the naval engagements. But his analysis of battles involving heavy infantry phalanxes is detailed, interesting and enlightening. The illustrations of key battles serve as a useful visual guide to walk the reader through the events in sequence. And good use is made of contemporary illustrations from vase painting and sculpture to support the analysis.
A useful read for those with an interest in military history who want to concentrate on battles and the tactics involved.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good reference for Ancient Greek and Western Art of War 13 July 2000
By Pear Choo Hiang - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Professor Victor Davis Hanson has written a broad but vivid account of the Ancient Greek Military Legacy, covering a millennium of warfare from the development of the city-states, to the Persian War; from the Peloponnesian War to the late Hellenistic states; to the coming of Rome. It has good and unique insights of Greek Military development right from Mycenaean Greece to the Revolution of Philip II of Macedon.
Weaponry, body-armor, field tactics and the unique Greek (Western) cultural background were discussed along the way to chart the course of this military development. Tracing the evolution of Greek fighting from Homeric times, where military confrontation was still a matter of raiding and plundering (also a possible reference to the Trojan conflict?), the many huge Mycenaean palaces were seen as a defensive dead-end strategy. After the dark ages, Hanson gave detail foundation for the coming of the Hoplite, mainly the agrarian duels between small `polis' settlements driven by it's many political and cultural dimensions. Arguments and reasons for the rise of the Hoplite is put forward and these are provoking and should be of interest to any military enthusiast. Description of the Hoplite battle formation and fighting are thoughtful and full of insights. Warfare as an integral part of Greek lifestyle is skillfully pictured with mentions of famous names like Sophocles, Socrates to Aeschylus who at one time or another fought as a Hoplite. There is even a list of clearly `defined rules" of fighting presented which is a pleasure to read.
Hoplite technology and thereby the Western mode of warfare finally came of age with the emergence of Athenian and Spartan military power, especially seen in the successful defense of Greece against the Persian invaders. Unfortunately, this soon cumulated into the disastrous Peloponnesian War and gave birth to the new concept of `total warfare' - warfare that is singularly decisive, destructive and overwhelming in death toll and the scale of participant's resource. The second evolution is that of the Macedonian phalanxes, refined by Philip and Alexander into an all-conquering army. Not too much new material is given here as many of the battles and details are well known but the graphics are well illustrated and clear. Yet for all the smooth flowing of this book, there are lacks. The development of warfare in other city-states like Thebes and the late Hellenistic kingdoms are not given enough attention. Naval warfare tactics featured little in this book as seen in the battle of Marathon and Plataea being well illustrated and discussed but not the sea battle of Salamis. The end conclusion of Greek warfare in relation to Western military cultural is engaging but too short thereby needing further elaboration. Still, it's an excellent reference of Ancient Greek warfare given the extensiveness of the scope.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Origins of Western Art of War. 4 Oct. 2003
By Roger Kennedy - Published on
Format: Paperback
This handsomely produced book is lavish with illustrations and diagrams. Pictures of Greek panoply and other weapons, as well as diagrams of phalanx warfare all contribute to a vivid portrayal of ancient and classical Greek warfare. Victor Davis Hanson is in usual form here providing a convincing over-view of Greek Hoplite warfare, while re-stating many of his controversial opinions that have appeared in his other books.
VDH believes Greek Hopilte warfare to be the natural evolution of the free Greek city-states. Other contemporary cultures were primarily dynastic and centralized, while Greece developed into 1,000 independent Political entities. Geography and climate clearly played some part in this development, but it was also the unique outlook and desire of the Greeks themselves to resolve warfare quickly and decisively. VDH provides his usual pro-Occidental outlook in comparing Greco-Western martial developments to their less effective Eastern and Asian counter-parts. Again, many Liberal and Politically-Correct minded persons might take offensive here, and pehaps there are holes in some of these arguments. Still, one can't help but admire VDH's bold and controversial statements. Unlike so many today he is not affraid to make harsh judgements which are quite down-to-earth, but often not very subtle!
VDH has particular wrath to vent toward the conquests of Alexander whom he credits with ushering in an era of warring Hellanistic dynasties that would utilize resources from the conquered Persian empire to wage total war that was unknown to the earlier Greek Polis state. VDH considers Alexander a drunkard and thug! Pretty strong language to describe one of the universial Western images of classical times. Perhaps Alexander's army was brutal in conquest, but probably no more than any other great empire. VDH's obsession with making him out to be Hitler in Antiquity seems a bit odd and threatens to unbalance his narrative at times. We can deffinitely see that VDH has an aggenda here, to downgrade Alexander as a Western icon of Hellenistic culture. True, the Romans probably did make him into the larger than life conquerer that we know today. Still, with the steady development of Greek warfare it's difficult to imagine that someone sooner or later would not have become a conquering Alexander. VDH seems to mourn the loss of the tradtioanl culture of Hoplite warfare, that well ordered slaughter between neighboring city-states, but its development into an imperial system was bound to take shape sooner or later. Otherwise the Greeks themselves would have become victem to eventual conquest by an outside empire, as was the case later with the Romans.
If you don't mind VDH's tirades against Alexander, then this is still a most excellent work with great illustrations and diagrams which help to bring a vivid impression to life of warfare in ancient and classical Greece. The book does make you want to read more, including the primary works of the period.
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