This book provides an overview of the military history of the Ancient Greeks, covering the entire period from the appearance of the Minoans and Mycenaeans to the eventual fall of the Hellenistic kingdoms to the rising power of Rome. This is a vast time period, covering almost two and a half thousand years, although most of the text covers the last few hundred years, from the start of the Persian Wars to the Roman conquests.
Although the scope of the book means that there isn’t too much space for each period, the story hasn’t been overly simplified. Elliott’s research is also up-to-date, so we get the view of the changing nature of warfare in the late Classical and early Hellenistic periods, with details on the development of lighter but more flexible troops under Iphicrates or the changes in the nature of Macedonian armies from the time of Philip II to the wars of the Successors. The Hellenistic period gets most of the space, with a chapter each for Philip II and Alexander the Great and one on the wars of the Successors and the rise of Rome.
We finish with a useful chapter that focuses on the military systems of the Classical and Hellenistic Greeks, bringing together all of the debate over the nature of the phalanx, the types of troops available over time and who may have been responsible for the reforms that turned the Macedonian army into the most powerful in Greece. This approach works well, allowing this more technical discussion to be had without distracting from the earlier narratives, and giving a clearer idea of how Greek armies changed over time.
Overall this is a useful overview of the current state of knowledge of Ancient Greek warfare, which was a much more complex affair than earlier accounts would have one believe.
1 – Minoans, Mycenaeans and the Sea Peoples
2 – Classical Greece
3 – Philip II and the Kingdom of Macedon
4 – The Age of Alexander
5 – The Hellenistic Age and the Rise of Rome
6 – The Military Systems of Classical and Hellenistic Greece
Author: Simon Elliott