A Storm of Spears (Hardback)
Understanding the Greek Hoplite in Action
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The backbone of classical Greek armies was the phalanx of heavily armoured spearmen, or hoplites. These were the soldiers that defied the might of Persia at Marathon, Thermopylae and Plataea and, more often, fought each other in the countless battles of the Greek city-states. For around two centuries they were the dominant soldiers of the Classical world, in great demand as mercenaries throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Yet, despite the battle descriptions of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon etc, and copious evidence of Greek art and archaeology, there are still many aspects of hoplite warfare that are little understood or the subject of fierce academic debate.
Christopher Matthew's groundbreaking reassessment combines rigorous analysis of the literary and archaeological evidence with the new disciplines of reconstructive archaeology, re-enactment and ballistic science. He focuses meticulously on the details of the equipment, tactics and capabilities of the individual hoplites. In so doing he challenges some long-established assumptions. For example, despite a couple of centuries of study of the hoplites portrayed in Greek vase paintings, Matthew manages to glean from them some startlingly fresh insights into how hoplites wielded their spears. These findings are supported by practical testing with his own replica hoplite panoply and the experiences of a group of dedicated re-enactors. He also tackles such questions as the protective properties of hoplite shields and armour and the much-vexed debate on the exact nature of the 'othismos' , the climax of phalanx-on-phalanx clashes.
This is an innovative and refreshing reassessment of one of the most important kinds of troops in ancient warfare, sure to make a genuine contribution to the state of knowledge.
The author has taken a fresh look at old evidence of ancient Greek writers and artists and coupled that with modern research, primarily in the form of re-enactors who put on the panopy, (or armor) and the weapons – in this case, the thrusting spear of the Greek soldiers – and tests his theories of methods and tactics. In the process, some interesting and groundbreaking developments emerge that shed light on just what the ancient writers meant. This is a serious work of intellectual pursuit. I learned a lot from this book and watching movies like 300 or looking at Greek warrior vase art will never be quite the same.IPMS
Matthew's work represents an intriguing and original treatment of this subject, supported by a critical evaluation of both models of hoplite warfare. Matthew draws extensively upon comtemporary sources. Familiar authorities such as Xenophon and Thucydides are evaluated along with the plays of Aeschylus, all of which is supplemented with a discussion of pictorial sources and the results of modern archaeology and re-enactment. Matthew's conclusions are well-reasoned and interesting.Ancient Warfare
Richard Evans revisits the sites of a selection of Greek and Roman battles and sieges to seek new insights. The battle narratives in ancient sources can be a thrilling read and form the basis of our knowledge of these epic events, but they can just as often provide an incomplete or obscure record. Details, especially those related to topographical and geographical issues which can have a fundamental importance to military actions, are left tantalisingly unclear to the modern reader. The evidence from archaeological excavation work can sometimes fill in a gap in our understanding, but such an approach…By Richard Evans
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