It seems our fascination with the Hoplites, Spartans and other elite fighting forces of the Classical Age will never end, as plenty of books, movies and even videogames can attest. If today’s Kindle Deal of the Day book, The Trojan War: A New History, has piqued your interest in this fascinating period of conflict, here are a few more books about the time period that laid the foundation for modern civilization—and warfare.
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.
In this sumptuous guide to twelve centuries of military development, Peter Connolly combines a detailed account of the arms and armies of Greece and Rome with his superb full-color artwork. Making use of fresh archeological evidence and new material on the manufacture and use of the weapons of the period, the author presents an attractive and impressive volume that is both scholarly and beautifully presented with illustrations that are, quite rightly, recognized as being the best and most accurate representation of how the soldiers from these formidable military empires appeared.
Greece and Rome at War lucidly demonstrates the face of battle in the ancient world. Covering the wars between the Greeks and the Persians and the epic contest between the Romans and their most capable opponent, Hannibal, as well as organization, tactics, armor and weapons, and much more, this excellent work brings the armies of Greece, Macedon and Rome vividly to life. This new revised edition contains a Preface by Adrian Goldsworthy.
A history of the wars between Byzantium and its numerous foes – the Goths, Arabs, Slavs, Crusaders and Ottoman Turks.
By the middle of the sixth century the Byzantine emperor rules a mighty empire that straddled Europe, Asia and North Africa. Within 100 years, this powerful empire had been cut in half. Two centuries later the Byzantine empire was once again a power to be reckoned with, and soon recovered its position as the paramount East Mediterranean and Balkan power, whose fabulour wealth attracted Viking mercenaries and central Asian nomad warriors to its armies, whose very appearance on the field of battle was sometimes enough to bring enemies to terms.
No book has ever attempted a survey of Byzantine wars, and few accounts of Byzantine battles have ever been translated into a modern language. This book will provide essential support for those interested in Byzantine history in general as well as a useful corrective to the more usual highly romanticised views of Byzantine civilisation.
During the eighth century BC, Sparta became one of the leading cities of ancient Greece, conquering the southern Peloponnese, and from the mid-sixth century BC until the mid-fourth, Sparta became a military power of recognized importance. For almost two centuries the massed Spartan army remained unbeaten in the field. Spartan officers also commanded with great success armies of mercenaries or coalition allies, as well as fleets of war galleys.
Although it is the stand of the Three Hundred at Thermopylae that has earned Sparta undying fame, it was her victories over both Persian invaders and the armies and navies of Greek rivals that upheld her position of leadership in Greece. Even a steady decline in Spartiate numbers, aggravated by a terrible earthquake in 464 BC, failed to end Spartan dominance. Only when the Thebans learned how to defeat the massed Spartan army in pitched battle was Sparta toppled from her position of primacy.
Scott Rusch examines what is known of the history of Sparta, from the settlement of the city to her defeat at Theban hands, focusing upon military campaigns and the strategic circumstances that drove them. Rusch offers fresh perspectives on important questions of Spartan history, and illuminate some of antiquity’s most notable campaigns.
In AD 453 Attila, with a huge force composed of Huns, allies and vassals drawn from his already-vast empire, was rampaging westward across Gaul (essentially modern France), then still nominally part of the Western Roman Empire.
Laying siege to Orleans, he was only a few days march from extending his empire from the Eurasian steppe to the Atlantic.
He was brought to battle on the Cataluanian Plain and defeated by a coalition hastily assembled and led by Aetius.
Who was this man that saved Western Europe from the Hunnic yoke?
While Attila is a household name, his nemesis remains relatively obscure.
A military history of the campaigns of Belisarius, the greatest general of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian. He twice defeated the Persians and reconquered North Africa from the Vandals in a single year at the age of 29, before going on to regain Spain and Italy, including Rome (briefly), from the barbarians.
It discusses the evolution from classical Roman to Byzantine armies and systems of warfare, as well as those of their chief enemies, the Persians, Goths and Vandals.
It reassesses Belisarius’ generalship and compares him with the likes of Caesar, Alexander and Hannibal.
It is illustrated with line drawings and battle plans as well as photographs.
Marcellus’ military exploits were largely unmatched by any other aristocrat of Roman Middle Republic. As a young soldier in the First Punic War, he won a reputation for his skill in single combat. In his first consulship, he earned a triumph for defeating a Gallic tribe, no small feat in and of itself, and also slew the Gallic chieftain Britomartus in single combat. Consequently, he earned the spolia opima, an honor, according to Roman antiquarians, which had only been earned twice before, once by Romulus himself. He went on to defeat the hitherto-invincible Hannibal in a small battle around the central Italian city of Nola, and subsequently led an army to subdue and plunder the powerful city of Syracuse in an epic 2 year siege (despite the ingenious defensive measures of the inventor Archimedes). Yet, despite his undeniable success as a warrior and commander, Marcellus met with considerable political opposition at Rome.
Marcellus’ career not only makes exciting reading, but gives an excellent vantage point from which to view the military and political struggles of the period and the role of military successes in the aristocratic culture of the Roman Republic. His biography will be an important addition to existing works on Roman military history.