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Army and Society: Homer to Alexander - 10 credits (HS4351)

Staff: Louis Rawlings

Warfare was part of the normal life for almost all ancient Greeks, and military developments often had the most profound political and social effects. This module examines the military, social, economic and cultural aspects of ancient Greek warfare, and focuses on changes in the modes of combat - from Homeric, to hoplite warfare, to the increasingly sophisticated integration of strategy, tactics, and of cavalry and infantry realised by Philip and Alexander.

Optional for: all Archaeology and Ancient History degrees
Availability: autumn semester in alternate years
Teaching: 10 lectures and 2 seminars
Assessment: one essay (40%) and one 1-hour examination (60%)

Syllabus content

  • the causes and goals of war and raiding
  • attitudes to war and peace: imperialism and anti-war sentiment
  • developments in the mechanics and mentality of pitched battle from Homer to Alexander
  • the development of naval and siege warfare
  • the economic impact of war : logistics; the effect of plunder and destruction
  • society, politics and war


To enable understanding of the changing nature of Greek warfare, the place of war in Greek society, and the nature of literary, documentary, archaeological and iconographic evidence pertaining to warfare in Greece.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will demonstrate:

  • knowledge of the evidence for practices and perceptions of Greek warfare;
  • an ability to attempt a critical assessment of such evidence;
  • an understanding of the main causes and consequences of military change, and the role of war in Greek society, as well as the causes and goals of Greek warfare;
  • an ability to discuss these issues in coursework and examinations with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.

Primary sources (to be bought)

M. M. Sage, Warfare in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook (1996)

Preliminary reading

V. Gabrielsen, Financing the Athenian Fleet (1994)
Y. Garlan, War in the Ancient World (1975)
V. D. Hanson, The Western Way of War (2nd edition, 2000)
V. D. Hanson (ed.), Hoplites (1991)
V. D. Hanson, Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (2nd edition, 1998)
W. K. Pritchett, The Greek State at War, volumes I–V (1974–1990)
L. Rawlings, The Ancient Greeks at War (2007)
J. Rich and G. Shipley (eds.), War and Society in the Greek World (1993)
P. Sabin, H. van Wees and M. Whitby, The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare, Volume 1 (2007)
A. M. Snodgrass, Arms and Armour of the Greeks (2nd edition, 1998)
H. van Wees, 'Homeric Warfare', in A New Companion to Homer, ed. I. Morris and B. Powell (1997), 668–693
H. van Wees (ed.), War and Violence in Ancient Greece (2000), various articles
H. van Wees, Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities (2004)

Related modules

Prerequisites: HS2102 Archaeology of the Greek and Roman World or HS3101 Introduction to Ancient Greek History

Other modules to consider taking in conjunction with this one:

HS3314 Expansion and Conflict in the Greek Poleis

HS3315 Kingdoms, Cities and Hellenization

HS3330 Gods and the Polis

HS4367 The Roman Army