Warfare and Society in the Ancient Greek World Aims and objectives of the module

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Warfare and Society in the Ancient Greek World

Aims and objectives of the module

This is a module about war and peace in the Greek world from Homer to the dawn of the Roman empire.

It aims to give a full-scale narrative about the history of warfare in ancient Greece – how battles were fought, how they were won, how they were lost – but also about how war and peace had an impact on society and culture from the archaic age to the Hellenistic age: the heroic ethos, the citizen ethos, peace and prosperity, the blood-stained hero, etc.

Moving from an analysis of the relevant literary and material evidence – from the Iliad to the comedies of Aristophanes, from the Parthenon frieze to the Mausoleum of Pergamum – students will be encouraged to debate the shifting perceptions of war trough Greek history and of the role of soldiers within the political community.

Assessment method: 50% assessed, 50% examined

There is one two-hour weekly lecture session, punctuated by a 10-minute break: Fridays 10-12 p.m., Room PS1.28. The lectures will present primary sources (texts and artefacts), providing guidance in assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses as historical evidence, and will highlight some of the main areas of debate.

The group will be divided into smaller groups for three seminars in each of the first two terms in weeks 4, 7, 10. Students will be asked to complete some preparatory reading, and come prepared to participate in informal discussion of the topics. Seminar worksheets will be distributed two weeks before each seminar.

Students are advised that attendance at every lecture and seminar is compulsory since the assessed essays and exam paper will draw upon the material covered in them. If you have to miss a lecture or seminar for some good reason, please let the lecturer and module convenor know in advance if possible, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Students are expected to do some consolidation work after each lecture, working from the weekly bibliographies. You should aim to read one general work, and then choose a couple of more specialized works.

Term I
Week 1

Lecture. Introduction: Thucydides’ Archaeology or the polis as an army
Week 2

Lecture. The world of the Homeric hero
Week 3

Lecture. The birth of the hoplite

Seminar. Were Homeric heroes patriotic?
Week 4

Lecture. Herodotus and the wars of archaic Greece
Week 5

Lecture. The Persian Wars and the development of Greek warfare
Week 6

Reading week
Week 7

Lecture. Thucydides and the Athenian empire

Seminar. Empire and tragedy

ESSAYS DUE- Wednesday 17th November, noon
Week 8

Lecture. Thucydides, Xenophon and the Archidamian war
Week 9

Lecture. The emerging powers of fourth-century Greece

Seminar. Aristophanes’ Knights
Week 10

Lecture. Alexander’s armies and Hellenistic warfare

Term II
Week 1

Return of essays
Week 2

Lecture. The nature and causes of war in the Greek world
Week 3

Lecture. Ideology and status of the polis’ army
Week 4

Lecture. The new identity of the Hellenistic soldier

Seminar. City and imperial armies
Week 5

Lecture. The use of mercenaries and its risks
Week 6

Reading week
Week 7

Lecture. The development of naval warfare

Seminar. Xenophon the mercenary leader

Week 8

Lecture. Greek and barbarian cavalries
Week 9

Lecture. Stories of cities under siege

Seminar. The so-called ‘democratic peace’
Week 10

Return of essays

Term III
Week 1

Lecture. Ancient and modern warfare
Week 2

Lecture. Military achievements and political propaganda
Week 3

Revision lecture


J.K. Anderson, Military Theory and Practice in the Age of Xenophon (Berkeley 1970)

P. Ducrey, Warfare in Ancient Greece (New York 1986)

Y. Garlan, War in the Ancient World: A Social History (London 1975)

V.D. Hanson (ed.), Hoplites : The Classical Greek Battle Experience (London 1991)

L. Rawlings, The Ancient Greeks at War (Manchester 2007)

J. Rich and G. Shipley (eds.), War and Society in the Greek World (London 1993)

P. Sabin, H. van Wees and M. Whitby, The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman

Warfare, Volume I, chapters 1-9 (Cambridge 2007)

H. van Wees, Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities (London 2004)

H. van Wees (ed.), War and Violence in Ancient Greece (London 2000)
Further general bibliography:

F. E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (Berkeley 1957)

M-C. Amouretti et al., Le regard des Grecs sur la guerre : mythes et réalités (Paris 2000)

T. Bekker-Nielsen and L. Hannestad (eds.), War as a Cultural and Social Force (Copenhagen 2001)

E. Bragg et al (eds.), Beyond the Battlefields: new perspectives on warfare and society in the Greco-Roman world (Oxford 2008)

P. Connolly, Greece and Rome at War (London 1981)

D. Dawson, The Origins of Western Warfare (Boulder/Oxford 1996)

A. Ferrill, The Origins of War (London 1985)

Y. Garlan, Guerre et économie en Grèce ancienne (Paris 1989)

V.D. Hanson, The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (1999)

S. Hodkinson and A. Powell (eds.), Sparta & War (Swansea 2006)

P. Krentz, ‘Warfare’, in A. Shapiro (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece (2006)

J. Lee, ‘Warfare in the classical age’, in K. Kinzl (ed.) A Companion to the Classical Greek World (Oxford 2006), 480-508

J.E. Lendon, Soldiers and Ghosts: a history of battle in classical antiquity (New Haven 2005)

A.B. Lloyd (ed.), Battle in Antiquity (London 1996)

W.K. Prichett, The Greek State at War, vols. I-V (Berkeley 1971-1990)

K. Raaflaub, War and Peace in the Ancient World (Oxford 2007)

K. Raaflaub and N. Rosenstein (eds.), War and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Asia, the Mediterranean, Europe and Mesoamerica (Washington 1999)

L. Rawlings, ‘Warfare’, in A. Erskine (ed.), A Companion to Ancient History (Oxford 2009)

A. Santosuosso, Soldiers, Citizens & The Symbols of War (Boulder/Oxford 1997)

H. Sidebottom, Ancient Warfare: a very short introduction (Oxford 2004)

H. Singor, ‘War and international relations’, in K. Raaflaub and H. van Wees (eds.), A Companion to Archaic Greece (Oxford/Malden 2009)

L. Tritle, From Melos to My Lai. War and Survival (London and New York 2000)

H. van Wees, ‘The city at war’, in R. Osborne (ed.) Classical Greece (Short Oxford History of Europe) (Oxford 2000)

H. van Wees, ‘War in archaic and classical Greece’, in P. de Souza (ed.), The Ancient World at War: a global history (2008), 100-117

J.P. Vernant, ‘City-State Warfare’, Myth and Society (London 1980), 19-445

J. Warry, Warfare in the Classical World (New York 1980)

E.L. Wheeler, The Armies of Classical Greece (Aldershot 2007)

Assessment for the module for all students is 50% for work submitted during the module and 50% for a 2-hour exam in the May/June session of examinations. Overlap should be avoided between pre-submitted essays and the questions answered in the exam. Lack of breadth may be penalised.

Students are required to pass both parts of the module, achieving a minimum of 40% on both the assessed work during the module and on the exam.

• The exam will be divided into two parts: students will be required to comment on two 'gobbets' (from a choice of six) – one text and one artefact - illustrative of different aspects of Roman culture and society; to write two essays (from a choice of seven titles).

• Students are required to produce TWO essays during the module (length 2,500 words, including footnotes, but excluding bibliography). The normal expected length for assessed essays is ‘c. 2,500 words’, which in practice means 2250-3000 words (including footnotes not including bibliography).  Students are required to declare a word count on the cover sheet.  Essays will be penalized for being too short and those who have written too much risk the end of the essay – e.g. your clever and sophisticated final paragraph - not being read at all.

Essays must include footnotes where appropriate, and a bibliography of works cited. They should be word-processed. Due attention should be given to literacy (both spelling and grammar). Titles and submission dates follow below. Please refer to the departmental handbook and the document ‘Advice on writing essays’ for further information about assessment criteria and marking.

General guidance on essay writing

  • Presentation: your essay should contain accurate use of English expression; you will be penalised for poor presentation, including poor grammar and spelling.

  • Clarity of analysis: your essay should be organised coherently on the basis of arguments; you will be penalised for work which is incoherent or which presents a mass of amorphous material.  The case the student is arguing should be clear to the assessor in every paragraph - don't fall automatically into a chronological arrangement of your material, or a line by line examination of a text, unless you are making a specific point, narrowly argued, about development or change over time.

  • Primary data: your essay should show thoughtful use of a wide range of ancient texts and other material; unsubstantiated arguments and opinions will be penalised. Unless you engage directly with primary evidence (texts, objects), you will not get a good mark.

  • Secondary material: your essay should isolate the main issues and debates in modern scholarship on the subject. You will be penalised for overdependence on a single unquestioned authority.

  • Originality and sophistication: your essay should demonstrate thoughtfulness, well-founded scepticism and original ideas which attempt to surpass the issues and debates found in modern discussions in order to take the argument in a new direction.

Submission of Essays

Essays/dissertations for submission should be signed into the departmental office and a cover sheet filled in before 12 noon on or before the date posted. Anonymity of marking is an adopted principle of the University for both assessed essays and examinations. By University regulation, late essays will attract a penalty of 5% (i.e. 5 marks) for each day they are late. 


The first essay should be submitted by 12 noon, Wednesday 17th November. You may not submit essays by email, but should hand them in to the departmental office.


Extensions to Essay Deadlines:

Applications for an extension of the essay-deadline are only allowed in exceptional circumstances – well-documented medical reasons etc.  Any such application should be made to the Head of Dept (Prof James Davidson) or Director of Undergraduate Studies (Dr Stanley Ireland) well before the deadline.  Problems with e.g. printers, getting hold of books, bunching-up of essay-deadlines etc. are rarely considered acceptable excuses.  When an extension is granted, students must ensure that the module tutor is informed and that the extension (with date limit) is recorded by the secretaries in the ledger in the Office. Only in exceptional circumstances will an extension be allowed beyond two weeks.


Essays should be returned to students within three working weeks or at the beginning of the following term. The marked copy of an assessed essay is retained by the Office.  Copies of cover sheets and other comments can be made available to students once marks have been finalized and recorded. Essays will be handed back individually, when there will be a chance to discuss them. It is essential that students attend these tutorials.


Plagiarism, defined as ‘the attempt to pass off someone else’s work as one’s own’ is a variety of cheating or fraud.  It is taken very seriously by the University and students who are caught can suffer penalties which are extremely detrimental to their career.  Fortunately plagiarism has not been a problem in our Department and we fully anticipate that this situation will continue.

To avoid any confusion however you should take special care with two things:

  • Cite the sources you are using

  • Use quotation marks for the quotes you are quoting.

Assessed Essay 1

Write an essay of approximately 2,500 words on ONE of the following subjects, to be handed in to the departmental office (Room 222-4) by 12 noon, Wednesday 17th November. Make sure that your essay is only identified by your university number from your library card, and that a cover sheet is attached. Please ensure that your pages are numbered, and that you state a word count. See dept handbook for further advice about writing and presenting essays. These particular essays will not be set as exam questions in the examination paper at the end of the module. Overlap should be avoided between your pre-submitted essays and the questions you answer in the exam.

Term I

  1. Is it possible to gain a coherent overall picture of how a battle works from the Iliad?

W. Donlan, ‘Chiefs and followers in pre-state Greece’, in id. The Aristocratic Ideal (1999) DF 78.D6

M.I. Finley, The World of Odysseus. Second edition (1977) PA 4037.F4

R. Fowler (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Homer (2004) PA 4037.C2

P. Greenhalgh, ‘Patriotism in the Homeric world’, Historia 21 (1972), 528-37

P. Greenhalgh, ‘The Homeric Therapon and Opaon’, BICS 29 (1982), 81-90

J. Griffin, Homer on Life and Death (1980) PA 4037.G7

G.S. Kirk (ed.), The Iliad: A Commentary. Vols. I-VI (1985-1993) PA 4037.K4  

I. Morris & B. Powell (eds.), A New Companion to Homer (1997) PA 4037.N3

J. Redfield, Nature and Culture in the Iliad (1975) PA 4037.R3

L. Tritle, ‘Hector’s body: mutilation of the dead in ancient Greece and Vietnam’, Ancient History Bulletin 11 (1997), 123-36; also Tritle 2000, 34-54

H. van Wees, ‘Leaders of men ? Army organization in the Iliad’, CQ 36 (1986), 285-303

H. van Wees, Status Warriors: war, violence ad society in Homer and history (1992) PA 4037.W3

H. van Wees, ‘Heroes, knights and nutters’, in Lloyd (ed.), Battle in antiquity (1996) 1996, 1-86 U 29.B2

M.M. Willcock, A Companion to the Iliad (1976) PA 4037.W4  

  1. How did Thucydides shape his account of archaic warfare, and why?

G. Cawkwell, Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War (1997) DF 229.T6

W.R. Connor, Thucydides (1984) PA 4461.C6

K.J. Dover, Thucydides (1973)

A. Gomme, et al. A Historical Commentary on Thucydides, Vols. I-V (1945-1981) PA 4461.G6

S. Hornblower, Thucydides (1987) DF 229.T6

S. Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides, Vols. I-III (1991-2009) PA 4461.H6

D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (1969) DF 229.2.K2

D. Kagan, The Archidamian War (1974) DF 229.3.K2

D. Kagan, The Peloponnesian War (2003) DF 229.K2

L. Kallet-Marx, Money, Expense and Naval Power in Thucydides (1993) DF 229.T6

J. Price, Thucydides and Internal War (2001) one copy ordered

J. de Romilly, Thucydides and Athenian Imperialism (1963) DF 229.T6

T. Rood, Thucydides: Narrative and Explanation (1998) DF 229.T6

  1. What information about Greek warfare can we extract from the lyric poets?

G. Ahlberg, Fighting on Land and Sea in Greek Geometric Art (Stockholm 1971)

H. Bowden, ‘Hoplites and Homer’, in Rich and Shipley (eds.) 1993, 45-63

J.E. Lendon, Soldiers and Ghosts: a history of battle in classical antiquity (New Haven and London 2005), 20-57 U 29.L3

W.K. Pritchett, The Greek State at War, Vol. IV (1985), 7-33  U 33.P7

K. Raaflaub and H. van Wees (eds.), A Companion to Archaic Greece (2009), ch. 9 DF 77.C6955

H. van Wees, ‘Kings in combat’, Classical Quarterly 38 (1988), 1-24

H. van Wees, ‘The development of the hoplite phalanx’, in H. van Wees (ed.) 2000, 125-66

E.L. Wheeler, ‘The general as hoplite’, in V.D. Hanson (ed.), 1991, 126-31

  1. What aspects of war receive particular attention from Thucydides? Are there any significant blind spots or omissions?

See bibliography for essay ii.

  1. How do Aeschylus and Herodotus differ in their presentation of Xerxes’ invasion?

D. Boedeker, ‘Heroic historiography: Simonides and Herodotus on Plataea’, in Boedeker and Sider (eds.), The New Simonides (2001), 120-34 PA 4411.N3

A. Burn, Persia and the Greeks: the defence of the West, c. 546-478 BC (1984) DF 225.B8

J. Dillery, ‘Reconfiguring the past: Thyrea, Thermopylae and narrative patterns in Herodotus’ American Journal of Philology 117 (1996), 217-54

M. Flower, ‘Simonides, Ephorus and Herodotus on the battle of Thermopylae’, Classical Quarterly 48 (1998), 365-79

E. Hall, ‘Asia unmanned’, in Rich and Shipley (eds.) 1993, 106-33

T. Harrison, The emptiness of Asia: Aeschylus’ Persians and the history of the fifth century (2000) PA 3825.P4

C. Pelling, ‘Aeschylus’ Persae and history’, in id. (ed.), Greek Tragedy and the Historian (1997), 1-19 PA 3131.G7

J. Wiesehöfer, ‘Greeks and Persians’, in K. Raaflaub and H. van Wees (eds.), A Companion to Archaic Greece (2009), ch. 9 DF 77.C6955

  1. What aspects of war receive particular attention from Thucydides?

See bibliography for essay ii.
Term II

  1. What does Anabasis tell us about equipment, organisation, discipline, logistics, pay, etc., of a mercenary army?

J.K. Anderson, Xenophon (1974) PA 4497.A6  

A. Dalby, ‘Greeks abroad: social organisation and food among the Ten Thousand’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 112 (1992), 16-30

J. Dillery, Xenophon and the history of his times (1995) PA 4497.D4

C. Grayson, ‘Did Xenophon intend to write history?’, in B. Levick (ed.), The Ancient Historian and His Materials (1975), 31-43 DE 8.L3

R. Lane Fox (ed.), The Long March: Xenophon and the ten thousand (2004) PA 4494.A7

J. Roy, ‘The mercenaries of Cyrus’, Historia 16 (1967), 287-323

N. Wood, ‘Xenophon’s theory of leadership’, Classica & Medievalia 25 (1964), 33-66.

  1. Why was the development of naval warfare so politically relevant?

L. Casson, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World (Princeton 1971) VM 16.C2

G. Cawkwell, ‘Persian and Greek naval warfare; the diekplous’, in id. The Greek Wars (2005), 221-32

V. Gabrielsen, Financing the Athenian Fleet (Baltimore 1994) DF 90.G2

V. Gabrielsen, ‘The naukrariai and the Athenian navy’, Classica &Medievalia 36 (1985), 21-51

C.J. Haas, ‘Athenian naval power before Themistokles’, Historia 34 (1985), 29-46

J. Lazenby, ‘Naval warfare of the ancient world’, International Historical Review 9 (1987), 438-55

A. Momigliano, ‘Sea power in Greek thought’, Classical Review 58 (1944), 1-7;

C. Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History (New York 1989) DE 66.S8

J.S. Morrison, J.F. Coates and B. Rankov, The Athenian Trireme. Second edition (Cambridge 2000) VM 16.M6

B. Strauss, ‘The Athenian trireme, school of democracy’, in Demokratia, eds. J. Ober & C. Hedrick (1996), 313-26

H. Wallinga, Ships and Sea Power Before the Great Persian War (Leiden 1993) VM 16.W2

  1. In what ways and why were ‘international prestige’ and ‘profit’ causes and goals of Greek wars?

F.E. Adcock & D.J. Mosley, Diplomacy in Ancient Greece (New York 1975) DF 82.A3

R.A. Bauslaugh, The Concept of Neutrality in Classical Greece (Berkeley 1991) DF 82.B2

G. Herman, Ritualized Friendship and the Greek City (Cambridge 1987) DF 78.H47

P. Karavites, ‘Greek Interstate Relations... in the Fifth Century BC’, Parola del Passato 39(1984), 161-92

A. Missiou, ‘Reciprocal generosity in the foreign affairs of fifth-century Athens and Sparta’, in C. Gill, N. Postlethwaite and R. Seaford (eds.), Reciprocity in Ancient Greece (Oxford 1998), 181-98 DF 78.R3

L. Mitchell, ‘Philia, Eunoia and Greek Interstate relations’, Antichthon 31 (1997), 28-44

L. Mitchell, Greeks Bearing Gifts (Oxford 1997) DF 78.M4

K. Raaflaub, ‘Politics and interstate relations in the world of early Greek poleis’, Antichthon 31 (1997), 1-27

R. Sealey, ‘Thucydides, Herodotus and the causes of war’, CQ 51 (1957), 1-12

  1. Why did the use of mercenary troops constitute a political liability?

H. Miller, ‘The practical and economic background to the Greek mercenary explosion’, Greece & Rome 31 (1984), 153-60

H.W. Parke, Greek Mercenary Soldiers (Oxford 1933) UB 148.P2

R.K. Sinclair, ‘The King’s Peace and the employment of military and naval forces, 387-78’, Chiron 8 (1978), 29-54

D. Whitehead, ‘Who equipped mercenary troops...?’, Historia 40 (1991), 105-113

  1. How significant were the military roles of non-hoplites in polis warfare?

G. Bugh, The Horsemen of Athens (Princeton 1988) DF 289.B8

L. Foxhall, ‘A view from the top’, in L. Mitchell and P. Rhodes (eds.), The Development of the Polis in Archaic Greece (London 1997), 129-31 DF 81.D3

P. Low, ‘Cavalry identity and democratic ideology’, PCPS 48 (2002), 102-22

J. McCamp, Horses and horsemanship in the Athenian Agora, Athens 1998. DF 287.A23

V. Rosivach, ‘Zeugitai and hoplites’, Ancient History Bulletin 16 (2002), 33-43

R. Sargent, ‘The use of slaves by the Athenians in warfare’, Classical Philology 22 (1927), 201-12, 264-79

I.G. Spence, The Cavalry of Classical Greece (Oxford 1993), UA 724.S7

  1. To what extent was the conduct of war inhibited by ritual and other rules in archaic and classical Greece?

W. Connor, ‘Early Greek Land Warfare as Symbolic Expression’ P&P 119 (1988), 3-27

M. Goodman & A. Holladay, ‘Religious scruples in ancient warfare’, CQ 36 (1986), 151-71

V.D. Hanson, ‘Hoplite battle as ancient Greek warfare: when, where, and why?’, in H. van Wees (ed.) 2000, 201-32

A.H. Jackson, ‘Hoplites and the gods: the dedication of captured arms and armour’, in Hanson (ed.) (1991), 228-49

M.H. Jameson, ‘Sacrifice before battle’, in Hanson (ed.) (1991), 197-227

P. Krentz, ‘Deception in archaic and classical Greek warfare’, in H. van Wees (ed.) 2000, 167-200

P. Krentz, ‘Fighting by the rules: the invention of the hoplite agon’, Hesperia 71 (2002), 23-39 DF 277.O2

J. Ober, ‘The rules of war in classical Greece’, in id. The Athenian Revolution (Princeton 1996), 53-71 DF 277.O2

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