GREEK WARFARE

        The city-states of ancient Greece were in an almost constant state of war with one another.  Allies quickly became enemies, and enemies quickly became allies.  As the Greek philosopher Plato said, "Only the dead have seen the end of war." 
         Athens and Sparta, the two most powerful city-states in their day, vied for supreme political influence in Greece.  Athenian and Spartan men trained continually to be ready for military duty.  Sparta's main strength lay in its ground troops, while Athens's powerful navy controlled the seas.  The two rival city-states were forced to put their differences aside when King Xerxes of Persia attempted to conquer Greece (480 B.C.).  The tide was turned in the Persian Wars when the legendary 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas slowed Xerxes' advance at Thermoplyae.  The Persians were later ultimately defeated at the Battle of Salamis by the superior strategy of the Athenian navy.  After the Persian Wars, Athens and Sparta went back to their old rivalry and soon were once again warring with one another. 
          The average Greek soldier was called a
hoplite or "one who provides his own armor" since Greek men were expected to provide their own armor.  Their weapons consisted of an oval shield suspended from the shoulder-belt and wielded by means of a handle, a bronze breast and back plate, a helmet and greaves of bronze, (sometimes a spear about six feet long) and a short sword.  Most hoplites had an attendant slave that carried their armor to and from the battle field. 
         The
phalanx
was the dominant formation used by the ancient Greeks in battle.  A line of hoplites were placed side-by-side, their shields nearly interlocking and their spears jutting forward.  Behind them several other lines were drawn up in a similar fashion.  The strength of this formation was its ability to resist an enemy charge.  Enemies, racing forward, would practically impale themselves on the extended spears.  When the front line of the phalanx fell, the next line would step forward to take its place. 
          War ships were built long and slender to increase their speed.  Also constructed to be light, they were easily carried from one body of water to another.  A long line of slave rowers sat on either side and propelled the crafts with long oars.  Their strokes were kept in time with the piping of a flute.  Most warships had eyes painted or carved onto the bow.  Also on the bow, on level with the water, was a iron-clad beak, usually with three spikes sticking out.  This was the offensive weapon of the ship.  A sea victory was achieved by ramming enemy ships and punching a hole in  their sides, driving them onto rock, or disabling their rowers or oars.

READ ABOUT DEATH AND BURIAL IN GREECE

READ MORE ABOUT SPARTA

READ MORE ABOUT SLAVERY IN GREECE

READ ABOUT FAMOUS GREEKS


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TOP:  Greek Troops Form into a Phalanx

ABOVE:  The Battle of Thermoplyae

BELOW:  The Battle of Salamis