Warfare occurred throughout the history of Ancient Greece, from the
Greek Dark Ages onward. The Greek 'Dark Age' drew to a close as a significant
increase in population allowed urbanized culture to be restored, which led to
the rise of the city-states (Poleis). These developments ushered in the period
of Archaic Greece (800-480). They also restored the capability of organized
warfare between these Poleis (as opposed to small-scale raids to acquire
livestock and grain, for example). The fractious nature of Ancient Greek
society seems to have made continuous conflict on this larger scale inevitable.
Along with the rise of the city-state evolved a new style of warfare: the
hoplite phalanx. Hoplites were armored infantryman, armed with spears and
shields, and the phalanx was a formation of these soldiers with their shields
locked together and spears pointed forward. The Chigi vase, dated to around
650, is the earliest depiction of a hoplite in full battle array. With this
evolution in warfare, battles seem to have consisted mostly of the clash of
hoplite phalanxes from the city-states in conflict. Since the soldiers were
citizens with other occupations, warfare was limited in distance, season and
scale. Neither side could afford heavy casualties or sustained campaigns, so
conflicts seem to have been resolved by a single set-piece battle. The scale
and scope of warfare in Ancient Greece changed dramatically as a result of the
Wars, which marked the beginning of Classical Greece (480-323). To fight
the enormous armies of the Achaemenid Empire was effectively beyond the
capabilities of a single city-state. The eventual triumph of the Greeks was
achieved by alliances of many city-states, on a scale never seen before. The
rise of Athens and Sparta during this conflict led directly to the
War, which saw diversification of warfare. Emphasis shifted to naval
battles and strategies of attrition such as blockades and sieges. Following the
defeat of the Athenians in 404, and the disbandment of the Athenian-dominated
Ancient Greece fell under the Spartan hegemony. But this was unstable, and the
Persian Empire sponsored a rebellion by the combined powers of Athens, Thebes,
Corinth and Argos, resulting in the
(395-387). Persia switched sides, which ended the war, in return for the cities
of Ionia and Spartan non-interference in Asia Minor. The Spartan hegemony would
last another 16 years, until, at the Battle of Leuctra (371) the
Spartans were decisively defeated by the Theban general Epaminondas. The Thebans
acted with alacrity to establish a hegemony of their own over Greece. However,
Thebes lacked sufficient manpower and resources, and became overstretched.
Following the death of Epaminondas and loss of manpower at the Battle of
Mantinea, the Theban hegemony ceased. The losses in the ten years of the Theban
hegemony left all the Greek city-states weakened and divided. The city-states
of southern Greece were too weak to resist the rise of the Macedonian kingdom
in the north. With revolutionary tactics, King
brought most of Greece under his sway, paving the way for the conquest of
"the known world" by his son Alexander the Great. The rise of the
Macedonian Kingdom is generally taken to signal the beginning of the
Hellenistic period, and certainly marked the end of the distinctive hoplite
battle in Ancient Greece.
Military structure and methods in ancient Greece
A hoplite armed with an aspis and a doru. nb: it is usually agreed that the
doru could not be used two-handed with the aspis. Along with the rise of the
city-state evolved a brand new style of warfare and the emergence of the
hoplite. The hoplite was an infantryman, the central element of warfare in
Ancient Greece. The word hoplite derives from hoplon meaning a large, round
shield, as they were named after their most notable gear. Hoplites were the
citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek City-states. They were primarily armed as
spear-men and fought in a phalanx (see below). Hoplite armor was extremely
expensive for the average citizen, so it was commonly passed down from the
soldier's father or relative. Alexanders Macedonian army had spears
called sarissas that were 18 feet long, far longer than the 69 foot Greek
dory. The secondary weapon of a hoplite was the xiphos, a short sword used when
the soldier's spear was broken or lost while fighting. The origins of the
hoplite are obscure, and no small matter of contention amongst historians.
Traditionally, this has been dated to the 8th century BC, and attributed to
Sparta; but more recent views suggest a later date, towards the 7th century BC.
Certainly, by approximately 650 BC, as dated by the 'Chigi vase', the 'hoplite
revolution' was complete. The major innovation in the development of the
hoplite seems to have been the characteristic circular shield (Aspis), roughly
1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter, and made of wood faced with bronze. Although very
heavy (815 kg or 1833 lb), the design of this shield was such that
it could be supported on the shoulder. More importantly, it permitted the
formation of a shield-wall by an army, an impenetrable mass of men and shields.
Men were also equipped with metal greaves and also a breastplate made of
bronze, leather, or stiff cloth. When this was combined with the primary weapon
of the hoplite, 23 m (6.69.8 ft) long spear (the doru), it gave
both offensive and defensive capabilities. Regardless of where it developed,
the model for the hoplite army evidently quickly spread throughout Greece. The
persuasive qualities of the phalanx were probably its relative simplicity
(allowing its use by a citizen militia), low fatality rate (important for small
city-states), and relatively low cost (enough for each hoplite to provide his
own equipment). The Phalanx also became a source of political influence because
men had to provide their own equipment to be a part of the army.
The hoplite phalanx:
The ancient Greek city-states developed a military formation called the
phalanx, which were rows of shoulder-to-shoulder hoplites. The Hoplites would
lock their shields together, and the first few ranks of soldiers would project
their spears out over the first rank of shields. The Phalanx therefore
presented a shield wall and a mass of spear points to the enemy, making frontal
assaults much more difficult. It also allowed a higher proportion of the
soldiers to be actively engaged in combat at a given time (rather than just
those in the front rank). The phalanx formed the core of ancient Greek
militaries. Because hoplites were all protected by their own shield and
others shields and spears, they were relatively safe as long as the
formation didn't break. When advancing towards an enemy, the phalanx would
break into a run that was sufficient to create momentum but not too much as to
lose cohesion. The opposing sides would collide viciously, possibly terrifying
many of the hoplites of the front row. The battle would then rely on the valour
of the men in the front line, while those in the rear maintained forward
pressure on the front ranks with their shields. When in combat, the whole
formation would consistently press forward trying to break the enemy formation;
thus, when two phalanx formations engaged, the struggle essentially became a
pushing match, in which, as a rule, the deeper phalanx would almost always win,
with few recorded exceptions. When exactly the phalanx developed is uncertain,
but it is thought to have been developed by the Argives in their early clashes
with the Spartans. The chigi vase, dated to around 650 BC, is the earliest
depiction of a hoplite in full battle array. The hoplite was a well-armed and
armored citizen-soldier primarily drawn from the middle classes. Every man had
to serve at least two years in the army. Fighting in the tight phalanx
formation maximised the effectiveness of his armor, large shield and long
spear, presenting a wall of armor and spearpoints to the enemy. They were a
force to be reckoned with.
At least in the Archaic Period, the fragmentary nature of Ancient Greece, with
many competing city-states, increased the frequency of conflict, but conversely
limited the scale of warfare. Unable to maintain professional armies, the
city-states relied on their citizens to fight. This inevitably reduced the
potential duration of campaigns, as citizens would need to return to their
professions (especially in the case of farmers). Campaigns would therefore
often be restricted to summer. Armies marched directly to their target,
possibly agreed on by the protagonists. Sparta was an exception to this rule,
as every Spartiate was a professional soldier. Spartans instead relied on
slaves called helots for civilian jobs such as farming. If battle was refused
by one side, it would retreat to the city, in which case the attackers
generally had to content themselves with ravaging the countryside around, since
the campaign season was too limited to attempt a siege. When
battles occurred, they were usually set piece and intended to be decisive.
These battles were short, bloody, and brutal, and thus required a high degree
of discipline. At least in the early classical period, hoplites were the
primary force; light troops and cavalry generally protected the flanks and
performed skirmishing, acting as support troops for the core heavy infantry.
The strength of hoplites was shock combat. The two phalanxes would smash into
each other in hopes of quickly breaking the enemy force's line. Failing that, a
battle degenerated into a pushing match, with the men in the rear trying to
force the front lines through those of the enemy. This maneuver was known as
the Othismos or "push." Thucydides described hoplite warfare as
othismos aspidon or "the push of shields". Battles rarely lasted more
than an hour. Once one of the lines broke, the troops would generally flee from
the field, chased by peltasts or light cavalry if available. If a hoplite
escaped, he would sometimes be forced to drop his cumbersome aspis, thereby
disgracing himself to his friends and family. Casualties were slight compared
to later battles, amounting to anywhere between 5 and 15% for the winning and
losing sides respectively, but the slain often included the most prominent
citizens and generals who led from the front. Thus, the whole war could be
decided by a single field battle; victory was enforced by ransoming the fallen
back to the defeated, called the 'Custom of the Dead Greeks'.
Other elements of Greek armies:
Greek armies also included significant numbers of light infantry, the Psiloi,
as support troops for the heavy hoplites, who also doubled as baggage handlers
for the heavy foot. These included javelin throwers (akontistai), stone
throwers (lithovoloi) and slingers (sfendonitai) while archers (toxotai) were
rare, mainly from Crete, or mercenary non-Greek tribes (as at the crucial
battle of Plataea 479 B.C.) Greek armies gradually downgraded the armor of the
hoplites (to linen padded thorax and open helmets) to make the phalanx more
flexible and upgraded the javelineers to lightly armored general purpose
infantry (thorakitai and thyreophoroi) with javelins and sometimes spears.
Eventually, these types effectively complemented the Macedonian style phalanx
which prevailed throughout Greece after Alexander the Great. Cavalry had always
existed in Greek armies of the classical era but the cost of horses made it far
more expensive than hoplite armor, limiting cavalrymen to nobles and the very
wealthy (social class of hippeis). During the early hoplite era cavalry played
almost no role whatsoever, mainly for social, but also tactical reasons, since
the middle-class phalanx completely dominated the battlefield. Gradually, and
especially during the Peloponnesian war, cavalry became more important
acquiring every role that cavalry could play, except perhaps frontal attack. It
scouted, screened, harassed, outflanked and pursued with the most telling
moment being the use of Syracusan horse to harass and eventually destroy the
retreating Athenian army of the disastrous Sicilian expedition 415-413 B.C. One
of the most famous troop of Greek cavalry was the Tarantine cavalry,
originating from the city-state of Taras in Magna Graecia.
The economics of ancient warfare:
Campaigns were often timed with the agricultural season to impact the enemies
or enemies' crops and harvest. The timing had to be very carefully arranged so
that the invaders' enemy's harvest would be disrupted but the invaders' harvest
would not be affected. Late invasions were also possible in the hopes that the
sowing season would be affected but this at best would have minimal effects on
the harvest. One alternative to disrupting the harvest was to ravage the
countryside by uprooting trees, burning houses and crops and killing all who
were not safe behind the walls of the city. Uprooting trees was especially
effective given the Greek reliance on the olive crop and the long time it takes
new olive trees to reach maturity. Ravaging the countryside took much effort
and depended on the season because green crops do not burn as well as those
nearer to harvest. War also led to acquisition of land and slaves which would
lead to a greater harvest, which could support a larger army. Plunder was also
a large part of war and this allowed for pressure to be taken off of the
government finances and allowed for investments to be made that would
strengthen the polis. War also stimulated production because of the sudden
increase in demand for weapons and armor. Shipbuilders would also experience
sudden increases in their production demands.
Ancient Greek military campaigns:
The scale and scope of warfare in Ancient Greece changed dramatically as a
result of the Greco-Persian Wars. To fight the enormous armies of the
Achaemenid Empire was effectively beyond the capabilities of a single
city-state. The eventual triumph of the Greeks was achieved by alliances of
many city-states (the exact composition changing over time), allowing the
pooling of resources and division of labour. Although alliances between city
states occurred before this time, nothing on this scale had been seen before.
The Greco-Persian Wars (499-448 BC) were the result of attempts by the Persian
Emperor Darius the Great, and then his successor Xerxes I to subjugate Ancient
Greece. Darius was already ruler of the cities of Ionia, and the wars are taken
to start when they rebelled in 499 BC. The revolt was crushed by 494 BC, but
Darius resolved to bring mainland Greece under his dominion. Many city-states
made their submission to him, but others did not, notably including Athens and
Sparta. Darius thus sent his commanders Datis and Artaphernes to attack Attica,
to punish Athens for her intransigence. After burning Eretria, the Persians
landed at Marathon. An Athenian army of c. 10,000 hoplites marched to meet the
Persian army of about 25,000 troops. The Athenians were at a significant
disadvantage both strategically and tactically. Raising such a large army had
denuded Athens of defenders, and thus any attack in the Athenian rear would cut
off the Army from the City. Tactically, the hoplites were very vulnerable to
attacks by cavalry, and the Athenians had no cavalry to defend the flanks.
After several days of stalemate at Marathon, the Persian commanders attempted
to take strategic advantage by sending their cavalry (by ship) to raid Athens
itself. This gave the Athenian army a small window of opportunity to attack the
remainder of the Persian Army.
Early interpretation of the Greek Double Envelopment with Greek wings (blue)
enveloping the Persians (red) The Greek wings (blue) envelop the Persian wings
(red) This was the first true engagement between a hoplite army and a non-Greek
The Persians had acquired a reputation for invincibility, but the Athenian
hoplites proved crushingly superior in the ensuing infantry battle. To counter
the massive numbers of Persians, the Greek general Miltiades ordered the troops
to be spread across an unusually wide front, leaving the centre of the Greek
line undermanned. However, the lightly armored Persian infantry proved no match
for the heavily armored hoplites, and the Persian wings were quickly routed.
The Greek wings then turned against the elite troops in the Persian centre,
which had held the Greek centre until then. Marathon demonstrated to the Greeks
the lethal potential of the hoplite, and firmly demonstrated that the Persians
were not, after all, invincible. The revenge of the Persians was postponed 10
years by internal conflicts in the Persian Empire, until Darius's son Xerxes
returned to Greece in 480 BC with a staggeringly large army (modern estimates
suggest between 150,000-250,000 men). Many Greeks city-states, having had
plenty of warning of the forthcoming invasion, formed an anti-Persian league;
though as before, other city-states remained neutral or allied with Persia.
Although alliances between city-states were commonplace, the scale of this
league was a novelty, and the first time that the Greeks had united in such a
way to face an external threat.
This allowed diversification of the allied armed forces, rather than simply
mustering a very large hoplite army. The visionary Athenian politician
Themistocles had successfully persuaded his fellow citizens to build a huge
fleet in 483/82 BC to combat the Persian threat (and thus to effectively
abandon their hoplite army, since there were not men enough for both). Amongst
the allies therefore, Athens was able to form the core of a navy, whilst other
cities, including Sparta, provided the army. This alliance thus removed the
constraints on the type of armed forces that the Greeks could use. The use of
such a large navy was also a novelty to the Greeks. The second Persian invasion
is famous for the battles of Thermopylae
and Salamis. As the massive Persian army
moved south through Greece, the allies sent a small holding force (c. 10,000)
men under the Spartan king
Leonidas to block the pass of Thermopylae whilst the main allied army could
be assembled. The allied navy extended this blockade at sea, blocking the
nearby straits of Artemisium, to prevent the huge Persian navy landing troops
in Leonidas's rear. Famously, Leonidas's men held the much larger Persian army
at the pass (where their numbers were less of an advantage) for three days, the
hoplites again proving their superiority. Only when a Persian force managed to
outflank them by means of a mountain track was the allied army overcome; but by
then Leonidas had dismissed the majority of the troops, remaining with a
rearguard of 300 Spartans (and perhaps 2000 other troops), in the process
making one of history's great last stands.
The Greek navy, despite their lack of experience, also proved their worth
holding back the Persian fleet whilst the army still held the pass. Thermopylae
provided the Greeks with time to arrange their defences, and they dug in across
the Isthmus of Corinth, an impregnable position; although an evacuated Athens
was thereby sacrificed to the advancing Persians. In order to outflank the
isthmus, Xerxes needed to use this fleet, and in turn therefore needed to
defeat the Greek fleet; similarly, the Greeks needed to neutralise the Persian
fleet to ensure their safety. To this end, the Greeks were able to lure the
Persian fleet into the straits of Salamis; and, in a battleground where Persian
numbers again counted for nothing, they won a decisive victory, justifying
Themistocles' decision to build the Athenian fleet. Demoralised, Xerxes
returned to Asia Minor with much of his army, leaving his general Mardonius to
campaign in Greece the following year (479). However, a united Greek army of c.
40,000 hoplites decisively defeated Mardonius at the Battle of
Plataea, effectively ending the invasion.
Almost simultaneously, the allied fleet defeated the remnants of the Persian
navy at Mycale, thus destroying the Persian
hold on the islands of the Aegean. The remainder of the wars saw the Greeks
take the fight to the Persians. The Athenian dominated Delian League of cities
and islands extirpated Persian garrisons from Macedon and Thrace, before
eventually freeing the Ionian cities from Persian rule. At one point, the
Greeks even attempted an invasion of Cyprus and Egypt (which proved
disastrous), demonstrating a major legacy of the Persian Wars: warfare in
Greece had moved beyond the seasonal squabbles between city-states, to
coordinated international actions involving huge armies. After the war,
ambitions of many Greek states dramatically increased. Tensions resulting from
this, and the rise of Athens and Sparta as pre-eminent powers during the war
led directly to the Peloponnesian War, which saw further development of the
nature of warfare, strategy and tactics.
The Peloponnesian War (431-404), was fought between the Athenian dominated
Delian League and the Spartan dominated Peloponnesian League. The increased
manpower and financial resources increased the scale, and allowed the
diversification of warfare. Set-piece battles during this war proved indecisive
and instead there was increased reliance on naval warfare, and strategies of
attrition such as blockades and sieges. These changes greatly increased the
number of casualties and the disruption of Greek society. Whatever the proximal
causes of the war, it was in essence a conflict between Athens and Sparta for
supremacy in Greece. The war (or wars, since it is often divided into three
periods) was for much of the time a stalemate, punctuated with occasional bouts
of activity. Tactically the Peloponnesian war represents something of a
stagnation; the strategic elements were most important as the two sides tried
to break the deadlock, something of a novelty in Greek warfare. Building on the
experience of the Persian Wars, the diversification from core hoplite warfare,
permitted by increased resources, continued. There was increased emphasis on
navies, sieges, mercenaries and economic warfare. Far from the previously
limited and formalized form of conflict, the Peloponnesian War transformed into
an all-out struggle between city-states, complete with atrocities on a large
scale; shattering religious and cultural taboos, devastating vast swathes of
countryside and destroying whole cities. From the start, the mismatch in the
opposing forces was clear. The Delian League (hereafter 'Athenians') were
primarily a naval power, whereas the Peloponnesian League (hereafter
'Spartans') consisted of primarily land-based powers. The Athenians thus
avoided battle on land, since they could not possibly win, and instead
dominated the sea, blockading the Peloponnesus whilst maintaining their trade.
Conversely, the Spartans repeatedly invaded Attica, but only for a few weeks at
a time; they remained wedded to the idea of hoplite-as-citizen. Although both
sides suffered setbacks and victories, the first phase essentially ended in
stalemate, as neither league had the power to neutralise the other.
The second phase, an Athenian expedition to attack Syracuse in Sicily achieved
no tangible result other than a large loss of Athenian ships and men. In the
third phase of the war however the use of more sophisticated stratagems
eventually allowed the Spartans to force Athens to surrender. Firstly, the
Spartans permanently garrisoned a part of Attica, removing from Athenian
control the silver mine which funded the war effort. Forced to squeeze even
more money from her allies, the Athenian league thus became heavily strained.
After the loss of Athenian ships and men in the Sicilian expedition, Sparta was
able to foment rebellion amongst the Athenian league, which therefore massively
reduced the ability of the Athenians to continue the war. Athens in fact
partially recovered from this setback between 410-406 BC, but a further act of
economic war finally forced her defeat. Having developed a navy that was
capable of taking on the much-weakened Athenian navy, the Spartan general
Lysander seized the Hellespont, the source of Athens' grain. The remaining
Athenian fleet was thereby forced to confront the Spartans, and were decisively
defeated. Athens had little choice but to surrender; and was stripped of her
city walls, overseas possessions and navy. In the aftermath, the Spartans were
able to establish themselves as the dominant force in Greece for three decades.
Mercenaries and light infantry:
Although tactically there was little innovation in the Peloponessian War, there
does appear to have been an increase in the use of light infantry, such as
peltasts (javelin throwers) and archers. Many of these would have been
mercenary troops, hired from outlying regions of Greece. For instance, the
Agrianes from Thrace were well-renowned peltasts, whilst Crete was famous for
its archers. Since there were no decisive land-battles in the Peloponnesian
War, the presence or absence of these troops was unlikely to have affected the
course of the war. Nevertheless, it was an important innovation, one which was
developed much further in later conflicts. Sileraioi were also a group of
ancient mercenaries most likely employed by the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse
Spartan & Theban hegemonies
Main articles: Spartan hegemony and Theban hegemony
Following the eventual defeat of the Athenians in 404 and the disbandment of
the Athenian-dominated Delian League, Ancient Greece fell under the hegemony of
Sparta. The peace treaty which ended the Peloponnesian War left Sparta as the
de facto ruler of Greece (hegemon). Although the Spartans did not attempt to
rule all of Greece directly, they prevented alliances of other Greek cities,
and forced the city-states to accept governments deemed suitable by Sparta.
However, from the very beginning, it was clear that the Spartan hegemony was
shaky; the Athenians, despite their crushing defeat, restored their democracy
but just one year later, ejecting the Sparta-approved oligarchy. The Spartans
did not feel strong enough to impose their will on a shattered Athens.
Undoubtedly part of the reason for the weakness of the hegemony was a decline
in the Spartan population. This did not go unnoticed by the Persian Empire,
which sponsored a rebellion by the combined powers of Athens, Thebes, Corinth
and Argos, resulting in the
(395-387). This was the first major challenge Sparta faced. The early
encounters, at Nemea and
Coronea were typical engagements of
hoplite phalanxes, resulting in Spartan victories. However, the Spartans
suffered a large setback when their fleet was wiped out by a Persian Fleet at
the Battle of Cnidus, undermining the
Spartan presence in Ionia. The war petered out after 394, with a stalemate
punctuated with minor engagements. One of these is particularly notable
however; at the Battle of Lechaeum, an
Athenian force composed mostly of light troops (e.g. peltasts) defeated a
Spartan regiment... The Athenian general Iphicrates had his troops
make repeated hit and run attacks on the Spartans, who, having neither peltasts
nor cavalry, could not respond effectively. The defeat of a hoplite army in
this way demonstrates the changes in both troops and tactic which had occurred
in Greek Warfare.
The war ended when the Persians, worried by the allies' successes, switched to
supporting the Spartans, in return for the cities of Ionia and Spartan
non-interference in Asia Minor. This brought the rebels to terms, and restored
the Spartan hegemony on a more stable footing. The peace treaty which ended the
war, effectively restored the status quo ante bellum, although Athens was
permitted to retain some of the territory it had regained during the war. The
Spartan hegemony would last another 16 years...
The second major challenge Sparta faced was fatal to its hegemony, and even to
its position as a first-rate power in Greece. As the Thebans attempted to
expand their influence over Boeotia, they inevitably incurred the ire of
Sparta. After they refused to disband their army, an army of approximately
10,000 Spartans and Pelopennesians marched north to challenge the Thebans. At
the decisive Battle of Leuctra in 371, the
Thebans routed the allied army. The battle is famous for the tactical
innovations of the Theban general
convention, he strengthened the left flank of the phalanx to an unheard of
depth of 50 ranks, at the expense of the centre and the right. The centre and
right were staggered backwards from the left (an 'echelon' formation), so that
the phalanx advanced obliquely. The Theban left wing was thus able to crush the
elite Spartan forces on the allied right, whilst the Theban centre and left
avoided engagement; after the defeat of the Spartans and the death of the
Spartan king, the rest of the allied army routed. This is one of the first
known examples of both the tactic of local concentration of force, and the
tactic of 'refusing a flank'. Following this victory, the Thebans first secured
their power-base in Boeotia, before marching on Sparta. As the Thebans were
joined by many erstwhile Spartan allies, the Spartans were powerless to resist
this invasion. The Thebans marched into Messenia, and freed it from Sparta;
this was a fatal blow to Sparta, since Messenia had provided most of the helots
which supported the Spartan warrior society. These events permanently reduced
Spartan power and prestige, and replaced the Spartan hegemony with a Theban
The Theban hegemony would be short-lived however. Opposition to it throughout
the period 369-362 caused numerous clashes. In an attempt to bolster the
Thebans' position, Epaminondas again marched on the Pelopennese in 362. At the
Battle of Mantinea, the largest battle
ever fought between the Greek city-states occurred; most states were
represented on one side or the other. Epaminondas deployed tactics similar to
those at Leuctra, and again the Thebans, positioned on the left, routed the
Spartans, and thereby won the battle. However, such were the losses of Theban
manpower, including Epaminondas himself, that Thebes was thereafter unable to
sustain its hegemony. Conversely, another defeat and loss of prestige meant
that Sparta was unable to regain its primary position in Greece. Ultimately,
Mantinea, and the preceding decade, severely weakened many Greek states, and
left them divided and without the leadership of a dominant power.
The rise of Macedon and the end of the hoplite era:
Although by the end of the Theban hegemony the cities of southern Greece were
severely weakened, they might have risen again had it not been for the ascent
to power of the Macedonian kingdom in northern Greece. Unlike the fiercely
independent (and small) city-states, Macedon was a tribal kingdom, ruled by an
autocratic king, and importantly, covering a larger area. Once firmly unified,
and then expanded, by Phillip II, Macedon
possessed the resources that enabled it to dominate the weakened and divided
states in southern Greece. Between 356 and 342 Phillip conquered all city
states in the vicinity of Macedon, then Thessaly and then Thrace. Finally
Phillip sought to establish his own hegemony over the southern Greek
city-states, and after defeating the combined forces of Athens and Thebes, the
two most powerful states, at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338, succeeded. Now unable to
resist him, Phillip compelled most of the city states of southern Greece
(including Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos; but not Sparta) to join the
Corinthian League, and therefore become allied to him.
This established a lasting Macedonian hegemony over Greece, and allowed Phillip
the resources and security to launch a war against the Persian Empire. After
his assassination, this war was prosecuted by his son Alexander the Great, and
resulted in the takeover of the whole Achaemenid Empire by the Macedonians. A
united Macedonian empire did not long survive Alexander's death, and soon split
into the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Diadochi (Alexander's generals). However,
these kingdoms were still enormous states, and continued to fight in the same
manner as Phillip and Alexander's armies had. The rise of Macedon and her
successors thus sounded the death knell for the distinctive way of war found in
Ancient Greece; and instead contributed to the 'superpower' warfare which would
dominate the ancient world between 350 and 150 BC.
The innovations of Phillip II:
One major reason for Phillip's success in conquering Greece was the break with
Hellenic military traditions that he made. With more resources available, he
was able to assemble a more diverse army, including strong cavalry components.
He took the development of the phalanx to its logical completion, arming his
'phalangites' (for they were assuredly not hoplites) with a fearsome 6 m (20
ft) pike, the 'sarissa'. Much more lightly armored, the Macedonian phalanx was
not so much a shield-wall as a spear-wall. The Macedonian phalanx was a supreme
defensive formation, but was not intended to be decisive offensively; instead,
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