Book Review: Understanding Greek Warfare


by Matthew A. Sears

New York: Routledge, 2019. Pp. xiv, 220. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $42.95 paper. ISBN: 1138288616

The Evolution of Warfare in the Hellenic World

In this relatively slim volume Prof. Sears (New Brunswick, Canada) rather impressively manages to produce an overview of some 1,200 years of warfare in ancient Greece and Hellenic-influenced areas from earliest times through the Hellenistic era.

Sears divides his subject into eight chapters. Seven deal with trends in land warfare in periods varying from several centuries to just a few decades (e.g. “Bronze Age and Homeric Warfare”, “The Hoplite Phalanx”, “The Rise of the Polis”, “Philip and Alexander of Macedon”, etc.), and one with naval warfare.

Each chapter opens with an introduction dealing with general trends in the period, social, political, and economic developments that led to changes in military institutions, succinct looks at one or two battles illustrative of military practice at the time, and then some discussion of unusual aspects of the contemporary military system (e.g. “Homeric Battles: The Duel of Paris and Menelaus its Aftermath”). Sears regularly weaves together discussion of the relationship of war and society, weapons and tactics technology, sources, particular commanders, and so forth, albeit his is rather weak on strategy and the book could use more maps.

While primarily intended for those unfamiliar with ancient Greek history, Understanding Greek Warfare, a volume in the Routledge series “Understanding the Ancient World”, is an impressive achievement that can be read with some value by experienced scholars as well.


Note: Understanding Greek Warfare is also available in hard cover and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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