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Arms and Armor of the Greeks Paperback – November 12, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (November 12, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801860733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801860737
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,075,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 490 B.C. a force of some 10,000 Athenians and their allies met a much larger Persian army on the rocky beach at Marathon. The Greeks arrayed themselves in a thin line, advancing on the Persians slowly, then breaking into a run, splitting the center and enfolding the Persian army in their wings. The tactic surprised the Persians, and even some Greeks. But, argues Cambridge University archaeologist A.M. Snodgrass, tactical innovation alone did not carry the day. "We shall never know quite how Marathon was won," he writes, but "the superiority of Greek equipment must have been an important factor here and elsewhere, and at times perhaps a decisive one."

The Greeks, in short, were better armed than the Persians, an edge that had evolved over centuries of martial experimentation. Snodgrass traces the development of armor and weapons and the use of adjuncts like cavalry and war dogs through Greek history, from Mycenaean times to the age of Alexander. He notes, gainsaying many other military historians of ancient Greece, that the Greeks were nowhere near as effective in using cavalry as were their opponents, Persian and otherwise; even in Alexander's time, he writes, cavalry was neglected in favor of mass infantry attacks from heavily armed phalanxes--a tactic that must have cost many lives, but that surely put an unholy fear in the Greeks' enemies. Snodgrass's slender volume is a useful companion for students of Herodotus, Xenophon, Homer, and other chroniclers of ancient warfare. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author

Anthony M. Snodgrass is the Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge University. He is the author of several works, including The Dark Age of Greece, Archaeology and the Rise of the Greek State, and Archaic Greece.

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Neil Schiff on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Arms and Armour of the Greeks is a wonderful work of scholarship, combining sometimes-scarce archaeological evidence with historical texts and ancient artwork to provide a compelling chronology of the arms of the ancient Aegean. Intended mainly for college students and other scholars, Snodgrass has nonetheless presented the information in such a fashion as to make it good reading for the interested layman. He begins with an introduction to the difficulties encountered in researching and writing on this topic, such as the dearth of direct evidence, not to mention the problems associated with accurately identifying what little there is. He then launches into a brief discussion of the archaeological methods used in the study of the subject, from excavation to correlation with ancient texts. Snodgrass has organized the book usefully and logically, flowing chronologically from the Mycenaeans in the sixteenth century BCE through the Hellenistic Period of Alexander the Great and his successors 1200 years later. Chapter One starts off with the excavations of the Shaft Graves at Mycenae, and the rich finds discovered there by Schliemann (15). This sets up a recurring theme in the book, as much of the archaeological evidence seems to be excavated from the graves of warriors, especially the nobles. He then takes the reader to the rest of the Aegean a century or so later, still at the height of Mycenaean power. This includes an interesting discussion on the relationship and influence of the Cretans and the people of the mainland. This is where Snodgrass comes into his own, using ancient texts and artwork to try and get a glimpse of the equipment in use at the time.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reality Check on June 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have over 800 military books in my personal library, and I am a member of the Board of Directors of one of the State's military museums. In addition, I've been studying military history for the past 50 years. I found this short summary an excellent read. Because I have an extensive collection of ancient Greek and Roman bronze arms that has taken many decades to assemble, I require detailed knowledge of old bronze military items to help identify origins and uses. This is just about the only existing book that provides at least some of this necessary information. Because military matters are not politically correct for archeologists, this area has been mostly ignored for more than half a century. This is in spite of the fact that military conquests and mass movements of peoples in ancient and pre-historic times probably ARE the most important factors in tracking human history and cultures.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jason Rosner on November 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Arms & Armor of the Greeks is a clearly and concisely written book, which fulfils its purpose very well. Snodgrass provides an adequate and entertaining look at the equipment of a Greek soldier, however, the book is intended for historians and masochistic college students. Snodgrass makes continuous literary references (particularly to the Iliad) and sites battles as examples without explaining their outcome or tactics. To a person without proper schooling in Greek history, the book is as useful as a book on the intricacies of object oriented programming would be to someone who had only superficial knowledge of Windows„· or a book on major to minor chords in fugues would be to someone who listened exclusively to rap music. Though the book is not terribly complicated, it is useless to anyone who cannot put it in context.
Although Snodgrass presents all of his points in chronological order, however, within the chapters, and sub-sections are disorganized. A chapter might explain the evolution of helmets, then the use of a particular type of shield, then horse armor, and then go back to helmets. The chapters are mildly schizophrenic, though it may have been unwieldy to discuss each piece of armor in a separate chapter. Helmets should be discussed together, swords should be discussed together, and so on.
Much of the information in the book is based on assumptions from literature. Weapons and armor may be unearthed but they do not provide enough facts to warrant a definite thesis on their use. Snodgrass must rely on historians like Thucydides who wrote with a particular bias or may have recalled things incorrectly. Given this disability, Snodgrass maintains a fair amount of objectivity.
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