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Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity Hardcover – December 31, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (December 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300106637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106633
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A classical scholar displays formidable scholarship and dense prose in this history of combat in the classical world from the Illiad to the fall of Rome. Because of the comparatively static technology-there was less change in weaponry, Lendon argues, during the whole period than between 1910 and 1940-the individual heroism depicted in the Illiad casts a very long shadow. When the Greeks invented the phalanx, the competition shifted its basis: now individuals competed to see who held his place in the formation best, and whole phalanxes competed to see which one presented the most solid wall of spear points. In other highlights along this difficult journey, we find the Romans also had a tradition, whether Homeric in origin or not, of the individual commander engaging his opposite and stripping him of his armor as a trophy, which led to the future Emperor Titus performing heroic feats of arms in the siege of Jerusalem. The varying arrangements of cohorts (about three times the size of a maniple) involved makes the plethora of illustrations here essential. Witty, erudite and painstaking , this book rewards the serious reader who marches (in whatever formation) to the end.
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Review

Soldiers and Ghosts is a stunningly original contribution to our understanding of ancient warfare, written with great style and verve. It is one of those rare books that powerfully challenges received opinion and demands attention. At the same time, it is a wonderful read that should hold appeal for any layman with an interest in the Greeks and Romans or simply in the history of warfare.”—Donald Kagan, author of The Peloponnesian War


Soldiers and Ghosts offers a wholly original cultural history of Greek and Roman warfare. The book is hugely impressive in scope and ambition, often brilliant in interpretation, elegantly constructed and wonderfully written.”—Hans van Wees, author of Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities


"Soldiers and Ghosts is a stunningly original contribution to our understanding of ancient warfare, written with great style and verve. It is one of those rare books that powerfully challenges received opinion and demands attention. At the same time, it is a wonderful read that should hold appeal for any layman with an interest in the Greeks and Romans or simply in the history of warfare."—Donald Kagan, author of The Peloponnesian War











(Donald Kagan)

Soldiers and Ghosts offers a wholly original cultural history of Greek and Roman warfare. The book is hugely impressive in scope and ambition, often brilliant in interpretation, elegantly constructed and wonderfully written.”—Hans van Wees, University College, London, author of Greek Warfare: myths and realities
(Hans van Wees)

Soldiers & Ghosts is an excellent starting point for readers interested in the military histories of Greece and Rome.”



(Nicholas E. Efstathiou Military History)

"Soldiers and Ghosts stimulates the reader and has many interesting insights. I particularly like the bibliographic notes pointing to further research."—Matthew Trundle, Ancient History
(Matthew Trundle Ancient History 2006-10-01)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
19%
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See all 16 customer reviews
If you want a book on ancient warfare this is a great choice.
Rattler
One of Lendon's best sections describes the fascination with ancient Greek history that overtook the elite of the later Roman empire.
John Bedell
Phalanx fighting showed which man could hold his place, who could be great in this way.
Karno

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By parmenides on June 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book from the first line to the last; Why?

1) It gives a complete view of Greek warfare following the
full evolution: Mycenean-->Spartan-->Theban-->Macedonian.

2) the same for the Roman way: Greek phalanx-->maniples-->
cohorts--> Greek phalanx(!!)

3) the book is analytical with well thought arguments

4) very nicely presented like a commentary on major battles,
with justifications and inside analysis

5) full of great decisive unique momemts of military
history: the defeat of Persians by the incredible
Spartans, the defeat of the Atheneans by the Theban phalanx,
the ferrocious confrontation of the Macedonian phalanx
with the Roman maniples at Pydna in Macedonia (northern Greece);
my favourite of all in this book the last chapter: the return
of the Greek phalanx in the Roman warfare and Julians expedition
in Persia.

The book is deep in its scope so for newcomers in this field
I would reccommend to buy (read) first a more elementary with
graphics so that this text follows easily. Graphics are not many
although when it comes to the Greeks one can find photos and
sketches of the Macedonian phalanx, the Thessalian Cavalry,
the Spartan phalanx and hoplites and when it comes to the Romans,
sketches of the Roman legeonaries and the maniples and cohorts.
More passionate readers might want to consult other more
elementary books for more graphical material.

Overall the author has written a nice humanistic analysis of the
way the Greeks and Romans fought; and there is a beauty in the
way he connects the most brutal of human activities (killing)
with other aspects of the human reality like politics, poetry,
aesthetics.

Well done, Mr Lendon, congratulations.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By John Bedell on August 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Soldiers and Ghosts is twice magnificent. It is a marvelous history of ancient warfare from the Iliad to the 4th century AD, full of wonderful details about who did what and how. It is also a fascinating exploration of one of the most basic historical questions: why do things change?

If we ponder the question of why things change in history, we often fall back on technology. We assume, many of us, that societies change because they develop new tools or new techniques, which cause further changes rippling through institutions and lives. But is this always so? Lendon explores the question by looking at how different ancient armies fought. Over the course of Greek and Roman antiquity, different armies fought in very different ways, and in casual histories one often sees this explained by technological advances. Yet this cannot be so, because in fact there were very few changes in military technology between the time of the Assyrians and the fall of Rome. Nor can the change really be explained by the slow spread of ideas; the Romans were not such fools that it took them 200 years to understand the phalanx.

Lendon looks instead at the basic questions of how nations were organized and why men and nations fight. (They do not fight, you may sure, just to win battles.) Lendon argues that ancient nations selected weaponry and battle formations that relected the basic structure of their societies and allowed them to achieve their goals. The wars of the classical Greeks were mainly contests for prestige between city states, and Lendon argues that they fought hoplite battles because this best allowed one group of citizens to test their courage and civic pride against another.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on October 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
JE Lendon's "Soldiers and Ghosts" provides a unique survey of Greek and Roman warfare from 400 BCE to the late Roman Empire, emphasizing how much the Greeks and Romans consciously emulated the past, or at least emulated the idealized past as they understood it from ancient authors. The most successful armies, Lendon contends, were those who could blend the lessons of the past (as understood) with the social and cultural realities of their own time.

I found his exploration of Roman military practice from the Early Republic to Late Empire to be most interesting, evolving -- although I am not certain "evolution" is necessarily the most accurate word -- from use of a Macedonian-style phalanx to maniples to cohorts and back to a phalanx. He emphasizes the traditional tension in the Roman army between "virtus" (more or less individual heroics, often in defiance of orders) and "disciplina" (disciplined organization under control of the commanders). If anyone conceives of the Roman army at any time being a machinelike organization of perfect discipline, Lendon's book should cure that view; Roman generals of all eras were often faced with the repeated problem of their soldiers -- not just eager young aristocratic officers but also common footsoldiers -- insisting on launching themselves into quick battle when prudence and common sense would dictate restraint.

Lendon also emphasizes the importance of competition between indviduals and, especially among the Romans, units as a force behind better training and performance in battle.
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