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The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece Paperback – April 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0520260092 ISBN-10: 0520260090 Edition: Second Edition, With a New Preface

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Second Edition, With a New Preface edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520260090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520260092
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A small masterpiece of style and scholarship." -- The Economist

"Enthralling. . . . One closes this book wishing that its final verdict was as well known as more familiar tenets of Greek wisdom." -- Christopher Hitchens, Newsday

"[Hanson's] vivid style and meticulous combing of the ancient literary, archaeological, and epigraphical sources have produced a near masterpiece of historical imagination and reconstruction. . . . Masterful and gripping." -- Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[Hanson] has opened up a whole new way of looking at classical Greek war-fare. . . . The study of Greek warfare can never be quite the same again." -- Journal of Hellenic Studies --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Classics at California State University, Fresno, and author and coauthor of many books, including The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War.

More About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Greek and Director of the Classics Program at California State University, Fresno. He is the author or editor of many books, including Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (with John Heath, Free Press, 1998), and The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999). In 1992 he was named the most outstanding undergraduate teacher of classics in the nation.

Customer Reviews

For that alone, his book is worth reading.
Infornific
Dr. Hanson, a leading classical scholar, provides an excellent examination of how warfare among the Greek city-states was conducted.
R. H OAKLEY
If that is too blunt a question, then when specifically would it be advantageous and when not?
Ramesh Gopal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Richard Rinn on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Victor Davis Hanson is by trade apparently both a California viniculturist and an academic scholar of classical Greek history. So John Keegan says in his introduction to this new edition of an established minor classic. The improbable combination of such disparate occupations has shaped his conception of ancient Greek warfare: he argues that the ritualistic hoplite battle formalized during the "golden period" of Greek antiquity was inextricably linked to the nature of Greek agriculture. To avoid devastating loss of food (particularly wine) production and desolation of invaluable land, the seemingly ceaseless wars between Greek city states and their various shifting alliances had to be short, rapidly decisive, and--necessarily as a result--brutally sanguineous. Greeks deliberately fought according to a set of mutually acknowledged rules that limited wartime injury to the participating infantrymen themselves, and kept intact the soil and farms from which they came.
In his book Hanson takes us step by step through the violent clash of opposing Greek armies and reveals in remarkably technical detail just what was involved. Perhaps even more important, he recreates the personal experience of individual participants during such a battle. Following in the footsteps of many modern (post-World War II) historians who are more interested in the private soldier than the commanding general, he gives us a gritty sense of what it was like for Greek farmer soldiers to undergo combat in traditional phalanx formation. (Consequently, Steven Pressfield acknowleges that Hanson was one of the sources he referred to when writing his engrossing "Gates of Fire", a fictional treatment of the famous Battle of Thermopylae.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan A. Goss on June 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have purchased about forty books that deal with warfare in antiquity in the past year. Almost all of them have proven to be utterly infuriating and completely useless. You can garner from the Internet every iota of information that you can from just about all the books offered on ancient warfare. Most deal more with societal effects, cultural developments and histories of civilizations than they do with battlefield strategies, tactics and how men actually used their weapons in the thick of combat. These books are, for the most part, completely useless and should be avoided.

Except this one.

The Western War of War is a triumph of analysis in both the microscopic makeup of a hoplite army and the experiences they underwent during a battle. In my research I have found THIS BOOK alone to be a gem, an unparalleled necessity to discern what Greek warfare was truly like. The author pulls quotes from Herodotus, Homer, Xenophon and others to illustrate his excellent insights into the entire process of hoplite fighting. If you buy this book you will learn what kind of men donned the aspis shield and bronze cuirass; what it was like to use the ash or cornel wood spear and the xyphos sword; what an army did from the moment they rose to the seconds before the clash; the spacing and makeup of troops; the infurating conflict and the confusion of battle; what it smelled, tasted, sounded and felt like to be lost in the miasma of two phalanxes grinding against one another. On top of this you will read about examples of ancient battles and how they illustrate Mr. Hanson's insights further.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By R. H OAKLEY on October 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dr. Hanson, a leading classical scholar, provides an excellent examination of how warfare among the Greek city-states was conducted. He places particular emphasis on how the individual soldier fought. On the one hand, combat in the front line must have been awful; on the other hand, because the armies were made up of men who had known each other for years, unit cohesion must have been very high. While thoroughly researched, Hanson does not fall back on academic jargon, and his points are easily understood by the nonspecialist. As he demonstrates, the method of warfare, while often fatal to the soldiers, left property and noncombatants unharmed. Unfortunately, later in the wars between Athens and Sparta a more complete, and thus destructive manner of warfare developed. This is an excellent book for anyone interested either in classical Greece or the history of warfare.
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful By John Ingle on February 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is my second time through the book and it is still an excellent read and provides an engrossing account of the orgins of how warfare in the Greek world was waged and its impact throughout history. On that note I must disagree with George Delke Sr. that the Greeks were not the inventors of this type of warfare and that the Assryians were good at it (if they were the Greeks wouldn't have slaughtered them as often as they did).
Dr. Hanson makes a thorough and thoughful analysis of the Greek hoplites and the way they fought. From the hoplight to the their commander no stone is left unturned. But while the main emphasis on the book itself is the hoplight and Greek warfare in general there is much more to it than just that. The Greek hoplights were not successful because of their bravery or for their numbers, the Assyrians were brave and they outnumbered the Greeks in all their battles, then why was it the hoplight armies were so successful against the Assyrians. It was because of their orginization and their training (this is why I disagreed with the previous reveiwer). This then is the underlying theme to the book, not the heroics of one man but the performance of the whole.
The Greek structure of warfare will go on to conquer almost the whole ancient world under the hands of men like Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, Julius Ceasar, and the other great Roman generals of the ancient world. But the traditions of Greek warfare would go on to influence the later nations of the European world and from there the whole of the Western World.
Using a plethora of sources from ancient authors, battles, archeology, and others the author has managed to write an excellent resource that is original, readable, enthralling, and most importantly is its credibility. This is a must have for any student of military history, both professional and layperson alike.
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