Arms and Armor of the Greeks

Snodgrass, Professor Anthony M.

Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
ISBN 10: 0801860733 / ISBN 13: 9780801860737
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"We shall never know how Marathon was won, but we can be fairly certain that valor alone would not have won it, nor even perhaps the combination of courage with the somewhat rudimentary tactical skill for which the style of Greek warfare at that time gave scope. The superiority of Greek equipment must have been an important factor here and elsewhere, and at times perhaps a decisive one."--from the introduction

In Arms and Armor of the Greeks, Anthony M. Snodgrass uses available literary, archaeological, and artistic evidence to piece together a picture of ancient Greek armory from the Mycenaean period through the campaigns of Alexander the Great. The ancient Greeks were neither populous nor rich in natural resources, Snodgrass explains, so it is remarkable that they succeeded in battle as often as they did.

"Snodgrass's book on Greek arms and armour must rank already as a standard textbook... It is as clear as any book can be on a surprisingly ill-documented subject."--Economist

"Helps to explain why (for one thing) the Greeks won the Persian Wars and how they then stuck for centuries, with true military unimaginativeness, to their far from enterprising hoplite phalanx tactics."--Times Literary Supplement

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

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Title: Arms and Armor of the Greeks
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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