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The traditional focus in ancient Greek warfare has been on the heavily-armed infantryman called the hoplite. For roughly three hundred years (c. 650-350 BC), Greek hoplites, arrayed in the compact mass formation known as the phalanx, dominated the way states waged war. However, over time light-armed soldiers such as slingers, archers, javelin-men, and small-shield bearing soldiers called peltasts increasingly made significant contributions to military engagements. In fact, it was the effective use of light-armed soldiers during the late fifth and early fourth centuries BC that brought about fundamental changes in hoplite warfare. States could no longer rely just on the cumbersome and vulnerable hoplite phalanx to achieve victory in the field: they had to incorporate various auxiliary troops into their armies to keep up with the changing nature of war.
Connected to these military developments were transformations in the political sphere. As light-armed soldiers, who generally came from the lower classes, came to play a more significant role in war there was a tendency for states to become more democratic, often abolishing property qualifications for political participation and relying on a primary assembly for all major state decisions. This lecture will examine these military and political developments and their broader implications for ancient Greek society.
Dr. Nicholas Rockwell is assistant professor of ancient history at the University of Denver. He received his Ph.D. in 2008 from UCLA and his MA (2001) and BA (1996) from Fresno State where he also played football. He is currently finishing a book entitled The Boeotian Army: Military Integration and Ancient Greek Democracy, in which he examines the fundamental connections of warfare and politics in ancient Greece. He teaches courses at DU on ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Near East, and Classical Mythology.