Light Infantry of Ancient Greece

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Light Infantry of Ancient Greece

For a long time peace was understood in negative fashion,

simply as the absence of war.

-Yvon Garlan

Kendrick Pritchett in the introduction to the book "The Greek State at War" points out that in order to write history of Greek Warfare one

"…would require a knowledge of many aspects of Greek life. The would-be investigator would have to be familiar with terrain in the case of any given battle, have an acquaintance with the archaeological artifacts of various types, close familiarity with the written sources, and most important, an understanding of the general economic picture. He would also need some insight into ancient religion and acquaintance with military and naval procedures and strategy."

There is a definite truth about the statement. Even such narrow subject as development of light infantry in ancient Greece requires inquiries in multiple areas of overall Greek history. The knowledge of what ancient Greeks considered light infantry, an insight on development of ancient Greek infantry in general, agricultural warfare, key historical event that assisted in changing Greek outlook on war: these areas are absolutely essential in researching the subject of light infantry in Ancient Greece.

Researching the primary sources for the subject of "light infantry" an investigator would find a puzzling fact; there are little or no references to the subject of inquiry. Ancient historians Thucydides, Xenophon, Herodotus, do not refer to "light infantry" troops, instead they use term peltast. It appears that the term peltast signifies a "light armored warrior" for the ancient historians. The term itself comes from pelta or pelte - a small shield that inhabitants of Thrace ...

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... decisive land battle. Armies met in the pass of Thermopylae.



Hanson, Victor, "The Western Way of War. Infantry Battle in Classical Greece"

Ferrill, Arthur, "The Origins of War. From the Stone Age to Alexander The Great"

Greeks at War, Men at Arms Series (Osprey Publishing, London, 1979)

Herodotus "The Histories" (Penguin, New York, 1996)

* Xenophon in Seven Volumes, 3. (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA; William Heinemann, Ltd., London, 1980.)

* Plutarch, "Moralia", Persus Project.

* Xenophon, "Hellenica"

* Xenophon, "Anabasis"

* Diodorus Book 15

* Thucydides "History of Peloponnesian War"

Ancient Greece (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

(*) - Machine readable text

Copyright 1995 Perseus Project, Harvard University.
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