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Ideals and Pragmatism in Greek Military Thought, 490-338 BC

Konijnendijk, RB; (2015) Ideals and Pragmatism in Greek Military Thought, 490-338 BC. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the principles that defined the military thinking of the Classical Greek city-states. Its focus is on tactical thought: Greek conceptions of the means, methods, and purpose of engaging the enemy in battle. Through an analysis of historical accounts of battles and campaigns, accompanied by a parallel study of surviving military treatises from the period, it draws a new picture of the tactical options that were available, and of the ideals that lay behind them. It has long been argued that Greek tactics were deliberately primitive, restricted by conventions that prescribed the correct way to fight a battle and limited the extent to which victory could be exploited. Recent reinterpretations of the nature of Greek warfare cast doubt on this view, prompting a reassessment of tactical thought – a subject that revisionist scholars have not yet treated in detail. This study shows that practically all the assumptions of the traditional model are wrong. Tactical thought was constrained chiefly by the extreme vulnerability of the hoplite phalanx, its total lack of training, and the general’s limited capacity for command and control on the battlefield. Greek commanders, however, did not let any moral rules get in the way of possible solutions to these problems. Battle was meant to create an opportunity for the wholesale destruction of the enemy, and any available means were deployed towards that goal. Far from being at odds with nobler ideals, pragmatism was itself a leading principle of tactical thought throughout the Classical period.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Ideals and Pragmatism in Greek Military Thought, 490-338 BC
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1470175
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