Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Soldiers and Ghosts: A...
J.E. Lendon
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  487 ratings  ·  24 reviews
This book demands a response from its readers. It is impossible not to be drawn in to the provocative (often contentious) discussion that Harvey Mansfield sets before us. This is the first comprehensive study of manliness, a quality both bad and good, mostly male, often intolerant, irrational, and ambitious. Our 'gender-neutral society' does not like it but cannot get rid ...more
ebook, 481 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Yale University Press (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Soldiers and Ghosts, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Soldiers and Ghosts

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,625)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Ancient military history and its technical aspects are surprisingly popular topic among modern historians. One could almost say that the market is currently saturated by books analyzing the Greek hoplites, campaigns of Alexander the Great and military history of Rome. It is therefore no surprise that historians trying to contribute to the topic better ensure that they come up with something innovative if they are to be noticed.

J.E. Lendon tries to do exactly that with his rather innovative reapp
Not so much a history of battle in classical antiquity as why and how it developed as it did. Covers the millennium from the Age of Homer until Julian in Persia and Valens at Adrianople [300s A.D.] Author makes surprising leaps in his perceptions of the development of land warfare and psychology of the warriors. Apparently, it went slower at first, then picked up speed. Today it seems that methods of fighting change every time you turn around. The author intended this for the beginner to the ver ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Joe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people familiar with ancient history
Shelves: history
This is not a compendium of maneuvers, weapons and tactics usual to most military histories. Instead, we are given a social history of warfare in ancient Greece and Rome that looks to the morals, literature and social values of the age that inspired men to fight the way they did. It's an analysis that shows how the structure of their armies were modeled on that of the civil societies which produced them, and the degree to which warrior ideals reflected those of their society as a whole. The book ...more
Luka Novak
This book does not explain how ancients fought but rather why did they fight the way they did. Lendon argues that ancients' (Greece, Macedon, Rome) way of war wasn't determined by their equipment but rather their culture. Lendon's leitmotif is that these militaries harnessed the competition between individuals and used that to create formidable armies, even armies that on the surface seem to replace individual with mass such as phalanx or legion.

Having said that this is not a book for beginners.
Mike Anastasia
This book is mostly a social history of the ancient advocating for cultural annihilation due to, again, social ineptitude.

Lendon's book is a perfect "intro to" book for classes of military, classical, Greco-Roman or weaponry history but his efforts are dwarfed in larger-scale by some of the anthologies put together by Favro, Smith, etc.

For someone looking for the glory of old war, skip this and read Herodotus' own account.

For something looking for the glory of old statesmanship and public ora
Soldiers and Ghosts is an unusually literary analysis of ancient militaries. The book, in two halves, traces the evolution of the Classical Greek and Hellenistic armies and those of Rome. In each portion, Lendon adopts a very simple thesis stating how specific cultural values influenced the development of these militaries and their uses in otherwise counterintuitive ways. Among the Greeks, Lendon identifies innate competitiveness and veneration of the Homeric epics as primary drivers; among the ...more
Bruce Hesselbach
This insightful and well-written book uses the ancient Greek and Roman world to study how cultural factors make an army successful or unsuccessful. The book begins with a modern example to show the relevance of this study. In the Prologue, we are given a vivid description of a skirmish in which the U.S. Marines took casualties because of their cultural belief that they should recover the bodies of their dead. Why would they do that? Doesn't it interfere with their success as an army? What possi ...more
May 13, 2010 Erunion rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classics scholars, military history buffs
Shelves: classical, greek, history, own
Soldiers and Ghosts sets out to track the changes in Greek and Roman military structures and why they molded over time. While such a topic is quite fascinating, Lendon does not quite cash out many of his arguments, and unfortunately spends most of his time recounting ancient battles from a limited third person perspective rather than using such accounts to illuminate or demonstrate his points throughout the book. Such a feature is rather curious, since the accounts often seem to on the one hand ...more
A part of me wants to give this 3 stars to be fair because I have a feeling that the reason I enjoyed it so little is simply because I've already read so much on the subject of warfare in antiquity and a large number of books on antiquity in general. There just wasn't much of anything new here for me and it wasn't very exciting to read which is reflected in the fact that it took me as long as it did to actually finish this book.

Now, it wasn't bad and it would be a good place to start for someone
Steven Wolstenholme
I never finished this book. I think Lendon tried too hard to reconcile the differences between the individualistic heroic warfare depicted in Epic (Homer) and the massed phalangites of real warfare. He gives a lot of convoluted rationalizations to show that phalanx warfare could actually be considered heroic in the minds of Greek soldiers and generals, as if ancient soldiers actually needed this validation. He never convinced me that more needed to be said on the matter than people do what works ...more
Endre Fodstad
This one is really good. Lendon's case is argued clearly for both the greek and roman parts of the book, and is an excellent counterpoint to the idea that premodern warfare went through something like evolutionary processes. Instead, he argues, greek and roman society looked to ideals, ideas and actions of earlier warfare for solutions - the "ghosts" - even when the ghosts did not provide useful answers to their problems. This also extended to the individual level, especially during the roman pe ...more
Frédéric Bey
Encore un livre fabuleux (selon mes critères) qui s'intéressent aux explication via les mentalités de chaque époque.
La conclusion me convient bien, et résumé parfaitement le propos du livre : "Les meilleures armées antiques n'étaient pas celles qui s'arc-boutaient contre les mœurs de leur temps. Les meilleures furent celles qui trouvèrent les moyens d'amplifier et d'exploiter les aspirations de leurs soldats. Les meilleurs généraux antiques ne se tenaient pas en travers du courant contemporain m
Bryn Hammond
A lovely book. A cultural study of war in Greece and Rome - not of the Victor Davis Hanson type, either. For instance, the chapter that most fascinated me is on antiquarianism in the Roman military: the dress or parade outfits that mimicked (in a sort of postmodern fashion) ancient Greek regalia and the masks that might have been off the stage of a Greek tragedy. Real insight.
M. L. Rio
Soldiers and Ghosts: The Evolution of Classical Military Strategy would have been a more accurate title. An interesting read, but not at all a comprehensive history. Lendon is much more concerned with how and why battle tactics changed over time and prone to repeating himself. Still worth reading and well-written enough, but be forewarned--the subtitle is misleading.
Mike Angelillo
I enjoyed the section on the Greeks and how Homer influenced the way they fought. But really....for a book about warfare it is awfully dull. I had to put it down before I finished the review of Roman warfare.
For those who care about this sort of thing, it's an awesome book! It was a detailed study of ancient warfare. Readers who are looking for a novel about Spartans and Persians should look elsewhere.
Dan Weiss
I love this book. From start to finish it is concise and thorough and actually a page turner. Lendon's great accomplishment is his prose which makes this book accessible to both scholars and casual readers.
Quite repetitive. The main point of the book is he tension between virtus and disciplina as key factors in the success of the Greeks and Romans. It could have been conveyed effectively in 100 pages.
Good clean fun. The Greek section was a bit slow for me, but it picked up with the Romans- I never realized how much the legion changed through the years. Fascinating for a select group of people.
Yago de Artaza Paramo
Great book about the social evolution and mixtures of the Greek and Roman war tactics.
too heavy, too obscure and too difficult to get into properly
A very interesting look at infantry in antiquity
excellent book on greco-roman warfare and the take on the thought process of these ancient civilizations. Highly recommended.
Nate Guy
Nate Guy marked it as to-read
Nov 25, 2015
R.lord marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2015
Oscar marked it as to-read
Nov 22, 2015
Kyara Floris
Kyara Floris marked it as to-read
Nov 19, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 54 55 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece
  • Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy
  • The Punic Wars
  • The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-heroes of Ancient Greece
  • Legionary: The Roman Soldier's (Unofficial) Manual
  • The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization
  • Warfare in the Classical World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Weapons, Warriors and Warfare in the Ancient Civilizations of Greece and Rome
  • Thermopylae: The Battle for the West
  • Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World
  • The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire
  • Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire
  • Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
  • Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
  • The Roman Triumph
  • The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
  • The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History

Share This Book