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The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  858 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
The origins of Western warfare lie in classical Greece, on the battlefields of Marathon and Delion, and in the strange, terrible head-on collision of Thebans and Spartans at Koroneia. Instead of the ambush, skirmish, or single combat between heroes, the Greeks of the classical age devised a ferocious, brutal, brief, and very destructive form of combat that used armed men o ...more
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Published November 29th 1990 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1989)
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Josho Brouwers
Dec 04, 2013 Josho Brouwers rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ancient
Much of what I write here about Hanson's Western Way of War is a summary of an older blog post of mine that is available on the website of Ancient Warfare magazine. In short, I think this is a bad book for a large number of reasons, the most important one is that it presents an entirely fictitious reconstruction of (the nature of) warfare in ancient Greece, relying on ideology and cheap rhetorical tricks to convince the reader into thinking it's actually any good.

According to Hanson, the ancien
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Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 Ryan Holiday rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much has been said about this book in other reviews, so I'll focus on one interesting aspect. Nassim Nicholas Taleb said that he thought the scientific community would be better served if scientists left their labs and spent more time going to parties. There, interacting with real people, they'd stumble upon interesting new angles to test or ways of thinking about things.

VD Hanson's book is fantastic proof of that suggestion. The author was tearing out trees from his Fresno farm when he realized
...more
Juliew.
Sep 06, 2015 Juliew. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book brings you up close and personal with the greek hoplite warrior.But not in the manner we may be accustomed to envision him but as a human being trying to survive a few hours of horrible,devastating violence.What actually happened in those few hours,what did he do,think and experience?What were his weapons,his role in the battle and ultimately why did he fight at all?The author seeks to provide those answers while proposing that the greeks invented the act of western warfare through the ...more
Петър Стойков
Военните историци и теоретици отдавна са отчели, че има съществена разлика между Изтока и Запада не само в начина на живот и световъзприятие, но и в начина на водене на война. Западният начин на воюване винаги е бил директен, брутален, хвърляне на цялата сила в атака, с цел бързо и тотално приключване на конфликта.

Според автора, този начин на воюване води началото си от древна Гърция, от наследството на нейните хоплити, които опаковани в тежка бронзова броня си уговаряли място за битка, подрежда
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Frank
Nov 23, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: acquisto
Parlando di arte della guerra, in particolare quelle ai tempi della Grecia classica, la letteratura moderna ha sempre incentrato l’attenzione sulle campagne, le tattiche, le dimensioni delle forze in campo; a volte perfino sui discorsi dei generali prima della battaglia.

Grazie al lavoro di numerosi storici, abbiamo appreso molti particolari circa gli armamenti, l’addestramento, i movimenti e le strategie militari.

Tuttavia, spesso e volentieri, il loro punto di vista risulta in qualche modo dista
...more
Joshua
Feb 03, 2015 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
Classicist Victor Davis Hanson’s The Western Way of War explores what the Greek hoplite experienced before, during, and after battle, the origins of phalanx war, and whether Greek precedents created a distinct western way of war. Hanson uses archaeological sources, visual culture, the Homeric epics, ancient poetry and drama, the writings of the three ancient historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, early Roman sources, and tactical manuals to describe what the hoplite experienced in battle ...more
Steve Bivans
Hanson attempts to reconstruct the ‘face of battle’ from the perspective of the citizen soldiers of Greece during the period from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries, BC. Hanson argues that the focus of Greek warfare was not the destruction of crops, but a response to a perceived threat to crops, and the insult of foreign troops marching into ones territory. While war was an ever present reality, the conventions of hoplite battle were designed to limit the scope of war and therefore casualties.

H
...more
Ike Sharpless
Aug 15, 2011 Ike Sharpless rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, war, greeks
Note that this review is emphatically *not* an endorsement of Hanson's newfound xenophobic culture wars bully pulpit - this is a review of a well-written and well-researched book on hoplite warfare. Nothing more, nothing less.
Joseph Stieb
Feb 04, 2015 Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Western Way of War, Victor Davis Hanson examines the experience and broader historical significance of hoplite battle in Classical Greece from 650-338 BCE. He successfully explains this way of war as a product of Classical Greece’s particular historical conditions. Although his broader claims about the persistence of Greek approaches to battle in Western culture are dubious, Hanson’s persuasive and well-sourced examination of the links between culture and battle merits much praise.
Hanson
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Filip Camerman
Mar 06, 2014 Filip Camerman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd read a book about ancient warfare before and walked away with the impression that the author didn't really know the finer details of how battles were fought in ancient times and just skirted the issue without even acknowledging the gap in knowledge. No such thing in this book, which deals exclusively with battles in ancient Greece between the phalanxes of city states. Every detail is examined, from equipment to preparation of the battle to advancement to the initial clash, the collapse of on ...more
Daniel
Mar 04, 2011 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating study. Hanson proposes that Greek hoplite warfare was a regular event and a means of contesting armies under conditions that limited casualties and interruptions to the critical rhythms of life. The battles, he states, did not last more than an hour, and their outcome was accepted by both parties. Greek men of all ages participated, and each felt more allegiance to his neighbors and family than higher ideals or notions. There was little specialization in the phalanx, and, with ...more
Shawn Veltheim
He has college kids mess about with Greek Hoplite armor and concludes that it's too heavy to wear for more than a couple of minutes. Did nobody else notice how that's like comparing apples to oranges?

Servicemen hump tons of gear for miles and miles, flack jacket, kevlar helmet, ammunition, machine gun and a full backpack... it's only heavy till your body gets used to it.

It was hard to take the rest of the book seriously after that.
Greg
Sep 23, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This books explores infantry combat in Ancient Greece. Hanson takes a "face of battle" approach to military history, drawing on literary sources, modern reconstructions, archaeology, modern psychology to deliver a compelling description of what combat in the phalanx was like. One fascinating idea from the book is that the phalanx contributed to the rise and relative stability of democracy in Ancient Greece, since citizens who fought in the phalanx had to depend on their neighbors for protection ...more
Nicholas
Aug 25, 2011 Nicholas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, history
An excellent piece of work that demystifies the art of hoplite warfare. Hanson's writing style is engaging, and unlike many other military writers he has not simply relied on traditional sources of historical information such as texts and archaeology, he has also tested Greek military practices with volunteers and arms in comparable conditions. This gives his analysis great authority, and his conclusions are by and large accepted as fact. A worthy addition to the library of any Greek or Military ...more
Christa
Dec 18, 2014 Christa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Dr. Hanson's treatment of life as an ancient Greek hoplite was a wonderful blend of analysis and comparative history. By stressing the connections between the ancient Greek warrior and many examples in modern times, he brings the world of ancient warfare out of maps and statistics and onto the battlefield where any reader can feel the press of the enemy. This history was accessible and detailed without becoming dryly technical, but still conveyed a lot of well-documented information.
Chris
Feb 02, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account which explores the essence of humanity
Jeanmarie
Oct 31, 2007 Jeanmarie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, this is a straight history book, but he's interested in the bodies of soldiers - how much their armor weighed, how hot they must have been, how they moved. Not as interested in war strategies. Given the nature of the evidence we have, it's tough to imagine a soldier's life on the ground in 4th century BCE Greece, but he manages to do it.
P.
Jun 08, 2008 P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It definitely reads to some extent like an expansion of a doctoral thesis into a book (which I believe it was), in a certain repetitive redundancy of quotations (of course, in defense, somewhat inevitable when working with incomplete ancient texts), but, it reads quickly while still providing tasty imagery for the reader's consumption.
Scott Olson
Oct 31, 2011 Scott Olson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For my money, Victor Davis Hanson is the world's preeminent scholarly writer on classical Greek military and warfare. A professor of classics at Cal State Fresno, VDH masterfully relates the ancient Greek's style of warfare and how it evolved as a byproduct of the changing Greek political power base.
Andrew
Aug 05, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
His basic premise is that olive trees and vineyards are too hard to destroy in a hurry, so rather then trying to destroy your opponent's economy, it makes more sense to fight on big battle quickly to destroy his army, so you can hurry home to havest the afore mentioned olives and grapes.
John Bladek
Dec 27, 2008 John Bladek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Classic in the study of hoplite warfare. If you want to know the practicalities of strapping on a panolply, hoisting a hoplon (shield)and lining up eight men deep to try and push another army while sticking them with your dori (spear), this is your book.
Paa
Sep 20, 2013 Paa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the book. Well written and researched. Inspired me to do additional studies of ancient Greece and Rome. Wish I had read this book when I was in high school!
Dr.
Oct 05, 2011 Dr. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
Very similar to one of my favorite books "The Face of Battle" by John Keegan, but with a focus exclusively on Greek hoplite combat. Very good.
Michael
History books aren't really my thing, but I actually liked this book. Great suggestion for a book from a Western Civilization professor.
Sean
Jul 24, 2007 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masterful, and controversial, analysis of ancient Greek hoplite warfare. Must-read for any armchair ancient historian.
Molly
Jun 15, 2010 Molly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book for a Summer history course I'm taking... pretty interesting so far.
Kevin Teixeira
Changed the way I thought about world history. Everyone should read it.
Colin
Feb 25, 2008 Colin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much anything by Victor Davis Hanson is worth reading.
Jonathan
Jan 02, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply great
Jeffry
Jul 30, 2009 Jeffry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think a few holes have been punched in Hanson's thesis but this is an important book.
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Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975), the American School of Classical Studies (1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He lives and works with his family on their forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953.
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