Ancient History & Civilisation


The Hoplite Revolution and the Rise of the Polis

In his seminal 1937 article, “When Did the Polis Rise?” Victor Ehrenberg notes that it is impossible to give exact dates for the “rise” and that the polis was no doubt the product of a long evolution.1 He acknowledges that “rise” can only mean true origin, which scholars as a rule place long before the sixth or fifth century. However, “some strange pronouncements in a contrary sense,” the assertions of Berve in particular, provoked Ehrenberg to reassert the orthodox position. Earlier Ehrenberg had protested2 against Berve setting the formation of the Greek state as late as the turn of the seventh to the sixth centuries.3 But he was astonished when Berve later argued for a fifth-century date: in the generation of Pindar and Simonides the “growing spirit of the Polis is scarcely yet apparent”; “not under Cimon but under Pericles, the dynastic form of rule is dissolved totally into the self-accomplishment of the Polis.”4 Ehrenberg points out the fallacy in thinking that realization of the polis does not occur until its climax in the fifth century. Such a model as Berve’s limits the polis to about the period of Periclean Athens since it declines soon thereafter (e.g., Thuc. 3.82ff.).5 In recent years, similar attacks on the orthodox view6 threaten once again to reduce the polis to a “phantom which would owe its existence perhaps to the speculation of philosophers and rhetors of the fourth century.”7

Ehrenberg suggested that Berve confused the Polis with the “democratic polis” of the fifth century. In fact, as early as 800 BC, the Greeks knew the polis in a purer and simpler form even before the first legislators and the tyrants. The thrust of Ehrenberg’s argument is that the polis existed well before it had reached what many consider its apex if not its predestined form. The first stage involved the emergence of the polis-city. Following the formation of the walled polis-town and its unification with the hinterland, the rule of the town replaced the domination of the pure aristocracy. The concept of dikē, which had over time become a traditional and admitted principle of the state, restrained the aristocracy and made it responsible to the will of the community of citizens. This description of the process of the internal formation of the state would not arouse much controversy today. It is the second stage Ehrenberg identifies in the rise of the Greek state that scholars have vigorously challenged in recent years. That is when, in the seventh century, a more egalitarian form of the state resulted from the “family-polis” giving way to the “hoplite-polis.”8 The idea that a rising and middling group of farmer-citizen-soldiers burst the bonds of exclusive political privilege and paved the way for broader oligarchies and later for democracies traces its roots back to Aristotle. One of the most common forms of attacking this position has been to deny the existence of a substantial middling stratum of farmers, to make early Greek political history an affair of elites.9 This view has drawn much inspiration from attempts to downdate the classical phalanx. Ehrenberg sought to prevent the assumption of a “totally new and arbitrary use of the term ‘Polis’ ”;10 in this light I want to reassert the traditional hoplite narrative in the face of the current challenges and put the phalanx in its proper context in the history of the polis.

In his Politics, Aristotle, provides a model for how the constitutions of the Greek polis evolved.11 Following the early kingships, the earliest form of constitution among the Greeks was made up of those who fought. The first constitutions consisted of the cavalry, the horse-owning aristocrats, who dominated the battlefield. However, once the heavy infantry learned the art of proper formation (syntaxis), the hoplites were able to break the aristocrats’ monopoly of political power. The early Greeks, Aristotle says, called the hoplite constitution democracy. In a later passage,12 he remarks that the rowers made the democracy of Athens stronger, having been the cause of the victory off Salamis during the Persian Wars and thus the cause of the city’s hegemony due to its sea power. Scholars have criticized this scheme.13 For instance, except for a few areas, such as Thessaly and Macedonia, cavalry never played a preeminent role in Greek warfare. Yet Aristotle still presents a compelling thesis for how the political institutions of the polis did develop. The orthodox view of historians, moreover, has maintained for a long time that the rise of the polis owed much to the emergence of a middle class of farmer-citizen-soldiers, wealthy enough to provide their own hoplite panoply to fight in defense of their state. The hoplites have often been linked to the early Greek tyrants as well. A brief review of the traditional model for how the early polis developed can help throw light on recent attempts to overthrow it.

The polis emerged in the eighth century after the long Dark Age, which followed the chaos that attended the collapse of Mycenaean society. The centuries of low population density and of depressed economic conditions gave way to demographic and geographic expansion and to renewed long-distance trade. The details are obscure, but Thucydides gives a plausible account of the rise of the polis after the period of the migrations ended and the conditions in Greece settled down. He says that the early constitutions were hereditary monarchies with limitations placed on the powers of the kings.14 There was no great land war fought during this period. Warfare involved simple border conflicts between neighboring poleis over contested land. The Lelantine War fought between Chalcis and Eretria in which “all the rest of Hellas took sides in alliance with the one side or the other” was the first significant land battle to take place among the Greeks.15 By this time, around 700, most scholars believe that hereditary monarchies of some sort had yielded to aristocracies of birth in most poleis. The traditional view is that the nature of Greek warfare changed dramatically shortly thereafter.

Above all other factors, the introduction of the hoplite shield in the late eighth century had a revolutionary16 effect. Use of the shield makes sense only in the context of a phalanx in which a warrior in the massed formation seeks coverage for his vulnerable right-hand side behind the shield of the neighbor on his right (Thuc. 5.71). The hoplite shield underscores the technical differences between Dark Age and classical warfare. Dark Age warriors seem to have worn their shields suspended from their necks by a leather strap and to have thrown their spears as javelins. The hoplite shield, on the other hand, is held in place by a double armband while the warrior uses his spear like a pike. Hoplites fought in close formation and thrust their spears instead of throwing them. Thus the open-order battles in which champions were preeminent must have given way to more cohesive formations of heavy infantry with the introduction of the double-grip shield. This transition in tactics led to radical social and political changes in the Greek world. As the defense of the state came to depend more and more on ever-greater numbers of nonaristocrats who fought in the phalanx, side by side with the aristocrats, the hoplites succeeded in their demands for political power. In many states, a charismatic leader exploited the masses’ discontent with their aristocratic peers to champion the cause of the hoplites and establish himself as tyrant.

The model outlined above has been challenged from a number of viewpoints. Perhaps the most influential approach has been to argue that the phalanx did not come about through sudden change with the introduction of the hoplite shield.17 Snodgrass further maintained that the double-grip shield does not necessarily imply phalanx tactics, and that the two innovations did not occur at the same time. In his view, the phalanx did not achieve its full development until about 650. Since the phalanx as described in the classical sources did not first take shape until after the date for the earliest tyrants, there was no self-conscious hoplite class to back the tyrants and to push for political reform. In addition, the prohibitive expense of the panoply meant that few individuals outside the narrow class of aristocrats could afford to arm themselves as hoplites. These aristocrats continued to fight as soloists, and it was only over a period of half a century or more that they gradually recruited nonaristocrats to join their ranks in the phalanx. Therefore, the “gradualist” position contends that there was a military reform in the seventh century but no accompanying political revolution.

Scholars have based the next major change in their understanding of the phalanx on the new readings of the battle scenes in Homer. They claim that in the Iliad mass armies, and not heroic champions, are the decisive element in battle.18 The mass forces are not only decisive but also engage in hand-to-hand combat and close-order formations that are nearly the same as those of the classical phalanx. Latacz argued that, since the Homeric phalanx likely resembles what must have taken place in historical battles of the same period, there is no need to posit a hoplite “revolution” or even a “reform” for the seventh century. The reform must have come earlier or not at all. From this some have concluded that in Homer “the pitched battle was the decisive element.”19 Pritchett has remarked, “The general impression created by the poems is one of hoplites fighting in formation.” Indeed, Raaflaub has combined the idea of piecemeal adoption of the hoplite panoply with the arguments for mass fighting in Homer. He proposes a long evolution of fighting in early Greece that involves perfection and formalization of tactics rather than the introduction of phalanx warfare. He asserts, “The evidence of Homeric and early Greek warfare leaves no space for a ‘hoplite revolution.’ ”20 Raaflaub suggests that mass fighting gradually “evolved along with the formation of the polis.”21 Since mass fighting had been developing since the start of the polis, the phalanx did not incorporate a new class of citizens who for the first time fought on equal terms with the aristocrats. For Raaflaub, the integration of the polis, which took place under the leadership of the aristocrats, resulted from the “collective will of the entire citizen body” and served the needs of the entire community.22

Some historians have gone much further in rejecting the idea of a seventh-century military reform. Van Wees, for example, accepts the thesis that hoplite warfare is widely represented in the Iliad and has advanced a new theory about how warriors used the double-grip shield, the aspis. He argues that hoplites fought in a stance resembling that of fencers, with their left shoulder facing the enemy, rather than the position of a wrestler, with their chest to the foe. In this case, the aspis covers both flanks of the warrior, so there is no need for him to seek the shelter of a neighbor’s shield for the protection of a vulnerable right-hand side.23 Therefore, he contends that hoplites did not need to maintain a tightly ordered line but could fight in a much looser and less cohesive formation or could even have fought independent of the phalanx. The consequences of the new readings of Homer and van Wees’s thesis go beyond just a revision of tactics. For example, in a recent textbook discussing the Greek polis Osborne remarks that warfare in massed ranks replaced warfare of individual champions in the eighth century and that this was both prior to the invention of the double-grip shield and well before the appearance of the first tyrants in the Greek tradition. Osborne also accepts van Wees’s ideas on how hoplite warriors used their shield. He concludes that “as a key to the development of tyranny, the invention of the hoplite shield needs to be laid aside: it probably happened too early, and it probably made very little difference to the nature of warfare.”24 These trends have begun to affect how some scholars write authoritative descriptions of archaic hoplite battle, as follows.

The standard hoplite battle formation, the phalanx, developed gradually over the centuries. In classical times the phalanx was a densely packed arrangement, typically eight ranks deep, optimized for mass shock combat. While Herodotus sometimes anachronistically portrays hoplites fighting in classical fashion, the Archaic phalanx was in reality looser and less structured. Armies did form up in close-ordered lines, but contingents were able to advance or withdraw on their own initiative (5.75, 5.113, and 9.62). Battles could proceed in seesaw fashion, with troops repeatedly charging and falling back (7.225, 9.21, and 9.74). Archers and other light troops occasionally fought mixed in with hoplites (9.22, 9.29–30).25

On the contrary, I shall argue that the testimony of Homer does not mean that the innovations in hoplite arms brought about no revolutionary change in warfare, and that van Wees’s ingenious interpretations of the iconographical evidence are no cause to throw out the orthodoxy regarding tactics. I shall then maintain that the date of the phalanx does in fact coincide with the introduction of the double-grip shield. This earlier date, moreover, is crucial for understanding the revolution that occurred in the poleis in the political and social institutions of at least several of the major Greek states. These changes transformed Greek values and culture in general and helped create the egalitarian ethos and rule of law that shaped the polis. None of the recent advances in archaeology or the new readings of the literary sources for the period has refuted the traditional grand hoplite narrative.

I begin with a critique of van Wees’s view on how hoplites fought,26 especially their use of the aspis. In a recent article, Schwartz analyzes van Wees’s theory.27 He rejects the view that hoplite warriors were fit for single combat. The hoplite was always meant to fight in a phalanx. Schwartz also disputes the idea that the hoplite phalanx did not evolve until the time of the Persian Wars. To begin with, the hoplite panoply, including the bronze breastplate, the bronze “Corinthian-style” helmet, the iron-tipped ashen spear, the iron sword, the bronze greaves, and, of course, the large shield (the aspis or hoplon), remained essentially unchanged throughout the archaic and classical periods. The shield itself maintained the same circular shape, the concavity of its inner surface, its wooden core, the bronze band on its rim, and the double-grip system. Examination of the equipment shows that it could only have been made for one style of fighting. The size and weight of the shield made it unwieldy.28 The double-grip system of the central arm band—theporpax—and the gripping handle—the antilabe—enabled the hoplite to support the approximately 7.5 kg weight of the shield at two points instead of the one afforded by the single-grip shield. In addition, this meant that the bearer could wield the shield with the left arm only, as opposed to the warrior who could shift a single-grip shield from one hand to the other to relieve its weight. On the other hand, the concavity of the shield allowed the hoplite to rest the lip of the shield on his shoulder. Carrying the shield in this inclining position, with the lower rim jutting out in front of the warrior, has the added advantage of enlarging the zone of protection and serves to make spear thrusts glance off the shield. Schwartz points out29 that this is in fact the only possible way to handle the aspis.

However, without the carrying strap (the telamon) of previous shields, and owing to the sheer size of the shield, the bearer could not sling the aspis around his back, which limited his protection when the hoplite turned to flight. This fact, along with its weight and awkward concavity, made theaspis particularly unwieldy, and made the warrior himself far less mobile than previous fighters. Yet van Wees insists that “the shield … at most tended to slow down movement on the battlefield: it did not in itself impose a static form of combat,” and that the loss of maneuverability that theaspis entailed “should not be exaggerated,” since no type of shield can be brought very far to the right “without badly impeding the use of weapons.”30 However, as Schwartz maintains, it is nearly impossible to deflect a blow or thrust with a shield in one hand and strike with a weapon in the other hand simultaneously. The required technique is to deflect an incoming blow first, say to the defender’s right side, and then, only after that, to go on the offensive. By this time, the warrior will have transferred his shield to its usual position to the front and slightly to the left, so he can strike with greater force. What van Wees’s description misses is that in fast-paced fighting the lighter, single-grip shield is of greater value because the bearer can deflect incoming blows better by more swiftly transferring the shield’s center to the point of attack and back again, “in short, by using his shield actively in the fighting, truly wielding it.” In addition, since a fighter can hold the single-grip shield at full arm’s length, which decreases the opponent’s angles of attack, the shield surface need not be quite so large. The single-grip shield also allows great freedom of movement. For example, even when the bearer reaches across to his own right side, a mere turn of the wrist enables him to rotate the shield to maximize the angle of deflection.

The aspis, on the other hand, failed in all these respects. The double-grip system severely limited the warrior’s overall range of motion. Unlike the single-grip shield, which could be held out at full arm’s length, the aspis could only be held out as far from the body as the elbow, or about half the distance. It would have been especially difficult for the hoplite wearing a heavy bronze cuirass to reach across his torso to deflect a thrust aimed at his right side. It would have been even more difficult for him to use his aspis to deflect a thrust directed at his legs. For unlike a warrior armed with the single-grip shield who could simply alter his footing and lower his shield arm, the hoplite would have had to stoop down for his shield to deflect the sword or spear of his attacker. In any instance, the weight and size of the aspis made it awkward to wield, especially over any prolonged period. The Corinthian helmet can be seen in much the same light as well. Besides the considerable weight of the helmet and the discomfort of wearing it, the highly protective helmet impaired the hoplite’s field of vision and made it nearly impossible for him to hear.

When one considers the great skill and workmanship that went into designing and making such engineering masterpieces as both the Corinthian helmet and the aspis,31 it is hard to believe that they were not created for a particular type of fighting. That style would hardly have been fighting a series of duels between individuals with their mobility impaired by awkward armor, which limited their range of motion, restricted their vision, and deprived them of their hearing. The most reasonable way to understand the use of the shield is described by Thucydides’ often-quoted passage: “through fear each man draws his unarmed side as close as possible to the shield of the man stationed on his right, thinking that there is the greatest safety in the tightest formation possible (synkleisis).”32 As Greenhalgh remarks, “the significance of Thucydides’ observation is that some lateral, not frontal, protection was obtained from the next man’s shield, and that it was vital not to allow a gap to develop which might break the line, since a broken phalanx was as good as lost.”33

Peter Krentz has criticized the traditional understanding of archaic battle for its “excessively literal interpretation of the sources both for the formation and manner of fighting.”34 He makes light of the double-handled shield, which is “like any shield carried on one arm,”35 and suggests that a hoplite “could have covered himself nicely by turning sideways to the enemy,” which “would also have enabled a more powerful spear thrust.”36 In fact, this technique would have worked just as well with a smaller shield, which would have been easier to wield without the double grip and wide diameter, and would have presented a smaller target to the enemy. Of course, the logical reason for soldiers preferring the larger aspis is what Thucydides describes in 5.71.1, which is precisely why weshould “assume that Thucydides did not exaggerate and should be taken literally.”37 Krentz gives his own account of how phalanxes collided, inspired by the Myrmidons’ charge in the Iliad:38

However neat the phalanx was when it began to move, by the time it reached the enemy it tended to dissolve into small clusters and individuals, the braver men striking out on their own, the less confident men bunching together. Archaic hoplites were amateurs, mostly farmers, who lacked the training necessary to advance in an evenly spaced formation.39

Not by coincidence, this reconstruction contrasts sharply with Victor Davis Hanson’s vivid portrayal of the terrible shock collision of hoplites in Western Way of War.40 However, it is hard to believe that even the Spartans, the closest archaic and classical Greece came to professional soldiers, lacked the discipline and courage to maintain their ranks during an infantry charge.41 Yet they did not annihilate every Greek force they faced. For example, the Athenians more than held their own against the Spartans at Tanagra in 457.42 What would have happened if one side did maintain ranks and a relatively tight formation while the other side became frightened and scattered before impact? I think the side that maintained relatively uniform ranks, which is what Tyrtaeus exhorts the Spartans to do, would break right through the opposing line, assuming that they would even need to make contact to win.

Krentz criticizes the orthodox argument for the ritualistic/agonistic nature of archaic hoplite warfare because it is based on late sources, but he presents an alternative model based on a second-century AD account about the Messenian Wars.43 This is despite the fact that at least the First Messenian War took place before the Spartans first adopted hoplite tactics. A common feature of “revisionist” challenges is to propose a hypothesis that seems to contradict individual points of the orthodoxy.44 These hypotheses are then treated as facts that disprove the theory without offering an alternative to help explain the larger picture. Krentz, for instance, concludes, based on his idea that phalanxes did not maintain a tight formation nor crash into one another, that, “Archaic Greece did not experience a military revolution, much less one that led to political revolutions as well.” There was an evolution in equipment, but this was “in order to help a man do better what he was already doing.”45 But how did a double-grip one-meter-in-diameter shield and a Corinthian helmet help an amateur farmer charge an opposing phalanx only to retreat into small clusters or individual combat before making contact with the enemy?

There will no doubt continue to be lively discussion about tactics, but it will be difficult to explain why such a shield and grip system was designed for any other style of fighting than that which Thucydides described three centuries after the invention of the aspis. Why would it take so long to figure out how to use the shield to its best advantage when mass fighting was already taking place in the eighth century? Why propose an extended period of evolution in technique when close-order fighting was already being practiced, as nearly all scholars agree? Why would the Greeks invent the aspis only to change to a style of fighting as duelists46 in hoplite armor for the next two centuries? It is inconceivable that the Greeks would invent specialized armor only to use it in a manner that contradicts its design.47 It is even more incredible that they would need over two hundred years before realizing during the Persian Wars48 how to fight with identical equipment, when those arms clearly perfect the type of mass fighting to which Homer may bear witness.49 The burden of proof rests with those who want to argue that hoplites in the seventh century fought in a looser, less cohesive phalanx. Evolution in fighting style and technique no doubt took place, such as the use of throwing spears and the use of swords as a primary weapon. Tyrtaeus exhorts the lightly armed men, moreover, to “throw great rocks and hurl smooth javelins while [they] stand close by the heavy-armed men.”50 However, these elements do not in and of themselves change the essential character of hoplite warfare. What was most likely an early experimental stage before warriors adopted the uniformity of weapons and of methods does not change the obvious references of Tyrtaeus to the classical phalanx: “let him stand with his shield … with foot placed alongside foot and shield pressed against shield, let everyone draw near, crest to crest, helmet to helmet, and chest to chest, and fight against a man, seizing the hilt of his sword or his long spear.”51

Why would a hoplite encounter in the middle of the seventh century be fundamentally different from one in the fifth century? The archaeology for the period suggests a different story. Snodgrass has pointed out “there is a substantial class of evidence, that of the actual surviving pieces of armour dedicated at Olympia and other sanctuaries, which is more robust than either new textual interpretations of Homer, or new readings of battle scenes in art. It tells a firmly consistent story, that the middle years of the seventh century saw a sharp rise in frequency of use of the ‘classic’ items of hoplite armour on Greek battlefields: something in Greek warfare changed significantly in these years.”52 He argues for a period of transition during which Greek armorers worked their way through experiment toward the “classic” forms of hoplite equipment.

This firmly fixes the terminus ante quem for the hoplite revolution at 650. However, changes in and refinements of equipment need not indicate an alteration in the basic nature of what became the classical phalanx. This includes the relatively large size and cohesion of its ranks,53 and the decisive role played by the massed ranks of heavy infantry. The Homeric texts, moreover, may show that some form of mass fighting involving nonaristocratic warriors took place prior to the phalanx. This could have provided a precedent for participation by nonelite soldiers, some of whom must have been able to afford the new arms once the massed close-order tactics did come into use. Therefore, though the Homeric testimony54 cannot be used to disprove a hoplite revolution by arguing for a pre-polis hoplite phalanx, Homer may show that mass fighting had a long history before the full adoption of hoplite armor,55 and that aristocratic soloists did not monopolize the battlefield. It appears unclear in light of the current reading of Homer’s poetry whether an early stage of exclusive aristocratic combat by individual warriors or soloists56 ever existed. This removes an important objection to the idea that the phalanx had revolutionary consequences, namely, that hoplite warfare “ran so entirely counter to historical precedent.”57 At the same time, there was no hoplite phalanx without the aspis.

The reasons for going hoplite were mostly pragmatic but were also consistent with archaic Greek ethics and culture. Recent study suggests that “mass armies, and not heroic champions, are the decisive element in Homeric battle, and the importance of their role is absolutely integral to the battle-descriptions.”58 Though this is not conclusive proof that Homeric warfare is historical, it is at least plausible that such a depiction of warfare had some resemblance to real battles of the eighth century. The key innovation that transformed battle was the introduction of the double-grip system. Even if hoplite phalanxes were organized based on the clans in early Greece, as soon as the new form of fighting was adopted, the lead position in battle was taken away from the aristocrats. The original size of the hoplite class, which was probably small, would not have determined whether the new form of fighting would have had a revolutionary effect. However one defines the aristocracy, its power was lessened once aristocrats took their place in the phalanx next to commoners soon after the invention of the double-grip shield. Scholars have placed too much emphasis on the insufficient time for a separate hoplite class to become a self-conscious political force to create a revolution. The transition, once the aspiscame into use, would not require a long period of perfection and formalization of phalanx warfare, which continued to evolve throughout the classical period while maintaining its essential character.

The dependence on nonaristocrats in battle by itself would have diminished the political stature of aristocrats. Even a small number of nonaristocrat hoplites was now essential and in a position to contest the exclusiveness of aristocratic privilege or to support an aristocrat looking to challenge his peers. Enough time for nonaristocrats to become unified was provided by the long period of mass fighting before its formalization with the new equipment in the fully developed phalanx. In any case, for a “revolution” to take place it would not have required a “class consciousness” on the part of the many independent, well-to-do farmers with the means to sustain and to arm themselves with their own hoplite panoply. The need and desire to protect their farmland would have provided sufficient motivation to fight and demand a voice in polis decisions. The tension from this middle stratum may be seen in the figure of Homer’s Thersites, a man of no account in battle or in council, who is a caricature of the new threat to the established political order. There is also the instance of Odysseus rebuking the demos as worthless in war and in council.59

Raaflaub rejects the idea of a “hoplite revolution.” He acknowledges that military changes not only took place but also were an integral part of the rise of the polis.60 However, he sees political institutions, military practice, and cultural values evolving throughout the archaic period. The development of the phalanx plays a key role in the emergence of the polis, but it is just one important element in the “integration of the polis” in the seventh and sixth centuries without causing any radical breaks from the past. Raaflaub sees a gradual progression in the individual’s relationship to his community.61

It is true that in his exhortation to his comrades to fight all together by the ships Hector mentions dying for one’s patrē: for the soldier “it is not unseemly to die defending his fatherland (patrē); but his wife is safe and his children after him.”62 On the other hand, Hector also tells his wife Andromache, when she advises him to station his army where the city is most vulnerable to attack, that he must consider his own honor ahead of saving her freedom and that of his family.63 Achilles exemplifies the heroic ethic perfectly by allowing his fellow Achaeans to be slaughtered by the ships in order to defend his own timē.64 In addition, the Achaeans themselves recognize his right in this. In the embassy to Achilles in book 9 his friends agree that Achilles was right to withdraw from battle until his individual honor was restored. Phoenix tells him: “if the son of Atreus were not to offer you gifts … I would not be the one to ask you to cast aside your wrath and assist the Argives, though their need is great.”65 Even Agamemnon does not fault Achilles’ lack of devotion to the community, but instead concedes his own madness in dishonoring the great warrior.66 This contrasts sharply with the hoplite ethos advanced by Tyrtaeus:67

“This is aretē; this is the best human prize and the fairest for a young man to win.” The man who fights without pause among the promachoi “is a common good (xynon esthlon) for the polis and all the people (demos).” … “If he falls among the promachoi and loses his dear life, he brings honor to his town (asty) and his people (laoi) and his father.”

Young and old alike lament him / and his entire polis mourns with painful regret. / His tomb and his children are notable among men, / and his children’s children, and his genos hereafter … / but if he escapes the doom of death … having prevailed [in battle], … / all men give place to him alike, the youth and the elders…. / Growing old he is distinguished among his citizens. Never does his name or his excellent glory (kleos) perish, but even though he is beneath the earth he is immortal.

The warrior in Tyrtaeus may receive individual honors and praise for his valor in battle, but that is only because he has placed the common good of the polis above all else. The heroic values of Achilles and Hector, which place individual honor and achievement of glory over the life and safety of both family and community, are unimaginable in this context. However, the words of Pericles in the Funeral Speech over two hundred years later are in much the same spirit.

You must behold daily the might of the polis and become lovers of her, and when her greatness has inspired you, consider that bold men, who knew their duty, and at times of stress were moved by a sense of honor, acquired this, and, whenever they faltered in an enterprise, thought that at least they should not deprive the polis of their excellence (aretē), but gave freely to her their fairest service; for they gave their lives (somata) for the common good and won for themselves the praise which is ageless68 and the most notable of tombs—not that in which they lie buried, but that in which their glory remains in everlasting remembrance on every occasion that gives rise to word or deed. For the entire world is the tomb of famous men…. The polis will maintain their children at the public expense until manhood, thus offering a useful prize for the dead and their survivors for such contests; for where the greatest prizes are offered for excellence (aretē), there also the best men are citizens.69

I agree that there is some development in the concept of the polis. But the words of Tyrtaeus are much closer in spirit to those of Pericles than to the speech of Hector. Yet Homer comes maybe a generation or two before Tyrtaeus, and might even be contemporary, depending on how one dates the Iliad. For Pericles, much like Tyrtaeus, the aretē of the individual is directed entirely to and derives meaning only from the polis. Indeed, citizens who do not participate in the affairs of the polis (ta politika) are useless (akhreion).70The difference from the values of Homer71 originated with hoplite warfare, and the ethos of egalitarianism and the devotion to the polis it fostered.

The idea that there was a dramatic increase in the population of eighth-century Greece has had great influence on how scholars conceive the rise of the polis—the notion being that the population pressure on limited land led to the use of more intensive farming techniques, such as the cultivation of marginal lands and farmstead residence.72 As such farming expands, the pastoralism of dominant aristocrats gives way to the agrarian lifestyle and ethos of the middling farmer. The middling georgoi, who make up the bulk of the soldiers that fight in the phalanx, become a potent force, which transforms the culture of the early polis. The new egalitarian spirit leads to broader oligarchies and democracies as the middle class demands political power on par with its military importance.

Lin Foxhall has challenged this thesis based on archaeological survey.73 She argues that the evidence does not support the idea of overpopulation or of landscapes approaching their carrying capacity in the archaic period. There is little evidence of expansion into the countryside in the eighth and seventh centuries. In the southern Argolid, for example, “there is no evidence for dramatic changes in cultivation practices and most sites seem to be situated near the areas of the best agricultural land.”74 Small isolated rural “farmstead” sites do not show up in significant numbers until the Classical and Late Roman periods. The period of extensification into marginal lands “seems to start no earlier than the late sixth century, and is more generally a fifth- and fourth-century phenomenon across Greece.”75 According to Foxhall, the elite still dominated the polis until at least the late sixth century.76 Therefore, the middling farmers and, by extension, the hoplites had little to do with the overthrow of aristocratic regimes. Her analysis removes any significant link between hoplites and the Greek tyrants.

Other scholars have criticized Hanson’s model. For instance, Forsdyke suggests, “Hanson’s focus on isolated farm residence is motivated by his desire to define a class of small independent farmers whose ethos of hard work and whose skepticism of the values associated with the luxurious and urban city was the backbone of ancient Greek culture.”77 In addition, she questions Hanson’s association of the lifestyle and values of the small independent farmer with the rise and culture of the polis. On the other hand, her discussion points to some of the limitations of the current survey evidence in denying the existence of a middling farmer class. Forsdyke states that “current historical interpretations of archaic agriculture place too much emphasis on permanent residence on the land as an indicator of intensive land use.”78 The essential element in increasing agricultural productivity is the availability of labor, not farm residence. Therefore, farmers could apply intensive techniques to the most fertile lands closest to settlements first.79 When cultivating previously uncultivated lands farmers might employ traditional, less intensive methods.80 This would “neither require residence near the land, nor techniques such as manuring which might leave traces in the archaeological record.”81 Forsdyke warns of the complex relation between land use and the material record. This comes into play when attempting to “make claims for one region based on the evidence of one or more other regions.”82 The survey evidence bears directly on the hoplite question, but at present it is far from being conclusive enough83 to make general claims for the whole of Greece in the eighth and seventh centuries.84 In any case, there is no need to conclude that all the growth in population and agriculture in the eighth century was wholly manipulated by elites with no recognizable “middle class” playing a part.85 For one thing, this would imply a level of centralized state control and bureaucracy similar to that of the Mycenaean palaces, which we know could not have existed at the time.86

Despite the challenges to the thesis about explosive growth in the population of eighth-century Greece,87 strong conclusions are still possible for the rise of the polis. The recent demographic study by Scheidel88 estimates steady population growth of about 0.25 percent per annum throughout Greece from the tenth through the fourth centuries. The growth from the late eighth through the fifth centuries was particularly strong at up to 1 percent per annum, and was possibly higher at certain times in certain regions. “It remains true, however, that even after every reasonable adjustment has been made … present evidence still suggests that there were more people, living in a larger number of settlements, of a larger average size, and spread over a wider geographical area, in the later eighth century than at any time in the preceding four centuries.”89 The accumulated growth of the previous two centuries in addition to the unusually high growth rate of the eighth century could well have helped bring about the significant changes that marked the emergence of both hoplite warfare and the polis. The increase in population certainly led to farmers employing some type of intensive agriculture, which may or may not have left traces in the archaeological record. Relative land hunger (e.g., farmers not wanting to cultivate marginal lands, or to farm lands more than a certain distance from their poleis, or perhaps dissatisfied with the amount and/or quality of the land available to them) could have inspired colonization, without the need for the entire landscape to be filled to its capacity. More importantly for the hoplite question, relative land hunger would have increased competition for and conflict over the most fertile borderlands. The changes in population and the effects this had on agriculture no doubt varied from region to region and polis to polis, and affected different areas in different ways at different times. The point is that in certain major poleis, such as Argos, Corinth, and Sparta, there were simply more farmers who were well-to-do nonaristocrats and more able to afford arms now than in any prior generation. It is irrelevant that most small poleis could not possibly field a full hoplite army. The situation was no different in the fifth century as well.

If an agrarian and military revolution transformed Greek society in the seventh century, what did it look like? The picture conforms closely to the orthodox view, which has enjoyed widespread acceptance in the past. One has to admit that it is impossible to form anything close to a complete narrative owing to the nature of the surviving evidence, which is both sparse, often of a late date,90 and controversial. Still, it is possible to sketch a plausible and instructive account of what might have taken place without omitting or contradicting any of the extant archaeological or literary material.

A change in the model of settlement occurred in the eighth century, which demonstrates a regular layout and clear planning by a central authority that was concerned with the whole community.91 The colonizing movement reinforced this trend. The first major change in the formation of the polis, following the various synoecisms, would have been the division of the paramount basileus’ power among elected magistrates serving in offices with limited tenure and powers. The struggle between the newly established aristocracies and the emerging middle class of citizen-soldier-farmers who at first took part only in the assemblies came to define the history of the polis in the archaic period. The transition from the mass armies of the eighth century to the massed ranks of the phalanx of the seventh century created revolutionary social and political changes.

The idea for the hoplon developed after infantry had been fighting in mass formation since at least the first half of the eighth century. During the second half of the eighth century, the time of the so-called Greek “Renaissance,” the great colonization movement toward the west began. Chalkis and Corinth, which founded Naxos and Syracuse in about 734, sent out the first foundations proper. The period of colonization coincided with the growth in population and the competition for resources, arable soil in particular. With polis formation and relative land hunger, border conflicts broke out between neighboring city-states. It was at this time that Chalkis and Eretria fought over the fertile Lelantine Plain. During these border wars of increasing intensity warriors must have come to see the advantages of fighting in a scrum for protection. Before the end of the eighth century, someone imagined the possibilities of having a larger shield for greater coverage when fighting in mass formation. The creation of a double-grip shield was not inevitable. However, the invention was surprising and made sense. The next stage involved the decision of the more innovative leaders to organize the new fighting style into a phalanx to make it more formal and more effective. The process likely started by organizing one’s family and neighbors and eventually included all those who could fight and provide their own panoply. Certain pieces of armor became desirable, such as the breastplate in case an enemy should drive his spear through the shield. Through experience, warriors came to see what worked best in practice, and the tendency toward uniformity increased. The hoplite revolution took place at different times in different places of the Greek world.

Chalkis had played the leading role in Greek warfare in the eighth century until Argos, which probably invented the hoplite shield, developed the phalanx, I would argue. The earliest figure to succeed in hoplite warfare on a large scale may well have been Pheidon of Argos, the first Greek tyrant for whom there is any evidence. I agree with Salmon’s dating of Pheidon’s reign to about 675.92 Being the first to make use of a hoplite phalanx would help explain the tradition of Pheidon’s remarkable success in conquering new territory. He would have exploited the novel phalanx to diminish the power of the aristocrats and to defeat his neighbors, Corinth and Sparta in particular. At the height of his powers, Pheidon probably defeated the Spartans at Hysiae in 669.

Shortly thereafter, Cypselus used his position as polemarch to overthrow the Bacchiads in about 655 and to establish himself as tyrant of Corinth. Cypselus rose to power when the Bacchiad aristocrats, who were no longer able to maintain their great success of the eighth century, faced popular discontent with their rule.93 It is a natural inference that Cypselus either made use of the hoplites or at least had their tacit support. The revolution in the government brought about by Cypselus would have drawn on both the new class of men who had prospered from Corinth’s expansion of commerce, which had made men outside the Bacchiad class wealthy, and, of course, the hoplites. The tyrant would have included in his council and minor magistrates the hoplites on whom Cypselus could rely in Corinth’s resistance to Pheidon of Argos. Pheidon is said to have been killed in a civil disturbance in Corinth94 that occurred in the middle of the century, the same time as Cypselus’ revolution. Despite the violence and oppression of the Cypselids, and the fact that oligarchy returned after the fall of the tyranny, Corinth was never subject again to the domination of the Bacchiads or any other single clan.

The external example of tyranny on the Isthmus of Corinth and popular demand for a redistribution of the state land helped bring about the hoplite revolution at Sparta. The date for the political solution formulated in the Great Rhetra must follow the defeat suffered at the hands of Argos at Hysiae in 66995 and the subsequent helot revolt that resulted in the Second Messenian War. A combination of factors contributed to this development, especially the unequal distribution of land that followed the Spartan victory in the First Messenian War. To avoid the civil strife that had destroyed the aristocracies in other states, such as Corinth, the Spartan ruling class decided to base the state on a citizen body of homoioi, “equals” or “similars.” The military reform detailed in the rhetratransformed the old-style army organized by the three Dorian tribes of kinship96 into one based on the five territorial units, the obai. This new Spartan government was the first hoplite constitution in Greece. It was established when it became clear to the demos that the aristocrats could no longer preserve the state following the heavy defeat at Hysiae and the long drawn-out war with the helots. The rights of citizens were linked both to possession of an allotment of state-owned land, a kleros, worked by helots, and to membership in the all-hoplite citizen army and the elite class of homoioi.97

After the hoplite phalanx had already been adopted by many major Greek states such as Argos, Corinth, and Sparta, the revolution in Athens came about relatively late, at the end of the seventh century. Despite the synoecism of Attica in the eighth century, Athens did not become a unified polis until the time of Peisistratus (e.g., warfare between Athens and Eleusis, as separate political entities, into the seventh century). In contrast to Sparta, Athens could also depend on “internal colonization” of relatively spacious Attica to deal with the land-hunger problem plaguing many Greek states. In 632 the Olympic victor Cylon apparently failed to gather enough support from the hoplites in his attempt to become tyrant of Athens. However, the laws of Draco in 621 were insufficient to resolve the feuding among the aristocrats.

When Solon was made sole archon to deal with the debt crisis in 594, he addressed the infighting among the aristocrats that had been going on since at least the time of Cylon. The census groups he created not only broke the political monopoly of the aristocrats, the Eupatrids, on the high magistracies but also essentially divided political power according to military function. The hippeis (i.e., the cavalrymen) and the zeugitai (the “yoke men,” i.e., the hoplites) secured the greatest benefit.98

Solon probably established the Council of Four Hundred to serve as a counterweight to the traditional aristocratic council. The Council (boulē) provided an opportunity for the zeugitai to serve in the government. Except for the right to attend the assembly and to sit in the Heliaia, the thetesplayed little role in the new constitution. However, Solon needed to incorporate the zeugitai in the Athenian state if he wished to stave off the tyranny, which had overtaken many Greek states in the seventh century. Since the assembly met relatively few times a year, the power of the council would not have been great, but significant enough to hope to satisfy the drive toward broader participation. The powers of council and assembly were enhanced when Solon established regular meetings of the assembly.99

The idea of a hoplite revolution goes a long way in explaining both the changes in the political and social institutions of the archaic polis and the rise of the early Greek tyrants. In general, a scheme for how the hoplite “revolution” took place at different times in different places shows the strength of Aristotle’s model. Arguments that do away with the revolutionary character of hoplite warfare fail fully to account for the rise of the polis and its subsequent history. The Mycenaean palace system was similar to the monarchies of the ancient Near East. Many scholars, moreover, propose continuity between the Late Bronze Age and the Dark Age of Greece. However, the polis was unlike any political system prior to it in history. For example, there were no Near Eastern models for Greek assemblies,100 which developed out of the assemblies of fighting men found in Homer. The assemblies rose in importance and power with the emergence of the hoplites. At the same time, a self-conscious aristocratic class came into existence and defined itself in opposition to the middling farmers and merchants. How did the Greek polis develop?101 A grand narrative involving the hoplite phalanx helps explain the rise of this unique phenomenon, and nothing put forward in opposition has refuted the theory. At best, individual points have been contested, but no combination of the “revisionist” arguments adds up to a coherent theory that even begins to replace the orthodox model. There is simply no reason to retreat to the position that we cannot know.


I want to thank Paul Cartledge and Donald Kagan for offering many helpful comments and suggestions for this paper. The translations of the Greek are my own.

    1. Ehrenberg 1937.

    2. Ehrenberg 1969: 60.

    3. Berve 1951, 1:176.

    4. Berve, “Fürstliche Herren der Zeit der Perserkriege,” Die Antike 12 (1936): 1ff., and his book Miltiades, 1937.

    5. Ehrenberg 1937: 158–59.

    6. E.g., see van Wees in this volume. Gawantka (1985: 26, 28, n. 43) attacks the use by modern scholars of the ancient Greek word “polis” as an abstraction, a Weberian “ideal type.” Morris, on the other hand, argues for an eighth-century polis, but denies any connection with hoplites: “there is absolutely no reason to associate a ‘hoplite class’ with either the rise of the polis or the rise of the tyrants” (1987: 200).

    7. Ehrenberg 1937: 148, n 2.

    8. Ehrenberg 1937: 156.

    9. For Morris (1996: 40), “To meson was not a class but an ideological construct.” He suggests (2009: 76–79) that “the elitist vision … formed in opposition to middling ideologies in the same period, and the variability of the late-eighth-century archaeological record reflects the use of material culture to express competing visions of the good society” and “there are hints in the texts that the conflicts of the eighth century were sometimes settled by violence, but the main arena of debate was probably cultural.”

  10. Ehrenberg 1937: 157.

  11. Politics 1297b 16–28.

  12. Politics 1304a 22–24.

  13. Raaflaub 1999: 129.

  14. Thuc. 1.13.

  15. Thuc. 1.15.

  16. By the term “revolution” I am referring to the fundamental change that I argue took place in the social and political structure of the polis with the introduction of the hoplite phalanx. This change had more dramatic consequences for the development of the early polis than the military “reform” for which Snodgrass has argued (see below).

  17. Snodgrass 1965. See “The Hoplite Debate” chapter in this volume.

  18. Latacz 1977.

  19. Pritchett 1985: 33.

  20. Raaflaub 1999: 140.

  21. Raaflaub 1993: 80.

  22. Raaflaub 1992: 80–81.

  23. See van Wees’s chapter in this volume.

  24. Osborne 2004: 64–65. However, in the second edition of Greece in the Making, 1200–479 (2009: 164–65), Osborne states, “From around 675 BC vases provide good evidence for the use of the hoplite shield…. such a shield was far less manoeuvrable … as they [soldiers] advanced at a run the shield offered protection only to the left-hand side of the body…. the invention of the hoplite shield makes no sense except in the context of hand-to-hand fighting. The hoplite shield offers clear military advantages only in combination with heavy body-armour or in a very close-packed line, where each soldier (except the man at the right-hand end!) could protect his right side behind the shield of his right-hand neighbor during the advance. Paintings on pots show pipers in association with marching soldiers as early as they show use of the hoplite shield: once one was in very close-packed ranks with interlocking shields keeping in step became important. Inventing and adopting a shield can only have seemed a good idea when fighting in massed ranks was already familiar. Having a heavier and more securely held shield, which forced warriors to pack tightly together for maximum protection and covered the gaps between warriors, then became militarily desirable.”

  25. J.W.I. Lee, “Hoplite Warfare in Herodotus,” appendix N in The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories, ed. Robert B. Strassler, 799 (first Anchor Books edition, June 2009). I do not find convincing that these citations in Herodotus necessarily support this description of hoplite battle.

  26. Van Wees 2000.

  27. Schwartz 2002.

  28. Even if Krentz’s revised estimates for the weight of the shield and hoplite panoply are correct (see his chapter in this volume), the point remains unchanged: hoplites were fighting in armor that was much heavier and bulkier than anything they wore prior to the innovations in arms. Snodgrass points out that the arms were heavier when first introduced during the eighth and seventh centuries than in the fifth century, when the revisionists acknowledge that the close-order formation of the phalanx was in place. Krentz himself argues that hoplite armor became lighter over time until it may have been as light as 10 kg less at the time he claims the close-order fighting first came into use during the Persian Wars. Schwartz points out that the hoplites themselves were considerably lighter than originally estimated as well, which would offset some of the possible downward adjustments in weight of armor.

  29. Schwartz 2002: 35, and in this volume.

  30. Van Wees 2000: 127.

  31. Snodgrass 1964: 35, 68.

  32. Thuc. 5.71.

  33. Greenhalgh 1973: 72.

  34. Krentz 2007: 72 uses V. D. Hanson’s Western Way of War (2000) as an example.

  35. Krentz 2007: 72. In this volume, Kurt Raaflaub argues that, though Near Eastern equipment may have served as a starting point, the Greek shield and hoplite arms in general are unique and unlike anything the ancient world had produced.

  36. Krentz 2007: 72 cites van Wees 2004b: 168–69 to support his assertions.

  37. Krentz 2007: 72–73 suggests that “as close as possible” might mean much more than three feet for Thucydides, but this is unlikely. Three feet is a fair estimate of the distance soldiers would need to stand apart for the passage to make sense. Why propose a much greater distance that explains nothing and only makes one of the most direct extant references to close-order fighting unnecessarily confusing and obscure? At the Yale conference, Krentz said that three feet or something close to it was a possibility for the distance between hoplites.

  38. Iliad 16.259–67.

  39. Krentz 2007: 74.

  40. Hanson 2000: 152–59. See Hanson’s chapter in this volume on the impossibility that opposing hoplite phalanxes never collided.

  41. In this volume, Krentz cites John Keegan (1976) to make his point that out of faintheart-edness hoplites would not crash into one another, but this is unconvincing. Scholars have long used the rugby scrum, which Krentz also criticizes in this volume, as an analogy for certain aspects of hoplite battle. In this case, American football is helpful. Football coaches at all levels, even when coaching eight- to twelve-year-old boys, insist that players crash into one another and often judge the success of line play and tackling in part by the sound of the popping together of helmets and shoulderpads when players collide. Special-team play, during which players run the length of the field at top speed and crash into one another, is considered one of the most exciting and important parts of the game. Teams perform drills in practice to develop the skills and toughness necessary for hitting opposing players head-on. Professional football careers in the National Football League are notoriously short (about 3.5 years) due mainly to the violent contact players, especially the huge linemen, who battle in the “trenches” and crash into each other in tight formation, experience.Sports Illustrated, a popular American sports magazine, describes a linebacker tackling a running back at full speed (SI, September 5, 2011): “There is an unmistakable crack—helmets, face masks and upper body pads all colliding, a noise that can’t be heard on Sundays in living rooms or from the distant and soft club seats. But it is the soundtrack of the game.” A player explains what he was taught as a boy in Pop Warner (youth football): “Make sure you hit as hard as you can. Inflict as much pain as possible. Take ‘em out. That’s what got me recruited to Miami from high school—the violence that I tackled with. I guess there were rules but I didn’t really think about them till I got to the pros.” Why would battle-hardened hoplites similarly equipped and fighting for their lands, families and poleis shy away, as a rule, from violent contact that would help break open the enemy’s line? It is more believable that armies would station their most disciplined and fearless warriors in the front two or three rows, and then place the older but relatively brave men in the back two or three lines to keep the relatively fainthearted hoplites in the middle from fleeing and thus to prevent what Keegan describes from happening. In the Iliad 4.299–300, for instance, Nestor drives the cowards (kakoi) into the middle to make them fight against their will.

  42. Thuc. 1.108.1. An objection that Tanagra is a fifth-century battle will not work. If the Spartans had had such a decisive edge over all other Greeks with a close formation between 650 and 500, that would have compelled other poleis to follow suit.

  43. Pausanias, Periegesis, book 4. The argument being that archaic wars were neither brief nor decisive nor economical.

  44. Along these lines, revisionists will often argue that if there is only one or a handful of references in the sources to an idea (e.g., the collision of phalanxes, synkleisis in Thucydides, etc.), the point is either false or can be ignored as unproven.

  45. Krentz 2007: 79.

  46. At the conference, Krentz objected to saying that the revisionist position characterizes hoplites as duelists, but once one abandons the idea of the close formation and warriors seeking cover provided by their neighbors’ shields, the phalanx becomes a series of duels fought in an extended line.

  47. See Schwartz in this volume for tactics implied by the hoplite panoply.

  48. In this volume, Krentz argues that hoplite armor became progressively lighter until it was ultimately used for close-order fighting in the fifth century, following Marathon.

  49. See Hanson’s analogy to people playing touch football with full gear in this volume.

  50. Tyrtaeus fr. 11.35–38.

  51. Tyrtaeus fr. 11.29–34.

  52. Snodgrass 2006: 345.

  53. Salmon 1977: 90.

  54. On the one hand, I am aware of the precarious nature of using the poetic and often ambiguous testimony of Homer as historical evidence. On the other hand, certain references in the Iliad to mass fighting seem clear enough (e.g., Iliad 13.130–33) to point to precedents for the later hoplite phalanx.

  55. In this volume, Snodgrass discusses the trend of philologists to lower the date for the completion of the Iliad and Odyssey from the eighth to at least the seventh century. However, even if one assumes that Homer describes Greek warfare close to the way it was actually fought before the development of the phalanx, and accepts the evolutionary model of Nagy that posits a somewhat fluid transmission of an unwritten Iliad down to as late as the mid-sixth century, that does not necessarily imply a later phalanx. The traditional nature of Homeric poetry and the desire of the poet to represent a distant and heroic, though intelligible, past, would compel him to describe the fighting style of a generation before the hoplite era.

  56. This does not mean that aristocrats did not play a much more prominent role in prephalanx mass warfare. Raaflaub is correct that Homer downplays the decisive role of the laoi for poetic effect, but in order for Homeric battle to be serious and meaningful, thearisteia and individual battles of the great champions must too have met the expectations of the audience for a measure of realism. That argument works both ways. If Homer was pretending and heroic demonstrations of arete were entirely fanciful, scenes that display them would seem ludicrous. Indeed, Herodotus describes the battle of champions between the Argives and Spartans over Thyrea in the middle of the sixth century (Hdt. 1.82).

  57. Snodgrass 1965: 115.

  58. Snodgrass 2006: 346.

  59. Iliad 2.200–202.

  60. See Raaflaub 1993, 1997, and 1999.

  61. Raaflaub 1993: 41–42.

  62. Iliad 15.494–98.

  63. Iliad 6.407–65.

  64. I agree that Homer deliberately downplays the role of the laoi in order to concentrate on heroic combat and that there was probably never an era dominated entirely by soloist fighters; however, a fundamental change occurs with the introduction of hoplite armor and tactics.

  65. Iliad 9.515–18.

  66. Iliad 9.115ff. and 19.83ff.

  67. Fragment 12.15–42.

  68. Note the contrast Pericles makes with the ageless praise for which the Homeric hero strives to win individual immortality, not the immortality of the community.

  69. Thuc. 2.43.1–2; 2.46.1.

  70. Thuc. 2.40.2.

  71. Thuc. 2.41.4: “We shall not need the praise of a Homer.”

  72. Hanson 1995: 47–89.

  73. Foxhall 1997: 122–29.

  74. Foxhall 1997: 123.

  75. Foxhall 1997: 127.

  76. Foxhall 1997: 131.

  77. Forsdyke 2006: 342.

  78. Forsdyke 2006: 343 cites Garnsey 1988: 94, “the argument for the prevalence of intensive farming does not depend on farmers residing on their properties rather than in nearby nucleated settlements.” In a list of five methods of intensification Cherry et al. 1991: 331 include only one involving farm residence.

  79. Isager and Skydsgaard 1992: 112–13.

  80. Forsdyke 2006: 344–45 following Gallant 1982: 122–24.

  81. Forsdyke 2006: 345.

  82. Forsdyke 2006: 346 observes, “it is striking that on Keos ‘farms’ and expansion into marginal lands arise already in the archaic period while in the Argolid such phenomena appear only in the classical period.”

  83. Osborne 2004: 170 points out the limitations of the survey data: “survey itself offers no way in to absolute population levels. Survey data yield figures for inhabitants only when we apply a series of assumptions derived from non-survey, and frequently from non-archaeological, evidence. Survey itself cannot even show that the assumption that ‘family farms’ were on average the residences of five people is justified. The density figures for larger settlements are at best derived from local excavation evidence (via further hypotheses which are not themselves testable on the basis of archaeological material); more normally, they come from cross-cultural data whose comparability is not explored.”

  84. It is significant that there is some evidence for marginal lands being farmed in the eighth and seventh centuries, even though the surveys produce a much higher volume of rural sites for the fifth and fourth centuries.

  85. This argument has become popular in recent years. But Starr 1977: 123 relates that no more than 400 men were assigned the liturgy of maintaining a trireme in the Peloponnesian War, which must have been less than one percent of the adult male citizen population; 300 citizens had that responsibility in the mid-fourth century. Starr observes, “in earlier centuries and in smaller states the numbers of aristocrats must have been fewer.” It is unlikely that the aristocracy in Greece at any point from 700 to 300 BC numbered much above 1 or 2 percent, far less than even the lowest estimates for the percentage of those wealthy in land in archaic Greece.

  86. Foxhall 1995: 243–44.

  87. E.g., Morris 1987: 57–109 attributed the dramatic increase in burials found for the years 780–720, which Snodgrass 1980 interpreted as a massive growth (4%) in the population, in part to short-term changes in Athenian burial customs.

  88. Scheidel 2003: 120–40.

  89. Snodgrass’s observation of 1993: 32 still applies.

  90. Revisionists are especially critical of using any late source to explain what took place in the archaic period. They often reject any source that is not contemporary and question the dating of early sources such as Tyrtaeus. My method is to be critical of all evidence but not to reject writers like Ephorus solely because they are late, if their testimony does not contradict an earlier source and presents a plausible account.

  91. Snodgrass 1993: 30–31.

  92. Salmon 1977: 92–93.

  93. For discussion of Corinth and tyranny in general see Andrewes 1956: 43–53.

  94. Nicholas 90 fr. 35.

  95. Pausanias 2.24.7.

  96. Tyrtaeus fr. 1. 12.

  97. Cartledge 2002: 115–17.

  98. Cartledge 2001: 16.

  99. On Solon’s constitution see Ste. Croix 2005.

100. Davies 1997: 34.

101. Raaflaub 2009: 37–56 argues for the uniqueness of early Greek political thought, despite certain “foreign influences” from the Near East and Egypt.


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