Greek Warriors: Hoplites and Heroes, by Carolyn Willekes
This book was not what I expected at all. The book’s title promises a strong interest in hoplite warfare, but the end result of the book is more a narrative history of three eras of Greek history that talks a bit about hoplites but not nearly to the extent one would want. And the book is so short that its discussion of military warfare is far more superficial than one would hope for. Still, the reason why this book is superficial is because it is short, and it is not such a bad thing for a book not to overstay its welcome even if one would want more than one gets from this author. There are at least two ways that the book could have given the reader a lot more. One of those would have been to focus a lot more attention on the arms and armor that were involved in hoplite warfare along with a discussion of the changes in the equipment of Greek fighting over the course of centuries and even some discussion of the tactics of Greek warfare and how this changed with more detail and more visuals than is the case here. The other way would have been to provide more textual detail about the history of Greek hoplite warfare. Either of those choices would have made the book longer, but also more complete.
This book is a bit more than 150 fairly small pages long, and it is divided into three chapters. The book begins with an introduction and a timeline that sets the scope of the work in its discussion of Greek history. After that the book’s three chapters each cover three ages within the classical Greek period, not surprisingly in which there was a notable amount of warfare. The first chapter covers the Persian Wars, and discusses the warfare that occurred, mostly in the Persian invasions of Greece during the reigns of Darius and Xerxes. After that, the second chapter is focused on the conflict between Athens and Sparta, giving a fair summary of the long war between the two, even if it skips over quite a lot because it is of course a short account. The third chapter then looks at the rise of Macedonia and the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, after which the book ends with sources, acknowledgements, and an index.
Still, if you are looking for a basic work that give you a basic look at how it is that hoplite warriors fought, and some nature of the high amount of warfare that went on in the period between the Persian Wars and the conquest of Persia by Alexander. Considering that this book is as small as it is, this is not going to be the book that the reader will expect or demand much from. Modest expectations are definitely what would be appropriate here, though. At its best, this is the sort of book that you read and that encourages you to read more serious references that are more complete if you find material in Greek history that you happen to find of interest. It would appear that this book was written for that very purpose, and it’s hard to fault a book for meeting its goal of being an introductory book to a subject of interest about which much is written. Perhaps the book lacks the sort of ambition that an reader would prefer, but it aims at a modest target and it succeeds at it.