Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Drunk Hoplites

I'm reading a book, The Western Way of War. Its about the Greek way of war between the years 800-300 BCE. Its a fair book, with some interesting concepts. It poses the question as to why the Greeks alone of the peoples of the ancient war shifted their methods of fighting form one of hit and run, ranged weapons, ambushes, evasions etc to one of heavily armored, citizen soldiers who mass in deep ranked units with little use of missile units or light horse and slam into each other.

The first part is good but the book posed an interesting concept. Drunk hoplites.

He begins the chapter by commenting that there is no evidence in the records, written or archaeological, that hoplites went into battle drunk, however, he says, that doesn't mean that didn't. He then goes into a short discussion of how everyone drank wine in ancient Greece and gives two examples where the sources say something about drinking in the noonday meal. Neither of which say the hoplites were drunk, and only vaguely imply it. Out of 400 years of war, two drunk units does not a habit make.

And at any rate I can't image the hoplites drunk, that was a pretty tight formation and if the soldiery were drunk...well I don't know about you, but when I drink it gets hard for me to walk with hand in my pocket much less carrying a full array of battle armor.

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