Greek and Roman warfare differed from other cultures and was unlike any other forms of warfare before and after. The key difference is often held to be that the Greeks and Romans practised a ‘Western Way of War’, where the aim is an open, decisive battle, won by courage instilled in part by discipline. Harry Sidebottom looks at how and why this ‘Western Way of War’ was constructed and maintained by the Greeks and Romans, why this concept is so popular and prevalent today, and at whether or not this is an accurate interpretation.
All aspects of ancient warfare are thoroughly examined – from philosophy and strategy to the technical skills needed to fight. He looks at war in the wider context – how wars could shape classical society, and how the individual’s identity could be constructed by war, for example the Christian soldier fighting in God’s name. He also explores the ways in which ancient society thought about conflict: Can a war be just? Why was siege warfare particularly bloody? What role did divine intervention play in the outcome of a battle?
Taking fascinating examples from the Iliad, Tacitus, and the Persian Wars, Sidebottom uses arresting anecdotes and striking visual images to show that the any understanding of ancient war is an ongoing process of interpretation.