History of Warfare
Warfare before the early 5th century BC was restricted mainly to border skirmishes
between neighboring Greek states. The objective was usually limited to destroying
the agricultural basis of the enemy´s economy in order to extract specific
political and economic concessions. While individual battles could be extremely
bloody, the total destruction of cities and complete annihilation of their
populations were usually avoided. The actual campaigning was normally carried
out between March and October when the weather facilitated troop movement
over mountainous terrain, and was broken off at the mutual convenience of
the two opposing sides. Click here for the use of
The Persian conflict (492-478 BC) established the practice of total war.
This eventually led to mass invasion and counterinvasion by both land and
sea, wholesale destruction of cities, and -- on rare occasions -- the punishment
and enslavement of entire bodies of citizens, including women and children.
Many of the same disruptive practices occurred again during the Peloponnesian
War between Athens, Sparta and their respective allies (431-404 BC). By the
4th century BC warfare was well on its way to becoming the internationalized
institution that Alexander the Great and his followers are generally thought
to have perfected. Click here for Weapons and Armor.
||Attic Black Figure Olpe
ca. 540-520 BC
Italy, with an Etruscan inscription on underside of foot
Three soldiers are shown fighting, while spectators stand to either side.
Since the soldiers wear helmets and greaves and carry shields but are
otherwise unarmed, they may be performing a ritual dance. However, artistic
imprecision may provide a simpler and more likely explanation for the
H. 21.7; Dia. 13.0 cm. UM neg. 41132 (99k)
Attic Black Figure Amphora
ca. 530-525 BC
In the manner of the Lysippides Painter
Both sides portray scenes of mythological battle, which symbolize the
Greek preoccupation with struggle as well as their love for detailed
battle narrations. Such scenes are a hallmark of Archaic art. Here,
Heracles (at the left) fights with two Amazons, a race of female warriors
thought to live on the fringes of the civilized world.
H. 41.0; Dia. 28.0 cm. Photo by Maria Daniels for the Perseus Project
© Copyright 2002