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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:06 PM   #1

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Greek Soldiers in the Roman Civil Wars (133-31 BCE)


The independent history of ancient Greece effectively ends with the 168 BCE Battle of Pydna and its immediate aftermath, with the exception of a brief resurgence of Athenian independence thanks to Mithridates of Pontos.

That said, Greek communities sent contingents of soldiers to help various Roman warlords over the course of a century of Civil War. Two notable examples - the Athenian soldiers who fought with Pompey at Pharsalos, and the Spartans who joined Octavian at Aktion.

My question is concerning the nature of these soldiers. Would they have been equipped like hoplites or legionaries?

On one hand, hoplite warfare was obviously one of the cardinal features of ancient Greek society; the brutal training regimes of Spartan hoplites would still be glorified in Sparta at least as late as the 4th Century CE.

But hoplite warfare had been out of style in the Mediterranean world for at least a century at this point, and had been largely supplanted in Hellas herself by the Makedonian-style phalanx as early as the 4th Century BCE. Many civilized troops were either Roman legionaries, or using, armor, weapons, or tactics comparable to those of the Romans. Pontos, the Seleukid Empire, Numidia, Armenia, Judea, Ptolemaic Egypt, and to a degree even Celtic peoples were employing tactics and troop types based closely on the Roman legionary.

Bearing that in mind, were these allied contingents of Hellenic warriors fighting in a truly Hellenic style, or were they outwardly the same as the legionaries they were crossing swords with?
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:15 PM   #2

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The legion was an evolution of the phalanx.

Just like US soldiers today look like this:
Click the image to open in full size.

While French soldiers at the time of Napoleon looked like this:
Click the image to open in full size.

So how does modern French soldiers look? They look like this:

Click the image to open in full size.

Now, that's closer to modern American or Napoleonic French?

Let's do the Roman case: At the time of classical Greece Roman soldiers looked like this:

Click the image to open in full size.

While 500 years later they looked like this:

Click the image to open in full size.

Rome and Greece were part of the SAME civilization/world system. Therefore the technological/tactical/organizational evolution lead to the transformation of the phalanx into the legion. Legions raised in Greece looked like legions raised in Italy.

Also, the armies of the hellenistic empires also evolved into forms like the legion. The late seleucid and ptolemaic armies were very similar to the roman one:

Click the image to open in full size.

Ptolemaic soldiers from a mosaic date from 100 BC.

Last edited by Guaporense; December 3rd, 2011 at 04:24 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:22 PM   #3

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The Spartans at Actium, under Eurycles, would have just been marines and archers at best. I doubt the marines, if they were directly from the Peloponnese, were even armored at all. Supposedly, Antony's vessels had a much heavier displacement, so I think it was unlikely that there was many instances of hard ramming, or use of the harpax to turn it into an infantry engagement. I see a great usage of missles here.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:23 PM   #4

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Yes, but I spoke not of legions recruited in Greece, but of the allied contingents supplied by Greek governments. Would they have imitated their ancestors, or their contemporary allies?
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:25 PM   #5

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The phalanx was long obsolete by the mid1st century BC. In the 3-2nd centuries BC all phalanxes that the Romans fought were systematically defeated.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:29 PM   #6

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Didn't Mithridates of Pontos use phalanxes and win victories with them?
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:36 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Salah View Post
Didn't Mithridates of Pontos use phalanxes and win victories with them?
I remembered a quote from Sylla1 that said that phalanxes were always defeated by the Romans in all encounters.

Did ancient sources claim that the Pontic forces were organized like the Macedonian or Classical phalanxes of centuries before?

The Romans and their neightbors were the same civilization. Just like all nations of Europe in the 17th century fought with the same technology and tactics, the Mediterraneans of the 1st century fought with the same set of technologies and tactics.

We tend to think of Roman and Greek militaries as if they looked "cultural" but actually the two different appearances were the result of different times: in the mediterranean of the 5th century BC and of the 1st century AD were different in the same way that Europe in the 18th century was rather different than the Europe from the 12th century. You will not see soldiers like this:

Click the image to open in full size.

In 30 BC. Just like you will not see 14th century knights riding into a Napoleonic battle.

Last edited by Guaporense; December 3rd, 2011 at 04:45 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 06:45 PM   #8

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I thought Mithridates made attempts to clone Rome's fighting style?

***edit***
Nevermind, it was the Seleucids, I was thinking of.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 07:10 PM   #9

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Pyrrhus defeated the Romans multiple times with phalanxes, so sylla1 is wrong (and that gives me so much joy).
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 07:13 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sargon of Akkad View Post
Pyrrhus defeated the Romans multiple times with phalanxes, so sylla1 is wrong (and that gives me so much joy).
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