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Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece, Revised edition

Victor Davis Hanson

Publication Year: 1998

The ancient Greeks were for the most part a rural, not an urban, society. And for much of the Classical period, war was more common than peace. Almost all accounts of ancient history assume that farming and fighting were critical events in the lives of the citizenry. Yet never before have we had a comprehensive modern study of the relationship between agriculture and warfare in the Greek world. In this completely revised edition of Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece, Victor Davis Hanson provides a systematic review of Greek agriculture and warfare and describes the relationship between these two important aspects of life in ancient communities. With careful attention to agronomic as well as military details, this well-written, thoroughly researched study reveals the remarkable resilience of those farmland communities.

In the past, scholars have assumed that the agricultural infrastructure of ancient society was often ruined by attack, as, for example, Athens was relegated to poverty in the aftermath of the Persian and later Peloponnesian invasions. Hanson's study shows, however, that in reality attacks on agriculture rarely resulted in famines or permanent agrarian depression. Trees and vines are hard to destroy, and grainfields are only briefly vulnerable to torching. In addition, ancient armies were rather inefficient systematic ravagers and instead used other tactics, such as occupying their enemies' farms to incite infantry battle. Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece suggests that for all ancient societies, rural depression and desolation came about from more subtle phenomena—taxes, changes in political and social structure, and new cultural values—rather than from destructive warfare.

Published by: University of California Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. ix-xvi

Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece was first published in 1983 in the monograph series Biblioteca di Studi Antichi (edited by Graziano Arrighetti and Emilio Gabba, with Franco Montanari, and published by Giardini of Pisa, Italy). The book was, for the most part, favorably reviewed, occasionally cited, and went quickly out of print. ...

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Preface to the First Edition

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pp. xvii-xviii

This study is virtually unchanged from the Ph.D. thesis I submitted to the Stanford Classics Department in June 1980. I have had some practical experience in agriculture from farming grapes and fruit trees on a family farm near Fresno, California. ..

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pp. 1-16

Armies need food. Any society that mobilizes troops must plan both to feed its own men and to seek to deny supplies to the enemy. In a preindustrial society, in which the vast majority of the population was engaged in agriculture, and armies were thus composed largely of rural folk, comprehension of the relationship of agriculture to warfare ...

Part One: The Attack on Agriculture

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1. Military Organization

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pp. 19-41

An army of invasion in the classical age usually sought decisive battle, but it needed to utilize the countryside of its adversary to accomplish that goal—both to feed itself and to provoke the enemy to fight by attacking farmland. Consequently, Greek armies brought along mobile light-armed troops, built field camps from local materials, ...

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2. The Methods of Agricultural Destruction

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pp. 42-76

Under the diverse conditions of Mediterranean farming in ancient Greece, "agriculture" is, of course, an abstraction and can refer to radically different types of crops—olives, figs, and other deciduous fruit trees, barleys and wheats, vegetables, and various species of grapes. Moreover, since these fruits were both permanent and annual, ...

Part Two: The Defense of Agriculture

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3. Fortification

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pp. 79-102

Greek plans of defense in the classical period seldom incorporated either stockades built directly around cultivated fields or extensive frontier walls designed to stop invading armies from reaching the croplands of the interiors.1 Although it is true that in a few early instances walls were constructed at key border passes ...

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4. Evacuation

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pp. 103-121

The most effective method of "defense" was evacuation from the countryside. From descriptions in ancient literature it seems to have been a commonplace activity. Rural residents routinely gathered their possessions together and trekked to places of refuge, regardless of whether their own forces chose to fight in pitched battle or border skirmishes. ...

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5. Sorties

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pp. 122-128

Once rural citizens had been evacuated to a place of refuge, and the enemy was in control of the countryside, as a result of either victory in hoplite battle or default, the invaded still had one last—and very good—chance of impeding ravagers. Well-organized, sudden sorties, usually made up of cavalry troops, 1 ...

Part Three: The Effectiveness of Agricultural Devastation

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6. The Devastation of Attica during the Peloponnesian War

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pp. 131-173

The Spartan annual invasions and eventual occupation of Attica during the course of the Peloponnesian War are the best-known and best-documented examples of wartime destruction of agriculture in classical antiquity. So far I have emphasized the pragmatic difficulties of crop devastation in warfare ...

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pp. 174-184

To be effective, agricultural devastation in classical Greece, as in any preindustrial society, required time and extensive effort, and therefore was not always accomplished. The light-armed ravaging parties whose duties were to overrun small Greek farms and destroy crops were vulnerable to counterattack. They needed constant hoplite or cavalry protection. ...

Appendix: The Vocabulary of Agricultural Devastation

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pp. 185-194

Select Bibliography

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pp. 195-200

Updated Commentary and Bibliography

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pp. 201-252

General Index

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pp. 253-268

Index Locorum

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pp. 269-281

Production Notes

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pp. 301-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780520921757
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520215962

Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 44962805
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece, Revised edition

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Subject Headings

  • Agriculture -- Defense measures -- Greece -- History.
  • War damage, Industrial -- Greece -- History.
  • Attikē (Greece) -- History.
  • Greece -- History -- Peloponnesian War, 431-404 B.C.
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