Hanson's book is about Greek warfare and its influence on all western warfare
to come during the following two and a half millenia.
Two momentous revolutions characterized Greek warfare: 1. the birth of the city state (polis)
in the 8th century BC and 2. its decline in the 4th century BC.
The city state refers to an autonomous political community of the Greeks and comprises a central
urban centre surrounded by farms and grazing land inhabited by free and landowning citizens, who
voluntarily fought as hoplites in the phalanx to protect their property. Although inferior in numbers
(eg. to Persian armies), they were so motivated and skilled that they hardly lost a battle (eg. Marathon 490 BC).
Casualties were low. Morale and ethos were in high esteem among the Greek hoplites who fought along their
generals on equal terms. They would not kill a fleeing enemy nor would they take prisoners as slaves.
But this all changed four hundred years later when Phillip II of Macedonia and his son Alexander, the Great
mounted the Macedonian throne. Making booty, plundering, killing for its own sake and slaughtering thousands
of civilians were on the agenda when Alexander with his large army invaded the Persian empire (Darius III) and fought
the Persians from 334 BC on. He and his men killed, looted and raped his way as far as the River Indus, fighting battles
on their way at Issus, Gaugamela, Persepolis, Hydaspes etc.
Gone was the 'fair' fighting skills of the Greek hoplites and replaced by Alexander's extermination, mass killings
and butchery, not only among his enemies. Alexander's empire at last stretched from Macedonia to India and after his
death in 323 the Greeks turned to Rome where a superior army (consisting of legions) kept them at bay.
Although Rome became the prime power around the Mediterrean, Greek ingenuity in warfare (strategy, weapon technology etc.)
was kept alive until much later, even until today.