Greek Mercenaries: From the Late Archaic to Alexander

Greek Mercenaries: From the Late Archaic to Alexander

Greek Mercenaries: From the Late Archaic to Alexander

Greek Mercenaries: From the Late Archaic to Alexander

Synopsis

This book provides a detailed picture of the life of these Greek mercenaries, analyzing who they were and from what section of society they came. It explores their motivations, their relationships and connections, both with each other and those with whom they served, and shows how mercenaries were recruited, paid and maintained.Matthew Trundle reviews a variety of evidence, including Xenophon's detailed account of how over ten thousand Greeks tried and failed to establish the Persian prince Cyrus on his brother's Imperial throne, the fragments of a fourth century play about the first ever soldier of fortune, and inscriptions prohibiting Athenians from taking service with their neighbours.The result is a fresh look at the significance of mercenaries in ancient Greek society, economy and politics, and their part in the process that shaped the great Empire of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic world.

Excerpt

I grew up in the 1970s when Africa provided many sordid tales about mercenary activities and shady deals. Mad Mike Hoare and his ilk regularly found their way into the media in a blend of romance and revulsion. in 1982 offers of lucrative contracts lured several English cricketers, led by Graham Gooch, to play for an England xi sponsored by South African Breweries against an internationally banned South Africa. the British press labelled Gooch's players mercenaries. Subsequently, I read Xenophon's account of the doomed attempt of Cyrus the Younger to seize the Persian throne from his brother with the help of 13,000 Greek mercenary soldiers. Xenophon told of Cyrus' defeat at Cunaxa and the isolated Greeks' epic march back to safety and the sea at the end of the fifth century bc. Xenophon's is a great story, which George Cawkwell claimed that 'every schoolboy used to know' (Cawkwell 1972:9). As Cawkwell realized, 'time has changed and all that', but the story remains one of the most entertaining and inspirational from antiquity, and Xenophon's Anabasis (The Persian Expedition of the Penguin translation) is by far the best introduction to an understanding of Greek mercenary service from Classical Greek literature.

Hoare, Gooch and Xenophon were mercenaries. I kept asking the question, do these three men have anything in common, or do we use the term mercenary too loosely and conveniently? At graduate school in Canada, by then something of a mercenary myself as an Englishman in the employment of the Canadians, I revisited the Anabasis for a paper I wrote about the mercenary nature of Xenophon's Greeks. Was there such a thing as a mercenary in the Greek world? and the seeds of this project were sown.

H. W. Parke published his Greek Mercenary Soldiers seventy years ago. It remains a brilliant chronological history of Greek mercenaries to the death of Alexander and I have found it invaluable in writing what follows. Nevertheless, Parke wrote at a time when national sentiment was far stronger than it is today. Mercenaries were easier to label and identify. He did not seek to place the Greek mercenary ideologically, socially, economically and politically within the ancient world. He did not look beyond the surface to see whether all the Greeks who served the Great King of Persia or the pharaohs of Egypt

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