The Greek Phalanx
Do not fear the great number of men; do not flee before them, But straight to the frontline ranks let every man bear his shield. For those who, staying beside one another, have the courage To engage at close quarters with the frontline ranks, These men die in fewer numbers, and they save the army behind them. But if they flee out of fear, all excellence is lost. No one could ever recount all of the evils That befall a man when he suffers disgrace. But drawing close, hand to hand, let every man strike home With long spear or sword, and kill his enemy. With foot placed next to foot and shield resting on shield, And having drawn near, plume to plume, helmet to helmet, and chest to chest, let him fight his man, Grasping the hilt of his sword or his long spear.
By Tyrtaéus, a Spartan poet of the seventh century B.C., translated by Professor Glenn R. Bugh.
The famed Battle of Marathon, 491 B.C., is a fitting point at which to begin 'a military history of Europe. It was the first great battle fought on European soil; the first for which there is a reliable source, the "father of history" himself, Herodotus; and the first in a long series of battles between Europeans and Asians. The Greeks fought with shock weapons, the weaponry of choice for most Europeans in the preindustrial era, while the Persians used mostly missile weapons, the usual weaponry for the Asian foes whom the Europeans faced.
Europeans, at least those regarded as coming from Indo-European stock, have had a strong preference for shock weaponry. They considered hand-to-hand fighting, especially by individual heroes oil a one-to-one basis, as the ideal. The Iliad, dating from a half-milleniurn before Marathon, clearly revealed tile heroic tradition of shock combat. Homer expressed the belief that the use of missile weapons was cowardly, and that to die in