Grška vojska

Grška vojska

V mirnem času je grška vojska imela okoli 32.000 mož. Med balkanskimi vojnami (1912-13) pa se je to povečalo na 210.000. Višji častniki so bili močno rojalistični in so podobno kot kralj Konstantin I. ponavadi podpirali Nemčijo v sporih z Veliko Britanijo.

Grški premier Eleftherios Venizelos je ob izbruhu prve svetovne vojne zagovarjal zavezništvo z Veliko Britanijo, Francijo in Rusijo proti centralnim silam. Venizelos je želel, da Grčija med kampanjo v Dardanelih vojaško pomaga zaveznikom, in ko se kralj Konstantin I. ni hotel strinjati, je odstopil s položaja.

Ko je bil po prepričljivi zmagi marca 1915 Eleftherios Venizelos ponovno izvoljen, je ukazal mobilizacijo grške vojske. Vpoklicanih je bilo več kot 150.000 mož, večina pa jih je bila poslanih za pomoč pri obrambi meja Srbije. Ko je Venizelos povabil zavezniške sile v Solun, ga je kralj Konstantin I. odpustil.

Eleftherios Venizelos je pobegnil na Kreto, kjer je sestavil začasno revolucionarno vlado. S podporo zavezniških sil pri Solunu je Venizelos načrtoval pohod na Atene. Junija 1917 je bil kralj Konstantin I. odstavljen in Venizelos je lahko ponovno prevzel oblast.

29. junija 1917 je Eleftherios Venizelos napovedal vojno centralnim silam. 60.000 vojakov, ki jih je Venizelos najel na Kreti, je predstavljalo jedro nove vojske. Na koncu je v vojni zagledalo 250.000 grških vojakov, vključno z zelo uspešno ofenzivo Vardar. Med vojno je imela grška vojska ubitih okoli 15.000 mož in 85.000 ranjenih.


Sparta

Sparta je bila v starodavni Grčiji bojevnička družba, ki je dosegla vrhunec svoje moči, potem ko je v Peloponeski vojni (431–404 pr. N. Št.) Premagala rivalska mestna dežela Atene. Špartanska kultura je bila osredotočena na zvestobo državi in ​​vojaški službi. Pri sedmih letih so špartanski fantje vstopili v strog program izobraževanja, vojaškega usposabljanja in socializacije, ki ga sponzorira država. Sistem, znan kot Agoge, je poudarjal dolžnost, disciplino in vzdržljivost. Čeprav Špartance niso bile aktivne v vojski, so bile izobražene in uživale več statusa in svobode kot druge Grkinje. Ker so bili špartanski moški poklicni vojaki, je vse ročno delo opravljal suženjski razred Heloti. Kljub vojaški moči je bila prevlada Spartancev kratkotrajna: leta 371 pred našim štetjem so jih v bitki pri Levctri premagale Tebe, njihov imperij pa je zašel v dolgo obdobje propada.

GLEJTE: Spartan Vengeance na HISTORY Vault


Grki so lahko vplivali na kitajsko vojsko Terra Cotta

Čeprav je bil italijanski raziskovalec iz 13. stoletja Marko Polo morda prvi zahodni Evropejec, ki je pustil podrobno kroniko svojih potovanj v Azijo, zagotovo ni bil prvi na potovanju. Kitajski zgodovinarji so zabeležili prejšnje obiske ljudi, za katere se je štelo, da so bili odposlanci iz rimskega cesarstva, v drugem in tretjem stoletju našega štetja. prikolice in trgovska mesta, ki povezujejo Kitajsko in zahod.

2.200 let stara vojska Terra Cotta je na ogled v Xianu na Kitajskem. (Zasluge: Kitajske fotografije/Getty Images)

Po mnenju arheologov in zgodovinarjev, ki zdaj delajo na slavni kitajski vojski Terra Cotta, se je smiseln stik med Vzhodom in Zahodom morda začel veliko prej. Menijo, da je resničen videz kipov morda navdihnil ali zgledal po starogrških skulpturah, kar kaže na vpliv zahoda v dobi prvega cesarja Kitajske, približno 1500 let pred znamenitim potovanjem Marka Pola.

Cesar Qin Shi Huang, ustanovitelj dinastije Qin, se je na prestol povzpel leta 246 pr. pri rosnih 13 letih. V naslednjih 25 letih je združil številna vojskujoča se kraljestva in izvajal stabilizacijsko politiko, vključno s standardizacijo kovancev, uteži in mer ter gradnjo cest in kanalov. Qin se je med svojo vladavino lotil tudi različnih ambicioznih gradbenih projektov, vključno z najzgodnejšo različico Velikega zidu, zgrajenega ob severni meji države za zaščito pred barbarskimi vpadi, pa tudi lastnega mavzoleja.

Lik klečečega lokostrelca na ogled v Britanskem muzeju. (Zasluge: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Po zapisih sodnega zgodovinarja Siam Qiana je Qin ukazal, da se bo gradnja grobnega kompleksa začela v začetku njegove vladavine. Več kot 700.000 delavcev je v treh desetletjih delalo na njeni gradnji in zdi se, da je projekt ostal nedokončan po cesarjevi smrti leta 209 pr.

Hitro naprej v leto 1974, ko se je prestrašen kmet spotaknil v vojsko Terra Cotta, ko je videl, da se med zelenjavo na njegovih njivah pojavlja človeški obraz. Arheologi so na koncu odkrili približno 8000 skulptur iz jame v Xi 𠆚n, ki so bile zgrajene za pospremitev cesarja Qina v posmrtno življenje in varovanje njegovega zadnjega počivališča. Številke bojevnika v naravni velikosti so vključevale vozove, orožje in konje, ki so bile izklesane v impresivnih podrobnostih, vse do pričesk in oznak na oklepu.

Vojaki Terra Cotta v bojni postavi. (Zasluge: Martin Moos/Getty Images)

Kitajska pred vladavino Qina ni imela znane tradicije gradnje skulptur v naravni velikosti. Čeprav je bilo najdenih še veliko drugih pokopanih vojakov iz terakote, so bili prejšnji precej manjši, visoki manj kot 10 centimetrov. Po besedah ​​Li Xiuzhena, višjega arheologa na mestu vojske Terra Cotta, je do tega pomembnega odstopanja v obsegu in slogu verjetno prišlo, ko so na Kitajsko prišli vplivi od drugod in zlasti iz stare Grčije.

“Sedaj imamo dokaze o obstoju tesnega stika med prvo cesarjevo Kitajsko in zahodom pred uradnim odprtjem Svilene ceste. To je veliko prej, kot smo mislili prej, "je za BBC povedal dr. Xiuzhen, ki je z National Geographicom sodeloval pri dokumentarcu o ugotovitvah ekipe. “Sedaj menimo, da je vojska Terra Cotta, akrobati in bronaste skulpture, najdene na tem mestu, navdihnjene s starogrškimi skulpturami in umetnostjo. ”

Zasluge: Keren Su/Getty Images

Še več, grški umetniki so morda celo imeli pri roki, da so svoje kitajske kolege poučili o kiparskih tehnikah. “I si predstavljam, da je bil na mestu morda grški kipar, ki je usposabljal domačine, ” je dejal Lukas Nickel, predsednik azijske zgodovine umetnosti na dunajski univerzi in član ekipe, ki se ukvarja z zgodovino vojske Terra Cotta .

Splošno velja, da je vojaška kampanja Aleksandra Velikega v Indijo leta 326 pr. je bila prva stična točka med Vzhodom in Zahodom, za seboj pa je pustila kulturno tradicijo grško-budistične umetnosti. Nova teorija pa gre še dlje in nakazuje, da bi lahko v stoletju po Aleksandrovi kampanji grški kipi prišli na Kitajsko in vplivali na vojsko Terra Cotta.

Xi 𠆚n, Shaanxi, Kitajska, severovzhodna Azija, Azija

V podporo tej teoriji sta dr. Xiuzhen in njeni kolegi strokovnjaki opozorili na ločeno študijo, ki je odkrila starodavno mitohondrijsko DNK, značilno za Evropejce in sega v čas prvega cesarja, v provinci Xinjian, najbolj zahodni regiji Kitajske. Takšne ugotovitve kažejo, da so se Evropejci morda naselili v provinci pred vladavino Qin Shi Huanga in med njim.

Poleg možne povezave s starodavno Grčijo so arheologi na tem mestu odkrili tudi, da je kompleks grobnic Qin##x2019s veliko večji, kot so sprva mislili, približno 200 -krat večji od Egiptovske doline kraljev. Poleg vojske Terra Cotta je mavzolej vseboval tudi pohabljene ostanke žensk, za katere se domneva, da so bile cesarjeve visoke priležnice. Lobanja človeka, v kateri je vgrajen samostrel, naj bi pripadala cesarjevemu sinu, ki je bil skupaj z drugimi ubit v boju za oblast po očetovi smrti.


V bronasti dobi, ki se je začela okoli leta 1600 pred našim štetjem, so se stari Grki borili v junaškem slogu Homerja. Vsak bojevnik se je namesto v organizirani formaciji boril za osebno slavo. Bitke so se običajno začele s posmehom in posmehom, nato pa so sledili dvoboji med prvaki. Če nobena stran ne bi izgubila živcev, bi se začela splošna bitka. Starogrški bojevniki so že začeli nositi okorne, a učinkovite oklepe in žrtve so bile običajno v lažnem boju. Moški so se oboroženi borili predvsem s sulicami in kratkimi meči, grški bojevniki pa so pri uporabi ščitov in oklepa že skočili pred svoje sodobnike. Menili so, da je strelno orožje, kot je lok, strahopetec in se jim izogibali. Podobno kot v kasnejših vojnah po falangah se je pravi pokol začel, ko je bila ena stran premagana. Pobegli sovražniki niso mogli uporabiti svojih ščitov in so bili odlični cilji. Kralji bojevnikov, kot je napol legendarni Agamemnon, so vladali iz masivnih kamnitih trdnjav na hribih, plenili in se vojskovali za dobiček in slavo.

Nazadnje je v 12. stoletju pred našim štetjem Grčija zaradi razlogov, ki niso povsem razumljeni, vstopila v temno dobo počasnega propada. Pisni jezik je bil izgubljen, velike palače in mesta pa uničene ali opuščene. Večina vzhodnega Sredozemlja in Bližnjega vzhoda se je istočasno naselila temna doba in obstaja veliko teorij o tem, zakaj. Krive so bile regionalne suše, spremembe vojskovanja in naravne nesreče. Najverjetneje je šlo za več konvergentnih dejavnikov, vendar tega trenutno ne vemo resnično.

Od leta 800 pred našim štetjem je Grčija začela okrevati. V naslednjih 400 letih so Grki razvili demokracijo, gledališče, poezijo in filozofijo ter ponovno odkrili pisni jezik. Nekaj ​​pred letom 650 pred našim štetjem so razvili falango, začeli pa so se spreminjati tudi njihovi bojevniki in vojskovanje. Vojno v Grčiji je vedno narekoval teren, groba tla so bila neprimerna za vozove. V prejšnjih časih, ko so njihovi sodobniki razvijali bojevanje z vozovi, so se grški bojevniki osredotočali na težko pehoto. Poleg Tesalije so Grki zanemarjali tudi razvoj konjenice v svoji vojski. Vendar bi se njihova koncentracija na težko pehoto obrestovala v moči njihovih hoplitskih bojevnikov in formacije falange.

Starogrški bojevniki so bili državljani vojaki, razen poklicne vojske Sparte, vojskovanje pa je postalo nekoliko standardizirano, da so lahko kmetje vojaki hodili na svoje kmetije. Šele po žetvi, ki so jo prinesli s polj, so Grki vzeli orožje. Različne grške mestne dežele bi nato med sezono kampanj rešile svoja številna vprašanja. Bojevniki bi se poravnali na vnaprej izbranih bojiščih, običajno na ravnini med obema vojskima mestoma-državama. Bojevniki bi se oblikovali v znamenito falango na nasprotnih straneh ravnice, obdane z gorami.

Grški hopliti in falange
Grški bojevniki so se imenovali hopliti, poimenovani po njihovem ščitu, hoplonu. Hoploni so bili težki, z bronom pokriti leseni ščiti s premerom od 3 do 3,5 čevljev. Raztezala se je od brade do kolena in je bila zelo težka (17-33 funtov). Ti ščitniki so imeli revolucionarno obliko, njihova zaobljena oblika jim je omogočala, da so za dodatno oporo naslonjeni na ramo. Predstavili so tudi nov oprijem in trakove za podlaket, ki so jim dali veliko mobilnosti in jim omogočili ofenzivno uporabo za udarce nasprotnikov. Grški bojevniki so prekrivali svoje ščite in tvorili ščitno steno. Levi del vsakega bojevniškega & rsquos ščita je zaščitil desno stran hoplita na njegovi levi. Falanga bi bila sestavljena iz nizov hoplitov s kopjem, ki se med seboj ščitijo in predstavljajo steno ščitov in kopja proti svojim sovražnikom. Prvi dve vrsti falange sta lahko udarila v nasprotnike s svojimi sulicami, ki so štrlele med ščitniki. Prve tri vrste ali vrste falange bi lahko zabodle nasprotnike, zadnje vrste pa bi okrepile prve vrste, preprečile umik prvih vrst in podprle vse pomembnejše kohezije formacije. Falange so lahko globoke 4, 8, 16 ali več moških, v nekaterih izjemnih primerih do 50 vrstic. Zaradi tega so bile zadnje vrste razmeroma varne, kar jim je dalo malo razloga za beg iz bitke, medtem ko so bile prve vrste pritisnjene med lastnimi silami in sovražnikom, ki jih je hotel ubiti. Toda za častne grške bojevnike je bila fronta tam, kjer so želeli biti! V svoji borilni kulturi so bojevniki iskali slavo v bitkah, general pa je svoje najboljše postavil v prve vrste.

Oklep grških bojevnikov
Grški bojevniki so se morali oborožiti in oklepiti. Hoplitski oklep je bil izredno drag in bi ga prenašali po družinah. Količina oklepov, ki jih je nosil grški bojevnik, je bila različna. Kmečki hopliti so morda nosili le ščit in morda čelado ali sekundarno orožje, medtem ko bi bili v bitki utrjeni špartanski veterani oklepljeni od glave do pete. Bogati višjerazredni hopliti so običajno imeli & ldquoworks. & Rdquo Nosili so bronasti naprsnik, oblikovan v zvončnem ali mišičastem slogu, bronasto čelado, ki je ščitila njihov obraz, in čvarke za zaščito golenice. Bronaste prsne plošče bi lahko tehtale osupljivih 50-60 kilogramov! Nekoliko slabše obdan hoplit ima lahko oklep linotoraksa, narejen iz šivanih in laminiranih lanenih tkanin, ki so bile včasih ojačane z bronastimi luskami in/ali živalskimi kožami. Linotoraks oklep je bil najpogostejši tip, ki je ponujal dostojno zaščito po zmerni ceni. Modeli čelad so se s časom spreminjali in ponujali različne količine zaščite. Za dodatno zaščito so bile dodane inovacije, vključno z ličnimi ploščami in vizirji. Vsaka mestna država je imela na grebenu svojih čelad svojo obliko.

Orožje grških bojevnikov
Hopliti so bili oboroženi z dolgimi sulicami, imenovanimi zajtrk. Doru so bili dolgi okoli 7 & ndash 9 čevljev, čeprav se je to razlikovalo. Grški bojevniki so nosili kopja v desnih rokah, ščit pa na levi. Grški bojevniki so verjetno uporabljali oprijem in oprijem, odvisno od situacije in količine potrebnega vzvoda. Držanje sulice pod pazduho je bilo morda optimalno za sprednjo črto falang, medtem ko bi Hoplite v drugi in tretji vrsti skoraj zagotovo naredili premočne udarce. Zadnje vrste so držale kopja v oprijemu pod pazduho in jih dvignile pod kotom, da bi zagotovile dodatno obrambo pred prihajajočimi izstrelki. Doru je imel pogosto ukrivljene vrhove sulic v obliki listov, na nasprotnem koncu pa je imel konico, imenovano sauroter. Koplje bi se lahko zavrtelo, če bi se v bitki kaj zgodilo z vrhom kopja, vendar so ga pogosteje uporabljali za dvig kopja tako, da so ga posadili v tla. Ta praksa je sauroterju dala ime, sauroter je v grščini za & ldquolizard morilec & rdquo. Zadnje vrste so ga uporabljale tudi za pošiljanje padlih sovražnikov, ko je falanga napredovala nad njimi, ko so držali kopja v pokončnem položaju. Sauroter je služil tudi kot protiutež in uravnotežil kopje.

Stari grški bojevniki so kot sekundarno orožje nosili tudi kratke meče, imenovane xiphos. Uporabljali so jih, ko so kopja počila ali so bila izgubljena v boju. Morda so bili uporabljeni tudi, ko je hoplit moral zavreči sulico in ščit, da bi pregnal uničilne sovražnike. Rezilo xiphos ima običajno približno 2 čevlja, vendar so bila rezila Spartanca pogosto le 1 & ndash 1,5 metra dolga. Ta krajši xiphos bi bil koristen v tisku, ki se je pojavil v prvi vrsti, ko sta se dve falangi razbili skupaj. V tej zaljubljenosti moških ni bilo prostora za uporabo daljšega meča, vendar je kratek meč lahko potisnjen skozi vrzeli v sovražnikovem ščitniku in v nezaščitene dimlje, pazduho ali grlo. Manjši xiphos bi bil še posebej uporaben med Peloponesko vojno (431 pr. N. Št. - 404 pr. N. Št.), Ko so številni hopliti začeli uporabljati lažji oklep in ga celo opustili v prid mobilnosti. Druga možnost je, da bi grški bojevniki lahko nosili ukrivljen kopis, posebno zlobno hekersko orožje, ki si je prislužilo sloves orožja & ldquobad & rdquo v stari Grčiji. Špartanski hopliti so bili pogosto upodobljeni z uporabo kopisa namesto xiphosa v umetnosti njihovih lokov, ki so tekmeci Atenjani. (Glej tudi Spartansko orožje)

Grška lahka pehota in ojačana konjenica
Vsak grški bojevnik ni bil hoplit in čeprav so grške vojske pogosto zanemarjali, so jih običajno spremljale druge vrste čet. Lahki pehotni in konjeniški vojaki so bili uporabljeni kot prestrezniki in za zaščito ranljivih bokov težkih falang. Metalci kopja, imenovani peltasts, bi bili uporabljeni kot strelci, ki bi nadlegovali sovražne formacije in zakrivali gibanje čet za njimi. Oboroženi so bili z več kopji. Vojno Peltast je bilo razvito v Trakiji, medtem ko so Grki skoraj izključno razvijali težko pehoto. To je privedlo do tega, da so bili številni lahki pehoti plačani vojaki, najeti iz obrobnih regij Grčije. Na primer, Agriani iz Trakije so bili znani peltasts, Kreta pa je bila znana po svojih lokostrelcih, Belerični otoki in Rodos pa po svojih pragah. Med in po Peloponeski vojni je bila uporaba lahke pehote vse pogostejša. To se je zgodilo v bitki pri Leheumu (391 pr. N. Št.), Ko je vojska Peltastov prvič premagala vojsko hoplitov. Presenetljivo je bila sila 600 špartanskih hopitov poražena s taktiko udarcev in teka peltast. Od grških mestnih držav so samo Tebe razvile svojo konjenico, kar sta opazila Filip Makedonski in Aleksander Veliki. Tebanska konjenica bi bila vzor za makedonsko spremljevalno konjenico in bi lahko služila poleg njih pod Aleksandrom.

Hoplite Warfare
Od njegove zore okoli 700-650 pr. Falange so zmagale nad neorganiziranimi sovražnikovimi hordami in se hitro razširile po Grčiji in širše. Grki so izpopolnili taktiko hoplita skozi endemično vojskovanje.

Hoplitska taktika je dosegla svoj vrhunec, ko so manjše grške vojske premagale dve množični perzijski invaziji (499-448 pr. N. Št.). Hoplitske formacije so uničile lahko oklepno perzijsko pehoto v znamenitih bitkah, kot sta Marathon (490 pr. N. Št.) In Termopile (480 pr. N. Št.). Vendar pa Grki nikoli niso izkoristili zmage nad svetovno velesilo. Ko so Grčijo branili pred tujim nadzorom, so se Grki vrnili v vztrajno vojskovanje drug proti drugemu. Nato so se sprožili v drugo serijo vojn. Najprej sta se vodilni grški mesti Sparta in Atene borili za prevlado v desetletni in dolgoletni vojni, kar je v konflikt potegnilo večino drugih grških mest (peloponeska vojna 431 pr. N. Št. - 404 pr. N. Št.). Le deset let kasneje je bila spartanska hegemonija izpodbijana v korintski vojni (395–387 pr. N. Št.). Ko so začutili spartansko šibkost, so si zavezništvo Aten, Teb, Korinta in Argosa, ki so jih podpirali Perzijci, poskušali pobegniti iz hegemonije in povečati svojo moč. To se je borilo do zastoja, toda Tebe so nato vodile še eno vojno proti Sparti. V odločilni bitki pri Leuctri (371 pr. N. Št.) So Tebani ubili Spartance in njihove zaveznike. Bitka je znana po taktičnih novostih tebanskega generala Epaminonde. V nasprotju s konvencijo je levi bok falange okrepil na nezaslišano globino 50 rangov, na račun centra in desnice. Središče in desno sta bila razporejena nazaj od levega boka in stran od sovražnikov. Ta 'ešalonska ' formacija je falangi omogočila poševni napredek. Tebansko levo krilo je tako lahko zatrlo elitne špartanske sile na zavezniški desnici, medtem ko so se tebansko središče in levica umaknili in se izognili spopadom. Po porazu elitnih Špartancev in smrti špartanskega kralja se je preostala zavezniška vojska umaknila. To je eden prvih znanih primerov tako taktike lokalne koncentracije sile kot taktike ' odbijanja boka '. Špartanci in njihovi zavezniki so bili v največji bitki med Grki v bitki pri Mantineji (362 pr. N. Št.) Ponovno poraženi s Traki in Epaminondo. Špartanska hegemonija je bila prekinjena, toda Tebe so izgubile številne bojevnike, vključno s svojim iznajdljivim generalom Epaminondo.

Na žalost Grkov se je makedonski kralj Phillip seznanil s taktikami, ki so jih uporabile Tebe, in jih celo izboljšal. Filip je podvojil dolžino kopja, ki so ga uporabljale njegove falange, in zmanjšal ščite, ki so jih uporabljali njegovi bojevniki, in jim tako omogočil, da so držali kopja z dvema rokama. Razumel je tudi, da čeprav je falanga od spredaj skoraj neustavljiva, so ranljive s bokov in zadaj. Phillip je pametno uporabil taktiko kombiniranega orožja, ki je vključeval konjenico in lahke pehote za zaščito svoje falange. Njegove falange bi nato ukrivile nasprotnikove sile, medtem ko so jih njegove mobilne sile prehitele. Ko je Filip napadel Grčijo (356-338 pr. N. Št.), Ga razdeljeni in izčrpani Grki niso mogli ustaviti. Phillipsov sin, Aleksander Veliki, je nato odpeljal Grke, njihov način vojskovanja in helenistično kulturo na svetovno osvajalno turnejo. Perzijska, egipčanska in celo indijska vojska so bile poražene, vendar so Grki za vedno izgubili svoj položaj svetovnih bojevnikov. Vendar so se z Aleksandrom in njegovimi nasledniki grška kultura, civilizacija in ideje razširile po vsem svetu.


Bitka pri Termopilah Sestava grške vojske

Starodavne grške mestne države, ki so med seboj zelo znane in neodvisne, so ustanovile konfederacijo za boj proti perzijski grožnji. Dogovorjeno je bilo, da bo ozek prelaz pri Termopilah služil kot njihov primarni obrambni položaj.

Spartanski kralj Leonidas bo vodil enotno grško obrambo. Čeprav je bilo v resnici prisotnih 300 Špartancev, se ocenjuje, da je v bitki dejansko sodelovalo okoli 6.000-7.000 Grkov. Govorilo se je, da več Špartancev ni bilo prisotnih zaradi obveznosti za poletne festivale in obveznosti do olimpijskih iger.

Bitka je trajala 3 dni, ko je Xerxes vrgel na Grke na tisoče mož in celo svoje elitne enote. Po dveh dneh nesreče na bojišču so Perzijci posrečili. Grški izdajalec jim je pokazal ozek gorski prelaz okoli grškega položaja, na katerem so Perzijci lahko obkrožili in ujeli Grke.

Ko je Leonid slišal novico o Perzijcih ob strani, je tisočem Grkov ukazal, naj se vrnejo domov in se še en dan borijo. Leonida, 300 Špartancev, 700 Tespij in 400 Tebancev so se borili do smrti. Nihče v resnici ne ve, ali je bilo to žrtvovanje za njihovo domovino ali je bil korak nazaj za zaščito umikajočih se Grkov.

Zgodovina se spominja poguma in nesebičnosti Grkov v bitki, njihova zapuščina pa živi še danes.


Sestavne sile in njihova organizacija [uredi | uredi vir]

Generalštab helenske narodne obrambe [uredi | uredi vir]

Helenski narodni obrambni generalštab izvaja operativno poveljevanje združenemu štabu in enotam, ki so pod njim, ter preostalim silam, ko gre za vprašanja izvajanja operativnih načrtov in izvajanje sistema za obvladovanje kriz, izvajanje operacije zunaj državnega ozemlja in sodelovanje oboroženih sil pri soočanju s posebnimi razmerami v času miru. Α ]

Helenska vojska [uredi | uredi vir]

Osnovni sestavni deli helenske vojske so orožje in korpus, prvi odgovoren za bojne naloge, drugi pa za logistično podporo. Organiziran je v poveljstvih, formacijah in enotah z osnovno enoto brigade, divizije in korpusa. Njegovo glavno poslanstvo je zagotoviti ozemeljsko celovitost in neodvisnost države. Β ]

Helenska mornarica [uredi | uredi vir]

Helenska mornarica razpolaga z močno floto, ki jo sestavljajo udarne enote (fregate, topniške čolne, podmornice in raketna plovila z hitrim napadom) ter podporna plovila za izvajanje pomorskih operacij, ki zagotavljajo zaščito helenskih ozemelj. Γ ]

Helensko letalstvo [uredi | uredi vir]

Hellenic Air Force združuje sodobno letalsko floto (za boj, prevoz in usposabljanje), skladno strukturo in sodoben sistem zračnega nadzora, ki sodeluje z razširjeno mrežo protiletalske obrambe. Struktura njenih sil vključuje generalštab letalskih sil, poveljniško mesto redne vojske, poveljstvo zračne podpore, poveljstvo za letalsko usposabljanje ter številne enote in službe. Δ ]


Ahilej: Ilijada

Ko se začne Iliada, trojanska vojna traja že devet let. Ahilej, protagonist pesmi, je vodil eno bitko za drugo. Dosegel je velik uspeh in v resnici je v bitki še neporažen, vendar je sama vojna dosegla zastoj.

Homerjeva zgodba pa se osredotoča na drugačen konflikt: medsebojni prepir med njegovim junakom in Agamemnonom, vodjo ahajske vojske, in bratom Menelajem ’. V bitki, ki se je zgodila pred začetkom pesmi, je Agamemnon kot priležnico vzel mlado trojanko po imenu Chryseis. Chryseisov oče, duhovnik boga Apolona, ​​je poskušal svoji hčerki kupiti svobodo, vendar se je Agamemnon posmehoval njegovim prošnjam in dekle ni hotel izpustiti.

Razjarjen je Apollo kaznoval grško vojsko s pošiljanjem kuge, ki je enega za drugim ubila vojake. Ko so se njegove vrste tanjšale, se je Agamemnon končno strinjal, da dovoli Chryseis, da se vrne k očetu. Vendar je v zameno zahteval nadomestno konkubino: Ahilova žena, trojanska princesa Breseis.

Ahilej je storil, kar je zahteval njegov poveljnik, in se odrekel svoji nevesti. Nato je napovedal, da se ne bo več boril v imenu Agamemnona. Zbral je svoje stvari, vključno z oklepom, ki ga je izdelal Hefest, in ni hotel priti iz svojega šotora.

Ker so Grki ’ največji bojevnik izven bojišča, se je plima začela obračati v korist Trojancev. Grki so izgubljali eno bitko za drugo. Sčasoma je Ahilejev najboljši prijatelj, vojak Patroclus, uspel doseči kompromis: Ahilej se ni hotel boriti, vendar je dovolil, da Patroclus uporablja svoj močan oklep kot preobleko. Tako bi Trojanci mislili, da se je Ahilej vrnil v bitko, in bi se v strahu umaknili.

Načrt je deloval, dokler Apollo, ki je še vedno prekipeval glede Agamemnonovega zdravljenja Chryseis in njenega očeta, ni posredoval v imenu Trojancev. Pomagal je trojanskemu knezu Hectorju najti in ubiti Patrokla.

Jezen se je Ahilej zaobljubil, da se bo maščeval. Hektorja je pregnal nazaj v Trojo in vse do konca pobil trojance. Ko so prišli do mestnega obzidja, je Hector poskušal ugovarjati s svojim zasledovalcem, a Ahileja to ni zanimalo. Hectorja je zabodel v grlo in ga ubil.

Hektor je prosil za častni pokop v Troji, toda Ahilej je bil odločen ponižati svojega sovražnika tudi v smrti. Hektorjevo telo je za kočijo vlekel vse do ahejskega tabora in ga vrgel na smetišče. Toda v zadnjem odseku pesmi Ahilej končno popusti: Hektorjevo telo vrne očetu v primeren pokop.


Zgodovina Grčije: klasična Grčija

Naletu razvoja in širitve arhaične dobe je sledilo obdobje zrelosti, ki smo ga spoznali kot & ldquoKlasična Grčija & rdquo. Med 480. in do 323. pr. N. Št. Atene in Sparta so s svojimi kulturnimi in vojaškimi dosežki prevladovali v helenskem svetu. Ti dve mesti sta z vključitvijo drugih helenskih držav prišli na oblast z zavezništvi, reformami in vrsto zmag proti napadalnim perzijskim vojskam. Svoje rivalstvo sta sčasoma razrešila v dolgi in še posebej grdi vojni, ki se je končala z razpadom Aten, nato Sparte, in nastankom Makedonije kot prevladujoče sile Grčije. Druge mestne države, kot so Milet, Tebe, Korint in Sirakuza, so med drugim igrale pomembno vlogo pri kulturnih dosežkih klasične Grčije.

V začetku klasične dobe so Atene in Šparta mirno sobivali zaradi temeljnega suma drug do drugega do sredine 5. stoletja. Pr. N. Št. Politična in kulturna dispozicija obeh mestnih držav sta zasedla nasprotna konca spektra. Sparta je bila zaprta družba, ki jo je vodila oligarhična vlada, ki sta jo vodila dva kralja, in je zasedla ostri južni konec Peloponeza, svoje zadeve pa je organizirala okoli močne vojske, ki je ščitila špartanske državljane pred zunanjo invazijo in notranjim uporom helotov. Atene so po drugi strani prerasle v pustolovsko, odprto družbo, ki jo vodi demokratična vlada, ki je uspevala s komercialnimi dejavnostmi. Obdobje vodenja Periklesa & rsquo v Atenah je opisano kot & ldquoZlata doba & rdquo. V tem obdobju se je začel obsežen gradbeni projekt, ki je vključeval Akropolo.

Bronasta čelada Miltiadesa. Posvečeno v Olimpiji, zdaj v muzeju Olimpija.

Atenski pustolovski duh in zvestoba svojemu Jonskemu sorodniku sta ju prisilila, da pomagata grškim kolonijam, ki so se spopadale z močnim Perzijskim cesarstvom v Mali Aziji. Za pomoč pri Jonskem uporu (499 pr. N. Št.), Ki ga je vodil Milet, so Atenjani v Ioniji iztovorili majhno posadko za boj proti Perzijcem in širjenje upora. Grške sile so izginile Perzijce, saj so leta 498 pred našim štetjem požgale prestolnico Lidije, Sardis, vendar so bile leta 494 pr. Odpuščanje Sardisov in kljubovanje Atenčanom sta povzročila jezo perzijskega kralja Darija, ki se je zaobljubil maščevanje. Leta 490 pred našim štetjem je svoje sile izkrcal dvajset milj severno od Aten, pri Marathonu. Medtem ko so bili Špartanci okupirani z verskim praznikom, so Atenjani, ki so bili pod vodstvom Miltijada, številčno presegli in presenetili Perzijce pri Maratonu, da bi za zdaj ohranili grško neodvisnost.

Trajalo je deset let, a je perzijski kralj Xerxes, odločen, da bo uspel tam, kjer Darius ni uspel, zbral tisto, kar je Herodot opisal kot največjo vojsko, ki jo je kdaj sestavil, da bi znova napadel Grčijo. Atenjani so pričakovali popoln napad Perzijcev, pripravljenih tudi na ta trenutek. Pod vodstvom Themistoklesa so unovčili srebro, pridobljeno iz na novo izkopanih rudnikov Lavrion, in zgradili grozljivo mornarico trojčkov. Xerxes je leta 480 pred našim štetjem s svojo množično vojsko prečkal Helespont in začel priključevati Grčijo po kopnem in morju. Prva obrambna črta za grško zavezništvo mestnih držav je bila na ozkem prehodu Termopile, kjer je Leonid s 300 Špartancev in 700 Tespijani tri dni zadrževal mogočno perzijsko vojsko, preden je s prevaro padel na človeka. Hkrati so se atenske ladje borile s perzijsko mornarico do zastoja v bližnji Artemision, preden so se umaknile na ravne Salamine.

Atenjani so iz svojega mesta izpraznili celotno nebojno prebivalstvo, zato ko so prišli Perzijci, niso naleteli na odpor. Maščevali so se v atenskih stavbah in templjih, tako da so jih požgali do tal, svojo floto pa so zasidrali pri Falironu v zasledovanju grške mornarice, ki je bila zaščitena na bližnjem otoku Salamina. Medtem ko se je skupno vodstvo Helenov na tipičen grški način prepiralo, ali naj se umaknejo na Peloponez in kam naj se nato obrnejo Pezijci, je Themistokles, ki je iskal ugodno hitro bitko, pozval perzijsko floto k napadu, ko so grške ladje ponaredile zgodnji jutranji pobeg iz Salamina. Ko so Perzijci zasledovali, za kar so mislili, da je bežajoči sovražnik, so se Greckovi triremi obrnili in se s presenečenimi Perzijci spopadli z velikimi žrtvami in uničili perzijsko mornarico. Ker je njegova mornarica uničena, se je Xerxes bal, da bi grške trojke hitele na Hellespont, da bi mu prerezale edino pot domov, zato se je umaknil nazaj v Azijo in zapustil svojega sposobnega generala Mardoniousa, ki se je boril proti Grkom. Naslednje leto, leta 479 pr.

Zmaga grških sil pri Marathonu in Salami se šteje za odločilno točko v razvoju zahodne civilizacije. Razlog je v tem, da bi, če bi Perzijci zmagali, vsi dosežki Grčije (in zlasti Aten), ki so sledili takoj za tem in kar se po vsem svetu šteje za temelj zahodne civilizacije, ne bi izpadli. Po uspešni obrambi svoje domovine so grške države vstopile v stanje visokega razvoja. Atene so se zlasti pojavile kot velika velesila, ki je vodila številne druge grške mestne države (nekatere voljne, nekatere nočejo in nekatere neradi) v obrambno zavezništvo, Delijsko ligo, proti Perzijcem. Pristojbine, ki so jih zbrali zavezniki, so Atenam pomagale razširiti in ohraniti grozen, a težak imperij v egejskem svetu. Hkrati je Sparta vodila Peloponesko ligo, zvezo držav, večinoma s Peloponeza, ki je delovala kot protiutež proti zaznani atenski hegemoniji Grčije.

The competitive spirit, suspicion, and animosity toward each other that characterized all Greek cities re-emerged once the external danger of the Persians threat subsided, and with the two dominant empires occupying opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum, it was not long before the underlying differences and mistrust spilled over in a particularly long and nasty conflict: the Peloponnesian War. While Sparta and Athens were the primary adversaries, just about every other Greek city took part at one time or another. With Sparta possessing the stronger land forces, and Athens dominating at sea with its navy of triremes, the war lasted for from 431 until 404 BCE with the Peace of Nicias interrupting it briefly in 421-418 BCE. After surviving a decimating plague in 430/9 BCE and a devastating defeat in Sicily by Syracuse in 413 BCE, Athens drained of resources finally capitulated to the Spartans in 404 BCE.

The Classical Period produced remarkable cultural and scientific achievements. The city of Athens introduced to the world a direct Democracy the likes of which had never been seen hitherto, or subsequently, with western governments like Great Britain, France, and USA emulating it a thousand years later. The rational approach to exploring and explaining the world as reflected in Classical Art, Philosophy, and Literature became the well-grounded springboard that western culture used to leap forward, beginning with the subsequent Hellenistic Age. The thinkers of the Classical Greek era have since dominated thought for thousands of years, and have remained relevant to our day. The teachings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle among others, either directly, in opposition, or mutation, have been used as reference point of countless western thinkers in the last two thousand years. Hippocrates became the &ldquoFather of modern medicine&rdquo, and the Hippocratic oath is still used today. The dramas of Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes are considered among the masterpieces of western culture.

The art of Classical Greece began the trend towards a more naturalistic (even in its early idealistic state) depiction of the world, thus reflecting a shift in philosophy from the abstract and supernatural to more immediate earthly concerns. Artists stopped merely “suggesting” the human form and began “describing” it with accuracy. Man became the focus, and “measure of all things” in daily life through Democratic politics, and in cultural representations. Rational thinking and Logic became the driving force behind this cultural revolution at the expense of emotion and impulse. The most striking illustration of this “Logic over Emotion” approach is frozen on the faces of the statues of the temple of Zeus west pediment at Olympia. In the complex array of sculptures, it is easy to know who is a “Barbarian” and who is a “civilized Hellene” through the expression of their faces. Barbarian Centaurs exhibit an excess of emotion, while Lapithae women and Apollo remain collected and emotionless even in the direst of situations (photo on the left).

Even after its defeat at the Peloponnesian war, Athens remained a guiding light for the rest of Greece for a long time, but this light that shone so bright, began to slowly fade. Sparta won the Peloponnesian war and emerged as the dominant power in Greece, but her political prowess failed to match her military reputation. Soon after the conflict ended, and while Sparta fought against other city-states all over Greece, Athens reconstructed her empire after rebuilding her walls, her navy and army. Sparta’s power and military might were eventually diminished, especially after two crashing defeats at the hands of the Thebans first in Leuctra in 371 BCE, and again nine years later at Mantinea. This power vacuum was quickly filled however by the Macedonians who under the leadership of Philip II emerged as the only major military authority of Greece after their victory at Chaeronea against the Athenians in 338 BCE.

Through diplomacy and might, Philip II who became king in 359 BCE, managed to consolidate the areas around northern Greece under his power, and until his assassination in 336 BCE had added central and southern Greece to his hegemony. The pretext for his military expeditions to southern Greece was the protection of the Delphi Oracle from the Phoceans, but his sight was fixed beyond the borders of Greece. His ambition was to lead a military expedition of united Greece against the Persian Empire to avenge the earlier Persian incursions of Greece. This ambition was fulfilled by his son Alexander the Great who became king after his fathers assassination.

With a copy of the Iliad and a dagger in his hand, Alexander continued the centuries-old conflict between East and West by leading a united Greek army into Asia. His success on the battlefield and the amount of land he conquered became legendary and earned him the epithet &ldquothe Great&rdquo. Besides brilliant military tactics, Alexander possessed leadership skills and charisma that made his army unbeatable in numerous battles against more numerous opponents, pushing the Greeks all the way to Egypt, India, and Bactria (today Afghanistan). Alexander led his army in battle always placing his own self at the point of attack, partaking in the common soldier&rsquos jeopardy, and thus won a series of major battles that obliterated all opposition in its path. In the process he amassed the largest empire hitherto known and altered the composition of the ancient world.

In 334 BCE, Alexander led his army across the Hellespond into Asia and scored successive wins against the Persian Empire. His first success came at Granicus River in northwest Asia Minor where his Calvary routed the outnumbered Persian mercenaries who fought under the leadership of Memnon of Rhodes. In 333 BCE Alexander’s outnumbered army defeated the Persians at Issus and forced king Darius to flee for his life. The subsequent conquest of Miletus, Tyre (332 BCE), and Egypt (331 BCE) gave the Greeks control of the entire eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and allowed Alexander to move inland towards the heart of the Persian Empire. In Egypt Alexander was proclaimed to be the son of god Ammon (the equivalent of the Greek Zeus), and he proclaimed himself King of Asia after his victory at the battle at Gaugamela in 331 BCE, which sealed the fate of the Persian Empire.

From Babylon, Alexander led his army towards the heart of south Asia, subduing all resistance and establishing cities along the way. Despite the objections of his officers, he incorporated into his army forces from the conquered lands, adopted local customs, and married a Bactrian woman, Roxane. His march eastward eventually stopped on the edge of India partly due to the objections of his fatigued army. He returned from the frontier to Babylon to plan his next expedition southward, towards Arabia, but in 323 BCE his sudden death of a fever at the age of 32 put an end to a brilliant military career, and left his vast conquered land without an apparent heir.

The conquests of Alexander the Great changed the course of Ancient history. The center of gravity of the Greek world moved from the self-containment of city-states to a more vast territory that spanned the entire coast of Eastern Mediterranean and reached far into Asia. Alexander&rsquos conquests placed a plethora of diverse cultures under common hegemony and Greek influence around the Mediterranean and southern Asia, paving the way for the distinct Hellenistic culture that followed his death.


Greek Army - History

The Greek Army of WW2

Like many of the smaller nations in World War 2 Greece was ill prepared for the conflict with an army suffering from a shortage of modern equipment. None the less it succeeded in resisting an Italian invasion from Albania until the massive intervention of German troops from Yugoslavia overwhelmed their defences.

In 1940 the Greek army consisted of six infantry and nine mountain divisions, four mountain brigades and a cavalry division totalling some 430,000 men. Despite heavy losses during the Italian invasion this had expanded to 540,000 men before the German assault. Infantry divisions had three regiments plus a divisional artillery regiment. Mountain divisions had less artillery (4 batteries instead of 9). Infantry regiments had two battalions each with three rifle and one MG companies.

For further information visit Defence of Greece 1941 website which has a vast amount of information on this conflict and hosts a discussion group. Andrew Mollo's, The Armed Forces of WW2 has a chapter on the Greek army with uniform plates. For those using the popular Flames of War wargame rules there is a section on the Greek army on their website.

The campaign of 1940/41 is described in the feature article Blunder in the Mountains on this website and has a bibliography and order of battle. It includes details of the battlefields today that are also covered in our travel section's tour of the Epirus region of Greece.

The Editor's Greek WW2 army is in 15mm scale, originally for Rapid Fire but now rebased for use with FoW rules. There are no specific Greek troops available but figures can be adapted from Italian, British, French and Spanish Civil War ranges. Most of the figures below come from the Peter Pig ranges supplemented by FoW.

In 28mm there is a new range of figures by David Burns distributed by Rif Raf Miniatures

Greek army in 15mm for FoW

Artillery support from 75mm field guns.

The backbone of the army - the infantry

The cavalry. Units were attached to infantry divisions for recon as well two regiments of cavalry each with four squadrons, Mgs and mortars. A third regiment was in the process of being motorised.


Greco-Persian Wars: Battle of Thermopylae

In the 5th century bc, the Persian empire fought the city-states of Greece in one of the most profoundly symbolic struggles in history. Their wars would determine the viability of a new direction in Western culture, for even as Greece stood poised to embark on an unprecedented voyage of the mind, Persia threatened to prevent the Hellenes from ever achieving their destiny. Persia represented the old ways — a world of magi and god-kings, where priests stood guard over knowledge and emperors treated even their highest subjects as slaves. The Greeks had cast off their own god-kings and were just beginning to test a limited concept of political freedom, to innovate in art, literature and religion, to develop new ways of thinking, unfettered by priestly tradition. And yet, despite those fundamental differences, the most memorable battle between Greeks and Persians would hinge on less ideological and more universal factors: the personality of a king and the training and courage of an extraordinary band of warriors.

The long path to battle at Thermopylae began in what is now Iran, heart of the once vast Persian empire. Nowadays, ancient ruins attest to its long-vanished greatness, but to the Greeks of the early 5th century bc, the Persian empire was young, aggressive and dangerous. Persian expansion had begun in the mid-6th century, when its first shah, or great king, Cyrus, had led a revolt against the dominant Medes. By 545 bc, Cyrus had extended Persian hegemony to the coast of Asia Minor.

The Greeks of Asia Minor were blessed during their period of subjugation only insofar as the Persian kings generally remained remote figures of power. Stories abounded of executions and tortures ordered on the whims of angry monarchs. One shah’s wife reportedly had 14 children buried alive in an attempt to cheat death. There seems to have been little escape from the arbitrary tyranny of the rulers known by the Greeks simply as ‘the King or the Great King, enforced by a system of spies who acted as his eyes and ears. Such was the general atmosphere of oppression that one Persian nobleman who failed to do the shah’s bidding was forced to eat the flesh of his own son — and upon being shown that he had just done so, could muster no more potent a reply than to say, May the king’s will be done.

It was inevitable, then, that there would be tension between the Greek and Persian ways of life, and in 499 bc several Greek cities in Asia Minor revolted against the Persian King Darius. Darius had seized power in 521, when he and six other men crushed a conspiracy of priests on a day that became celebrated on the Persian calendar as Magophonia — The Killing of the Magi. A vengeful man, Darius had ordered that the severed heads of the magi be paraded through the streets on pikes.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Darius was especially furious to learn that a distant city called Athens had dared to assist his rebellious subjects in Asia Minor. Grant, O God, he said, shooting an arrow into the air, that I may punish the Athenians. He even commanded one of his servants to interrupt him during every dinner three times to remind him of his goal with the admonition, Master, remember the Athenians. The first Persian War ended badly for Darius, however, when his troops were defeated by a smaller Athenian army at Marathon in 490 bc. Greece was saved — but only for a while.

Darius’ son Xerxes does not seem to have been especially driven to complete his late father’s unfinished business. He waffled over whether the long-delayed punishment of Athens merited such a far-flung campaign. At last a phantom allegedly appeared in his dreams, urging him to invade Greece — this being interpreted by his magi as a portent for world conquest.

Xerxes spent more than four years gathering soldiers and stockpiling supplies from every corner of his empire. The resulting host amounted to a colossal cosmopolitan army of armies. In it were Persians, Medes and Hyrcanians, all wearing felt caps, tunics, mail and trousers, and armed with short spears, light wicker shields and deadly, powerful composite bows. Assyrians joined them, protected by bronze helmets and shields, and bearing spears, daggers and iron-studded wooden clubs. Bactrians, Parthians and Chorasmians added short bows and spears. The Scythian Sacae, in their tall pointed hats, bristled with bows, daggers and battle-axes. Cotton-wearing Indian auxiliaries were armed with bows that shot iron-tipped arrows. There were Paricanians, Pactyans, Arabs, Ethiopians, Libyans, Paphlagonians, Ligyans, Matieni, Mariandynians, Syrians, Phrygians, Lydians, Thracians, Pysidians, Cabalians, Moschians, Tibareni, Macrone and Mossynoeci. The list, even in abbreviated form, reads like a catalog of lost peoples. Together, they formed an army that the Greek historian Herodotus estimated at 1.7 million, excluding the navy. When he added ship-borne fighters and European allies to the total, he came to a sum of 2.6 million, a figure that he reckoned would have to be doubled to account for servants, crews and camp followers.

Herodotus’ numbers must surely be overstated, although we will never know by how much. We can only accept that Xerxes’ army was a vast and apparently awe-inspiring force — according to Herodotus, whenever it stopped to slake its thirst, it drank entire rivers dry.

Within Xerxes’ army, the native Persian contingent was most privileged. Carriages full of women and servants accompanied the Persians on the march. One Persian unit was particularly esteemed: a crack fighting force that Herodotus called the Immortals, alleging that any dead, wounded or sick soldier in its ranks was replaced so swiftly that its 10,000-man strength never seemed to diminish.

Watching his own army pass in review, Xerxes himself is said to have wept as he reflected on the brevity of human life. Not one of them, he observed, would be alive in 100 years’ time. It was an unlikely moment of insight for a king who had once ordered one of his own soldiers split in two.

The Persians maintained a splendid marching order. At the front was more than half the army, succeeded by a gap to keep those ordinary troops from being in contact with the king. There followed 1,000 of Persia’s finest horsemen, another 1,000 picked spearmen, carrying their spears upside down, 10 sacred horses, a holy chariot drawn by eight horses, then Xerxes’ chariot. The king was then followed by 1,000 noble Persian spearmen with their spears pointed upward, another 1,000 picked cavalry, 10,000 infantry, many with gold or silver ornaments on their spears, and finally 10,000 more horsemen before another gap that separated those fine troops from the ordinary soldiers who brought up the rear.

It is entirely possible that Xerxes did not anticipate having to fight any significant battles in Greece. The magnitude of his force was so great that he must have anticipated only demanding surrender in order to receive it. Like his father before him, he sent messengers ahead demanding the traditional tokens of submission — earth and water. Many Greek towns relented in the face of certain destruction. To the Persian king, they conceded, belonged the land and the sea.

Two cities were spared the indignity of the Persian ultimatum. Xerxes well recalled the fate of the messengers his father had sent to Athens and Sparta. The Athenians had thrown them into a pit. In Sparta the Persian diplomats were shown the place to find the earth and water they sought — by being pushed down a well.

Xerxes was familiar with the willful Athenians who had thwarted his father at Marathon 10 years earlier, but along the march he slowly became acquainted with Greece’s other most powerful city-state. At one point he asked a Spartan exile if anyone in Greece would dare resist his force. The exile, for whom there was no love lost for the city that had expelled him, admitted that no length of odds could possibly convince the Spartans to submit. The Spartans, he said, feared only the law, and their law forbade them to retreat in battle. It commanded them to stand firm always and to conquer or die.

Knowing that they could not hope to defeat the Persians as individual cities, the Greeks convened a conference in order to coordinate a Panhellenic defense. It was there that the Spartans, whose own city was unique in that it had no walls (relying instead upon the bravery of its citizens for defense), advocated the construction of a wall across the Isthmus of Corinth, thereby protecting only the southernmost part of Greece. The cities north of Corinth, however, knowing that Xerxes could swing around the Aegean and strike Greece from the north, sought an earlier defense. The congress adopted their strategy. The Greeks elected to draw the line at Thermopylae.

To the Greek strategists in 481 bc, Thermopylae represented their best chance to stop or at least delay the Persian army long enough to allow their combined fleets to draw the Persian navy into a decisive sea battle. A narrow mountain pass, Thermopylae was a bottleneck through which the Persian army somehow had to proceed. Forced to fight there, the Persians would be unable to take advantage of their massive preponderance in numbers instead, they would have to face the Greeks in close-quarter, hand-to-hand combat.

Two armies now prepared to converge on the tiny mountain pass. For Xerxes no force, not even nature, would be allowed to resist his progress. When a violent storm tore up the first bridge his engineers had built across the Hellespont, the great king ordered his engineers put to death, and he had his men whip and curse the waters for defying him. New engineers then bridged the Hellespont again. Constructed from nearly 700 galleys and triremes lashed together, the bridge was a marvel of makeshift military engineering. Flax and papyrus cables held the boats in line, and sides were constructed to keep animals from seeing the water and panicking during their crossing. The Persian army advanced inexorably into Greece.

The Greek force that now raced to Thermopylae was ridiculously small for the challenge that awaited it: 300 Spartans, 80 Myceneans, 500 Tegeans, 700 Thespians and so forth, totaling about 4,900. The countrymen they left behind seem to have put little faith in this army. The Athenians voted to evacuate their city. Their men of military age embarked on ships, while women and children were sent to the safer territory of the Peloponnesus. Only treasurers and priestesses remained behind, charged with guarding the property of the gods on the Acropolis.

If any Greek understood the danger of his assignment, it was almost certainly the Spartan commander, Leonidas. Although each city’s contingent had its own leader, Leonidas had been placed in overall command of the Greek army. One of two Spartan kings — Sparta had no kingship in any real sense — Leonidas traced his ancestry back to the demigod Heracles. He had handpicked the 300 warriors under his command all were middle-aged men with children to leave behind as heirs. He had selected men to die, and done so apparently without the philosophic reluctance of Xerxes. Leonidas and the Spartans had been trained to do their duty, and, having received an oracle that Sparta must either lose a king or see the city destroyed, Leonidas was convinced that his final duty was death.

On the way to Thermopylae, Leonidas sent his widely admired Spartans ahead of the other troops to inspire them with confidence. They arrived to find the pass unoccupied. It was only 50 feet wide and far narrower at some points. There were hot springs there — these gave the pass its name — an altar to Heracles and the remains of an old wall with gates that had fallen into ruin. The Greeks now rushed to rebuild it.

As Xerxes’ army drew closer, a Persian scout rode to survey the Greek camp. What he saw astonished him — the Spartans, many of them naked and exercising, the rest calmly combing their hair. It was common practice for the Spartans to fix their hair when they were about to risk their lives, but neither the scout nor his king could comprehend such apparent vanity.

The Greeks, too, began to receive intelligence on the size of the Persian force. Sometime before the battle, the Spartan Dieneces was told that when the Persian archers let loose a volley, their arrows would hide the sun. To Dieneces that was just as well. For if the Persians hide the sun, he said, we shall fight in the shade.Despite the imperturbable courage of Dieneces and the other Spartans, the Greeks were shaken when the Persian host finally neared their position. At a council of war the leaders debated retreat, until Leonidas’ opinion prevailed. The Spartan would do his duty. The Greeks would stay put and try to hold off the Persians until reinforcements could arrive.

The Persian army encamped on the flat grounds of the town of Trachis, only a short distance from Thermopylae. There, Xerxes stopped his troops for four days, waiting upon the inevitable flight of the overawed Greeks. By the fifth day, August 17, 480 bc, the great king could no longer control his temper. The impudent Greeks were, like the storm at the Hellespont, defying his will. He now sent forward his first wave of troops — Medes and Cissians — with orders to take the Greeks alive.

The Medes and Cissians were repulsed with heavy casualties. Determined to punish the resisters, Xerxes sent in his Immortals. The crack Persian troops advanced confidently, envisioning an easy victory, but they had no more success than the Medes.

What Xerxes had not anticipated was that the Greeks held the tactical advantage at Thermopylae. The tight battlefield nullified the Persians’ numerical preponderance, and it also prevented them from fighting the way they had been trained. Persian boys, it was said, were taught only three things: to ride, to tell the truth and to use the bow. There was no place for cavalry at Thermopylae and, even more critical, no place to volley arrows. The Greeks had positioned themselves behind the rebuilt wall. They would have to be rooted out the hard way.

The Persian army was neither trained nor equipped for such close fighting. Its preferred tactic was to volley arrows from a distance, the archers firing from behind the protection of wicker shields planted in the ground. They wore very little armor and carried only daggers and short spears for hand-to-hand combat.

Although students of military history argue that true shock warfare has seldom been practiced — since it is antithetical to the soldier’s natural desire for self-preservation — the Greeks had made it their standard tactic. Greek soldiers perhaps drew some confidence from their heavy armor and their long spears, which could outreach the Persian swords. But the Greeks also had another, more intangible, edge: something to fight for. They were defending their homes, and they were doing their duty — they were not fighting as slaves of some half mad god-king. As heavy casualties sapped their soldiers’ resolve, the Persian commanders had to resort to lashing them with whips in order to drive them against the determined Greek defenders.

During that long first day of fighting, the Spartans led the Greek resistance. Experienced Spartan warriors would come out from behind the walls, do fierce battle with the Persians, then feign retreat in order to draw the Persians into a trap. Xerxes reportedly leapt to his feet three times in fear for his army.

The second day of Thermopylae followed much the same course as the first. The various Greek contingents now took turns fending off the attacks, but the Persians failed to make any headway.

It is difficult to say how long the Greeks could have held off the Persians at Thermopylae — their casualties thus far were comparatively light — but the question was soon made moot. When the Greeks had first arrived, they learned that the presumably impregnable site possessed a hidden weakness: There was a track through the mountains that could be used by an enemy force to surround and annihilate the defenders of the gate. Recognizing the danger, Leonidas had dispatched his Phocian contingent to guard the path. Thus the already small number of troops available at the gate was made smaller still by the division of the Greek forces. The Phocians themselves were charged with the difficult task of defending a route with no natural defenses. Their best hope — Greece’s best hope — lay in the mountain track remaining unknown to the Persians.

It was, in the end, a Greek who betrayed that secret. The traitor, Ephialtes, was apparently motivated by greed when he revealed the mountain path to Xerxes. Acting immediately on the new information, the king sent Persian troops up the path during the night, when darkness concealed their movement among the oak trees. Near the top, they completely surprised the luckless Phocians. At last free to fight in their usual fashion, the Persians rained down arrows as the Phocians frantically sought to gather their arms. In desperation, the Phocians raced to higher ground for a last stand. The Persians, however, had no interest in chasing the Phocians higher but instead turned down the trail, aiming for the pass at Thermopylae.

Lookouts raced down the hill to warn Leonidas of the descending Persian army. There was little time left. A quick council of war led to the decision to split up the Greek force. There was no reason for the entire army to be annihilated at the wall. Most contingents were now allowed to return home and prepare for a later showdown. Leonidas and his Spartans, however, would remain at Thermopylae. Standing by them were the loyal Thespians, who considered it an honor to die fighting beside the Spartans. Leonidas also kept as hostages some 400 Thebans whom he suspected of having Persian sympathies.

Although some have questioned the wisdom of Leonidas’ decision, wondering if he was overly influenced by a mumbo-jumbo oracle prophesying his sacrificial death, the situation gave him no alternative. If the entire Greek army had fled, it would have eventually been caught from behind and slaughtered by the faster-moving Persian cavalry. Leonidas was giving the retreating troops the only chance they had to escape and fight another day.

It is in many ways the irony of Thermopylae that Sparta, arguably the least free of all the Greek states, now stood as the final defender of Greek freedom. All the things that would make Greece great — science, art, poetry, drama, philosophy — were foreign to Sparta. The Spartans had developed a constitution of almost total subordination of the individual to the community. Spartan elders determined which infants could live or die. Spartan boys were sent into military training at the age of 7. Spartan men lived in barracks, away from their wives, for much of their adult lives. The Spartans ate at a common table, they distributed land equally in an almost communistic fashion and they were forbidden to engage in what were deemed the superfluous arts. Such freedoms as their warrior elite enjoyed did not extend to non-Spartans living in their territory, the Helots, who served as their slaves. Yet the Spartan elite believed passionately in their freedom, and their sense of duty, imbued at an early age, guaranteed that no Spartan commander would ever have to resort to whips to drive his soldiers into battle.

On August 19, the Greeks elected to inflict as much damage as possible on the Persian army. Knowing that this day’s struggle would be their last, they pressed stolidly forward, leaving behind the safety of the wall to fight in the widest part of the pass. There, they would battle the massive Persian army on open ground. They would do so, however, without the Thebans, who as Leonidas had expected surrendered to the Persians before the final assault began.

Xerxes ordered his men in for the kill. Once again his commanders lashed their own troops to drive them forward. Many Persians were trampled to death by their own comrades. Others, shoved aside, drowned in the sea. All the while, the Spartans and Thespians did their deadly work. No one, wrote Herodotus, could count the number of the dead.

The Greeks fought with their long spears until the shafts had all broken. Then they fought with swords. In the course of the struggle, Leonidas fulfilled the prophecy that had doomed him. Four times the Greeks then drove the enemy away from his body before the Persians finally succeeded in dragging it away. It was about then that the second Persian force arrived from the mountain pass.

Now completely surrounded, the exhausted Greeks withdrew for the last time behind the wall and formed themselves into a single compact body. Here, wrote Herodotus, they resisted to the last, with their swords, if they had them, and, if not, with their hands and teeth, until the Persians, coming on from the front over the ruins of the wall and closing in from behind, finally overwhelmed them.

The Battle of Thermopylae was over. Leonidas and his 300 Spartans all lay dead, as did the 700 Thespians who had stood by them. The Persian dead were said to number around 20,000, although Xerxes tried to conceal this horrendous loss by having most of them secretly buried, leaving only about 1,000 Persian bodies for his army to see as it marched through the pass.

It was customary in Sparta to make great ceremony over the death of a king. Riders would carry the news throughout the country, and women would go around the capital, beating cauldrons. But Leonidas was denied even a proper burial. Xerxes ordered his head cut off and fixed on a stake. The rest of the Greek dead he ordered buried in order to conceal how few had held up his army for so long, and to remind his veterans of Thermopylae that the Spartans were mortal after all.

The Greeks’ courageous stand at the mountain pass had hardly even slowed Xerxes’ advance. Four days of waiting and three days of fighting — Leonidas’ heroism had bought only one more week for his compatriots. Athens, all but abandoned, was soon sacked.

And yet Thermopylae was not a total failure. The invading army had been bloodied — badly, if Herodotus is to be believed — and it must have had some effect on Persian morale. The battle’s influence on the Greeks was indisputable. When the war was over — for Greece did finally defeat the Persians — they established holidays commemorating Thermopylae and erected memorials over the battlefield. Four thousand men from Pelops’ land/against three million once did stand read one. Another celebrated Leonidas and his 300 men: Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by/that here, obeying their commands, we lie.

Thermopylae thus acquired a significance that transcended its tangible military impact. In the end, the battle’s value lay not in land gained or lost or in men killed or captured, but in inspiration. The Spartans and Thespians had taught Greece and the world an enduring lesson about courage in the face of impossible odds.

This article was written by David Frye and originally published in the January/February 2006 issue of Vojaška zgodovina revija. Za več odličnih člankov se naročite Vojaška zgodovina revija danes!


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