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Homeric Warfare

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Chapter Summary

Homeric warfare is worth studying for its historical interest. Despite obviously fantastic elements such as divine interventions, feats of superhuman strength, and spectacular but impossible killings, it is generally and rightly assumed that, to some degree at least, Homeric scenes of combat reflect battles as they were fought by early Greek armies. The two key terms defining personal relations in the army are the egalitarian 'companion' (hetairos) and the hierarchical 'follower' (therapon; literally 'attendant'). Everyone in the army is thought of as everyone else's 'companion', though some are inevitably closer companions than others. For the long-popular idea that the bulk of the Homeric army consists of poorly armed men equipped only with light missiles, there is very little evidence. The heroic army is composed of many small and loosely organized bands of warriors, held together by personal ties of sub-ordination and companionship.

Keywords: Greek armies; hetairos; Homeric army; Homeric warfare; therapon



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