Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Department ofClassics and Ancient
Mediterranean Studies

CAMS 180: Ancient Warfare

CAMS 180: Ancient Warfare

Historical survey of the evolution of warfare in the ancient Mediterranean region from prehistoric times to the Later Roman Empire. CAMS 180 CAMS (HIST) 180 Ancient Warfare (3) (GH;IL) Warfare has occupied a central place in the civilizations of the Mediterranean from the earliest times. The prehistoric origins of warfare is a hotly debated topic and constitutes the starting point for this course. Most scholars are agreed that military culture grew in step with sociopolitical development over the course of the third millennium BCE. In the following centuries, the Egyptians, and later the Assyrians and Persians, took great strides in developing sophisticated tactical systems, using infantry, chariotry, and cavalry. These matters occupy a little over the first third of the course. Across the Aegean Sea, Bronze Age (Mycenaean) Greece was ruled by elites occupying massively walled citadels, their leaders buried surrounded by their weapons. But how did these warriors fight? Do the epic poems of Homer memorialize Bronze Age combat? In the Archaic Period (700-500 BCE) infantry warfare in Greece was transformed by the appearance of the heavily-armored infantryman (the hoplite), deployed in a tight formation (the phalanx). The processes involved in the appearance of this kind of warfare, its nature, and its affects on Greek society and culture will be the focus of our attention for the second third of the course. On the periphery of the Mediterranean basin stood a variety of warrior cultures (the Scythians, Celts, or Germans). Numerous warrior-dominated polities vied with each other in Archaic Italy, but one of them, sitting on a ford of the river Tiber, ultimately rose to be the greatest military power produced by the ancient Mediterranean world: Rome. The Roman legions first won and then ensured the security of a Mediterranean-wide empire that stood for 700 years and evolved ultimately into world’s first standing army of professional volunteers. The Roman military system holds our attention for the final third of the course. The course defines warfare broadly to include both tactical and strategic, as well as cultural and ideological, matters. Even this canvas is too vast to be surveyed in all its richness, so the major themes explored are:

  1. what is war, where does it come from, and how did it change as civilization spread?;
  2. in what ways did warfare develop in the periods under study, in terms of strategy, tactics, and weapons technology?;
  3. how do different warfare practices reflect essential facets of the various cultures under consideration?


Associate Teaching Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies
Pronouns: He/Him