, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 163-183
Date: 10 Nov 2012

War and democracy in ancient Greece

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In the present paper we analyse some of the preconditions for the emergence of democracy in Ancient Greece. For democracy to emerge in Ancient Greece a combination of several enabling factors proved decisive: the development of new military tactic, the phalanx, marked by the appearance of a new type of heavy infantry warrior, the hoplite, who owned individually some property, i.e. land, sufficient to permit him to finance his weaponry and a city-state culture. We describe the emergence of this new type of warrior, link this emergence to the establishment of individual property rights and show how this brought about a military revolution, exemplified in a new tactical formation, the phalanx. We then proceed by showing how the attitudes and learning processes made necessary by this new type of warfare were transformed in the civic values and virtues that shaped democratic institutions. Our thesis can thus be briefly termed as the “military cum city-state” explanation of democracy.

The authors wish to express their thanks to P. Cartledge, K. H. Lyttkens, J. Ober, B. Scheffold, the late A. Karayannis and an anonymous referee for their useful comments.