Postcolonial Approaches to the Hoplite Debate: Warfare, Politics, and Identity in Ionia and Lycia
University of Liverpool
Dr Alan M. Greaves (University of Liverpool)
Dr Jason Crowley (Manchester Metropolitan University)
The so-called ‘Hoplite Debate’ surrounding the emergence of Greek heavy infantry (hoplites) and the rise of the city-state (polis) in c.700 BC became heavily politicised during the Twentieth Century, with scholarship using it as a vehicle to present entrenched political positions (neoconservatism, neoliberalism, Marxism). Others adopted more centrist standpoints
but recent debate is at a stalemate. No one has yet taken a postcolonial approach that views hoplites as localised phenomena that emerged within distinct geographic, social and political contexts.
Postcolonialism examines the experience of subaltern (non-dominant) groups to reflect critically on mainstream elite culture. My research contrasts the emergence and character of hoplites in two case study regions (Ionia and Lycia) with the endlessly discussed military history of mainland Greece and examines the specific regional cultural contexts within which hoplites appeared. Although featured in Greek historical canon (Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides) and engaging with Greece militarily via the Delian League, Ionia and Lycia are marginal to the established narratives of the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars that dominate the academic discourse. For example, in contrast to mainland Greece inscriptions in Ionia apply the term hopletes (sic.) to tribes, not a social class, and although Lycia was culturally distinct from Greece and had its own language(s), its experience of subjugation to Persia parallels that of Greece.
My research focuses strictly on contemporary ethnohistorical (locally produced) literature, archaeology, and especially the overlooked iconographic evidence of local painting and sculpting traditions. By introducing new historical voices into a narrative that has been dominated by the experience of the Western middle-class, I will present a postcolonial reading of hoplite origins and bring a new balance to this hoary debate.
Greek Socio-Military History,