Greek Hoplite versus Persian Warrior

Published: March 10th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: Chris McNab Illustrator: Adam Hook
Reviewed by: 
Gino Dykstra, IPMS# 11198
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2574-2
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472825735
Other Publication Information: Softcover
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: Combat 31

Does anyone who is into historical modeling not know of Thermopylae and the famous last stand of the 300 Spartans? Personally, I've always been fascinated by the Greek Hoplite and this period in history, although I will NOT be going into a review of the recent movie on this subject. Let it just be said that this battle and those that occurred around the same period determined, to a great degree, the world as it stands today.

Osprey's Combat series focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of opposing forces in crucial battles, and this book by Chris McNab is a truly fascinating look into the differences between the Greek and Persian approaches to mass warfare. Although I'm certainly familiar with both military forces, having modeled them a LOT over the years, I wasn't really familiar with how their strategies and tactics were shaped by both the regions each group of warriors came from, but also the social differences that determined how they fought. Greeks, for instance, were (with the exception of the Spartan city-state) mostly farmers and sheep-herders on the hilly Greek landscape. They were socially pretty homogenous and fighting in tight formations on relatively small open areas was a natural outgrowth of this terrain. Combat was typically performed in a fairly rigid, slow but relentless fashion against similarly armed and trained warriors, where close-in bravery and individual persistence in direct, hand-to-hand struggles usually determined the outcome.

Persians came from a much more diverse cultural background, as the Persian Empire was vast by the standards of the day, but most warriors were used to fighting in open desert or near-desert conditions. Because of this, for instance, they were far more mobile and there was little emphasis on body armor but serious use of the bow and arrow, which were for the most part not used by the Greek forces. More attention was paid to swift, strike-and-flee cavalry tactics, although this was somewhat hampered by the lack of both saddles and stirrups, which had yet to be widely utilized. The resources of the Persian Empire also ensured that their armies would typically be much larger than almost any opponent they might face, with a much more diverse range of tactical military roles.

McNab does a superb job of using what few resources still exist to map out these differences and through the study of not only the Battle of Thermopylae but both previous and subsequent engagements shows how these variants not only determined the course of action, but how the Greeks learned from their brutal contacts with the Persian Empire, adapting their own tactics to best advantage. This book has wonderful pictures of surviving artifacts, but also excellent illustrations not only of the warriors themselves, but how they typically comported themselves on the battlefield using a unique "split screen" approach. Maps are provided in full color to show the various tactical maneuvers and which clearly demonstrate how hampered the vast Persian forces were by fighting on unfamiliar terrain.

All in all, this is a really engaging book about this important era and the pivotal combats that took place on Greek soil. I can recommend this publication without the slightest hesitation not only for the military historian but also for the modeler looking for some inspiration for his or her next Ancient period diorama. Fascinating!

My thanks to IPMS/USA and Osprey Publications for giving me a chance to review this terrific book.

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