I’ve tried to pick up works br Hanson before, but I’ve never gotten far into them before putting them back. I thought I’d have better luck with this book because it falls into my specific interest of Greek and Roman history. So I got a good head start and then, when I wanted to put it aside, I was able to plow through it.
It’s not a long book; it is 213 pages plus some end material. Hanson’s premise is that the Greek way of war–farmers in Hoplite phalanxes defending their land–influenced Western warfare all the way to the present day. He talks about the the early tribes of Greece, the Dark Ages in Greece, and then the high point of Greek warfare, the aforementioned farmers in Hoplite phalanxes, and then beyond through the Macedonians conquering much of the eastern Mediterranean and then the Greeks being conquered in turn by the Romans who learned the lessons of the Macedonians well.
Unfortunately, it’s not a very good book.
Hanson repeats himself a lot. In a lot of cases, the same thought will be expressed in almost exactly the same way just sentences apart.
The book lacks a narrative or thematic cohesion: It doesn’t go especially in order, and the chapters are titled like they’re going to flow thematically, but they kind of wander.
Also, Hanson interjects a lot of romanticism of the Golden Age hoplite, and he really, really does not like the Macedonians. He calls Phillip II evil and Alexander the Great an alcoholic and a megalomaniac. Over and over (the author repeats the same thoughts, as I might have mentioned).
As such, I really didn’t enjoy the book, and I’m not sure I learned a whole lot from it. Of course, these days, I wonder if I learn anything from anything I read, but I hope that reading a bunch of the same material will drum something into my head. So I guess I did learn a little about the topography of Greece and how it affected Greek warfare.