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Seminars: The Archers of Classical Athens

altAssociate Professor of Greek History at the University of Queensland David M. Pritchard, will present a lecture about the Archers of Classical Athens , on Thursday 6 June 2019, at the Greek Centre, as part of the Greek History and Culture Seminars offered by the Greek Community of Melbourne.

The armed forces that Athens took into the Peloponnesian War had four distinct corps. The two that have been studied the most are the cavalry-corps and the navy. The same level of focus is now paid to the hoplite corps. In contrast to these three branches the archers continue to be largely unstudied.

Indeed the last dedicated study of this corps was published in 1913. This neglect of the archers by military historians is unjustified. The creation of the archer corps in the late 480s was a significant military innovation. For the rest of the fifth century Athens constantly deployed archers in a wide range of important combat-roles. In the late 430s the state spent just as much on them as it did on the cavalry.

Nevertheless this neglect explains why four problems about them remain unresolved. The first problem is why the Athenians took the unprecedented step of creating such a corps. Very few military historians recognise this as the problem that it is. The second problem is that many military archers were actually Athenian citizens. It is likely that poverty had ruled out their service as hoplites. But this leaves unexplained why they did not chose the navy, because naval service was cheaper still and earned a lot more esteem. The third problem is the role that the ten tribes played in the archer corps’s organisation. Certainly horsemen and hoplites fought in tribal units. But there is ongoing debate about whether the rest of the armed forces was organised by tribes. The fourth problem is this branch’s disappearance after only 80 years.

André Plassart attempted to explain it more than a hundred years ago. Since his study epigraphy has hugely increased what we know about this branch. This new evidence shows that Plassart’s explanation is no longer valid. This paper’s main goal is to resolve these four problems. In doing so it seeks to redress the archer corps’s unjustified neglect in military history. In doing so it seeks to redress the archer corps’s neglect in ancient Greece’s military history.

David M. Pritchard is Associate Professor of Greek History at the University of Queensland. He has obtained 13 fellowships in Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In 2019-20 he will be research fellow in the Le Collegium de Lyon de l’université de Lyon. Associate Professor Pritchard has authored Athenian Democracy at War (Cambridge University Press: 2019), Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press: 2013) and Public Spending and Democracy in Classical Athens (University of Texas Press: 2015), edited War, Democracy and Culture in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press: 2010) and co-edited Sport and Festival in the Ancient Greek World (Classical Press of Wales: 2013). He has an h-index of 14 and 700 known citation. Associate Professor Pritchard speaks on the radio and regularly writes for newspapers around the world.

When: Thursday 6 June 2019, 7.00pm
Where: Greek Centre (Mez, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne)

 
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