Ancient Greece
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Basic Information

Ancient Greece wasn't really a single nation in the way we envision such things today. It was a collection of independent city-states and rural regions that roughly shared a single culture, language, and mythology. However, these cities warred with each other as well as with foreign powers.

Greek History is traditionally divided into the classical period (that of the city states) which ended with the rise of Macedonia, the pre-classical (preceeding it) and the subsequent Hellenistic Period running from the start of Macedonian hegemony to the Roman conquest.

The area traditionally thought of as Greece has over 8,000 miles (13,000 km) of coastline and includes several thousand islands. So naturally, the ancient Greeks were a sea-going people who spread out and colonized much of the Mediterranean Sea region. Confirmed Greek colonies appear in North Africa, the Crimea, Spain and the South of France, although Greek traders may well have travelled as far as England in search of tin and the Hellenistic world very definitely reached as far as India. The extent of Greek exploration of Africa is not known but it seems likely that some traders and explorers journeyed at least as far south as Ethipoiea.

Modern Greece is a bit different (though geographically similar), and deserves its own page for clarity.

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For the majority of the classical and hellenistic periods Greek warfare was based around the phalanx - a close order block of heavy infantry spearmen. In the classical period armies were generally levied from the citizenship of their city state by way of national service - although mercenaries were not unknown and the Spartans made soldiering their full time occupation. Men generally purchased their own equipment and trained for and fought as the troop class appropriate to their social station.

Professionalisation occured later under the Macedonians and the diadochoi states in the Hellenistic period.

The ancient greeks were unusual in that they classified their forces - particularly their infantry - not by how they were deployed or by the weapons that they used, but by the protection that they wore or carried. Normal classes included:

  • Psiloi: "The Naked" - unarmoured and shieldless, usually missile troops such as bowmen, slingers or javelinmen, but could include stone throwers. In later periods, some psiloi could actually be quite well armoured as by then the term had become a byword for "missile troops" and lost some of its original meaning. Men who actually fought naked were known as gymnitai.
  • Peltasts: "Users of the Pelta" - carried the pelta, a light shield, sometimes crescent shaped and often made of leather or wicker. Light infantry, originally skirmishers armed with javelins and a melee weapon although some of the diadochoi states deployed peltasts who were heavily armoured assault troops and peltasts hired from Thrace or Dacia were frequently close combat specialists.
  • Hoplites: "users of the Hoplon" - the backbone of the Greek armies, close order heavy infantry spearmen equipped with the large round hoplon shield (also called the apis). Armour might or might not have been included based on what the individual soldier could afford since almost all early hoplites were self-equipped. Later the classical hoplite was replaced by the Macedonian style pezheteriaos - a pikeman equipped with a smaller shield. Hoplites picked to run out and engage enemy skirmishers were known as ekdromoi - almost literally "runners out".
  • Thureophoroi: "users of the Thureos" - a force of "medium infantry" using a celtic style oval shield, traditionally flankers to the hoplite phalanx and capable of operating alongside it or deploying in open order to support skirmishing peltasts. Armed with a hoplite style spear, javelins and typically a sword as well.
  • Thorakites: "wearers of the thorax" - a heavier version of the thureophoroi who wore some form of armour in addition to thureos but fought in much the same role, often used as assault troops where the peltasts weren't adequate but the nature of the terrain prevented the phalanx from being effective.

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1. Non-Fiction Book: How To Mellify A Corpse by Vicki León

Game and Story Use

  • Ancient Greece would make a great setting for a historical or even high-fantasy campaign.
    • Either as literally Ancient Greece, or a unique new setting that has parallels or inspiration in the ancient Greeks.
      • An example of the later would be HELLAS: Worlds of Sun & Stone, an RPG that is basically Ancient Greece In Space!.
  • Time Travelers may want to see the birth of democracy, meet the great thinkers of yesteryear, or engage in time tourism amidst the Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Classical Mythology is a rich and varied source for myths, magic, monsters, plots and thematic elements for many a game.
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