War and the religious, social and political perceptions of the ancient Greeks

January 10th, 2019


The article below was originally written in the form of an undergraduate assignment for the Greek Open University in 2004, during a period when the author's academic skills were still under development. Although the quality of this article does not match the quality of later examples of the same author's work, it is written in a thorough manner and contains useful information to nowadays students and other readers with non-specialised knowledge; therefore, it has been proudly included on this website.

The reader needs to be warned that the original assignment, on which this article is based on, was written in Greek and was intended to be read by specialised academic historians. Despite the author's best intentions to present this essay in the clearest way possible, some points and arguments might still be lost in translation. The author recommends that for any unknown words or specialised vocabulary, the readers should refer to the web for additional information.

The author apologises for the structure of this article and lack of proper academic referencing. In its original form, this essay was intended to be a synthesis of information found in different volumes on ancient Greek history, which cited the same exact ancient sources. The bibliography for this article is basic, matching the requirements of an undergraduate assignment of this level. The author did not include any additional bibliography during the translation of his work in English due to time and access limitations. It must also be noted that the original bibliography for this article was studied from translated copies in Greek.


War in Ancient Greece was a common practice and part of everyday reality. It affected the lives of people of all ages, particularly adult men, and was the mean of defending freedom, autonomy and self-sufficiency of city-states. In a context of intense economic, political and social competition among Greek-speaking city-states, confined in a geographical area constantly threatened by 'barbarian' peoples, the Greeks were fully accustomed to war and treated it as an everyday duty. It is perhaps no coincidence that the philosopher Heraclitus stated that “war is the father of everything”.

This article discusses the relationship between war and the religious, social and political perceptions of the ancient Greeks, at both theoretical and practical levels. The case studies and textual sources employed is this article come mainly from the Classical period, which offers most of the written evidence. The only source of information used from the Archaic period is the Homeric epics.

The discussion takes place in three sections. The first section presents the relationship between war and the religious perceptions of the ancient Greeks. It discusses moral and religious attitudes favoured by war; the role of religion in making strategic decisions in battle; the issues of faith and superstition on the battlefield; and finally the relationship between gods and people at a time of conflict. The second section presents the relationship between war and ancient Greek social perceptions. It discusses the ethical obligation of ancient Greeks to defend their homelands, the virtues that warriors were expected to fulfil, and the importance of cooperation and solidarity during war. The second section also touches on the social values and social stratification of Greek city-states, which affected their military structures. Finally, the third section discusses the relationship between war and ancient Greek political perceptions. It presents the similarities and differences between civic and military institutions of city-states, and the role of different social groups in politics and war.

War and the religious perceptions of the ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks combined war with religion from the early years of their history. Their gods and heroes were attributed warlike qualities, which are evident in mythology and in the Homeric epics. God Ares (or Mars) was predominantly the god of war. Every attack of an infantry formation (with exception of the Lacedaemonians) was accompanied by the sounds of flutes, paeanae and cries in the honour of the Enyalius Ares. Athena was primarily known as the goddess of wisdom but in all ancient Greek representations she was depicted in armour. In such depictions, she help a shield and a spear, and wore an Attic helmet. Hercules was also a hero whose accomplishments were mainly related to war. Ancient Greek artists depicted him holding a warrior's bat, while ancient myths regarded his name as the synonym of bravery, courage, strength, impeccable technique in battle and self-sacrifice.

In Homer's Iliad, the gods stand by the side of both armies and often take part in armed conflicts. Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite are helping the Trojans while Hera, Athena and Thetis are by the side of the Achaeans. During conflict, Zeus strikes his lightnings to boost the Trojan moral; Hera protests to Zeus for his actions when she sees the Achaeans retreating; Athena actively helps Odysseus; Thetis praises Zeus to save Achilles from death; Apollo treats Glafkos' injuries on the battlefield and discreetly damages Patroclus' armour in order to expose him to Euphorbus' spear.

War for the ancient Greeks was not just a process of cold-blooded slaughter. It was subject to a set of rules defined by decency and justice, which placed emphasis in respecting the gods and the opponents. Any violation of these rules was considered an act of sacrilege (hubris) and was expected to be punished by the gods; therefore, in ancient times the proclamation of the beginning and the end of armed conflict was subject to a series of legitimate procedures.

The beginning of war was accompanied by sacrifices and dedications to the gods. In Homer, Agamemnon offers to sacrifice of his own daughter to bring wind upon the sails of the Achaean warships, while in Rhapsody H' Poseidon is resentful because the Achaeans begin warfare by constructing fortifications without offering the slightest sacrifice to the gods. In addition to offering sacrifices, which remained a custom for the declaration of wars until the Roman period, the Greeks followed a series of other religious acts, functions and symbols.

There was respect for the enemy's holy places, which were not to be destroyed and looted. Sacred individuals such as messengers, pilgrims and refugees were treated with respect and were never killed. The opponents always respected their vows in the name of a deity. There was a condemnation of sheer brutality, which unfortunately did not continue into the Classical period. An example of this adoption of sheer brutality was the destruction of Melos by the Athenians in 416 BC, where all Melian men were executed, while Melian women and children were sold as slaves. Finally, the enemy was offered the opportunity to collect the bodies of their dead soldiers and to perform all necessary religious ceremonies for their burial.

An important religious element in war was the consultation of oracles in making strategic decisions. Before fighting against the Persians, the Athenians and the Spartans visited the oracle of Pythian Apollo at Delphoi to obtain favourable advice. The oracle spoke about the 'wooden walls' being the solution towards victory, and this advice was translated differently among the leaders of the Athenian army. Themistocles believed that the 'wooden walls', which were to protect Athens from from its invaders, were not actual walls, but warships; and indeed, Athens presented the most powerful fleet of that time. Whatever the oracle's advice, it always played essential role in leading the army into battle and also affected the morale of non-fighting civilians.

According to popular beliefs, performing all necessary religious sacrifices was not enough to guarantee victory in battle. A religious general, such as Nikias, always carried the sacred icons of the city's protector-gods with him during his campaigns, including a portable hearth with the city's 'undisturbed flame', a sacred fire that was kept burning throughout the year at the Prytaneion, which was one of the city's most important administrative buildings. Furthermore, a group of oracles would follow the army in order to recognise any signs from the gods that could define the battle's outcome. The Lacedaemonian army in the battle of Plataea, for example, suffered a rain of hostile arrows but remained silent in their positions with their shields to their sides until the oracles identified the right sign sent by the gods to commence their attack. Similar practices are also noted in the Iliad, which suggests the importance of this institution in warfare during earlier periods.

Prior to the beginning of battle, the generals and the oracles conducted a religious ceremony where the battle's omens were read and the enemy's spoils were dedicated to the gods in order to gain their favour. As it normally happened, after victory the fortunes of the losing side were decided by the winning side. The winners would set up a tumulus to commemorate their victory, decorated by the enemy's weapons. The most valuable spoils were gathered from the battlefield and were dedicated to the gods. For example, the temple of the Pythian Apollo in Delphoi was decorated with large quantities of golden spoils, which the Greeks gathered from dead Persians after their victory at Plataea in 479 BC. At the end of a battle, the enemy's prisoners and injured soldiers were killed in a form of human sacrifice to honour the gods. This practice was gradually abandoned during the Classical period, as it is noted from the survival of Athenian prisoners after their defeat in Sicily in 415-413 BC. Instead, such prisoners were either sold as slaves or were forced to work at the Syracusian quarries.

Wars in Greek antiquity began with the official announcement of hostilities between two adversary states by an envoy-preacher. A similar practice is followed nowadays at international level, where an official written declaration of war is required under specific circumstances to legitimise a conflict. As with any declaration of war, the ancient Greeks followed the same procedure to announce the end of hostilities. Peace terms were also announced by an envoy-preacher and were always accompanied by ceremonial libations, which formalised the peace treaty in a religious manner. An example of such treaty was the Thirty Years' Peace between Athens and Sparta in 446/5 BC, which signified the end of the first Peloponnesian War (460-446/5 BC). Of course, the terms of this peace treaty were only satisfied briefly, as new hostilities marked the beginning of the second Peloponnesian War (431-421 BC).

Finally, the military training of youths (the Eirenes in Sparta or the Euphebes in Athens) was connected with worship and a series of religious ceremonies, which offered a sacred character and religious symbolism to the inauguration of new fighters in the army. In Athens the teenage recruits (the Euphebes) swore an oath at the temple of the goddess Aglauros, located to the north of the Acropolis, with their hands spread across the temple's altar. In Sparta the teenage trainees (the Eirenes) were subject to a whipping ceremony at the altar of the temple of Artemis Orthia.

War and the social perceptions of the ancient Greeks

In antiquity, the familiarity of average Greek males with war was a given fact. It was dictated by everyday internal (from other Greeks) and external (from non-Greeks) military threats. Within this climate of ongoing conflict among city-states, military virtue and readiness for war were appreciated as important social values among the citizens.

In the textual evidence from the Archaic period, and more specifically in Homer, the protagonists in battle (noted as the heroes) fight for their personal honour and profit, which is the the main characteristic of 'big men societies', such as those described in the Iliad. According to the oral tradition, the Trojan war begins with Helen's abduction from Paris, an act that insults Menelaus' honour and provokes war. During the armed conflict between the Achaeans and the Trojans, Achilles decides not to participate in battle as he has suffered Agamemnon's injustice while splitting the spoils. These two examples show that wars in the Homeric cosmos were a matter of personal honour and profit among members of palatial elites.

Despite the idealised heroic character of individual duals in Homer, which could be attributed to some supposed Mycenaean inspiration, the reader can detect social values and ideals that characterise later periods. For example, Hector considers that mutual faith in defending their homeland is the best omen for victory; therefore, he stresses to his fellow warriors that a mutual belief as such stands beyond divine intervention. During another scene in the Iliad, Agamemnon exclaims angrily to his soldiers “shame on you Argives” when he realises that the Achaeans are not fighting against the Trojans who set fire on their ships. Such anger is justifiable if one considers that warships are state property, and therefore, every citizen-warrior is obliged to protect it. In general, such social values in Homer reflect views that are more commonly encountered after the 6th century BC.

During the Archaic and Classical periods, there was an increase in the population of city-states accompanied by the widening of social groups. The new social conditions dictated a revision in the way warfare was conducted. Defending the state ceased to be the main occupation of kings and aristocrats, and became a compulsory duty of every adult male who could carry arms. The combat values of previous centuries, which were limited to personal honour and profit, were subject to radical changes. New warfare aimed in the homeland's protection and became the collective concern of every male citizen regardless of military experience. The new social model demanded that courage and bravery were the main virtues of all adult males without exception.

A need to increase the number of soldiers to defend the city-state more efficiently led to the emergence of a new category of warriors, the infantry soldiers or hoplites. The hoplites were adult males recruited from the least prominent social strata. Along with their other everyday activities (professional or social), they were responsible for the city-state's security and served in the army during defensive or offensive wars. The hoplites were footsoldiers who fought by holding a large shield with their left hand and a spear or sword with their right hand. This specific equipment was used in a way that each hoplite could not survive as an autonomous unit on the battlefield, as his right side would have always been exposed to the enemy. The need to cover their right flank with another shield held by an adjacent hoplite led to the formation of the infantry phalanx, the first sophisticated military formation in European history.

Within the hoplite phalanx, cooperation and solidarity among soldiers guaranteed its successful function. Furthermore, the competitive character of ancient Greek society made individual soldiers pursue recognition by their companions and gain honour through acts of self-sacrifice and bravery. The competition among soldiers in relation to who will honour his homeland the most became the ethical basis for all citizens even in times of peace. The values taught to the Athenian Ephebes during their service in the army, for example, were commitment to their homeland, devotion to the collective operational framework of the phalanx, and finally self-sacrifice.

Flight from battle was considered the greatest of all shames. A man who had purposely fled the battlefield was emphatically called ripsaspis (shield-dropper), as in order to retreat, he had to abandon his shield first. Dropping a shield down would immediately put the entire formation in danger as the covering mechanism of the phalanx would become useless. The Spartan mothers wished their sons to return back from war carrying their shields, and if not, to be brought back dead on their shields. Such attitude stressed the importance of solidarity in defending the phalanx.

In ancient Greek societies, physical exercising and keeping healthy was expected from all men. A healthy body was not only an issue of beauty and personal adornment, but also a necessity for coping with the hardships of war. In Athens, the training of young children in wrestling and javelin-throwing was a manifestation of military preparation. In Sparta, the agoge (education) of children included a series of harsh trials and deprivations in order to prepare them for the harshness of military campaigns, familiarise them with extreme conditions and teach them austerity and self-discipline.

Along with physical exercise, cultivating the mind was considered an indispensable element that produced good men. In ancient Greece, the word kalos (=good) was used to describe a good warrior and citizen. Goodwill (kalokagathia) in war was the most desirable virtue of fighters. Socrates, who was regarded by his students as an important teacher and philosopher, with spiritual virtue and cultivated mind, was always admired by Alcibiades for the prudence and bravery he demonstrated during the battle of Potidaea in 432 BC.

Xenia (=hospitality) was another important social value that the ancient Greeks combined with the military needs of the city-state. Although informally xenia aimed in the creation of friendships, in its official form, it was meant to build military alliances and coalitions. From the time of Homer, formal xenia was the only way of maintaining diplomatic relations among kings, states and other social groups in order to gain support in war. The acceptance of formal xenia generated the obligation that the person hosted would offer help to his formal host in case of conflict. This practice continued during the Archaic period and the formation of the first city-states. During that time, formal hospitality between private individuals generated friendships at a personal level, which operated as forms of devotion, not only to the ritualised friend/host, but also to his city-state. This way, personal friendship was converted to formal alliance at state level.

Male homosexuality in ancient Greece was also influenced by the military character and the military organisation of early societies. In fully militarised city-states, such as Sparta and the cities of Crete, the erotic relationships between young trainees and their significantly older adult instructors, was an integral part of their military training. Finally, it is recorded that the men comprising the Sacred Company of the Theban army were connected with each other though “special friendships”, which aimed towards homogeneity and greatest martial performance of this military unit.

Military tasks and financial obligations for defence-spending were allocated by the state according to the financial status of citizens. In the timocratic systems of Greek antiquity, as Aristotle would define them, it was perfectly normal that each citizen's military contributions were calculated based on his income and/or social position.

In Sparta, the group of the Homoioi (=equals) constituted the regular army, which consisted of all Lacedaemonian male citizens with rights of land ownership (clergy), who served as heavily armed infantry soldiers. Their number was small due to the restricted nature of their social group, and their numbers were further reduced after the Peloponnesian War due to casualties, which caused devastating problems to Sparta. The Spartan army was then supplemented by soldiers recruited from the social group of the Perioikoi and by lightly armed Helotes. For Sparta, it was only in 424 BC, when a small unit of 400 horsemen was first created.

In Athens, military expenditures and duties were allocated according to a timocratic social division, which was originally regulated by Solon in 594 BC. The group of the Pentakosiomedimnoi assumed the costly task of equipping and maintaining the Athenian warships. More specifically, the institution of Trierarchy demanded that each member of the most affluent Athenian social group assumed the costs of maintaining, equipping, crew-recruiting and hiring a commander for one warship (trireme) and for one year. Many times such expenses amounted to the voluminous annual sum of 6,000 drachmas. The second social group, the Triakosiomedimnoi, consisted of wealthy landlords, who manned the cavalry and paid martial levies in money. In fact, this social group, which was also called Hippeis (=horsemen), was characterised by their ability to breed and maintain their own horses privately, which were essential means for serving in the cavalry. An additional privilege of the first two social groups was the assignment of senior military tasks, particularly to men who were considered to be economically strong. It is a fact that in Athens, high military offices were occupied by a limited number of citizens who were members of profane and rich aristocratic families. This practice was combined with the broader perception of this period, that the rich aristocrats were by nature experienced in administration. The third social group, the Diakosiomedimnoi or Zeugitae, contributed money to the military and at the same time they consisted of the Athenian heavily armed infantry. Members of this specific group had the financial capacity to obtain at their own expense their armour and weapons to be part of the hoplite phalanx. Finally, the fourth social group of the Thetes was only expected to offer their personal services to the army. The Thetes manned some auxiliary units and served as archers or slingers. They had low status in the army, not only due to their social position, but also because of fighting remotely from a safety distance, without being involved in direct contact with the enemy and without demonstrating their true value as warriors. However, during the Peloponnesian War their contribution in battle was appreciated greatly due to the Pelastae, a unit of lightly armed footsoldiers who were able to attack and efficiently neutralise the enemy's formations. Finally, the greater contribution of the Thetes was their service as oarsmen in the Athenian warships, which made Athens the first maritime power of the Greek world after the Persian Wars.

War and the political perceptions of the ancient Greeks

War in ancient Greece was to a great extent depended on the political systems of the parties involved. The type of government and the political structure of city-states often determined their military organisation.

The role of monarchy in warfare is presented in its ideal form in the Homeric epics. Homeric kings fight to prove their prowess and to demonstrate their martial skills to the eyes of their soldiers, who also happen to be their subordinates. Although men follow their kings in battle, glory is only reserved for the monarchs, who are the only ones to be named as heroes (e.g. the heroes of Lycia, kings Glaucus and Sarpedon.

In aristocratic political systems, the most prominent role in battle was played by the cavalry, which consisted of rich nobles. Thessaly was an ethnos ruled by regional aristocracies and was renowned for its mighty Thessalian cavalry. By contrast, in a state of citizen-hoplites, the most important role in politics and in the warfare was played by small landowners, who fought as heavily armed footsoldiers and made up the hoplite phalanx. Each hoplite in the ancient infantry was treated as equal among equals. The best-known example of a state formed by citizen-hoplites was Sparta. The Spartan army consisted of males with full political rights, the Homoioi (=equals) and some civilians with limited political rights, the Perioikoi (=those living in the periphery). The army's leader was one of Sparta's two kings and its supervisors were the Five Ephors. Both kings and ephors belonged to the same social group, the Homoioi. The ephors were over sixty years of age, an unusual fact given the high mortality rate of the Spartans in battles. Another paradox in Sparta was that its two kings, who were also the chiefs of the army, came exclusively from two prominent Spartan families, the Agidae and the Evripondidae. This institution was mandatory and no questions were ever asked regarding the leadership skills and administrative capacities of each king.

Finally, in democratic regimes, the contribution to military expenses was determined by a strict timocratic system. As mentioned in the previous section, the city-state's annual defence spending and the military obligations of its citizens were according to the income of different social groups. In democratic Athens, all soldiers were also citizens with full political rights. This meant that only those who offered their military services to their homeland were able to participate in the city-state's communal decisions. Regardless of their income, all male adult citizens participated in the People's Assembly (Ekklesia) and the Supreme Court (Heliaia). These two political privileges could not have been won without the hoplite reform and the expansion of the military body, which demanded an expansion of the city-state's political body.

In Athens, military positions were determined according to the citizens' financial contributions to the state. After Solon's reforms in 594 BC, the first two social groups, the Pentakosiomedimnoi and the Hippeis, which could contribute financially for the maintenance of the fleet and the cavalry, had full access to senior military posts. Following the reforms of Cleisthenes in 508/7 BC, the third social group of the Zeugitae also gained access to higher military positions. The greatest advantage of Athenian democracy was that although civilian offices were appointed by lottery, the supreme generals were elected by vote after examining their individual qualities in leading the army. Of course, it worth noting that despite the access of the Zeugitae to higher military offices, most of the Athenian generals came from aristocratic families of important landowners.

An important innovation was introduced into the newly-born democratic system in Athens during the time of Pericles (443-429 BC). The increasing power of the Athenian navy was due to the service of low-income citizens as oarsmen, who did not own any land. The military service of the Thetes in the Athenian fleet was the main reason behind their increasing political power. As naval warfare became more important, so did the political power of the Thetes. Hence, the gradual development of the Athenian navy promoted the political dominion of a group with low economic and social status.

Finally, the connection between politics and the ideology of warfare in Greek societies is clearly noted in Plato's political philosophy. Circa 380 BC, Plato visualised a imaginary yet ideal political regime, the Republic, which he divided into three social strata: the Producers, the Guardians and the Rulers. The Guardians, who were professional military staff, were defined as socially superior compared to the Produces' group. Their role was to guarantee the security and smooth function of the state. The Rulers' group originated from the Guardians, and this specific arrangement is Plato's approach symbolised a political necessity: those who were expected to govern the state in the future needed to be aware of the state's military matters.


This paper discussed some social perceptions of the ancient Greeks and the ways these influenced the course of warfare. The paper offered a brief discussion on the idea of war, both as a theoretical concept and as a practical necessity, connected with three broader domains: religion, society and politics.

In terms of religious practice, the conduct of war in ancient Greece had to be ratified with the approval of the gods. This meant that ceremonial sacrifices, oracular advice, vows, tributes to the sanctuaries, and respect to the gods were necessary for inviting divine intervention for victory. The Greeks, whether in internal or external conflicts, always took care of their religious obligations before going and after returning from war.

In relation to society, war affected the entire way of life and the development of thought in the ancient Greeks communities. Physical exercise, cultivation of mind, idealisation of one's homeland, competition, cooperation, and pursuit of virtue and honour in battle, were elements that kept the community's moral high and improved their state of readiness against hostile attacks. In relation to social stratification, the timocratic system of most democratic city-states regulated the social and political role of each citizen. The same social stratification was projected in the army, where the income of the soldiers and their contributions towards military spending defined their role in battle.

In terms of political structure, the effectiveness of military formations in combat depended on the unity among citizen-warriors, and was also an extension of their political identity. In monarchy, the protagonists in battle were individual warriors, who matched the Homeric hero-kings and were followed in battle by their subordinates. Aristocratic states were defended by small groups of warriors from prominent families, most of whom served in the cavalry. The use of a heavily armed infantry led to the democratisation of most city-states. This development required an expansion of the political body to include those of less prominent descent, who served as foot-soldier; however, the greatest innovation of democratic city-states, such as Athens, was the development of navies, which allowed greater participation of citizens in the armed forces.

Finally, this paper noted that at a theoretical level, political philosophy often saw that an ideal form of government was depended on the city-state's military functions.

Final remarks

This article complies with the Francophone historical and philological approaches of the late 20th century, which primarily employed textual sources for decoding and understanding the ancient Greek past. The bibliography originally suggested for the completion of this study consisted almost entirely of French historians, such as Jean-Pierre Vernant, Georges Dumézil, Luis Moulinier, Claude Mossé, Yvon Garlan and Jacqueline de Romilly; therefore, the article is the thought-product of a specific academic approach, and presents specific interpretation problems.

It must be noted that some time after the submission of this paper, its author decided to switch sides and to specialise in Greek Early Iron Age archaeology in Britain. Although the so-called 'Dark Age Greece' (Snodgrass 1971) still belongs to the broader field of classical studies, it is neither guided nor depended on the study of ancient textual sources. References to Homer and Hesiod are common; however, the archaeological approaches of the Anglophone School tent to highlight the problems of incorporating such literature in archaeology. During his own archaeological research, the author of this article continued the study of Francophone historical approaches, and his work was to an extent inspired by Jean-Pierre Vernant's (1990) 'Myth and Society in Ancient Greece'. Still, the author always believed that such approaches presented three main problems that needed to be addressed by modern historians, and to be fair, there has been significant progress since then.

Firstly, textual sources are commonly used in a linear manner, which does not consider the specific social and chronological context of its authors. It is not uncommon for historians to refer to Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Tyrtaeus, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Aristophanes, Demosthenes, Plutarch, Polybius, Dio Chrysostom and Procopius as if they all lived during the same era, and as if they all reflected the same social reality. Such approaches tend to ignore the internal transformations of Greek civilisation and favouritise the use of textual evidence in a linear, selective and rather abstract manner.

Secondly, textual sources are used without considering the specific circumstances characterising the birth and development of different literature genres. Unfortunately, some historians forget to see that poetry, philosophy, comedy and historiography are different types of literature, covering different human needs and employing different means of expression. As one would normally expect, the borderline between reality and fiction, fact and imagination, logic and emotion, are probably shifting when comparing, for example, poetry and political philosophy. And as noted earlier, such shifts are probably affected by the social conditions of the period during which different authors lived.

Thirdly, textual sources are often used without comparison with existing archaeological evidence. This approach leads to the false impression that texts offer objective insight to the past, while in reality, such texts only represent the social, political and ideological background of specific authors, and may not necessarily reflect popular views of their time. Unfortunately, the omission of archaeological evidence by historians is due to the legacy of Classicism in academic thought: in many occasions, archaeology is still viewed as the servant of philology, and is incorporated in historical approaches selectively, and only if proving specific arguments.

The author of this essay believes that any form of historical research should be context-specific, and should also consider relevant archaeological evidence. Furthermore, approaches combining factual and fictional textual evidence need to be avoided. Even when multiple ancient authors from different periods discuss the same piece of information, one cannot be certain that their approaches are the same. It is likely that each ancient author's approach on the same topic is different; information might be perceived and processed according to an author's personal perceptions, social experiences and period-specific social values. Finally, historians need to bear in mind that the same principle applies for modern researchers: the modern interpretation of ancient sources depends to a great extent on the personal social and political perceptions of the scholar interacting with them.


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Fracelière, R., 1990, Public and Private Life of the Ancient Greeks, translated by G. Vandoros, Athens: Papadimas.
Garlan, Y,. 1996, 'Man and war', in Vernant, J.-P. (ed.) The Greek Man, translated by Ch. Tasakos, Athens: Ellinika Grammata, 94-5.
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Original sources

Herodotus, Histories
Homer, Iliad
Homer, Odyssey
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
Aristotle, Politics
Plato, Republic