A New Western Way of War?

The new “western” way of war can be most concisely described as the method of two large opposing forces facing each other on the battlefield with concentrated forces, with each suffering large losses. These battles were brief, bloody, and decisive, the goal of each was to break apart the ranks of the opposing forces and slaughter the army as they fled (Kagan and Viggiano, xvi).

[21] Two phalanxes preparing to battle each other.

[20] Two phalanxes preparing to battle each other.

It can be noted that this “western way of warfare” has been used throughout most of Western history. Military leaders such as Napoleon, General Meade of the Union (at the Battle of Gettysburg), Alexander the Great, and countless others utilized some variation of this way of style. However, the core essences remained largely unchanged. The key principles can be narrowed down to: usage large, open battlefields and attacking swiftly with a lot of force in an attempt break the enemy formations until they can be overwhelmed (Hanson, 9). While very effective in the past, technology today has made warfare develop into more of a long-range, attack and counter setting, thus making the past Western way of war mostly obsolete.

As to answer the question of whether or not the Greeks created a distinct and new form of warfare, called the “western way of war”, we believe they did. The known ancient world up to that time utilized mostly light-armed troops and fast, skirmish hit-and-run tactics. The Greeks brought one of the ancient world’s first heavy soldiers into play, and definitely its most dominate. Instead of an all-out charge with no set formation, they pioneered the focus of discipline and effective, innovative formations that came to define warfare waged in the western world for millennia to come. The Greeks not only invented a new form of warfare, they proved it was dominant to the older, near-eastern style of combat by repelling multiple Persian invasions. They even proved that it could beat the old style on its home turf via the March of the Ten Thousand.

There’s a reason that the wars and battles waged by the Ancient Greeks are still studied today. It’s because they were innovative, adaptable, and fundamental in creating a new style of warfare that came to dominant the ancient world.

(Section composed by Alex Smith)

Leave a Reply