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Essay On Motives And Incentives In The Odyssey

“Since often enough in war it is surer and safer to quest for food with sword and buckler than with all the instruments of husbandry” Xenophon Why would the Greeks go to war in the first place? Moreover, why would small farmers participate in the phalanx rather than cultivate their crops and earn income? The fact that such tactical development and the ensuing improvements in the military technology were effective in battle is not a sufficient argument for the drastic increase in the size of armies.

Thus, the events of the Hoplite Reform occur within a political context in which even the less wealthy had to stand their ground against invaders and function within a moral framework that compels them to live a world of violence. First, the economic incentives to go to war are mainly associated with the protection of one’s oikos.

In the Western Way of War, Hanson proposes that by the 7th century BCE farmers decided to arm themselves after they “became restless at the idea that anyone may traverse their own parcels of land” Furthermore, invading armies might have engaged in sabotage tactics, such as ravaging the fields and destroying the orchards, vineyards and olives, to inflict a lasting long-term damage to their enemies. Hence, war entailed to a considerable extent an economic necessity to either preserve one’s property or accumulate further holdings.

Based on this reasoning, engaging in combat held a lower opportunity cost – the reduction of the farmer’s income – than that of avoiding strife and risking the destruction or complete loss of their oikos. In a second instance, the political and moral arguments to participate in the military are closely attached. For example, the pursuit of higher political status is associated with the ancient Greek moral standards, which beheld arete and time (“honor”) among fundamental values.

As the following excerpt by Tyrtaeus illustrates, these were achieved to its maximal expression during battle: For the man is not agathos (brave) in war, unless he endures seeing the bloody slaughter, and stands close reaching out for the foe. This is arete, this is the best and loveliest prize for the young man to win. A common good is, for the whole polis and all the demos, when a man holds, firm-set among the fighters, unflinchingly (…) For it is a fine thing for an agathos man to die, falling among the front-fighters, fighting for his fatherland

Even though Tyrtaeus lived in Sparta and, inevitably, was deeply influenced by the warrior culture of this particular polis, the arete and courage portrayed in his narratives is a recurring theme across the rest of the Greek states – especially concerning the duty to the polis . Yet, setting aside the technological and tactical developments, the mindset behind the devastating Greek military force was nurtured by the shame culture:

It is a fine thing for a good man to fall in the front line fighting on behalf of his country; but is a grievous fate for a man to leave his city and rich fields and wander begging (…) He shames his family and ruins his noble beauty, and every form of disgrace and evil follows him It is important to notice that there is no shame in death; if a soldier dies in battle he will be a martyr to his polis and he will be mourned and remembered. Then, the only way to fall into disgrace is in life, through which an individual is bound to bear the consequences of his lack of courage.

And, in the same way as glorious ancestry, infamy and shame are attached to the legacy of any hoplite. However, Hanson suggests a limitation to this line of thought based on the fact that, even though several military campaigns took place, the Greeks desired to limit confrontation to reduce costs. This might seem like a contradiction with the absolute bloodlust discussed by Tyrtaeus, Socrates and other sources of the time, yet it justifies the effectiveness of Greek combat. The more time small farmers spent campaigning, the less income they produced from working their crops.

Therefore, any sort of strife was to be brief and decisive, and hoplites were to display the most of their courage and achieve arete throughout the short-lasting conflicts. Nonetheless, this framework is constrained to the small-scaled struggles between poleis, setting aside major events such as the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars. During the latter two, the moral mindset around courage and arete is almost conspicuous, yet the costs of both wars were extremely elevated to demonstrate that either side desired an expedite end to the conflict. Alternative Explanations

In The Other Greeks, Hanson suggests a similar socioeconomic model of the Hoplite Reform, yet he centers his study on the object of farming land rather than the whole picture of tradeoffs between the hoplite and the agricultural activities. He concurs with Viggiano and Cartledge in that overpopulation and relative land hunger were stimuli of revolution and struggle both inside and outside the polis. Within the local affairs of the city-state, “the population pressure on limited land led to the use of more intensive farming techniques, such as the cultivation of marginal lands and farmstead residence.

The concept of “land hunger” originates from the fact that, as population escalated at a faster rate, land became increasingly scarce – especially quality arable land –, and small farmers started colonizing terrains around mountain slopes and relatively away from water sources. According to Hanson, the conflicts that arose during the time of the Hoplite Revolution were over land, and followed the competitive settlement of marginal lands.

This “novel agrarianism” expanded in massive proportions and promoted an egalitarian ethos, based upon the fairly similar holdings of these independent landed non-aristocrats. Consequently, it was they who provided “the ‘best’ type of government (…) but possible only when they are present in sufficient numbers to prevent class strife between the very rich and the abject poor. ” Thus, the broader oligarchies, which had acquired significant political and military power, emerged as a middle ground between the narrow aristocracy and the direct democracy, which included the poorest classes.

As a major critique of Hanson’s model of the agrarian and military reforms, Lin Foxhall affirms that “archaeological and historical data differ in character, and historical ‘events’ do not map easily onto archaeological ‘events. ’” After conducting several archeological excavations across the Greek Peninsula, her findings of the Early- to Mid-Archaic period (650 – 535 BCE) reveal the movement and settlement patterns of the land-working population unlike Hanson’s revolutionary colonization of marginal lands (e. g. hillslopes).

Naturally, Foxhall questions not the increasing rural mobilization, but, rather, the purpose or motives behind it: “in periods when investment in the countryside and pressure on land increased for whatever reasons (e. g. , increased wealth, increasing population, additional sources of labor), individual households tried to make the most of the land to which they had access. ” The sites studied during the expedition suggest a predominant agglomeration of farmers in isolated “farmsteads” around places with direct access to water sources (e. g. valley bottoms and basin plains).

Nonetheless, she insists that the occupation and exploitation of marginal lands was a later phenomenon during the Classical and even Roman Greece. One of the main issues faced was the spatial variability of particular phenomena. Foxhall mentions that even though many poleis present some general traits, the relative peaks of rural settlement vary spatially and are linked to different historical developments throughout. A question left unanswered by the expedition is who owned these properties, or, to a further extent, were the settlements found worked or, at least, inhabited by non-aristocrat, independent farmers?

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