Ghosts, Virtue, and Discipline: Socio-Cultural and Ideological Aspects of Ancient Military History in Modern Scholarship

Makhlayuk Alexander V.

The article deals with the newest approaches and trends in the study of ancient Greek and Roman military history, which is now increasingly treated from anthropological and socio-cultural points of view. Taking two recent monographs by American scholars (J.E. Lendon’s «Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity», 2005, and S.E. Phang’s «Roman Military Service. Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Early Principate», 2008) as examples of those modern tendencies, the author points out original ideas and conceptions developed on the pages of the reviewed books, which have much in common in their subjects and methods, especially in what concerns basic values, moral codes, ideological concepts, and the role played by historical memory and traditions in the evolution of ancient military organizations and in the development of specific social status of the military. At the same time, the article criticizes a certain randomness of some conclusions and interpretations offered by Lendon and Phang, in particular Lendon’s analysis of the Roman tradition of heroic leadership, his views on the causes and factors of tactical innovations in the late Roman army, and Phang’s considerations concerning the interrelations between military discipline and army religious practices. Both reviewed books, being in some respects provoking and far from absolute persuasiveness in their general argumentation and in some details, nevertheless throw a new light on seemingly well-known questions and demonstrate fruitfulness of applying to ancient military history the theories and conceptions worked out in social sciences and in studies of other historical periods. New works on Greek and Roman warfare confirm that this very field of history can and shoud be not merely a history of events, institutions or heroes, but a part of the history of culture in the broad sense of the word.

Keywords: military history, Greek and Roman military organization, cultural history, modern historiography