By Alex Collin
Roel Konijnendijk is Darby Fellow in Ancient History, at Lincoln College, Oxford. He studied History at Leiden University, followed by a PhD in Greek warfare at UCL, which he completed in 2015. He researches Classical Greek military thought and practice as well as the encounters between the Greek and Persian military systems. His publications cover topics including Greek tactics, Athenian democracy, Spartan traditions, Persian kingship, Herodotus, and the way modern scholarship has shaped our understanding of Greek warfare. His latest book Between Miltiades and Moltke: Early German Studies in Greek Military History was published by Brill in 2023.
Fernando Echeverría graduated in History and Classical Philology and obtained his PhD in Ancient History from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid with a research project on the theory of the “hoplite revolution” and historiography of the Greek polis. Since 2012 he has been a member of the faculty at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. His research has focused on Greek military history, as well as archaic and classical literature and iconography, especially archaic Attic vascular painting. He is part of the Editorial Board of the Warfare in the Ancient Mediterranean World series published by Brill.
Konijnendijk and Echeverría spoke with Alex Collin about their recent JHI article, “Max Weber, the Rise of the Polis, and the “Hoplite Revolution” Theory” (volume 84, issue 1).
Alexander Collin: History is still largely a discipline of single authored papers—not exclusively, but by and large—so why did you decide to collaborate for this one? What does the collaboration add that might have been missing from a sole authored paper?
Roel Konijnendijk: I suppose I should answer this because I was the one who initiated it. I was asked to give a paper on Max Weber as an ancient historian for a seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research in London. I had never worked on Weber before but it was tangentially related to historiographical work that I was doing, so I felt out of my depth on Weber. Initially I asked a different friend of mine, Jeroen Bouterse, to come and give the paper with me—I would do the ancient history side and he would do the Weber side because he knew more about that. And in the course of setting it up, I found that I had something to say about this aspect of Weber’s theory which hadn’t been covered by any other scholarship.
But when I set out to write that up, I immediately ran into the debate about the “hoplite revolution,” which is so tied into Weber’s work. This is where Fernando comes in; he is the expert on this. He wrote his thesis on it and has continued to develop this kind of work. So, as far as I was concerned, doing all the work myself would firstly be unnecessary and secondly would be taking away the spotlight from somebody who really deserves to be a part of something like this. So I felt that collaborating would be a really good way to make sure that my new idea was well grounded and that we would draw on each of our strengths to try and make this useful as possible.
Fernando Echeverría: Well, you’re very kind, Roel. We’ve known each other for some time and I find myself in agreement with most of what Roel says or writes, so for me it was a natural step. My feeling is that each of us had one of the pieces of the puzzle. So it was pretty straightforward to just to put them together because I had, as Roel has said, included Weber in my own research on the “hoplite revolution.” I was influenced initially by my supervisor, Domingo Plácido, who is a social historian.
I didn’t realize at the time that, as far as I can tell, I was the only one considering Weber as part of the theory, none of the reconstructions even mention him. And Roel had been digging into German historiography of the nineteenth century, where he noticed not only Weber’s extremely peculiar position in the field at that time, but also the omission of his work by later historiography, which doesn’t recognize him as one of the forerunners of the “hoplite revolution” theory.
AC: Let’s start by putting the article in a little bit of context. Where does this “hoplite revolution” theory come from? What is it responding to? What’s the histography that precedes that on the Greek world and the rise of the polis.
RK: Ancient history in this period is still developing as a discipline. So there isn’t a very long tradition of serious scholarship that offers different theories to try and explain things. It’s more just people reading these ancient texts, and maybe they have some theories or some holistic ideas, but the idea of trying to explain things that aren’t already in the text is still emerging.
I think most of these German historians are still responding to George Grote, who wrote in the 1830s and 1840s. He wrote his History of Greece, but he was not a historian as a profession because that profession essentially didn’t exist yet. So you just had this one guy who in his spare time wrote a history of Greece, but given his own background as an English person and someone who works in finance, his view of the rise of an urbanized culture with a somewhat democratic-tending political system was obviously that it had to be prefaced by, or predicated on, a rising bourgeoisie. That it had to be because there was new money on the rise and that broke the power of a landed elite. And so he posited that as his theory for the emergence of the city state culture that we know from ancient Greece.
I think most of the early German work is essentially taking that for granted. I mean, once you have a theory in mind, you can always find bits of the sources to confirm it, right? So then you can work that out and say, well, there it is. So that’s what we’re going with. And I think Weber was one of the first to chafe against that and say, that’s not how it works, that’s not how ancient cities actually emerge. But because he was leaning so heavily on [Eduard] Meyer, he wasn’t able to separate himself entirely from it. That only came much later.
FE: Regarding the origins of the theory, the connection to the ancient world in all those reflections was basically Aristotle. They were all following, to some extent, Aristotle’s observations on the transition from monarchy to oligarchy and then to democracy. So that was, let’s say, the framework of how the rise of the Polis was reconstructed at that time. I would say that the major difference between the “hoplite revolution” and previous histography is probably the development of causality.
The old German scholarship probably took Aristotle’s sequence of political transformation at face value. It saw the transitions between the different stages as rather mechanical. Twentieth-century scholarship put some effort into establishing the causes behind those transitions. They incorporated technological determinism and class struggle, which were arguments that were really fashionable in the first decades of the twentieth century. So the “hoplite revolution” is a twentieth-century construct based on nineteenth-century assumptions.
AC: That brings us nicely to a question that I was going to ask later, but I’ll jump to it now, which is about the centrality of Aristotle’s Politics. You mentioned that, even now, this tends to be the starting point. Why is that particular text so central compared to other texts that you might begin from when thinking about Greek politics?
FE: Well, there are so many reasons why Aristotle is at the center of the discipline. He’s been an extraordinary authority in Western thought and philosophy for so many centuries, and it’s almost impossible to start thinking about anything remotely connected to Greece without considering Aristotle. But for historians and classicists, I would say that it has to do with the fact that Aristotle provides explanations of historical processes, not only details of events like the classical historians.
So the fact that those explanations may be theoretical or anachronistic hasn’t always been a deterrent. But there are alternative accounts that we probably should take into consideration, such as Thucydides’, which have an alternative reconstruction of the early stages of Greek history, probably more materialistic, let’s say, more grounded on economic means.
RK: One of the things that has made Aristotle more prominent than he perhaps deserves to be is that the later Greeks, whose texts we have from the classical and the Hellenistic periods, they didn’t know their own archaic history. They had a limited sense of what had happened more than a century back, beyond oral history. And so there are very few accounts of events in that period. So whenever anybody offers what seems like a theory about how their present had developed, it often sounds very authoritative because we kind of assume that they must know something on which to construct it.
But in practice, they are just models. They are just ideas about how things may have happened, which are not founded on any real information. But in the absence of any kind of competing historical narrative or grounded arguments, I think it can be very tempting to mistake something like Aristotle’s theory for something based on a thorough reading of Archaic Greek history. But that reading just didn’t exist.
Even for Aristotle, there was nothing for him to use except poetry to understand the period he was talking about. So even for the Greeks themselves, there’s just very little of the kind of historical insight that we would want. And so whenever we find a scrap of it, we tend to put a lot of weight on it. I think that a lot of historians have fallen into that trap.
AC: How reflective is that problem with Aristotle of the sources more broadly for this period? It’s a very ignorant, non-ancient historian’s question, I know, but what do we have? How reliable is what we have? To what extent is the material we have now different from what the nineteenth-century scholars were working with?
FE: In terms of literary sources, we’re pretty much dealing with the same scraps and pieces as scholars a hundred or a hundred-and-fifty years ago. We’ve been twisting and turning the same pieces for over two centuries. Archaeology, I think, has made a real difference in the last decades. This is the only field that can guarantee a permanent incorporation of new evidence. Regarding the “hoplite revolution” theory, it was, in fact, archaeological observations by Anthony Snodgrass that opened the first cracks in the theory.
So archeology has been a major source for innovation in the field, and still is. Not only in terms of the weapons, and the artifacts themselves, but also contexts and settlements. There’s so much to say about the rise of the Polis from the perspective of archeology, also taking into account the colonial contexts, in Sicily, southern Italy, and the Black Sea.
RK: You see that in the period we were writing about too, that is the time when you get a quite radical change in the perception of Greek history because of archaeology. Around the time the first of these histories are being written, people didn’t know about the world of Troy and Mycenae. They thought that Homer represented some kind of early stage in Greek history, maybe the late Bronze Age, but it wasn’t really clear, and that kind of conception didn’t really exist or wasn’t connected to any tangible material culture.
And when that was eventually discovered, first by Schliemann and then by more serious archaeologists, it created a problem where Homer became detached from this period because he clearly wasn’t referring to the same period as the archeology and became therefore unmoored in time, which is something that we’re still trying to resolve.
So the nineteenth-century writers were trying to fill a gap, essentially, between the material culture of the late Bronze age, which had now been discovered, and the Greek world that they knew, which looked and felt and wrote very differently. If you’re trying to explain something like the rise of the Polis neither the Mycenaean Greeks nor the Homeric narrative seem to be much help. And so you have to try and work out a new theory almost out of whole cloth, because there’s just nothing else there that you can use to say, okay, well, this is where we start, this is our baseline, to get to this thing that we know so much better. I think this evidence for a period that had not previously been recognized as such, made life a lot more difficult for scholars at that time but also opened up the way for these radical theories about what supposedly happened connected with that.
FE: And to be fair, I would also mention one of the revolutions in the interpretation of the literary text, which is the work by Joachim Latacz in 1977. As I was saying before, the only novel thing you can do with the literary sources is to look at them differently. And what he did was absolutely crucial because it completely demolished the idea that heroes were the only warriors present at the battlefields in the Homeric world. Research took a new impulse from that observation. A lot of later research has benefited so much from that idea. It is a very significant book written in German, but never translated into other languages. It’s an example of how unfair historiography is sometimes, what happens with really relevant and crucial contributions.
AC: Next I’d like to focus on those cracks that Fernando mentioned opening up in the theory from the second half of the twentieth century. As the “hoplite revolution” has become a theory that’s less dominant, what attracted you to writing about it now? Why is it still important to shed more light on the historiography of the “hoplite revolution”?
FE: Well, I think that it’s still pretty much alive. We sometimes think that there’s been a lot of questioning and criticism, so it must be a thing of the past, and perhaps that is true for the dozen or so colleagues that are working on Greek warfare. For the rest, I think it still looks like a reasonable argument, very intuitive and straightforward. So I think it still has its appeal.
For my part, I think it’s fairly common now to try to offer alternative views to new generations of students, alongside the “hoplite revolution,” because they often come with very vague ideas of how political and military transformation works. In that sense it’s really important to spread alternative views and try to find a proper place for them in the formation of new scholars.
RK: Your thesis was intended specifically to try and undermine this theory, wasn’t it, Fernando? It basically sets out to prove that this theory doesn’t work.
FE: I was trying to collect all the criticism that had been growing separately and scattered in different places. I was trying to put that together in order to find a coherent “counter narrative,” so to speak. That has been my main effort for the past years.
RK: I think the key point with the “hoplite revolution” theory today is that there is always a lag between what happens at the cutting edge of a particular subfield, what reaches academics in that field more generally, and then what reaches pop history and wider audiences. Those things always take a lot of time, especially if there are reasons to retain the older narrative.
There can be a lot of resistance against adopting the new ideas that are developed by the people who actually work in a field, because, exactly as Fernando says, the appeal of the “hoplite revolution” theory is that it is so holistic. It seems to draw in everything, it makes sense of the whole history of archaic Greece by connecting military to political to social to economic developments and saying: all you need to understand about this entire period is this one thing which drives everything else. It lets you easily explain how to make sense of everything all at once for an entire period, in which very little evidence exists.
FE: Yes, that is central to the problem here. If you’re explaining the Greek colonization, and the tyrannies, and the presence of mercenaries abroad, and so many different processes with this single argument, you obviously must be suspicious, especially when everything comes down to one single item, which is the hoplite shield. That’s definitely something to be suspicious about.
RK: It becomes difficult to replace that with anything else because people are going to say that any new idea doesn’t explain things quite as comprehensively as this one does. It’s just so tempting and so convenient, but, of course, you should be suspicious of anything that is that convenient. The evidence is very thin; it’s a few lines in Aristotle, that’s pretty much all it is. Still, the convenience of the explanation is very powerful. So it will at least remain something that’s very widespread among people whose last encounter with Greek history was maybe when they were in school or when they read about it at some point in their lives. It’s going to be a long journey to try and convince a wider audience that this theory is actually not what we believe and that there are good reasons to doubt it.
AC: To pivot a little away from the classical side of the article, and more into the nineteenth-century intellectual material, there are a lot of references to class struggle and to the rise of the bourgeoisie throughout the piece, which give one the feeling of Marx lurking in the background here. But as far as I could see, he never actually appears. Is he involved in the debate around the “hoplite revolution,” either personally or through his influence?
RK: It’s an odd thing, obviously, Marx was a classicist, but I don’t know if he ever actually wrote about this himself. You’’e absolutely right that his thought is influential in the later nineteenth century. You get a couple of scholars who deliberately tried to renew their broad histories of ancient Greece by making it more focused on social and economic factors. This kind of argument is obviously an idea that comes out of Marx and others saying, look, there are bigger things than just the surface level of generals leading their armies around.
On the other hand, people who do that—people like Robert von Pöhlmann, who I cite very much—might be interested in labor history, but almost to prove Marx wrong. So it’s not necessarily that this language is them just saying, Marx had some really nice ideas, let’s incorporate those. It’s more that Marx makes these factors part of the debate, but other writers don’t necessarily either agree with him or want to include him in that debate
Weber and his contemporaries were obviously influenced by him too, in that they were trying to see history through a sociological lens. But again, there’s no explicit reference. There’s no point where someone says: well, obviously, this is what we’re going for, this is a Marxist model. Rather, I think that those kinds of thoughts are there in the background, but never explicitly invoked or debated. It’s one of those weird situations where you feel like it should be there, and you feel like they should be engaging with it, and you feel even like this must be the entire reason why they’re asking these questions, and yet it doesn’t seem to be there.
The answer may be that there is an increasing sense among historians in this period, especially in Germany, that the only people with valid opinions on this must be people who are trained and working in it. So there’s a professionalization of the discipline which leads to them no longer listening to amateurs. Even if the entire subfield was built on the work of George Grote, who was an amateur, just half a century ago.
By the late nineteenth century they’re basically saying you need to have a degree and training in order to have valid opinions. And they may have thought: Marx, well, he went off the rails, so we don’t have to listen to him anymore. They do react very violently to people who work outside that system, like Schliemann. There’s so much polemic against something like that, these people are reviled. So that might be one reason why they don’t directly engage with Marx and other non-specialists.
AC: I don’t know how interesting this question is, so by all means skip it if you feel there’s nothing to say, but the phrasing in the article piqued my interest. You mention Meyer’s version of the “hoplite revolution” being influenced by a controversy around Hans Delbrück’s comparative military history. What is the controversy, and what is it that Meyer gets from it?
RK: So this is where you have to stop me because I’m going to talk for too long. But Hans Delbrück is an intensely controversial figure because he was trying to become a military historian in the academy, and that was something that just didn’t exist at the time. Military history was something that was done by the general staff, and they did it for the practical reason that they needed to educate officers and, generally speaking, they denied that historians had the authority to write about military history because they didn’t know warfare. There was a very strong claim to military history, being an exclusively military pursuit, a part of military science.
The historians in the academies generally didn’t do military history, because they didn’t feel like they could challenge the authority of officers. So Delbrück was doing something really odd as an academic by saying he was going to be a military historian. And essentially everybody hated it. Nobody wanted to accept this. Officers could not bear that this historian, this civilian, was challenging their interpretations of military history, and historians felt that he was claiming for himself a role that he couldn’t justify.
And when he was doing this in a diachronic way, trying to be a military historian of all ages, he stepped onto the toes of experts in all of the periods that he was working on. They would all be saying, no, you don’t know our period. You don’t know—when you start writing about the Persian Wars. Well, what do you know about that? You’re not a classicist. You’re just a historian. You wrote your thesis on medieval history. So there was a lot of resistance against what he was doing. And almost everything he wrote was controversial. But it was not just because of the project that he chose, but also because he was just a person who courted controversy. He just liked to say things and write things that he knew were going to get everybody riled up.
When it comes to Greek history and what Meyer is working with, Hans Delbrück had launched this theory that the Persian Wars were not actually the victory of civilized Greeks against this massive but poorly organized rabble of the Persian army, but rather that because the Persians were a very highly effective and enormous empire, they must have had a strong, small, professional army. He just sort of theorized away these numbers and argued that the Greeks must have won because they had either numerical superiority or maybe a very small numerical discrepancy, but they were fighting in a more disciplined way. So they had these unit formations which allowed them to defeat the Persians, because the Persians were focused on individual skill and professionalism but weren’t as well organized.
And that apparently makes sense of some of the accounts that you find in the sources. And it also follows from some of the theories about the emergence of the hoplite and the phalanx that you see in earlier periods. But it was controversial because it essentially said: okay, these sources with these numbers, we can just throw them out because they cannot be true. And historians reading that say, you can’t treat the sources that way, you can’t just throw them out and hypothesize what history must have been regardless of what the sources tell you. So everything that Delbrück wrote about this was controversial, but it did launch some radically new interpretations of the history of that period, which allowed people to think in different ways about, for instance, the hoplite and the phalanx.
So that’s fundamentally why I flagged up that theory’s influence on Meyer, but also I wanted to highlight that Meyer’s acceptance of Delbrück’s influence should not be taken for granted. He should be applauded for even listening to Delbrück because many of his colleagues would not. In fact, Meyer himself would eventually just give up on Delbrück. He would effectively say, I can’t engage with him because he will never give in and he won’t listen, he just argues and argues and argues, so I’m done with him. So Delbrück was an impossible person and he fought everyone all the time, but his ideas were creeping in nonetheless and having their effect, that’s why I wanted to point that out.
AC: To then broaden out from the questions about particular thinkers, the Greek polis was not just a historical topic, but also an inspiration and a model for European political thinkers in the nineteenth century, and indeed earlier. There’s a very strong identification between some political assemblies and what they would see as their classical forebears. What connections do you see between that modern political milieu and the understanding of Greek politics that develops alongside it? Does it affect the “hoplite revolution” theory, particularly Weber’s version of it, in any notable ways?
RK: There is a huge question about the extent to which contemporary culture influences the emergence of any historical theory. Obviously, we’ve just highlighted a few points where we can be reasonably certain that aspects of contemporary life were affecting the way that people were looking at the “hoplite revolution.” But it’s very difficult, I found, to see concrete links.
One of the things that often gets noted is that in nineteenth-century Germany, and indeed in earlier periods of German history, there was a lot of association between Germany and ancient Greece. They had an ideological sense that being politically fragmented but culturally united was something Germany shared with Greece, as well as having a cultural significance that is outsized relative to their worldly power, so to speak. That was something that a lot of educated Germans in this period were drawn to; this idea that you can still be great even without political or military dominance.
That narrative shifts in the course of the nineteenth century. One part of that is the professionalization of the discipline, which makes it harder to appropriate some part of Greek culture and say “I know this, this is mine as well.” If you want to talk about ancient history, you increasingly need specialist knowledge. A second aspect is that, in the nineteenth century, Germany could no longer claim to be politically fragmented and powerless in a military sense. They were claiming superpower status. So it becomes much harder to associate yourself with fragmented realm of hundreds of little states when that is no longer your own reality.
So, you see this kind of identification with Greece much more strongly in an earlier period. Around the revolutions of 1848, you see a lot of people trying to champion Greek democracy, for instance, and try to bring out the idea that democratic states are more efficiently organized, they have more participation and buy-in from their populations. You see these are modern political ideas being bounced off antiquity, so to speak. And you see works getting criticized for being overtly political in the way that they read ancient history. But by the end of the nineteenth century, you see this less and less, for the reasons that I already mentioned.
FE: For me this is a reminder that historiography needs to be researched more. As historians, we are always encouraged to make use of the latest works and the latest papers and so everything older than, let’s say, fifty or sixty years gets almost forgotten. It’s like a cycle. We tend to repeat those ideas from seventy or eighty years ago, because we forget about them and so they look new to us. So, it’s really crucial for us to know the history of our discipline and how our own ideas have been evolving across different periods.
We need to be aware of how current theories and current assumptions are based on previous ones. They rarely come directly from the ancient world. That’s my point. They always go through the lens of our modern perspective. That happened in nineteenth-century Germany, it happened in early twentieth-century North America and Great Britain and it’s happening to us as well. So it’s a nice reminder of that duty, to pay attention to the historiography of the discipline.
AC: Thank you. I have one final question on the modern aspect of the article. Weber lived for another twenty years after publishing Agrarverhältnisse im Altertum. How did he respond to people not really paying much attention to it? Did he did he try and push it to find an audience? Or did he just accept that it had not quite worked out and move on to the next thing? Do we know how he responded?
RK: I don’t know of any direct response. I don’t think he would have gotten upset that no one was reading it. The one thing that we obviously do know is that he wrote a first version of it, and then he wrote a second version, and he wrote an enormously expanded third version over the course of almost fifteen years. So he was obviously not satisfied with the way that he had initially written it, and he kept returning to it. But when he’s writing about ancient history, I wonder if he’s just doing that in order to get a sense for his own understanding, that he can then use for the models that he was developing about the rise of the city state and things like that.
So I think it would not have been very like him, I would say, to be upset about people neglecting the Agrarverhältnisse, especially because he may have recognized that he was not the expert on this; he was following Meyer for a lot of things. So, he may not have written this for the sake of changing a debate about ancient history, but rather about changing wider debates about historical development of political and economic systems.
In that way he is a real contrast to Hans Delbrück, who we mentioned earlier. Delbrück added an appendix to a book on something totally different just to argue with Weber about the development of states in the ancient Mediterranean. And as a reader you think, neither of you are experts on the ancient Mediterranean, why are you arguing about this? But Delbrück always pursued controversy, always wanted people to think his way, and would never stop arguing until they accepted. Whereas, Weber seems to have thought much more, “this is what I’m doing, you can do with it whatever you want.”
AC: Okay, one last question on the “hoplite revolution,” as a theory in its own right. Where does it stand now in the academic literature? We’ve touched on this a little bit already, but as you say, the idea turns so much on this one pivotal piece of technology. Where does our understanding of that stand now at the start of 2023?
FE: It’s funny because we have this concept that you can build a whole narrative based on the hoplite and the development of military technology in archaic Greece and so on. But now, the theory is much more fragmented, or at least I see fewer scholars attaching themselves to the whole theory. Instead you have people just picking out specific ideas or selecting particular elements from the theory. But it’s difficult to see the whole structure being pushed forward in the way that it was thirty years ago, for example by Hanson.
So there’s no clear successor to Hanson’s position. But, in so far as scholars have picked up particular ideas or arguments from the theory, those parts are quite alive. But no one is constructing or rewriting the narrative all over again, because it has been set by Hanson.
On the other hand, revisionism is probably trying another approach. Revisionist historians, scholars who are very critical of the idea of the “hoplite revolution,” are more interested in trying to build a narrative themselves. But I don’t think that is particularly relevant or even necessary. It’s not a matter of competing narratives, but of revisiting the ancient sources and coming up with significant interpretations. It’s an interesting development that revisionism seems to be leaning towards the building of an alternative narrative, while the orthodoxy, is leaning more towards picking out specific elements. That’s my impression of the field, at least. Roel, would you agree with that?
RK: I think that’s right. Although, I do think there may be some merit to those narrative building projects; in trying to come up with a way to explain archaic Greek history that is at least equally instinctively attractive, if not as all-encompassing as the “hoplite revolution.” As you said, so much of the appeal of the “hoplite revolution” comes from how convenient it is. And if there is a way to talk about Greek history that way, then it would be great if we had another way to do it that is more responsible and that is more embracing of the evidence.
And I think Hans van Wees in his Farmers and Hoplites has done a pretty good job of that. So it’s an attempt to write the history in a similarly straightforward way, which generalizes and you can quibble about the different aspects of it, but which makes more sense of the actual evidence. Especially if it doesn’t require us to hinge all of history on the development of a second grip on the shield, but argues for a slow rise of a new way of fighting as wealth increases over a long period characterized by struggle over political rights and available resources. I think this new theory, that has been launched about a decade ago now, does a better job of acknowledging that, rather than just saying, oh, whatever Aristotle says goes.
FE: I agree with that. I don’t see how another “monument” is supposed to counteract a previous “monument,” but I can see the merit of those projects. It is certainly a more interesting path to follow than the older ones, like technological determinism, that revolved so much around weapons and their use, or how heavy they were.
AC: Okay, I think that’s perhaps a nice point to end on for our discussion. Do either of you want to add a quick remark on what you’re working on now, if you have any forthcoming work you’d like to let people know about.
RK: What are you working on now, Fernando? I don’t actually know.
FE: I have co-edited a volume on Xerxes’ invasion of Greece in Spanish and I am working on a synthesis of warfare in the Classical world for students. But the “hoplite revolution” is still in my list. My bet for the future of the theory is that a new argument reinstating orthodoxy will probably come up in a few years, because if you look backwards into the history of the theory, that’s exactly what happened. Both fundamental positions have been reacting to each other in periods of, let’s say, ten to twenty years. For my part, I will continue to dig into alternative ways to think about political and military change.
Alexander Collin is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam where he works on northern Europe from the 1490s to the 1700s. His doctoral thesis aims to test the historical applicability of theories of decision making from economics and organizational studies, considering to what extent we should historicize the idea of ‘The Decision’ and to what extent it is a human universal.
Featured image: Oil flask showing the head of a hoplite, Allard Pierson Museum, photo by Dick Osseman, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.