Subject: ὁπλίτης heavy infantry hoplite
Culture: Classical Greek
Setting: late Archaic, Persian wars, Aegean 7th-5thcBC
* Morris 1985 p198-200
"The present-day view of the buttocks as a joke region of the body was not shared by early Greeks. To them it was an unusually beautiful part of the anatomy, partly because of its pleasing curvature but also because it made a powerful contrast with the animal rump of apes and monkeys. The human hemispheres were so different from the tough patches of hardened skin (the ischial callosities) on the lean-bottomed ape, that the Greeks saw them, quite correctly, as supremely human and non-bestial. The curvaceous Goddess of Love, Aphrodite Kallipygos -- literally the 'Goddess with Beautiful Buttocks' -- was said to have a behind more aesthetically pleasing than any other part of her anatomy. It was so revered that a temple was built in its honour -- thereby making the buttocks the only part of the human body so honoured."
* Royal Ontario Museum > Bronze Age Aegean
"THE GREEKS AT WAR Armed conflict and its effects upon the lives and destinies of those involved is often the subject of Greek poetry and literature. The Iliad of Homer and the great tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides deal with the war-like adventures of gods and legendary heroes. Historians such as Herodotus and Thucydides give eye-witness accounts of actual wars and battles.
"The art of war in ancient Greece is further revealed through archaeological studies and excavations. Many burials of fallen soldiers containing arms and armour have been uncovered. In addition, the sites of famous battles, such as the field at Marathon where the Greeks gained their first great victory over the invading Persians in 490 BC, provide much information about military equipment and tactics.
"Representational art also contributes to our knowledge of the subject. The scenes on black-figure and red-figure vases in particular often depict a soldier's equipment in detail. These scenes, too, sometimes provide insight into the human side of war and the sadness that it inflicts."
* Department of Greek and Roman Art 2000-10 online
"In nearly every medium of Attic art of the sixth century B.C., the hoplite and warfare feature prominently, as military service was a primary distinction of citizenship—a mark of status and often of wealth, as well as a means of attaining glory. Furthermore, the initiatives taken during the latter part of the sixth century to standardize the Homeric epics in written form fostered a broader interest in heroic subject matter."
* Llewellyn-Jones 2022 May p22-23
"Around 1943, Robert Graves penned a poem. In it he took his customary sideways glance at the world of antiquity and chose as his theme the subject of war and propaganda. He focused on the battle of Marathon, fought in 499 BC [SIC: 490] between the forces of Athens and Persia. Hailed as a magnificent triumph for the Athenians, Marathon had quickly become mythologised in the Greek-speaking world. When the Persians were repelled from Greek soil, the legend of the heroic fight for freedom over despotism was born.
"And that's not all. For Europe, in this reading of history, was also born at Marathon. So was the British empire. This is why, writing in 1846, John Stuart Mill could claim that, 'even as an event in English history', the battle of Marathon was 'more important than the battle of Hastings.'
"Robert Graves questioned that stance and preferred to read the fallout of Marathon as the ultimate triumph of a successful and long-lived Athenian propaganda campaign. The poem that Graves penned in 1943 -- The Persian Version -- is therefore written from the viewpoint of the 'truth-loving Persians' themselves. For them, he stresses, Marathon was little more than a 'trivial skirmish' at the western fringes of their empire and certainly not the 'grandiose, ill-starred attempt / to conquer Greece' that had been dreamed up by the Athenians and sold lock, stock and barrel to British public schoolboys for generations.
"[....] Graves was, however, swimming against the tide. During the Enlightenment two centuries earlier, intellectuals had begun to theorise as to why the west had become so dominant in the world order and had been so successful in the spread of white civilisation. They came up with a radical theory: European superiority came not from Christianity, as had previously been thought, but from a cultural tradition that began in ancient Greece. The Greeks, they stipulated, invented freedom and rationality, and Rome then spread these precious gifts across Europe in a series of civilising imperial conquests. Other cultures on the fringes of Greece and Rome were barbaric."