Ancient History: The Key Military Periods

There are periods in the history of every nation that can be called turning points. As a rule, it is during such periods that controversial situations arise. As a result of the latter, there are different opportunities for the development of the historical process in one way or another. In the history of ancient states, the most key military periods are connected with the Trojan, Messenian, and Greco-Persian wars, the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic wars, as well as clashes of the Roman Republic.

The Trojan War is the war between the Achaean Greeks and Troy at the end of the 13th century BC. The most important historical source of information about the Trojan War are the poems “Iliad” and “The Odyssey” by Homer. According to mythological tradition, the occasion for the war was the abduction by Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, of Helen, wife of Menelaus, ruler of Sparta. In the same century, Doric tribes from northwestern Greece invaded the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The local Achaean tribes were partly abandoned and partly enslaved. The Dorians inhabited three regions of the Peloponnese: Argolida, Laconica, and Messenia. A succession of wars for the complete conquest and subjugation of the surrounding territories soon followed.

The Greco-Persian wars were just such a period in the history of ancient Greece; they ended the archaic and began the classical period of the history of ancient Greece – the era of its greatest prosperity.The Greco-Persian Wars lasted half a century, from 499 to 449 B.C., and were a series of overland campaigns and naval expeditions, sometimes with interruptions of years, but contemporaries and descendants perceived them as one. Traditionally, the beginning of the Greco-Persian Wars is considered to be the revolt of the Ionian Greeks against Persian rule in 499.

The Greek polities of Asia Minor had already faced a threat from the East since the 7th century B.C. In the middle of the 7th century, Magnesia on Meander was destroyed by the nomadic Cimmerians. The relations of the Greeks with the Lydian kingdom developed differently: hostile at first; then, they became closer. The last Lydian king Croesus (560-546), though quite Hellenistic, easily managed to conquer Ephesus and other Ionian cities.

The conquests and campaigns of Alexander the Great became part of ancient history. The great commander became famous because he was able to assemble the most powerful army at that time and unite numerous nations under his rule. Before that, the capture of Greece and the defeat of the Persians had been planned by his father, Philip II, after whose death the intended conquests might have failed. The conquest campaigns of Macedonian began in 334 BC. First, the commander went to the territory of Asia Minor, traversing the Black Sea straits. There he intended to confront the Persians and put into practice a plan developed earlier by his father to conquer their state. The battle, which was won on the river Granicus, demonstrated the valor and strength of the army, as well as the full power of the cavalry.

Diadochos (followers) were the commanders of Alexander who, after his death, began an internecine struggle for the division of the empire. After Alexander’s death, the dialogs agreed to recognize his son as king. Before his majority, Perdiccas was appointed chief strategist of Asia, and Antipater was appointed chief strategist of Europe. Antigonus was given control of Phrygia, Pamphylia, and Lycia; Eumenes of Paphlagonia and Cappadocia; Ptolemy Laugh of Egypt, Lysimachus of Thrace and Ionia, Seleucus of Babylonia. In 322, Macedonian domination revolted Athens and other Greek cities.

As a result of the successful suppression of the revolts, only Egypt, where the descendants of Ptolemy Lagos reigned, remained independent. The world empire of Alexander the Great was replaced by the so-called Hellenistic states: Macedonia, the state of the Ptolemies in Egypt and Palestine, and the state of the Seleucids, which stretched from the Indus to Asia Minor. Soon, however, the eastern regions fell away from the empire of the Seleucus descendants, and a powerful Parthian kingdom was formed there. The Seleucids only managed to keep control over Asia Minor, Syria, and part of Mesopotamia.

In the First Latin War (499-493 B.C.), the Romans defeated the Latins and led the Latin Union established after the war. Throughout the fifth century B.C., united Roman and Latin armies fought wars against neighboring peoples: Etruscans, Volscians, Equans, and Sabines. The wars with the powerful Etruscan city of Veii were especially difficult. The city was eventually destroyed, and the long confrontation ended in the submission of the Etruscans to the Romans.

In 390 B.C., an army of northern Gaul tribes descended on Rome. At the Battle of the River Alia (12 km from Rome), the Roman army was defeated, and then the Gauls took and burned the city. Taking advantage of the weakening of Rome, Etruscans, Latins, Wolski, and other tribes of Italy rose against the Romans. In wars against them, the Romans gradually seized new territories and asserted their influence in Italy. In the middle of the 4th century B.C., the Roman expansion encountered resistance from the Samnites, the warlike tribes of Central Italy.

Thus, the history of ancient states shows that military clashes became an important turning point for the development of all spheres of life. The Greek-Persian wars, which determined the fate of classical Greece, were one of the most significant for the world at that time. The campaigns of Alexander the Great and the further confrontation of his ancestors had an important geopolitical significance. The wars of the Roman Republic allowed the latter to defend its integrity and independence and subsequently to become the strongest state of the Mediterranean.