The early Greek world had embraced combat as a requirement and aspect of humanity. Notwithstanding the nature of battle, whether small borderline conflicts with adjacent nations, long blockades, civil rivalry or rather warfare in large-scale, the anticipated outcome was a bounty with huge material payments and fringe benefits. The Greek wars were quite unprecedented owing to the long periods of harmony and friendly partnership. However, they thirsted for power to conquer territories, retaliation, fortification, deterrent of freedom and war mongering.
As a result of warfare in the ancient Greece, the military and citizens suffered short-term and long-term injuries as well as death. The causes to the deaths and injuries included: distress, excessive bleeding, burnouts and dismembering body parts (Cartwright 2013). In addition to other causes, diseases and stifle were major. The research will attempt to describe the major causes of injury and death during and after the prehistoric Greek warfare. The ancient Greek combats were highly professional with trained militia and advanced weaponry. Their preparedness for battle was due to: technology, fortification, tactics, socio-economic aspects and religion and morals. These factors contributed in causing bruises and demise during and after battle.
During the primary stage of battles in Greece, technology was developing slowly and thus was a time when soldiers engaged in severe and unsystematic training. Despite the benefits accorded to the hoplites, they endured painful trainings with provisional armory (Cartwright 2013). The absence of fit gears and weapons made them vulnerable to injuries and unpreventable death due to their heavily armed rivals. They succumbed to physical injuries and mental disturbances because of the brutal experience in battle. Their lives was a routine of varying levels of brutality, susceptibility and loss of life (Randall 2011).
The hoplite rebellion resulted in upgrading of weapons in primordial Greek territory. Though chariots were present before, the revolution led to the invention of panoply armory and the hoplite’s armor equipment were effective in battle (Randall 2011). Although, their weight and crude material was strenuous to operate while in war. The soldiers suffered extreme burnouts and vulnerability to injuries and loss of life (Crowley 2015). The ancient Greece world battles, therefore, had created numerous instances where soldiers suffered major injuries and death. The major causes to injury and death is described and illustrated below:
Trauma is a human reaction to gravitating experiences and life threatening. Depending on people, the responses vary and could either be increased fear, powerless or terror. The ancient Greek soldiers suffered traumatic experiences directly during combat that exposed them to dangerous battle situations. The combats were usually life threatening and created tension among the soldiers (Michael & Alan 2000). For the hoplites the trauma was a major cause of psychological injury due to the frequent memories that reminded them of the traumatic events of death and pain (Cosmopoulos 2007). Basically, these traumatic scenarios were certainly unpleasant and occasionally became a major source of anguish.
For instance, events occurring in ancient Greece like the epidemic in Athens, alleged execution of all male in Mytilene and others atrocities in Corcyraean caused intense trauma among military generals and the soldiers themselves (Tritle 2010). This incessant distress experienced by combat warriors and communities during the battle period caused major emotional injuries and psychological repercussions that gave forth to unpleasant behavioral modification, such as withdrawal symptoms, depression and anger (Palaima 2010).
The ancient Greek battles were vicious and bloodthirsty that resulted in serious wounds and blood loss among the soldiers. Medical care was a necessity but was hardly available to the combatants. The weapons used in battle, for instance, panoply and hoplon military artillery inflicted serious wounds and bleeding. In fact, the development of weapons led to even horrendous scenes of injury that resulted to death due to unavailable medical intervention. Managing wounds, surgeries, antibiotics for infections and blood replacement were the major causes of injury couple with trauma among combatants in ancient Greece.
Consequently, the inability of surgeons to treat wounds led to infections and death. Blood loss being a more serious case, cautery and also tourniquets had essentially proved to control hemorrhage (Manring et al. 2009). With severe body mutilation and wounds blood loss was inevitable among the hoplites and indeed, the battle experiences indicate that the wound and blood loss cases were in brutal pain than death. The Greeks endured varying nature of wound injuries and consequently blood loss as described by Iliad in Homer(Gabriel 2007). The assumption remains that excessive bleeding and shock led to the death of most soldiers in the Greek combats.
The history of combat in ancient Greece brings about the aspect of diseases and injuries that in most cases contributed to most deaths and trauma among the soldiers. Disease was a menace in warfare and most wars were won on this advantage. The use of heavy weaponry and prolonged war made it possible for injuries and wounds to occur where later infections would lead to deteriorating conditions of the soldier and if no intervention was obtained, the ailing soldier would succumb to his death. For instance, wound cases had 100% mortality as illustrated by Homer’s Iliad However, the Greeks had their own wound management techniques whereby, to prevent further infection of the wound, the body part would be amputated (Murray et al. 2008).
The amputation era came about when wound management became complex. The technique used however, was inexperienced and brutal, that cased excruciating pain and blood loss to the individual. In fact, an account shows that amputation cases done in ancient Greek world resulted in fresh wounds with a 75% rate of success to eliminate further infection (Roy et al. 1954). Besides, a description is made about the Greek perception on amputation whereby they avoided major amputation as an excuse to avoid excessive bleeding. Nevertheless, in ancient Greek wars injuries comprised of traumatic as well as amputation though not elective (Kirkup 1995).
Physical exhaustion and fatigue experiences happened quite often to ancient Greek warriors. There were difficulties to differentiate exhaustion and other war complications, however, fatigue has remained one cause of injury and death to ancient Greek militant. The invention of hoplite armor and weapons that were incredibly heavy, resulted to fatigue due to their involvement in prolonged wars like the battle at Marathon. Reduced strength in battle and exhaustion caused the rivalries especially the Persians to attack the Athenians (Bowdish 2013). Another example is when an Athenian soldier, Pheidippides who ran more than 140 miles to and fro to deliver news to Sparta, and he finally died from exhaustion (Sage 1996).
The nature of the injuries and death resulted in not only during battle where there was man-to-man combat, but also after the war. The characteristics of the injuries are equally intense as those during battle and in most cases led to death if assistance was not available to the casualties. Major causes of injury and death after the combat were suffocation and infection, as described below:
The aftermath of the ancient Greek battles created a grotesque scene of mutilated bodies and broken armor, and there lay wounded soldiers that were seriously injured and experiencing trauma from the wounds. Due to the weight of bodies and their own armor, most soldiers endured intense pressure and suffocation (Sage 1996). This led to further injuries of shock and consequently death. For instance, the Spartans marched on foot whereby those that were stepped on under by their colleague soldiers, suffered suffocation.
In most cases this happened unexpectedly, the Homeric divination to conquer was overwhelming and often a number fell among the dead bodies and would be buried among by the growing heap of bodies as they were continually pilled (Lezanby 1991). Besides, the Trireme development also had its demerits when attack was launched in naval combat. Greek soldiers that fell in the raging waters were abandoned and those unlucky to overcome the currents would drown and die (Meineck & Konstan 2014). Similarly, those that fell in the flooded Trireme wearing their helmets would suffer smothering and if unaided drowned and died.
The Greek soldiers could not escape infection and diseases arising from infection. Ancient battles had many injuries and wounds as well as diseases that were not related to trauma. Pathogenic compounds and organisms would then attack the open wounds and weakened bodies and cause further weakening of the body due to disease. The armor and weapons used by the soldiers in battle were the source of great wounds and injuries. For instance, wounds associated with injuries from battle outcomes were averaged by Homer’s Odyssey as follows: 80% of wounds from spears, 42% of wounds from arrow strikes and slingshots made about 67% of the wounds (Murray et al. 2008). The Greeks had their medieval way of treating injuries using analgesic and herbal medicine like the styptic herbal (Murray et al. 2008). Nevertheless, infection was inevitable where there were serious wounds like deep cuts and amputation.
Moreover, ancient Greece combatants used poisoned weapons like the arrows and spears, bacteria and other harmful pathogens to deter their enemies, like the Peloponnesians (Mayor 2008) between Sparta and Athens. Pathogenic weapons led to serious infections that resulted to injury and death in case a major artery was poisoned. Infection may have resulted in others ways like the crowding of Athenians at Piraeus that caused breeding of infectious ailments and hence the birth of the plague of Athens (Cunha 2004). Other infections that devastated Athens soldiers were influenza, smallpox, measles and bubonic plague. These were terrible moments that caused injury and death to many Greek soldiers in prehistoric time where no doctors would were able to cure these epidemics (Cunha 2004).
The phalanx battle formation was a unique icon in Greece military technique. However, the increasing force demanded endurance and strength from the soldiers. Nevertheless, there were failures in effective phalanx formations. As arguable by the othismos and sauroter, the fallen battle formations were also major causes of injury and death to ancient Greece wars. This is discussed below as follows:
During the hoplite ancient war, the use of phalanx was the norm and a ticket to victory in battle. However, in a confrontation of two Greek battalions, only one was deemed to win. The victory to this unbeatable armies were as indicated by Godsworthy (1997) resulting from the othismos battle technique that was forceful enough to crash down the phalanx of the opponent Greece army. The othismos design comprises of Greek soldiers that engage in a quick charge to the opposing front rank of their enemy, with the hope that either side of the armies would crash down. However, failure to collapse the ranks behind would crash on the front rank and pushed them towards the enemy’s front rank. This was carefully done with much strength that saw the collapse of either side of the battalions (Godsworthy 1997). The decisive thrust involved caused the collapsing side and the knocked out hoplites to endure intense injuries and in most cases death, although, no real war was anticipated.
The ancient Greek weapons were crude and effective, for instance the spears had a sauroter at the front part to enable the spear to be reused in situations whereby the shaft splintered. Basically, the attachment of the spear head was made stronger by rivets onto the shaft quite tightly (Schwartz, 2009). The sauroter was essentially used as a secondary weapon especially when killing fallen enemy soldiers in the battle field (Ray Jr. 2012). Regardless of its usefulness in wars by the hoplites, it was a crude weapon and technically lethal and would inflict deep painful injuries and consequently death. Hence, the sauroter was also a major cause of injury and death in ancient Greece combats.
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