Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.01.51 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.01.51

Josho Brouwers, Henchmen of Ares: Warriors and Warfare in Early Greece . Ancient Warfare special, 4.   Rotterdam:  Karwansaray Publishers, 2013.  Pp. v, 203.  ISBN 9789490258078.  €29.95.  


Reviewed by Christopher Matthew, Australian Catholic University (christopher.matthew@acu.edu.au)

Josho Brouwers’s Henchmen of Ares is a recent addition to the growing body of non-scholarly literature examining warfare in the ancient Greek world from earliest times the end of the Classical Period. This work is beautifully presented with magnificent colour illustrations reconstructing the warriors of ancient Greece and images of artefacts and artworks throughout. Text boxes and sidebars scattered across the chapters take the reader to additional information about specific elements of ancient Greek warfare without taking anything away from the flow of the main narrative of the text. The book is well written and easy to read and appears to have been designed with the layman and/or general reader with an interest in this period of history as its target audience. Consequently, this book is not academic in its feel—despite being a reworked version of Brouwers’s doctoral dissertation. There are, for example, no references (footnotes or endnotes) within the book, other than in-text citations of key ancient texts when they are quoted within the chapters. Nor is there a list of suggested ‘further reading’ or a standard bibliography. Rather, the ‘bibliographical notes’ at the end of the book (pages 150-170) contain pages of discussion of some modern texts which deal with various aspects of the chapters to which they are associated. However, even these notes are in places simplistic in their form and are missing references to some key works relevant to the examined topics.

Nor does the text as a whole engage with many of the scholarly debates which have raged (and in some cases are still raging) over many of the aspects of ancient Greek warfare that are being discussed. There is no in-depth analysis within this work and nothing overly new is presented in the book’s pages. Brouwers, possibly due to the intended market for the work, has instead presented a clear, but in some cases one-sided, view of many features to do with the changing nature of ancient Greek warfare. In other cases, where a debate over a certain topic is mentioned, Brouwers does not offer his own view or interpretation of what he perceives to be the correct perspective or argument, and some sides of a multi-viewpoint debate are omitted entirely. Thus, while the material is well-presented and easy to read, the limited engagement with the topic means that the information provided within the book can be, in parts, lacking.

However, a lack of rigorous academic engagement with the subject matter should not detract from the book in its entirety because that is not what the work has set out to be. When viewed as a basic, introductory-level, text detailing the evolution of warfare in early Greece, the book adequately fulfils its role. Those just starting out on their investigation of this fascinating period of human history could do far worse than to use Henchmen of Ares as their starting point.

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