The Ancient Era’s Greatest Wars

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Hannibal on the Alps

Originally, I had five entries, but had to cut things down to four due to content constraints. And I am still a huge fan of Ancient History. I have selected wars that I have thought are the most important and here they are.

The Greek-Persian War

This is one of the most well-known of any ancient wars remembered in the annals of Western literature and art. It featured great generals such as Sparta’s Leonidas and the Athenian Cimon along with Pericles. It was a great war involving the mighty Achaemenid Empire’s first ever invasion of the Hellenic world after failing to smash the successful Ionian revolts in Asia Minor. This mighty war saw the mighty Spartans and Athenians in action.

The Greeks were successful under the Hellenic League with Athens being the most influential city-state. Greek city-state relations went successful and Greece entered in the Age of Pericles, one of the most celebrated sages. One would wonder, had Persia won under the rulership of Xerxes I, would Western civilization been much different than what we know it today?

The Punic Wars

The Punic Wars were most-likely the largest wars that had ever taken place in the Ancient times. These series of battles took place between the Roman Republic and the Carthangian Empire. Rome had had many wars in its young history, but this time, it was for total control of Sicily and the Mediterranean region. The First Punic Wars (264 B.C.E-241 B.C.E) were interesting because Rome was not as great a naval power. Carthage had a much better navy and better technology. Yet, the Roman armies had success against the Carthaginians. I wonder, had Carthage won, would they have moved on to a more imperialistic conquest?

The Carthaginians were descendent from the Phoenicians, some of the finest seafarers of the Ancient world. This is one reason why Carthage ruled the Western Mediterranean region and was able to stall the Roman Republic until the next Punic Wars (218 B.C.E-202 B.C.E). This second phase of warship almost cost Rome everything. And had Carthage completely destroyed Rome, there is no telling the cultural effects the African civilization would have had on the Western world. However, history would see Carthaginian general Hannibal defeated by Roman general Africanus Scipio. Rome would have total control of the Mediterranean and would further expand after defeating the once mighty Carthage.

The Peloponnesian War

After the Greek city-states victory over Xerxes I and his mighty Persian military forces, Sparta would vie for supremacy in the Peloponnesian League over Athens, an equally powerful city-state for leadership. Sparta, being of an oligarchic-militant background, did not take long before being jealous of Athens. The Hellenic League which was led by Athens became the Delian League and saw Sparta along with a few other members withdraw. Sparta would later rage war against Athens and its members from the Delian League. Needless to say, Sparta proved herself in the water and on the land winning many victories.

Sparta may not have been an empire, but she was a mighty tough adversary for the rest of the non compliant city-states of Greece. Sparta ended the Golden Age of Greece and helped create inner wars between other city-states. Athens was never the same again and neither were the other Greek city-states without the once great blossoming art and sciences which were a great contribution. Ancient Greece would be fair pickings for other empires to come, such as Macedonia under Philip II.

Alexander the Great’s Conquests

Alexander the Great took over the reins of the Macedonian Empire after his father was assassinated. What he did was make Macedonia one of the greatest empires of the ancient world. In addition to that, Alexander the Great, like his father, had an intense love for Greek life and thought. He took Hellenic thought and life with him wherever he conquered. Alexander the Great never lost a battle and was able to conquer the known ancient world.

He went as far as India and was even planning to campaign in Arabia against the Arabs. Had Alexander the Great’s armies invaded Arabia, one would wonder about if Islam would have come about with a huge Hellenic influence there. Emperor Alexander died in Babylon in 323 B.C.E and his hefty empire was split up by his generals. They all lasted for a while before falling to other future empires, such as Rome centuries later.

Sources:

  1. Peter Heather (2005), The Fall of the Roman Empire, ISBN 0195159543.
  2. Michael Kulikowski (2007), Rome’s Gothic Wars, ISBN 0521846331.
  3. Fernand Braudel (1996), The Medeterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip II. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20308-9.