By Philip Caputo

In March 1965, Marine Lieutnant Philip J. Caputo landed in Danang with the 1st flooring wrestle unit devoted to struggle in Vietnam. 16 months later, having served at the line in a single of recent history's ugliest wars, he again domestic - bodily entire, emotionally wasted, his younger idealism shattered. A decade later, Caputo could write in A Rumor of struggle, 'This is just a narrative approximately warfare, in regards to the issues males do in battle and the issues conflict does to them'.

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On his death (323 bc), Alexander the Great of Macedon ruled both Greece and the old Persian empire. His successors fought to carve up his empire. Out of a maelstrom of intrigue and war, three long-lived and stable ‘superpowers’ emerged by the 270s bc. These were the Macedonian-ruled ‘Hellenistic’ kingdoms of the Antigonids (centred on Macedonia, and dominating Greece); the Selucids (based in the Near East, and controlling parts of Asia Minor); and the Ptolemies (whose main power base was Egypt).

But it was in the 2nd century that Rome penetrated mainland Greece, the home of the Athenians and Spartans, who had greater cultural prestige for the Romans than did the Greeks of Italy and Sicily. Also, it was in the 2nd century that Romans, above all elite Romans, began to win vast sums of wealth from their conquests, and wealth was very necessary for the Hellenization of Rome. The Roman elite was deeply internally competitive. Hellenization offered a new way for members of the elite to compete with each other; as, for example, they rivalled each other in owning more Greek art.

Poets of the 7th century do not always seem to describe hoplite fighting. Callinus of Ephesus talks of fighting with javelins, not thrusting spears (fragment 1). Tyrtaeus of Sparta in one fragment (11) gives what we think of as a classic description of a close-packed hoplite phalanx. Yet the fragment ends (line 35) with gumnetes, the ‘naked’ (lightly armed), crouching under the shields of the hoplites. Look again at the scene from the Chigi vase, and imagine what would happen to the action in a moment’s time.

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A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo


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