The Armed Forces of Athens
After a young "ephebus" has finished his two years of service in the garrisons he returns home subject to call at the hour of need. When there is necessity to make up an army, enough men are summoned to meet the required number and no more. Thus for a small force only the eligibles between say twenty and twenty-four years of age would be summoned; but in a crisis all the citizens are levied up to the very graybeards. The levy is conducted by the ten "Strategi" (at once 'generals,' 'admirals,' and 'war ministers') who control the whole armed power of Athens. The recruits summoned have to come with three days' rations to the rendezvous, usually to the Lyceum wrestling ground just outside the city. In case of a general levy the old men are expected to form merely a home guard for the walls; the young men must be ready for hard service over seas.
The organization of the Athenian army is very simple; each of the ten Attic tribes sends its own special battalion or "taxis," which is large or small according to the total size of the levy. These "taxeis" are subdivided into companies or "lochoi," of about an average of 100 men each. The "taxeis" are each under a tribal-colonel ("taxiarch"), and each company under its captain ("locharch"). The ten strategi theoretically command the whole army together, but since bitter experience teaches that ten generals are usually nine too many, a special decree of the people often entrusts the supreme command of a force to one commander, or at most to not over three. The other strategi must conduct other expeditions, or busy themselves with their multifarious home duties.
Next Chapter : The Peiraeus and the Shipping
Back to A Day in Old Athens Contents
The Greek Word Library
Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/old-athens-armed.asp?pg=3