War, peace and the military in Biblical and ancient Greek societies

Authored by: Matthew B. Schwartz , Kalman J. Kaplan

The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367237066
eBook ISBN: 9780429281266
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter offers a comparison and contrast as to how ancient Greek and Biblical civilizations viewed peace and war and soldiering. First the authors contrast the narratives of the paradigmatic combats between Achilles and Hector and between David and Goliath. Then the chapter discusses a number of wars described in the Hebrew Scriptures, followed by several stories from the Greek historian Herodotus with regard to the Greek wars against the Persians. A difference between senses of duty of the Spartan soldier is contrasted with a transcendent sense of purpose motivating a Biblical soldier. The strange ten-year journey home from Odysseus is commented upon, as is the exaggerated and suicidal search for meaning exhibited by Zeno the Stoic in response to a small mishap. The latter compared himself to Job being able to tolerate devastating calamities without losing his faith in his Creator. In conclusion, nine points of contrast between Biblical and ancient Greek attitudes towards peace, war and violence have been offered in the chapter.

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