Presenter: Dr David M. Pritchard

This seminar focusses on the understudied corps of military archers that fifth-century Athenians maintained. Athens took 1600 of them into the Peloponnesian War. Their small number made possible the upkeep of a central record of corps-members. The archer-corps-commanders used this list for compiling their conscription-lists. Consequently archers and hoplites were both conscripted for individual campaigns. Yet in other respects the hoplite and the archer corps were very differently organised. In classical Athens membership of a tribe was a prerogative of citizenship. As citizens fought alongside metics in the archer corps, it could not be tribally organised. There is no evidence that it even had regular units. The Athenians esteemed archers lowly, because they saw them as cowards and their combat-mode as a barbarian one. This contrasts with the equal esteem that they gave sailors and hoplites. Therefore it is a surprise that some citizens who were not prosperous enough to be hoplites chose to be archers instead of sailors. What attracted them to the archer corps was the better pay. Athens paid the archers year-round, since it required them to be always ready for deployment and constantly practising their perishable skill. Sailors were only remunerated for their days on a campaign. Consequently the archer corps was the better choice for those less prosperous citizens who had to be certain that their military service would double up as a livelihood. Yet employing the archers on these terms did not come cheaply. In the late 430s the state spent on them alone 10 percent of its annual budget. Postwar Athens found it enormously difficult to pay for such fixed-operating costs. By the time of the Corinthian War the Athenians no longer had military archers. Budget problems had forced them to disband the archer corps.

The podcast of the seminar is available from UQ eSpace.


Michie Building (9),
St Lucia campus