Fighting in the phalanx: The moral nature of the ὁπλιτικὴ τέχνη

  • Luca di Campobianco University of Johannesburg


These pages wish to offer a brief reflection on an aspect of the process of professionalization that Greek warfare underwent from the end of the fifth century BC onward (all dates hereafter BC). The analysis will focus on the content and nature of the τέχνη that the Greek hoplite ought to acquire to become a χειροτέχνης — an expert artisan in massed combat.1 The intention is to explore whether this τέχνη could be understood not as technical proficiency in a certain military skill that the hoplite acquires by practice but as a choice he is trained to make between εὐταξία and ἀταξία. These terms, usually understood in a technical acceptation as ‘order / discipline’ and ‘disorder / insubordination’, will be presented here as frames of mind [ἤθη τῆς ψυχῆς] and discussed in the light of Plato’s use of the terms εὐψυχία and κακοψυχία as hallmarks of the good and bad hoplite.