Modern Greek History

History of the Rank of Strategos in the Greek Military

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Greek military history is full of stories of renown and amazing courage. From the phalanx and hoplite of ancient Greece to the citizen soldiers of the modern era, Greek military history is proof positive of the fighting spirit of the people of the Aegean. While soldiers deserve every honor and respect bestowed upon them, one must never forget the officers who lead Greek armies and make life or death decisions on the battlefield.

In the modern Greek military, the highest officer rank is that of strategos. In this article, we’ll examine the rank of strategos, both in terms of the history of the rank and what responsibilities these high-ranking officers have in the armed forces.

Here is more information about the rank of Strategos and the role it played throughout history:

Strategos in Ancient Greece

The office of strategos was in existence as early as the 6th Century BC but was not formalized until 501 BC in the city of Athens. The lawmaker Cleisthenes wrote new mandates that saw the appointment of ten strategoi, one stategos from each of the ten tribes of Athens. Elections for the tribal offices were held in the spring and the strategoi served one-year terms. While how the council of strategoi made decisions varied throughout their history, at the Battle of Marathon in 486 BC, the strategoi settled on strategy by a majority vote. As time went by, lawmakers dropped the tribe requirement in strategoi votes, meaning that a single tribe could have many strategoi.

By the 5th Century BC, strategoi combined military power with political power, as exemplified in the terms of leaders such as Pericles and Themistocles. Nevertheless, the Greek people maintained close watch over strategoi and could depose them if they did not like how they comported themselves in office.

Strategos in the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires

Under the leadership of Philip II of Macedon, strategoi acted as both military leaders and representatives of the royal family. Following the death of Alexander the Great, strategoi took on more important roles in the wars of his many successors. In Egypt, strategoi became governors of territories known as nomes, possessing both military and civil authority.

Strategoi continued being civil and military leaders in the administrative system of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire. In the 7th Century, the Byzantines divided their empire into territories known as themes, with a strategos in charge of each theme. By the 8th Century, themes became so large and powerful that strategoi were able to challenge the might of the emperor in Constantinople in several rebellions. To fix this, the emperor reduced the size of themes, thereby minimizing the power of the strategus.

Strategos in the Modern Greek Military

In the Hellenic Army, the modern rank of strategos, spelled stratigos, remains the highest ranking general in the military. When Greece was still a monarchy, only the king and select members of the royal family could attain the rank of stratigos as an honorary title. After 1974, when the monarchy was abolished in favor of a democracy, the rank became the title of the Chief of the General Staff of National Defense when that position is occupied by a member of the Hellenic Army.

All in all, the rank of strategos is highly important in Greek history. Since ancient times, the Greek people have placed much power and responsibility in strategoi, vesting both military and civilian power in the rank. Additionally, the rank is a sign of the utmost respect for a leader who has proven that they will serve their country with the utmost integrity.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com