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Strategos

Strategos (Greek: στρατηγός): the Greek word for general.

Statue of a Greek strategos, perhaps Miltiades

Strategos was the title of the commander of a Greek army; we might call them “general”. In a hoplite battle, his place was in the first ranks.

In democratic Athens, ten generals were elected each year, who were under the supreme command of the polemarch (“war leader”). When in 487/486 BCE the Athenians decided to assign the office of polemarch by lot, the strategoi were the only officials in Athens that were elected. Because re-election was possible, the office gave considerable influence to a politician. Well-known examples are Pericles and Nicias, who often occupied the office of strategos.

The office was known in many Greek cities (e.g., Syracuse) and Illyrian cities (e.g., Byllis). Occasionally, a strategos autokrator could be apppointed, a "sole general with absolute powers".

The Macedonian king Philip II joked that the envied the Athenians for being able to elect ten generals every year, because in his life, he had met only one general, Parmenio. After the death of Alexander the Great, his successors recognized two generals, one for Asia (Antigonus) and one for Europe (Antipater).

Later, the expression could be used for the annual magistrate in a confederate state (e.g., Thessaly), for military governors (e.g., the Ptolemaic governor of Cyprus or the Seleucid garrison commander in Babylon), for the Nabataean war leaders, for the Roman praetors, and for the Byzantine governors of the themes.

This page was created in 2019; last modified on 8 June 2019.

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