Full Version: Role of hunting in military training.
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
According to ancient military writers like Polybius and Xenophon, hunting is extremely useful in military training. But the modern researchers (like the authors in Cambridge Ancient Military History) think that this point of view only reflected Greek aristocratic ethos and that hunting do not help much in preparing to war in ancient times. Which point of view is true?
At least it is directly connected with throwing a javelin accurately in a moving target,or using a bow. Given that boars and bears and even lions were popular targets,avoiding a fast moving animal with more strenth than you would resemble a weapon perhaps. And most importantly it would make a man more steady in dangerous situations. One more usage may had been that some times hunters went armoured like in war. Running,hiding,exercising hard with your panoply on is on itself a great aid.
Perhaps it wasn't much of an aid in a pitched mass fight,but war is not only tightly packed men who offer their body free to an enemy spear. Obviously Spartans gave great importance in being able to survive alone or to be able to hide.So it must have had some relation to ancient war. Not to mention that a hunter has to be capable of finding traces of animals(could be men) and finding their way in unknown land.
I suppose it is unecessary to mention all the ways hunting mounted can benefit fighting as cavalry.
They are both true. Hunting is usually the pastime of aristocrats in agrarian societies, but the benfit to military training is undeniable. The way in which hunting trained men differs by the culture and type of hunting. Surely the first thing boy destined to be a Rhodian or Balaeric mercenary killed with his sling was a rabbit. Among horse cultures, game drives have obvious parallels to military formations. The Greeks hunted primarily by driving game into nets. This required marching through rough terrain, stalking and tracking as well as coordinated pursuit- often spending multiple days in the field. All of this hardened men to the rigors of warfare. The comeraderie should not be underrated as well. Spartans in particular prized this form of training.

Perhaps a less tangible, but no less important advantage was that men experienced what it is to kill a large animal after the excitement of a chase with their blood pounding in their ears and to feel their own mortality in the case of boar or bear hunting. This is something you do not get from strangling a chicken or slicing a goat- the mind-set that you are a predator not a herder.

My guess is that those who deny its benefits have never hunted.
The 6th-c. AD military treatise of the emperor Maurikios (Strategicon) amply describes the use of hunting both as training and as logistical tool.

The 4th-c. AD mosaics in the villa of Piazza Armerina show two large mosaics (the 'big hunt' and the 'small hunt') of military engaged in hunting activities using both spears and shields (but no armour).