Strategos

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Strategos, plural strategoi Attic-Ionic (Greek: στρατηγός, pl. στρατηγοί; Doric Greek: στραταγός, stratagos; literally meaning "army leader") is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor. In the modern Hellenic Army, it is the highest officer rank.

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The office of Strategos in Classical Greece

Themistocles, Aristides and Cimon were early examples of strategoi who were politicians as well as generals. Pericles was a strategos very often throughout his career; from 443 until 429 BC. Cleon, Nicias and Alcibiades were also strategoi. But at the end of the 5th century, with the collapse of the military and naval power Athens, and later because of an increasing tendency to specialization, military office ceased to be a means of acquiring political influence.

Little is known of the number and method of appointment of Athenian strategoi in the 6th century, but in 501 BC, a new arrangement was introduced by which ten strategoi were elected annually, one from each phyle. The ten were of equal status: at Marathon in 490 (according to Herodotus) they decided strategy by majority vote, and each held the presidency in daily rotation. At this date the polemarchos had a casting vote, and one view is that he was the commander-in- chief; but from 486 onwards the polemarch, like other archontes was appointed by lot.

The annual election of the strategoi was held in the spring, and their term of office coincided with the ordinary Athenian year, from midsummer to midsummer. If a strategos died or was dismissed from office, a by-election might be held to replace him. Strategoi commanded both from land and by sea. A particular military or naval expedition might have one strategos or several in command; rarely did all ten go together.

At home the strategoi were responsible for calling up citizens and metics for military service, and for organizing the maintenance and command of ships by the system of trierarchies. When a legal case arose from any of these matters, such as a prosecution for desertion or evasion of service, or a dispute over the duty to perform a trierarchy, the strategoi were the magistrates responsible for bringing the case to court and presiding over the trial.

In the 4th century a systematic division of duties was made: one strategos led the hoplites and one was in charge of the defense of Attica, two were in charge of the defense of Pireaus, and one supervised the trierarchy, leaving the remaining five available for other duties.

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