Subject: heavy infantryman
Culture: Achaean/late Mycenaean
Setting: Late Helladic, Aegean late 2nd millenium BC
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Carman & Harding eds. 1999 p170 (Anthony Harding, "Warfare: A defining characteristic of Bronze Age Europe?" p157-173)
"Around 1,200 BC a new set of arms and armour came into use in the Aegean area. Most visible was the arrival in Greece of the flange-hilted sword of European type ('Naue II' sword), with a broad, sometimes leaf-shaped blade that was suited to both cutting and thrusting blows in combat. Flange-hilted daggers ('Peschiera daggers'), flame-shaped spearheads and certain items of defensive armour also came into use. These changes have often been considered part of a general shift, not only in warfare practices, but also, potentially, in populations, with northern influences, or at any rate forms that started life in central Europe, becoming widespread in the south. According to Drews:
the catastrophe [the decline of the major East Mediterranean cities around 1,200 BC] can most easily be explained ... as a result of a radical innovation in warfare, which suddenly gave to 'barbarians' the military advantage over the long established and civilized kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean.
Specifically, the innovation was the invention of a new form of infantry warfare which was capable of resisting chariot attacks, and the means the infantry adopted was the javelin and the long sword:
Until shortly before 1200 BC ... it had never occurred to anyone that infantrymen with such weapons could outmatch chariots. Once that lesson had been learned, power suddenly shifted from the Great Kingdoms to motley collections of infantry warriors. These warriors hailed from barbarous, mountainous, or otherwise less desirable lands, some next door to the kingdoms and some far away." [references omitted]
* McCaffery 2022 January/February p41
"The success of... promachoi against spearmen would eventually provoke changes from ca.1300 BC onwards whereby heavy infantry became more mobile, with spears becoming shorter, some being equipped with swords, and the introduction of new shields in the forms of the round aspis and the 'inverted' pelta."
* Grguric ill. McBride 2005 p18-19
"The characteristically Mycenaean boar's-tusk helmet remained popular in the later period, but new patterns were also introduced. Thse are known as the 'horned helmet' and the 'hedgehog helmet', both terms being derived from the helmets' depicted appearance. As we have no surviving examples of these helmets the details of their construction are unclear. It is likely, however, that they were formed from hard leather. Both the 'horned' and the 'hedgehog' helmet are worn by the otherwise identically dressed warriors portrayed on the so-called 'Warrior Vase' from Mycenae, which is dated to about 1200 BC.
"The 'horned' helmet has projections at front and rear which come down to protect the brow and the nape of the neck, and another is drawn down to protect the temple. There is also a curious projection on top of the helmet, similar in profile to an axehead, to which a flowing plume is affixed. The helmet takes its name from the fact that two thin, curved horns are shown attached to the front. Whether or not the 'hedgehog' helmet was actually covered with the spined skin of the animal is impossible to know, but there is no real reason to dismiss the idea. The depictions of it on the Warrior Vase show it as being of simple conical shape and covered with short spikes."
* Russell 1983 p56 (describing the Warrior Vase, 1200 B.C.)
"The colander-shaped helmets are studded with metal nails, or bosses, and have boars' tusks and animal tails, while the spears also carry a pendant animal tail or leather pouch."
* Grguric ill. McBride 2005 p17-18
"With ... smaller shields came a need for body armour for the heavy infantry, and corselets were introduced for Mycenaean warriors from c.1200 BC. There are some excellent depictions of troops accoutred in this way on the so-called 'Warrior Vase' and 'Warrior Stele' from Mycenae. These corselets appear to have been made of leather with copper or bronze scales sewn on. The depicted warriors also wear leather skirts that reach to mid-thigh, which would also be reinforced with bronze scales. Although the most notable depictions of this dress come from Mycenae, several other sites show troops similarly equipped, suggesting that its use was widespread.
"The later period also saw the introduction of greaves for infantry, metal greaves coming into vogue apparently quite suddenly in around 1200 BC. The adoption of metal greaves was probably linked to the fact that throughout most of the Mycenaean period men protected their legs with leather 'spats' when at work in the fields. The bronze greaves cannot have been very effective since they were relatively thin, one extant pair being only 2mm thick; modern experiments have shown that even a thickness of 3mm can be cut through entirely with a slashing sword. After the middle of the 12th century BC greaves disappear from the archaeological record, so it seems that their use in the early part of that century was a short-lived experiment."
* Russell 1983 p56
"The best image of male costume from Mycenae happens to be that of warriors who appear in procession on the famous Warrior Vase in the National Museum at Athens, dated about 1200 B.C. They wear fringed tunics with long sleeves, probably made of leather. They seem to have tight leather hose or leggings gartered above the knee and tightly wrapped sandals to the ankle."
* Grguric ill. McBride 2005 p16
"In the later Mycenaean period the large body shields and long spears fell out of use. The later Mycenaean spear became much shorter, at around 5-6ft, still tipped with a socketed spearhead. This allowed it to be wielded with one hand, freeing the other for gripping the shield."
* Grguric ill. McBride 2005 p16
"From the beginning of the 14th century BC a new type of sword seems to have been favoured, perhaps due to broadening contacts with the Near East. The old thrusting sword continued in use during the 14th century BC, but was being replaced by a two-edged slashing sword. This new weapon had square shoulders, and these, as well as the hilt, are flanged. The blade is broad, with a widening towards the tip, and has no mid-rib. The earliest examples most probably date to the second half of the 14th century BC. The appearance of these slashing swords is evidence for a change that Mycenaean heavy infantry underwent during the later period, when warriors became lighter and more mobile, suggesting that they fought in more open formations than previously.
"Mycenaean infantry carried their swords in a scabbard, sometimes tasselled, worn at the left waist slung from a shoulder belt. This sword served as a secondary weapon for the early heavy infantryman; it would have been useful either if the spear broke, or after the initial push of spear had inevitably developed into a close-quarter mêlée."
* D'Amato & Salimbeti ill. Rava 2011 p14-15
"The true revolution in bladed weaponry came with the introduction of the slashing sword, described by Homer, which was able to cut through both flesh and armour. This weapon, also known as the grip-tongue sword, was one of the most enduring of all sword types. First appearing in the Late Bronze Age, it lasted well into the Iron Age -- a span of 500-700 years -- and it was made both in bronze and in iron.
"According to some authors this model originated in Central Europe. They argue that as early as 1450 BC in northern Italy smiths were coming up with this type of sword. It initially spread into Central Europe, Scandinavia and the British Isles. By 1300-1200 BC it had spread to Greece, Crete, the Aegean Islands, the Levant, Palestine and Egypt.
"The Naue II type of sword ranges from 50-85cm in length. Most had straight sides, narrowing at the point, but a few in both bronze and iron swelled slightly towards the tip, giving them a leaf-like shape. Some had midribs, often occupying most ofthe blade's width, whilst others were lens-shaped and a few were diamond-shaped when viewed in cross section. The hilt (tang) was flanged, and the hilt plates were set within the flanges and riveted."
* Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, La Rocca, Richardson, North, Spring, & Wilkinson p13 (Anthony Harding, "Stone, bronze and iron" p8-19)
"[T]he standard short sword of the late Mycenaean period (1200-1100 BC) ... had a broad blade 12-16 ins/30-40 cm long which tapered sharply towards the tip, square flanged shoulders, a straight flanged hilt, and an integral T-shaped pommel. It was not a glorious weapon, but it seems to have been popular over a wide area. An example is known from southern Italy and a fragment is even to be found in Truro Museum in Cornwall, allegedly found in a barrow near the Cornish village of Pelynt. Whether these weapons in foreign parts are the result of adventurers, far-flung trading enterprises, or modern collecting is hard to say, but there is good evidence, on other grounds, for a direct connection between Greece and the distant shores of Albion in the Bronze Age."
* D'Amato & Salimbeti ill. Rava 2011 p21
"Another type of body shield used during the Late Helladic period is the circular or oval one with two cuts on both sides, which allowed it to be more easily wielded when fighting with sword and spear. This shield, sometimes wrongly confused with the figure-of-eight variety, was still utilized during Geometric and Archaic times, and archaeologists generally knew it as the 'Dipylon shield'. Taking this denomination as a reference we can name the Late Helladic variant of this shield a 'proto-Dipylon shield'. This body shield was probably made of several layers of hide sewn onto a wicker frame and sometimes reinforced with metal bosses or plates placed on the shield's external surface and edge.
"The earliest representations of proto-Dipylon shields are from a glass-like pulp from Crete, an ivory pendant from Menidi and a stone sculpture from Mycenae probably dating from LH IIIC. Proto-Dipylon shields are also represented on two pendants from Eutresis in Beotia and from a grave in Athens, both dating from LH IIIC. Although their dimensions cannot be ascertained from this depiction, these were more likely medium-sized shields rather than body shields."
* Grguric ill. McBride 2005 p19
"It is only from that later period that evidence is found for the Mycenaean warrior using footwear. The soldiers depicted on the Warrior Vase have cross-hatching on their feet, suggesting that they are wearing sandals. This is supported by the discovery at Mallia of a model of a sandalled foot."