Subject: ὁπλίτης heavy infantry hoplite
Culture: Classical Greek
Setting: late Archaic, Persian wars, Aegean 7th-5thcBC
* Cole 2021 p408
"Here is the myth -- Xerxes I, King of Kings, led an army of a thousand nations to conquer Greece. His army was so vast that resistance seemed futile. Yet 300 brave Spartans, professional killers who knew nothing but war, boldly sallied forth under their king Leonidas to make a stand at Thermopylae, where a mountain peak and the water's edge forced the massive Persian horde to a funnel into a tight space where their numbers would count for little. Weak and effeminate, the Persians could not hope to dislodge the Spartans, who slaughtered them like cattle despite the enormous disparity in numbers. They surely would have held the pass indefinitely if not for the actions of a scurrilous traitor -- Ephialtes (now the Greek word for nightmare), a misshapen hunchback who was too deformed to serve in the Spartan line. Enraged at his rejection, he led the Persians by a hidden path to his countrymen's rear, trapping them in a pincer movement. Seeing that all was lost, the Spartans refused to surrender and bravely died fighting to the last man. Their heroic example inspired the rest of Greece to resist, and was directly responsible for the eventual defeat of Persia at the Battle of Plataea the following year.
"Both the comic and the 2006 film portray this myth with clearly racist and anti-immigrant overtones. 300 makes no effort to beg off its message -- an inspirational paean to 300 brave, muscular, beleaguered white men valiantly holding the entry into western Europe against an invading brown-skinned horde."
* Cole 2021 p58-59
"There's a famous scene in the film 300 where Leonidas is chided by other Greeks for bringing so few warriors with him to the fight. Leonidas responds by asking other Greeks in the defending force their profession. Each gives the answer -- a non-military job such as potter or blacksmith. Leonidas then turns to the Spartans and bellows 'Spartans! What is your profession?' The assembled Peers pump their fists, holding their spears aloft (and making a dog-barking noise that I suspect would have made actual Spartans laugh), showing that while they are few in number, only they are professional soldiers.
"The scene is based on a story by Plutarch from his Life of Agesilaus, chronicling the actions of a Eurypontid king (Leonidas was an Agaid) who wasn't even born until over 30 years after Leonidas was killed. Plutarch's story goes like this:
... wishing to refuse their argument from numbers, [the king] devised the following scheme. He ordered all the allies to site down by themselves, the Spartans sitting apart. Then his herald called upon the potters to stand up first, and after them the smiths, the carpenters next, and the builders, and so on through all the handicrafts. In response, almost all the allies rose up, but not a man of the Spartans; for they were forbidden to learn or practice a manual art. Then Agesilaus said with a laugh: 'You see, O men, how many more soldiers than you we are sending out.'
This fun story was probably false and, like every other aspect of the Bronze Lie, easily shot full of holes. None of the men speaking lists his occupation as 'farmer' although that was the occupation of most hoplites. Also, the Spartan contingent would have consisted not only of Peers, but of perioikoi, which means that Agesilaus would have had plenty of smiths and carpenters of his own. But this doesn't change the fact that among all the Greeks, the Spartans were the only truly disciplined and organized army. That this was made possible by their oppressive, apartheid system of course goes unmentioned."
* Lewellyn-Jones 2022 p255
"Notwithstanding the Western fixation with the story of the 300 Spartans, the Battle of Thermopylae can only be interpreted as a great Persian victory. It was a resounding success for Xerxes' kingship. For the first few days of fighting, the Great King bombarded the Greeks with frontal attacks, wearing them down and overwhelming them with Persia's vast resources. Xerxes' scouts soon found a pathway through the mountains inland and he sent his Immortals to outflank the Greek position. When Leonidas discovered that the Persians were inching closer, he ordered the other Greek forces to withdraw, allowing his Spartans to set themselves up as a rearguard. It was a suicide mission, for certain. Herodotus presents Leonidas' decision to stay and die as a combination of concern for his allies and a heroic desire for kleos -- an immortal glory, like that enjoyed by the Homeric heroes of old. But the main reason he stayed was more practical: the Persians had archers and cavalry, and if all the Greeks retreated and left the pass unguarded, they would be overtaken and butchered. A rearguard was needed to block the path and hold back the enemy while their comrades retreated. The Spartans stayed in place to give the other Greeks some escape time, but the Persians quickly surrounded the Spartan soldiers and slaughtered them to a man. In less than seven days, Xerxes had broken the last barrier that lay between his troops and Athens. He had also killed the Spartan king, a Liar-King who had dared to oppose Xerxes' aim of incorporating Greece into his god-given realm."
* Cole 2021 p84
"[H]ere we should note an incredible irony -- the Spartans' legend was formed by their defeat at Thermopylae in 480 BC. Specifically, they are admired because in the mythic mistelling of the story, just 300 of them faced down an army of many tens of thousands of Persians. Their willingness to fight in the face of such a disparity in numbers is a huge part of their claim to fame. Yet, when we reckon the battles I've just recounted [in the First Messenian War], we see the opposite is true -- the Spartans fought primarily lopsided battles where they outnumbered their enemies and usually lost anyway."
* Morillo/Pavkovic 2006 p83, 85
"Though Hanson's conclusions about Greek tactics, strategy, and especially the development of 'civic militarism' have been questioned by other Greek specialists, ... [w]hat attracted much wider attention and dispute was the claim Hanson built on his examination of Greek hoplite warfare: that the Greeks had established a 'western way of war' characterized by face-to-face combat (as opposed to the more indirect and missile-oriented tactics of 'oriental' warfare) and supported by political-military systems built on citizenship (as opposed to subjection) and a resulting 'civic militarism.' This style, he claimed, remained a constant characteristic of western combat and led to the triumph of western civilization globally. ...
"[...] That Greece and Rome qualify only as 'spiritual ancestors' of modern western powers is a conclusion that necessarily emerges not just from Hanson's omission of Byzantium from the list of western powers, but from the major substantive problem military historians find with Hanson's thesis: the place of the Middle Ages in his argument. Or more accurately, its lack of a place. Hanson posits Greeks as the creators of a continuous, connected tradition of civic militarism that made western powers more effective militarily -- 'more effective killers' -- than their rivals. But no historian of Imperial Rome or of medieval military history would accept Hanson's characterization of western 'civic militarism' as applying to the Roman Empire or medieval Western Europe, nor would the history of Western European military conflict between 400 and 1400 supply much support for the superiority of a 'western way of war.' ... Without continuity between classical Greece and the modern West, Hanson's argument loses much of its force."
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Department of Greek and Roman Art 2000-10 online
As the economic resources of Greek city-states and individuals increased during the seventh century B.C., armies of foot soldiers were formed within the wealthier city-states. Known as hoplites, these soldiers were characteristically equipped with about seventy pounds of armor, most of which was made of bronze. The typical panoply included an eight- to ten-foot thrusting spear with an iron tip and butt, and bronze armor consisting of a helmet, cuirass (chest armor), greaves (shin guards), and a large shield about 30 inches in diameter. The heavy bronze shield, which was secured on the left arm and hand by a metal band on its inner rim, was the most important part of a hoplite’s panoply, as it was his chief defense.
* Cole 2021 p63
"In the classical period, Greek society centered on the polis or city-state. These city-states had this in common -- the military formation of the phalanx was the standard mode for conducting warfare. As we've seen, phalanxes relied on unit cohesion and synchronized movement. Shields had to stay overlapping to prevent fatal gaps in the line from appearing. Hoplites had to move and strike together if their defenses were to hold. The round aspis was designed to protect not only the individual warrior, but the man to his left, even at the expense of exposing the right side of the warrior holding the shield. This style of fighting demands a degree of social equality. You can't have heroes or kings breaking ranks to engage in acts of glory. In phalanx warfare, the opposite is required --fighters must keep ranks and not create fatal gaps by breaking away."
* Museum of Fine Arts > Art of the Ancient World
"Conflicts between Greek city-states were frequent. Soldiers were largely volunteers who fought between March and October, when the weather allowed for easier troop movements. Elite warriors wore up to seventy pounds of equipment, including a thrusting spear with iron tip and butt, iron sword, bronze helmet, bronze chest and back armor, shin guards, and a large, round shield called a hoplon. These heavily armed foot soldiers, called hoplites, were trained to fight in phalanxes (hundreds of men across and eight or more deep), overlapping their shields for protection. Hoplites formed the primary Greek fighting unit for centuries. ..."
* Sage 1996 p29
"The Greek term for this type of heavy armed infantryman is hoplites, which is derived from the word hoplon. Though this word is used in both the singular and plural to signify armor and weapons, it is also occasionally used ... of the great shield which the hoplite bore, and this seems to be its basic meaning in this context. This derivation is further evidence for the connection of this shield to fighting in phalanx formation and so to the link between the equipment and the formation."
* Weapon 2006 p40
"Warfare in Classical Greece was centered around the hoplite, a heavily equipped foot soldier armed with a spear and sword, and protected by a large round shield, bronze helmet, bronze or leather cuirass, and greaves. Hoplites fought closely together, forming a wall of shields in a phalanx that maximized their protection while enabling them to use their spear. The hoplite phalanx was supported by light infantry armed with bows and sling shots."
* Cole 2021 p57
"Hoplite warfare in classical Greece was an entirely amateur affair. You'll note that the formation of the phalanx and the tactics of ōthismos are incredibly simple. Literally anyone could, with minimal training, stand in a block of men, face forward, and push. Simplicity was necessary, because Greek hoplites were necessarily amateurs. The majority of them were farmers, only picking up spear and shield when called to do so on behalf of their polis (city-state)."
* Esposito 2020 p138
"The hoplite was the basic soldier of the Greek armies during the Classical Age and remained the best fighter of Antiquity until the ascendancy of the Hellenistic phalangist introduced by Philip II of Macedonia and Alexander the Great. The hoplite was a heavy infantryman and, more importantly, a citizen who had enough economic resources to buy and maintain in perfect efficiency his full panoply of weapons and armour. The latter was designed for close combat and changed little during the period taken into account, having as its most important component the famous round shield, or hoplon. Generally speaking, the heavy infantry contingents of the hoplites were organized into regiments, or taxeis; these were in turn divided into companies, or lochoi. The number of soldiers making up a single taxis varied for each city, but usually a regiment comprised 1,000 soldiers from ten lochoi; each lochos, in fact, generally comprised 100 hoplites. It should be remembered, however, that despite having a quite rigid organization, the citizen-soldiers of the various poleis were part-time fighters and not professional warriors: after spending a certain period of his young life (generally one or two years) learning how to use weapons and performing basic unit drill, each citizen-soldier was to be recalled on active service only in time of war. While on service, the hoplites were paid by the state; the latter, however, did not provide or replace any element of the panoply. The officers commanding the lochoi were little more professional than their men and generally served only during hostilities. The superior commanders of the regiments, however, were professional soldiers with great experience. In most of the cities, both the junior and senior officers were elected by the men under their command or by political assemblies."
* Withers 2010 p16 = Withers/Capwell 2010 p264
"Infantry foot-soldiers, the ancient Greek hoplites (from the Greek word hoplon, or armour) formed the military backbone of the Greek city states. Hoplites were recruited mainly from the wealthier and fitter middle classes, and bore the financial responsibility to arm themselves. Bronze armour, sword, spear and shield all had to be provided from solely private means. Hoplites were not full-time professional soldiers whose only life was war. They had volunteered to serve their state only in times of war (usually in the summer), and, if they survived, would return afterwards to their civilian roles. The hoplite was a true manifestation of the classical Greek ideal of shared civic responsibility."
* Dougherty 2010 p118
"The citizen-soldier system used by the Greek city-states allowed large numbers of troops to be raised quickly by a general muster, and at little cost to the government. However, it was not possible to deliver much training to a volunteer force of this nature, and the economic disruption of a long campaign would be disastrous. As a result, a quintessentially Greek form of warfare arose. This worked very well against others who also played by the same rules, and against any opponent foolish enough to try to tackle the phalanx head-on. Indeed, the only formation able to survive the onslaught of the phalanx was another phalanx of comparable size.
"This form of warfare was eminently suitable for resolving disputes between city-states, who all adopted similar tactics to each other. When conflict arose with outsiders, however, or when a commander deviated from the conventional form of warfare, the weaknesses of the system were made apparent.
"Service as a hoplite was a matter of social standing, and a man's conduct in battle had a major influence on his civilian life. Being part of a phalanx that was defeated was not too shameful, as more or less the entire male population of the city had shared in the defeat, but a hoplite who dropped his shield to flee was shamed in the eyes of his peers."
Helmets (Corinthian, Chalcidian, Illyrian)
* Esposito 2020 p188
"The Corinthian, Chalcidian, and Attic helmets were all linked together and were part of a common evolutionary process that started during the Greek Dark Ages. At the same time, in addition to the Corinthian one, another kind of helmet was also developed: the Illyrian helmet. This evolved from the so-called Kegelhelm (a cone- or skittle-shaped helmet) produced during the Archaic period in Central Europe and brought into the southern Balkans by the Illyrians."
* Warry 1980 p44-45
"Greek Hoplite Helmets The evolution of the hoplite and his equipment engendered two main types of bronze helmet, known today as the 'Corinthian' and 'Illyrian.' Such helmets were prized possessions and often passed from father to son. The Corinthian was produced by beating metal over a stake and tailor-made so as to be very close fitting. On pottery and sculpture these helmets usually appear with crests, but a close study reveals that in practice a large number lacked them. Crests were usually made of horsehair set in wood, rather like a broom. As horsehair is difficult to dye, the bristles were normally left unstained; black, white and chestnut were common natural colours. Little is known about helmet linings but it is believed that felt may have been glued inside. What is certain is that skull-caps of felt or wool were worn, to keep hair in position and perhaps as padding."
* Sekunda/Hook 2000 p11
"The helmet ... was not expected to ward off all blows: strength was sacrificed for lightness and reasonable all-over protection. Hoplites used several varieties of close-helmet which must have seriously restricted hearing and vision. The inside was sometimes lined with fabric, but lacked the strap suspension system found in modern helmets. Blows to the head must have frequently resulted in injury. Hoplites are normally shown wearing nothing under the helmet, though occasional representations show that a cloth headband, or caps of various styles, were often worn for comfort. Homer (Il. 10.258) terms the leather cap worn in battle kataityx, but we do not know if this term was used later for 'cap-comforters' of this type.
"The brightly dyed horsehair crests attached to Greek helmets were mainly designed to make the hoplite appear taller and more imposing. In the classical period, when the concept of uniform began to develop, the crest also served as a badge of rank." [reference omitted]
* Wilkinson 1971 p13
"Since most of these helmets made it impossible to recognize the wearer, it became the custom to fit the helmet with a crest. Some were of beaten bronze and took the form of 'ears', great, sweeping curves, or simpler shapes; others were fashioned from horsehair."
* Capwell 2007 p9
"The two main types of Ancient Greek helmet are referred to as 'Corinthian' and 'Illyrian' -- after the places where their designs are thought to have come from -- but both styles were commonly used throughout Ancient Greece.
"[....] Corinthian and Illyrian helmets often had decorative crests. These were made of horsehair bristles set in a wooden base, and glued onto the top of the helmet (Illyrian helmets usually have two parallel ridges on the skull to help hold the crest in place). They could be multi-coloured, with the horsehair left natural or dyed red or black, and the bases elaborately painted. Crested helmets gave their wearers a striking appearance -- at once intimidating and heroic."
* Shepherd 2019 p26-37
"It is natural to visualise ancient Greece in the smooth tones and textures of marble and bronze, or the limited red-white-black palette of the vase painters. But analysis of traces of pigments and advanced imaging have revealed that marble sculptures were brightly painted to represent a much more colourful world. Helmets, for example, were highly decorated. The decoration may have been applied to a cover of fabric or leather, surfaces more receptive to paint than bronze, or leather or wood could have been used in the helmet's construction to create a composite alternative. This may explain why very few examples of the Chalcidian type have been found in Greece in contrast to its frequent depiction and the relative profusion of surviving solid-bronze Corinthian helmets."
* Coggins 1966 p20
"The main weapon was a heavy spear, some ten feet in length, which was used as a thrusting and not as a missile weapon. From a mention in the Anabasis of an Asiatic spear 'having but one spike' it may be inferred that the Greek spear had two -- the spearhead proper, and a spike on the end of the butt for planting it in the ground."
* Sage 1996 p26
"The major offensive weapon was the heavy thrusting spear, between six and one half and ten feet (two to three meters) in length. It had a heavy iron head and a butt spike both for supporting the spear in the ground at rest and as a secondary weapon in case the point was broken off. This did in fact tend to happen."
* Shepherd 2019 p35-36
"The hoplite spear (doru) was 1.8-2.4m long and weighed 1.0-1.5kg. Ash and cornel (a type of dogwood) were preferred for the shaft, which was approximately 2.5cm in diameter but tapered a little from the butt. Some spares were probably taken on campaign and later sources mention that spokeshaves were carried to shape replacements made from foraged timber. The leaf-shaped head was made of iron, sometimes bronze, and 20-30cm in length. The butt was tipped with a metal spike, generally square in section, known as the 'lizard killer' (sauroter). Its name and the square punctures found in some cuirass remains may support speculation that it was used as a secondary weapon when the head broke off or the shaft fractured, or for conveniently stabbing down on fallen enemies as the battle line rolled forward. Less dramatically, this spike reinforced the shaft against splitting down its length, counterbalanced the head and added to the weapon's mass; and it was useful for sticking the spear upright in the ground. The point of balance, where the spear was head in the right hand for action, was nearer the butt than the tip and bindings of twine or leather to improve grip are depicted in vase paintings. Practical experiments have demonstrated that both overarm and underarm thrusts could pierce a shield or body armour but this is undoubtedly easier to achieve in laboratory conditions than in battle and perhaps the extensive literature on this topic places too much emphasis on the possible nature of the 'kill shot'. Wounding, even if it was not immediately disabling, throwing one's opponent off-balance or simply forcing him back could all disrupt the enemy formation and, cumulatively, bring on a rout. The ability to drive the spear-point into any area of flesh unprotected by shield or armour may have been more highly valued than the strength and technique required to penetrate a shield or armour with a thrust."
* Matyszak 2017 p118-119
"The main offensive weapon of a warrior in the battle line was his spear. This was for stabbing rather than throwing, since it was unmanly for any hoplite, let alone a Spartiate, to face his enemy other than face-to-face. The weapon was around 2.5m (8ft) in length. The shaft was usually of ash and tipped with a broad, leaf-shaped steel blade that was sharpened to a razor edge. The other end also had a smaller sharpened point (the 'lizard-killer') that served as a counter-weight and as an extra spear-point should the working end of the weapon get broken off. It has been theorized that this could also be used to finish off a wounded enemy with a downward stab as the victorious phalanx rolled over him. This seems rather a stretch, as a hoplite hurrying forward would more probably simply step over or around a fallen enemy and leave him to the light troops following up behind.
"A more common, and more practical usage of the pointed butt-end would have been to stick it into the ground when the warrior had no immediate use for his spear. Not only was the 2.5kg weight (5.5lbs) burdensome when added to the rest of a hoplite's gear, but the weapon's length made it cumbersome to carry around, while the very sharp edge to the main spear-blade made the thing a hazard if left lying on the ground at ankle height. Impaling the spear into the ground with the blade above head height made a lot more sense.
"In the phalanx the doru's sharp butt-end must have been a definite hazard to those behind the hoplite. Some careful positioning was needed if the man at the front was not to stab the man behind as he drew back his spear for a thrust. Furthermore, the spear was usually held in the 'trail carry' position while the army was not in actual combat -- that is the weapon was carried at knee height with an extended arm. Moving to the fighting position involved bringing the spear up so that it was held higher than the shield with the back end extending over the shoulder. Getting from position A to B required a lot of drill practice as this manoeuvre had to be performed in a tight formation of closely-packed men with an unwieldy length of wood that had a sharp point at each end.
"Once in battle position, the spear was a formidable weapon. Modern tests have shown that the overhead stab was capable of driving the point clear through a human torso, shattering the ribs as it went by. The edge of the large stabbing blade could also give a vicious slash. Re-enactors have discovered a further advantage of using the doru rather than a sword. A sword involves several kilograms of steel held at the full extension of the arm. Even with considerable practice, using a sword in battle is a very tiring exercise that cannot be sustained for more than several minutes without the need for a rest."
* Cole 2021 p430
"dory a roughly 7-9 foot thrusting spear with a leaf-shaped iron head and a bronze butt spike called a saurōtēr. Usually made of ash. It is sometimes called a doru."
* Wilkinson 1971 p11
"Earlier spears were for thrusting, leaving close combat to be decided by swords."
* Cassin-Scott 1977 p37
"A long spear was often used which had a head at either end; when the shaft was broken the weapon could be reversed and the fight continued."
* Weapon 2006 p40
"The spear was the hoplite's principal weapon, his short iron sword only being used if his spear was broken during fighting."
* Esposito 2020 p189
"The hoplite's main weapon was his spear, the dory, which was 2-3 metres long, with both its head and butt made of iron. The blade of the head was leaf-shaped, while the spike placed at the butt end was very thin and could be used to strike as well as to fix the spear into the ground."
* Sage 1996 p30
"This is the main offensive weapon of the classical phalanx. But it is clear that it had its limitations. In the tremendous onrush of opposing formations it was often shattered. Numerous holes in extant pieces of armor dedicated at Olympia and elsewhere show that it could be effective in piercing the corselet. It appears that the spear was thrust overhand with the main targets being the unprotected neck and genitals of the opponent."
* Cole 2021 p40
"The hoplite was also armed with a sword, usually either a straight, leaf-bladed xiphos that was sharp on both sides, or a curved, cleaver-like kopis that was sharp only on one, each approximately 1-2 feet long."
* Matyszak 2017 p120-121
"The doru was the weapon of choice in a phalanx battle line. However, outside the battle line the spear was little more than a cumbersome nuisance. In the ad hoc infantry skirmishes of informal warfare, a sword was invaluable. A swordsman did not need an organized squad formed about him to be effective, so a hoplite on patrol or sentry duty would have relied on his sword.
"Those who believe that a sword is best swung lustily for maximum effect would have been fans of the kopis, which was basically a machete optimized for killing people. The heavy blade was widest towards the tip, and often had a slight crook to give extra impetus toa slash. Because the blade was one-edged, the pommel was asymmetrical, allowing it to be better modelled for a secure grip.
"Both the kopis and the xiphos were made from a single piece of metal with the grips of the pommel fitted to a metal tang which extended to become the actual blade. The blade was around 60cm (2ft) long, though longer and shorter examples were readily available depending on the preference of the individual and his armourer.
"The xiphos was double-edged and suited to a more practised style of fighting which allowed a thrust to go with the cut for which the kopis was optimized. The advantage of a stabbing blade is that it allowed a man to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with similarly-trained companions, and a thrust is harder to block than a slash. It comes as no surprise then that the Spartans seem to have preferred the xiphos.
"Both swords were about the same weight (around 1kg or 2.5lbs), although the xiphos could be lighter as it could also be shorter and still effective. The apocryphal Spartan mother probably gave her son a xiphos when she was preparing him for combat. When the lad observed that the blade was somewhat on the short side, his mother laconically advised, 'stand closer'."
* Esposito 2020 p189-190
"Each hoplite used his sword only when his spear was broken in combat, so it could be consider as [SIC] a secondary weapon. The Greek soldiers of the Classical period used two different models of sword, both short and made of iron: the Kopis and the Xiphos. The Kopis was a heavy cutting sword with a forward-curving blade that was single-edged. One-handed, it had a blade length of 48-65cm, which pitched forward towards the point and was concave on the part located nearest to the hilt. The peculiar re-curved shape of the Kopis made it capable of delivering a blow with the same power as an axe. A peculiar version of the Kopis, known as the Machaira, also existed: this had all the same features as the former, but its blade was not recurved. The Kopis was particularly appreciated as a cavalry weapon, due to the peculiar shape of its blade, while the Machaira was primarily an infantry sword. The universal sword of the hoplites, however, was without doubt the Xiphos, a one-handed and double-edged short sword with a straight blade that measured between 45cm and 60cm. It usually had a midrib and was diamond or lenticular in cross-section. The Xiphos had quite a long point and thus was an excellent thrusting weapon specifically designed for close combat."
* Ashdown 1909 p28
"The sword continued to be of the leaf-like form which prevailed in the Bronze Age, and was longer than the Roman sword of the following era. At the same time a sword was in use which was the prototype of the subsequent weapon: it had a long, straight blade slightly tapering from the hilt to the point, where it was cut to an acute angle for thrusting. A central ridge traversed both sides of the blade, and it was double-edged. Upon these swords and their scabbards a wealth of decoration was lavished by the Greeks."
* Dougherty 2010 p124
"The hoplite's sword was a back-up weapon for use in close combat. It had a leaf-shaped blade, concentrating the weight of the weapon for a heavy blow. Hoplites received no sword training, so their fighting style tended to be vigorous rather than skilful [sic]."
* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/LaRocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1989 p20-21 (Peter Connolly, "Greece and Rome" p20-29)
"The hoplite sword had a double-edged blade about 24 ins/60 cm long, waisted just below the hilt and then widening gradually, reaching its maximum width just over two-thirds of the way down and then tapering to a point. The tang was flat and very similar to its Bronze Age predecessor, being a complete cross-section of the hilt. The grip was formed by sandwiching the tang between two pieces of bone or wood and covering them, totally or partially, with a thin sheet of metal. The hoplite sword was essentially a slashing weapon, though some examples have long points and could have been very effective cut-and -thrust weapons, and was worn slung from a baldric over the right shoulder so that it hung almost horizontally on the left hip. "The hoplite sword, carried by Greek colonists throughout the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, was adopted by many indigenous peoples. In Italy it was almost universally accepted and remained in use until the Romans adopted the 'Spanish' sword in the third century BC."
* Withers 2010 p17 = Withers/Capwell 2010 p265
"There is great irony in noting that the most successful sword design of the Ancient World was developed by the Greeks, who were ostensibly spearmen. The sword was never regarded as a main battle weapon and played a purely secondary role. Once the spears had been thrown or lost in battle, swords were then engaged to finish the conflict in a decisive manner.
"The main battle sword of the ancient Greek military was the xiphos. Introduced around 800-400BC, it comprised a straight, double-edged, leaf-shaped blade of around 65cm (25.6in), and was particularly effective at slashing and stabbing."
* Wilkinson 1971 p14
"By the sixth century B.C. most troops were carrying a short sword in a sheath below the left arm."
* Cassin-Scott 1977 p37
"The short thrusting sword was carried hanging from a leather strap over the right shoulder."
* Sage 1996 p26
"As secondary armament, the hoplite carried a short stabbing sword useful for close fighting."
* Sage 1996 p30
"The sword was a secondary weapon that was used if the spear was unserviceable."
* Cole 2021 p435
"xiphos a short, leaf-bladed sword"
* Coggins 1966 p20
"The shield was no longer the clumsy ankle length affair of Homeric days but was now round, some three feet or more in diameter. It was deeply dished and was held by a strap through which the left forearm passed, with a leather grip for the hand."
* Esposito 2020 p183-184
"The Greek hoplites derived their name from the most important element of their personal equipment, the hoplon round shield. Also known as the Argive shield, its introduction during the last decades of the Greek Dark Ages marked the beginning of the so-called hoplite revolution. This kind of shield, differently from the previous ones that had been employed in mainland Greece during the Mycenaean period, was quite convex and had a reinforced rim. In addition, it had an innovative grip that made its used particularly effective. This consisted of an arm band fitted to the centre of the shield on the back; the hoplite put his left forearm through the band and thus the shield was easily fastened. This simple but innovative system was completed by the presence of a strap, acting as a handgrip, near the rim. This was grasped with the left hand by the hoplite and made the danger of losing the shield unlikely, even during harsh close combat. These basic characteristics of the Argive shield, together with its dimensions -- 80-100cm in diameter, covering a hoplite from the chin to the knee -- made possible the introduction of hoplite tactics. Half of the hoplon always protruded beyond the left hand side of its user and thus could protect the right-hand side of the hoplite fighting next to him. If the hoplites were well trained, and a soldier had a good degree of coordination with the two comrades fighting on his sides, the phalanx worked perfectly as an impenetrable wall of shields.
"Each shield was made of hardwood and was covered with bronze or ox-hide on the external surface. The rim and arm band were made of bronze, while all the other fittings attached to the back of it, including the hand grip, were made of rawhide or felt. The back of the shield was lined with leather. The standard weight of a hoplon was about 7kg. The external surface could be painted with an infinite variety of symbols and decorations: these could be individual designs, reflecting the personal taste of a single hoplite, or collective ones that included the specific symbols of a particular clan, military unit or city. Over time, as individualism became a secondary factor in Greek warfare, city emblems became the most popular shield devices, generally consisting of the city's initial, such as alpha for Athens and lambda for Sparta (the Spartans called themselves Lakedaimonians). Other cities preferred using religious or traditional symbols, like the famous Club of Herakles for Thebes, Herakles being considered as the founder of the city. Animals (both real and fantastic), geometric patterns and everyday objects were also popular subjects. Sometimes the shield motifs were made of bronze and were painted before being applied on the external surface of the hoplon."
* Cole 2021 p38-39
"The hoplite's principal piece of equipment was his aspis, a round, bronze-faced, wooden shield nearly 3 feet in diameter. The shield's grip was revolutionary for its time -- instead of a central handle inside the shield's protruding center or 'boss,' the aspis used an 'Argive' grip (named for the ancient Greek city-state of Argos). This grip consisted of a bronze loop (the porpax) through which the warrior passed his arm up to the elbow. He then grasped the antilabē, a handle of leather or cord attached to the inside of the shield's right rim. This created tension between the elbow and hand, providing greater stability to, and control over, the shield. These shields were heavy, at least 16 pounds for lighter versions, but they were deeply convex, allowing the warrior to rest the upper lip on his shoulder so that his skeleton could take the weight."
* Matyszak 2017 p117-118
"The aspis -- the hoplite shield -- is known today as the Argive shield. However, this type of shield did not originate in Argos but among the northern tribes which invaded Greece in the Dark Ages. The same tribes invaded Italy, which is why contemporary warriors there appear to have borne the same shields.
"The shield was between 80cm and 100cm wide. It was circular, and had a grip in the middle. Originally this grip was an embedded hand grip, as the Roman shield continued to be. In Greece by the sixth century the hoplite shield grip was designed so the the forearm slipped through it, and the hand actually clasped a band at the side of the shield. Thus the shield not only protected each warrior from throat to knees, but also projected beyond his body to give cover to the man on the warrior's left.
"Victorious generals had a habit of dedicating their shields after a successful battle. Therefore enough shields have been retrieved from Delphi, Olympia, and other sacred sites to give us a good idea of their design and manufacture -- especially as we frequently see the final product portrayed in detail on Greek vases.
"It seems that the original shield was made from strips of wood, preferably a close-grained wood such as oak. These strips were overlaid in different layers, rather like modern plywood, so that they did not split across the grain when struck. A bronze rim was hammered on to the shield, or in some cases the entire shield was faced in a thin layer of bronze. The bronze rim made the shield a useful extempore offensive weapon, as the edge could be slammed into throats or exposed limbs if the opportunity presented itself."
* Shepherd 2019 p35
"The classic shield (aspis) was constructed by gluing a number of wooden planks together to form a disk and shaping this into its shallow bowl-shape by turning it on a rudimentary lathe. Willow or poplar (salicaceous varieties) seem to have been favoured for their capacity to absorb impact without splitting, and sheet bronze was used to add resilience around the rim or over the whole surface, and for decorative effect. Unfortunately, very few examples of the woodwork have survived, but the best shields were probably laminated with the grain running at different angles in successive layers for greater strength. Earlier shields had a central handgrip. The larger kind was supported by a baldric; smaller, lighter shields were held out at arm's length. The hoplite shield is thought to have weighed in the region of 7kg. It was carried on the left arm by means of a central armband and a leather or cord grip on the inside rim, and was also supported by resting the upper rim on the left shoulder in a side-on fighting stance similar to the present day boxer's 'orthodox' position. Hoplites therefore did not fight 'shoulder to shoulder' in a literal sense, and for the hand-to-hand tactics of the early 5th century it may have been generally less important for shields to touch, let alone interlock, than for the arcs covered by each man's spear to overlap with those covered by his two immediate neighbours."
* Dougherty 2010 p124
"The hoplite's shield, or hoplon, was made of wood with a bronze facing. It was backed with leather and held by a grip, with the arm going through a strap for additional support."
* Snodgrass 1999 p53
"[T]he most important single item in the panoply of the hoplite, from which indeed he took his name, was the great round shield or hoplon. It was much larger than the round shield of the preceding era: the regular diameter is about three feet, and one exceptional example was found to be nearly four feet across. The shape is gently convex, except that the rim is usually flat. The basic material was wood, reinforced with bronze. The whole shield sometimes had a bronze facing, and the rim was invariably faced with bronze, usually with a repousse cable-decoration. On the inner side was a bronze strip, sometimes short but more often running right across the shield, and bowed out in the middle to form a loop through which the left forearm was passed, up to just below the elbow. The arm-band, or porpax as the Greeks called it, was a new invention and peculiar in this kind of shield. At the edge of the shield -- the right-hand edge as seen from inside -- was a handle, the antilabe, a leather thong which was gripped by the left hand. This two-handled arrangement had many advantages: it helped to relieve the great weight of the shield, it enabled the soldier to release the antilabe, and it made it possible to hold the shield rigidly in an oblique position so that the enemy's weapons would glance off it. The telamon, or sling, for the heavy shield had finally been abandoned, which meant that the shield could no longer be left to hang from the back; this mattered especially on those regrettable occasions when the hoplite had to flee" ....
* Klučina/Pevný 1997 p24-25
"The most important piece [of Greek hoplite armor] was a large, round, slightly bulged shield, which protected the warrior from neck to midthigh. The shield's exterior was bronze, its center was wooden, and its interior was lined with leather. A metal grip, often ornamented, hung from the inside of the shield, which was meant to fit the warrior's forearm comfortably. On the interior of the shield, a cord was usually strung from one side to the other. This cord allowed a marching soldier to carry his shield on his shoulders. The shield, or aspis, was painted with a symbol known as an episema. Sometimes this as an embossed decoration made of metal. A popular episema was the head of the Gorgon."
* Ashdown 1909 p28
"The great shield of the Heroic Age gave place to a round or oblong shield reaching only to the knee; it was concave to the body, and appears to have been decorated as a general rule: one invariable ornament was a flat band or border round the circumference. This shield was the true battle-shield of the heavily-armed hoplites."
* Cole 2021 p429
"aspis one of the hoplite's main pieces of equipment. A deeply convex, round shield roughly three feet in diameter with an offset rim that could be used to hang the weight of it on the hoplite's shoulder. Made of wood and sometimes faced with bronze, and held with an 'Argive grip.'"
* Esposito 2020 p185
"During the period 550-500BC, the bell cuirass declined in popularity and was rapidly substituted with the new muscle cuirass, the external surface of which was sculpted with great detail in order to perfectly reproduce the anatomy of the torso. The new model of cuirass could be quite short, reaching the waist, or long enough to cover the abdomen. The new muscle also consisted of two separate plates made of bronze, but these were joined together at the sides and at the shoulders with hinges, with one half of the hinge attached to the front plate and the other half to the back plate. Usually there were six hinges on each cuirass: two on each side and one for each shoulder. On either side of each hinge there was a ring that was used to pull the two plates of the cuirass together. Generally speaking, the muscle cuirass was worn on a very large scale during the Persian Wars, but by 450BC it was no longer the most common model of body protection."
* Cole 2021 p37
"[L]ightening of armor is a trend we see beginning to accelerate in the 6th century BC, as bronze body armor began to be replaced with cuirasses made of layers of glued linen (linothorax), or leather (spolas), which were lighter, breathable and more flexible. The linen or leather body armor would often be fitted with a kilt made of two layers of linen or leather flaps called pteryges ('feathers') that provided protection for the groin, buttocks and upper thighs. This new body armor possibly came into fashion as a reaction to the Greek experience of fighting Persian archers, which highlighted the need to close with the enemy quickly to limit the number of shots he could get off. It's interesting to not that during this period, the first armored foot race (hoplitodromos) was introduced in the Olympic Games, possibly as the Greeks strove to increase their ability to run in armor so that they could close with enemy archers.
"A brief aside to note that some scholars dispute whether linen cuirasses were ever used and insist instead that the leather spolas body armor was commonly worn. It's an ongoing debate that I won't take a side in, and both camps present compelling evidence.
"The bronze cuirass began with a distinctive bell shape in two pieces (breastplate and backplate), including a flaring lip over the hips. In the early 5th century BC, this was replaced with a two-piece bronze cuirass that got rid of the flaring lip, and included cutaways over the hips to allow for more freedom of movement. These new cuirasses were frequently embossed to mimic the muscles of a fit man."
* Sekunda/Hook 2000 p11
"The hoplite of the early 5th century BC used two types of cuirass: the muscle cuirass and the composite cuirass. The muscle cuirass is so-called because the bronze breast- and back-plates were modelled to imitate the musculature of the torso. It developed out of the Archaic 'bell-cuirass', named after the flange which flared outwards below the waist like the mouth of a bell. This flange disappeared in the Classical period and the muscle-cuirass curves down to cover the groin.
"The composite cuirass is so-called because it was constructed from composite materials, normally scales or plates made of iron or bronze, often covered with leather or linen to prevent rusting. ... References to linen or leather armour perhaps refer to composite cuirasses covered with these materials, though armour made exclusively from layers of hardened leather or linen may also have been used."
* Coggins 1966 p19
"A metal cuirass -- breast and backplates, hinged at one side and suspended from the shoulders by a thick leather strap -- or a heavy leather tunic protected the body down to the waist.
"There seems to be some difference of opinion about the body armor of the hoplite. Boutell, in his Arms and Armour, states flatly that the body defense consisted only of a leather tunic, and that the metal cuirass was worn only by horsemen. A passage from the Anabasis might bear this out. When Xenophon, taunted by a hoplite, dismounted and took the fellow's place in the ranks 'he happened to have on his horseman's corselet, so that he was distressed,' as if it was not normal to march in such harness. Certainly, vase paintings show body armor, much of it depicted as being molded to fit the body, and so presumably of metal (although a cuirass of molded leather would appear the same)."
* Wilkinson 1971 p13
"Body armor was used extensively by the Greeks and ranged from fairly simple arrangements of plates to skillfully shaped corselets fitting closely to the body."
* Shepherd 2019 p37
"If wearing body armour the hoplite's chest and back were protected by the traditional bronze 'muscle' thorax or the more recently developed composite corslet, sometimes referred to as the linothorax (linen corslet). The former was more expensive in terms of both materials and of the craftsmanship involved in working the metal and tailoring it exactly to its owner's measurement. It is clear from the evidence of vase paintings and sculpture that the composite corslet was widely used in the Persian War and that it had begun to supersede the bronze cuirass a few decades earlier in the 6th century. The base material is thought to have been hardened leather or layers of fabric glued together or a combination of both. Linen was one of the fabrics used but Herodotus' four references to armour made of it suggest that, as far as the Hellenes were concerned, it was costly and exotic and therefore not for the rank and file. In addition to its relative cheapness, if linen was not used, and ease of manufacture, the composite corslet had other important advantages: at 4-7kg it probably weighed significantly less than the most solid bronze examples; it was cooler to fight in and more comfortable than all but the best-fitting bronze armour; and its flexibility and design probably allowed one size to be adjusted to fit a reasonable range of body measurements. Some illustrations appear to show reinforcement in the form of small metal scales or plates, riveted or sewn on, or sandwiched between layers of leather or fabric as in the medieval brigandine coat. Practical experiments using pre-industrial materials have shown that the linen alone, glued in layers, is as resistant to pointed and edged weapons as 2mm bronze plate, and that hardened leather also stands up well. However, although the composite corslet could be as resilient as the best bronze cuirass and could have been significantly lighter and less costly to manufacture, body armour was largely phased out in Hellene armies as the 5th century progressed, along with the closed or semi-closed types of helmet, in an evolution comparable to that in 20th-century tank design with its trade-offs between mobility, protection, and striking power."
* Dougherty 2010 p124
"Solid metal breastplates were used by some hoplites. Others wore a cuirass reinforced with metal scales around the body. Greek armour was designed to allow free movement of the hips, permitting hoplites to run into action if necesssary."
* Matyszak 2017 p124
"One advantage that the leather and bronze types of cuirass gave was that they made the wearer look absolutely splendid. As Socrates once pointed out to an armourer, it was possible to get 'form-fitting' armour that nevertheless made an ugly body look like an Apollo. Not for nothing are some of these designs knowns as the 'muscle cuirass'. Armourers carefully sculpted the armour to make the wearer appear to have a narrow waist with magnificently wide muscular shoulders and intimidating pectorals. This was important to the average Greek warrior, who prepared for battle as carefully as a modern teenage girl for a party. It would never do for a warrior to go into battle looking anything less than his best."
* McDonnell-Staff 2012 p24 caption (describing a Corinthian krater, mid sixth century BC)
"The depiction of heroic nudity combines well with the historical protective capability of the hoplite's aspis. Wearing nothing but helmet and greaves, the bodies of warriors shown here are well protected by their shields."
* Sekunda/Hook 1998 p20
"Representations show, and texts describe, men doing dirty work like ploughing, sowing or potting naked. Athletic nudity may have been ritual in origin. At the start of the Archaic period light clothes were worn during athletic exercise, but they were eventually discarded completely. The rigours of warfare -- marching and fighting in heavy armour often under the summer sun -- were hardly less demanding than those of sport and physical training. Nor was warfare of less ritual significance than sport. When we see representations of Spartans fighting without a tunic, we should not dismiss them as being 'artistic' or 'heroising': undoubtedly some are, but nudity in Greek art is, more often than not, a depiction of reality."
* Ask Us 2011 p23
"Nakedness was an expression of intellectual independence and democracy, especially during 480 to 330 BCE. One might almost say that nudity then was akin to wearing a particular brand of blue jeans today, a kind of democratic uniform that especially confident and well-bred young men from the upper classes chose to wear.
"The naked body was the response of the privileged, intellectual Greeks to the more common peoples' habit of displaying their wealth in rich array. ... Perfect bodies like these were the aesthetic ideal. Older and less perfect bodies were, for the Greeks, associated with slaves, foreigners and satyrs ...."
* Garrison 2000 p179-182
"More than a form of art, male nudity became a form of costume displayed by a social elite, as Larissa Bonfante has shown. ... [P]erhaps under the influence of pictorial conventions that displayed male nudes as early as the time of Homer, a curious inversion of social custom developed in the Archaic period when young aristocrats adopted nudity as a form of social display. Exercising regularly outdoors in the nude, they developed deep tans and conspicuous muscles. Well protected by their social rank, they were fearless of physical attack by an enemy; the safety from enemies thus implied was a proclamation of solidarity within the class to which these kalokagathoi and their admirers belonged. These were the 'beautiful people' of their age, honored by the kalos dedications on red-figure ware .... As for the traditional shame of nakedness, honi soi qui mal y pense. It has been argued that phallic display was a gesture of masculine ascendancy over women, and it follows that where nudity is an exclusive privilege of males, women would indeed be subordinated. But such an argument, I believe, overlooks the meaning of the display. It is not directed against women, who were already thoroughly subordinated to men, but against outsiders, non-Greeks as well as any fellow citizens who were not privileged to exercise in the palaestra, develop well-balanced muscles, and keep their bodies clean and oiled."
* Weapon 2006 p42
"Showing the hoplites without clothing aside from their armor is only an artistic convention." [CONTRA McDonnell-Staff 2012 p24, Sekunda/Hook 1998 p20, Ask US 2011 p23, Garrison 2000 p179-182]
* Laver 1982 p34
"The artists of the classical revival in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were persuaded -- no doubt by the numerous nude statues in museums -- that the Ancient Greeks went into battle naked, armed only with a sword, a shield and a helmet. In reality the Greek warriors protected themselves with tunics of leather reinforced with metal plaques, and wore greaves on their legs." [CONTRA McDonnell-Staff 2012 p24, Sekunda/Hook 1998 p20, Ask US 2011 p23, Garrison 2000 p179-182]
* Matyszak 2017 p125
"Greaves were a sort of footless metal sock that came to just below the knee. Preferably made from brass, some greaves clamped onto the leg once the springy sides had been opened from the back. Other designs used straps and buckles. All had some form of felt padding within as their main purpose was to protect the bones below the knee which lie just under the skin and are vulnerable to impact.
"Greaves, like almost all other parts of the panoply apart from shield, spear and helmet, were optional. They were most popular among hoplites fighting irregular troops who used missile weapons such as arrows or javelins. Once the battle lines met, most of a warrior's lower extremities were safe from the doru, but in the preliminaries a hoplite in the front ranks might certainly appreciate protection for his vulnerable shins.
"There are depictions of warriors choosing to wear only a single greave on the advanced leg. While this saves on weight and expense, re-enactors report that it takes considerable practice to be able to march comfortably with such an arrangement."
* Stone 1934 p364
"KNEMIDES. The Greek greaves." [reference omitted]
* Weapon 2006 p41 caption
"The hoplite's large shield protected the lower abdomen and thighs, but to protect his knees and shins, he wore a pair of bronze greaves. The greaves shown here are sufficiently light and flexible that they could be 'clipped on' over the soldier's calves without the need for leather straps."
* Coggins 1966 p20
"The legs were protected by greaves, long enough to cover the knee but so formed as to restrict the action of knee and ankle as little as possible. These leg defenses appear to have been made to conform to the shape of the leg -- fitting the calf so perfectly that no straps or buckles were necessary."
* Esposito 2020 p186
"The body protection of a hoplite was usually completed by a pair of bronze greaves, which also covered the knees and were usually worn together with sandals, bu could also be used by soldiers who went to the field of battle barefoot."
* Bennett 1998 p132
"[T]he full greave, covering the leg from the knee to just above the ankle, developed in Greece as part of the hoplite armour."
* Wilkinson 1971 p13
"From earliest times the Greek warrior used close-fitting, bronze greaves to protect the lower part of his legs."
Cups/Bottles (Kantharos, Kylix, Oinochoe, Rhyton)