The most famous of the Greek hoplites were the Spartans. In 690 BC, the Spartan army adopted a military innovation known as the phalanx formation. This new tactic proved successful during the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, when the Greeks defeated the Persians. The Persian archers and light troops who fought in the Battle of Marathon failed, in part, because their bows were too weak for their arrows to penetrate the Greek shields and armor, and their own armor and shields could not stand up to the longer spears and swords of the Greeks.
|ACI Toys ACI-17B 1/6 scale Ancient Greek Hoplite 12-inch figure|
Each hoplite provided his own equipment. Thus, only those who could afford such weaponry fought as hoplites; as with the Roman Republican army it was the middle classes who formed the bulk of the infantry. Equipment was not standardised, although there were doubtless trends in general designs over time, and between city-states. Hoplites had customized armour, the shield was decorated with family or clan emblems, although in later years these were replaced by symbols or monograms of the city states. The equipment might well be passed down in families, since it would have been expensive to manufacture.
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The Hoplite army consisted of heavily armored infantrymen. Their armour, also called panoply, was made of full bronze, weighing nearly 32 kilograms (70 lb). The richer upper-class hoplites typically had a bronze cuirass of either the bell or muscled variety, a bronze helmet with cheekplates, as well as greaves and other armour. Often the helmet was decorated with one, sometimes more horsehair crests, and/or bronze animal horns and ears. Helmets were often painted as well.
The main offensive weapon used was a 2.4–4.5-metre (7.9–14.8 ft) long and 2.5-centimetre (1 in) in diameter spear called a doru, or dory. It was held with the right hand, the other hand holding the hoplite's shield. Soldiers usually held their spears in an underhand position when approaching but once they came into close contact with their opponents, they were held in an overhand position ready to strike. The spearhead was usually a curved leaf shape, while the rear of the spear had a spike called a sauroter ("lizard-killer") which was used to stand the spear in the ground (hence the name).
The sauroter was also used as a secondary weapon if the main shaft snapped, or for the rear ranks to finish off fallen opponents as the phalanx advanced over them. In addition to being used as a secondary weapon, the sauroter also doubled to balance the spear, but not for throwing purposes.
Hoplites carried a large concave shield called an aspis (often referred to as a hoplon) made from wood and covered in bronze, measuring roughly 1 metre in diameter and weighing about 16 pounds. This large shield was made possible partly by its shape, which allowed it to be supported on the shoulder. The revolutionary part of the shield was, in fact, the grip. Known as an Argive grip, it placed the handle at the edge of the shield, and was supported by a leather fastening (for the forearm) at the centre. This allowed the hoplite soldier more mobility with the shield, as well as the ability to capitalize on its offensive capabilities and better support the Phalanx. It rested on a man's shoulders, stretching down the knees. These large shields were designed for pushing ahead and was the most essential equipment for the Hoplites.
ACI Toys ACI-17D 1/6 scale Ancient Greek Hoplites Spartan 12-inch figure. Form your ancient Greek Phalanx to fight your enemies warriors in 1/6 scale ! Form your 300 Sparta heroes to fight the Persian!
Sparta is the most famous city-state which had a unique position in ancient Greece. Contrary to other city states, the free citizens of Sparta served as hoplites their entire life, training and exercising also in peacetime, which gave Sparta a professional standing army. Although small, numbering no more than 1,500 to 2,000 men, divided into six mora or battalions, the Spartan army was feared for its discipline and ferocity. Military service was the primary duty of Spartan men, and Spartan society was organized around its army.
Hoplites also carried a sword, mostly a short sword called a xiphos, but later also longer and heavier types. The short sword was a secondary weapon, used if or when their spears were broken or lost, or if the phalanx broke rank. The xiphos usually had a blade around 60 centimetres (24 in) long, however those used by the Spartans were often only 30–45 centimetres long.
ACI Toys ACI-17C 1/6 scale Ancient Greek Hoplite 12-inch figure (Black Uniform version)
ACI Toys ACI-17A 1/6 scale Ancient Greek Hoplite 12-inch figure (Athenian)