Hoplite

A Greek hoplite
Hoplite, 5th century
Hoplites shown in two attack positions, with both an underhand thrust and an overhand prepared to be thrown
Phalanx fighting on a black-figure amphora, c. 560 BC. The hoplite phalanx is a frequent subject in ancient Greek art
Probable Spartan hoplite (Vix crater, c. 500 BC).
Hoplite armour exhibit from the Archaeological Museum of Corfu. Note the gold inserts around the chest area of the iron breastplate at the centre of the exhibit. The helmet on the upper left is a restored version of the oxidised helmet on the right.
Stele of Aristion, heavy-infantryman or hoplite. 510 BC. Top of helmet and pointed beard missing.
Armour of an ancient Athenian Hoplite
Athenian cavalryman Dexileos fighting a naked Peloponnesian hoplite in the Corinthian War. Dexileos was killed in action near Corinth in the summer of 394 BC, probably in the Battle of Nemea, or in a proximate engagement. Grave Stele of Dexileos, 394-393 BC.
Chigi Vase with Hoplites holding javelins and spears
Hoplites on an aryballos from Corinth, c. 580–560 BC (Louvre)
Crouching warrior, tondo of an Attic black-figure kylix, c. 560 BC (Staatliche Antikensammlungen)
Achaemenid king killing a Greek hoplite. Circa 500 BC–475 BC, at the time of Xerxes I. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Spartan hoplite. (Image from Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration, before 1910)
Paintings of Ancient Macedonian soldiers, arms, and armaments, from the tomb of Agios Athanasios, Thessaloniki in Greece, 4th century BC
Etruscan warrior, found near Viterbo, Italy, dated circa 500 BC.

Hoplites ( : hoplítēs) were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with spears and shields.

- Hoplite
A Greek hoplite

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Sumerian phalanx-like formation c. 2400 BC, from detail of the victory stele of King Eannatum of Lagash over Umma, called the Stele of the Vultures

Phalanx

Rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar pole weapons.

Rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar pole weapons.

Sumerian phalanx-like formation c. 2400 BC, from detail of the victory stele of King Eannatum of Lagash over Umma, called the Stele of the Vultures
A modern illustration of the Greek hoplites marching in a phalanx formation
Phalanx in a frieze on the tomb of Pericles, Dynast of Lycia (380–360 BC)
Greek Phalanx against Achaemenid troops
Top: simplified schematic of traditional hoplite order of battle and advance (elite troops in red).
Bottom: the diagonal phalanx utilised by the Thebans under Epaminondas. The strong left wing advanced while the weak right wing retreated or remained stationary.
Dispositions during the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC
Victorian depiction of a Macedonian phalanx, 4th century BC
Victorian depiction of a Macedonian phalanx at the Battle of the Carts

The first usage of the term phalanx comes from Homer's "φαλαγξ", used to describe hoplites fighting in an organized battle line.

Portuguese Army light infantryman (caçador) of the Peninsular War, with earth-tone uniform aiding concealment, compared to bright uniforms of line infantry

Light infantry

Designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or armament or a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infantry or line infantry.

Designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or armament or a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infantry or line infantry.

Portuguese Army light infantryman (caçador) of the Peninsular War, with earth-tone uniform aiding concealment, compared to bright uniforms of line infantry
Agrianian peltast, c. 4th century BC
French light infantry in the woods during the Napoleonic era, by Victor Huen.
The pioneer company of the 27th Jäger Battalion returning from a parade in Liepāja (Libau) in 1917.
Georgian 23rd Light Infantry Battalion (joined by a few US Marines) on joint military exercise, 2005
Chasseurs from a light infantry regiment of Napoléon's Grande Armée
Chasseurs à pied bugler, full dress, 1885.
Portuguese caçadores especiais in the jungle of Angola, during a counter insurgency operation in the early 1960s
A historical reenactment with the British 95th Rifles regiment.

Peltast equipment, for example, grew steadily heavier at the same time as hoplite equipment grew lighter.

Zulu chief Goza and two of his councillors in war-dress, all with Nguni shields, c.1870. The size of the shield on the chief's left arm denotes his status, and the white colour that he is a married man.

Shield

Piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm.

Piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm.

Zulu chief Goza and two of his councillors in war-dress, all with Nguni shields, c.1870. The size of the shield on the chief's left arm denotes his status, and the white colour that he is a married man.
Wall painting depicting a Mycenaean Greek "figure eight" shield with a suspension strap at the middle, 15th century BC, National Archaeological Museum, Athens -The faces of figure eight shields were quite convex. The cited "strap" may be the ridge on the front (so denoted by the visible pattern of the ox hide) of the shield.
Elaborate and sophisticated shields from the Philippines.
Greek soldiers of Greco-Persian Wars. Left: Greek slinger. Right: hoplites. Middle: hoplite's shield has a curtain which serves as a protection from arrows.
Two wooden round shields survived at Thorsberg moor
Ballistic shield, NIJ Level IIIA
U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) fire a shield-equipped Minigun
Image from Hatshepsut's expedition to Punt showing Egyptians soldiers with shields (wood/animal skin). 15th century BC. Temple of Hathor Deir el-Bahari
A hoplite by painter Alkimachos, on an Attic red-figure vase, c. 460 BC. Shield has a curtain which serves as a protection from arrows.
Sword and buckler (small shield) combat, plate from the Tacuinum Sanitatis illustrated in Lombardy, ca. 1390.
Drawing from the Codex Manesse showing jousting knights on horseback carrying shields.
Ceremonial shield with mosaic decoration. Aztec or Mixtec, AD 1400-1521 (British Museum).
Australian Aboriginal shield, Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
Nias ceremonial shield.
Hippopotamus Hide Shield from Sudan. Currently housed at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.
Aboriginal bark shield collected in Botany Bay, New South Wales, during Captain Cook's first voyage in 1770 (British Museum)
Three-lion symbolic shield (under the helmet) in the coat of arms of Tallinn.

The Ancient Greek hoplites used a round, bowl-shaped wooden shield that was reinforced with bronze and called an aspis.

Spear-armed hoplite from Greco-Persian Wars

Spear

Pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.

Pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.

Spear-armed hoplite from Greco-Persian Wars
Wooden spear point from about 420,000 years ago. Natural History Museum, London
Hunting spear and knife, from Mesa Verde National Park
Sumerian spearmen advancing in close formation with large shields – Stele of the Vultures, c.2450 BCE
Athenian warrior wielding a spear in battle
Re-enactor outfitted as a Late Roman legionary carrying a pilum
Assyrian soldier holding a spear and wearing a helmet. Detail of a basalt relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Hadatu, Syria. 744–727 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul
German reenactors of pikemen
Spear with inscription, Zhou dynasty
Shang Dynasty spear heads
A bronze spear, notice the ears on the side of the socket.
A later period qiang
Razakars during Operation Polo
Engraving of a Maratha soldier with spear by James Forbes, 1813.
Ukiyo-e print of a samurai general holding a yari in his right hand
A Filipino warrior holding a Sibat (spear) in the Boxer Codex.
Zulu man with iklwa, 1917
A photograph of an American native, a Hupa man with his spear – by Edward Sheriff Curtis, dated 1923
Spear Case, Crow (Native American), late 19th century, Brooklyn Museum
Peruvian fisherman spearfishing with a multi-pronged spear
A boar-spear with a bar
The Norse god Odin, carrying the spear Gungnir on his ride to Hel
Statue of the Hindu God of War, Murugan, holding his primary weapon, the Vel. Batu Caves, Malaysia.

The key to this formation was the hoplite, who was equipped with a large, circular, bronze-faced shield (aspis) and a 7 – spear with an iron head and bronze butt-spike (doru).

Achilles heals Patroclus, since he learned the arts of medicine from his tutor, Chiron. Both men are believed to be wearing linothoraxes. attic red-figure kylix, signed by Sosias, c. 500 BC, Antikensammlung Berlin (F 2278)

Linothorax

Type of upper body armor that was used throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

Type of upper body armor that was used throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

Achilles heals Patroclus, since he learned the arts of medicine from his tutor, Chiron. Both men are believed to be wearing linothoraxes. attic red-figure kylix, signed by Sosias, c. 500 BC, Antikensammlung Berlin (F 2278)
The Alexander Mosaic of Pompeii, depicting Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, wearing the linothorax
Painted depiction of a soldier wearing the linothorax, from the Tomb of Judgement in Mieza in Imathia, Greece, 4th/3rd century BC

By the late 6th century BCE, many paintings and sculptures show hoplites and other warriors in the Aegean wearing the linothorax instead of a bronze cuirass.

Second Persian invasion of Greece

The second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BC) occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece.

The second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BC) occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece.

A map showing the Greek world at the time of the invasion
The Spartans throw Persian envoys into a well.
The soldiers of Xerxes I, of all ethnicities, on the tomb of Xerxes I, at Naqsh-e Rostam.
Crossing the Hellespont by Xerxes with his huge army
Xerxes attending the lashing and "chaining" of the Hellespont (Illustration from 1909)
Probable Spartan Hoplite, Vix krater, circa 500 BC.
The ancient Achaemenid fort at Eion (hill to the left) and the mouth of the Strymon River (right), seen from Ennea Hodoi (Amphipolis).
Battle of Thermopylae and movements to Salamis, 480 BC.
The pass of Thermopylae in modern times
Achaemenid king killing a Greek hoplite. Circa 500 BC–475 BC, at the time of Xerxes I. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A few Athenians resisted in the Acropolis of Athens, which was stormed and burned down by the Achaemenid Army of Xerxes.
Remains of the Old Temple of Athena on the Acropolis, destroyed by the armies of Xerxes I during the Destruction of Athens.
Part of the archaeological remains called Perserschutt, or "Persian rubble": remnants of the destruction of Athens by the armies of Xerxes. Photographed in 1866, just after excavation.
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Battle of Plataea.
The main battle at Plataea. The Greek retreat becomes disorganised, and the Persians cross the Asopus to attack.
Achaemenid troops at the Battle of Plataea: Greek allies, Sacae, Indians, Bactrians, Medes and Persians, under Mardonius.
The Serpent Column, a monument dedicated by the victorious Allies
Diagram reconstructing the armament of a Greek hoplite
Persian soldiers, possibly Immortals, a frieze in Darius's palace at Susa. Silicious glazed bricks, c. 510 BC, Louvre.
The Scythians (Sakas) formed a large portion of the Achaemenid army. Detail of the tomb of Xerxes I at Naqsh-e Rostam, circa 480 BC.
A Persian soldier of the Achaemenid army. Detail of the tomb of Xerxes I at Naqsh-e Rostam, circa 480 BC.
Greek hoplite and Persian warrior depicted fighting. Ancient kylix, 5th century BC.

The following spring, the Allies assembled the largest ever hoplite army and marched north from the Isthmus to confront Mardonius.

Battle of Cannae, 215 BC – Initial Roman attack

Pitched battle

Battle in which opposing forces each anticipate the setting of the battle, and each chooses to commit to it.

Battle in which opposing forces each anticipate the setting of the battle, and each chooses to commit to it.

Battle of Cannae, 215 BC – Initial Roman attack
Relief depicting Egyptian chariots in the Battle of Kadesh
Roman heavy infantry from the 2nd century BC depicted on the Ahenobarbus relief
Mounted Norman knights and archers at the battle of Hastings
Deployment map of the Battle of Hastings
Detail of the Battle of Nagashino screen painting depicting arquebusiers of the Oda clan
Battle of Nagashino
Zulu warriors charging
Zulu order of battle
The British shield in the east held the bulk of the German armour fast and worked it over, until the Americans were able to break through in the west, destroying the German front.

By 550 BCE the Greeks had perfected the formation, which consisted of individual soldiers called hoplites forming rows of spears and shields.

Man with a shield throwing a javelin

Javelin

Light spear designed primarily to be thrown, historically as a ranged weapon, but today predominantly for sport.

Light spear designed primarily to be thrown, historically as a ranged weapon, but today predominantly for sport.

Man with a shield throwing a javelin
Javelin thrower. Bronze, Laconian style, third quarter of the 6th century BC
Agrianian peltast. This peltast holds three javelins, one in his throwing hand and two in his pelte hand as additional ammunition
A depiction of a javelin thrower on an ancient Greek vase, ca. 450 BC. Attributed to the painter of the Brussels Oinochoes.
Reconstruction of a post-Marian pilum
Norman cavalry armed with lances attacks the Anglo-Saxon shield wall. Notice the dominance of the spearmen in the front line of the formation. In the back of the formation there is one warrior armed with a battle-axe, one archer, and one javelineer. There are javelins in mid-flight and slain soldiers pierced with javelins on the ground
The only known drawing of Shaka. Notice the long throwing assegai
Flag of Eswatini

The peltasts hurled their javelins at the enemy's heavier troops, the hoplite phalanx, in order to break their lines so that their own army's hoplites could destroy the weakened enemy formation.

Agrianian peltas. This peltast holds three javelins, one in his throwing hand and two in his pelte (shield) hand as additional ammunition.

Peltast

Type of light infantryman, originating in Thrace and Paeonia, and named after the kind of shield he carried.

Type of light infantryman, originating in Thrace and Paeonia, and named after the kind of shield he carried.

Agrianian peltas. This peltast holds three javelins, one in his throwing hand and two in his pelte (shield) hand as additional ammunition.
A peltast with the whole of his panoply (on a red-figure kylix)
A peltast fighting a panther (from an Attic white-ground mug, 5th century BCE)

In the Archaic period, the Greek martial tradition had been focused almost exclusively on the heavy infantry, or hoplites.

1900 depiction of the Battle of Marathon

Battle of Marathon

The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC during the first Persian invasion of Greece.

The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC during the first Persian invasion of Greece.

1900 depiction of the Battle of Marathon
The plain of Marathon today, with pine forest and wetlands.
A map showing the Greek world at the time of the battle
Darius I of Persia, as imagined by a Greek painter on the Darius Vase, 4th century BC
Initial disposition of forces at Marathon
Marshlands at Marathon.
Athenians on the beach of Marathon. Modern reenactment of the battle (2011)
The ethnicities of the soldiers of the army of Darius I are illustrated on the tomb of Darius I at Naqsh-e Rostam, with a mention of each ethnicity in individual labels. Identical depictions were made on the tombs of other Achaemenid emperors, the best preserved frieze being that of Xerxes I.
Persian infantry (probably Immortals), shown in a frieze in Darius's palace, Susa in Persia (which is today Iran)
First phase
Greek troops rushing forward at the Battle of Marathon, Georges Rochegrosse, 1859.
Second phase
Third phase
"They crashed into the Persian army with tremendous force", illustration by Walter Crane in Mary Macgregor, The Story of Greece Told to Boys and Girls, London: T.C. & E.C. Jack.
Fourth phase
Fifth phase
Cynaegirus grabbing a Persian ship at the Battle of Marathon (19th century illustration).
Relief of the battle of Marathon (Temple of Augustus, Pula).
Contemporary depiction of the Battle of Marathon in the Stoa Poikile (reconstitution)
Greek Corinthian-style helmet and the skull reportedly found inside it from the Battle of Marathon, now residing in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
Plan of the Battle of Marathon, 1832
Statue of Pan, Capitoline Museum, Rome
Reconstitution of the Nike of Callimachus, erected in honor of the Battle of Marathon. Destroyed during the Achaemenid destruction of Athens. Acropolis Museum.
Luc-Olivier Merson's painting depicting the runner announcing the victory at the Battle of Marathon to the people of Athens.
Burton Holmes's photograph entitled "1896: Three athletes in training for the marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens".

The Athenians would have to hold out at Marathon for the time being, although they were reinforced by the full muster of 1,000 hoplites from the small city of Plataea, a gesture which did much to steady the nerves of the Athenians and won unending Athenian gratitude to Plataea.