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Encyclopedia > Hoplite

The hoplite was a heavy infantryman that was the central focus of warfare in Ancient Greece. The word hoplite (Greek ὁπλίτης, hoplitēs) derives from hoplon (ὅπλον, plural hopla, ὅπλα) meaning an item of armour or equipment and consequently the entire equipment of the hoplite (but not specifically the circular shield, which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a hoplon, since it was in fact called an aspis). These soldiers probably first appeared in the late seventh century BC. They were a citizen-militia, and so were armed as spearmen, and assumed a phalanx formation, which are relatively easy to equip and maintain; they were primarily drawn from the middle class, who could afford the cost of the armaments. Almost all the famous men of ancient Greece, even philosophers and playwrights fought as hoplites at some point in their lives.[1][2] Heavy infantry refers to heavily armed and armoured ground troops, as opposed to medium or light infantry, in which the warriors are relatively lightly-armoured. ... The Temple of Athena, the Parthenon Ancient Greece is a period in Greek history that lasted for around nine hundred years. ... A Hoplon is the circular shield carried by Greek infantry of the Hellenistic period. ... An aspis (Ancient Greek Ασπις, IPA [aspis]) is the generic term for the word shield. ... Lebanese Kataeb militia A Militia is an organization of citizens to provide defense, emergency or paramilitary service, or those engaged in such activity. ... Hunting spear and knife, from Mesa Verde National Park. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... The middle class (or middle classes) comprises a social group once defined by exception as an intermediate social class between the nobility and the peasantry. ...

Since the hoplites were a militia force and did not receive permanent wages, campaigns were short and mainly confined to the summer. The exception to this was the Spartan warriors who were dedicated soldiers and had their state alloted lands managed for them by the lower class. Armies marched directly to their target. There, the defenders could hide behind city walls, in which case the attackers generally had to content themselves with ravaging the countryside (as siegecraft were undeveloped), or meet them on the field. Battles were usually set piece and intended to be decisive. These battles were short, bloody, and brutal, and thus required a high degree of discipline. Both forces lined up on a level field, usually in a rough rectangular formation around eight ranks deep (though this varied). Other troops were less important; hippeis (cavalry) generally protected the flanks, when present at all, and both light infantry and missile troops were negligible. The most well-known hoplites were the Spartans, who were trained from childhood in combat and warfare to become an exceptionally disciplined and superior fighting force. The defensive wall of Braşov, Romania. ... A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition, often accompanied by an assault. ... Hippeis was the Greek term for cavalry. ... French Republican Guard - May 8, 2005 celebrations Cavalry (from French cavalerie) were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback in combat. ... Traditionally light infantry (or skirmishers) were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. ... Sparta (Doric: Spártā, Attic: SpártÄ“) is a city in southern Greece. ...



A hoplite armed with an aspis and a doru
A hoplite armed with an aspis and a doru

Hoplites generally armed themselves shortly before battle because the equipment was so heavy - the total weight of the hoplites' armour was around 50-60 pounds (22-27 kilograms). Each man provided his own fairly non-uniform gear. As a result of the non-uniform gear, friendly troops would often fail to recognise one another. A hoplite typically had a bronze breastplate, a bronze helmet with cheekplates, as well as greaves and other armour, plus a bowl-shaped wooden shield called an aspis which was around 1 meter in diameter. The primary weapon was a spear around 2.7 meters in length called a doru. Hoplites also carried a sword called a xiphos. Image File history File links Greek_hoplite. ... Image File history File links Greek_hoplite. ... This can also refer to a piece of riding equipment, see Breastplate (tack). ... This article is about the headgear. ... A greave (from 12th century French greve shin, of uncertain origin) is a piece of armour that protects the leg. ... Armour sucks ass alottttttttttt Armour was also commonly used to protect war animals, such as war horses and elephants. ... A shield is a protective device, meant to intercept attacks. ... An aspis (Ancient Greek Ασπις, IPA [aspis]) is the generic term for the word shield. ... Hunting spear and knife, from Mesa Verde National Park. ... Doru (Greek: δόρυ), was a type of spear in general use in the Hellenistic world. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

By contrast, other contemporary infantry tended to wear relatively light armour, and were armed with shorter spears, javelins, or bows. Shields were usually smaller, or were large enough to cover the full body and rested on the ground. The middle-sized shield of the hoplite was made possible partly by its shape, which allowed it to be supported on the shoulder. In formation, the shields were overlapped so that each defended the left side of the soldier carrying it and the right side of his neighbour. While the general assumption is that the spear was gripped overhand, others have argued that it was held underarm. The javelin throw is an athletics (track and field) throwing event where the object to be thrown is the javelin, a spear-like object made of metal and fibreglass. ... This image depicts a typical bow, as made by the Huns, lying against a tree. ...


Hoplites marching into combat.
Hoplites marching into combat.

The strength of hoplites was shock combat. Two armies would smash into each other in hopes of breaking or encircling the enemy force's line. Failing that, a battle degenerated into a pushing match, with the men in the rear trying to force the front lines through those of the enemy. This maneuver was known as the othismos. Battles rarely lasted more than an hour. Once one of the lines broke, the troops would generally flee from the field, usually without being pursued. Casualties were slight compared to later battles, rarely amounting to more than 5% of the losing side, but the slain often included the most prominent citizens and generals who led from the front. Thus, the whole war could be decided by a single field battle; victory was enforced by ransoming the fallen back to the defeated, called the "Custom of The Greeks". Image File history File links Phalanx1. ... Image File history File links Phalanx1. ...

Hoplites were not entirely protected by their shield, but also by half of the man on their right's shield. Therefore, the man on the far right of the phalanx was only half protected. In battle, opposing phalanges would exploit this weakness by heading for their enemy's right flank.

One of the early problems with the hoplite formation was the inability to march straight when entering combat. This was caused by the natural tendency of the soldiers to press themselves as close to their neighbor (and thus his shield) as possible in order to be maximally protected. This was countered by Epaminondas of Thebes in the early 4th Century BC. His innovation was to train his hoplites to march in a diagonal, so that when the formation entered combat, the diagonal march and the leaning tendency cancelled out so they did not veer off course. Before this time, only the Spartans had successfully maintained (almost) straight formations, and only due to years of training.

Rise and fall

The rise and fall of hoplite warfare was intimately connected to the rise and fall of the city-state. During the Persian Wars, hoplites were often forced to run towards archers in order to engage them in a melee where they would have the upper-hand, and during the Peloponnesian War light, projectile-armed troops such as peltasts became increasingly dominant. As a result, they began wearing less armour, carrying shorter swords, and in general adapting for greater mobility. However, hoplite warfare was in decline; there were three major battles in the Peloponnesian War, and none proved decisive. Instead there was increased reliance on navies, skirmishers, mercenaries, city walls, siege engines, and non-set piece tactics. These reforms made wars of attrition possible and greatly increased the casualties of battle. Many of them were combined by the brilliant general Epaminondas, whose tactics formed the basis for the Macedonian phalanx of Philip II of Macedon, used as a back-up to his cavalry. These forces defeated the last major hoplite army, at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), after which Athens and its allies joined the Hellenistic empire. These developments led to the rise of the more versatile combined arms tactics of the Ancient Macedonians. A city-state is a region controlled exclusively by a city. ... It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles. ... For the earlier war beginning in 460 BC, see First Peloponnesian War. ... A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Greece who often served as skirmishers. ... The multinational Combined Task Force One Five Zero (CTF-150) The British Grand Fleet, the supreme naval force of World War I A rare occurrence of a 5-country multinational fleet, during Operation Enduring Freedom in the Oman Sea. ... A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict who is not a national of a Party to the conflict and is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a... Replica battering ram at Château des Baux, France. ... For information about the modern board game of the same name, see Epaminondas (game). ... The Macedonian phalanx is an infantry formation developed by Philip II and used by his son Alexander the Great to conquer the Persian Empire and other armies. ... Philip II of Macedon: victory medal (niketerion) struck in Tarsus, 2nd c. ... Combatants Macedon Athens, Thebes Commanders Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great Chares of Athens, Lysicles of Athens, Theagenes of Boeotia Strength 32,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry 35,000 Casualties Unknown 1,000 Athenians killed, 254 Boeotians killed, 2,000 captured The Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), fought near... The term Hellenistic (established by the German historian Johann Gustav Droysen) in the history of the ancient world is used to refer to the shift from a culture dominated by ethnic Greeks, however scattered geographically, to a culture dominated by Greek-speakers of whatever ethnicity, and from the political dominance... The Ancient Macedonians were the inhabitants of Macedon in ancient times. ...


Hoplites depicted on an Attic vase dated to 510-500 BC
Hoplites depicted on an Attic vase dated to 510-500 BC

Hoplite-style warfare was also practiced around the Mediterranean basin. Of particular note, the Etruscans usually fought with such militias, a practice they adopted from the Greek colonies. From this sort of warfare developed the Roman legion that was to dominate western military history for hundreds of years. Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 393 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (1740 × 2650 pixel, file size: 2. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 393 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (1740 × 2650 pixel, file size: 2. ... The Mediterranean Sea is an intercontinental sea positioned between Europe to the north, Africa to the south and Asia to the east, covering an approximate area of 2. ... The Etruscan civilization existed in Etruria and the Po valley in the northern part of what is now Italy, prior to the formation of the Roman Republic. ... Colonies in antiquity were city-states founded from a mother-city, not from a territory-at-large. ... The Roman Legion (from Latin , from lego, legere, legi, lectus — to collect) is a term that can apply both as a transliteration of legio (conscription or army) to the entire Roman army and also, more narrowly (and more commonly), to the heavy infantry that was the basic military unit of... Military history is composed of the events in the history of humanity that fall within the category of conflict. ...

In popular culture

Hoplite warfare has been portrayed in recent films including Troy and Alexander.
Some real-time strategy games, such as Rise of Nations, Rome: Total War, Civilization, Age of Empires and Age of Mythology, feature infantry units called 'Hoplites'.
The God of War series features a main character, Kratos, who is portrayed as a Spartan warrior. Troy is an Oscar-nominated movie released on May 14, 2004 about the Trojan War, as described in Homers Iliad, Virgils Aeneid, and other Greek myths. ... Alexander is a 2004 epic motion picture film, based on the life of Alexander the Great. ... Real-time strategy (often abbreviated as RTS) is a genre of computer wargames which take place in real-time, where resource gathering, base building, technology development and high-level control over individual units (harvest, build, destroy) are key components[1], which distinguishes it from related strategy wargame genres, such as... Rise of Nations is a real-time strategy computer game, developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft on May 20, 2003. ... Rome: Total War is a grand strategy computer game where players fight historical and fictious battles during the era of the Roman Republic, from 270 BCE to 14 CE. The game was developed by Creative Assembly and released on September 22, 2004. ... Age of Empires, abbreviated to AoE or AOE, is a history-based real-time strategy computer game released in 1997. ... Age of Mythology (commonly abbreviated as AoM), is a mythology-based, real-time strategy computer game developed by Ensemble Studios, and published by Microsoft Game Studios. ... God of War is a video game for the Sony PlayStation 2 console released on March 22, 2005. ... This article is about the main character in the SCEA games God of War and God of War II. For the character in Greek Mythology, see Cratos. ...

See also

The Ekdromos (plural Ekdromoi) was the name of the Greek light hoplites. ...

Further reading

  • Goldsworthy, A.K. "The Othismos, Myths and Heresies: The Nature of Hoplite Battle", War in History, Vol. 4, Issue 1. (1997), pp. 1–26.
  • Hanson, Victor Davis. The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989 (hardcover, ISBN 0-394-57188-6); New York: Oxford University Press (USA), 1990 (paperback, ISBN 0-19-506588-3); Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-21911-2).
  • Hanson, Victor Davis. Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (Biblioteca Di Studi Antichi; 40). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998 (hardcover, ISBN 0-520-21025-5; paperback, ISBN 0-520-21596-6).
  • Hanson, Victor Davis. The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-20935-4).
  • Krentz, Peter. "Fighting by the Rules: The Invention of the Hoplite Agôn", Hesperia, Vol. 71, No. 1. (2002), pp. 23–39.
  • C'Connell, Robert L., "Soul of the Sword". Simon and Schuster, 2002, ISBN 0-684-84407-9.

Victor Davis Hanson giving a lecture at Kenyon College. ... Victor Davis Hanson giving a lecture at Kenyon College. ... Victor Davis Hanson giving a lecture at Kenyon College. ...


  1. ^ Socrates as a hoplite: Plato, Symposium, Apollodorus, 219e-221b
  2. ^ Epicurus as a hoplite: Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book X

External links

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  Results from FactBites:
Warfare 1 (746 words)
This hoplite is not depicted with his weaponry.
The hoplite carried the sword in a wooden scabbard, which was hung from his neck by a cord.
Since the shield only protected the left side of the hoplite (his right arm had to be free to employ the spear and the sword), it was deployed in such a way that it protected the right side of the man on the left in line.
Hoplite Fishing Boats Advantages (536 words)
Any new boat purchased for non-commercial use from any authorized Hoplite boat dealer in the continental United States by the original retail purchaser, will be warranted against major structural defects in material or workmanship for a period of five (5) years for the hull and deck structure.
Warranty repairs will be performed by Hoplite or its authorized representative in accordance with the other provisions of its limited warranty.
All boats must be returned to an authorized Hoplite dealer for corrections and defects reported within the specified warranty period.
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