They were typically armored with bronze chest plates (called a cuirass), a helmet with cheek guards, and greaves (shin guards).
They were typically armed with a 1 meter round shield called a aspis, a 2.5 m spear, and a 60 cm thrusting sword called a xiphos.
Each hoplite had to buy his own equipment and it could be pricey (about equivalent to a modern sedan). It also weighed 50-70 pounds.</li></li></ul><li><ul><li>Hoplites were also citizen-soldiers. They were farmers and workers (unless they were Spartans). You didn’t have the standing professional armies. Armies were formed on an as-needed basis.</li></li></ul><li>Athenian<br />hoplite<br />Spartan<br />hoplite<br />
Due to the equipment, fighting could be a trial of endurance as much as anything.<br /><ul><li>Those bronze helmets, chest plates, and greaves didn’t have ventilation
The average daytime temperatures in Greece in the summer can be in the 80’s and 90’s.</li></li></ul><li>The aspis was made out of wood (maybe bronze) and was concave in shape. It reached from shoulder to knee and was carried on the left arm. It usually had a decoration on it that identified the hoplite or city-state and which was also meant to intimidate their opponents.<br />
The cuirass was made out of bronze and came in several varieties.<br /><ul><li>It could just cover the front, or it would front and back pieces.
The purpose of the nose and cheek guards wasn’t merely to protect the nose and cheeks. It was also to deflect blade blows away from the body. Note how the helmet flares out at the bottom.<br /><ul><li>Note how little room you had to see. It made holding formations all the more important.</li></li></ul><li>
<ul><li>Later version include the Chalcidian helmet:</li></li></ul><li><ul><li>And the pilos helmet:</li></li></ul><li>Greaves were shin guards worn on, well, the lower legs.<br /><ul><li>They varied in length and often wrapped around the leg.</li></li></ul><li>With all these pieces, the hoplite was almost completely protected.<br /><ul><li>The only exposed body parts were the feet, neck, and right arm. The rest were either armored or covered by the shield.</li></li></ul><li>The main offensive weapon was the spear.<br /><ul><li>You would usually fight overhand as we’ll see.
Also had a spear butt spike in case the spear broke.
This was sometimes a problem as you could accidentally stab the guy behind you.
The butt spike could also be used to dispatch fallen enemies.</li></li></ul><li>Modern recreations of a butt spike (top) and spearhead.<br /><ul><li>The spearhead was iron while the butt spike was bronze.</li></li></ul><li>The xiphos was only used if the spear was broken and lost. Here’s a modern recreation.<br />
As I said (a long time ago), the Greeks fought in the phalanx formation.<br /><ul><li>This was a rectangular formation, typically about eight men deep and however long across both the hoplite numbers and terrain allowed.
They were in rows and columns. The job of the men in the back were to push forward on the ranks in front to help maintain the front line as well to move up and replace the guy at the front should he fall.</li></li></ul><li>Here are a few illustrations of what the Greek battle by phalanx would have looked like.<br />
You can see why keep the formation was so important.<br /><ul><li>If the front ranks broke, the entire phalanx could fall apart as opposing soldiers got in.
The shields created a wall.</li></li></ul><li>Here’s the battle process:<br />The two sides form up in the phalanx at a distance and face on another. The general would be a the front right corner which was the most vulnerable spot. He usually didn’t last long.<br />The sides sing a battle hymn to build morale and intimidate the enemy.<br /><ul><li>Except for the Spartans.</li></ul>To the tune of flutes (which helped keep time), they would march toward each other. <br />At about 50 yards distance, they’d break into a trot.<br />The shields would crash into each in a horrendous noise. You ran at 50 yards to build up speed for this.<br /><ul><li>You might start off with your spear underhand to aim for the groin on first contact.</li></li></ul><li><ul><li>Then you’d switch to overhand and go after the head, neck, and shoulders.
If your spear broke, you’d use the butt spike. As a last resort, you’d go to your xiphos.</li></ul>All the while, the men in back are pushing forward.<br /><ul><li>This is to keep the ranks in front from being pushed backwards and breaking the line.
It was also to push the other side and possibly expose a gap.
The second and third ranks are also stabbing forward with their spears.</li></ul>A gap would be exposed, the phalanx would break down, and panic would ensue as hoplites fled for their lives. Ironically, they were more likely to be killed at this point.<br />
The winning side typically would not pursue very far since they were weighed down with their equipment.<br /><ul><li>The fleeing soldiers would have thrown away as much as they could so as to run faster.</li></ul>Battles were typically short, bloody, and decisive. Remember that these were citizen-soldiers who had jobs back at the city-state. As such, they couldn’t be spared for long, drawn-out campaigns.<br />
Phalanx and hoplite pros and cons<br />Pros<br />Phalanx was extremely effective due to its cohesion and wall of shields.<br />Hoplites were well-armored.<br />Cons<br />The phalanx was not maneuverable. It had to go straight ahead. If it tried to turn, then it would break the front line with the shield wall and expose gaps that could be exposed.<br />The hoplite armor was heavy and hot. The helmet, while effective, also limited sight and hearing. This made keeping formation all the more important since you couldn’t hear orders or see things to your side.<br />
The Greek phalanx and hoplites were so effective, they were often employed as mercenaries by foreign powers.<br />