Wars occurred from the Greek Dark Ages onward. The ancient Greeks did not just fight with other countries; they also fought locally with neighboring cities.
The fights with neighboring cities were smaller while the civil wars were lengthier.
During the Archaic period (800 to 480 BC) and Classical period (480 to 323 BC), the ancient Greeks took part in wars on a regular basis both at home and abroad.
Who were Greek warriors ?
In early Greece, there wasn’t a special service that men went into, such as the army and navy of today.
All men in the city-state had to fight in wars. The men were not full-time soldiers.
They were average people owning businesses and land and they fought to protect them.
The Hoplite Warriors
The hoplites were the leaders among warriors of ancient Greece.
It is thought that hoplite warfare started in Argos. Hoplite warriors were foot soldiers, recognized by their huge shields, called the “hoplon” or “aspis” and long spears.
The hoplites came up with a new style of fighting, the “hoplite phalanx”.
The warriors stood side by side in battle and locked their shields together to make a barrier, while at the same time they pointed their spears out.
Most of the wars during this time were fought between city-states.
Weapons of the Hoplite Warriors
Hoplite warriors had to make their own weapons for fighting. This meant the men with the most money had the best weapons.
They made shields and decorated them with emblems such as a family emblem.
As weapons and shields were expensive to make they were traditionally passed down through the family.
Body armor worn by Hoplite soldiers was called “Panoply” and it wasn’t easy to walk around in it, let alone fight, as it was made of bronze, weighing about 32 kilograms.
Only the richest men wore armor. Most of the warriors were farmers or peasants and they only had shields for protection along with spears and if they were lucky, a helmet.
The shield of the Hoplite army was concave (curved inwards) and was about 90cm across. The weight was around 8 kilograms.
It was made from three layers, wood in the middle, bronze on the outside and leather on the inside.
The shield was the most important weapon used by the warriors.
The Spartan Army
The Spartan army was called the fiercest warriors during ancient Greek times.
Boys as young as 7 years old were trained to fight to enter into the Spartan military.
They became “Spartans”, one of the earliest military services, given military training along with an education.
Sparta was focused on warrior culture and boys became soldiers full-time on their 20th birthday.
Men had to fight in the Spartan army until they were sixty years old.
The warriors belonging to the Spartan army had to pass through military training called “Agoge”.
This was just like a school that taught them discipline, endurance, and duty. Unlike the Hoplites, the Spartan warriors did not have other jobs.
Slaves called “Helots” did jobs, with the name meaning captives.
Just as the Hoplites did, the Spartans fought in the phalanx formation, side by side.
They wore helmets made of bronze along with ankle guards and wore breastplates.
Their shields were made of wood and bronze and each carried a sword and long spear.
The warriors stood out as they wore red cloaks and allowed their hair to grow long.
Facts about Ancient Greek Warriors
- The word “Spartan” means frugal, self-restrained or simple.
- Boys in the Spartan military were not just taught discipline and how to fight but also how to steal food.
- Greek warriors also used bows and arrows to fire arrows from behind the phalanx formation of soldiers up into the air at enemies.
- Many Greek battles become a pushing match as each side tried to break through the phalanx formation of the other.
- Many soldiers in Athens decorated their shields with a small owl picture to remind them of the goddess Athena.
- A 20-foot long spear was used in battles when Phillip II ruled.
- The hoplites believed they could win any battle providing they did not lose their nerve and did not let the enemy push through their formation.
- The Hoplite shield stood out thanks to it having a double handle. The left arm of the soldier went through one handle at the middle of the shield and his hand held onto the second handle. This meant they could hold larger heavier shields.
Questions and Answers
Question 1 – Where did Hoplite warfare start?
Answer – Argos
Question 2 – What was the style of fighting used by warriors?
Answer – Phalanx
Question 3 – What was the body armor worn by Hoplite warriors called?
Answer – Panoply
Question 4 – At what age did boys have to join the Spartan army?
Answer – 7 years old
Question 5 – What made the Spartan warriors stand out?
Answer – They had long hair and wore red cloaks.