Soldiers in Ancient Greece
In Ancient Greece there were military conflicts between the individual city-states nearly every year. The reasons for that varied a great deal. Often it was because the new government, which was re-elected every year, wanted to be shown honour and recognition. The leading politicians were at the same time also the military commanders. Every male citizen of a town was also a soldier and at the outbreak of a war they had to make themselves available.
The military rank corresponded to the social situation, as each citizen had to pay for his equipment himself. Noblemen were able to afford not only armour and weapons, but also horses and therefore also attained higher military positions. As a rule, the nobility also financed the wars. In the majority of cases the battle itself was decided by the common infantry in hand-to-hand combat. Warfare changed in connection with the economic advancement of the common population. In the 5th century BC there was no longer hand-to-hand combat on land, but the fighting was done in the phalanx formation. A phalanx consisted of several rows of soldiers standing in a line and making a wall out of their shields. The soldiers of the phalanx were called Hoplites.
This model shows a Hoplite. He was armed with a long spear and a short sword which was used when the spear was broken. A round wooden shield with a bronze frame was used for protection. Many shields were covered completely with bronze. Usually a shield would be decorated with the family crest or an other personal symbol of the owner. In Sparta and later also in other cities uniform shield signs were introduced. The Hoplite wore a bell breastplate made of brass. The greaves were made of bronze. Because of the use of various metals, the armour of a Hoplite was quite expensive. For this reason, Hoplites who came from the poorer classes went without some pieces of armour or made them out of lighter materials.