Hoplite Warfare and Its Development Term Paper

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As the formation collides with one another, spheres are aimed at the groin of each opponent. The sword swings an aim towards an enemies head and vital parts of the body. Extreme agility and presence of mind are required to every hoplite in the exhausting close combat.

The defeated phalanx has only two choices to survive: The first option would be is to drop their weapons and flee hastily without being pursued by the victorious opponent which is normal in Greek Warfare. The second option is to retreat in the same formation in an orderly manner. However, this situation based on historical events often happens. After which, 5. victory was enforced by ransoming the fallen back to the defeated, called the "custom of the Greeks"(Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 2005).

History: Development and Downfall

As the economy of Ancient Greece developed, city states have focused their attention in developing a much reliable armies of foot army. During the Sixth and Seventh Century B.C. military service were held as a symbol of distinction of citizenship. Common among the recruited soldiers were the aristocrats and noblemen of Greece. 6. In the early sixth century B.C., the archon Solon instituted four classes defined by income and gave each class a proportionate measure of political responsibility. The second wealthiest class, the hippeis ("horsemen"), earned enough from their land to maintain a horse and so fought as cavalry; the third wealthiest group, the zeugitai, were able to afford the equipment of a hoplite; the wealthiest class, the pentakosiomedimnoi ("five-hundred-bushel men"), supplied the leaders for the armed forces; and the poorest class, the thetes, were hired laborers who served as oarsmen in the Athenian fleet, or as archers and light-armed men on land (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006)

King Philip of Macedonia initiated the establishment of a professional army of hoplites. In the early century, hoplites were part of the citizen militia. However the new norms in the precise and highly disciplined training of the hoplites were in the verge which eventually was adapted by the city state of Sparta.

At the height of the Hoplite Wars in the Eight-Century B.C. several changes and development have evolved within the ranks and class of the hoplites. Greek Warfare was principally held on land battle with the development of the phalanx formation. It is a formation used by the hoplites to defend the ranks while in the line of attack. Initiating a rectangular formation, hoplites would lock their shield or Aspis while moving forward with the thrust sphere extended towards the enemy. The effectiveness of this formation was proven in Marathon with the victory of the Athenians over the Persians. In this period, the Persian War brought forth some changes with the usual armament of the hoplites. Having been instructed to pursue the archers of Persia in battle, innovations were made on the basic components of the panoplies of the hoplites. It adapted other lighter materials to make the armor and helmets. Their shields were reduced to a smaller size but are still capable of protecting the phalanx formation of the hoplites. The Persian War also brought forth augmentation of other military personnel in the army. Specifically, the Athenians commissioned peltasts, a type of light infantry in ancient Greek Warfare. They often function as skirmishers for the army, a small troop lined in for short lightning battles. Athenians also started to implore the services of additional cavalry in response to the tactics of the Persian Army.

During the Peloponnesian War, with Athens brewing conflict against the Peloponnesian league spearheaded by Sparta, the credibility of the hoplites has been in decline. In these battles the determination of the Athenian Hoplites has been in vain during the whole period of the conflict. Being at battle with their fellow Greeks, Spartan supremacy in tactical warfare ruled over the maneuvers of the Athenian Hoplites. Meanwhile, Athens further augmented their army by increasing the number of skirmishers, commissioning mercenaries, building city wall which would eventually protect them from the attack of the Spartans. Athenian Generals have opted to use other not set-piece tactics. The changes in military tactics of Athens have lessened the employment of conventional hoplite warfare. The Athenians resorted in bringing the war at sea thus strengthening its navy fleet. Meanwhile, the Spartans concentrated its tactics in land-based maneuvers invading Attica, the Region of Athens. It is now a stand off of two city states of Greece. 7. The power of Athens lay in its navy and its treasury. Sparta's power came from its unsurpassed army and its martial fanaticism. Pericles, the first citizen of Athens, knew that he could not hope to win in direct land battle with Sparta. So he determined to play a waiting game, gathering the local populace in behind Athens's protective walls when Sparta threatened. His goal was not to win but to survive (Roger Kimball, 2005). This situation eventually became the downfall of Athens and the victory of the Sparta in the Peloponnesian War with Athens being succumbed by its own tactics. With the Reforms that Athens initiated in Greek Warfare which have reduced or diminished the importance of the Hoplite Warfare, other tactics have evolved and was adapted by other military generals. One of this was Epaminondas, a Theban General who led the Thebes defeating the last hoplite army in the battle of Chaeronea for the King of Macedonia King Philip II.


The rise and fall of the Hoplite Warfare ultimately relied on the evolution of the city state of Greece. The weaknesses of the hoplites and its tactics have prompted Greek Generals to find other means of defeating the enemy, thus creating new tactics and augmenting the once famous hoplite infantry. Military advancements in other areas besides land-based battles were conceptualized by these Greek Tacticians, tactics which eventually directed and influenced military tactics of other period and era in history. Nevertheless, the changes and the development of Greek Warfare also lead to more casualties and atrocities in war evidence of the contemporary war tactics of the present time.


Athenian Daily Life; Roger Dunkle, Brooklyn College (2005) Extracted September 25, 2006: Website:


The Development of the Greek World 800-500 BC; Jeffery Lumb; HSC Online (2006) Extracted September 25, 2006 Website:


The Hoplite Experience; Holy Cross Education Dept; Extracted September, 27, 2006 Website:


Othismos: The Importance of the Mass-Shove in Hoplite Warfare

Robert D. Luginbill Phoenix, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 51-61; Extracted September 27, 2006; Website:


Hoplite; Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2006) Extracted September 27, 2006; Website:


Warfare in Ancient Greece; Metropolitan Museum of the Arts (2006) Extracted September 27, 2006; Website:


The Greek Way of War; Roger Kimbal; National Review Inc.- Gale Group (2005) Extracted September 27, 2006: Website:


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