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Updated on November 26, 2016

The hoplite was the foot soldier of ancient Greece, who was the mainstay of the phalanx, which revolutionized warfare in the 5th century B.C. In the Athenian army, in which citizens served according to the equipment their individual wealth could provide, the great middle class served as hoplites, while the less numerous wealthy fought as cavalry on the flanks. Yet even in Sparta, where each citizen served where assigned, most preferred to be hoplites.

The hoplite wore a helmet, breastplate, and greaves (shin guards); held a shield; and carried a spear and a sword. Since the total weight of his equipment was 72 pounds (33 kg), each had a slave as an auxiliary.

The hoplite and the phalanx scored their greatest early victory against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.), in which the armored ranks held against the missiles of Persian slingers and bowmen, then routed them. Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great exploited the defensive power of the hoplite and the phalanx while operating offensively with cavalry.


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