Pop Quiz: What is a “hoplite”?
- A) A type of insecticide that targets grasshoppers
- B) A leapfrog-esque children’s game made by Hasbro
- C) A refreshing chocolaty beverage
- D) A Greek dude with chiseled bronze abs
The answer is “D”! To be more specific, hoplites were citizen-soldier-dudes in the times of ancient Greece. And these metal-modeling men will be our entryway into the world of Greek armor:
In most Grecian city-states, all citizens received military training and were required to serve in the standing army for a certain period of time. The hoplites were usually responsible for providing their own armor and weapons, meaning that their equipment directly reflected their social status. Because many Grecian battles were actually “civil wars” between the city-states, Greek armor was crafted with small-scale battles between citizen soldiers in mind.
More affluent Greeks would have worn bronze breastplates, which blacksmiths engraved with the outline of torso muscles.
Apparently, the sight of some perfectly-sculpted pecs and abs was thought to be enough to send the opposition running home to hit the ancient gymnasium? Muscled armor was one of the elements that distinguished a senior officer’s uniform. The wealthy wearers also decorated their breastplates with pictures such as divine emblems like thunderbolts, Medusa’s head, images of the war god, or vegetative motifs. Some sources say that a bronze breastplate could weigh as much as 60 pounds, which may suggest that these pieces might not have been common in battle, but rather were used for military reviews and in parades, intended solely to impress.
Soldiers also wore bronze helmets that covered most of the head and face. If a hoplite wanted to get fancy, he might stick a horsehair plume in his helmet… and call it “macaroni” (Now everyone sing! “Hoplite Doodle went to town, riding on a pony…”). Most Greeks also wore greaves to protect their shins and carried large, circular shields made of wood and faced in bronze, usually decorated with a picture or a Greek letter.
Is this Sparta? Before you bellow out your answer like Leonidas, be sure to put on the body armor to prove it!
See the armor in this post and much more at Armor Venue.