Warfare of the Greek World- Part1

On this article on my blog, it is once again about historical warfare once again showing my military sketches throughout history. This time, the focus will be on Ancient Greece and the warfare of the Greek world; armor sets and weaponry. This topic on Ancient Greece focuses mainly on the warfare on ancient Greece and the city-states. (next one about the Greek world empires)!!

map of Greek city-states
Map of Greek city-states

th-1In the time of Classical Greece, Greece itself was not a full united kingdom or empire but several city-states, some ruled by a king, some a democracy. The well known city states of Greece (if you can see the names on the map above) include Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Thessaly, and Epirus. Each of them had a different government, different way of life such as enlightenment in Athens and warfare in Sparta, and of course each had different armies. Armies of Ancient Greece, no matter from which city state somewhat looked the same, though to tell their difference, their colors were sometimes different, some city-states had different army units or different types of weapons, and the symbols on the soldiers’ round shields were different showing symbols of different city-states. For example, Athens used the owl symbol (for Athena), while Sparta used the lambda (^) symbol, and Macedonia together with other Greek cities used the vergina sun symbol. The Greek islands however were not counted as full city states but colonies or alliances to them especially when city-states of mainland Greece are at war. The city-states became united under one empire when the Macedonians took them over in the 4th century BC, afterwards the Greek army fought at their side.

I. Greek land Warfare (Hoplites)

sketch of Greek Hoplites in battle
Sketch of Greek Hoplites in battle
Greek hoplites in phalanx formation
Greek hoplites in phalanx formation

The armies of Ancient Greece had many different battle units but had the same formations in battle. For the Ancient Greeks, fighting together side-by-side in the phalanx was an important part of Greek warfare. At the same time it was effective too, as Hoplites, the elite military force of ancient Greece fought together in different groups forming a square formation but each hoplite holding a spear for attack and a shield for defense. The hoplites were organized in different rows, the spears pointed strait at the front and going upwards at the back rows. It was effective in a way that the phalanx slowed down the enemies trapping them especially with the front row spears, which was used to hit the horses of enemy cavalry while the upper spears pointed towards the horseman. The use of the phalanx however could be hard especially when fighting another army with he same formations such as fighting other Greek hoplites (which happened in the Peloponnesian War, Sparta against Athens) though the phalanx was effective when fighting cavalry men or soldiers who did not use the phalanx such as the Persian armies (during the Greek-Persian Wars); the phalanx though was vulnerable to cavalry shock charges though the hoplites were quick in action to slow them down and sometimes easily wipe out enemy armies by simply using the spears. The Greek army was also made up of skirmishers, including archers, javelin men, slingers, and shock cavalry, however the fully-armored hoplites were the important lie of defense as the Greeks in battle took close combat more seriously.

2 types of Greek hoplites
2 types of Greek hoplites

Shown above here is my sketch showing two types of Greek hoplites, a Thessaly hoplite (on the left) and a Sparta hoplite (on the right). In Ancient Greek warfare, hoplites were the important line of defense in battle and the elite forces (the spec-ops or marines of ancient Greece, the leading city states had to have hoplites in their army especially if they were at war with another city state or an invading empire. Hoplites served as the professional army and were the most well-trained and organized soldiers of the Greek world, in battle they were fully equipped with a full-face helmet which was called the Corinthian helmet, hey wore an iron and leather body armor called Thorax, a set of bracers, boots, and cape depending on their city’s color, and carried a one-handed sword, a dagger, a spear, and a large round shield. The Thessalian hoplite on the left shows a classic version of a Greek hoplite with the Corinthian helmet with a crest above, at the body is the thorax armor made of leather and iron scales (the white color though is not accurate to the original armor but a modern representation, the exact color of Greek armor though is unknown though it was made of bronze). The hoplite on the left wears a red cape, carries the phalanx spear called a Dory, the sword is sheathed and covered by a large round shield, curved outwards with the scorpion symbol. On the right is a Spartan hoplite commander; to tell the difference, the commander has the patterned crest sidewards but wears the same helmet and compared to all the Spartan hoplites with a red cape, this one wears a dark colored-one to differentiate himself from the army. The Spartan hoplite wears a full metal engraved armor and a tunic under; this hoplite also does not carry a spear but the classic one-handed leaf-edge sword, called Xiphos and a large round bronze shield curved inwards with the Spartan symbol.

combination of Greek hoplites
Combination of Greek hoplites
3 types of hoplites
3 types of hoplites

The upper picture shows a close-up of different types of Greek hoplites in battle itself with their melee weapons (swords and spears) ready for attack. The lower picture however, describes the functions of different types of Greek hoplites. The 3 types shown here is a Macedonian infantry soldier (left), Spartan Hoplite (center), and Athenian Hoplite (right) and an old sketch of mine which had appeared in a previous post. The Macedonian soldier (left) is a different form of hoplite, a lighter armed and armored one with a common Greek infantry bronze helmet, wearing the light armor (white with metal scales), and carrying lighter weapons for light combat in battle which is just another type of Greek sword (Kopis) used for harder sword combat if without a spear and holding a smaller round shield for foot-soldiers. On the center, this other version of a Spartan hoplite however does not do much of the action in fighting at the battlefield but instead carries the flag representing the Spartan army at battle, this hoplite as it does not fight full on the battlefield does not wear the iron cuirass armor but a leather cuirass mostly covered by a cape or a draping, although wearing the full helmet and carries a xiphos sword and instead of a shield, the Spartan war flag. The one on the right is a full armored and equipped Athenian hoplite with the full helmet with the crest, wearing iron armor for full protection when fighting full-combat; the Athenian hoplite is on standing formation holding up the spear and the shield with Athens’ symbol kept still, the sword is sheathed. The Athenian hoplite wears the blue cape showing Athens’ state color in battle, the Athenian hoplite at battle had more battle strategy than strength at battle as the Spartans did. As for weapons, hoplites used the spear as their primary weapon to hit the first wave of enemy, the sword was secondary used if the spear hit the target or fell or if the enemy is too close. Overall in ancient Greece, hoplites were the leading and most important part in battle being fully armed and armored and also organized whether they are many (in the 10,000’s such as the Spartans in the Persian Expedition) or a few (such as 300 in the Battle of Thermopylae); in ancient Greek warfare, melee fighting was what they highly focused on in battle.

II. Greek land Warfare (skirmishers and minor units)

The Greek army had more than hoplites, though hoplites were the leading and major part in the battlefield, the other soldiers were secondary forces or citizen armies. These other forces included cavalrymen, javelin men, archers, and slingers who were not in much use in battle but sometimes effective. These secondary units of ancient Greece were also used in battle but not on the front line of defines, but in at the sides or behind instead. These units in a way wore the same thing in battle, less and light-armored or sometimes without armour but a tunic and helmet, sometimes without a helmet but a hat.

Greek peltasts, samples
Greek peltasts, samples
Greek pelatast at battle
Greek pelatast at battle

A type of these alternative units were Peltasts, or Greek javelin (as shown in the peltast images above), a Greek javelin men in battle wore light armour for skirmishes and not in full combat as the hoplites, usually they did not fight on the field but shot javelins from behind, above or from bushes. The Greek peltasts wear either a set of light armour and a light bronze helmet only covering the head, carried a dagger and the main weapons were the javelins and the small crescent-shaped shield to hold javelins when aiming, this army unit did not usually wear armour and sometimes just the under tunic.

Greek slinger drawing
Greek slinger drawing

Another type of Greek army units were slingers, they also were skirmishers, though having not much effect their use was to basically scare the enemy with stones; the slingers were the most unequipped and less-trained Greek army unit having only the use of a sling and stones and a dagger and did not wear any armour but a tunic and a hat.

Greek archer sample
Greek archer sample

Greek archers on the other hand used the bow and arrows as a primary weapon, while the sword or dagger was the secondary one, when the enemy is too close or arrow run out. Archers however did not fight fully on the battlefield but skirmished the enemies from another point, sometimes using the effect of flame arrows to burn the enemy line of defines or shock them, first by setting up burning oil then by simply firing one flame arrow to burn down the enemy’s battle lines; the Greek archers usually did not wear armour except for light leather armour and barely wore helmets, instead wore large hats, instead of armour they would wear a tunic with a cape over it sometimes.

Macedonian (Greek) cavalryman
Macedonian (Greek) cavalryman

The cavalry then was a more important part in the Greek army and was of great use, they were highly trained also but were not equal in strength with the hoplites. This one shown above, a Macedonian cavalry man wears a light bronze hemet forming a round shape, wears light, white shaded leather armour, holds a spear, and to distinguish cavalrymen from the other units, they wore extra layers of capes with different colours, either blue, red, purple, or grey. Of course, the cavalrymen are mount on horses and their ability is to perform a shock charge on the enemy using their spears. As a secondary weapon, cavalrymen used their swords and sometimes carried bows or javelins; cavalry men often fought in a way by surprising the enemy too and later ambushing them. In Ancient Greece, city states however id not use horse men much at battle, though the Macedonians were the Greeks to really use them.

Greek peltast and archer (my sketch)
Greek peltast and archer (my sketch)

Shown above here (my drawing) for example is how a Greek peltast and archer with weapons. Here both wear helmets, even though they did not but usually they wore iron or bronze helmets in battle but no armour as they were there as skirmishers and the helmets protected their head. The peltast (left) wears a helmet only for the head and instead of light armour a simple tunic with a belt holding a dagger. The peltast’s main weapons here is a set of javelins to throw at the enemy, and the wooden crescent shield with a pattern, for defines and guiding the javelin. The archer (right) is another version of one as  it does not wear a hat but an iron helmet showing the face; its weapons include the bow an arrows and a xiphos sword, ins tea of armour the archer wears a tunic covered with a cape and held by a belt also for protection.

3 types of Greek infantry
3 types of Greek infantry

However, shown here is another version of javelin men and archers of Greece, over here (my drawing) displays a Greek archer (left), a Thracian peltast (centre) and Greek cavalry soldier (right). The archer here is a more classic version of one, wearing no amror but a tunic, belt, and cape, and ins tea of a helmet a leather hat; its weapons are the same bow and arrows with the sword. The peltast (centre) is a different type of Greek soldier, this one is not fully Greek but Thracian (from Thrace, north-east Greece), wearing a distinct tunic and a pointed leather cap, holding simply javelins and as shield, the Thracians however specialised in javelin warfare. The cavalryman (on the right) is however not on a horse but has the exact helmet, spear, and sword as the Greek cavalrymen do; for armour it has the same leather armour with metal scales and a cape covering it.

III. Greek weaponry 

As I have described the army units of Ancient Greece, here is the complete set of weapons Ancient Greek soldiers carried at battle…

set of Greek weapons- part 1
Set of Greek weapons- part 1

Part 1 of my sketch of Greek weapons used in the Greek warfare shows a variety of weapons from swords, to javelins, daggers, and skirmishing equipment. This weaponry set shows 2 of the sam javelins, used by peltasts in skirmishes and below it the skirmisher’s shield. At the upper part, it shows 5 types of Greek swords, 5 of them are the xiphos swords an one is a kopis sword, an a sword sheathe; the 4 types of xiphos have different hilts, some wide, some narrow depending on the blade whether the edge curves wily or narrowly, however these Greek swords have the same function, usually for stabbing the enemy at close melee combat. The other one sword is the kopis, the curved one-bladed sword, its function is usually for Greek hoplites or citizen armies without a spear but a strong weapon for an instant kill. At the right is a Greek bow which archers use sometimes with the flame ability to shoot arrows; below are two types of daggers, one is smaller version of a xiphos, beside it is a sheathe and the other is a sharper one; beside the sharper dagger is a Greek sling for shock skirmishes but not much effect.

set of Greek weapons, part2
Set of Greek weapons, part 2

Here’s part 2 of the Greek weapons, showing a little less of it. Here it shows 2 types of Greek spears (dory) used as primer weapons for hoplites and 2 types of large round Greek shields used by hoplites having Greek patterns painted on metal. Also shown here is an extra xiphos sword design and a Greek war banner used as the army’s flag in battle. Also here are 2 types of Greek siege weapons, the mini-catapult and he ballista. However, siege weapons would be discussed more on my next post.

spartan_lambda_shield_sticker-rddadb085d43548ecbb4f686b2b14567d_v9waf_8byvr_512

So that would be all for now but to conclude the article, the thing about Greek warfare is that it comes in many forms and strategies of each Greek city-state may be different. So this may be a good lesson on Greek warfare no matter how long it is. Up next, see some more of Greek warfare as it will be on the Greek world empires!!

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