Ancient Greek Army Soldiers & Weapons

Written by melissa sherrard
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Ancient Greek Army Soldiers & Weapons
Army soldiers of ancient Greece are famous for their military strategies and skills with weapons. ( Images)

The army of ancient Greece, the Mediterranean civilisation which, according to, reached its height between 776 and 323BC, is regarded as one of the most formidable military forces ever to have existed. Weapons Universe tells us that what began as a volunteer militia in each city-state grew into a large standing army in which men were required to serve. The accounts of soldiers and weapons of ancient Greece remain impressive examples how battles of old were fought.

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Trained foot soldiers in the ancient Greek army were known as "hoplites," which History Link 101 notes comes from the Greek word "hoplon," meaning "armor." These infantry soldiers were typically wealthy volunteers who had to equip themselves with about 31.8 Kilogram of armour, which included a bronze or metal helmet, breastplate, leg guards and a 30-inch shield. Hoplites formed the famous Greek formation known as a phalanx, in which soldiers stood shield-to-shield in rows eight to 16 soldiers deep with their spears held out in front to push through enemy lines, according to History Link 101. Hoplites often held civilian roles during times of peace.

Auxiliary Units

Auxiliary units of the ancient Greek armies were made up of poorer men who could not afford to equip themselves as hoplites. Men in the auxiliary units sometimes had little more than clubs and swords to fight with, but others used with javelins, slings and archery supplies in their attempt to break an opponent's formation, according to History Link 101. A cavalry made up of wealthier Greek citizens would often attack the enemy's phalanx alongside the army's auxiliary units.


According to Weapons Universe, spears were the main battle weapon used among soldiers of ancient Greece. Spears carried by Greek soldiers measured nearly 9 feet in length and featured a socketed, leaf-shaped head made of iron at the tip. This weapon of choice was called a "doru" by ancient Greek soldiers, Weapons Universe notes, and it was set apart from other lances or spears by the sharp bronze spike at its butt known as a "sauroter," which means "lizard killer." This spike could be used as a weapon if a soldier's spear were to break, or it could be thrust into the ground to help him balance.


Despite the fact swords were considered secondary weapons to ancient Greek soldiers, Weapons Universe notes that they developed the most successful sword design of the age. Battle swords, known as "xiphos," were only used once a soldier's spear had been broken or lost. The straight, leaf-shaped blade measured about 26 inches and featured a sharp double-edge that was ideal for stabbing and slashing. Greek cavalry men carried a large, slightly curved sword called a "makhaira," meaning "to fight," that was designed to deliver a deep slash at high speeds, according to Weapons Universe.

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