In ancient Greece, warriors developed from armed bands led by a certain leader. They shifted warfare from the rule of private individuals to the domain of the state. Groups or assemblies of elite people allowed wars.
For generals or Strategoi, they became accountable for all their actions. They were often elected for specific operations in the military or for fixed terms.
In the earlier times of the Greek Warfare, training became very disorganized. Also, weapons were often make-do pieces, and soldiers would only get paid if they met their quotas. They had no insignia or uniforms, and once the battle was over, the soldiers would go back to their farms.
By the 5th century of ancient Greece, the Sparta’s military skill became a model for all states to follow. With their well-trained, full-time and skilled army, the Spartans displayed professionalism in warfare.
What were the Weapons used for Warfare in Ancient Greece?
Early armies in ancient Greece consisted of foot soldiers coming from poor families. They battled with no more than spears and stones. This was because only the wealthy could afford horses and better weapons.
Yet as time passed, warfare became trickier: from battles in open areas to those in walled cities. The development in wars required various strategies and types of soldiers for battles. Yet the most vital elements in battle are the different weapons.
Below is a list of weapons used in ancient Greece’s warfare and battles.
The Spear – Was it Really Effective?
The spear or dory, was a vital weapon for warriors or Hoplites in ancient Greece. These were around 6 – 8 feet long and often made out of wooden shafts, sharp iron heads, and bronze butt. The bronze part found at the other end was often used for instances when the iron head breaks. Aside from these, the Hoplites also carried swords during battles.
Most of their swords had double edges and effective for stabbing and slashing. Despite this, the swords were secondary to the spear. This is because swords were only used after throwing a spear or when it breaks.
The spear was a strong and effective piece used for thrusting during one-on-one combat. If not, it was also a piece thrown as a missile-weapon in battles. In ancient Greece, preparing the spear for throwing required the use of an Ankyle. This was a leather thong attached to the spear’s shaft along its heart of mass.
Fashioned with a small loop, the ankyle used this to have the warrior insert his first two fingers. This is possible while they’re still holding their spear with is other fingers and thumb. While holding the weapon this way, the warrior would rest the spear in his palm.
Theoretically, the purpose of this was to increase the spear’s thrust. It is also for adding more distance to the throw. Yet the real effect of the Ankyle on its throw is still unknown.
Xiphos – Short & Deadly
The Spartan Hoplites also carried the Xiphos. This was a short sword which they used as an auxiliary weapon when the spear broke or if an enemy took it away. It is a close range piece that sometimes featured a midrib. The Spartans wore the Xiphos by hanging this from a baldric under one’s left arm.
For Greek warriors, the Xiphos’ blade often had a length of two feet. Those used by the Spartans usually ranged from 12 to 18 inches. Its cross section was either lenticular or diamond.
The Xiphos had a leaf-shaped design which was effective for both thrusting and cutting. Its design has been existing since the development of the first swords. Bronze and iron blades like the Xiphos are suitable for a leaf shape since these metals are soft unlike steel.
The shorter weapon of the Spartan proved to be deadly during the crush due to colliding phalanx formations. It was able to thrust through the gaps of the enemy armor and walls. This was advantageous since there was no room for lengthy weapons. The Spartans often targeted the throat and groin of the enemy.
What is the Kopis?
In ancient Greece, the Spartans chose to use the Kopis as an alternative for the Xiphos. This was their secondary weapon with a thick, curved iron blade. It measured a total of 65 centimeters which they used for hacking. It wielders used this like an axe than a sword. Athenian art often showed Spartan warriors wielding the Kopis.
The Kopis is a heavy knife that featured a forward-curving blade. It has a single edge unlike the Xiphos that has a dual edge. It is a cut and thrust sword. It was originally used for cutting meat, animal sacrifice, and ritual slaughter.
Wielders of the Kopis used this with one hand. People considered this to be more suitable for use while on horseback but it was also efficient when on foot.
What is the Ancient Bashing Shield?
The Spartans utilized their shield for defense. However, they could also use it when they needed to bash and knock down their enemies. It was also great for stunning opponents, giving enough room for the user to reach for another weapon. This also works as a blunt weapon for killing due to its weight and thin edge.
The Aspis was the ancient bashing shield that the Hoplites used. It was not only great for defense, but was also useful for surprise attacks. It was made out of wood and its outer layer was bronze. For its weight, it was around thirty pounds.
What is a Javelin and what are its Uses?
The Peltasts, who often served as skirmishers, equipped javelins. These usually came with throwing straps to add the stand-off power. The Peltasts threw their javelins at the phalanx of the enemy to break their lines. With that, the attacking army would take the chance to destroy their opponents’ weakened formation.
In the battle of Lechaeum, the Athenian general Iphicrates took advantage of the move of the Spartan Hoplite phalanx. The Phalanx was operating in an area near Corinth and they moved to the open field without without the protection of any missile-throwing troops. Iphicrates decided to ambush the Phalanx with his Peltasts and launched repeated hit-and-run attacks towards the Spartan formation. Iphicrates’ army was able to defeat the Spartans.
This was the first time that an army of Peltasts defeated a force of Hoplites in Greek military history.
The Thorakitai and Thureophoroi gradually replaced the Peltasts. They also used javelins together with a short sword and a long thrusting spear.
The javelin was effective as a hunting weapon and using straps added sufficient power to take down large game. Those in the Ancient Olympics and Panhellenic games also used this weapon. Participants threw the Javelin in a certain direction and whoever threw it the farthest with the tip hitting first would win the game.