Scarlet Cloak of a Hoplite
Scarlet Cloak of a Hoplite. CC Flickr User Rebecca Thompson1

Definition: The Hoplites were the heavily armed infantry soldiers of the Greeks. It is thought by many that the name "hoplite" comes from a Greek word "hoplon" for a specific shape (large and round) of shield with a "flat offset rim (itus)" and two handles on the inside, that Paul Cartledge says was invented by 700 B.C. It was usually bronze-rimmed wood. By 425, the Spartan shield generally had a thin sheet of bronze over it.

Its size depended on the length of the wearer's forearm.

The shield provided protection, but only for the wearer's front. It was used in close formation fighting with a painted "blazon" that may have been decorative but served to alert fighters to the allegiance of the hoplite. The Spartans had a painted Lambda for Laconia on their shields.

Hoplites wore tunics under other armor that included breastplates, helmets, and greaves. They carried spears and swords to use in their close style of fighting. Spartan hoplites also wore a short red cloak and long hair.


"The Myth of the Hoplite's Hoplon," by J. F. Lazenby; David Whitehead. The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 1. (1996), pp. 27-33.

Hoplites and Heroes: Sparta's Contribution to the Technique of Ancient Warfare," by Paul Cartledge. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 97. (1977), pp. 11-27.

Examples: Hoplite armies fought in close formation edging ever to the right to seek the protection of their neighbor's shield to protect their right side.

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Gill, N.S. "Hoplites." ThoughtCo, Dec. 4, 2014, thoughtco.com/hoplites-greek-soldier-118869. Gill, N.S. (2014, December 4). Hoplites. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hoplites-greek-soldier-118869 Gill, N.S. "Hoplites." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hoplites-greek-soldier-118869 (accessed December 18, 2017).