History Biography Geography Science Games

Ancient Greece

Soldiers and War

History >> Ancient Greece

The Ancient Greek city-states often fought each other. Sometimes groups of city-states would unite to fight other groups of city-states in large wars. Rarely, the Greek city-states would unite together to fight a common enemy such as the Persians in the Persian Wars.
Greek hoplite soldier holding spear and shield
A Greek Hoplite
by Unknown

Who were the soldiers?

All the men living in a Greek city-state were expected to fight in the army. In most cases, these weren't full time soldiers, but men who owned land or businesses who were fighting to defend their property.

What weapons and armor did they have?

Each Greek warrior had to provide his own armor and weapons. Typically, the wealthier the soldier the better armor and weapons he had. A full set of armor included a shield, a bronze breastplate, a helmet, and greaves that protected the shins. Most soldiers carried a long spear called a doru and a short sword called a xiphos.

A full set of armor and weapons could be very heavy and weigh well over 60 pounds. The shield alone could weigh 30 pounds. The shield was considered the most important part of a soldier's armor. It was considered a disgrace to lose your shield in battle. Legend has it that Spartan mothers told their sons to return home from battle "with their shield or on it." By "on it" they meant dead because dead soldiers were often carried on their shields.


The main Greek soldier was the foot soldier called a "hoplite." Hoplites carried large shields and long spears. The name "hoplite" comes from their shield which they called the "hoplon."

Greek soldiers in phalanx with shields
A Greek Phalanx
Source: United States Government

The hoplites fought in a battle formation called the "phalanx." In the phalanx, soldiers would stand side by side overlapping their shields to make a wall of protection. Then they would march forward using their spears to attack their opponents. There were generally several rows of soldiers. The soldiers in the back rows would brace the soldiers in front of them and also keep them moving forward.

The Army of Sparta

The most famous and fiercest warriors of Ancient Greece were the Spartans. The Spartans were a warrior society. Every man trained to be a soldier from the time he was a boy. Each soldier went through a rigorous boot camp training. Spartan men were expected to train as soldiers and fight until they were sixty years old.

Fighting at Sea

Living along the coast of the Aegean Sea, the Greeks became experts at building ships. One of the main ships used for battle was called the trireme. The trireme had three banks of oars on each side allowing up to 170 rowers to power the ship. This made the trireme very fast in battle.

The main weapon on a Greek ship was a bronze prow at the front of the ship. It was used like a battering ram. Sailors would ram the prow into the side of an enemy ship causing it to sink.

Interesting Facts About the Soldiers and War of Ancient Greece Activities For more about Ancient Greece:

Timeline of Ancient Greece
The City of Athens
Minoans and Mycenaeans
Greek City-states
Peloponnesian War
Persian Wars
Decline and Fall
Legacy of Ancient Greece
Glossary and Terms

Arts and Culture
Ancient Greek Art
Drama and Theater
Olympic Games
Government of Ancient Greece
Greek Alphabet

Daily Life
Daily Lives of the Ancient Greeks
Typical Greek Town
Women in Greece
Science and Technology
Soldiers and War

Alexander the Great
25 Famous Greek People
Greek Philosophers

Greek Mythology
Greek Gods and Mythology
Monsters of Greek Mythology
The Titans
The Iliad
The Odyssey

The Olympian Gods

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Greece

Ducksters Footer Gif with Ducks

About Ducksters Privacy Policy 


This site is a product of TSI (Technological Solutions, Inc.), Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use.