By far, the most important and noticeable piece of equipment for a hoplite was the shield they carried. This shield solely determined how phalanx warfare was fought. Called a hoplon, it had a rounded convex, bowl-like shape and a unique “double grip”.  The shape allowed the shield to be rested on the hoplites shoulder and was also useful in providing them the ability to take cover, practically inside of it, when a barrage of missiles rained down upon them.


[15] A schematic of a hoplon. Notice the convex nature and the cavity on the inside.

The left arm would go through a strap, called a “porpax”, near the center of the shield and hold onto another grip, called an “antilabe”, on the rim of the shield.  This grip allowed the weight of the shield to be distributed over a greater area, increase the hoplite’s mobility, and made it nearly impossible for the shield to be knocked out of a soldier’s grip during combat (Carey, 38). These grips also allowed a hoplite to use his shield as a weapon to push or batter the enemy. These hoplons were originally just carved wood, but as time went on they were coated in bronze for additional strength and durability. Even with the bronze coating, the shield remained remarkably lightweight for its size.

A hoplon’s size, commonly with a minimum diameter of three feet, provided protection from the hoplites neck all the way down to his knees.  For this reason, enemy hoplites would attempt to strike either above the shield, at a hoplite’s neck, or go below the shield to the hoplite’s upper thigh and groin area.

A hoplite carried his shield on his left arm, this meant that the shield protected his body and a portion of the solider to the left of him in a close order.  This meant that the solider at the very right of the phalanx was less protected than the rest of the hoplites.  As a result, this hoplite would generally tend to shift right as pull the entire phalanx with him, something that would be corrected in later versions of the formation (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 7.71).

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