First proposed and developed by Professor Anthony M. Snodgrass in the 1960s, the model of gradualism is of the strongest of the theories about the evolution of the phalanx. The theory primarily uses the information gathered from various pieces of archaeological evidence, mostly found weapons and armor recovered from graves or holy sites, in order to make its case.
The basis of gradualism is relatively simple: place the archaeological finds in chronological order and track the development of the weapons and armor until all the pieces of the final phalanx are accounted for. Once the finds are arranged in a linear order, an approximate period of the adoption of the phalanx equipment can be determined.The earliest archaeological evidence that point toward a complete phalanx are greaves and breastplates. Perhaps the earliest mention of these are in Homer’s The Iliad at around 750 BC, “First he clasped the fine greaves, with silver ankle-pieces, round his legs. Next he strapped on the breastplate, and slung the silver-studded bronze sword across his shoulders” (Homer, 62).
The next item in chronological order is an suit of bronze armor found in a grave, called the Argos Panoply, in Argos (Wilson, 92). This suit of armor consisted of a breastplate and helmet that can be dated back to around 720 BC.
Crucial to the hoplites was a piece of headwear called the corinthian helmet, noted for hits T-shaped opening in the front. This suggests that since the helmet has a strong frontality, then it was used by soldiers that were fighting head-on and unmoving. The earliest of these helmets found all over the Peloponnese can be dated to sometime close to 700 BC (Sage, 26).
The gigantic Hoplon shield, namesake of the hoplites, is believed to be the final piece in the defensive equipment of the phalanx. An estimation from those artifacts found dates its introduction and adoption into the phalanx to around 650 BC.
In gradualism, the adoption of the equipment is believed to have occurred over several generations. As more people can afford the equipment, the phalanx appears gradually from 750 – 650 BC.
Gradualism is seen as having a strong argument and many accept the theory as an explanation for the development of the phalanx. This is due to the fact that it’s based on solid, archaeological evidence that is very hard to dissuade or counter.