The Hoplite Soldier

The Balkan Peninsula today is quite different geopolitically than it was in the time of Ancient Greece. Rather than being a large nation of a certain group of people, its society was composed of many city-states, each of which was responsible for having its own government and military.

[23] A map of the Balkan Peninsula with several powerful city-states identified.

[23] A map of the Balkan Peninsula with several powerful city-states identified.

The city-state system of Greece at the time meant that armies were more organized, which allowed for more productive and logical movements of the troops. Thus put the odds of victory in favor of the hoplites. The city-state system was the perfect middle ground between the decentralized Asian warlords and the absolute monarchies, such as the Persian Empire. Most of the Asian conflicts in that time were between many different warlords struggling for power, which led to chaotic, messy, and unorganized battles. Conversely, large empires had a tough time controlling all of their troops, due to communication being so slow. City-states were small enough that they could organize their troops and could develop effective battle plans, while being large enough to have enough troops and the discipline to successfully defend themselves.

Conscription of males of a certain age for a period of time was normal, although during times of war, age was not a reason for discharge and it would not be uncommon for old men to be fighting in the ranks of younger men. Though the hoplite gear was not cheap, it was expected that a man would join the ranks of a phalanx if he owned or could pay for it.

The close quarter’s formation of the phalanx led to a more developed interpersonal relationship between the troops. Once a soldier became part of the phalanx, he held that position until he was unable to fight. The survival of the soldiers depended on the phalanx formation staying whole for if the ranks were broken, defeat was imminent. Because of this, the soldiers fought not only for their own survival, but for the survival of the men next to them as well.

(Section composed by Alex Smith)

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