Above all, the one iconic symbol and piece of equipment of the Greek hoplite was the hoplite shield. Called the hoplon in the Classical Age Greece, it has also been regarded as the most distinguishable part of the hoplite (see Ferrill 1985, 101). Original hoplite shields would traditionally be constructed out of carved wood, that is until the Spartans completely encased their shields in bronze in 425 B.C. (see Ferrill 1985, 101). Crucial to the hoplite shield design was the concave, “bowl shape” of the shield. On the inside of the shield was a form of “double grip”. The porpax was the strap in the center of the shield that a hoplite would rest his forearm in. The antilabe was a grip on the outside of the shield in which a hand could grasp.
Use in BattlePrimarily, the shield serves as protection for the hoplite that holds it, as well as the hoplite to his immediate left. The double grip method of holding the shield offers protection on the center and left side of the body, but leaves the right side of the body exposed, unless the hoplite utilizes the extra, redundant portion of the shield owned by the hoplite to the right of him. Allowing a hoplite to utilize the extra portion of his fellow combatant’s shield would also imply that the hoplite phalanx would have a tendency to move right when advancing in combat (see “Formations and Tactics”). Thucydides mentions the right step motion in his account of the Battle of Manitea in 418 B.C. Thucydides states that all Greek armies are alike in there tendency to step right when engaging in battle, as hoplites would out of fear move to cover their unprotected sides with the left half of the hoplite next to them (see Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 7.71). The fact that Thucydides mentions the rightward motion of the phalanx due to the hoplon cannot be ignored. An action so significant that a Greek general would mention it in his writings suggests a uniqueness to the motion and the phalanx it self, and contributed to the phalanx emerging as a battle formation unlike anything the world had ever seen before.