This is the first in a series of posts that will discuss a broad range of topics relating to Hegemony: Philip of Macedon. This post will introduce the Hoplite unit.
Hoplites form the main infantry battleline of the Greek City-State armies. They wear a helmet, greaves and breastplate and carry a 3-foot diameter shield that provides excellent missile defense. Hoplites advance into battle in close order formations, often charging the last few feet to maximize the impact phase of melee combat. Their main weapon is a 10-foot thrusting spear, used overhand. They also carry a short sword as a secondary weapon.
Hoplites are strong on defense and powerful in frontal melee combat making them ideal for blocking or forcing their way through mountain passes. Hoplites are slow, which makes them ineffective for reconnaissance.
The Origin of the Hoplite
After the decline of central control and collapse of the Mycenaean Empire in the 12th century BC, the Greek world entered a chaotic period of nomadic migrations, invasions and fragmentation.
In the 8th century BC, in an attempt to stop invaders from pillaging their small fertile valleys, cities began to organize spearmen in close order phalanx-like formations. In these tight formations, hoplites could take advantage of surrounding mountains and block narrow choke points, forcing combat to change from loose skirmish to close order melee. These quick and decisive battles were the best way to protect valuable farmland from skirmishing pillagers.
The success of the hoplite allowed cities to stabilize and thrive. As a consequence, citizen-soldiers purchased better armor (hopla) and became the primary defenders of the state. This new Hoplite-Class (middle-class) gradually gained power and control through direct rule by the people (democracy).
Thus, the desire to protect small fertile valleys, led to Hoplite warfare, which empowered a growing middle class to gain control of the City-State through the development and spread of democracy.