Armies of Ancient Greece
A foot solider in the ancient Greek army was known as a hoplite. A hoplite was equipped with a thirty-inch shield, a helmet, leg guards, a breastplate, a spear, and a sword. The equipment for one soldier weighed altogether as much as seventy pounds. When in battle, the hoplites formed a tightly packed formation known as a phalanx. They stood shield to shield in rows of eight to sixteen soldiers deep. Holding their spears out in front of them, they pushed through enemies lines by sheer weight alone.
In addition to the hoplites, other units were also formed. Poorer men, who could not afford the equipment of a hoplite, joined auxiliary units. These units included archers, slingers, javelin throwers, as well as those equipped with clubs and swords. A cavalry was formed from the wealthier classes and would use javelins to harass the opponent’s phalanx.
In addition to the soldiers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cooks, servants, and even at times wives and families followed the army. Marching an army with all the people, supplies, and equipment was often a slow process.
Wars were generally fought in the summer. At first, citizens were called as volunteers to fight whenever their city-state was threatened. By the end of the fifth century, standing armies and required military service was the norm. Before going into battle, the armies sacrificed to Ares or Athena, the god and goddess of war.
After a battle, prisoners may be swapped. At other times, they were sold into slavery to help offset the cost of the war. During the Peloponnesian War, prisoners were often killed after the battles.