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Armor in the late fifth century bc.
#1
In the book by Nicolas Sekunda titled: 'The Ancient Greeks' part of the Osprey Pub series, Dr Sekunda describes a shift in the use of armor late in the fifth century bc, armor seems to almost dissapear as Spartans are depicted wearing only a Pylos helmet and tunic, no curaiss, greaves etc and Boeotian hoplites are all but naked. This seems odd, does this indicate a change in battlefield tactics? Availability of materials? Are these hoplites still considered to be heavy infantry? The book is only 60 pages so there is not much elaboration, only brief descriptions.
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
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#2
Yes,as long as you carry a hoplite shield,you have a helmet and carry a spear,and most importantly,you join the phalanx,you are heavy infantry.
We only have indications on why this happened,and in fact we are not even sure to what extend it happened.
The first of them to me is in the first book of Thucydides,where he says that the war he is writing about (the Peloponnesian that lasted the last 30 years of the 5th century) is the greatest that ever happened not only in importance or length,but also in the armies that took part. Because,as he says, not only many city states took place taking the part of the one or the other league,but before that war all cities had much fewer hoplites than that those that they employed in this one, and they actually had fewer than they themselves believed!
Now this statement is telling,in my opinion. He is clearly saying that for some reason the hoplite armies grew in one night. And this in my opinion cannot mean that suddently thousands of citizens decided that they can afford a full panoply.
Now,of course tactics also evolved and changed. I am not sure which was the consequence of the other. I guess it's a circular arguement,but the point is that the situations allowed for more flexibility even in hoplite armies,and these often had to perform tasks that very heavily armed troops couldn't do.
Nowhere has an ancient historian stated that the Boeotian hoplites were more heavily armoured than the Laconian ones. Actually,the fashion changed everywhere,at least on how the soldiers are depicted on funerary stelae. For insance,you will see Boeotian soldiers wearing the "laconian" pilos. You will also see Athenian soldiers wearing the "laconian" pilos. And some of them were actually just felt caps and men seem to have gone to battle in them!
On the other hand,there is also indication that some armour was expected by spartan hoplites,and that there would be punishment if they faught "naked" even if they proved to be the most valiant in battle.
The end of the fifth century was also the age when hoplites were meant to board triremes and fight amphibious. Not only Athenians but also Lacedaemonians. One would wonder if this is also a factor that many soldiers of the end of the fifth century and the start of the 4th are shown in they funerary stelae unarmored.
Once again we are not sure, but it seems that a bit of everything holds some truth and it might have been no much different than in the past,with the front rankers well armoured and the rear rankers not so well armoured. Heck,we don't have a hint about this thing either,other than logic!
Hope to have confused you a bit more
Khaire
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#3
I too can add to the confusion ! As Giannis says, it seems 'de minimis' Hoplite 'panoplia' consisted of shield, spear, and helmet. Body armour, greaves and swords do not seem to have equipped all in the phalanx. Following the Persian wars, we see Hoplites depicted thus in action against Persians ( and incidently with crestless helmets), whereas previously pottery depictions ( our major source for the appearance of Greek Hoplites) depicted the mythological Heroes and Gods, who of course always had the richest and most complete panoplies, thereby leading to a distorted view and false conclusions about the appearance of contemporary Hoplites.

Quote:And this in my opinion cannot mean that suddently thousands of citizens decided that they can afford a full panoply.

This is quite correct, and for example, the idea that Hoplites were always 'middle class' landowners who provided their own equipment is demonstrably wrong. During the expansions of the city states in the Peloponnesian and subsequent wars, as Giannis says, the need for ever more hoplites grew, and in Athens, the 'Thetes'/poorer classes provided hoplites on land, and especially for service as Marines ( the philosopher Socrates was one such who served as a 'Hoplite' despite not being wealthy enough to belong to the 'Hoplite Class') and in Sparta, units of Helot serfs were raised as hoplites ('neodamodeis') who certainly couldn't afford panoplies.

Certainly, with the growth of professional soldiers who marched on campaign, rather than simply fronting up outside a city for a quick battle, we see a definite lightening of the hoplite panoply generally - shields, armour, helmets all grew ligher and the use of greaves seems to decline - but despite the fashion in funeral monuments to show unarmoured hoplites, and the consequent conclusion of some that later Spartan hoplites were 'un-armoured' and did not wear body armour, this is demonstrably incorrect, as demonstrated by the literature. In addition to Giannis' example of a soldier fined for fighting 'naked'/unarmoured, we also hear of King Agesilaus wounded "through his armour" for example, and lest it be thought that only Kings and the very rich wore body armour, Xenophon tells us of a humble Spartan mercenary killed by an arrow through his armour.

Quote:but it seems that a bit of everything holds some truth and it might have been no much different than in the past,with the front rankers well armoured and the rear rankers not so well armoured.

Certainly, from the Persian Wars onward, when real soldiers are first depicted, we see hoplites without body armour, and also a tendency toward lightening of equipment, so I agree with Giannis here. Hoplites with differing grades of equipment evidently always existed. To what extent the proportion of 'lighter' un-armoured Hoplites formed the phalanx probably varied from time to time, state to state, and the corresponding wealth of both individually, and state, equipped troops in any given campaign.....

Confused enough yet? :wink: :wink:
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#4
I seem to recall an arsenal kept in the Acropolis in Athens to equip men during times of crisis. Or is my memory getting confused with other city states(like Rome)?
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#5
Quote:I seem to recall an arsenal kept in the Acropolis in Athens to equip men during times of crisis. Or is my memory getting confused with other city states(like Rome)?

No, you are quite right - we even have partial lists of such equipment kept in temples/arsenals, which Ruben has referred to elsewhere....
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#6
Thanks guys!.....I guess :? (just kidding) I assumed there would be various reasons for the seeming decline in armor during this time and to varying extent as well, Sekunda does attempt to provide a brief explanation and he also points out that the monumental depictions of almost naked warriors could simply be a device used by artists to produce a more 'heroic' image and in some part, a celebration of human form.

I had suspected there were also possibly economic reasons as well, Thucydides states that nothing in the history of Hellas compared to the suffering caused by the Peloponnesion war (paraphrased), he also has the Spartan king Archidamus warn that the war: "is not likely to be anything on a small scale" and later; "I fear that it is more likely that we shall be leaving it to our children after us". It is plausible that so many were pressed into service that there was simply not enough armor available, also, naval blockades, the destruction of crops etc. would have had a devastating effect on local economies, especially the smaller city-states who were trapped in the middle of a fight between two giants (Sparta, Athens).

Sekunda also describes a resurgence in the use of armor in the early to mid fourth century bc, the bronze 'muscle curaiss' seems to have enjoyed a revival in popularity during this time, in the book this is somewhat attributed to the threat posed by Macedonia, could this also be in part due to more stable economic times following the Peloponnesian war[s]?
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
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#7
Sorry Guys, but after re-reading your responses it seems that I have missed the point :oops: . Is the apparent decline in armor actually unremarkable? And hoplites were always typically armed and armored to the extent they could afford? Or in the case of 'state issue' equipment, what the state could afford?
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
Reply
#8
Secunda does give this impression about the fourth century. Then he asks his illustrator to paint as many bronze cuirasses in an aftermath scene,as there would have been in a whole city state...or more! Were they better armored? Or just that fashion in the funerary stelae changed? In my opinion,it is just the fact that the muscled cuirass became much more usual in the fourth century-and especiall Italy- than the fifth. Thus,the fact that it's depicted and found in 4th century context doesn't necessarily mean that armies were armored with it. Far from it. The almost naked hoplites continue to appear frequently in the fourth century art. Together with a modified version of the tube & yoke, and the muscled cuirass.
To give you an idea, in the Parthenon frieze there are many armored youths. Of them,about five or six were wearing the tube & yoke cuirass,and perhaps they're more those who wear muscled cuirasses! But those are the high class Athenians in their biggest festical, of an Athens at her most glorious time.
However i have seen very few muscled cuirasses from mainland Greece, either 5th or 4th century. And i have seen dozens from South Italy,from both centuries...
In Xenophon's mercenary army which might have been a splendid army and operated in the borders between 5th and 4th centrury, Xenophon himself says that most of them didn't join the campaign in due to lack of money! They mostly joined for glory! Yet in that army,there have been much less than 50 muscled cuirasses!
No muscled cuirasses il: know of have been found in Macedonia either. "Philip's" tomb had an iron cuirass imitating the tube & yoke one, and at least one more that was organic and only some fittings remain. It's also not common in Macedonian art.
Khaire
Giannis

PS. Ahaa!!! You have missed the point which means our strategy worked! :mrgreen: Kidding. Your question i think should be kept and always be thought whatever are your own conclusions according to the evidence. RAT is a great place to have great questions :lol:
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#9
Quote:PS. Ahaa!!! You have missed the point which means our strategy worked!

Hey, lets confuse the new guy!

So that's how it is going to be, huh? :lol: (kidding of course)

Thanks so much for your response guys, does anyone have anything to add?
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
Reply
#10
Quote:
Quote:PS. Ahaa!!! You have missed the point which means our strategy worked!

Hey, lets confuse the new guy!

So that's how it is going to be, huh? :lol: (kidding of course)

Thanks so much for your response guys, does anyone have anything to add?

That's O.K.!....now you have as much information as anyone. I would like to emphasise one very good point that Giannis made. Archaeology paints a rather different picture to funeral stele, in that there are very few muscled cuirasses found in a Greek context ( and that may be a false picture too if the bronze was 'recycled'. We only have the South Italian examples because of their considerate funeral custom of placing armour and belongings in tombs!) Among the Ten thousand, as Xenophon records, and Giannis points out, there were fewer than 50 such cuirasses. That army was as big as even a large city-state could field.
So do you think Sekunda is right to suggest, based on a fashion in funeral stele, that the bronze cuirass was popular in Athens from the 360's?
Or should we perhaps bear in mind that on your funeral stele, you could have any panoply you liked, even if you could never have afforded it in life?

More confusion??? :? ? lol:
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#11
Thinks are simpler because:

Everyone wants armor if he goes for a heavy infantry engagement.
A can he afford it?
B is it available?
C are the craftsmen available?

All troops in the length of time try to maximize their protection but A and C are important factors.

Example: 700 Thespians at Deleon 421 B.C 400 dead: potters, metalworkres, carpenders, leather workers among them.
How easy would it have been to be armored in Thespiae after that?

Also bronze could be reused and iron could not.
The "armorless" 4th century troopers has been overplayed in my opinion.

Kind regards
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#12
Good example Stefanos, but I thought the Thespians died to a man at Delium?

So it seems that there was not an intentional shift away from the wearing of armor, I had felt that this theory made no sense anyway, any noticable decline in the apperance of armor could be easily attributed to many factors, or there was no decline in production, just a drastic increase in demand by many who simply could not afford it, as Giannis said, it is a circular argument. Smile
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
Reply
#13
Dithyrambus wrote:
Quote:So it seems that there was not an intentional shift away from the wearing of armor,

Not entirely true, as I was trying to point out before. Beware of simplistic explanations! As is true of most questions there were complex factors at work. The requirements of a Hoplite c. 650, who is going to spend a mere day outside the city wall, defending the surrounding farmland, might primarily be defensive....so the best equipped might tend toward maximum protection ( carried by his servant) including fully enclosed Corinthian helmet, bronze 'thorakes' , greaves, arm guards, thigh pieces and even footguards! The same guy might also acquire this gear, impractical though some of it might seem, because he wants to have prestige parading in it in his city's religious festivals, so others can gasp at his obvious wealth ( just like we pay silly money for a prestigious car or SUV :wink: )
The poorer Hoplites, as always, get by with what they can afford - just shield, helmet, spear.

Now consider a Hoplite c. 400 BC. The Peloponnesian War, and other 'inter-city' wars have wrought much social change - Hoplites are no longer just the 'middle-class' landowners, but include the poorer classes too, and because of the wars, there are now many professional soldiers who know no other trade. That Hoplite, who is going to spend his life moving around from employer to employer - on foot, it's the only way - living the life of the mercenary, has different needs. He's too poor to afford a servant ( mercenaries, because they had no other 'trade options' weren't particularly highly paid - they hoped for future booty to 'make it' in life), but let's say he can pretty much choose what gear to have. Armguards, footguards, thigh guards? He's going to spend most of his working life on the march or in garrison, and maybe fighting one or two battles in twenty years, so they are not worth the trouble of lugging around with him. Enclosed helmet? Too hot! These days he needs to hear orders in battle, and carry it on the march - a nice light 'pilos' helmet then. Greaves? Body armour? Maybe, if he is a 'file leader' or fights in the front ranks, but again they are hot and heavy to carry while marching across, say, Turkey !!

Poorer Hoplites? No decisions to make. As ever!

And the 'city' Hoplites? They follow the 'fashions' set by the 'professionals' !

Now, I have only touched upon a few factors, but I am sure you can see why a phalanx of 400 BC would, overall, probably look 'lighter' and with less armour than one of 600 BC, even though both contain Hoplites minimally armed and wealthier ones well armed.....

So is that an 'intentional shift', or one caused by a number of different circumstances, changes in social history etc? :? ?
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#14
Thanks Paul, your last comment has opened my eyes to the true complexity of what I originally thought to be a simple question, I was actually self conscious about asking it to begin with as it seemed possibly a 'dumb question'. Of course, I realize that there are potentialy many questions pertaining to details, but at least now I have a better understanding of the 'big picture'.

Quote: Beware of simplistic explanations! As is true of most questions there were complex factors at work.
I will remember this!
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
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#15
Now I am going to ask one of those 'detail' questions, I have read references to 'thigh guards' used by hoplites, but I dont remember seeing an image of an original or a re-construction, it would certainly be wise to protect the thigh area, considering that a simple cut to the thigh (femoral artery) could result in death within minutes if not seconds. Would anyone care to elaborate on this seemingly rare piece of equipment?

Thanks Smile
_____________________________________________________
Mark Hayes

"The men who once dwelled beneath the crags of Mt Helicon, the broad land of Thespiae now boasts of their courage"
Philiades

"So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorius end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn"
Hektor, the Iliad
Reply


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