Hanson, Victor Davis
January 1996
Reader's Companion to Military History;1996, p211
Book Chapter
Hoplites were the heavy infantry of the Greek city-states who fought in the columnar formation of the phalanx. Hoplites crafted sophisticated weaponry and armor to meet the new realities of formalized shock warfare. The helmet, breastplate, and greaves were constructed entirely of bronze, reaching a thickness of about a half inch, providing immunity from the attacks of most swords, missiles, and spears. For nearly two and a half centuries, no army in the Mediterranean could withstand the charge of a hoplite phalanx. But after the Peloponnesian War in 431-404 B.C., its limitations became unmistakable. On rough terrain, in mountain passes, and on long marches, cavalry, light-armed troops, and archers were needed to provide cover, pursuit, and reconnaissance. Yet, the ideals of hoplite warfare--the dominance of heavy infantry, the ideal of a citizen militia, the preference for direct confrontation, and a reliance on superior technology--remained strong in the West.


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