Although there were minimum equipment requirements for a soldier to be able to join a hoplite phalanx not all hoplites were equipped equally. In classical Greece the individual was expected to provide their own equipment. Therefore as a result differing levels of personal wealth hoplites tended to display a wide variety of equipment. The one exception to this generalisation was Sparta. Sparta dictated the equipment and tunic colour of its hoplites and presented a much more uniform force than most Greek armies.
In order to function effectively in hoplite phalanx combat the minimum equipment needed was a shield and a spear. The shield was the single most important piece of equipment for a Greek hoplite. The shield protected not only the man holding it but also the provided some protection for the man to his left.
Evidence indicates that the production of shields was big business. One Greek, Lysias’ father, owned a shield factory which employed the services of 120 full-time slaves and apparently possessed a stockpile of approximately 700 shields.
It is clear that the spear was the primary weapon of the hoplite, and favoured over the sword. This was true most likely for two reasons, the first was reach. The spear allowed the hoplite to project an attack well forward of the shield wall. The second reason would have had to do with affordability. The sword used a lot of iron (or bronze depending on the time period) in its manufacture making them far more costly than a spear. Even this basic panapoly of equipment cost the equivalent of one month’s pay, a full panapoly which would have included linothorax body armour, a helmet and greaves would have cost at least 3 months wages.
Lookout for the upcoming feature discussing linothorax body armour in detail.
featured image credit: “Hoplite fight from Athens Museum” by photo by Grant Mitchell – http://www.flickr.com/photos/anachronism_uk/84783957/in/set-1811994/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hoplite_fight_from_Athens_Museum.jpg#/media/File:Hoplite_fight_from_Athens_Museum.jpg