MATTHEW AMT'S

GREEK

HOPLITE

PAGE

For the reenactor, living historian, or reconstructionist with too much spare time and money


       For hundreds of years, warfare in Classical Greece was dominated by the hoplite, or heavy infantryman.  These were generally citizen-soldiers, with each man providing his own equipment and serving when necessary in defense of his city.  Hoplites fought in a phalanx, a dense line of spearmen four or more ranks deep.  Each was armed with the large round shield (which some still incorrectly call the hoplon), a spear, and a sword, and typically wore a helmet, body armor, and greaves.

       This site deals mainly with reconstructing the hoplite of the Persian War era, 490-480 BC, which is the most popular with reenactors.  However I will (eventually, hopefully) also add some guidelines for earlier and later gear as well, e.g. 7th-6th centuries BC, Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), and Hellenistic (Alexander and later).  For the Trojan War era and its Homeric heroes such as Achilles and Hector, see my Bronze Age site.  I have noticed that many people collecting Greek equipment have no guidance beyond movies and the advertisements written by vendors, so this site will attempt to lay out some basic information and recommendations.  My research has hardly been exhaustive, but this should get you started.

       This is NOT an attempt to start an ancient Greek living history group or hoplite unit!  However, I have decided to adjust my descriptions and recommendations to reflect a level of historical accuracy roughly equivalent to what my Roman group, the Twentieth Legion, strives to maintain.  So when I say that something is "unacceptable", it would be rejected for use by anyone portraying a hoplite as part of the Twentieth Legion.  If you are not part of the Twentieth Legion, obviously you can read my rules as "more like guidelines", as they say (even if you are a non-member at a Twentieth Legion event!).  But if you stick to my guidelines as closely as you can, very few hoplite groups in the world will find much fault with your clothing and gear.  Note that the level of accuracy I aim for is NOT what I would consider "stitch-counting" or extreme, and a number of compromises are taken as givens right off the bat (e.g., machine-woven fabrics, modern alloys, etc.).  Also note that this site will probably never be as in-depth and thorough as the Twentieth Legion site, but please let me know if you feel something is notably lacking!

       New research and better examination of old research has changed some of our old beliefs.  Be aware that much of the old information will continue to circulate for years, and that many popular books must now be used with great caution.  That includes all our beloved basic sources: Peter Connolly's Greek Armies, and/or pertinent sections of Greece and Rome at War; John Warry's Warfare in the Classical World; various Osprey volumes; and AM Snodgrass' Arms and Armour of the Greeks

       Research and shopping are hard!  The ancient Greeks seem to have gone out of their way to make every item of armor or weaponry difficult to reproduce, and modern archeologists seem to have hidden away vast quantities of artifacts just to keep reenactors from finding out how the darn things were made.  What is worse is that almost every piece of commercially-made ancient Greek military equipment is historically INaccurate in some way, ranging from "that could be better" to "utter trash."  It's a challenging era, but with these guidelines you should be able to skip most of the research, and reduce the time and danger of shopping.

       Oh, movies--yes, they are very inspirational for a lot of folks!  But as far as history goes, the rule of thumb is to assume that everything you see in a movie is WRONG, and go from there.  Movies are for fun, but go elsewhere for knowledge, eh?  Thanks!

Hoplite Home Page
Clothing Helmets Photos
Shield--Aspis/Hoplon Armor Weapons
Bibliography The BRONZE AGE


BASIC PRINCIPLES

       In short, the way to look like an ancient person is to do what they did!  Copy what the archeologists dig up, or what we can see in ancient artwork, or what we can read ancient descriptions of.  Simple!  No need to add anything beyond that.  (Usually!)  Obviously, there are compromises: We generally use modern tools and machinery, modern steel is substituted for wrought iron, brass for bronze, and there are "standard cheats" for shield construction.  But there are some basic rules:

--NO MOVIE PROPS!  "300" is obvious comic book fantasy, not history.  "Alexander" props look more historical but are modern materials.
--Clothing is 100% wool and linen, no blends or synthetics, including trims.  No vinyl, rubber, burlap, fake fur, or other modern materials.  Avoid chrome-tanned leather--stick to vegetable-tanned, alum tawed, rawhide, buff, etc.
--No screws, bolts, tube rivets, split rivets, or other modern fasteners.  Welds should not be visible.  No aluminum, chrome, galvanization, plastic, or foam.  Do not use bronze-colored or gold paint, or brass-plated metals.  Brass and bronze should be polished, not "antiqued".

       Additional rules and guidelines for specific items are covered in those sections.  Generally, it helps to think of what you are making as clothing and equipment, not as "costumes".  If you find yourself trying to hide modern materials or methods, you've probably gone astray!  Don't use a screw where the ancient craftsman used a rivet, or glue something he would have stitched.  Don't do ANYthing just because it "looks cool", because chances are it will *not* look like something historical.  Avoid the urge to convert modern items. And remember that "historical" means sticking as much as possible to what we KNOW--archeological remains, ancient artwork, and ancient writings.  Interpreting that evidence can get tricky and debatable, but stick to the guidelines on this site and you really can't go far wrong.  In fact you may not have to do any research of your own!

       The Legio XX Handbook Introduction page is also generally applicable, http://www.larp.com/legioxx/hndbk.html 

THE "A" WORD--AUTHENTICITY

 

            Authenticity is FUN!  Having been a historical reenactor in a dozen different eras for 30 years, aiming for historical accuracy is second nature to me.  I find authenticity to be FUN, as well as challenging and just plain satisfying.  I think of myself as a teacher, and anyone who looks at me, even if they never get close enough to ask anything, is a student.  So I want my lesson to be as accurate as possible.  The closer you get to what the Greeks actually wore, the more you learn about them, and the more you can share that with others.  THAT, to me, is what makes this Hobby great!  Most reenactment or living history groups that I know of use standards of authenticity very similar to the guidelines on my websites.  It's a matter of pride and professionalism--they want to look like what they claim to portray.

 

            I can't tell you what to do!  If the pursuit of historical accuracy is not for you, fine!  Have fun and I hope you enjoy my website.  If you're not a member of a group that I run, then I can't tell you what you can or can't wear!   However, there is a growing number of events which would welcome Greek hoplites, IF their clothing and gear is accurate and realistic enough to pass muster.  So a more accurate kit mean more opportunities to wear it.  Serious historical events (such as multi-era encampments) are really FUN, with hundreds of visitors coming just to see reenactors!  It's possible that even local Greek festivals will start to get more picky about who they invite to be hoplites, looking for those who are more realistically dressed and equipped. 

 

            Save money and effort by getting it right the first time!  If you're just getting started, great--aiming for historical accuracy the first time saves all kinds of expense and frustration.  Authentic equipment is generally lighter and more comfortable than the less accurate products.  If you already have everything and are daunted by the idea of having to start over, hang in there, and don't give in to that frustration!  Focus on your love of ancient Greece, take things slowly, and by all means yell for help if you need it! 

 

            It's not that hard!  My guidelines are designed to achieve a very acceptable level of historical accuracy as cheaply and easily as possible.  While I certainly encourage anyone who wants to take things to an even higher level, note that I am not by any means a "stitch-counter" or some kind of elitist snob.  As well-known for accuracy as I am, I almost never have hand-woven fabrics or hand-forged weapons.  And while I love to make as much of my own gear as possible, it's perfectly acceptable to buy it--that's what most ancient hoplites did, after all!  Heck, you don't even really have to do much research, if any--it's already been done by myself and others!  Take our word for how something should look, and you'll look like you should.




SUPPLIERS

Royal Oak Armory--Jeffrey Hildebrandt, Ontario, Canadahttp://www.royaloakarmoury.com/  and https://www.etsy.com/shop/RoyalOakArmoury  Some of the BEST armor and helmets around, plus weapons and other items. 

Fabrica Romanorum--Matt Lukes, Canada.  http://fabricaromanorum.shawwebspace.ca/  Greek arms and armor (as well as Roman), including one-piece helmets at a substantial savings. 

Dave Akers--pnzrfaust44april AT aol DOT com.  Custom blades, excellent work.

Manning Imperial--Craig Sitch, Australia, http://www.manningimperial.com/.   Custom shields, helmets, greaves, swords, and more.

Lonely Mountain Forge--Joe Piela, http://www.lonelymountain.hoplologia.org/ .  My friend Tom and I got our Corinthian helmets from  him--you can see Tom's being raised in one piece on Joe's website, and Tom's greaves, too.   He does excellent work and his prices are good.

Imperium Ancient Armory--California.  http://www.imperiumancientarmory.com/.  Deepeeka gear and other sources, generally very good.  (Linothorax looks great but is obsolete glued linen--ask about leather or quilted linen?)

Kult of Athena--http://www.kultofathena.com.  Good reputation for service.  Deepeeka and Daniyal equipment (see below), plus their own versions of a few items.  Don't even look at the other brands.

By-the-Sword--http://www.by-the-sword.com.  Full line of Deepeeka gear (see below).  (Steer clear of the other brands!)

Armae--http://www.armae.com/.  France (click British flag for English).  Deepeeka and Daniyal gear, plus their own line which is mostly good. 

La Wren's Nest --Lawrence Brooks, 35 Chadbourne Ridge Road, Hollis, Maine 04042.207-727-5844, fax 207-727-4596. http://www.lawrensnest.com.  Deepeeka helmets, weapons, and accessories (See below).

"Wulf"--United Kingdom, wulf.lighting AT virgin DOT net, or sabre.wulf AT virgin DOT net.  Makes a very nice aspis (shield).  Not cheap!  He may be hard to get hold of (being very busy!), but this is the only contact information I have for him.

ASPIS/HOPLON BLANKS--Michael Broyles, mjbroyles AT yahoo DOT com.  Approximately $450 plus shipping.  Any covering or fittings would be extra.

Bronze Age Craft--Neil Burridge, UK.  http://www.bronze-age-swords.com/aegean_swords.htm (bottom of page)  Trilobate arrowheads in cast bronze!  Darken the sky with really good arrows!

Venetian Cat Greek Pottery-- http://venetiancat.com/Price-List2.html  If you want FABULOUS ceramics, Julia Passamonti is the lady to go to.

***Deepeeka Steelcrafts, India--This is the supplier for many vendors.  While these items are far more accurate than any previous "off the shelf" gear, there are still flaws of various degrees.   BEWARE: Most vendors offer Deepeeka's good stuff and bad without knowing the difference!  See the various pages on this site for what's usable.
       Deepeeka has a website at http://www.deepeeka.com, but they only sell wholesale so no price information is available.  Prices will vary from vendor to vendor.  Deepeeka will not be able to give you any more detailed information about the historical accuracy of their products, either, since they only copy what someone shows them or what they see in pictures.  They don't understand authenticity or reenacting!

       Daniyal Steelcrafts (DSC) is another Indian manufacturer, RECENTLY SPLIT into Daniyal and "Ideal Armory".  We're hoping that one or both companies continue to produce good stuff!  Their Greek shield is heavy, but good otherwise. Available through Kult of Athena (http://www.kultofathena.com) or directly from Daniyal.  You might also be able to buy it through Imperium Ancient Armory in California, http://www.imperiumancientarmory.com/, or Armamentaria in the UK, http://www.armamentaria.com/store/ 

       Avoid Museum Replicas and Windlass Steelcrafts!  Nothing that they have is any better than the equivalent item from the above sources, and most of it is worse.  They have demonstrated repeatedly that they have no knowledge or concern for historical accuracy in their pre-medieval products.

       People often ask about the cast bronze Greek helmets from Hellenic Art--Some of these look reasonable in form, but they claim to be cast rather than correctly hammer forged.  Most are inaccurate in appearance, too heavy to wear, painted green rather than polished, and  EXPENSIVE!  Better for the shelf than the head.

       For a long list of suppliers of materials and equipment, see the Legio XX Suppliers page, http://www.larp.com/legioxx/supplrs.html.



LINKS

The Forum for Ancient Reenacting--A relatively new board, aimed at reenactors in North America
http://ancientreenacting.proboards.com/index.cgi 

Online Agora--Not much action, needs more people posting! 
http://www.hippeis.com/forum/index.php  

THE PHALANX Email discussion list, but pretty much dead...
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~sparta/phalanx/

King Leonidas and the Spartans of Thermopylae
http://300spartanwarriors.com/ 
http://www.300spartanwarriors.blogspot.com/ 

The Greek Warriors--Hoplite unit in New York
http://www.thegreekwarriors.com/

The Warriors of Greece--Charlotte, North Carolina
http://www.thewarriorsofgreece.com/ 

Taxeis Plataia--The Plataians--Canada
A branch of Hoplologia
http://www.plataians.org/
http://www.hoplologia.org/

The Hoplite Association, UK--A hoplite reenactment group, and they look good!
http://www.hoplites.org/ 
http://www.4hoplites.com/ --Includes more equipment guides, etc.

Sydney Ancients--Mark Kelly.  Hoplites and other ancient types, Australia. 
http://www.sydneyancients.5u.com/

Hoplite group, Germany
http://hetairoi.de/ 

Listing of Greek Festivals in the US--Need some place to wear this stuff, right?
http://www.greek-fest.com  

John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation Electronic Library--15 Museum Catalogs online, full of artifacts, including some armor and weaponry
http://www.latsis-foundation.org/default.asp?pid=92&la=2&libID=1 

Theoi Greek Mythology--Large galleries of vase paintings
http://www.theoi.com/ 

Sparta: Her People, Her Culture, Her Legacy--by Kevin Marshall and Kevin Hendryx, still under construction but GREAT book list.
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~sparta/

Ancient Greek Armour, Shields and Helmets--Great links and photos, but beware of the links to equipment vendors!
http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/war/Armor2.htm 

Hellenic Macedonia--Artifact Photo Gallery.  Includes Philip II's equipment and more.
http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/gallery.html 

Metropolitan Museum of Art--Muscled cuirass
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gwar/ho_1992.180.3a.htm 

Four interesting helmets
http://www.insecula.com/oeuvre/O0009458.html 

Hermann Historica Munchen--Antiquities Auction house, browse through for photos of helmets, armor, etc.
http://www.hermann-historica.de/gb/index.htm

Slinging.org--Stone Age Ballistics--A number of great articles on slings and slinging, links, etc.
http://www.slinging.org

University of Pennsylvania Museum --Used to have a Virtual Exhibit, but it seems to be gone.
http://www.museum.upenn.edu/

The Twentieth Legion--see how I spend most  of my time and energy
http://www.larp.com/legioxx/index.html 

ROMULUS, The Founder of Rome--My page on everyone's favorite Villanovan warrior is pretty good, too!
http://www.larp.com/hoplite/Romulus.html

Hoplite Home Page
Clothing Helmets Photos
Shield--Aspis/Hoplon Armor Weapons
Bibliography The BRONZE AGE


THIS PAGE AND THIS AUTHOR

       This page last revised 7/9/14.

       My vital statistics:  Matthew Amt, Laurel, MD, email matthew_amt AT yahooo DOT com .  (Be sure to put something distinctive in the subject line, or your message may get deleted as spam!)   I have constructed this website to be of some assistance to anyone dabbling in this era, and you may contact me if you think you can wheedle more information out of me (oh, probably).  And of course if you think you have something to add, by all means let me know!

Copyright Matthew R. Amt, 2012.  Permission is granted to print, download , or copy information on this site for personal use, or for sharing freely with other interested persons, as long as due credit is given.  Permission is NOT given for commercial use or personal profit.  When in doubt, just ask!