As promised, this page is my current "dump" for all the ancient Greek-era impressions besides the Persian War hoplite.  Very much under construction!  I don't want to say that I plan to complete a full kit for each of these listings, but, um... 

       Forgive my loose usage of the term "Archaic", since strictly speaking that includes the popular Persian War era.  In this case I mean the centuries before about 550 BC, when we can see significant differences in clothing and equipment, compared to the Persian Wars.  While this era saw the rise of the hoplite and the development of the phalanx itself, it is surprisingly obscure in terms of literature and history.  Between the Trojan War and the Persian Wars, there are virtually no commonly-known events or even personalities, so it can be more difficult to communicate the significance of the era to the public.  There are archeological remains, however, and there is certainly plenty of artwork in the form of Black-Figure and Geometric vase paintings.

       And there is cool stuff!  The early form of Corinthian helmet, the narrower Doric chiton (with armholes at the sides), the bell cuirass, and the Naue II-type sword--subtle details which combine to give a noticeably different appearance overall.  Javelins with throwing loops are commonly seen, or pairs of spears, implying a phalanx with its own missile capability.

Clothing: Narrow Doric chiton, generally with decoration on the hem, sometimes made in wrap-around fashion with the opening at the front
Helmet: Archaic Corinthian, Illyrian, even a Kegelhelm if you go early enough
Armor: Bronze bell cuirass, early greaves; upper and lower arm guards (right arm only) are also known, as well as thigh guards.
Shield with whatever "early" features can be traced (depth, rim angle, etc.), and early emblems
Spear, often with optional javelin with throwing loop.
Optional sword, Naue II style

The Doric chiton is generally depicted as narrow and not baggy, without the later pleats and draped look.  There is often decoration at the hem and neck.  Mine is made from an old blanket, and the color is a shade that madder can give.  The decoration is embroidered with purple wool yarn.
My Archaic helmet is described on the Helmets page.
I made my "iron" Naue II sword by grinding it out of 1/4" mild steel scrap with an angle grinder.  The blade is about 21" long, and the hilt is ebony (African blackwood).  http://www.hippeis.com/forum/index.php?topic=1191.0 

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


       Yes, yes, Spartans--not really my thing, but I will do what I can to help!  As far as we can tell, the Spartans of the Persian Wars and earlier were not equipped much differently from any other Greeks.  They DID wear red!  There is still some debate as to whether that meant a red chiton or red chlamys or red tribon, or everything, but most folks go with chiton and chlamys.  Then we can argue about the shade of red--scarlet comes from rather expensive dyes, and seems un-Spartan because of that.  So the alternative is madder, which is cheap but makes a more orangey-red or salmon color, more like my Archaic chiton above.  It can be difficult to find madder-red wool, but 18th century reenactor suppliers often carry it as it is used for British uniforms.  A color such as terra-cotta may also work.  Finding madder shades in linen is nearly impossible, unfortunately. 

       Spartan shields are said to have been made so that the porpax was detachable, and several of those found at Olympia have hinge tubes at either end of the "arch".  These would mate with corresponding tubes on the vertical bands, and be secured with removable pins.  Another option is to put 4 or 6 loops like large cotter pins on the back of the shield (like the loops holding the rings for the carrying cord), which pass through slots in the ends of the porpax (where it lies flat against the back of the shield).  Lockpins hold the porpax in place.  Without the porpax firmly fixed in place, of course, the shield cannot be used by potentially rebellious helots.  Obviously, modern hinges or other hardware should not be used!

       Oddly enough, it is NOT at all certain that Spartans took to using the lambda symbol (for Lakedaimonia) on their shields even after the Persian Wars.  Such letters do seem to have been used by some other cities, certainly for sport (the armored footrace) but not necessarily for war.  The few references we have are of debatable value, and the sources that *should* discuss such things are frustratingly silent (possibly because such details were common knowledge!).

       Spartans are also known for carrying short swords, as in the famous story of the mother telling her son to "add one step forward".  While examples of the xiphos with blades as short as 12 inches are certainly known, artwork does not seem to show such weapons in use until after the Persian Wars.  So like the lambda shield emblem and pilos helmet, the short Spartan sword is apparently more a feature of the Peloponnesian War era.  On the other hand, dagger-length Naue II swords have been found, proving that large daggers or very short swords were known earlier in the Archaic era.



       The changes from the Persian Wars to the Peloponnesian Wars are subtle, but should not be glossed over or ignored.  Probably one of the most significant was that the Corinthian helmet was out of style and would have been quite rare.  Thracian and Chalcidian types were the most common, and inexpensive pilos or bell helmets were becoming popular.  Body armor seems to have been less common overall, though the muscled cuirass and leather spolas were still seen.  Much of these changes accompany the growing use of mercenaries and professional troops to supplement or replace the traditional "militia" forces.

Clothing: Standard Ionic chiton, or exomis (worn off right shoulder); chlamys; sandals or boots or shoes
Helmet: Thracian, Phrygian, Chalcidian, pilos, Boeotian/bronze petasos, or *felt* pilos
Armor: Muscled cuirass (uncommon); leather tube-and-yoke; possibly quilted linen tube-and-yoke; also what might be thick/quilted narrow tunic or kilt (perizoma?); or NONE!  Optional greaves.
Sword: long or short xiphos; kopis
Shield and Spear, obviously--and frankly, that and a chiton will do, in a pinch!


       While light troops throwing javelins and rocks had long supported the hoplite, Thracian mercenaries became popular after the Persian Wars.  These men typically fought unarmored, carrying javelins and a shield called the pelta, for which they are named.  This was smaller than the aspis and apparently made of wicker covered in hide, and generally had a crescent shape.  Thracians wore distinctive caps (often of fox skin), colorfully patterned cloaks, and tall lace-up boots.

       At left is Dan Zeidler in his favorite Thracian kit.  His cap is wool, and his boots are converted from modern "Apache" boots by replacing the fringe with flaps.  He made his pelta from a pair of wicker door mats sewn together and cut to shape, covered with leather front and back.  He frequently commented on its light weight, compared to the typical aspis...

       At right, my own Thracian gear is worn for the first time by Chris Goshey.  Eat my dust, Dan!

       Here Quinton J. has deserted the barbaric Legio III Cyrenaica (ahem!) to play peltast for the day.  He wears my wool Thracian cap and carries the (at that time) unfinished wicker pelte that I got from Joe Balmos.

       Finding fabric for a convincing Thracian cloak may be impossible without having it custom-woven!  They all had horizontal stripes which were zig-zagged, crenelated, wavy, etc.  Something of an approximation might be a blanket or serape of Mexican style, such as those from Crazy Crow Outfitters, http://www.crazycrow.com/pendleton-wool-blankets-and-accessories .  But you'd want something at least 72" wide (with stripes horizontal).  (Photo by David McDavitt.)

       Finished pelte below!  The face is covered with thin leather whip-stitched on with hemp, and painted with milk paints.  The porpax is two crossed leather bands (one of several variations seen in artwork), and the antilabe is twisted leather thongs.  The carrying strap is woven fabric band.  The shield is three feet wide.

       And the other main components.  The cloak is called a zeira, and while the originals presumably had all their decoration woven in, I sewed everything on by hand.  The boots I originally made for fantasy use, largely a 15th century pattern.  I opened up the front and added laceholes and flaps.  They are made of deerskin.  The cap is wool, and I'm not quite satisfied with the pattern.  There is usually a turned-up bit across the front, but I wasn't able to make that work with the flaps hanging down at the sides.  Some caps had no point or a flatter top, others had a larger raised part (like Dan's, above), while the coolest ones were made of fox or genet hide complete with the animal's head at the front and the tail hanging down the back.


      The psilos was a light infantry skirmisher, throwing javelins or even rocks.  The Spartans often employed helots in this role, and hoplites of other states might use slaves or poor men.  Psiloi are often depicted as very rustic in appearance, clad in a simple herdsman's chiton, with a felt cap and an animal hide for a cloak.  With that and a bag of rocks, you're off to war!


       During the Peloponnesian Wars, an Athenian general named Iphikrates allegedly implemented a series of reforms to the standard hoplite kit starting around 374 BC, in an effort to lighten it and increase the soldier's effectiveness.  These reforms are described only by two much later writers, and we actually can not be sure how widely these reforms were adopted (if at all!).  In short, he replaced the large aspis shield with the lighter pelta, metal body armor with linen, and lengthened the spear and sword.  These troops were known as peltasts even though they were definitely meant to be "heavy" infantry, fighting in formation as hoplites.

       It is not clear whether "pelta" in this case refers to an oval version of the Thracian wicker shield, or the dished wooden shield used by later Macedonian pikemen (below).

       For the best discussion of the evidence:  http://www.ne.jp/asahi/luke/ueda-sarson/Iphikrates1.html 

       Iphikrates is said to have replaced sandals with boots which were easier to lace up, and these became known as "Iphikratids".  While many sorts of footwear are depicted in Greek art, we don't know if any of the boots we see are supposed to be Iphikratids.  Most likely they were an ankle-boot, since a knee-high boot would presumably involve as much lacing as any sandal.

       Below are my Iphikratids in progress.  I based the yellow paper pattern at top on Giannis' old sandal pattern, and made a cardboard and cloth mockup at bottom before cutting out the leather.  I believe this to be a more accurate pattern, the upper wrapping around the back of the foot with no seem up the back.  The edge of the uppers wrap under the insole and are glued to hold them until they are stitched.  An insert fills the space between these edges.  The outer sole is sewn on with "channeled" stitching, the stitch holes being driven into a shallow slit cut into the face of the leather, to protect the thread from wear.  The last photo shows the inside, with a needle on each end of a single length of thread, and no channeling needed inside.

Clothing: Standard Ionic chiton, or narrow (Doric) chiton, or exomis; shoes or low boots; chlamys
Helmet: Pilos (best guess), Boeotian/bronze petasos, Thracian, Chalcidian, Phrygian, etc.
Armor: Quilted linen tube-and-yoke, or leather, or NONE.
Shield: Small round dished wooden Macedonian-style shield, or oval (probably not crescent) wicker pelta
Spear: 12 feet long; long xiphos

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


       While the heavy infantryman of Macedonia and Hellenistic Greece was referred to as a hoplite, and fought in a phalanx, the modern term "phalangite" is often used to distinguish him from the popular hoplite of 500 BC.  His weapon was the sarissa, a two-handed pike, and his phalanx could be up to 16 ranks deep.  It was a very different form of combat!

       At left, the debut of my Macedonian kit at the Virginia Junior Classical League convention, November 2014.  The Phrygian helmet was made in India, probably by Al-Hammd, and it's actually a pretty good helmet.  I am supported by a peltast and a thureophoros.  I am actually holding my long spear in these photos, since having the assembled sarissa with a crowd of students around was just a tad dangerous!  (Photos by David McDavitt.)

       At right is the 2015 convention, and I decided to put the pike together for a while.  It's about 19 feet long and approximately 9 pounds.  And it's hard to get it all in one photo!  Several of the teachers asked to try it out, which has never happened with a regular spear.  It was also funny to see the students come around the corner and watch their eyes go up and up as their mouths hung open!

       The sarissa was originally 18 to 20 feet long and probably weighed 8 to 10 pounds.  It could be made of ash, though cornel wood is also mentioned.  The shaft tapered from about 1-3/8" at the butt to less than an inch at the point.  There is no real evidence that the shaft was ever made in two pieces, and in fact a number of surviving 16th and 17th century pikes are tapered ash of that length, and are known to be perfectly functional weapons.  The head would have been quite small and light to prevent the sarissa from being unmanageable, and there was a heavier buttspike. 
       Various artifacts have been identified as sarissa parts, though there is little artwork to confirm these theories, and reconstructions have met with widely varying success.  A short piece of iron tube from Vergina has often been hailed as a coupling sleeve for a two-piece sarissa shaft, but this is complete speculation as well as unnecessary.  There also seems to be a tendency to use the largest surviving spearheads as sarissa points, which of course is illogical considering the tremendous leverage they have at the end of a long pikeshaft.  (Note that 16th and 17th century pikes always had small points!) 

       It should be noted that a two-piece sarissa shaft may be a matter of necessity for a modern reenactor, considering the problems of storage and transportation!  It is also difficult to find ash poles of sufficient length.  Beyond that, beware of reconstructions which are untapered or too flexible.