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Athenian military

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Athenian military

The Athenian Empire around 450 BC

The Athenian military was the military force of Athens, one of the major city-states (poleis) of Ancient Greece. It was largely similar to other armies of the region.



The mainstay of the Athenian army, like practically all Greek armies, was the heavy armed infantry soldier, the hoplite. Along with every hoplite went an attendant, a lightly armed man, either a poor citizen who could not afford a regular suit of armor (panoplia), or possibly a trusted slave. These attendants carried the hoplite's shield (aspis) until the battle, and most of the baggage. They were armed with javelins, and sometimes spears slings and bows. They acted as skirmishers before the pitched battle, and were assigned to guarding the camp during the actual fight. When the fight was done they did their best to cover the retreat or slaughter the fleeing foes if their own hoplites were victorious.[1]

During and after the Peloponnesian Wars, the use and importance of light troops increased, with the introduction of the peltasts: lightly armoured, if at all, and armed with javelins and a shield the pelte.[1] Their effectiveness in battle, even against the best-trained heavy hoplites, was demonstrated by the Athenian general Iphicrates, who annihilated an entire Spartan mora with his peltasts.[2]


The cavalry corps was composed mostly of the wealthier citizens, who could raise and equip their own war horse. Greek riders had no saddles and no stirrups.[1]


Athens, a civilization facing the sea, had a large contingent of warships. The main vessels were called triremes. With these boats Athens got its hegemony over the rest of Hellas and the greatest moment of the polis. Among those triremes was Salaminia.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Davis, William (1910). A Day In Old Athens.  
  2. ^ Phillips, David (2004). Athenian Political Oratory: Sixteen Key Speeches. Routledge. p. 230.  


Texts on Wikisource:

  • Peace
  • Hellenica
  • Athenian Constitution
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