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Audio guide: Oil flask - a warrior arming

Audio guide stop: 2106

Crowdsourced transcription of the audio file

A lekythos depicting a warrior arming himself (GR.6.1917)
A lekythos depicting a warrior arming himself (GR.6.1917)
Creative Commons Licence

This vase shows a young man readying himself for battle. An attendant stands in front of him, holding his spears, while he attaches his leg-guards, called greaves. Before him is a large, round shield. Soldiers in ancient Greece who armed themselves with this kind of equipment were called hoplites.

Professor Paul Cartledge of Cambridge University's Classics Faculty explains.

'The word hoplite is thought to be derived from a Greek word for shield, hoplon, and the key element of a hoplite's equipment was indeed a large round shield, basically made of wood with possibly bronze facing, measuring about a metre in diameter, and the hoplite wore that, always, on his left arm.

It's rather rough if you happen to be naturally left-handed, because you in your right-hand had to carry a spear about six to eight feet long, tipped with iron, and you fought in what was called a 'phalanx', that is a close packed, densely packed formation, perhaps eight ranks deep and as wide as you had men available.

A typical manoeuvre was for two hoplite armies to confront each other and, probably at the last moment, actually to run and crunch into each other. And the side won who either terrorised the other into running away, or breaking up, or through greater cohesion, greater momentum, greater weight, broke apart the enemy, and hoplite battles would typically not last very long, because once one or other side is broken, then the hoplite phalangites of the other side get in amongst you and they start wreaking havoc.'

Co-production of this resource

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The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.

Michael Adams, Michael Norman, Adi Levin and Athena

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