Reconstruction of an Archaic Hoplite

We all know the Classical Hoplite with his crest straight back on his helmet, and a bronze cuirass or a Linothorax. I want to show you a rarer impression: a heavily armoured Promachos from the Archaic Period around 750 B.C.E. You can see from the color of the garments and from the emblem carried on the shield that it is a Hoplite from the city-state of Laconia (Sparta). To explain the difference between a Classical and an Archaic Hoplite, it is normally enough to just look at the armament (Panoplia). I will just consider military equipment for the purpose of this article and not talk about civilian life.

Archaic hoplite in prfoile with short swort and shield.

The reconstruction of such armour today is a rarity in Living-History groups as well as in museums. Unfortunately, this means you can't rely on many detailed sources and have to experiment quite a bit in the reconstruction and hope it matches the original. There are findings and depictions on pottery, but little details like lacings and brackets, and of course the weight and flexibility of the pieces of armour cannot be made out. Often, you only notice possible improvements or errors after the pieces are assembled and have to rework them again.

Details of the upper-body armour

The Panoplia of the Archaic Hoplite consists of the following equipment. To protect the helmet, he carries a helmet of the Corinthian type with large openings for the eyes. The crest comes in many different varieties. I decided to use the J-type crest. If the crest is to large - like my first try was - the Hoplite is quickly hampered by the weight and wind-resistance of the crest. The torso is protected by a bell cuirass, which gets its name from its shape. Additionally, greaves for the upper and lower arms were used. The Mitra (to protect the genitals), a short leather belt around the waist, as well as metal covers for the thighs, feet, and heels, completed the armour. To fixate the metal, many lacings and brackets are necessary, especially for the thigh and upper arms. Also, certain friction points, such as the Achilles tendon and the ankle, have to be wrapped with cloth. It is important that everything is fitted exactly and the lacings are tight, so it doesn't matter when a single leather strap breaks. The weapons of this soldier, who was completely wrapped in metal, were an Aspis (shield), a Dori (thrusting lance with lance butt), and a javelin (without spear butt), as well as a short sword (Xiphidion).

Details of the lower-body armour

The weak points of the armour were the neck, the eyes, and the back of the knees and elbows. The large weight of the equipment (better than 30 kg) and the inflexibility of the armour would also hamper the Hoplite, which is why warriors from the following periods - the Classical era and Hellenism - changed their equipment to lighter armour.

Archaic Hoplite with lance and shield.

My personal experience with the archaic impression is dominated by the fact that you have to replace and change the equipment constantly, because you only notice in the field if a piece is uncomfortable. Adding to that are the weather conditions, like wind or hot summer. The complete kit is incredibly hot and heavy compared to the kit of a classical Hoplite. Personally, I would prefer the Panhoplia of a Classical Hoplite, although the Archaic Hoplite has a great aura, because of the massive armour and its rarity. The feeling given by the amount of armour is nothing you can achieve with a Classical Hoplite.

Pictures by Photoniro