Impressions

The range of our historical impressions reaches chronologically from the Greek classical era in the early fifth century B.C.E. to the second century B.C.E., and geographically from the peoples of Italy, to the Balkans and of course Greece, over the Hellespont into Asia Minor, and further into Persia. The historical focus of the group is ancient Greece, but many of our members have developed secondary impressions from one or more of the areas mentioned above. With enough time to prepare, we are also able to develop a presentation that is specifically tailored to the topic of your event or lesson. If you are interested in working with us, please see our page for interested museums or educational institutions for more details.

If you plan to develop a historical impression based in ancient Greece yourself, we invite you to visit us in our online message board. We are always available to give advice and to answer any questions you might have. You might also be interested in our literature recommendations or list of tools for online-research

This is a list of our historical impressions.
 

Classical Greece

The Classical era is the time roughly from the Ionian revolts in the year 500 B.C.E. to the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the late fourth century B.C.E. It is the peak of the Greek Polis, the independent city-state based on the Attic example. However, even during this time there are still tyrants and kings, for example in Sparta. Our modern impression of the Classical era is largely shaped by the dominance of Athens, which over a long time represented the mightiest military power in Ancient Greece, fueled by the military victories in the Persian wars. Besides Athens, there were other important centers, such as Thebes, Corinth, Delphi, Sparta, or colonies like Syracuse and Ephesos,

The Persian wars gave rise to two major alliances, the Delian League, headed by Athens, and the Peloponnesian League, headed by Sparta, who struggled for influence over Greece. Despite attempts to divide the territories peacefully, the dispute escalated into the Peloponnesian war in the last third of the fifth century B.C.E. The war should take almost thirty years, at its end Sparta had won the dominance over Greece from Athens. However, both cities were immensely weakened by the conflict, so that other cities were able to now grow their influence and power. The fourth century B.C.E. saw Thebes rise to power, only to be eclipsed by the emerging kingdom of Macedonia. Philip II of Macedonia established the firm dominance of Macedonia over the rest of Greece with his victory at the battle of Chaironeia in 338 B.C.E.

Hoplites

Date
500 to 330 B.C.E.
Description

Hoplites formed the backbone of the armies fielded by the Classical Greek Poleis. In their role as heavy infantry, they were in the thick of the fighting, and their equipment reflects that fact. The core of the armament was a large concave shield, about one meter in diameter, called the Aspis. The front of the shield was usually painted, originally with individual motives, but later some Poleis adopted a uniform shield pattern for the whole army. The Hoplite is protected by a helmet, a torso armour, and greaves. The most popular helmet is certainly the Corinthian type, which was in use up to the middle of the fifth century B.C.E. It was then replaced by lighter helmets, such as the Chalcidian, Attic, Phrygian, or Pylos type. The main weapon of the Hoplite was the Dory, a lance that measured about 2.50m.

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Field Smithy

Date
500 to 200 BCE
Description

A field smithy is an essential accessory in any army camp. The soldiers can perform small repairs of their equipment, and produce metal pieces, such as spearheads and arrowheads, or caltrops. In our impression, we don't only craft military items, but mostly produce small utensils for ourselves, such as tools, or cooking utensils.

The forge is build from clay and is fired using reconstructed bag bellows.

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Ekdromoi

Date
500 to 330 B.C.E.
Description

The Ekdromos was a variation of the Classical Hoplite, who was armed in a lighter fashion. The name translates to out-runner, which allows us to infer their tactical use. Ekdromoi could fight in the closed Phalanx formation, just as regular Hoplites. However they could also quickly break ranks to run down fleeing enemies, or engage skirmishing troops in close combat, or at least drive them off the battlefield. Ekdromoi were typically armed in the same fashion as Hoplites, with the large concave shield, the Aspis, and the Dory, a lance about 2.50m long. They would have only worn a helmet for additional protection, because a torso armour and especially greaves would greatly hinder them while running.

In the armies of most Poleis it was up to the individual soldier to purchase their own armament. We can safely assume that the role of Ekdromos was performed by citizens, who were not able to afford a full set of Hoplite panoply.

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Psiloi and Peltastai

Date
500 to 330 B.C.E.
Description

Psiloi was a term used to describe any light troops in a Classical Greek army. Since the individual soldier had to purchase his own equipment, they usually consisted of men, who were not able to afford the panoply required to serve as an Ekdromos or Hoplite. Typical Psiloi were armed with various missiles, slings, or bows. They are also distinguished in ancient literature based on their weaponry. There are the Akontistai armed with javelins, the slingers Sphendonetai, the archers Toxotai, and the stone-hurlers Lithoboloi, who were certainly part of the poorest class within a city. According to their lacking equipment, they were used as skirmishers, to incite chaos and confusion within the enemy ranks, and protect the own formations from enemy skirmishers, or to occupy locations of tactical importance.

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Hellenism

The era immediately following the Greek Classical era is called Hellenism. It begins with the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the year 334 B.C.E, and ends with the establishment of a Roman protectorate in Ptolemaic Egypt in 30 B.C.E. The Hellenism was shaped by the cultural exchange with the areas conquered by Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Carthaginians, and the Galatians and Celts from the  Danube river. Bigger kingdoms and states dominated the political landscape instead of the Classical Polis. Although many Poleis were founded in the Hellenistic era, they were usually not independent, but under a protectorate of a bigger party. At the end of Hellenism, the Republic of Rome dominated the whole Mediterranean, and the formerly massive empire of Alexander the Great was no longer under Greek influence.

After his father, Philip II of Macedonia, established his dominance over the Greek states, Alexander the Great was able to start his campaign against the Persian empire. After only eleven years, the whole of Asia Minor, Persia, Egypt, and parts of  Afghanistan, Arabia, and even India were brought under Macedonian control. The sudden death of Alexander created a power-vacuum, and consequently a fierce dispute erupted about his succession. His territories fell apart into various successor-kingdoms, the so called Diadochi. The following half century was shaped by the bloody struggle of the Diadochi for over the succession of Alexander. After no less than six wars of the Diadochi, the dynasties of the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Syria, and the Antigonids in Macedonia, established themselves. The balance of power stabilized a bit after that and each of the dynasties went to follow their own agenda. With the exception of the campaigns of Pyrrhos, and the Celtic invasion in central Greece, power struggles between Hellenistic states were dominating the third century B.C.E. The second century saw Macedonia fall under Roman control after three wars, and soon after that become a Roman province. Over the following century, the Romans were able to establish themselves as the master of all the remaining Hellenistic kingdoms.

 

Philip II of Macedonia

Affiliation
Date
336 B.C.E.
Description

Philip II was born in the year 382 B.C.E. ans spent his youth as a hostage in Thebes, where he studied the new military tactics of Epaminondas. He ascended the throne of Macedonia after the death of his brother Perdikkas in 359. He defeated the Illyrians and Paionians and accepted the title of king. In the year 357 he conquered Amphipolis, and one year later the cities of Pydna and Poteidaia. In this time he was allied with Athens and Chalkidike, to prevent war on multiple borders of his empire. In 356 he defeated an Illyrian-Thracian coalition, which was supported by Athens, which allowed him to gain control over the mount Pangaion with its rich silver mines.

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Hypaspists

Affiliation
Date
350 to 168 B.C.E.
Description

The Hypaspists were an elite unit with aristocratic roots in the army of Philip II of Macedonia. The name literally translated to shield-bearer, and their mentions in ancient Texts, and use as a guard of honour, might suggest that they developed from the personal bodyguards of the Macedonian kings. Under Alexander The great, the Hypaspists grew to 3,000 men and formed a unit, which was usually deployed on the right flank of the center phalanx. Their role was to protect the vulnerable flanks of the phalanx and keep in contact with the cavalry, which was again deployed to the right of the Hypaspists.

Their armament is closely related to the Classical Hoplite. They are fighting with the Dory, a lance about 2.50m long, and are carrying a larger shield than the Macedonian Phalangites. The equipment suggests that their fighting formation closely resembled the Classical Greek phalanx. Torso armour, helmet, and greaves completed their panoply.

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Phalangites

Affiliation
Date
350 to 30 B.C.E.
Description

The backbone of the Macedonian army was the Phalanx, an improved version of the traditional Greek phalanx, that was equipped with longer lances and fought in a tighter formation. The men serving in the phalanx regiments were called Phalangites or Pezhetairoi (Greek: companions on foot). Their equipment was tailored to their way of fighting. The wielded the famous Sarissa, a lance with more than twice the length of the Dory carried by Classical Hoplites. Consequently they had to carry smaller shield, which enabled them to use two hands to control the Sarissa. The longer reach of the Sarissa compensated for the lowered protection of the small shield. For additional protection they carried a helmet, a torso armour, and greaves.

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Epirote Cavalry Officer

Affiliation
Date
290 to 270 B.C.E.
Description

As in every Hellenistic army since Alexander the great, the cavalry played a special role in the army of Pyrrhos. It was usually their task to decide the battle with their charge. Consequently Hellenistic kings oftentimes rode to battle together with their cavalry.

This impression is based on the finds from the village Prodromi in Thesprotia, which is located on the area of ancient Epiros. At the end of the 1970s a farmer discovered a cist-grave. The grave contained an iron breastplate, two iron helmet, one of which was covered in silver, an iron sword, and a matching iron sheath. The length of the sword, and the details of the breastplate lead to the conclusion that this was the equipment of a cavalry soldier.

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Neighbouring Cultures

Ancient Greece has a long tradition of cultural exchange with neighboring peoples. Greek influences can be found in a great number of ancient cultures, ranging from western and central europe to the steppes of Asia, and from India into the African continent. Vice-versa the Greek culture was influenced by its neighbors. Especially the era of Hellenism, which started with the campaigns of Alexander the Great, facilitated a rapid and long-lasting cultural exchange.

In order to present our audience with a complete picture of ancient Greece, we strive to also understand various cultures, which practised cultural exchange with the Greeks by trading, by religion, or by waging war against each other.

Persians

Date
550 to 330 B.C.E.
Description

When we mention the ancient Persians, we mostly think of the Achaemenid empire, which existed from 550 B.C.E. to its conquest by Alexander the Great in the year 330 B.C.E. The Persians were not a homogeneous people, but a multitude of smaller tribes and cultures. However, the ancient Greeks mostly did not distinguish between the individual groups, and that is why we are using the collective term Persians as well. The Achaemenid empire was founded by Cyrus II, later called the Great, who initially ruled over a vassal kingdom in the Median empire. Cyrus managed to break free from Median control, and afterwards went on to conquer the whole Median empire for himself. Shortly afterwards, he managed to defeat Croesus and gained control over Asia Minor, including the Greek cities there, and afterwards he acquired Babylonia. His successors managed to add Egypt, Thrace, and parts of India to the kingdom.

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Thracians

Date
500 to 300 B.C.E.
Description

The Thracians were an indogermanic people in Southeast Europe and Southwest Asia. They had close contacts with the greek culture. They were organized in tribes, which were lead by chieftains or kings. The bulk of their soldiers was formed by Peltasts (javeliners, slingers and archers). They were equipped with shields in different forms, the so called Peltes, javelins and swords of different types like Kopis, Rhomphaia and Xiphos.

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