Friday, 30 April 2010

Attica - Athens

Athenian Hoplite


Athenian Late Hoplite

Athenian Peleponesian War Hoplite

Source of the article

Organization of the Athenean army.

The Athenian army was lead by ten generals who were commonly known as the strategos, who were each year chosen by the people's council. The same people could become strategos year after year, unlike as in many other Greek cities. The problem was that this gave more power in the hands of the strategos, but it also made sure that policy of the city did remained consistent. The strategos were responsible for the security and the defences of the city and the surrounding plains. Below them there was a large military hierarchy. The infantry was commanded by ten taxiarchoi, who had several officers, or lochagoi, under them who led the companies of the army. The cavalry on its turn was commanded by two officers who were called the hiparchen, and they were assisted by ten fylarchen. Fylarch means as much as chieftain and this reminds us of the social structure of Athens: the population was divided in ten tribes. The recruitment of soldiers was also based on this division in tribes.

An Athenian hoplite was not as well trained as a Spartan hoplite, but he was superior to most other fighters nevertheless. At the age of 18 the boys from the rich classes of the hoplites received a training which took two years. They learned how to handle the weapons, but they also learned several tactical manoeuvres and fortification methods. After this they remained liable to military service till the age of 60. However, men younger than 20 or older than 50 could only be used for garrison duties in Attica itself. Pericles estimated the number of hoplites at 13000 in 431 BC, while 16000 had garrison duties. Rich citizens who could afford themselves a panoplia are also included in the 16000 people who had garrison duties.

The equipment of a hoplite.

The suit of armour of the Athenian hoplite was hardly any different from the hoplites of other Greek cities. This hoplite is wearing a good suit of armour, which we will call panoplia from now on. The costs of such is a panoplia were very high, it could be compared with buying a good new car in modern times. That is why the hoplites only consisted of nobility at first. Later on the costs were reduced because new construction techniques were used. This enabled the normal man to buy a decent panoplia. More and more people bought one as it not only improved their chance of survival on the battlefield, but it also raised their social status. At a certain time there were enough hoplites to form a phalanx, and since then was the Greek army superior to any other army for a very long time. The creation of the phalanx not only resulted in military superiority, it also had social results as we already know from the history chapter.

On the head of this hoplite we find a slightly obsolete bronze Corinthian helmet. The Corinthian helmet remained the most used helmet through the history of Hellas, but there were many types available. Examples of this are the Chalkidic and Illyrian helmets which were better than the Corinthian type as they gave better protection to the cheeks and neck, and they had openings for the ears so that the orders were heard better. The helmets were made by hitting a plate of bronze on a wooden pole. This was done until it fitted the head of the buyer exactly. Of course this took a lot of work, and that is why these very expensive helmets often passed from father to son. The helmets were often decorated with a crest of horsehair, and sometimes even with engraved drawings. The horsehair for the helmetcrest was placed in a block of wood, very much like a brush, and placed on the helmet. Horsehair is very difficult to paint, so the colours were normally the natural colours: black, white, and brown. Sculptures always show hoplites with a helmetcrest, but know from archaeological studies that it was often not present.

The body was protected by a cuirass. The most expensive type was the bronze jointed cuirass, but the most common one was a tunic with multiple layers of linen or canvas glued together to form a strong protection. This tunic was often reinforced with small metal plates or bronze rings as we see in the picture. The cuirass itself consisted of a part for the chest, and one for the shoulders. The part for the chest had openings for the arms, and at the bottom there were two rows of plates which were placed like roofing tiles, the so-called wings or pteruges. The cuirass was wrapped around the body and closed at the left side were it was protected by the shield. The part for the shoulders completed the cuirass. Different types were used: the wings which protected the shoulders were shaped differently, or they were removable. This type of cuirass replaced the older type armour which was shaped like a bell.

In his left hand he is holding the famous hoplon, or shield. The word hoplite is based on this hoplon, and certainly not without any reason: the hoplon was one of the cornerstones of the phalanx. Basically it was a wooden bowl which was protected on the outside with bronze plates, while the inside was covered in leather. It was held with a handle for the lower arm and a grip. The part of the shield that rested against the arm was often protected with an additional plate of bronze. The size of the shield resulted in quite a heavy shield: about 8 kilograms. Sometimes a piece of leather was hung at the lower side of the shield to protect the legs of the hoplite for arrows. The hoplites picked the decoration on their shields by themselves, and often drawings of animals or mythological characters were chosen. Here you see the head of a Gorgon, and popular decoration for the shield.

The hoplon was not big enough to cover the legs, that is why they are protected by a pair of bronze greaves, which were shaped in such a way that they followed the muscles in the legs. This had a decorative purpose, but it also reinforced them and now they could be clamped around the legs instead of using straps. In earlier times the warriors also used plates for the thighs, arms and feet but at the time of the Persian wars they were not used anymore as they were to heavy and they decreased the manoeuvrability of the hoplite drastically. The hoplite was very well armoured nevertheless.

The main weapon was the long spear, which could vary in length from 2 to 3 metres. The iron point has a bronze counterbalance, for a better balance, but it also could be used during an attack. The spear was normally drilled overarm, and the grasp was entwined with a leather strap for better grip. The spear was not thrown as was the case with the spears in the time of Homer: they were only used for thrusting. The second weapon was a short sword, which was carried around in a wooden scabbard which was wrapped in leather. The blade of such a sword was made from iron and around the 60 centimetres long, while the remaining parts were normally constructed in bronze. It was used for cutting as well for thrusting.


Source: Wikipedia
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece (508–322 BC) was a notable polis (city-state) of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias. This system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions remained in place for 180 years, until 322 BC (aftermath of Lamian War). The peak of Athenian hegemony was achieved in the 440s to 430s BC, known as the Age of Pericles.

In the classical period, Athens was a center for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Akademia and Aristotle's Lyceum, Athens was also the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, Sophocles, and many other prominent philosophers, writers and politicians of the ancient world. It is widely referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization, and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.

Rise to power (510–448 BC)
Hippias - of the Peisistratid family - established a dictatorship in 514 B.C., which proved very unpopular, although it established stability and prosperity and was eventually overthrown with the help of an army from Sparta, in 511/10 B.C. The radical politician of aristocratic background (the Alcmaeonid family), Cleisthenes, then took charge and established democracy in Athens. The reforms of Cleisthenes replaced the traditional four Ionic "tribes" (phyle) with ten new ones, named after legendary heroes of Greece and having no class basis, which acted as electorates. Each tribe was in turn divided into three trittyes (one from the coast; one from the city and one from the inland divisions), while each trittys had one or more demes (see deme)—depending on their population—which became the basis of local government. The tribes each selected fifty members by lot for the Boule, the council which governed Athens on a day-to-day basis. The public opinion of voters could be influenced by the political satires written by the comic poets and performed in the city theaters. The Assembly or Ecclesia was open to all full citizens and was both a legislature and a supreme court, except in murder cases and religious matters, which became the only remaining functions of the Areopagus. Most offices were filled by lot, although the ten strategoi (generals) were elected.

Prior to the rise of Athens, Sparta, a city-state with a militaristic culture, considered itself the leader of the Greeks, and enforced an hegemony. In 499 BC Athens sent troops to aid the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, who were rebelling against the Persian Empire (see Ionian Revolt). This provoked two Persian invasions of Greece, both of which were repelled under the leadership of the soldier-statesmen Miltiades and Themistocles (see Persian Wars). In 490 the Athenians, led by Miltiades, prevented the first invasion of the Persians, guided by king Darius I, at the Battle of Marathon. In 480 the Persians returned under a new ruler, Xerxes I. The Hellenic League led by the Spartan King Leonidas led 7,000 men to hold the narrow passageway of Thermopylae against the 100,000-250,000 army of Xerxes, during which time Leonidas and 300 other Spartan elites were killed. Simultaneously the Athenians led an indecisive naval battle off Artemisium. However, this delaying action was not enough to discourage the Persian advance which soon marched through Boeotia, setting up Thebes as their base of operations, and entered southern Greece. This forced the Athenians to evacuate Athens, which was taken by the Persians, and seek the protection of their fleet. Subsequently the Athenians and their allies, led by Themistocles, defeated the Persian navy at sea in the Battle of Salamis. It is interesting to note that Xerxes had built himself a throne on the coast in order to see the Greeks defeated. Instead, the Persians were routed. Sparta's hegemony was passing to Athens, and it was Athens that took the war to Asia Minor. These victories enabled it to bring most of the Aegean and many other parts of Greece together in the Delian League, an Athenian-dominated alliance.

Athenian hegemony (448–430 BC)
Pericles—an Athenian general, politician and orator—distinguished himself above the other personalities of the era, men who excelled in politics, philosophy, architecture, sculpture, history and literature. He fostered arts and literature and gave to Athens a splendor which would never return throughout its history. He executed a large number of public works projects and improved the life of the citizens. Hence, he gave his name to the Athenian Golden Age. Silver mined in Laurium in southeastern Attica contributed greatly to the prosperity of this "Golden" Age of Athens.

During the time of the ascendancy of Ephialtes as leader of the democratic faction, Pericles was his deputy. When Ephialtes was assassinated by personal enemies, Pericles stepped in and was elected general, or strategos, in 445 BC; a post he held continuously until his death in 429 BC, always by election of the Athenian Assembly.

Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC)
Resentment by other cities at the hegemony of Athens led to the Peloponnesian War in 431, which pitted Athens and her increasingly rebellious sea empire against a coalition of land-based states led by Sparta. The conflict marked the end of Athenian command of the sea. The war between Athens and the city-state Sparta ended with an Athenian defeat after Sparta started its own navy.

Athenian democracy was briefly overthrown by the coup of 411, brought about because of its poor handling of the war, but it was quickly restored. The war ended with the complete defeat of Athens in 404. Since the defeat was largely blamed on democratic politicians such as Cleon and Cleophon, there was a brief reaction against democracy, aided by the Spartan army (the rule of the Thirty Tyrants). In 403, democracy was restored by Thrasybulus and an amnesty declared.

Corinthian War and the Second Athenian League (395–355 BC)
Sparta's former allies soon turned against her due to her imperialist policies, and Athens's former enemies, Thebes and Corinth, became her allies. Argos, Thebes and Corinth, allied with Athens, fought against Sparta in the decisive Corinthian War of 395 BC–387 BC. Opposition to Sparta enabled Athens to establish a Second Athenian League. Finally Thebes defeated Sparta in 371 in the Battle of Leuctra. However, other Greek cities, including Athens, turned against Thebes, and its dominance was brought to an end at the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC) with the death of its leader, the military genius Epaminondas.

Athens under Macedon (355–322 BC)
By mid century, however, the northern kingdom of Macedon was becoming dominant in Athenian affairs, despite the warnings of the last great statesman of independent Athens, Demosthenes. In 338 BC the armies of Philip II defeated Athens at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively limiting Athenian independence. Athens and other states became part of the League of Corinth. Further, the conquests of his son, Alexander the Great, widened Greek horizons and made the traditional Greek city state obsolete. Antipater dissolved the Athenian government and established a plutocratic system in 322 BC (see Lamian War and Demetrius Phalereus). Athens remained a wealthy city with a brilliant cultural life, but ceased to be an independent power.

In the 2nd century BC, following the Battle of Corinth (146 BC), Greece was absorbed into the Roman Republic as part of the Achaea Province, concluding 200 years of Macedonian supremacy.

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