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Between Philology and Symbolism - Part III


We are still searching for our hoplite.

This not at all surprises me, since as we look closer, its best representation, one that respects the aforementioned rules for a waiting warrior, is seen in…an Amazon of the Coliseum!


She has the “courtesy” of wearing cuirass and greaves, elegantly carrying the shield on one shoulder and the helmet in the other hand.

Having said this, the best way I find to represent the hoplite is in the phalanx during battle.

This would permit documenting the reasons for the concave shape and dimensions of the shield.

These were dictated by two factors: the first one was to be able to rest it on the left shoulder, the second was to also be able to protect one’s companion to the right, on whose shoulder it was rested during the advance.

Definitely, one should represent the hoplite inserted in the phalanx (made up of eight rows) as in this iconographic example, from which one can surmise that discipline and team spirit were also typical attributes of these warriors.


They would advance for hundreds of meters in perfect unison and then in the last meters throw themselves against the enemy phalanx.

The fighting would evolve in a gigantic fray, somewhat like in rugby, in which prevailed those warriors that pushed the hardest with their shields.

With low probability of success warriors tried to hit each other by aiming between the shields, at the groin or at the neck, which remained the most vulnerable parts of the body.

Posizioni oplitihe

In the growing pressure the lances could break, after which the warrior would make use of cutting weapons.

Therefore, thanks to training, the Spartans were often able to prevail, since victory was often of those that resisted successfully to the foe’s push.

But things being as they have been explained, the marvelous hoplites by Konnov (here painted by Raffaele Coniglio) of the clash between Athens and Sparta would be completely out of the competition, since they seem to be launched ones against the others, already brandishing their “Kopis”.

Athens and Sparta

Anyway, they remain a splendid document of the various types of armaments of classical Greece: a must for those interested in the period!

Athens and Sparta

Excluding for obvious reasons the Amazon, we are left with a real survivor: the Etruscan hoplite sculptured by Adriano Laruccia for the Soldier company and painted by Paolo Leonori.

Etruscan hoplite

We are already well into the IV century BC, and the warrior is wearing a characteristic helmet of the Italo-Corinthian type.

The helmet has a nose protector and holes for the eyes, but no one can be certain that it was actually worn, even in combat.

To complete the picture, our hoplite although alone, brandishes a lance.

To be finical, it is thought that the lance was more often held to hit from above; but it is the hoplite that we’re searching for, Oplita El Viejo Dragon
it tells almost the whole story, even the export of the Greek phalanx to other Mediterranean cultures.

The hoplite by El Viejo Dragon is also equally interesting: in addition to correctly brandishing a lance and having the right posture for insertion into a phalanx, it is wearing a cuirass of the “muscled” type, that is, with the abdominal and dorsal anatomy in relief.


But there’s another subject that needs to be mentioned before concluding.

From the start of the IV century the bell shaped cuirass was gradually substituted by a corset (which in reality had always existed) made of flax or leather (more often in the case of Etruscans), at times strengthened with strips of copper or bronze.


Like the cuirass, it was integrated with more or less decorated leather strips (pterygia) that protected the abdomen without excessively obstructing movements.


The corset was held in place by shoulder straps fastened on the chest. This corset, it is thought, was simpler to wear because it could be tied laterally, without help.


E It was much lighter thus giving greater freedom of movement and another advantage: less thermal conductivity than the metal cuirass.

This greater convenience and agility on the part of the hoplites is cleverly presented by the Strategist of Andrea Jula.


The officer chooses to put himself “at ease” as he waits, already armed; the torsion of his body underscores his ability of movements while the masterful pictorial interpretation by Diego Ruina presents us with an unadulterated subject, transposed in the past and with a tautological self citation by the Pegaso company, whose trade-mark appears on the warrior’s shield.

Are you surprised that this masterpiece was awarded the “best miniature soldier of 2001″?