The phrase ‘hoplite phalanx’ is more common today than it was in the classical Greek world.
Marathon has inspired great sound bites. ‘There is no battle in ancient or modern times more deserving of applause for its military conduct’, proclaimed George Finlay in 1839, ‘none more worthy of admiration for its immediate results on society, or more beneficial in its permanent influence on the fate of mankind’.1 John Stuart Mill pronounced that ‘The Battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the Battle of Hastings. If the issue of that day had been different, the Britons and Saxons might still have been wandering in the woods’.2 For J. F. C. Fuller, Marathon was ‘the birth-cry of Europe’.3 In 2010, Richard Billows published Marathon: How One Battle Changed Western Civilization.4 Even so, I want to argue that in one limited sense Marathon was even more important than scholars have recognized: at Marathon a Greek army first fought as a ‘hoplite phalanx’ in the sense in which we use the phrase today.
The phrase ‘hoplite phalanx’ is more common today than it was in the classical Greek world. The word ὁπλίτης (hoplite), which derives from ὅπλα (military equipment), first occurs in the first quarter of the fifth century BC as an adjective in Pindar (Isthm. 1.23) and Aeschylus (Sept. 467, 717). In the second half of the century, ‘hoplite’ becomes common as a noun, first in Herodotus, then in Thucydides, Aristophanes, Euripides, and inscriptions.5 The word φάλαγξ (phalanx), which apparently derives from a root meaning ‘log’, appears about twenty times in Homer’s Iliad, meaning a battle-line or a section of an army. With a single exception, Homer uses the word in the plural.6 Other archaic poets, perhaps echoing Homer, also use the plural: Tyrtaios speaks of the good warrior who ‘turns to flight the enemy’s rugged phalanges’,7 and Mimnermos of the warrior who broke ‘the massed phalanges of the Lydian horsemen’.8 Since the word ‘phalanx’ does not appear in a military context in Herodotus or Thucydides, I can understand why Hans Droysen once recommended restricting the use of ‘phalanx’ to infantry armed with the Macedonian sarissa.9 He probably had in mind Diodoros’ description of Philip II’s institution of the Macedonian phalanx (16.3.2):
He devised the compact order and the equipment of the phalanx, imitating the close order of the heroes at Troy, and he first established the Macedonian phalanx.
But the phrase ‘ἡ φάλαγξ τῶν ὁπλιτῶν’ (‘the phalanx of hoplites’) does occur in Xenophon (Anab. 6.5.27), so strictly-speaking Droysen’s suggestion cannot stand.10 The Greeks knew the phalanx before Philip II.
Today the phrase ‘hoplite phalanx’ refers to a formation of uniformly equipped foot soldiers, a formation that arranged men in rows and columns (or ranks and files) and excluded light-armed troops such as archers, slingers, and javelin-throwers. When did this formation first appear? It had certainly become standard by the time of the Peloponnesian War. ‘πρῶτον μὲν αὐτῶν ἑκατέρων οἵ τε λιθοβό λοικαὶσφενδονῆται καὶ τοξόται προυμάχοντο’, Thucydides says in his paradigmatic description of the battle of Syracuse in 415, ‘καὶ τροπὰς οἵας εἰκὸς ψιλοὺςἀλλήλων ἐποίουν’ (6.69.2: ‘The stone-throwers, slingers, and archers of either army began skirmishing, and routed or were routed by one another, as might be expected between light troops’). Here the light troops fight separately from the main hoplite formation. Following the inconclusive skirmishing of the light troops, the seers sacrificed and the trumpeters blew, and only then did the hoplites move forward.
But how far back does the hoplite phalanx go? The sixth century, as suggested by van Wees in his revisionist 2004 book Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities? The seventh century, as most scholars have thought for almost a hundred years? The eighth century, as argued by Adam Schwartz in his 2009 book Reinstating the Hoplite? Or even earlier, as historians thought a hundred and fifty years ago?
The History of the Question
I know of only one ancient story about the origin of the phalanx. Polyainos credits Pan (Stratagems 1.2):
Dionysos’ general Pan first discovered formation, called it a phalanx, and formed right and left wings. For this reason artists represent Pan as having horns.
So far as I know, no modern historian has placed any confidence in this anecdote.
In the 1830s, which is as far back as I have traced the discussion, Karl Otfried Müller argued that the Dorians introduced the hoplite phalanx. ‘Since it appears’, he wrote, ‘that Homer describes the mode of combat in use among the ancient Achaeans, the method of fighting with lines of heavy armed men, drawn up in close and regular order, must have been introduced into Peloponnesus by Dorians; amongst whom Tyrtaeus describes it as established.’11 In 1852 Wilhelm Rüstow and Hermann Köchly also credited the Dorians with the close-order phalanx,12 citing Polyainos’ anecdote about the Herakleidai Prokles and Temenos using pipers to help their hoplites advance in rhythm in an unbreakable formation (1.10). But then George Grote objected that the correctness of this view ‘cannot be determined … we have no historical knowledge of any military practice in Peloponnesus anterior to the hoplites with close ranks and protended spears’.13
By the end of the nineteenth century, the Dorians had dropped out of the discussion. Adolf Bauer thought the Spartans had a trained mass formation by the time of the Messenian Wars in the eighth and seventh centuries.14 He suggested that they taught the other Greeks to fight in a phalanx. Hans Delbrück took both points, quipping that ‘in this context the piper is nothing other than the tactical formation,’ and specifying as evidence for the Messenian Wars a comment made by the traveller Pausanias.15 According to Pausanias, it was traditional for the Lakedaimonians not to pursue too quickly, because they preferred to maintain their formation than to kill anyone running away (4.8.11). Edouard Meyer also credited the Spartans with developing the first phalanx of hoplites. He cited Tyrtaios, the poet who wrote during the Second Messenian War in the seventh century. Meyer recognized that Tyrtaios did not yet describe an exclusive phalanx, but he emphasized Tyrtaios’ importance as a composer of marching songs. ‘Where it is important to march and fight in close order’, he affirmed, ‘the best general is a musician’.16
When I compare what these nineteenth-century scholars had to say with the arguments of more recent writers, what strikes me is that the earlier scholars did not connect changes in equipment with changes in formation. A bronze helmet, body armour, shinguards, and shield made up the basic set of equipment in the Mycenaean and Dark Age worlds, as well as in Archaic and Classical Greece.17 No one described the new double-handled hoplite shield, the round shield with a central armband (porpax) as well as a handgrip near the rim, as suitable only for a close-order formation. Why not? According to the conventional wisdom of Rüstow and Köchly, the porpax shield weighed only half as much as the great oval shield that preceded it (6-7.5 kg compared with 14-15 kg).18 No wonder that no one was talking about how unwieldy the porpax shield was.
Credit for introducing that notion goes to Wolfgang Helbig, who connected the porpax shield and the phalanx formation. In 1909 he suggested in a page or two that the phalanx developed gradually. Only after the development of the close-order formation had made considerable progress did Greeks adopt the porpax shield, which Helbig pronounced suitable only for fighting in close ranks.19 Two years later, he developed this view in his long article ‘Über die Einführungszeit der geschlossenen Phalanx’.20 Helbig looked not to late sources such as Pausanias and Polyainos, but to Archaic poets. He found the hoplite phalanx in some passages of Homer, which he dismissed as interpolations (Il. 13.126-35, 15.211-17). He stressed Archilochos fr.3:
Not many bows will bend or slings whirl,Trans. Mulroy
when Ares’ collision shakes the plain, but swords will have painful employment;
for the masters of hand-to-hand combat
are there, the spear-famed lords of Euboia.
He combined these lines with Strabo 10.1.12, where Strabo cites an inscription he saw in the sanctuary of Artemis at Amarynthos (in the territory of Eretria) to support his point that the Euboian cities Chalkis and Eretria agreed to conditions in their fight over the Lelantine plain. According to Strabo, the inscription said that they agreed ‘μὴ χρῆσθαι τηλεβόλοις’ (‘not to use long-distance weapons’). Helbig concluded that Euboian hoplites fought in an exclusive phalanx during the Lelantine War, which he dated to the middle of the seventh century.
Like Meyer, Helbig recognized that Tyrtaios, whom he put in the second half of the seventh century, did not describe an exclusive phalanx. So Helbig argued that the Euboians, not the Spartans, first distinguished between hoplites and light-armed and excluded the latter from the phalanx. As further evidence that Euboians were more advanced than the Peloponnesians at one point, Helbig cited an amusing poem quoted in the Palatine Anthology (Anth. Pal. 14.73):
The best of all land is the Pelasgian plain,
Best are the horses of Thessaly, the women of Sparta,
And the men who drink the water of beautiful Arethousa.
But better still than these are the men who live between
Tiryns and Arkadia of the many sheep,
The linen-corsleted Argives, the goads of war.
But you, Megarians, are neither third nor fourth
Nor twelfth, nor of any place or account at all.
‘The men who drink the water of beautiful Arethousa’ are the men of Chalkis, as Strabo notes in his comment on these lines (10.1.14). Their preeminence must be early, at a time when Sparta could be praised for its women rather than its warriors, so before the sixth century.
Helbig concluded that there was a longish period of development lasting until the sixth century. He cited the Chigi olpe, which was then dated to the early sixth or even fifth century, as the earliest definite depiction of a hoplite phalanx. Though he called this depiction ‘inadequate’, pointing especially to the problem of too little space between the opposing front lines of hoplites who have not yet thrown the first of their two spears, he did think that the piper on the Chigi vase proves a close-order formation advancing in step. More than thirty years earlier, back in 1879, Helbig had suggested that Protocorinthian pottery was in fact produced in Chalkis, so the Protocorinthian Chigi olpe fit his theory that the hoplite phalanx originated on the island of Euboia.21
Helbig’s particular positions have not stood up well. A few scholars – F. E. Adcock, John Boardman, and Walter Donlan – have followed his basic thesis that the Chalkidians first developed the exclusive phalanx,22 but most have rejected his reading of Archilochos and the authenticity of the inscription seen by Strabo.23 Only a dozen years after Helbig’s article, Knud Friis Johansen established the basic chronology for Protocorinthian pottery, pushing the date of the Chigi olpe back to about 640.24 Six years after that, Martin Nilsson jumped on the earlier date for the vase and stated firmly that ‘The Chigi vase gives the lower boundary; hoplite tactics were fully enacted in the second half of the seventh century’.25 And only three years later, the famous olpe lost its connection to Chalkis when Humfry Payne’s Necrocorinthia: a study of Corinthian art in the archaic period showed that Adolf Furtwängler’s guess was correct: Protocorinthian pottery came from Corinth, not Chalkis.26 Rare indeed is the living scholar who argues that the hoplite phalanx first appeared on Euboia.
Yet many distinguished scholars – A. W. Gomme, H. L. Lorimer, Antony Andrewes, Marcel Detienne, Paul Cartledge, Victor Davis Hanson – have accepted Helbig’s innovative claim that the porpax shield would only work in a close-order formation, so that once Greeks had that shield, they had the hoplite phalanx.27 These scholars tend to take this idea as a given, rather than a conclusion that needs a supporting argument. They disagree about whether the phalanx or the shield came first, and they credit different Greek poleis with being first in the field: Lorimer and Cartledge favour Corinth and Athens, Andrewes Argos, Detienne Sparta. But they all date the invention of the exclusive phalanx to the first quarter of the seventh century.
Other scholars, starting with Johannes Kromayer, continuing with Rolf Nierhaus, and running through Antony Snodgrass and P. A. L. Greenhalgh to Hans van Wees, Peter Krentz, Everett L. Wheeler, and Louis Rawlings, have argued that the porpax shield could have been used in a mixed fight, so that the exclusion of light-armed men from the phalanges need not have happened for some time after the introduction of the porpax shield – perhaps not for decades or even for centuries.28
Now, in Reinstating the hoplite, Adam Schwartz has joined the ranks of the first group and pushed the argument to its logical conclusion, maintaining that the hoplite phalanx originated in the eighth century.29 Schwartz devotes much of his book to showing once again that the Archaic evidence, both material and literary, is ambiguous and difficult to interpret. On so much we can probably all agree. What has Schwartz added that is new?
I find one highly suggestive new approach in his book. Schwartz compares hoplites to Danish riot-control police. For some thirty years, starting in the 1970s, they also used a double-handled shield. Though the modern Plexiglas shields weighed less than 3 kg each, police found them ‘suitable only for defensive fighting: policemen would typically form a line, advance to the combat zone and keep their position. They would … stand so close that the edges of their shields actually touched … It seems unlikely’, Schwartz concludes, ‘that hoplites in bronze armor would have been able to do what larger, fit and trained policemen cannot or at least deem hopeless; namely to fight individually as monomachiai, wielding their three times heavier shields with ease against attacks from all corners’.30
The analogy to Greek warfare has obvious problems. For instance, the police deployed in a single line, not in multiple ranks, and they were trying to control or contain their opponents, not to kill them. But what I find revealing is Schwartz’s report on how the Danish riot control forces operated offensively:
The stationary shield line might under certain circumstances be supported by hastily summoned plain-clothes policemen, who would be equipped merely with modified standard shields. The modified shield is identical to the normal type, but is simply sawn off just above the middle, so that a little less than half the shield remains, just enough that the grips are still attached. Much like a buckler or targe, this much lighter shield can be swung around with relative ease; and unlike the large shield the adapted version could therefore be used offensively, combined with little or no body armour to ensure crucial mobility. These policemen, cowering behind the wall of shields held by the front line in full combat gear, would then be able to dart forward and close with rioters who had ventured too close to the defensive police line.31
So we must imagine that the solid wall of riot police was not always solid, but flexible and permeable enough to permit these mobile troops to do their darting forward. This description reminds me of Tyrtaios’ advice to light-armed fighters at the end of fragment 11 (lines 35-38), after he has addressed the heavy-armed warriors at length:
You unarmed fighters, crouching here and there under a shield,
throw large rocks
and hurl smooth javelins at them,
standing near the soldiers in full armour.
In short, I would draw a rather different conclusion from the analogy to Danish riot-control police. I can agree with Schwartz that the porpax shield was better suited to fighting in phalanges than to fighting individual duels, but the protection needed by a warrior armed with this shield, protection on the sides or even from the rear, could be provided by a light-armed fighter as well as by another man with a porpax shield. Depending on the nature of the threat, a light-armed fighter might provide better coverage than someone more weighed down.
No matter how the fighting went once it started, leaders might have organized all their men (or all their horses) into phalanges for getting to the killing zone. The old argument that a piper proves hoplites and only hoplites marching in step seems to me invalid. Why would a man need to be carrying a porpax shield in order to sing a paean? Everyone might have enjoyed group singing to the accompaniment of a pipe as a way to keep courage up.
If light-armed fighters did fight in early phalanges, when were they excluded?
Johannes Kromayer once said that we first see the close-order phalanx of heavy-armed warriors with the Spartans and at Marathon.32 I do not entirely understand his reasoning about Sparta – he seems to think that the Spartans had an exclusive phalanx at the time of the Messenian Wars, but he is not clear about why he thinks so – but I think I do understand why he mentioned Marathon. Herodotus says that at Marathon (6.112.2):
The Persians saw them charging at a run and prepared to receive the charge, thinking that the Athenians were completely crazy, seeing how few they were and how they were charging at a run without their cavalry or archers.
This passage ought to mean that the Athenians usually did have horsemen and archers. So it indicates a change.33 I believe that at Marathon, for the first time, the Athenians equipped all their available men as hoplites as best they could and charged ‘ἀθρόοι’ (Hdt. 6.112.3: ‘all together’, not necessarily ‘in close order’ as LSJ would have it).34 The plan worked.
Eleven years later, at Plataia, the Spartans on the right faced the Persians, while the Athenians on the left faced the Boiotians. Herodotus has the Spartan king Pausanias offer to switch wings with the Athenians, since the Athenians know how the Persians fight from their experience at Marathon (9.46.2-3). The Spartans and Athenians switch, but so do the Persians and Boiotians. Then the Greeks returned to their original positions, and so did their opponents. This curious story may reflect the Spartans’ awareness that the Athenians had done something different at Marathon, something that the Spartans were not doing.
In the fighting at Plataia, Herodotus says, each of the 5,000 Lakedaimonians had seven helots posted with him (9.28.2, 29.1), each equipped for war but not as a hoplite (9.29.2). Peter Hunt has suggested that the Spartans stationed their 5,000 hoplites in the front row and supported them with seven rows of light-armed helots.35 If that is correct – and it is a very tempting suggestion – then the Spartans were not yet fighting in an exclusive hoplite phalanx.
Herodotus’ account of the famous stand at Thermopylai the previous year suggests that the Spartans had a mixed force there too. Herodotus almost ignores the helots who were present, singling out only the one who ran disgracefully away after leading Eurytos, who was suffering from an eye infection, to the fighting (7.229.1). But Herodotus does note that the 4,000 Greek corpses included helots (8.25.1-2). Presumably helots accompanied the Spartiates as they did at Plataia, equipped to fight but not as hoplites. And Herodotus describes the Spartans fighting more flexibly than we usually think of a hoplite phalanx doing, as they repeatedly turned their backs and pretended to flee, luring the Persians into rushing forward, only to turn around and kill large numbers (7.211.3).36
I would argue, then, that the first exclusive phalanx fought at Marathon. And I cannot resist pointing out – though I would not argue this suggestion seriously – that the story of Marathon may have supplied the seed for the idea that Pan, who famously helped the Athenians win, actually invented the phalanx.37
- G. Finlay, ‘On the battle of Marathon’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom 3 (1839) 363-95, at 392.
- J. S. Mill, ‘Review of G. Grote, History of Greece I-II’, Edinburgh Review 84 (1846) 343. The first sentence is sometimes misquoted as referring to British rather than English history. As someone pointed out at the Marathon conference, this famous quotation takes on a slightly different nuance when one remembers that Mill was a Scot.
- J. F. C. Fuller, A military history of the western world (New York 1987) 25.
- R. A. Billows, Marathon: how one battle changed western civilization (New York 2010). There has of course been a backlash against such big claims, neatly exemplified by Robert Graves’ clever little poem ‘The Persian Version’, which begins ‘Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon / The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon’ (The complete poems in one volume, ed. B. Graves and D. Ward [Manchester 2000] 407).
- J. F. Lazenby and D. Whitehead, ‘The myth of the hoplite’s hoplon’, CQ 46 (1996) 27-33, at 32.
- The exception appears in Homer, Iliad 6.6.
- F 12 ll. 21-22.
- F 13 l. 3
- H. Droysen, Heerwesen und Kriegführung der Griechen (Freiburg i.B. 1889) 171 n. 3.
- See also Xen. Hell. 7.5.23, ‘ὁπλιτῶνφάλαγγα’ (‘phalanx of hoplites’).
- K. O. Müller, The history and antiquities of the Doric race, trans. G. C. Lewis and H. Tufnell, 2nd edn. (London 1839) 85.
- W. Rüstow and H. A. T. Köchly, Geschichte des griechischen Kriegswesens: von der ältesten Zeit bis auf Pyrrhos (Aarau 1852) 30.
- G. Grote, A history of Greece; from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great, 12 vols (London 1869-70) II (1869) 462-63.
- I. von Müller and A. Bauer, Die griechischen Privat- und Kriegsaltertümer (Munich 1893) 301.
- H. Delbrück, History of the art of war within the framework of political history, 3 vols, trans. Walter J. Renfroe (Westport, Conn. 1975) I.58, a translation of the third German edition of 1920.
- E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, II, Geschichte des Abendlandes bis auf die Perserkriege (Stuttgart 1893) 559.
- As Johannes Kromayer wrote in 1928, ‘The change in equipment between Mycenaean and “Ionic” is not the most important motive for the change to the closed phalanx. The differences are not that great compared to the light-armed’ (J. Kromayer and G. Veith, Heerwesen und Kriegführung der Griechen und Römer (Munich 1928) 21). V. D. Hanson makes the same point in The other Greeks: the family farm and the agrarian roots of western civilization, 2nd edn. (Berkeley 1999) 222.
- Rüstow and Köchly, Geschichte des griechischen Kriegswesens (n. 12 above) 16-17.
- W. Helbig, Ein homerischer Rundschild mit eine Bügel, JÖAI 12 (Vienna 1909) 66-67.
- W. Helbig, ‘Über die Einführungszeit der geschlossenen Phalanx.’ Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-philologische und historische Klasse (Munich 1911) 3-41.
- W. Helbig, Die Italiker in der Poebene (Leipzig 1879) 85-86.
- F. E. Adcock in The Cambridge ancient history, ed. J. B. Bury, S. A. Cook, F. E. Adcock, M. P. Charlesworth, N. H. Baynes, and C. T. Seltman, 12 vols (Cambridge 1923-39) III (1923) 695; J. Boardman, ‘Early Euboean pottery and history’, ABSA 52 (1957) 1-29, at 27-29; W. Donlan, ‘Archilochus, Strabo and the Lelantine war’, TAPhA 101 (1970) 131-42.
- See, for example, E. L. Wheeler, ‘Ephorus and the prohibition of missiles’, TAPA 117 (1987) 157-82.
- K. Friis Johansen, Les vases sicyoniens; étude archéologique (Paris 1923). The later date survived in some quarters until at least 1938 (F. Lammert, ‘Phalanx’, Real-Encyclopedie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft 19.2  1628).
- M. P. Nilsson, ‘Die Hoplitentaktik und das Staatswesen’, Klio 22 (1929) 240-49, at 240.
- H. Payne, Necrocorinthia: a study of Corinthian art in the archaic period. Oxford 1931.
- A. W. Gomme, A historical commentary on Thucydides, 3 vols (Oxford 1945-56) I (1945) 10; H. L. Lorimer, ‘The hoplite phalanx’, ABSA 42 (1947) 76-138, at 128; A. Andrewes, The Greek tyrants (London 1956) 31-42; M. Detienne, ‘La phalange: problèmes et controverses’, in Problèmes de la guerre en Grèce ancienne, ed. J.-P. Vernant (Paris 1968) 119-42, at 140; P. A. Cartledge, ‘Hoplites and heroes: Sparta’s contribution to the technique of ancient warfare’, JHS 97 (1977) 11-27, and ‘The birth of the hoplite: Sparta’s contribution to early Greek military organization’, in Spartan reflections (Berkeley 2001) 153-66; Hanson, The other Greeks (n. 17 above) 222-42.
- J. Kromayer in Kromayer and Veith, Heerwesen und Kriegführung (n. 17 above) 21; R. Nierhaus, ‘Eine frühgriechische Kampfform’, JDAI 53 (1938) 90-113; A. Snodgrass, ‘The hoplite reform and history’, JHS 84 (1965) 110-22, and ‘The “hoplite reform” revisited’, DHA 19 (1993) 47-61; P. A. L. Greenhalgh, Early Greek warfare: horsemen and chariots in the Homeric and archaic ages (Cambridge 1973) 69-75; H. van Wees, ‘The development of the hoplite phalanx: iconography and reality in the seventh century’, in War and violence in classical Greece, ed. H. van Wees (London 2000) 125-66, and Greek warfare: myths and realities (London 2004) 166-83; P. Krentz, ‘Fighting by the rules: the invention of the hoplite agôn’, Hesperia 71 (2002) 23-39; E. L. Wheeler, ‘Battle: (A) land battles’, in The Cambridge history of Greek and Roman warfare, ed. P. A. G. Sabin, H. van Wees, and M. Whitby, 2 vols (Cambridge 2007) I.195-202; L. Rawlings, The ancient Greeks at war (Manchester 2007) 54-59.
- A. Schwartz, Reinstating the hoplite: arms, armour and phalanx fighting in archaic and classical Greece (Stuttgart 2009).
- Schwartz, Reinstating the hoplite (n. 27 above) 54. Here Schwartz is arguing against a position no one holds: No one maintains that the porpax shield was suitable for fighting ‘with ease against attacks from all corners’.
- Schwartz, Reinstating the hoplite (n. 27 above) 54.
- Kromayer and Veith, Heerwesen und Kriegführung (n. 17 above) 22.
- Either Herodotus was imagining the Persian perspective based upon what he knew about the Athenian military forces, or he had a source for what the Persians were thinking. Either way, my point stands, since the former tyrant Hippias, who was with the Persians, would have informed them about the Athenian military. The Athenians had cavalry and archers, but did not use them as such at Marathon. All Athenians who fought at Marathon fought as hoplites, though they were probably not all equally well equipped.
- Recent books on Marathon agree that the Persians had no more than 25,000 infantry: G. Steinhauer, Marathon and the archaeological museum (Athens 2009) 93; R. A. Billows, Marathon (n. 4 above) 199; P. Krentz, The battle of Marathon (New Haven 2010) 91-92. The Athenians ought to have had at least as many men as they did at Plataia, 8,000 hoplites and 8,000 light-armed (Hdt. 9.28.6-29.2). I am suggesting that at Marathon they armed the light-armed as hoplites, recognizing that some hoplites had more equipment than others.
- P. Hunt, ‘Helots at the battle of Plataea,’ Historia 46 (1997) 129-44.
- Each Spartiate hoplite might have had seven helots at Thermopylai as well as at Plataia. In 7.202 Herodotus lists the Peloponnesian contingents that went to Thermopylai. They amount to 3,100 in total. But in 7.228 he quotes an inscription, erected on the spot, saying that 4,000 Peloponnesians fought there. Perhaps a reference to 900 perioikoi, Lakedaimonians but not Spartiates, has fallen out of the text. If so, and a total of 1200 Lakedaimonians died with the 700 Thespians (7.222), the only way to get to Herodotus’ total of 4,000 dead (8.25.1-2) is to assume that the others were helots, as Herodotus in fact says. That would make 2,100 helots, or seven for each of the 300 Spartiates.
- It is interesting (but no more) that a story implying people learned phalanx fighting from ants is also connected to Athens: according to a scholiast on Nikandros’ Theriaka,a ‘Zenodoteian’ named Theophilos said that there were two siblings in Attika; the male was named Phalanx, the female Arachne. Phalanx learned about fighting in armour from Athena, while Arachne learned about weaving. When they had intercourse with each other, they became hated by the goddess, turned into spiders, and were devoured by their own children (A. Crugnola, Scholia in Nicandri Theriaka [Milan 1971] 12a.
Contribution (35-44) from Marathon – 2,500 Years, edited by Christopher Carey and Michael Edwards (University of London Press, 12.02.2013), Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, published by OAPEN under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.