How Large Were Armies in Ancient Greece?

How Large Were Armies in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece was known for its city-states, each with its own military force. These armies played a crucial role in shaping the history and politics of the region.

But how large were these armies? Let’s explore the different factors that determined the size of armies in Ancient Greece.

The City-State System

One of the defining features of Ancient Greece was its city-state system. Each city-state had its own unique political structure, laws, and military. The size of the army varied greatly between these city-states due to factors such as population, resources, and geopolitical circumstances.

Population Size

The population size of a city-state played a significant role in determining the size of its army. Larger populations generally meant larger armies. City-states with vast territories and numerous citizens could raise substantial forces to defend their lands or expand their influence.

Available Resources

The availability of resources also influenced army sizes in Ancient Greece. City-states with abundant wealth and access to natural resources could afford to maintain larger armies. These resources included not only food and weapons but also financial means to pay soldiers and support military infrastructure.

Military Structure

The military structure within each city-state also impacted the size of their armies. In Ancient Greece, most city-states relied on citizen-soldiers who served part-time in the army while maintaining their regular occupations as farmers or craftsmen.


  • Citizen-soldiers were typically free adult male citizens who were expected to serve when called upon by their city-state.
  • These soldiers provided their own weapons and armor, which meant that only those who could afford such equipment could serve.
  • The number of citizen-soldiers varied depending on the circumstances. In times of war or imminent threats, more citizens would be called upon to join the army.

The reliance on citizen-soldiers resulted in armies that were relatively small compared to later empires like Rome. However, this system instilled a sense of civic duty and loyalty among the citizens towards their city-state.

Notable Examples

While it is challenging to provide exact numbers for the size of Ancient Greek armies due to limited historical records, there are some notable examples that give us insights into their scale.


  • Athens had one of the most powerful navies in Ancient Greece but maintained a relatively small standing army compared to other city-states.
  • During the Peloponnesian War, Athens could field an army of around 13,000 citizen-soldiers and mercenaries.


  • Sparta was known for its highly disciplined and professional army, which was considered one of the most formidable forces in Ancient Greece.
  • The size of Sparta’s standing army, known as the Spartan Hoplites, is estimated to be around 8,000 soldiers during its peak.

In Conclusion

The size of armies in Ancient Greece varied greatly depending on factors such as population size, available resources, and military structure. While some city-states could field large armies during times of need, most relied on citizen-soldiers who served part-time. Despite their relatively small sizes compared to later empires, these armies played a significant role in shaping the history of Ancient Greece.