How Long Were Men Subject to the Military Draft in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, military service played a significant role in the lives of men. The military draft, also known as conscription, was a practice that required eligible men to serve in the armed forces for a specific period of time. Let’s delve into how long men were subject to the military draft in ancient Greece.

The Military Draft in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, the military draft was a fundamental aspect of society. It was not only seen as a duty but also as an honor for men to serve their city-state. The drafting process varied among different city-states, but it generally involved selecting eligible men for military service.

One of the most well-known city-states in ancient Greece was Athens. In Athens, all citizens who were physically fit and had reached the age of 18 were required to serve in the military. This service was mandatory and lasted for two years.


In Athens, young men between the ages of 18 and 20 were referred to as “ephebes.” The term “ephebe” comes from the Greek word “ephebos,” which means “youth.” During this period, these young men underwent rigorous training and education to prepare them for their future roles as citizens and soldiers.

The ephebes received instruction in various skills such as combat techniques, physical fitness, and civic duties. They also learned about Athenian laws and traditions during this time. The purpose of this intensive training was to mold them into responsible citizens who could defend their city-state.


After completing their training as ephebes, these young men became full-fledged soldiers known as hoplites. Hoplites formed the backbone of the Greek infantry and fought with heavy armor and spears called “hoplons.” They were organized into military units called “phalanxes,” which consisted of rows of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder.

Once men became hoplites, they were required to serve in the military until the age of 60. However, as they grew older and less physically capable, their frontline combat duties diminished. Instead, older hoplites often served as reserves or in other roles that supported the younger soldiers.


In ancient Greece, men were subject to the military draft for different lengths of time depending on their city-state. In Athens, the draft lasted for two years, with young men undergoing intense training and education as ephebes before becoming hoplites. Hoplites served until the age of 60 but gradually transitioned into supporting roles as they grew older.

The military draft was not only a means to defend city-states but also a way to instill discipline, unity, and civic responsibility among its citizens. The ancient Greek approach to military service laid the foundation for the concept of citizen-soldiers that would influence future societies.