What Is a Phalanx in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the phalanx was a military formation that played a crucial role in battles. The word “phalanx” comes from the Greek word “phalangēs,” which means “a line of battle.”

The phalanx was a tightly packed formation of soldiers that moved together as a unit. It was used in battles to protect the soldiers from enemy attacks and to break through enemy lines.

How did the Phalanx work?

The phalanx formation consisted of rows of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder with their shields overlapping. This created a wall-like barrier that protected the soldiers from incoming attacks. Each soldier carried a long spear called a “dory” and wore heavy armor for additional protection.

The first few rows of soldiers held their spears out in front, while those behind them held their spears up high, creating a deadly wall of spears that could easily penetrate an enemy’s defenses. The soldiers moved in unison, stepping forward and back as one unit.

The Importance of Training

Training was crucial for creating an effective phalanx. Soldiers needed to be trained to move together as one unit and maintain the tight formation, even under enemy fire. They also needed to be physically fit and have good stamina to withstand long battles.

Training started at an early age for young boys in ancient Greece. They were taught how to use weapons and fight in formation from an early age. As they grew older, they would join the army and continue their training.

  • Tactics Used by Phalanxes

Phalanxes were used in many battles throughout ancient Greece, including the famous Battle of Marathon. One tactic used by phalanxes was called the “oblique order.”

In this tactic, one side of the phalanx would advance slightly while the other side held back, creating an angled formation. This allowed the advancing side to attack the enemy’s flank while the other side held off any counterattacks.

Another tactic used by phalanxes was called the “push of shields.” In this tactic, soldiers would use their shields to push against the enemy’s shields, trying to break through their defenses and create an opening for their spears.

The Decline of the Phalanx

Although the phalanx was a formidable formation in ancient Greece, it eventually became less effective as warfare evolved. The rise of cavalry and missile weapons such as bows and arrows made it more difficult for soldiers in a tight formation to maneuver and protect themselves.

The phalanx continued to be used in battles throughout history, including by Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army. However, it was eventually replaced by new formations and tactics that were better suited to modern warfare.


In conclusion, the phalanx was a key military formation in ancient Greece that played an important role in battles. Its tightly packed formation provided soldiers with protection from enemy attacks while allowing them to penetrate enemy lines with their spears.

The importance of training cannot be overstated when it comes to creating an effective phalanx. Although it eventually became less effective as warfare evolved, its legacy lives on as one of the most famous military formations in history.