What Type of Military Did Ancient Greece Have?

Ancient Greece is known for its great contributions to the world of art, philosophy, and politics. However, another aspect that is often overlooked is their military prowess. The Greek military was a force to be reckoned with, and it played a significant role in shaping the history of the Mediterranean world.

The Ancient Greek Military

The ancient Greek military was made up of soldiers called hoplites. These hoplites were citizens who could afford to purchase their own armor and weapons. They were typically from the middle or upper class and were expected to fight for their city-state when called upon.

The Hoplite Warrior

The hoplite warrior was heavily armed and well-trained. They wore a bronze helmet, a breastplate, greaves (shin guards), and carried a large round shield called an aspis.

Their primary weapon was a spear called a dory, which was approximately 6-9 feet long. They also carried a short sword called a xiphos as a backup weapon.

The hoplite formation was key to their success on the battlefield. The soldiers would line up in rows, shoulder-to-shoulder, with their shields overlapping. This created what was known as the phalanx formation – an impenetrable wall of shields that could advance or retreat as one unit.

The Role of Cavalry

In addition to the hoplites, there were also cavalry units in the ancient Greek military. These soldiers rode horses and were typically from the wealthy upper class. They were used for scouting and flanking maneuvers during battles.

The Navy

The ancient Greeks were also known for their naval power. Their ships were called triremes – long and narrow vessels with three banks of oars on each side. These ships were heavily armed with bronze rams on the front that could be used to ram enemy vessels.

The Importance of the Military

The ancient Greek city-states were constantly at war with each other, and the military played a crucial role in protecting their territory and expanding their influence. It was also a source of pride for the citizens who fought in the wars, as it was seen as a way to prove their bravery and loyalty to their city-state.

Furthermore, military service was mandatory for all male citizens in ancient Greece. This meant that every citizen had to spend time training and serving in the military, which helped to create a sense of unity among the people.


In conclusion, the ancient Greek military was a well-organized and highly trained force that played a significant role in shaping the history of the Mediterranean world. Their hoplite warriors were known for their discipline and bravery on the battlefield, while their navy dominated the seas. The military was not only important for protecting their city-states but also for creating a sense of unity among the citizens.