What Was the Shield Used for in Ancient Greece?

What Was the Shield Used for in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the shield was an essential piece of equipment for a soldier. It provided protection and played a significant role in combat. Let’s explore the various aspects of shields used in ancient Greece.

The Importance of Shields

Shields were crucial for protection:

Ancient Greek shields were made from wood and covered with multiple layers of leather. The layers absorbed blows, protecting the soldier from enemy attacks. The shields were designed to cover most of the soldier’s body, providing maximum protection against spears, swords, and arrows.

Shields as a symbol of identity:

The design and decoration on shields often represented the city-state or military unit to which a soldier belonged. These symbols helped identify allies on the battlefield and boosted morale among fellow soldiers.

Different Types of Shields


The iconic hoplon shield:

The most famous type of shield used by ancient Greek warriors was the hoplon shield. It was large and round, measuring about 80 centimeters (31 inches) in diameter. The hoplon shield had a central grip called an enomotia or porpax, allowing soldiers to hold it securely.

Advantages of the hoplon shield:

  • Excellent protection due to its size and construction
  • Could be used as a weapon with its metal rim
  • Effective for forming a phalanx formation with overlapping shields


The small but effective pelta shield:

The pelta shield was smaller and lighter compared to the hoplon shield. It had a crescent shape, which allowed the soldier to move more freely during combat.

Advantages of the pelta shield:

  • Increased mobility on the battlefield
  • Effective for skirmishes and individual combat
  • Could be used to deflect incoming attacks

Shield Tactics in Battle

The phalanx formation:

Ancient Greek soldiers would form a phalanx, a tightly packed formation with shields overlapping. This formation provided a solid wall of protection against enemy attacks. The hoplon shields played a crucial role in maintaining this defensive line.

Shield bashing:

In close-quarters combat, soldiers would use their shields as offensive weapons. The metal rim of the hoplon shield could be used to strike an opponent, while the weight and size of the shield could knock them off balance.

In Conclusion

In ancient Greece, shields were not only tools for protection but also symbols of identity and unity. Whether it was the large hoplon or the smaller pelta shield, they played vital roles in battle tactics and strategies. The use of shields exemplifies the ingenuity and resourcefulness of ancient Greek warriors.

Learning about ancient Greek shields provides us with valuable insights into their military practices, showcasing their advanced understanding of warfare and their dedication to protecting themselves and their comrades.