Both in Homeric and post-Homeric Greece, hoplite warriors were considered the most deadly and efficient soldiers on the planet. Armed with a variety of highly refined weapons – such as spears, swords and daggers, protected by toughened bronze armour and adept at executing cunning tactics and formations, these Ancient Greek warriors tore through many an enemy army with considerable ease.
Arguably, hoplites really came into their own around the sixth century BCE. Prior to this point Greek warriors – who were self-armed and trained civilians – fought for personal, familial or national honour singularly. They obviously grouped under city-state banners to wage wars, but when the battle started, the onus was very much on man-to-man single combat; indeed, many battles of this period began with army commanders/heroes facing off against each other solo.
After the introduction of advanced military formations such as the phalanx – see ‘Wall of death’ boxout for more – circa 700 BCE, soldiers began to fight battles as cohesive military units. This increased their battle prowess further and, by the time of the massive Persian invasion of 480 BCE, enabled them to win a series of decisive battles against forces that, going on the numbers, they should have lost.