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Two Hoplites shown in two attack positions, with both an overhand and underhand thrust (p.d.)
Two Hoplites
Hoplite (Phalanx Soldier)
Region Aisha
Class Fighter
Game Edition Pathfinder

Source: Advanced Player's Guide

Hoplites were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with spears and shields. Their main tactic was thephalanx formation. They were primarily free citizens—propertied farmers and artisans—who were able to afford the bronze armor suit and weapons (estimated at a third to a half of its able-bodied adult male population).[1] Hoplites generally received basic military training.

In 700 BC, a military innovation called the phalanx formation was introduced. This new tactic proved to be a success during the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, when the Greeks defeated the Persians. The Persian archers and light troops who had fought in the Battle of Marathon failed when their bows were too weak and incapable of penetrating the Greek shields and armour, and their own armour and shields could not stand up to the longer spears and swords of the Greeks.

The word "hoplite" (Greek: ὁπλίτης hoplitēs; pl. ὁπλίται hoplitai) derives from "hoplon" (ὅπλον, plural hopla ὅπλα), the type of the shieldused by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote the weapons held or even full armament.


Each hoplite provided his own equipment. Thus, only those who could afford such weaponry fought as hoplites; as with the Roman Republic an army it was the middle classes who formed the bulk of the infantry. Equipment was not standardised, although there were doubtless trends in general designs over time, and between city-states. Hoplites had customized armour, the shield was decorated with family or clan emblems, although in later years these were replaced by symbols or monogrammes of the city states. The equipment might well be passed down in families, since it would have been expensive to manufacture.

Ares shows us what Hoplites are all about.

The Hoplite army consisted of heavily armored infantrymen. Their armor, also called panoply, was made of full bronze, weighing nearly 32 kilograms (70 lb). The average farmer-peasant hoplite typically wore no armour, carrying only a shield, a spear, and perhaps a helmet plus a secondary weapon. Some hoplite spears were 9 feet long (2.7 m). A more well-to-do hoplite would have a linothorax (sometimes called a cuirass), armour composed of stitched/laminated linen fabrics that was sometimes reinforced with animal skins and/or bronze scales The linothorax was the most popular type armour worn by the hoplites, since it was cost-effective and provided decent protection. The richer upper-class hoplites typically had a bronze cuirass of either the bell or muscled variety, a bronze helmet with cheekplates, as well as greaves and other armour. The design of the helmets used varied through time. The Corinthian helmet was at first standardised and was a very successful design. Later variants included theChalcidian helmet, a lightened version of the Corinthian helmet, and the very simple Pilos helmet worn by the later hoplites. Often the helmet was decorated with one, sometimes more horsehair crests, and/or bronze animal horns and -ears. Helmets were often painted as well. The Thracian helmet had a large visor to further increase protection. In later periods, linen breastplates called "linothorax" were used, as they were tougher and cheaper to make. The linen was 0.5-centimetre (0.20 in) thick. Hoplites carried a large concave shield called an aspis (often referred to as a hoplon) made from wood and covered in bronze, measuring roughly 1 metre in diameter and weighing about 16 pounds. This large shield was made possible partly by its shape, which allowed it to be supported on the shoulder. The revolutionary part of the shield was, in fact, the grip. Known as an Argive grip, it placed the handle at the edge of the shield, and was supported by a leather fastening (for the forearm) at the centre. This allowed the hoplite soldier more mobility with the shield, as well as the ability to capitalize on its offensive capabilities and better support the Phalanx. It rested on a man's shoulders, stretching down the knees. These large shields were designed for pushing ahead and was the most essential equipment for the Hoplites.

Replica Greek Armor by Simon Speed.

The main offensive weapon used was an 8 to 15 foot long and an inch in diameter spear called a doru, or dory. It was held with the right hand, the other hand holding the hoplite's shield. Soldiers usually held their spears in an underhand position when approaching but once they came into close contact with their opponents, they were held in an overhand position ready to strike. The spearhead was usually a curved leaf shape, while the rear of the spear had a spike called a sauroter ("lizard-killer") which was used to stand the spear in the ground (hence the name). It was also used as a secondary weapon if the main shaft snapped, or for the rear ranks to finish off fallen opponents as the phalanx advanced over them. In addition to being used as a secondary weapon, the sauroter also doubled to balance the spear, but not for throwing purposes. It is a matter of contention, among historians, whether the hoplite used the spear overarm or underarm. Held underarm, the thrusts would have been less powerful but under more control, and vice versa. It seems likely that both motions were used, depending on the situation. If attack was called for, an overarm motion was more likely to break through an opponent's defence. The upward thrust is more easily deflected by armour due to its lesser leverage. However, when defending, an underarm carry absorbed more shock and could be 'couched' under the shoulder for maximum stability. It should also be said that an overarm motion would allow more effective combination of the aspis and doru if the shield wall had broken down, while the underarm motion would be more effective when the shield had to be interlocked with those of one's neighbours in the battle-line. Hoplites in the rows behind the lead would almost certainly have made overarm thrusts. The rear ranks held their spears underarm, and raised their shields upwards at increasing angles. This was an effective defence against missiles, deflecting their force.

Persian soldier fights with Hoplite.

Hoplites also carried a sword, mostly a short sword called a xiphos, but later also longer and heavier types. The short sword was a secondary weapon, used if or when their spears were broken or lost, or if the phalanx broke rank. The xiphos usually had a blade around 2 feet (0.61 m) long, however those used by the Spartans were often only 12–18 inches long. This very short xiphos would be very advantageous in the press that occurred when two lines of hoplites met, capable of being thrust through gaps in the shieldwall into an enemy's unprotected groin or throat, while there was no room to swing a longer sword. Such a small weapon would be particularly useful after many hoplites had started to abandon body armour during the Peloponnesian War. Hoplites could also alternatively carry the kopis, a heavy knife with a forward-curving blade.

By contrast with hoplites, other contemporary infantry (e.g., Persian) tended to wear relatively light armour, use wicker shields, and were armed with shorter spears, javelins, and bows. The most famous are the Peltasts, light-armed troops who wore no armour and were armed with a light shield, javelins and a short sword. The Athenian general Iphicrates developed a new type of armour and arms for his mercenary army, which included light linen armour, smaller shields and longer spears, whilst arming his peltasts with larger shields, helmets and a longer spear, thus enabling them to defend themselves easier against enemy hoplites. With this new type of army he defeated a Spartan army in 392 BC. Nevertheless, most hoplites stuck to the traditional arms and armour.

Macedonian Phalanx[]

The Macedonian phalanx is an infantry formation developed by Philip II and used by his son Alexander the Great to conquer the Persian Empire and other armies. Phalanxes remained dominant on battlefields throughout the Hellenisticperiod, although wars had developed into more protracted operations generally involving sieges and naval combat as much as field battles, until they were finally displaced by the Roman legions.


Philip II spent much of his youth as a hostage at Thebes, where he studied under the renowned general Epaminondas, whose reforms were the basis for the phalanx. Phalangiteswere professional soldiers, and were among the first troops ever to be drilled, thereby allowing them to execute complex maneuvers well beyond the reach of most other armies. They fought packed in a close rectangular formation, typically eight men deep, with a leader at the head of each column and a secondary leader in the middle, so that the back rows could move off to the sides if more frontage was needed.



Neither Philip nor Alexander actually used the phalanx as their arm of choice, but instead used it to hold the enemy in place while their heavy cavalry broke through their ranks. TheMacedonian cavalry fought in wedge formation and was stationed on the far right; after these broke through the enemy lines they were followed by the hypaspists, elite infantrymen who served as the king's bodyguard, and then the phalanx proper. The left flank was generally covered by allied cavalry supplied by the Thessalians, which fought in rhomboidformation and served mainly in a defensive role. Other forces — skirmishers, range troops, reserves of allied hoplitesarchers, and artillery — were also employed. The phalanx carried with it a fairly minimal baggage train, with only one servant for every few men. This gave it a marching speed that contemporary armies could not hope to match — on occasion forces surrendered to Alexander simply because they were not expecting him to show up for several more days. Phalangites were drilled to perform short forced marches if required.


The Macedonian phalanx was not very different from the Hoplite phalanx of other Greeks states, it was better trained, armed with the sarissa enabling it to outreach its competitors and stave off enemy cavalry, and wore far lighter armor enabling longer endurance and long fast forced marches, including the ability to sprint to close and overwhelm opposing positions and archers. In essence, the range of their counter-weighted sarissa, allowed them superior mobility as well as superior defense and attack abilities despite the encumbrance disadvantages of the longer weapon once trained up to handling it in formation. Centuries later, the organized militia of Swiss pikemen enjoyed similar advantages over less well trained contemporary militaries which were identically equipped, which emphasizes the importance of training and unit cohesion in the scheme. In Phillip's and Alexander's time, the Macedonian phalanx had clear technical superiority.

(End Wikipedia Text)

Phalanx Soldier (Game Rules)[]

The phalanx soldier specializes in defensive tactics, using his shield to guard himself and his allies and forming a shield wall like an unbreakable anvil against which his enemies break.[1]

Theseus as a hoplite. (p.d.)

Stand Firm

At 2nd level, a phalanx soldier gains a +1 bonus to CMD against bull rush,drag,overrun, and trip attempts. This bonus also applies on saves against trample attacks. The bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd. 

This ability replaces Bravery.

Phalanx Fighting[]

At 3rd level, when a phalanx soldier wields a shield, he can use any polearm or spear of his size as a one-handed weapon. This ability replaces Armor Training 1.

Ready Pike (Ex)[]

At 5th level, a phalanx soldier can, once per day, ready a weapon with the brace property as an immediate action, gaining a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls. For every four levels beyond 5th, this bonus increases by +1, and he can use the ability one additional time per day. He cannot use this ability when flat-footed.

This ability replaces Weapon Training 1.

Deft Shield (Ex)[]

At 7th level, the armor check penalty from a shield and the attack roll penalty are reduced by –1 for a phalanx soldier using a tower shield. At 11th level, these penalties are reduced by –2.

This ability replaces Armor Training 2 and 3.

Shield Ally (Ex)[]

At 9th level, when a phalanx fighter is using a heavy or tower shield, he can, as a move action, provide partial cover (+2 cover bonus to AC, +1 bonus on Reflex saves) to himself and all adjacent allies until the beginning of his next turn.

At 13th level, he can instead provide cover (+4 cover bonus to AC, +2 bonus on Reflex saves) and evasion (as a rogue) to one adjacent ally until the beginning of his next turn. This cover does not allow Stealth checks.

At 17th level, he can provide cover to himself and all adjacent allies, or he can provide improved cover (+8 cover bonus to AC, +4 bonus on Reflex saves, improved evasion)to a single adjacent ally.

This ability replaces Weapon Training 2, 3, and 4.

Irresistible Advance (Ex) At 15th level, a phalanx fighter gains a bonus on bull rush andoverrun CMB checks. This bonus depends on the type of shield used: +1 with a buckler, +2 with a light shield, +3 with a heavy shield, or +4 with a tower shield. 

This ability replaces Armor Training 4.

Shielded Fortress (Ex)[]

At 20th level, a phalanx fighter’s shield cannot be disarmed or sundered. He gains evasion (as a rogue) when using a shield (improved evasion when using a tower shield). As a move action, a phalanx fighter can provide evasion to all adjacent allies until the beginning of his next turn. As an immediate action, he can provide improved evasion to an adjacent ally against one attack.

This ability replaces Weapon Mastery.


  1. Jason Bulmahn (2010). Advanced Player's Guide, p. 105. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-246-3.

OGL  Section 15 -Copyright Notice[]

Advanced Player's Guide. Copyright 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn.



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