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This article is about the Greek term. For other uses, see Aspis (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Apsis.
Hoplitodromos with hoplons and full body armour depicted in a Greek vase dated to 550 BC.

"Aspis" (/ˈæspɨs/; Ancient Greek: ἀσπίς) is the generic term for the word shield. The aspis carried by Greek infantry (hoplites) of various periods is often referred to as a hoplon (hóplon; Ancient Greek: ὅπλον).

According to Diodorus Siculus:[1]

... and the infantry who had formerly been called "hoplites" because of their heavy shield (hoplon), then had their name changed to "peltasts" from the pelta they carried.

—Diodorus Siculus. The Library, 15.44.3.[2]


A hoplon shield was a deeply dished shield made of wood. Some shields had a thin sheet of bronze on the outer face, often just around the rim. In some periods, the convention was to decorate the aspis; in others, it was usually left plain. Probably the most famous aspis decoration is that of Sparta: a capital lambda (Λ) from Lacedaemon (Lakedaímōn; Ancient Greek: Λακεδαίμων). From the late 5th century BC, Athenian hoplites commonly used the Little Owl, while the shields of Theban hoplites were sometimes decorated with a sphinx, or the club of Heracles.

The hoplon shield measured roughly 1 metre (3.28 feet) in diameter and weighed about 7.26 kilograms (16 pounds).[3] 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 a mass of Hoplites to push forward into the opposing army, and it was their most essential equipment.[4] By forming a human wall to provide a powerful defensive armour, the Hoplites became invincible in battle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diodorus Siculus. Loeb Classical Library, 12 volumes, Greek texts and facing English translation: Harvard University Press, 1933 to 1967. Translation by C. H. Oldfather up to Volume 6; Vol. 7 by C. L. Sherman, Vol. 8 by C. Bradford Welles, Vols. 9 and 10 by Russel M. Geer, Vol. 11 by F. R. Walton.
  2. ^ "hoi [men] proteron apo tôn aspidôn hoplitai kaloumenoi tote [de] apo tês peltês peltastai metônomasthêsan"
  3. ^ Zimmel, Girard, Jonathan, Todd. "Hoplites Arms and Armor". Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Sage, Michael M (1996). Warfare in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook. London, GBR: Routledge. p. 281. 

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