The mainstay of the Athenian army, like practically all Greek armies, was the heavy armed infantry soldier, the hoplite. Along with every hoplite went an attendant, a lightly armed man, either a poor citizen who could not afford a regular suit of armor (panoplia), or possibly a trusted slave. These attendants carried the hoplite's shield (aspis) until the battle, and most of the baggage. They were armed with javelins, and sometimes spears slings and bows. They acted as skirmishers before the pitched battle, and were assigned to guarding the camp during the actual fight. When the fight was done they did their best to cover the retreat or slaughter the fleeing foes if their own hoplites were victorious.
During and after the Peloponnesian Wars, the use and importance of light troops increased, with the introduction of the peltasts: lightly armoured, if at all, and armed with javelins and a shield the pelte. Their effectiveness in battle, even against the best-trained heavy hoplites, was demonstrated by the Athenian general Iphicrates, who annihilated an entire Spartan mora with his peltasts.
Athens, a civilization facing the sea, had a large contingent of warships. The main vessels were called triremes. With these boats Athens got its hegemony over the rest of Hellas and the greatest moment of the polis. Among those triremes was Salaminia.
- This article incorporates text from A Day in Old Athens, by William Stearns Davis, a publication from 1910 now in the public domain in the United States.
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