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"Aspis" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Apsis. For other uses, see Aspis (disambiguation).
Hoplitodromos with hoplons and full body armour depicted in a Greek vase dated to 550 BC.

A hoplon (hóplon; Ancient Greek: ὅπλον) was the heavy wooden shield used by the infantry in various periods of Ancient Greece. The term "hoplites" for infantrymen is derived from it.[1] The generic term for shield in the Ancient Greek language was "aspis" (/ˈæspɨs/; Ancient Greek: ἀσπίς).


A hoplon was a deeply dished shield made of wood. Some had a thin sheet of bronze on the outer face, often just around the rim. In some periods, the convention was to decorate the shield; 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 measured roughly 1 metre (3.28 feet) in diameter and weighed about 7.26 kilograms (16 pounds).[2] 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 hoplites more mobility with the shield, as well as the ability to capitalize on their offensive capabilities and better support the phalanx. The shield 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.[3] By forming a human wall to provide a powerful defensive armour, the Hoplites became invincible in battle.

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  1. ^ According to Diodorus Siculus: "... 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." Transcribed from the original: "hoi [men] proteron apo tôn aspidôn hoplitai kaloumenoi tote [de] apo tês peltês peltastai metônomasthêsan". Diodorus Siculus: The Library, 15.44.3 (Loeb Classical Library, 12 volumes, Greek texts and facing English translation: Harvard University Press, 1933 to 1967).
  2. ^ Zimmel, Girard, Jonathan, Todd. "Hoplites Arms and Armor". Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Sage, Michael M (1996). Warfare in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook. London, GBR: Routledge. p. 281. 

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