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A shield bearer was usually a lightly armored soldier who protected another soldier by carrying a protective shield. A commander might be protected by several shield bearers. Other types of soldiers that made use of shield bearers included archers, crossbowmen, and early handgunners.
The Spartan hoplites adopted larger shields after the development of the Macedonian phalanx. A shield bearer carried a hoplite's shield on the march. In combat, the shield bearer served among the light infantry, usually as slinger.