incurved in the centre like the Mycenaean, that Homer knew nothing of the small round shield, and that the epithets implying roundness used in the poems are to be explained as meaning “well-balanced” or as late interpolations. On the whole we must conclude that the Mycenaean age is by no means a single homogeneous whole (see Aegean Civilization), and that the weapons are not exclusively of bronze, nor of any single type.
The Homeric warrior in full armour, according to the Homeric poems, wore: (1) shield (ἀσπίς, σάκος), (2) greaves (κνημῖδες), (3) band (ζῶμα), (4) belt (ζωστήρ) and mitrē, (5) tunic (χιτών), (6) helmet (κορύς), (7) breastplate (θώρηξ), (8) sword (ξίφος). The λαισήΐον was a protection worn by the archers in place of a shield. According to the usual view, the Homeric shield was, as we have seen, bent in about half way up each side (in the form of a figure-of-eight) to give freedom to the arms, and large enough to protect the whole body. The two curves were held rigid by two wooden (probably) staves inside. It was composed of layers of ox-hide overlaid with bronze, forming a boss in the centre, and sometimes had studs upon it. Reichel’s view is that it was the weight of these huge shields which led to the use of the chariot as a means of going rapidly from one part of the field to another (though Professor Ridgeway and others contest this, and Helbig mentions more than one case of long journeys on foot under shield), and further that the round shield is entirely unknown to Homer. This large shield was clearly the natural protection against showers of missiles, rather than against enemies fighting with the sword.
The greaves were, no doubt, generally of hide, protected the leg all round, and were fastened at the knee with cords. On the other hand Mycenaean bronze greaves have been found at Enkomi (Cyprus) and at Glassinatz (Glasinac), and therefore it is not necessary, following Reichel, to cut out Homer’s references to the “bronze-greaved” Achaeans (Iliad, vii. 41), a phrase which has been taken as evidence for regarding the passage as spurious. The tin greaves of Achilles are obviously exceptional.
The thorex again is the subject of controversy. Reichel, arguing that the great shield rendered any breastplate unnecessary, regarded the word as a general term for body clothing, but Ridgeway strongly maintains the older theory that it was a bronze breastplate, and Andrew Lang points out that, on Reichel’s theory, a word which originally meant the “breast” was transferred to mean “loin-cloth” (which, to judge from the artistic representations, was all that the Mycenaean warrior wore), and subsequently in historic times returned to its natural use for the breastplate—a most unlikely evolution. The passages in Homer which describe it as a breastplate are regarded by Reichel’s school as later interpolations. Gilbert Murray thinks that the Homeric poems must be regarded as belonging to different periods of development, and therefore attributes the more elaborate armour to the “surface” (late Ionian) stratum. The zoma was probably a loin-cloth, and the mitrē a metal band about a foot wide in front and narrow behind to protect the lower part of the body. As a matter of fact, however, the big shield does not exclude the use of body armour, and it is quite likely that the Homeric warrior wore a bronze corslet, i.e. a somewhat improved form of the λινοθώρηξ, or stiffened shirt. On the other hand, it is probable, as we gather from the poems, that this corslet was not strong enough to do more than stop a spent spear. The chiton was worn over the mitrē, and reached the knees; it was held to the body by the zostēr, a metal-plated belt. Helmets were both of metal on leather, and of leather throughout; the crests were of horsehair (not of metal like the later Greek helmets) and there were no cheek-pieces.
The sword has already been mentioned. Ridgeway, in spite of the almost invariable mention of bronze as the material of the Homeric weapons, believes that it was generally of iron, but, while the presence of iron in the Homeric age is admitted in the case of implements, it is generally held that weapons were all of bronze. Except for one arrow-head (Iliad, iv. 123), and the mace of Areithoüs, mentioned as a unique example by Nestor (Iliad, vii. 141), no reference to an iron weapon proper occurs in the Homeric poems. But the sword was used only when the favourite spear or javelin had failed to decide the contest.
It must be admitted that the problem of pre-Homeric armour and Homeric armour must always be largely a matter of inference, based on a comparative study of the evidence literary and archaeological. Unless we are prepared to adopt the theory that the Homeric poems consist of a mosaic of interpolation informed by an archaizing editor, we must assume that they describe a single period of transition intermediate between the Mycenaean prime and the dawn of history proper. In this case we shall believe that the Homeric warrior has so far adapted to changing conditions the simple appliances of the Mycenaean that he has evolved a feeble corslet with minor pieces of body armour, while retaining the big double-bellied shield as a protection against the arrows which are still the chief weapon of the rank and file and are even used on occasion by the chiefs. If we further believe that the iron at his disposal was similar to that used by the Celts of Polybius, it is natural to believe also that he preferred the harder bronze for his weapons, though iron was common for domestic and other implements.
4. Greek, Historical.—The equipment does not differ generically from that described in the Homeric poems, except when we come to the reforms of the Macedonians. The hoplites, who formed the main army, wore helmet, body armour, greaves and shield, and fought with pike and sword. The helmets were (1) the Corinthian, which covered the face to the chin, with slits for the eyes, and often had no plume or crest; (2) the Athenian, which did not cover the face (though sometimes it had cheek-plates which could be turned up if necessary), had crests, sometimes triple, with plumes of feathers, horsehair or leather; (3) a steel cap (πῖλος) without crest, plumes or cheek-plates. The last seems to have been most common in the Spartan army. The body armour consisted of breast and back plates fastened together by thongs or straps and buckles; sometimes poverty compelled a man to be content with a leather jerkin (σπολάς) partly strengthened by metal plates, or even a quilted linen or stuffed shirt. Greaves were of pliant bronze fastened at the back above the ankle and below the knee. Shields were of the small round or oval type, adapted to the new conditions in which the bow and arrow had given place to hand-to-hand fighting. They were held by means of two handles (ὄχανα), the left hand being thrust through the first and grasping the second. In the 5th and 4th centuries the shield bore a device or initial representing the state and also the individual’s own crest. The hoplite’s pike, about 8 ft. long, unlike the Homeric weapon, was hardly ever thrown. In the Macedonian phalanx a pike (σάρισσα), certainly 18 ft., and perhaps later in the 3rd and and 2nd centuries even 24 ft. long, was introduced. The sword was straight, sharp-pointed, short, sometimes less than 20 in., and rarely more than 2 ft. long. It was double-edged and used for both cut and thrust. A less common type was the μάχαιρα or curved sabre used by the Spartans, with one sharp edge. The hoplite had no other offensive weapons.
The cavalry were heavy-armed like the hoplites except that they carried a smaller shield, or, more usually, none at all. They were armed with a lance which they wielded freely (i.e. not “in rest”) and occasionally threw. The Macedonian cavalry had a σάρισσα. The light-armed (γυμνῆτες, ψιλοί) were (1) ἀκοντισταί, armed with a javelin (3 to 5 ft. long) and a small shield; (2) τοξόται, archers; and (3) σφενδονῆται, slingers, whose missiles