HEROES & HOPLITES
WARFARE IN ANCIENT GREECE
War was a constant reality in ancient Greece. The heroic stories of the Iliad and Odyssey were in many cases considered by the ancient Greeks as records of their cultural origins - with some claiming direct descent from the heroes. Warfare in the ancient world was intrinsically linked to politics, economics, religion, technological development, and much more. To look at warfare is to look at the evolution of ancient Greek culture.
Heroes and Hoplites traces the evolution of warfare in ancient Greece. Displaying both original and replica Greek helmets, weaponry, armour, and a collection of Attic and South Italian vases depicting scenes of warfare and battle preparation, this exhibition is unlike any other in Australia.
Heroes and Hoplites is a long-term exhibition at the Hellenic Museum.
Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey immortalised the achievements of the heroes of the past. These works chronicle the mighty battles and epic struggles faced by swift-footed Achilles, noble Hector, Ajax, Menelaus and cunning Odysseus, whose respective virtues had won them power and prestige. These valiant heroes, who pursued a life of greatness and glory through supremacy both on and off the battle field, became the Greek ideal. The stories of these heroes, and their battles, were considered by the Ancient Greeks as records of their cultural origins- with some claiming direct descent from the heroes. As such, honour and status amongst the ancient Greeks was fundamentally linked to their martial prowess and their ability to be the best amongst their peers.
Things were somewhat different for Greek hoplites. The rise of the polis, along with technological and tactical advancements, led to more organised warfare and the development of the Hoplite phalanx. Greek city-states, with the exception of Sparta, did not maintain standing armies, instead, soldiers were drawn from the polis and would have had little training compared to their Spartan counterparts. Hoplites were generally citizen soldiers of a Greek army who could afford to equip themselves with armour and weaponry.