The appearance of the Hoplite phalanx on the battlefield coincides with the emergence of a system of city-states (polis) in Greece, each of which was the center of an autonomous territory. Athens, which emerged from the union of agricultural settlements that preceded the city, became the center of Attica, Argos united Argolis, Sparta — Laconia, etc. At the forefront of this process were rich agricultural regions with a large population. In the mountainous, barren regions of the central Peloponnese, Northern and Northwestern Greece, these processes were much slower. Here the population continued to live in small settlements scattered at great distances from each other, as it was in the Homeric era. In total, there were from 200 to 700 independent urban centers on the territory of mainland Greece, on the Aegis Islands and in Asia Minor.
In Homeric times, the population of a large city like Troy, Pylos, or Scheria was between 4,000 and 6,000, while the population of a small one like Ithaca probably didn't exceed 600. Athens had between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants around 700 BC. There were about the same number in Argos and Corinth. This population consisted of people who had ownership rights to land plots within the city district. Citizens lived in a communal organization and gathered together for general meetings to settle important issues. The decisions taken at these meetings were binding on all. In military terms, the collective of citizens was a circle of conscripted men who, in case of danger, defended the city with weapons in their hands. In this sense, the political and military organization of the Greek poleis was a single whole: the civilian collective was also a collection of soldiers.
This kind of joint participation of citizens in the defense of a besieged city is described by Homer in his famous description of the shield of Achilles:
"Another city was surrounded by two strong armies of nations,
Scary flashing weapons. The armies were threatened in two ways:
Or destroy it, or the citizens should split up with them
All the riches that their blooming city contains.
They weren't bowing down yet and were preparing for a secret ambush.
The wall is guarded by the visors of the spouse putting the kind ones,
Young sons and husbands who have fallen into old age,
They go out themselves; their leaders are Ares and Pallas..."
The scene of the battle of both armies described below vividly recalls the clash of two Hoplite phalanxes, as they are described in later texts and presented in pictorial sources:
"They become a formation, they fight a battle along the river bank;
They stab each other, throwing copper spears rapidly."
One of the most important differences between the Hoplite armies is that they are more numerous than the armies of the previous time. We can get an idea of the mobilization potential of Greece in Homeric times on the basis of the" Catalog of Ships", which concludes the second canto of the Iliad. This list includes 29 militias drawn from 164 different locations in Greece. All the militias are painted by ship and go on a campaign under the leadership of their leaders. The Athenians, as follows from the data of the "Catalog", were able to put up 50 ships to participate in the campaign, which, when calculating the crew of an average of 50 people per ship, gives a total of 2500 soldiers.
By the time of the Greco-Persian wars, the mobilization potential of the Athenians had at least tripled. The Athenian army that fought against the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC numbered 9,000 Hoplites. We see the same growth in other armies whose numbers are known to us. The king of Sparta, Menelaus, according to the "Catalog", brought with him under the walls of Troy 60 ships, that is, about 3000 soldiers gathered from all over Laconia. At the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, the Spartan army already numbered 10,000 warriors, half of whom were Spartiates and half were Periaci.
The Ship Catalog contains the names of 46 Greek leaders and 30 more Trojan leaders and their allies. In total, we know about 500 participants from both sides by name. Although Homer focuses on leaders and leaders in his description, it is obvious that the numerical basis of the Greek army was composed of ordinary soldiers, about whom we know very little. One of them is the nameless servant of Achilles, whose form Hermes assumed in order to escort Priam to the camp of the Myrmidons:
"I am Achilles' servant, who sailed on the same ship with him;
I am also a Myrmidon by birth; my father is the brave Polyctor;
A rich husband, and an old man like you, absolutely venerable.
Six are with Polyctor in the house of his sons, and the seventh is before you;
The lot between brothers has fallen on me to go with Achilles."
According to the "son of Polyctor", his father is not a simple man, but belongs to the property elite of the Myrmidonians. It is difficult to say whether this warrior participated in the campaign of his own free will or because of some common obligations. The "lot" mentioned here (κλήρος) as if it meant something more than just a system of personal connections between Achilles and the top officials of the people, whose sons on a common ship with the leader go to the overseas shores for prey. Perhaps, already here we meet some analog of a later military recruitment, when the number of militia required for the campaign was distributed by drawing lots for the entire military-liable class of citizens. However, from this brief passage it is impossible to determine who participated in the draw: all the Myrmidonians who were liable for military service, or only the sons of Polyctor, who cast lots among themselves to decide which of them would leave their father's house.
An important argument in favor of the fact that the militias sent to the walls of Troy were recruited from a wide range of citizens and traditional ties brought from home were preserved between the soldiers on the campaign is the well-known advice of Nestor to line up the soldiers in battle according to "tribes" (φῦλα) and "tribes" (φρήτρας). "Let the tribe help the tribe and the tribe help the tribe," says the elder of Pylos. In the Greek Polis, lists of citizens were kept according to the phylae and phratries, land plots were distributed, officials were elected, money was collected for general expenses, etc. To participate in a joint campaign, each fila had to put up a certain number of soldiers from among the citizens registered in its lists. These warriors were close neighbors, and sometimes even related to each other. Solidarity based on everyday neighborly ties was bound to promote their mutual assistance on the battlefield. In the same way, the Athenian army was recruited and built on the battlefield under Marathon by phylae and phratries.
It can be assumed that the large number of Hoplite troops is due not only to the general growth of the Greek population, which we are witnessing in the VII-VI centuries BC, but also to the growth of the welfare of citizens. Because of this, the boundaries of the conscripted class extend to wider and wider segments of the population. Studies show that the areas suitable for agriculture were densely populated at that time, with an average population density of 40-60 people per km2 corresponding to today. The polis economy was mainly based on a system of medium-sized and small farms with an area of 4 to 8 hectares. In Attica, where conditions are best known, there were about 10,000-12,000 such farms. The plot provided its owner with an income sufficient to support a family of four or five people, to which should be added one or two hired workers or slaves. This income was also enough for the owner of the site to purchase a set of weapons and armor and independently equip himself for participation in a military campaign.
The cost of Hoplite weapons remained unknown for a long time, but was considered high enough to serve as an important marker of social stratification. An inscription found on Salamis off the coast of Attica, dating from the first half of the sixth century BC, provided some clarity on this question.From the text of the decree carved on a stone slab, it followed that the Athenian clerical soldiers who received land on Salamis recently conquered from the Megarians had to provide themselves with weapons worth at least 30 drachmas. It is noteworthy that, according to the Solonian Constitution of 594 BC, the middle property class of the Zeugites, from which the bulk of the Hoplites were recruited, had to have an annual income of 200 drachmas. Thus, it turned out that Hoplite weapons in the Solonian era were available not only to the Zeugites, but also to the top of the poor-the Fetes. This makes clear the optimism of the warrior poet Archilochus, who in the famous verse does not grieve at all about the shield lost in battle, intending to buy himself a new one at the first opportunity. Meanwhile, Archilochus was definitely poor.
The growing number of conscripted citizens who were ready to go on a campaign with their own weapons and supplies allowed the Greeks to gather more and more numerous armies from year to year. It is estimated that for most of the sixth century BC, the Greek armies that we know of averaged 2,500 soldiers. Already in the next century, in a quarter of the cases known to us, the size of the army exceeded 5,000 people, and in another quarter of cases-even 10,000 soldiers. But even these figures were far from the limit. On the eve of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. Herodotus estimated the Athenian civilian population at 30,000. In a moment of extreme danger to the city from the Persians who landed at Marathon, the Athenians were able to field an army of 9,000 Hoplites. Most likely, this figure reflects the peak of their mobilization capabilities. At the same time, two-thirds of those who had civil rights were still outside the military organization and did not serve in the army.
Gradually, more numerous Hoplite militias, which included aristocratic squads, became the decisive force on the battlefield. The consequence of this was the strengthening of the policy's control over private military entrepreneurship. The war became increasingly politicized. Only a general assembly of citizens could declare and wage war, end hostilities, and make peace. Those who questioned this right turned into robbers and outcasts, enemies of their fellow citizens and the entire human race. Already on the pages of The Odyssey, we find the story of a hapless loot seeker who almost paid with his head for his own arbitrariness. Together with a band of Tafi sea robbers, he once robbed the ship of Ithaca's neighbors, the Thesprots. At home, a crowd of angry fellow citizens was waiting for him, who were going to kill the impudent man on the spot. By some miracle, he managed to escape from the hands that had seized him and take refuge in the Odyssey house. Odysseus calmed the assembled people and saved their lives.
Selected bands, such as the Spartan Horsemen, the Theban Sacred Band, or the Argos Logades, were the last resting places for the descendants of gods and heroes. The warriors who were part of them were selected one at a time based on their origin and merit, but they entered the battle in a general formation. With the appearance of the phalanx on the battlefield, its success was determined to a greater extent by the joint actions of the mass of ordinary fighters, rather than by the heroism of selected soldiers. Duels in front of the formation, in which aristocrats could demonstrate their bravery and skill, fell out of use. The Hoplites ' courage and military prowess consisted in fighting in a general formation, elbow to elbow with their comrades-in-arms. Victory in these conditions was depersonalized, becoming the property of all soldiers, and not individual heroes.
In 490 BC, the Athenian people's Assembly decided on a monument to Miltiades, who commanded the army at the battle of Marathon. They say that one of the participants in the discussion asked: "Did Miltiades alone beat the Persians, that he should have a monument erected?"