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Heavily armed foot soldier of ancient Greece whose function was to fight in close formation. They probably first appeared in the late 8th century BC. They were equipped with new and heavier armour, including a metal helmet, breastplate, and shield; each had a sword and a 6-ft (2-m) spear for thrusting rather than throwing. From then on, battles were won not by individual champions but through the weight of massed hoplite phalanxes breaking through enemy ranks. Though the phalanx was unwieldy and the equipment cumbersome, Greek hoplites were the best fighters in the Mediterranean world.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hoplite, visit Britannica.com.