Old hoplites never die, they just get re-based.

The following is a photo essay of various Greek hoplite miniatures. These are newer and old figures in 28mm. Since there are so many good new figures out, I wanted to get these cleaned up and off the table - to make room for the new plastics and other really nice figures from Gorgon to Footsore to be finished someday soon.
The focus is on re-use and resurrecting old models and mixing and matching disparate miniatures to create variety. These are a mix of good to average figures, re-based and ready for their next call to action. So fetch your shield, spear, armor, and three days of rations and a servant and let's go. Most of these photos are by the talented Marcia Siggins Jonas.


  Hoplites, classical Greek soldiers

The classical Greek hoplite is an iconic warrior. They were famous for defending Greece from the Persian Empire. Then they turned on themselves in long wars between the city states vying for dominance (hegemony) over Greece, the Aegean, and Asia Minor. The hoplite style of armor, large bronze faced round shield, and bronze helmets sporting tall horsehair crests are famously cool looking. Their style of fighting in close ranks with overlapping shields and long spears spread across the Mediterranean via their mastery of the seas. Hoplites colonized and conquered areas of Thrace, Asia Minor, Africa, Italy, and then as far as Southern France. They dominated, and were copied by those in contact with them. In some scholar's works they created the notion of "The Western Way of War", that may be a stretch, but these citizen soldiers did change history and laid the foundations of Western Civilization.

These are older metal 28mm figures. They have been languishing in half finished condition, un-based, in other words, not ready for prime time. Newer figures are better than ever, but I still have a fondness for these old work horses. I wanted to get some of these finished and photographed by my lovely wife, the photographer in the house. Someday these may have to march away, but for now, and the future I have them on the internet. In some ways the World Wide Web is my glass display case for the world.






  The hoplite's armor

Here we see their shields in all their glory. The hoplite's round wooden shield was often faced in bronze. Most carried personal designs and color schemes that represent the personal tastes of the soldier. Often designs were related to the city patron gods. This group is what I call a "mixed unit" of hoplites that does not represent a specific city. This way they can be allied with Athenians, Thebans, Spartans, even as mercenaries for Persians and Thracian kings.

Athens had her own common symbols including the owl, and the Gorgon pictured here. Spartans had their own personal devices as well. Later armies started to use colors and symbols to identify themselves more uniformly. The Spartans added the Lambda symbol, Athens an Alpha. Thebans were identified with the club of Herakles and other symbols.

I like to hand paint my hoplite shields, but some of these are transfers (see below). Some homemade transfers, and some old store bought, and some hand painted. These encompass a number of different companies 28mm hoplites, as you see they mix in quite well.

From left to right:
28mm Old Glory - 28mm Newline Designs - 28mm Old Glory - 28mm Old Glory - 28mm Old Wargames Foundry




  Colors and Crests

This Newline Designs trumpeter is standing in the back ranks as colorful warriors push forward in the phalanx. These have been deliberately painted in bright colors as I often go for more muted looks. But these really stand out now. Again, we see here a mix of painted shields, and decals painted over, and homemade decals.

Home made transfers- You can do it yourself!
(How to make your own homemade decals/transfers TBD)

 

Mercenaries 

These Wargames Foundry figures have been around for a long time. I call them mercenaries because they are wearing no body armor. That may be a misnomer as mercenaries probably could afford more armor than any typical soldier. There was a period in the Peloponnesian Wars where armor went out of style. But it appears that it came back. Helmets would change too. The heavy bronze Corinthian helmets hindered visibility and hearing, so the lighter conical "pilos" and other open faced styles became very common. The pilos was comfortable because it was styled after felt caps, it was cheaper and easier to make - three great reasons for the budget conscious hoplite to consider.

The leather aprons were to attached to the shields block missiles or blows to the shins and knees. Uniformity is a rare thing, that's why I like the eclectic look.
Mercenary Greeks could serve everywhere in the Mediterranean, from Carthage armies to Persians. These are very useful units because they fit in so many armies.

I have a link to these as a "how to paint" page:   HERE






  Greek vs. Greek

Here the allies are taking on the mercenaries in a typical gaming scrum. Hoplites formed up in units 8 to 12 deep on average. Game units usually less than that, 2 to 3 ranks is common.  The back sides on these linothorax clad hoplites are quite a pleasant colorful mess. Linothorax was a type of armor most likely made out of sheets of linen glued together till they were stiff and more protective than leather (but less than metal). As one can see this is a great place to add variety to your figures with different colors and piping.

These Old Glory figures have high relief so they are easy to paint. A player often only sees the back of his miniatures so it is nice to make them look good there as well as from the front.






  Shield details

Shields are a key part of the hoplite's look. The big round shields offer a lot of painting room even in 28mm. This bunch has a combination of hand painted designs as well as decals. The shield on the left is a typical "eye" design and I hand painted that. That design is an easy one. The "Gorgon" in the center is a home made decal I worked up in Photoshop from online sources. The home printer does a decent job, especially on fine lines. Making your own transfers means you can use your own color palette.  Hand painting allows even more variety. As I said, some designs are easier to do. Dolphins, snakes, and victory tripods are easy designs.  Many shields had ornate designs on the rims as well- I don't do too much of that (I'm not that crazy). 

This website still has the best source on real Greek shields. Often the transfer companies get a bit over-the-top in their designs, these below are based on direct sources:

Hoplite shields Luke Ueda-Sarson


Here is a nice essay on the nature of the hoplite shield, by Josho Brouwers:

The Greek 'hoplite' shield





https://gorgon-studios.myshopify.com/collections/spartans

  The clash of the phalanx

The phalanx formation was very difficult to breach so a fight between two equal formations could be quite desperate. Most often units would clash and then pull apart after the first crunch, a combat could drag on, or sudden panic could end it quickly. Spartans were famous for overawing their foes and occasionally their enemies would simply flee rather than face inevitable defeat.  Often after the first phase of a hoplite battle one side would catch the other on the flanks, scattering the opposition.

When the combat was equal one side would push the other front ranks back and that might cause the rout. Officers fought to the front so they were often wounded and killed on the battlefield.

These shields use some old decals and a few hand painted ones are in the mix too. These Wargames Foundry figures are some of my favorites. There are a couple of Newline Designs in there too. I need to paint some more of them- but there are so many new figures out now with the resurgence of interest in hoplites. My next hoplite project is Gorgon Studios' classic Thermopylae Spartans.







  A swift pursuit

Once one side broke and ran then the pursuit would commence. Most of the casualties would occur at this point as one unit scattered and exposed their backs to the victors. Usually the pursuit would stop before reaching the opposing camp.  The victors would return to the critical victory point and set up a tropaion (trophy) out armor and shields of the defeated.

I retouched and updated
this batch of already complete Old Glory figures (left) purchased on eBay a long time ago. They were cleaned up a bit, shields repainted or retouched, and then re-based to fit my tastes. They are all in the single pose of leaning forward and giving that push that will throw the enemy back. Old Glory are very practical miniatures, reasonably priced they are good way to start building a full metal miniature Greek army.
Old Glory figures come in large packs of thirty figures and contain multiple poses. Old Glory are a bit rough but paint up well enough to game with. In this case the original owner used broom bristles for spears, and they have held up well enough over the eons of use.

I re-based a number of these on 4x4 bases for a set of rules, but then never found the room to use them in any games with that system. So now they were all put back on single bases, which allows me to play that old WAB game occasionally.

Who knows where these old figures will end up? I may run out of space, new figures beckon and the shelf is full. Maybe why I am showing them here is they may last longer on the internet than in my cabinet.


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Victory Tropaion (TBD)

Footsore miniatures offers a cool Tropaion set for their Mortal Gods
hoplite skirmish game. I am in the process of finishing them, reporting soon.



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The Greek  Herald (TBD)

(Another project I'm working on)



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Old stuff with new to be added:


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Peter Dennis, a brilliant illustrator, offers paper hoplites and Persian alternatives to metal and plastic
Greek armies of the age of hoplites:



https://peterspaperboys.com


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Giuseppe Rava paints some great inspirational hoplite art.
Check out his Military art prints, I have this one on my wall.



Find his work at:
http://www.g-rava.it/opere/evo_antico/7_Opliti%20tarda%20grecia_eng.htm


Further reading, a few inspiration books I own:

    Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars         
              


Please send any comments to:

 jjonas@ancientbattles.com

 

   

 

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02/04/2020