The Symbol of the Hoplite: His Helmet

Apulo-Corinthian helmet, type A. Bronze, made ...

Apulo-Corinthian helmet, type A. Bronze, made in Apulia, ca. 510 BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Corinthian helmet. Bronze, first quarter of th...

Corinthian helmet. Bronze, first quarter of the 6th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Corinthian-type helmet, the damage on which mi...

Corinthian-type helmet, the damage on which might be from battle use. Popular as trophies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Helmet of the hoplites was very important and symbolic, even today (Show anyone a picture like the one to the left, and they will either think greek warrior or Spartan). Often you will see in old vase paintings some Hero with his helmet tipped up on his head for comfort. This shows remarkable design, though the helmet was most likely not designed with that purpose in mind, it is probable, like many products today, that the smith, after seeing the practice of tipping the helmet up on one’s head, would change the helmet slightly to allow for easier “tipping”.

If you notice, there is hardly a single flat place on the helmet, and most helmets were probably polished or at least made extremely smooth. This made it practically impossible to pierce a spear through it. The only weak point was the face, as the eyes were needed for seeing, (obviously) and the eyeholes big enough to see anyone who’s about to attack you, and the mouth had to be left open so you can yell commands or shout for help. The ears were kept covered because in a battle, everyone is shouting (though some helmets had slits going from the bottom of the helmet up towards the ear). The nose also had protection.

It is not really clear how it was made, but one source said that the bronze was cast into sheets, and hammered over a wooden form, every once in a while hammering the bronze together where the sheets met. Another plausible technique would be casting, and though this does not sound very plausible, remember that both the Hoplite’s spearheads and their swords were cast, and all of their bronze statues as well. 

After the helmet was done, if it was meant for a commander, the helmet could be engraved and sometimes a horstail plume would be attached on top for decoration, dyed in bright colors and very majestic looking. Overall, the Hoplite’s helmet is the most impressive part of his equipment.

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One thought on “The Symbol of the Hoplite: His Helmet

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