‘Hoplites are troops who take their name from their shields’. ‘The individual infantryman took his name, hoplites, from the hoplon or shield’. Such is the orthodox view. This paper will endeavour to show that its basis is inadequate. Rather, we shall argue, hoplites took their name from their arms and armour as a whole, their hopla in that all-encompassing sense; so that the original and essential meaning of the word hoplite was nothing more than ‘armed man’.
In discussions of the complex and controversial problem of Spartan land-tenure,1 the mysterious ‘ρχαα μορα’ has assumed an importance out of all proportion to its prominence in the sources, for the actual phrase only occurs once in extant literature. It owes its importance to the fact that the reference to it has been used to support the theory that there were two categories of land in Sparta, a theory which in turn is held to explain how, when all Spartans supposedly (...) owned equal estates, there could nevertheless be rich ones and poor ones, as authors such as Herodotos, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Aristotle make clear. The answer, it is claimed, is that although all Spartans possessed an equal share of one category of land, they could own more or less of the other category.2. (shrink)