Hoplite Headwear.

by Daniel Russ on December 18, 2009

Greek Helmet, Circa 300 BC

Greek Helmet, Circa 300 BC

This beautifully preserved helmet was worn by a Greek infantryman, otherwise known as a hoplite.

Ancient Greek Bronze Helmet, South Italian, mid 4th - mid 3rd century B.C.

Ancient Greek Bronze Helmet, South Italian, mid 4th - mid 3rd century B.C.

One has to has to wonder why a Greek helmet was found in Southern Italy. But history tells us that the Peloponnesian Wars were not restricted to Greece. The Athenians and the Spartans and the Boetians and Atticans had expeditionary forces and skirmished on Italian soil in the first millenium.

Source: Museum of Cycladic Art at Athens, Greece

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

M Burns March 25, 2010 at 7:45 am

The helmet up top is called a Corinthian type helmet. It first appeared in Greece during the 7th century BC and was designed to give the hoplite complete protection for the head and face. The Corinthian helmet you have in the picture is a late type and would be dated to the 5th century BC. In Greece the Corinthian fell out of use by the end of the 5th century and was replaced by types of helmet which gave the warrior greater visibility and hearing. The second helmet you have illustrated is an Apulo-Corinthian helmet dating from the 5th to early 4th century. This was a derivative of the Greek Corinthian helmet used by the Italic peoples – most excavated examples have been recovered from Apulia in Southern Italy. The Apulo-Corinthian helmet was worn like a cap pushed back on the head and was never intended to be pulled over the face. The eye-holes are much to small and closely spaced. Later versions of the Apulo-Corinthian helmet have eye-holes and nasal guards which are just etched into the bronze and are purely a decorative feature.

Daniel Russ March 25, 2010 at 8:56 am

Thank you for your scholarly corrections.

Anthony Sully April 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

I would like permission to use the photo of the Greek war helmet c. 300BC in a book I am writing on interior design. No publisher yet. A hi-res image would be ideal.

Many thanks.

Daniel Russ April 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I don’t own the rights to the photo. since i am doing this for free, i am in the clear regarding it’s use.

Someone may own the rights to the photo and if my blog gets that famous that they come after me. then i am in a good spot

that said, use it. it belongs to posterity

I ask the Questions! May 18, 2010 at 6:33 am

The top helmet puzzles me. The dimensions and its elongated shape that’s what bothers me most. What filled up the extra space above the scull? What did those two front pieces serve? They were clearly cutting into one’s chest and shoulders, besides they make ones head impossible to move.That helmet is dutrly not designed for human use. Can someone explain that to me?

Arthur Roberg June 25, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Dear “I ask the Questions!”
the two Cheekguards in the front would come down and an angle so that they sat in front of the chest and would only interfere with the shoulders when one would turn the head, in which case you would turn the body as well. The bottom edges sloped upwards toward the ear so that by the time they were above the shoulders there was clearance. The spear was the main weapon used at this time and the sloping cheek guards would make a spear stroke glance away from the head.

Meevar the Mighty April 12, 2011 at 12:16 am

As for the “extra space”, these helmets were padded with sponge in antiquity. I think Aristotle details the type of sponge required in his “History of Animals”.

Louis August 24, 2017 at 9:22 am

Why a greek helmet was found in southern Italy? Because that is where greeks lived! Before the romans took over the whole of Italy, most of the southern part, and Sicily, was inhabited by Greek people on the coast, and greek influenced people inland. So much so that the whole area was called Magna Grecia, or Greater Greece, by the greeks in Greece themselves. Apparantly there is still a noticable greek influence in the Italian dialects spoken in those places.
If not greeks living there, then the natives copied the greek style of war, in the same vein that you had, and have, lots of surplus US and USSR military stuff being used, or discarded, in far away places that never saw either an american of russian soldier. Also remember that the Roman army started out as a pseudo greek phalanx inspired organisation, which only later (fighting greek, and greek style, armies), evolved into the more flexible, and capable, style that we are familiar with.

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