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Aspis Aspis Aspis

We are going to start studying the shield as it appears during the 7th Century, in the hands of a Greek Hoplite. Incidentally, the Aspis has also come to be called the Hoplon, due to its connection with the Greek Hoplite. The Aspis was the large shield use by these soldiers that enabled them to form their famous, almost undefeatable, phalanxes.

The Greek Aspis was a large shield, approximately resembling a shallow bowl that covered the Greek warrior from shoulder to knee. It was constructed of wood about a fifth of an inch thick, and covered with a thin layer of leather, upon which various designs and motifs were painted.

The shield was so large and heavy that it was often cumbersome to move with, and the Hoplites would carry it horizontally if they needed to move quickly in battle. They could also rest the upper portion of the shield on their shoulder, to relieve their arms and brace for blows from their opponent.

Integral to the design of the shield was the way it was held. The bearer would place his arm through a leather strap near the center of the shield, and grip another strap near the edge of the shield. If you try to image this, you’ll see that it left a large section of shield hanging out to the Hoplite’s left. This was intentional: it protected the next soldier in line.

Without a doubt, the Aspis defined the way Greek soldiers fought, and certainly aided their advance into history.


Aspis Kite Shield Scutum
"Kite" or "Heater"

Shields are some of the oldest defensive devices ever. They are simple, smart, and easy to make, and we still use them in many modern applications. Helmets, breastplates, and greaves are a few ancient personal defenses, but shields are the oldest.

In the case of shields, it is difficult to determine the very first use. It was probably a day or two after the first use of the club. Caveman One hit Caveman Two, and all of a sudden Caveman Two needed a way to defend himself. Since that time, shields have changed shapes and sizes, but the original concept is still the same.

The vast majority of shields were constructed with the same material: wood. Although there are records of shields made with various types of metals, it is quite understandable that any type of metal might get more than a little heavy. On top of the wood was usually some type of covering, be it cloth, leather, or paper, that could be painted to decorate the shield.

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