After Alexander the Great had defeated the king of Persia in 331 BCE, he took control of the great Persian Empire.
During this period the chroniclers relate that Alexander abandoned his traditional Macedonian dress and adopted instead the dress of the Persians, wearing a loose tunic and pants. This exasperated Alexander’s Macedonian generals, who were intensely proud of their kingdom’s military history, which they saw as represented by their dress.
This detail from a Roman mosaic shows Alexander the Great dressed in the armor of a Macedonian general. Alexander wears a metal breastplate with wide shoulder straps, and a lightweight cloak fastened at the neck. His breastplate has a decoration in the form of a head—possibly the god of war. The backbone of the Greek army was its company of heavily armed foot soldiers, known as hoplites.
Greek Hoplites fought with a long spear and a sword and carried a large circular shield made from bronze, wood, and leather, with a bold design painted on it. They wore a short tunic and their upper body was protected by a bronze and leather breastplate. Bronze leg guards, known as greaves, covered the soldiers’ calves, and they wore sturdy leather sandals on their feet.
The hoplites had magnificent bronze helmets with a horsehair crest and flaps to protect the sides of the face. The ancient Greeks loved to hold athletic competitions, in which men competed against each other in sports such as jumping, boxing, and wrestling. The most famous competition of all was the Olympic Games.
Most Olympic sports were performed by naked athletes, but in one running race the competitors had to wear heavy armor. Each of the runners wore a bronze helmet and greaves and carried a heavy shield. The origins of this race probably lay in the strict training of the Greek hoplites.
All the men of Sparta were full-time soldiers. At the age of seven, boys were taken from their mothers to begin their military training. Spartan warriors dressed in a distinctive way, with long, scarlet cloaks and helmets which covered almost all of the face. The Spartan soldiers also let their hair grow long, so that it streamed out from under their helmets. The overall effect could be very fearsome when they advanced en masse in battle.