Because of the recent movie, 300, most people are aware of the epic battle that occurred at Thermopylai were 300 odd Spartans supposedly held off an army of over one million led by Xerxes I. Now, there were many errors in the movie (the number of men on both sides being the chiefest of them). But it still leaves many people asking how a force so drastically outnumbered was able to hold a force nearly twenty times their number. The answer lies in the difference in their equipment, tactics and their training.
The Persian forces were primarily light and heavy infantry consisting of swordsmen, spear men and archers with a measure of lightly armed and armored calvary. The average soldier was very lightly armored in so that they could move rapidly. The Persian army relied heavily on calvary and archers Persian soldiers were career soldiers unlike most Greeks who were citizen soldiers, only performing their military duties when war was upon them. The notable exception to this was, of course, Sparta. So, for the exception of the Spartan military, the Persian soldiers were better trained. This puts the advantage squarely in the Persian hand up till now. Let move on to equipment.
The average Persian soldier wore very little in the way of armor preferring mobility over protection. A Persian soldier wore a corset covered in metal plates under his tunic and carried with him a gerron, a shield traditionally made of leather and wicker. While it was suitable for stopping arrows, it offered little protection against Greek spears. Greek soldiers were far more heavily armored. The battle regalia of the Greek soldier consisted of a helmet, a breastplate, leg guards and a shield called a hoplon. Like all armor of this time the helmet was constructed of bronze and covered most of the face and head. The breastplate was a bronze affair that was built to protected the entire torso or a simpler version where the a bronze plate was sewn onto the front of a leather tunic. The leg...
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