Infantry was the dominant military arm in ancient Greece, and the Spartan infantry eclipsed all others. A Spartan hoplite (footsoldier) wielded a pike of seven and a half to nine feet in length, which he handled more skillfully than his opponent did his own weapon of lesser stature. He donned a helmet, breastplate and greaves and carried a short sword at his waist.
He held so large a shield that it could be used as a stretcher to carry wounded from the field. This shield protected its bearer's left side and front, and extended far leftward to protect his neighbor's right side.
Dependence upon a neighbor's shield encouraged each hoplite to keep rank. These trained hoplites maneuvered in a formation, called a phalanx, of at least eight ranks deep. The Spartan phalanx was the most formidable sight on battlefields in the fifth century B.C .