The Athenian military was the old man force of Athens, one of the major city-states (poleis) of Ancient Greece. It was largely similar to other armies of the region – see Ancient Greek warfare.
In the manner of neighboring city-states, the backbone of the Athenian military on land was the hoplite. Accompanying every hoplite was a lightly armed attendant, either a poor citizen who could not afford a regular suit of armor (panoplia), or possibly a trusted slave. These attendants carried the hoplite's shield (aspis) until the battle and most of the baggage. While generally armed with javelins, they sometimes had spears, slings or bows. The attendants acted as skirmishers before the pitched battle and were assigned to guard the camp during the actual fight. When the battle was over, they would attempt either to cover the retreat of the main body or slaughter the fleeing enemy forces if their own hoplites were victorious.
During and after the Peloponnesian Wars, the use and importance of light troops increased with the introduction of the peltasts: lightly armoured, if at all, and armed with javelins and a shield, the pelte. Their effectiveness in battle, even against the best-trained heavy hoplites, was demonstrated by the Athenian general Iphicrates, who annihilated an entire Spartan mora with his peltasts.