Greeks spent most of their time fighting. They fought each other until they had a common enemy. Then they would combine forces. Their main enemy was Persia. A famous battle fought against the Persians was the Battle of Marathon. Ever heard the word marathon? What does it mean? A marathon is a long race, right? A messenger was sent to run from Athens to Sparta to ask for help, running over 100 miles (200 kilometers) and arriving just the next day.

The Greeks won that battle but the war with Persia lasted forty years. One between Sparta and Athens lasted seventy years.

Greek soldiers all carried spears, swords, and shield. They would huddle in one mass, making their own wall of defense with their bodies and shields.


Their armor was made from metal if they were rich or just cloth if they weren’t. The cloth was layered together with glue, maybe a little like paper mache. The shields were made of metal or wood. The helmets were metal. The horsehair Mohawk on the helmet was to make them look scarier.

Not all soldiers marched on land. Some sailed on ships. Ships tended to stay close to the shoreline to avoid getting lost at sea. What types of ships did they use? What do you see in these images.

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The ships were sailboats. They could also have rowers. The boats were long and narrow.

Can you find where there is a narrow piece of land that connects the two parts of Greece on the map? It’s in the top right corner of the map image.

isthmus at corinth
The city of Corinth controlled the small part of land that connects the peninsula in the picture to the rest of the mainland.

The ruler of Corinth charged people to have their boats carried across land to the water on the other side in order to avoid having to sail around the whole peninsula. Controlling that area made Corinth rich. Today there is a canal there, a waterway that was dug out to allow boats to sail through.

One of the ways that ships were used to attack was to ram right into the other ships, to break the wooden boards of the boat to cause it to take in water and sink.

Picture Credits:

public domain