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How to Make a Spartan Shield

by Edwin Thomas
Make a Spartan shield at home.

Make a Spartan shield at home.

Spartan warriors, like all Greek heavy infantry, were citizen soldiers called hoplites. The word "hoplite" is derived from the misconstrued name for their shields, hoplon (the Greeks themselves actually used the word "aspis" for shield). This shield, as employed by the Spartans, was key to their way of war, more important than swords, helmets, spears or armor. Making your own hoplon or aspis is central to having an effective kit for either a good costume or historical re-enacting.

Take measurements. The Spartan shield was circular and roughly 3 feet wide, but the Greeks were a lot smaller than most present-day people. The shield is held by putting your arm through a forearm loop and hand grip, with the upper rim resting on your shoulder. Take measurements of your arm with the elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure the perimeter of your wooden core is large enough to accommodate this measurement.

Build your wooden core. The Spartan shield was built around a concave, bowl-shaped wooden core. The quickest way create this at home is to cut plywood rings or doughnuts with a jigsaw. The first and largest should be big enough to accommodate the measurements from Step 1. Layer and glue these rings, one on top of the other, until the bowl is compete. Let the glue dry.

Smooth the core with a hand sander, inside and out.

Make a cover. In ancient Greece, a warrior's shield would be faced with either a thin layer of bronze or a layer of leather. Unfortunately, these are too expensive for most home aspis makers. Using a layer of plastic, or just using wood filler and sanding to deal with cracks and imperfections, may be more desirable.

Install the fittings. Either from leather, bronze or canvas, you will now want to install your forearm loop and hand grip. These should be placed with your own comfort in mind. Use small tack nails to attach them (these will not penetrate the outer surface of the shield).

Paint your shield. Spartan shields were typically painted bright red with the Greek letter lambda (for Lacedemonian, the name of the Spartan homeland) in white.

Items you will need

  • Plywood
  • Jigsaw
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Hand sander
  • Sandpaper

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images