Term originally used of Thracians equipped with a small, light shield (peltē), but later probably of any light infantry similarly armed, their main offensive weapon being the javelin. Their first certain appearance was at Pylos (425 bc). They were later used by Brasidas in Chalcidice, and in 409 Thrasyllus had 5,000 sailors equipped as peltasts. They were esp. useful in a skirmishing role, or as an advanced guard, e.g. for seizing passes and other strategic points. They could not hope to defeat hoplites in pitched battle, but if they managed to keep their distance, they could wear them down by missile fire.
Subjects: Classical Studies — Military History.