Above is a selection of crest colours that were trialled before settling on the crimson seen in the finished art. The crests seen on the helmets of Greek warriors were fashioned from horse manes, and fixed to the helmet cranial in any number of positions, the most commonly depicted being this sagittal type.
As far as colour is concerned, it is reasonable to assume the natural hair colour was used, so the range of colours was as wide as there were horse breeds available. To generalise, black, grey, white, and a range of more earthen colours from bays, chestnuts, and others would represent the palette.
Unlike other cultures, such as medieval European with its formalised system of heraldry, there is no clear evidence for the design of ancient Greek warrior crests serving any particular display purpose. One is free to conceptualise; given the value of the individual as tied to the community in Greek culture, that the crests, along with the detailed livery emblazoned on their shields, was to signify the hoplite’s family and connection to a city-state.
Another use would be more tactical. When facing down hoplites in phalanx formation, the enemy would see an array of vividly coloured and patterned crests, bristling in the wind and to every measured stomp of the encroaching enemy. The effect would have been dazzling and unnerving, in the way a herd of zebra herd can throw off a predator’s focus by the mass of stripes hindering them from targeting a single animal.
Photo credit: ABC News (Not the Australian one).
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