To the casual observer, the terms living history and reenactment are interchangeable, with what may appear on the surface as having very little, if any distinction at all. Therefore, we'll try our best in the next several paragraphs to distinguish the difference between these two avocations/professions.
Of relevance to the readers of this posting is the interest which has grown exponentially over the last decade in the ancient Greek warrior culture, therefore, this will be our area of concentration. What has undoubtedly led to this surge, is the depiction in the movies of the Homeric hero Achilles and his contingent of Myrmidons in Troy, Oliver Stone's Alexander and the phalanx of Macedonians, and 300's King Leonidas and his bodyguard of Spartans. One of these cinematic features, if not all of them, have inspired several individuals to construct or purchase their own Greek warrior panoply (full set of armor), which is usually followed by entry into one of the groups of enthusiasts located in Australia, Germany, Greece, Spain, the UK or the USA.
As an overview, reenactment can best be described as groups of reenactors who represent an historical event that includes participation in the recreations of battles. The most well known example within the United States is the Battle of Gettysburg, while Europe's are the Battles of Hastings and Waterloo. In addition to these engagements that are simulated with a high degree of authenticity are the encampments which are also part of the days' gatherings. The participants reenact the conditions that the soldiers and their families (who traveled with them) endured before and after each of these epochal events.
Living historians are also comprised of interpreters of the past who are equipped with the 'uniform' and weapons of the period that they represent. The distinction is that their attention to detail, which has been acquired through research and the resultant trial and error, has culminated in the attainment of a specialized knowledge. This has led to their engagement by museums and schools for exhibitions and presentations where it allows these practitioners to interact with the public/students within a unique educational forum. The observers/attendees at these events are provided the opportunity to view the armor up close and are even permitted to wear the helmet, hold the shield, etc.
Therefore, what has added to the confusion relative to reenacting and living history is the overlap when using these criteria. Is it possible for a reenactor to participate in a living history event and vice-versa? While the answer is yes, the members of each group usually stay consistent and confine themselves to the same type of activity or discipline. Which brings us to the 200 individuals (give or take) from around the world who don the armor and proudly display the weapons of the Greek hoplite. In many ways, the visual projected by these living historians will differ much more greatly than the appearance of actors in their armor in Warner Bros. 300. While this may seem like an extreme example, it is an invaluable resource which helps illustrate the difference between the accurate panoplies of the living history groups vs. those featured in Hollywood's productions.
Without sounding pretentious, since they're not reenacting the Battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, or those of the Peloponnesian Wars, etc., these units would be characterized as one of the elite groups of members in the living history community. While the lines between these two types of groups are obviously blurred, what can not be questioned is the commitment in time and money by each of these individuals.
The images below are a recreation of the Battle of Thermopylae's last stand during the Maryland Greek Independence Day Parade.