Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>418BC Spartan hoplitēs
Subject: ὁπλίτης heavy infantry hoplite 
Culture: Spartan Greek
Setting: Peloponnesian war, Spartan Hegemony, Greece 431-371BC
Evolution2000BC Cycladic warrior > ... > 1200BC late Mycenaean heavy infantry > ... > 490BC Classical Greek hoplitēs > 418BC Spartan hoplitēs

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Sekunda ill. McBride 1986 p5
"At the turn of the 5th century the Greek battlefield was dominated by the hoplite, a fully armoured spearman whose main defence was his round bronze shield.  The Spartans were masters of hoplite warfare due to the strict code of Spartan upbringing -- the agoge.  From the age of six the young Spartan warrior lived in barracks, and only after the age of 30 was he able to return to normal family life.  In this way military supremacy over the subordinate population was guaranteed."

* Sekunda ill. Hook 1998 p7
"Lakedaimon played a key role in the Persian War.  However, the regent Pausanias, though victor at Plataea, plotted to bring Greece under Persian domination.  Consequently, Lakedaimon lost much of her prestige.  The Athenian leader Themistocles also worked against Lakedaimon's influence and built up Athenian imperial power.  However, possibly the greatest blow to Lakedaimonian supremacy was the catastrophic earthquake which struck Sparta in 464.  A third Messenian War followed (465-460) and then the First Peloponnesian War with Athens (460-446), both of which Lakedaimon survived, though with its manpower severely reduced.  In 431 Lakedaimon was dragged into the Peloponnesian War with Athens when its allies threatened to leave the alliance if Lakedaimon could not defend them against Athenian expansion."

* Mayor 2009 p30-31
"'As fighting became more destructive,' notes historian Peter Krentz, 'a new, nostalgic ideology of war developed.'  Krentz was speaking of Greece after the savage Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), but his words could also apply to modern historians who imagine that wars were somehow more humane and fair in antiquity.  As historian Josiah Ober remarks, however, 'Any argument which assumes that a universal sense of fair play and decency was an innate part of early Greek military culture is easily falsified.'  The tension between the 'fair fight' and 'winning by any means necessary' was evident from the very beginning."


* Sekunda ill. Hook 1998 p29-30  [PLAGIARIZEDFields 2013 p143-144]
"After the shield, the most important piece of hoplite armour was the helmet.  In the Archaic period the most popular type in Sparta, as in the rest of Greece, was the Corinthian helmet, which was being produced by 700.  The helmet completely enclosed the head, and, though vision and hearing were restricted, the protection offered was especially valued in the spear-fighting of hoplite warfare.  Other more open-faced types also seem to have been used by the Lakedaimonians.
​    "When Lakedaimonian battlefield tactics started to develop in the 5th century, the Corinthian helmet was replaced.  Good vision and hearing in the phalanx were becoming more important as increasingly complex manoeuvres were executed at the signal of the trumpet.  Consequently, a new type of helmet, the pilos-helmet, was adopted at the same time as the cuirass was abandoned.
    ​"...  The pilos-helmet repeated the shape of the felt pilos cap in bronze.  Presumably pilos caps were sometimes worn under the helmet for comfort, giving rise to helmets of this shape.  Once adopted by the Lakedaimonian army, it became as much a Lakonian symbol as the crimson exomis, and was copied by many armies both inside and outside the Peloponnesian League."

* Bennett 1998 p252
"pilos  Greek 'felt' helmet, particularly the close-fitting conical helmet thought to have been worn in Sparta.  The term's military meaning probably stemmed from the use of the word for anything made of felt, including shoes, mats and, especially, the linings of hats."


* Coggins 1966 p20
"The main weapon was a heavy spear, some ten feet in length, which was used as a thrusting and not as a missile weapon. From a mention in the Anabasis of an Asiatic spear 'having but one spike' it may be inferred that the Greek spear had two -- the spearhead proper, and a spike on the end of the butt for planting it in the ground."

* Cassin-Scott 1977 p37
"A long spear was often used which had a head at either end; when the shaft was broken the weapon could be reversed and the fight continued."

* Weapon 2006 p40
"The spear was the hoplite's principal weapon, his short iron sword only being used if his spear was broken during fighting."


* Sekunda ill. Hook 1998 p31  [PLAGIARIZEDFields 2013 p143]
"There was nothing unusual in Lakedaimonian swords until the 5th century, when they began to get shorter.  By c.425-400 they had become exceedingly short, like daggers, as is testified to by numerous literary passages. ...
​    "The sword was probably shortened to make it handier in the crush which ensued when two phalanx lines met.  Normal Greek swords were medium-sized cut and thrust weapons.  When the spear was broken, they would normally be used overhand to slash at the head of the opponent.  The sword was shortened in order to encourage the Lakedaimonian warrior to use more effective thrusting attacks at the trunk and groin of his opponent.  Such attacks would have been especially effective when the armies opposing the Lakedaimons had started to discard their body armour too."

* Shepherd ill. Dennis 2013 p34 caption
"The Spartan sword was famously short and only for use at very close quarters.  Plutarch records a mother drily answering her son's un-Spartan complaint about this with the suggestion that he 'add a step forward'."

* Withers 2010 p17
"The Spartans carried a slightly shorter sword of the same design as the xiphos.  This design probably influenced the later Roman gladius, or short sword."


* Lazenby 1985 p40
"The shield was apparently the standard hoplite one, usually called 'aspis', but one of the terms for which -- 'hoplon' -- had almost certainly originally given the hoplite his name.  Usually a little over eighty centimetres in diameter, slightly convex, but with a flat, offset rim, the shield was made of wood with a bronze rim and a thin bronze facing, which was kept polished.  It was carried by inserting the left arm up to the elbow through a bronze arm-band placed centrally (πόρπαξ) and gripping a hand-grip inside the rim (ἀντιλαβή), apparently made of cord." [references omitted]

*  Klučina ill. Pevný 1997 p24-25
"The most important piece [of Greek hoplite armor] was a large, round, slightly bulged shield, which protected the warrior from neck to midthigh.  The shield's exterior was bronze, its center was wooden, and its interior was lined with leather.  A metal grip, often ornamented, hung from the inside of the shield, which was meant to fit the warrior's forearm comfortably.  On the interior of the shield, a cord was usually strung from one side to the other.  This cord allowed a marching soldier to carry his shield on his shoulders.  The shield, or aspis, was painted with a symbol known as an episema.  Sometimes this was an embossed decoration made of metal.  A popular episema was the head of the Gorgon."


* Sekunda ill. Hook 1998 p28
"At some point during the 5th century, possibly c.450-425, the Lakedaimonian army decided to discard their cuirasses.  Behind this move seems to have been a search for battlefield mobility as well as the need for rapid marching on campaign." 

* Sekunda ill. Hook 1998 p20
"Representations show, and texts describe, men doing dirty work like ploughing, sowing or potting naked.  Athletic nudity may have been ritual in origin.  At the start of the Archaic period light clothes were worn during athletic exercise, but they were eventually discarded completely.  The rigours of warfare -- marching and fighting in heavy armour often under the summer sun -- were hardly less demanding than those of sport and physical training.  Nor was warfare of less ritual significance than sport.  When we see representations of Spartans fighting without a tunic, we should not dismiss them as being 'artistic' or 'heroising': undoubtedly some are, but nudity in Greek art is, more often than not, a depiction of reality."