Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Printable Version

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Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Zenodoros - 06-29-2006

Greetings, all! I don't do reinactments, but I do have a great interest in ancient Hellas, particularly the hoplites. I hope to be an illustrator for historical books one day, or basically anything where I can draw ancient warriors for a living.

Now, I always thought that the Spartiates before 450BC all wore a bronze cuirass (the style differentated over time from 'bell' to 'muscle' and in between) given to them by the Lakedemonian government. Every Spartan statuette from this period or earlier I have seen shows them wearing such, and so therefore I thought that they never wore linothorax.

However, another hoplite enthusiast recently said to me that he saw Spartan vase paintings depicting warriors in linothorax while he was in Hellas. Not a single painting, but numerous ones. I immediately wondered whether these were actually Spartan (Spartan art is actually a little bit more 'tribal' and unique compared to other Greeks) or if they were from another town in Lakedemon. Knowing that there are a few buffs on the subject here, can anyone actually confirm whether or not Spartiates wore linothorax?

My next question regards footwear... sandals were rarely depicted in vase paintings, in fact the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the famous "pederastic" painting of Achilles and Patroklus. Interestingly enough, only Achilles is wearing sandals, Patroklus isn't. One modern assumption is that the Greeks only depicted their soldiers barefeet to glorify them, in a similar way that they did by drawing nude soldiers. However, there is a considerably smaller amount of nude hoplite paintings and sculptures than there are ones of soldiers barefeet. Also, in vase paintings of hoplites putting on their panoply, we see their cuirasses, grieves, helmets, tunics... everything they wore and took except sandals! Did hoplites even wear them on expedition? If so, why are they almost never depicted?

Wearing sandals in a city herself was considered to show a higher class, to seperate a citizen from a slave. However we know that Greek farmers in Athens, Corinth etc. did all their agricultural work barefoot, and therefore didn't believe that they needed to wear them when they were called for military service. Still, they are often reconstructed wearing sandals. Next are the Spartans, who deliberately toughened up their feet during the agoge, and walked barefoot in the krypteia (even though they were with slaves, therefore I don't think class mattered here) during every season. All in all, we only know of one Spartan sandal of which was used in possibly the 6th century - and it was worn exclusively by heralds or higher figures while living in Sparta.
So, did Spartans, or indeed any hoplite, wear sandals?

Finally, a quick question - Plutarch mentions that the Spartans 'shaved their upper lip' when ephors were called into office. Nick Sekunda seems to think that this tradition continued throughout the whole year, although we have numerous artifacts from Sparta showing their citizens with moustaches. Anyway, I'm wondering whether the Spartans had a choice over their facial hair (although I think beards were compulsary), or whether it was strictly no moustaches. This question might seem a little obscure, but I find an importance in 'getting things right' while drawing reconstructions. Smile

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading your replies!

Spartan moustaches - Arthes - 06-29-2006

Khaire Zenodoros,
The famous bust of Leonidas seems to show him without a moustache...
although that is going by the photos.
As you say, it may be that it was a custom to distinguish the Ephors when off the battlefield...when their kranoi crests would have shown their status.
Incidentially, I just noticed some artwork referred to a 'Spartan' who is long haired, but carrying an aspis with the emblem of Corinth...

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Zenodoros - 06-29-2006

Citizens in other city-states that wore their hair long and in locks were usually Spartan sympathizers who admired and were influenced by them, this was particularly during and after the Persian wars. Originally (8-7th century) long hair was a sign of aristocracy. Maybe that painting is just a Corinthian of that sort.

Quote:The famous bust of Leonidas seems to show him without a moustache...
although that is going by the photos.

The bust was made too early for it to be a portrait of Leonidas. He does seem have a shaven upper lip, however he doesn't have the long braided hair typical of a Spartiate. It could be of any Lakedemonian, not necessarily a Spartan.

If you want to see an image of a moustached Spartan, here's a perfume holder from early-mid 6th century:

fairly big image

To show it wasn't an early custom, here's a statuette from about 500BC:

[Image: sp4.GIF]

It may be difficult to notice the moustache from that small picture (only one I could find), but on closer inspection there is clearly a moustache. Basically, I think that Sekunda's conclusion is wrong.


Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - hoplite14gr - 06-29-2006

For sandals check the threads "Barefoot in snow" and "Greek footware" in this section. You will see the record set straight for many things.

Shaving the moustace was a habit of the Bronze age Greeks.
It is possibly that only the "Spartoi" clans who could prove "indigeousness" by having land rights from the BA time were continuing the same practise to distinguishing themselves.

In the Archaic period 700-550 armies were small and hoplites were only the aristocrats. Like foot-knights. Not only Spartans had long hair at that time

Archaic sparta Before 650 was known for its pottery so the artisans got commision from others. So Spartan pottery does not necessarily show always Spartan warriors.

Kind regards

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Zenodoros - 06-30-2006

About the footwear, the only example of laconian boots is here, of Bellerophon.

I'm wondering that, like you said, it doesn't necessarily depict a what the Spartans looked like, or another person from Lakonia.

Did the Spartans wear footwear in Spring and Summer during the early 5th century?

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Arthes - 06-30-2006

Quote:Well this vase shows a Spartan attaking a Persian according to one source, it include his mustaki/mustache...

According to the other source, the Bull's head on the shield may be intended to mark him as a veteran of Marathon, wich Spartans didnt fought :? .

PS: I think the Lakedemonians appears more often on vases.
[Image: hoplite_pilos.jpg]
he is wearing a later Pilos helm which I thought would date it to after Thermopylae..?

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - hoplite14gr - 06-30-2006

His shield carryis the bull of the Thavlonidae clan of Athnes.
So he cannot be a Spartan.
This image shows possibly an ekdromos in skirmising.

Spartan knew that troopers frost bitten or with foot torn by sharp rocks are a liability. So yes they wouldn't go barefoot if they could afford it.

Plutrach in "Lakonika" talks of a 4th century Spartan who was fined heavily because in his haste to engage rebelious helots he went against them naked.
The Efors fined him for unecesarily eposing himself to danger!

So armor was not completely discarded and Greeks did not fight naked!

Kind rgards

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Zenodoros - 07-02-2006

The vase painting can't be a Spartan hoplite, for he's not wearing the right tunic. Also, I don't think he's wearing a pilos helmet, just a pilos felt cap.

True, that the Spartan who fought naked was punished, but so was Aristodemus at Plataea (the Spartan who ran away from Thermopylae because of an eye infection) who was fighting very strongly, but in a suicidal matter. He was still wearing armour and was possibly barefoot.

The reason this Spartan was penalized was not for his barefeet, but for his lack of armour and clothing.

Quote:Spartan knew that troopers frost bitten or with foot torn by sharp rocks are a liability. So yes they wouldn't go barefoot if they could afford it.

I'm wondering this, but then I'm also wondering why they spent the first 20 years of their life barefoot to toughen up their soles and keep their bodies fit and hard. Like I said, they did the krypteia barefoot, even during winter. Spartan stories such as the tale of the boy who hid the fox under his tunic which clawed deep into his heart and still didn't show any sign of pain suggest that they practiced challenges like this frequently, even if simply to walk barefoot in the rocky Greek terrain (although I think Lakonia was softer and more fertile than most other areas at the time).

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - hoplite14gr - 07-02-2006

First of all the stories do not come from the Spartans but from others who wrote about the Spartans Some of them centuries after the colapse of Sparta. In a land known for its "xenilasia" all rumor spread out for proganda perhaps were easily belived.
You do not go barefoot in winter unless your footware is torn in action and then you do your damnest to repair it in first opportunity...or else your feet are toast!
Lakonian plain was softer but not Menalon (Aegys!)Taygetos (Skiritis!) or the woods of Ithomi were potential bandits or rebel helots would choose to hide and Krypteia usually operated. I assure you that Menalon even April nights can be very tough-much more in Winter! And sharp rocks can make a pair of good combat boots torn in 2 weeks much less bare feet.
Perhaps the Efivoi went a tough training periood like the "Hell's weeks" they do in modern special forces but not with the intention of criplling them. Ask any frind of yours in the services about "Hell's weeks".
Kind regards

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Zenodoros - 07-03-2006

Thanks for your answer. Smile

Any idea on whether or not the Spartans wore linothorax at any point?

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Anonymous - 07-03-2006

In Africa, people go barefoot as the norm (outside the cities). Even so, Shaka Zulu apparently found it necessary to toughen the feet of his warriors by forcing them to march over thorns.

As one contributor here has pointed out, it is possible to toughen the feet to a high degree. However, the instep doesn't normally come in contact with the ground and therefore remains comparatively tender, so that any projection - thorns or rocks, for example - which reaches this part of the foot wil be a problem. Africa can be thorny and rocky but I don't think frostbite is much of a problem, which it can be in Greece!

I conclude that you can do a lot barefoot, but that the wise general equips his troops for the terrain and the climate. Contrary to Napoleon's assertion, an army marches on its feet. ( What did he know? -The Russians and the Brits whipped his little bottom!)

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Jason Hoffman - 07-03-2006

The vases your friend saw were probably of Athenian origin. The Spartans were not known for their artistic endeavours when the Linothorax was popular. A good give away for Athenian vases is the colour of the 'red' portion of the clay, the rich orange colour is fairly indicative of Attic clays.

Whether Spartans wore linothorax? I must admit that i can think of no evidence that springs to mind, but i would be surprised if they had not, as the Spartan development of military technology somewhat mirrors what was happening amoungst the other greek cities (Archers, are a different story)


Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - Jason Hoffman - 07-03-2006

Hi Comerus, Yes you are quite right the Athenians at some stage would have represented Spartan warriors. I just cant remember seeing a hoplite wearing a linothorax with a Spartan shield design?

I must admit though the Spartans were no dummies (conservative yes but no dummies) they would have used the linothorax if it was advantages to do so, as im sure it would have been.


Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - hoplite14gr - 07-03-2006

Linothorax became more popular because after the colapse of palace culture bronze became not so easily available in Classical Greece.
Also the democratic reforms increasing suddenly the number of hoplites in the city states required increased resources.
Linr became an option for the hard pressed logistic of the Era.
For exmple Arcahic spear points are bronze-classical are from iron.
Bronze could be reused with the tech level of the time not iron.

Spartan would be more metal-armored army in Greece initially but attrition would step up the increase of the linothorax.

Kind regards

Re: Questions (linothorax, sandals, Spartan moustache) - hoplite14gr - 07-03-2006

Wait till we publísh the book on shield desighns! :lol:
Kind regards