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Any actual proof of Lambda on Aspis?
#16
The key to Xenophon's statement is that the Argives would know what polis they faced because their aspides bore the sigma. This is more than using letters as a shield blazon, this is uniformity. I find the Idea that this originated with a second rate achean power unlikely. Perhaps the question should be turned around. Why would Sicion adopt a uniform shield blazon?

I can think of many reasons Lakedemonians, or Athenians for that matter might begin doing this. None for sicion.
Paul M. Bardunias
MODERATOR: [url:2dqwu8yc]http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=4100[/url]
A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#17
I don't see how thinking of reasons Spartans could have adopted or invented a practice connects them to that practice in any way.

Xenophon isn't specific enough as to how many of those shields had sigma upon them (I overlooked Giannis' point about very few being enough for recognition, but I find it a good one), what size they were, and did the letter stand alone or was it only a part of a device, as seen in coins.

I didn't get the impression that Xenophon described uniformity - a completely new fashion or agreement of uniform writing capital letters on shields that suddenly replaced an age old custom, which no historian bothered to note, including him. It would, even by his time, be fairly new, and change radical enough it would be worth noting. What is more, if we are to believe Eupolis and Theopompus really said what Photius said they did, and that it wasn't an Athenian joke, they neither express the unusualness of by then certainly new and revolutionary change in shield decoration. Even centuries later, Pausanias, for example., suspicious for his detailed accounts, never mentioned such radical change, even though he talked about shield devices quite a few times (all of them being quite typical).

So, it makes me think Xenophon described nothing more than an usual presence of letters on shields, in some shape or form. By Sikyonians.

Even if you argue them being recognized by Argives proves some sort of widespred practice, that again doesn't necessarily mean Spartans followed it as well, unless you want to argue a Panhellenic phenomenon, which I don't think is reasonable way to go.

Following the logics of letters upon state provided items like coins, and parallel with athletic shields with letter devices (being state provided), we can also conclude such letter symbols may have appeared in some form only on state provided shields, which doesn't mean simply uniform shields for the whole army, and for every Greek state.

Anyhow, our reasoning alone can never stand as a fact. Making something appear logical doesn't mean that logics were followed in real life. I am sure we would reject many ancient practices and equipment based on reasons we can think against them, hadn't they been already found.

Judging by the complete lack of contemporary evidence, even non contemporary evidence, except the problematic medieval reference to a quote of a quote (and it's comedic context), L should be transfered to from a ''fact'' (and we can agree it is already established as a fact, even outside pop culture) group to an ''unlikely possibility'' group.
Gordan

,,The Greeks did not follow a straight path of military efficiency. They were guided, rather, by culture, especially by the legacy of their past.\'\'
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#18
Quote:Xenophon isn't specific enough as to how many of those shields had sigma upon them.

For Xenophon's statement to make sense, the sigmas had to be tied to the polis, not simply chosen by some as heraldry. Also, note that there were sigmas, not just a few, but enough that his cavalry cum phalanx would shock the Argives.

Alphas on early Athenian shields are problematic because they could indicate a civic connection to Athens, or, because of the greek number system, could have indicated "I'm #1"- the hoplite equivalent of a huge foam hand with one finger sticking up!

Quote:I didn't get the impression that Xenophon described uniformity - a completely new fashion or agreement of uniform writing capital letters on shields that suddenly replaced an age old custom, which no historian bothered to note, including him..

This is exactly the kind of thing that Xenophon would overlook: something that was standard at the time of his writing and everyone in his contemporary audience knew all about. We see so many things like this in his work, resulting in things like the great "linothorax" debate which could have been forestalled with one line from him.

Quote:Following the logics of letters upon state provided items like coins, and parallel with athletic shields with letter devices (being state provided), we can also conclude such letter symbols may have appeared in some form only on state provided shields, which doesn't mean simply uniform shields for the whole army, and for every Greek state..

This is why it has been suggested that it began with freed helots. Their equipment would have been state made and they themselves were property of the state. There really is no better candidate.
Paul M. Bardunias
MODERATOR: [url:2dqwu8yc]http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=4100[/url]
A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#19
Quote:Lets not forget the 6th century Attic black figure that shows the letter A. Using letters on teh shields as emblems clearly was not a Spartan innovation, and whenever used we don't have to asume they were used universally. A few of the same letters in the front rank of the enemy could be used to identify them if there ever was such a problem.
Khairete
Giannis
There are also a number of lead tokens from 4th and 3rd century contexts at Athens with various pieces of kit on the front and letters on the back. The ones with shields all have alphas on the face of the shields. Kroll, "Some Athenian Armor Tokens," Hesparia 46.2 suggested that they were related to the distribution of public equipment. So three authors and two kinds of art seem to support the idea that soldiers from a city sometimes used the first letter of that city's name as a shield blazon, but only one attributes this to the Spartans.
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
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#20
Quote:
Giannis K. Hoplite post=359732 Wrote:Lets not forget the 6th century Attic black figure that shows the letter A. Using letters on teh shields as emblems clearly was not a Spartan innovation, and whenever used we don't have to asume they were used universally. A few of the same letters in the front rank of the enemy could be used to identify them if there ever was such a problem.
Khairete
Giannis
There are also a number of lead tokens from 4th and 3rd century contexts at Athens with various pieces of kit on the front and letters on the back. The ones with shields all have alphas on the face of the shields. Kroll, "Some Athenian Armor Tokens," Hesparia 46.2 suggested that they were related to the distribution of public equipment. So three authors and two kinds of art seem to support the idea that soldiers from a city sometimes used the first letter of that city's name as a shield blazon, but only one attributes this to the Spartans.

Just flicked through that and one or two articles he cites. Interesting. Those seem to date from the 3rd century, though the author suggests this practice derives from earlier periods with either α or αθε marking state sponsored equipment. Interesting and this might well fit in what we know of classical age Athenian policy of giving armour to war orphans, which they themselves made a big show of. Assuming that armour was state commissioned and not provided by some liturgy (and aren't these behaviours normally the same thing?) But that can't be too widespread and is, at best, analogous.
Jass
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#21
For what it is worth on blazons indicative of Lakedamonians:

Pausanias 4.28.5

Henceforward it was likely to be more easy for quarrels to arise among men whose counsels were divided on account of the Lacedaemonians, and they arrived at civil war. Learning this, the Lacedaemonians were preparing to assist their partisans in Elis. While they were being organized in squadrons and distributed in companies, a thousand picked Messenian troops arrived hurriedly at Elis with Laconian blazons on their shields.
Paul M. Bardunias
MODERATOR: [url:2dqwu8yc]http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=4100[/url]
A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#22
Here is a list of vases with letter inscriptions from a paper by Chase:


[attachment=10869]AspisinscriptionsfromChase.jpg[/attachment]



There is one listed as "AX" on the shield of Achilles, so we must also be careful that the artist is not trying to indicate something about a specific hoplite rather than a real blazon.

A few years back a Brazilian student published a thesis on shield blazons. I am sure he had a section on letters as blazons. I sent many people copies of this, but now I have lost my own. Do any of you have it?


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Paul M. Bardunias
MODERATOR: [url:2dqwu8yc]http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=4100[/url]
A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#23
Quote:Just flicked through that and one or two articles he cites. Interesting. Those seem to date from the 3rd century, though the author suggests this practice derives from earlier periods with either α or αθε marking state sponsored equipment. Interesting and this might well fit in what we know of classical age Athenian policy of giving armour to war orphans, which they themselves made a big show of. Assuming that armour was state commissioned and not provided by some liturgy (and aren't these behaviours normally the same thing?) But that can't be too widespread and is, at best, analogous.
There are actually a number of indications that in the late fourth century the Athenians began to require all citizens to spend two years in military training and service at age 18, and to provide them with arms when they had completed their training. I have not been following the problem closely, and as is usual in institutional history its hard to arrange the scraps into a coherent picture. I think that note 380 of my MA thesis has a basic bibliography.

The tokens remind me a bit of the so-called brothel tokens which we don't seem to understand either (see eg. Thornton, “The Roman Lead Tesserae,” Historia 29.3).
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
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#24
What are we trying to prove here. If you want to show that such practice among Spartans may not have been impossible or unheard of, I agree. If you are trying to make it a fact or a likely occurence on such grounds, I do not.

Thinking of reasons why it could have been done doesn't make the case.

Argives knowing sigmas belonged to Sikyonians doesn't necessarily mean that the practice was widespread, just the fact that Greeks knew each others' practices. Even if practice wasn't confined to Sikyon only, and we find few more cities that had the same practice, unless you can argue every Greek state used it, you can't make a connection with Sparta.

And I don't think such omnipresent practice can be argued. Plutarch speaks of Epameinondas' shield device on his tomb, of Neochoros' and they use heraldic/apotropaic snakes at the start of 4th BC, like in archaic times, in case of Epameinondas its meaning as a clan symbol is even explained. Also, wasn't it club rather than a letter appearing as a shield device on shields on Theban coins, variously dated to that very period end of 5th century BC , start of 4th century BC, and aren't there predominantly symbols, sun rays etc. appearing in hoplite shields from pottery depictions at the time.

So it obviously wasn't a universal practice, and usual, archaic principles were still very much in use (nobody mentioned Epameinondas or Neochoros were using dying, old or outdated kind of symbols on their shields).

Also, shield devices being defined or recognized as Lakedaimonian isn't that much of a problem here, it is their deivces being uniformaly L in any period.

As far as we know, only one city had used it, and one other could have been using it, if we are to believe at some point they followed their state property stamping practice. And we also know others were aware of the practice of the first mentioned town. That is about it.

We can add a vague conclusion that can be made from the great list of pottery depictions few posts above – which is: letter(s) appeared in hoplite shields in various forms (A, AX, ΟΝΠ, letter and other elements) and obviously various meanings, though we already know that from much earlier times when the shield devices were certainly not ''state letters''.

Why then must we assume Spartans had to have accepted the above practice of writing letter L uniformly on their shields. If we have completely silent historians, completely silend art or archaeology, while all, even non contemporary sources (who you can't accuse of simply neglecting known contemporary practice) describe Greek practice opposite to what we are trying to find, why are we still refusing the obvious.

Why are we trying so hard to get some idea out of the mud of uncertanity and unlikely probablitiy, when it belongs there. Is it because we like it so much or because it is implanted too deeply in our minds for us to abandon it.

I am not saying we should see letters on Spartan shields being a heresy or completely impossible idea, but should see it as, with the risk of repeating myself, being rather an ''unlikely possibility'' where ''possibility'' is part which is paying respect to all those small hints, 1200 years late sources and logical assumptions few of you made.
Gordan

,,The Greeks did not follow a straight path of military efficiency. They were guided, rather, by culture, especially by the legacy of their past.\'\'
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#25
We will just have to agree to disagree then. I see the glass half full and you see it half empty. If I start tossing out all texts that come from the pens of men who lived long after the ancient greeks, my library gets real small. I can't work from an assumption that a guy ho had access to texts we no longer have just got it wrong. Perhaps Euphorus clearly stated the shields bore a lambda, or maybe Plutarch described the ranks of lambda facing off against ranks of clubs in his life of Epaminondas.

I HATE the look of my ancestors lined up will silly letters on their shields by the way. I would much rather see gorgons and lions and such.
Paul M. Bardunias
MODERATOR: [url:2dqwu8yc]http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=4100[/url]
A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#26
Quote:Judging by the complete lack of contemporary evidence, even non contemporary evidence, except the problematic medieval reference to a quote of a quote (and it's comedic context), L should be transfered to from a ''fact'' (and we can agree it is already established as a fact, even outside pop culture) group to an ''unlikely possibility'' group.

I don't agree with your conclusion. Our sources about the Λ of the Spartans in particular might be evaluated as dubious or whatever, but we have at least another two sources at least, which show letters on shields. One is Xenophon about the Sicyonians, and the other is pottery that shows letters on shields. This can indeed be used as evidence for a widespread use of letters on shields accross the hellenic world, if not in numbers at least it was used by several states. If Athens and an ally of Sparta can use letters on their shields, why not the Spartans themselves?

Thucydides offers a likely reason why this might have become more prominent in the late fifth century, where he says that Pericles established a shield factory in Athens in the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. This speaks volumes about the previous practice in such a huge city as Athens: There was not a mass production shield workshop, and a few small workshops could satisfy the need for shields, an item that was precious, expensive and passed on from generation to generation.
It only makes sence that such factories, that could have just started to be established in other cities too, would make mass produced emblems too. A factory in Athens could provide shields cimmitioned for other smaller cities too, with mass produced emblems too.

Thucydides provedes yet another hint in the beginning of his work, where he points out that never before did cities need to create such huge armies, and that sicty years before Athens had only a fraction of the hoplites it had in 430bc. This increase of manpower happended by adding the "small people" into the ranks, people who did not come from great families and for which personal emblems would be pointless. What personal emblem can a shop keeper have, who is only first generation citizen in Athens? A simple Alpha would be enough to him.

There is no reason to believe that similar things didn't happen in Sparta, who might have kept her precious citizen hoplites as far from battle as possible throughout the War, but whose subordinate cities in Laconia and Messenia kept prividing new hoplites all the way till the end of the War. Every single time that we read "Lakedaemonian army" in the History of the War, this army is mainly made of non citizens. We even know that there has been a reformation of the Spartan army in the 460's after the great loss of manpower in the great earthquake and war with the Messenian helots. The Spartan army kept increasing the number of non-citizen hoplites among its ranks, and these people would be satisfied with a simple Λ on their new shields, we can guess, whereas the old families would keep their precious emblems as a status symbol.

While there is not hard evidence for the partial use of Lamda on the Spartan shields, we have no reason to name it "an unlikely possibility".

Khairete
Giannis

EDIT: Sorry for writing the above before reading all the answers between the quote and mine. All very interesting information.
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#27
I am not going to dissect you posts, and comment on each of the points made, as I am a bit late for that.

But, generally, I get what both of you are saying. It is our very different treatment of assumptions and even more, opinions, or the weight we give to them, what ultimately leads this kind of discussion to a stalemate.

I think we all established that letter on shield practice existed much before supposed 420's BC. How widespread was is, was it somehow institutionalized, despite almost silent sources, and the fact "old" practice was obviously still very present, is speculation. Attempting to connect Sparta to relative acceptance we only speculated about, is an argument as good as a guess. Our opinions on how ancients felt about certain things are just that, opinions, sometimes quite creative, but always extremely dangerous.

So, you may have explained why such practice may not have been impossible in Sparta, but I just can't support the huge leap from that to an established fact, even if admitteldy a problematic one.

What is more, all of your assumptions seem to go as far as "non Spartan part of Lacedaemonians''. I think it should be noted.
Gordan

,,The Greeks did not follow a straight path of military efficiency. They were guided, rather, by culture, especially by the legacy of their past.\'\'
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#28
I do agree that "if" Spartans bore a lambda it probably started with Helots, then spread to Perioici, than perhaps to Spartiates. So I do not agree with the notion that Spartiates bore the lambda so as to all be equal etc.

I also have no problem with the practice originating with Athens, they had reason. Messenia had reason too, but not until the mid 4thc. Sycion as military innovator is a weak point of the arguement to me.
Paul M. Bardunias
MODERATOR: [url:2dqwu8yc]http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=4100[/url]
A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#29
Gentlemen,

Monograms on shields appear quite early if we trust coins from Chalkis.
On pottery is only "A" and "E"!!!! Ancient sources show "S"
The "Lambda" theory came from N. Segunda which made an educated guess based on Photius medieval "Epitome" wher Eypolis a 4th century poet is quated on the "M" of the Messeninans. I came upon an image from Tubingen University probably showing it on an Athenian Amphora but couldn't find it again.
There is no real evidence for the "lambda". None!

Please see here for explanation:with evidence.
http://stefanosskarmintzos.wordpress.com...d-devices/

Kind regards
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#30
I made a 'quick reply' here that seems to have gone astray for some reason. The main point was that all of these sorts of things like shield devices are very poorly documented (pro or con) in our pitifully incomplete data set on hoplite warfare. Therefore, the advice to "agree to disagree" is (as almost always) extremely sound. But that having been said, it certainly shouldn't damp a vigorous discussion that will end up better educating all involved (I certainly have gleaned a good deal from the posts on this thread to date!).

My only real addition to the topic at hand is that as long-term hegemon in the Peloponnese, anything Sparta might have adopted (whether universally or for only for certain portions of its troops like psiloi or mobilized helots) would likely (IMO) have influenced others in their net of alliances to do something similar. Nor would it seem odd for the Spartans to have taken such a military technique from another polis like Sicyon or Athens if they deemed it good and practical. They clearly went that route in adopting the Athenians' concept of epiteichismos (fortifications deep in enemy territory), turning that idea back upon its originators in setting up an outpost at Decelea to help win the Peloponnesian War.

Similarly with regard to shields in particular, it's been proposed that some basic elements of the aspis might have been imported into mainland Greece from Caria in Asia Minor via Euboa. These were perhaps then improved upon at Argos before the Spartans ever got around to using the aspis, possibly doing so only after some very painful defeats against Argive phalanxes employing those new-fangled shields. That they could have then tacked on a standard shield device as an idea stolen from somewhere else doesn't look very strange from that perspective. A certainty? Heck no! Possible? Absolutely! Probable? Well, that's going to a call each person will have to make on his own in context of personal knowledge, bias, etc. :grin:
It\'s only by appreciating accurate accounts of real combat past and present that we can begin to approach the Greek hoplite\'s hard-won awareness of war\'s potential merits and ultimate limitations.

- Fred Eugene Ray (aka "Old Husker")
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