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Any actual proof of Lambda on Aspis?
#1
I have been scouring the web for proof of Sparta or anyone from Lacedaemon using the lambda on their shield. So far I have seen where it was talked about in only a few writings, but does anyone have proof that the lambda was used on the aspis on vase's or paintings?
Do you think they used individual paintings or would Lacedaemons use the lambda?
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#2
I don't think such evidence exists.

I think even the Spartans using lambda on their shields is just a very speculative conclusion scholars made following Xenophon's anecdote about Argives and Sikyonians and the sigma shield device.

The first actual evidence comes from 9th century AD?! if I recall.

I do think they used, especially until the end of the 5th BC, same as what other Greeks used, religious, magical or apotropaic symbols, metaphoric symbols, inscriptions, maybe clan or family emblem etc. At least that is what material and literary evidence says to us.
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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#3
Eupolis (5th c. BC) wrote about "the shining lambdas" (of the Spartan shields). Photius (9th c. AD) explains that he is talking about the shields of the Spartans, also mentions the M on the Messenian shields and also mentions Theopompus (4th century BC) as further commenting on the Spartan lambda. Maybe this is the source you are talking about Gordan?
Macedon
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George C. K.
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#4
Yes, but, correct me if I'm wrong,those are basically one and the same source since we only know of those quotes from 9ad Photius?
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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#5
Of course... but then, isn't this the case with the bulk of the ancient sources? Do you have any reason to not trust Photius on this? Unfortunately, very little of our knowledge of ancient Greek literature derives from sources that can be deemed ancient. Such fragments are still valuable pieces of information. However, I would still like to see some relative depictions too... I think I have, but I could be mistaken.
Macedon
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#6
Of course,I wasn't questioning the authenticity of the quote,we don't have that luxury from this distance.

However,with the fact there is complete absence of material or literary evidence about this practice,even after Eupolis' time (Xenophon), not to mention quoted Eupolis being a comedian, I don't think we can establish Spartans using lambda with anything more certain than "may even have used..." and of course not before the end of 5th BC.
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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#7
Quote:... does anyone have proof that the lambda was used on the aspis on vase's or paintings?
I have never found any proof. That's why you will not find the lambda on any of the shields in this book. (Shield blazons are discussed on pp. 27-29.)
posted by Duncan B Campbell
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#8
That's the Ἐξεπλάγη γὰρ ἰδὼν στίλβοντα τὰ λάβδα right? I've recently been re-reading both the Eupolis and Cratinus fragments, very interesting in terms of language and to see how Aristophanes reacted with lost comedy.

If the question is "how trustworthy is Photius" the answer is, inevitably, not very much. This comes out pretty strongly in his treatment of epic vs. earlier writers and especially in his usage of language. Byzantine writers are not very good - a lot of the things they postulate and give as fact are often derived from textual readings rather than evidence (this is a huge area, read anything on biographical fiction in the ancient world), their sense of language and readings are often waay off (Cf. Theodorus Gaza's readings of Homer, which are often nonsensical, with the earliest exegetical scholia). Basically, occasionally you'll get some interesting ideas and reasonably often they'll preserve or cite something a much more ancient authority said but we must be very, very, careful and always corroborate. If not, we discard. Unfortunately transmission isn't very kind...

I'm not sure if any independent evidence exists for the ΄λ on the shield, I'd always assumed so, but I'm inclined to believe Duncan on this. Actually when I think of it, the whole idea seems odd given the differing connotations of Lacadaemonian and Spartan across periods. Isn't there an anecdote (Herodotus? need to re-read him) of a Spartan having a fly on his shield?
Jass
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#9
Quote:Isn't there an anecdote (Herodotus? need to re-read him) of a Spartan having a fly on his shield?
Plutarch, Moralia 234C-D = Sayings of the Spartans, Anonymous 41.
posted by Duncan B Campbell
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#10
Of the things I am willing to accept without a vase depiction, that some lakedemonians bore a lambda blazon is pretty high on the list. It has been suggested that this began with units of emancipated helots who would have no family or tribal custom to keep, but that is a guess.

It is not clear to me though when this started, for some elements of the lakedemonian phalanx could have done this for a long time along side other blazons. Also unclear is just who used them. Perhaps perioic hoplites bore the lambda as a sign of inclusion, but Spartiates did not for the purposes of exclusivity. Of course this would have been an evolving process.
Paul M. Bardunias
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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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#11
But it isn't only without pottery depiction, but without any kind of evidence other than, obviously problematic medieval quote.

What do you base your belief on then? How did lambda end up so high on your list?

What reason do we have to believe any of the things from the last part of your post?

I've also seen quite interesting interpretation of the Photius' or Eupolis' capital L, as the same L used in rude (felatio context) graffiti. Eupolis being a comedian certainly isn't going against this interpretation.

So, is it equally possible L was never used at all?
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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#12
Lets say we deny Eupolis. I think Xenophon is unassailable, thus we would have to believe that the polis initial blazon, sigma in that case, was a Sicionian innovtion. I find that unlikely. A much more plausible evolution is that it originated with the Lakedemonians.

There is no reason to believe what i wrote above, I ws quoting the arguement of others. Ido think it plausible though that civic blazon would hve been developed for helot hoplites. Their "heraldry" could only be of the state. That Perioic hoplites my hve subsequently adopted a symbol that emphasized their membership in greater Lakedaimon rather than their perioic towns or ancestors might be attrctive s well. From there a case could be made for all using the lambda for the sake of unity.

then, as with so many things, other cities laconized.
Paul M. Bardunias
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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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#13
I have to add here, that according to Photius, it was not only Eupolis who talked about the letter Labda as being used on Spartan shields but also Theopompus. The extract reads :

λάβδα· ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀσπίσιν οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ἐπέγραφον, ὥσπερ οἱ Μεσσήνιοι Μ. Εὔπολις· ‘ἐξεπλάγη γὰρ ἰδὼν στίλβοντα τὰ λάβδα’. οὕτως καὶ Θεόπομπος.

Labda. On the shields the Lacedaemonians used to write, like the Messenians did with M. Eupolis. I was astonisehed because I saw the shining Labdas. The same (writes) Theopompus.

I agree with Paul that the possibility of the Lacedaemonians to have used Labda as a blazon on their shields in the 5th century BC is very high. It was not unusual among the Greek cities and a source quoting two more sources is not easy to dismiss on any grounds. As for other emblems, I am sure that the Lacedeamonians used them too, maybe the Labdas were only used for a short period, maybe, they were used alongside other blazons... the theories can be endless....
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George C. K.
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#14
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
Giannis K. Hoplite
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#15
I can not say I agree with either Macedon or PMBardunias.

Why would you suggest Sikyonians couldn't have used shield devices if that wasn't somehow previously established by the Spartans?

Also,while I am not ready to dismiss medieval source,which is unquestionably problematic, taking his word for it simply can't make better case than "may have used..."

All those helot or periokoi theories may sound logical to some,but at the end,they are just attempts to provide justification for otherwise nonexistent or at least unproven practice.

Btw,why then confine lambda to the 5th Bc? Neither of the quoted sources are being exact?And what is more, we know of letters being depicted on shields even earlier,and in non athletic context.
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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