Spartan army description ( sorry no actual numbers can be found :( )

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Spartan army description ( sorry no actual numbers can be found :( )

Post  dundek on Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:02 am

The army on campaign

Like the other Greek states, the Spartan army was an infantry-based army fighting in the Phalanx formation. The Spartans themselves did not introduce any significant changes or tactical innovations in hoplite warfare, but their constant drill and superb discipline made their phalanx much more cohesive and effective. The Spartans employed the phalanx in the classical style in a single line, uniformly deep in files of 8 to 12 men. When fighting alongside their allies, the Spartans would normally occupy the honorary right flank. If, as usually happened, the Spartans achieved victory on their side, they would then wheel left and roll up the enemy formation.

During the Peloponnesian War, engagements became more fluid, light troops became increasingly used and tactics evolved to meet them, but in direct confrontations between two opposing phalanxes, stamina and "pushing ability" were what counted. It was only when the Thebans, under Epaminondas increased the depth of a part of their formation at the Battle of Leuctra that the Spartan phalanx broke.

On the march
According to Xenophon, the army was mobilized by the ephors, and after a series of religious ceremonies and sacrifices, the army assembled and set out. The army proceeded led by the king, with the skiritai and cavalry detachments acting as an advance guard and scouting parties.The necessary provisions (barley, cheese, onions and salted meat) were carried along with the army, and each Spartan was accompanied by a helot manservant. Each mora marched and camped separately, with its own baggage train. Sacrifice was given every morning and before battle by the king and the officers; if the omens were not favourable, a pious leader might refuse to march or to engage the enemy.

Clothing, arms and armor

The Spartans used the same typical hoplite** equipment as the other Greek neighbors; the only distinctive Spartan features were the crimson tunic (chitōn) and cloak (himation), and the long hair, which the Spartans retained to a far later date than most Greeks. To the Spartans, the long hair retained its older Archaic meaning as the symbol of a free man; to the other Greeks by the 5th century, its peculiar association with the Spartans had come to signify pro-Spartan sympathies.Another widely known Spartan symbol, adopted in the 420s BC, was the letter lambda (Λ), standing for Laconia or Lacedaemon, which was painted on the Spartans' shields. Spartan hoplites were often depicted bearing a transverse horsehair crest on their helmet, which was possibly used to identify officers.

**Hoplite in the 4th century BC. He wears a Thracian helmet, muscular cuirass with leather pteruges, greaves and is equipped with a spear (doru), the xiphos and the hoplite shield (aspis). By that time, many city-states had standardized the dress and equipment of their soldiers, producing a more uniform appearance.

In the Archaic period, Spartans were armored with flanged bronze cuirasses, leg greaves, and a helmet, most usually of the Corinthian type. It is often disputed which torso armor the Spartans wore during the Persian Wars, though it seems likely they either continued to wear bronze cuirasses of a more sculptured type, or instead had adopted the linothōrax. During the later 5th century BC, when warfare had become more flexible and full-scale phalanx confrontations became rarer, the Greeks abandoned most forms of body armor. The Lacedaemonians also adopted a new tunic, the exōmis, which could be arranged so that it left the right arm and shoulder uncovered and free for action in combat.The Spartan's main weapon was the Doru. For long range, they carried a javelin. The Spartiatēs was always armed with a xiphos as a secondary weapon. The Spartans retained the traditional hoplite phalanx until the reforms of Cleomenes III, when they were re-equipped with the Macedonian sarissa and trained in the style of the Macedonian phalanx.

The Navy
A Greek trireme.

Throughout their history, the Spartans were a land-based force par excellence. During the Persian Wars, they did contribute a small navy of 20 triremes, and provided the overall fleet commander, but they largely relied on their allies, primarily the Corinthians, for naval power. This fact meant that, when the Peloponnesian War broke out, the Spartans were supreme on land, but the Athenians supreme at sea. The Spartans repeatedly ravaged Attica, but the Athenians kept being supplied by sea, and were able to stage raids of their own around the Peloponnese with their navy. Eventually, it was the creation of a navy that enabled Sparta to overcome Athens. With Persian gold, Lysander, appointed navarch in 407 BC, was able to muster a strong navy, and successfully challenge and destroy Athenian predominance in the Aegean Sea. The Spartan engagement with the sea would be short-lived however, and did not survive the turmoils of the Corinthian War: in the Battle of Cnidus of 394 BC, the Spartan navy was decisively defeated by joint Athenian-Persian fleet, marking the end of Sparta's brief naval supremacy. The final blow would be given 20 years later, at the Battle of Naxos in 376 BC. A small fleet was periodically maintained thereafter, but its effectiveness was limited; the last revival of Spartan naval power was under Nabis, who with aid from his Cretan allies created a fleet to control the Laconian coastline.

The fleet was commanded by navarchs who were appointed for a strictly one year term, and apparently could not be reappointed. The admirals were subordinated to the vice-admiral called epistoleus. This position is seemingly independent of the one year term clause, because it was used, in 405 B.C. to give Lysander command of the fleet after he was already an admiral for a year.


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