In the first instance, the ephors announce in proclamation the limit of age to which
the service applies for cavalry and heavy infantry; and, in the next place, for the
various artisans. So that, even on campaign, the Spartans are well-supplied with all the
conveniences enjoyed by people living as citizens at Sparta. All the implements and
instruments whatsoever which an army may need in common are ordered to be in readiness,
some on wagons and others on baggage animals. In this way anything omitted can hardly
For the actual encounter under arms, the following inventions are attributed to
Lycurgos: the soldier has a crimson-colored uniform and a heavy shield of bronze; his
theory being that such equipment has no sort of feminine association, and is altogether
most warrior-like. It is most quickly burnished; it is least readily soiled. He further
permitted those who were about the age of early manhood to wear their hair long. For so,
he conceived, they would appear of larger stature, more free and indomitable, and of a
more terrible aspect. So furnished and accoutered, he divided his hoplites into six morai
[regiments] of cavalry and heavy infantry. Each of these hoplite morai has one polemarchos
[colonel], four lochagoi [captains], eight penteconters [lieutenants], and
sixteen enomotarchs [sergeants]. At a word of command any such morai can be
formed readily into either enomoties [single-file], or into threes [three files of
men abreast] or sixes [six files of men abreast].
As to the idea, commonly entertained, that the tactical arrangement of the Spartan
heavy infantry is highly complicated, no conception could be more opposed to facts. For in
the Spartan order the front-rank-men are all leaders, so that each file has everything
necessary to play its part efficiently. In fact, this disposition is so easy to understand
that no one who can distinguish one human being from another can fail to follow it. One
set have the privilege of leaders, the other the duty of followers. The evolutional orders
by which greater depth or shallowness is given to the battle line are given by word of
mouth, by the enomotarch, and they cannot be mistaken. None of these maneuvers
presents any difficulty whatsoever to the understanding.
I will now speak of the mode of encampment, sanctioned by the regulation of Lycurgos.
To avoid the waste incidental to the angles of the square, the encampment, according to
him, should be circular, except where there was the security of a hill or fortification,
or where they had a river in the rear. He had sentinels posted during the day along the
place of arms and facing inwards; since they are appointed not so much for the sake of the
enemy as to keep an eye on friends. The enemy is sufficiently watched by mounted troopers
perched on various points commanding the widest prospects. To guard against hostile
approach by night, sentinel duty according to the ordinance was performed by the sciritai
outside the main body. At the present time the rule is so far modified that the duty is
entrusted to foreigners, if there be a foreign contingent present, with a leaven of
Spartans to keep them company. The custom of always taking their spears with them when
they go their rounds must certainly be attributed to the same cause which makes them
exclude their slaves from a place of arms....The need of precaution is the whole
explanation. The frequency with which they change their encampment is another point. It is
done quite as much for the sake of benefitting their friends as annoying their enemies.
Further, the law enjoins upon all Spartans, during the whole period of the campaign,
the constant practice of gymnastic exercises, whereby their pride in themselves is
increased, and they appear freer and of a more liberal aspect than the rest of the world.
The walk and the running grounds must not exceed in length the space covered by a morai,
so that one may not find himself far from his own stand of arms. After the gymnastic
exercises, the senior polemarchos gives the order by herald to be seated. This
serves all the purposes of inspection. After this the order is given "To get
breakfast," and for "The outpost to be relieved." After this, again, come
pastimes and relaxations before the evening exercises, after which the herald=s cry is
heard "To take the evening meal." When they have sung a hymn to the gods to whom
the offerings of happy omen have been performed, the final order "Retire to rest at
the place of arms," is given.
From: Fred Fling, ed., A Source Book of Greek History, (Boston: D. C. Heath,
1907), pp. 73-75
Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg
has modernized the text.