The Spartan march in 490BC

Jul 2014
683
Messinia
In 490 BC a Spartan army marched 220 kilometres in three days for the Battle of Marathon. It is over 70 kilometers per day, without roads, socks and boots. Do we know more about the march and the condition they arrived at the battlefield in?
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Roads are really for wheeled carts more than troops. Boots aren't needed by individuals with tough feet for walking anymore than work gloves are needed by professional laborers, callouses help serve a purpose. And socks were originally just used for keeping warm, not for lining wimpy soft feet inside boots.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
Well, of course there were roads! It was the heart of Greece and there had been roads all over the place since the Stone Age. How do you think travellers, merchants, and ARMIES got around, after all? And these were people who did a LOT of walking in everyday life, so they were used to that. If you grow up barefoot or wearing sandals, that's what your feet will be most comfortable in.

Now, I don't know that part of the story very well, and can't verify the distances, etc. It sounds like they were moving pretty well, for sure. But it would be a mistake to imagine them marching in armor and greaves, with helmets on heads and shields on their arms, ready to fight. Every hoplite had at least one servant/baggage carrier, and/or a pack animal, and probably a lot of them were riding horses. Not saying this would make such a long fast march a beeze, by any means! And I suspect they were not in top shape when they got there. But of course they were *Spartans*, they wouldn't have collapsed under the nearest tree and moaned about the march, eh? That was exactly the kind of hardship they trained for since the age of 7.

Matthew
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,161
Kansas
In 490 BC a Spartan army marched 220 kilometres in three days for the Battle of Marathon. It is over 70 kilometers per day, without roads, socks and boots. Do we know more about the march and the condition they arrived at the battlefield in?
Where Spartans there? I thought they RSVP, sorry busy
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Well, of course there were roads! It was the heart of Greece and there had been roads all over the place since the Stone Age. How do you think travellers, merchants, and ARMIES got around, after all? And these were people who did a LOT of walking in everyday life, so they were used to that. If you grow up barefoot or wearing sandals, that's what your feet will be most comfortable in.

Now, I don't know that part of the story very well, and can't verify the distances, etc. It sounds like they were moving pretty well, for sure. But it would be a mistake to imagine them marching in armor and greaves, with helmets on heads and shields on their arms, ready to fight. Every hoplite had at least one servant/baggage carrier, and/or a pack animal, and probably a lot of them were riding horses. Not saying this would make such a long fast march a beeze, by any means! And I suspect they were not in top shape when they got there. But of course they were *Spartans*, they wouldn't have collapsed under the nearest tree and moaned about the march, eh? That was exactly the kind of hardship they trained for since the age of 7.

Matthew
Sparta had a cavalry force since 490 BC? How would a lot of Spartiate hoplites have horses? You sure about that?
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
Sparta had a cavalry force since 490 BC? How would a lot of Spartiate hoplites have horses? You sure about that?
Not cavalry (I don't know when actual Spartan cavalry first shows up), just riding horses for travelling. Why wouldn't they have horses? Not that Greece is excellent horse country, I get that! But Archaic vase paintings show plenty of hoplites on horseback, it was apparently pretty common to ride to battle. Horse-owning was a pretty typical thing for the upper class especially, in ancient times, such as the hippeis (which I think is Athens, but that sort of thing). BUT I'm not married to the idea, I just figured some guys would walk, some would ride.

Matthew
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Not cavalry (I don't know when actual Spartan cavalry first shows up), just riding horses for travelling. Why wouldn't they have horses? Not that Greece is excellent horse country, I get that! But Archaic vase paintings show plenty of hoplites on horseback, it was apparently pretty common to ride to battle. Horse-owning was a pretty typical thing for the upper class especially, in ancient times, such as the hippeis (which I think is Athens, but that sort of thing). BUT I'm not married to the idea, I just figured some guys would walk, some would ride.

Matthew
Why would Spartans have horses at all? Riding without a saddle of any sort isn't exactly comfortable, and you even mentioned previously that forced marching on foot was something every Spartan was drilled on since Spartan elite were proud heavy infantry, and as officers they led from the front (of the phalanx battleline too), so riding while everyone else is walking is pretty lame. And I'm not aware of any evidence that Spartan upper class even owned horses at the time, considering that it was like 70 years later when they officially formed their cavalry, which involved the richest men then having to maintain horses (which they often then still didn't ride in battle!).
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
Why would Spartans have horses at all? Riding without a saddle of any sort isn't exactly comfortable, and you even mentioned previously that forced marching on foot was something every Spartan was drilled on since Spartan elite were proud heavy infantry, and as officers they led from the front (of the phalanx battleline too), so riding while everyone else is walking is pretty lame. And I'm not aware of any evidence that Spartan upper class even owned horses at the time, considering that it was like 70 years later when they officially formed their cavalry, which involved the richest men then having to maintain horses (which they often then still didn't ride in battle!).
Perfectly good points, and you could be entirely right! Spartans and horses aren't my thing, ha!

Matthew