The Spartan march in 490BC

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,724
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!).
Riding without a saddle is perfectly doable and many tribespeople in the Americas did that over relatively long distances- the main issue is actually the comfort of the horse as the weight of a person just in the middle of a horses back for hours a day can hurt the horse.

If Spartans did own horses (some might have but given how important the regard of your peers was in Spartan culture, riding vs marching with your fellows would have been unlikely) anyway there is certainly a lack of evidence for horses in a military context for Sparta at this point in time.

Marching over 40 miles a day for 3 days straight is certainly possible for some people but as a full army? It would require walking 15+ hours a day at a decent speed so not impossible but implausible in my mind. I would guess more that a few elements of the Spartant army might have started at Sparta but more joined along the roads so the last ones joining had a significantly easier march but basically other than the records we do have that the Spartans did it the rest is supposition. I wouldn't call it a myth but understanding the actual context and how many made the full march might make it more plausible.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Riding without a saddle is perfectly doable and many tribespeople in the Americas did that over relatively long distances- the main issue is actually the comfort of the horse as the weight of a person just in the middle of a horses back for hours a day can hurt the horse.

If Spartans did own horses (some might have but given how important the regard of your peers was in Spartan culture, riding vs marching with your fellows would have been unlikely) anyway there is certainly a lack of evidence for horses in a military context for Sparta at this point in time.

Marching over 40 miles a day for 3 days straight is certainly possible for some people but as a full army? It would require walking 15+ hours a day at a decent speed so not impossible but implausible in my mind. I would guess more that a few elements of the Spartant army might have started at Sparta but more joined along the roads so the last ones joining had a significantly easier march but basically other than the records we do have that the Spartans did it the rest is supposition. I wouldn't call it a myth but understanding the actual context and how many made the full march might make it more plausible.
Riding without a saddle for a long march is not enjoyable, that's what I wrote. The legs hang and all the weight is on the lowest part of the rider's body in contact with the horse, which is the genital area. The only way to alievate is to strenuously wrap the legs around the horse, to hug it with the thighs, which is tiring.

I never said people havent done endurance episodes without saddles, I'm simply saying non horse people (Spartans) would not choose to ride at a walking pace (no point blowing past the rest who don't have horses), versus simply walking themselves. It would take an exceptionally lazy person, a glutton for pain too, to avoid walking at a 3-4 mph pace instead to sit a horse or mule. Yep, people did it. But are we really going to suspect high ranking Spartiates were those types?
 
Jul 2014
683
Messinia
Riding without a saddle is perfectly doable and many tribespeople in the Americas did that over relatively long distances- the main issue is actually the comfort of the horse as the weight of a person just in the middle of a horses back for hours a day can hurt the horse.

If Spartans did own horses (some might have but given how important the regard of your peers was in Spartan culture, riding vs marching with your fellows would have been unlikely) anyway there is certainly a lack of evidence for horses in a military context for Sparta at this point in time.

Marching over 40 miles a day for 3 days straight is certainly possible for some people but as a full army? It would require walking 15+ hours a day at a decent speed so not impossible but implausible in my mind. I would guess more that a few elements of the Spartant army might have started at Sparta but more joined along the roads so the last ones joining had a significantly easier march but basically other than the records we do have that the Spartans did it the rest is supposition. I wouldn't call it a myth but understanding the actual context and how many made the full march might make it more plausible.
How do you think the Spartans marched to Marathon? Do you think they did or didn't? Would love to read your views.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,724
How do you think the Spartans marched to Marathon? Do you think they did or didn't? Would love to read your views.
The record says they marched there and they definite fought there- the main question is if they assembled slightly nearer Marathon or in Sparta which would change the distance quite a bit but either way such a march is certainly possible- just fairly rare in history to have been done by full armies but the Spartans are far from the only ones who supposedly covered such distances on foot in a relatively short amount of time. I would postulate the bulk of the Spartan army did not march the full distance from Sparta to Marathon but probably some of them did.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
The record says they marched there and they definite fought there- the main question is if they assembled slightly nearer Marathon or in Sparta which would change the distance quite a bit but either way such a march is certainly possible- just fairly rare in history to have been done by full armies but the Spartans are far from the only ones who supposedly covered such distances on foot in a relatively short amount of time. I would postulate the bulk of the Spartan army did not march the full distance from Sparta to Marathon but probably some of them did.
Didn't the Spartans show up late, missing it? And then asked to view the battlefield debris and ships to see for themselves?
 
Sep 2014
983
Texas
the Spartans were ready to fight when they showed up but seeing it over, which depending on who you read was a rout by the Athenians or not, sang their praises and turned around and went home.
Look this is just me, but can someone tell me if the Scythians tactics used on the land army had any effect on the way the Persians acted at Marathon? I mean Darius was coming over land with the main army of thousands....I always believed the Scythians had more to do with Athens winning then they are given credit for.....
 
Mar 2007
272
Philadelphia
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?
I've read that Roman soldiers marched 29 km in a day carrying a heavy pack. I've seen comments by modern soldiers that they marched 30 km in 6-7 hours. If the Spartans marched from sunup to sundown, 70 km might be possible.

Have you ever heard of the Spartalon? It's a modern race based on the Athenian long-distance runner Pheidippides who supposedly ran 250 km in two days to inform the Spartans that the Persians had landed at Marathon. As the story goes, he then ran back to Marathon, then another 40 km to Athens, where he declared, "We win" and dropped dead.

The Spartalon was originated in 1982 by five British RAF officers who wanted to see if it was possible to recreate Pheidippides run in 36 hours. Three of the five were successful. Since 1983, it has become an annual footrace from Athens to Sparta. The winner of the first race, Yiannis Kouros, still holds the record for the fastest time, covering the 246 km in 20 hours and 25 minutes.
 

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
6,680
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
..Every [Spartan] hoplite had at least one servant/baggage carrier...
Seven Helots for every Spartiate was the norm. They formed the rear ranks of the Phalanx. (Which is an odd place to put armed people who hate you, in my humble opinion....) Given their status, it's a safe bet they did all the carrying too.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Seven Helots for every Spartiate was the norm. They formed the rear ranks of the Phalanx. (Which is an odd place to put armed people who hate you, in my humble opinion....) Given their status, it's a safe bet they did all the carrying too.
Do you have a source for seven helots per Spartiate, and for helot in the phalanx?

Helot weren't hoplites, when armed they were skirmishers. And the rear rank of a hoplite phalanx was historically officers or trusted veterans, who were placed their to pressure the test to advance, not to retreat, not to break ranks and run away.