The Spartan march in 490BC

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
6,676
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
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.
There is Herodotus, of course...
...This was the counsel he gave to the ephors, who straightway took it to heart; saying no word to the envoys who were come from the cities, they bade march before dawn of day five thousand Spartans, with seven helots appointed to attend each of them...
But my source was one of the Osprey series, which gave a detailed description of the Spartan phalanx. The Helots were not armoured, carrying only shield and spear. I don't recall if it was in "The Ancient Greeks" or "The Spartan Army". There is also a nice article on JSTOR....
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
There is Herodotus, of course...

But my source was one of the Osprey series, which gave a detailed description of the Spartan phalanx. The Helots were not armoured, carrying only shield and spear. I don't recall if it was in "The Ancient Greeks" or "The Spartan Army". There is also a nice article on JSTOR....
View attachment 23045
Looks like a stack of assumptions, to me. I don't mind finding evidence that is contrary to modern "wisdom", but I'm not seeing any of that evidence, here. Are there any other references to each Spartan bringing 7 helots, besides the Plataea campaign? Is there ANY reference at all to how they were armed, anywhere in Greek literature? Because you'd think that would get quoted a LOT, and it never is. Herodotus DOES mention the Greek light troops being sent to guard a pass, so I thought the assumption was always that some of those at least were helots.

Even the 8-rank-deep phalanx is an assumption--the number of ranks in a phalanx varies wildly through the literature, but is hardly a standard feature of battle descriptions. It may be the number that shows up more often than others, but we can hardly call it "standard".

Finally, the complaint that modern scholars have "minimized" the role of helots or other skirmishers is mirrored in Roman studies, and I'm not buying it. It seems to be based on the fact that battle descriptions are mainly about heavy infantry and cavalry, and especially in the case of the Greeks, that's supposedly because those snobby hoplites were simply hogging all the glory while the lower-class light bobs actually did all the fighting. Two or three battles are always mentioned as the exceptions which must prove the rule, in which skirmishers played a major part in defeating a small and isolated group of heavies in very particular circumstances, not normal battles at all. Sorry, but that's just not grounds for overturning our entire view of ancient warfare! Not to mention that it's a self-contradictory argument, since these same people would have us believe that the phalanx was this wonderful "people's army", a democratic mix of all classes, a freedom from tyranny and the rise of the poor, and in Sparta's case an army of helots with a thin veneer of Spartiates.

It's all bunk, and the opposite of how history is supposed to be studied. "They never talk about the light infantry, so they MUST have fought as heavies or done most of the fighting!" No. Just, No. It's very clear how skirmishers were used, so why not work with that?

Yes, we do read accounts from much later eras of helots being armed and *possibly* serving in the phalanx (I honestly don't know how solidly documented that is!), but applying that to the Persian Wars is really stretching the evidence too far.

Matthew
 

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
6,676
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
Looks like a stack of assumptions, to me. I don't mind finding evidence that is contrary to modern "wisdom", but I'm not seeing any of that evidence, here. Are there any other references to each Spartan bringing 7 helots, besides the Plataea campaign? Is there ANY reference at all to how they were armed, anywhere in Greek literature? Because you'd think that would get quoted a LOT, and it never is. Herodotus DOES mention the Greek light troops being sent to guard a pass, so I thought the assumption was always that some of those at least were helots.

Even the 8-rank-deep phalanx is an assumption--the number of ranks in a phalanx varies wildly through the literature, but is hardly a standard feature of battle descriptions. It may be the number that shows up more often than others, but we can hardly call it "standard".

Finally, the complaint that modern scholars have "minimized" the role of helots or other skirmishers is mirrored in Roman studies, and I'm not buying it. It seems to be based on the fact that battle descriptions are mainly about heavy infantry and cavalry, and especially in the case of the Greeks, that's supposedly because those snobby hoplites were simply hogging all the glory while the lower-class light bobs actually did all the fighting. Two or three battles are always mentioned as the exceptions which must prove the rule, in which skirmishers played a major part in defeating a small and isolated group of heavies in very particular circumstances, not normal battles at all. Sorry, but that's just not grounds for overturning our entire view of ancient warfare! Not to mention that it's a self-contradictory argument, since these same people would have us believe that the phalanx was this wonderful "people's army", a democratic mix of all classes, a freedom from tyranny and the rise of the poor, and in Sparta's case an army of helots with a thin veneer of Spartiates.

It's all bunk, and the opposite of how history is supposed to be studied. "They never talk about the light infantry, so they MUST have fought as heavies or done most of the fighting!" No. Just, No. It's very clear how skirmishers were used, so why not work with that?

Yes, we do read accounts from much later eras of helots being armed and *possibly* serving in the phalanx (I honestly don't know how solidly documented that is!), but applying that to the Persian Wars is really stretching the evidence too far.

Matthew
Well, I won't argue the point of their (alleged) military role, because I haven't the resources and so cannot. I certainly never intended any sort of social revisionism. I raised their presence with the army (we can agree on that much at least, can we not?) to point out that they were likely the porters, whatever other purposes they might have served. No more.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
Well, I won't argue the point of their (alleged) military role, because I haven't the resources and so cannot. I certainly never intended any sort of social revisionism. I raised their presence with the army (we can agree on that much at least, can we not?) to point out that they were likely the porters, whatever other purposes they might have served. No more.
Fair enough! Yeah, I'd go with porters, servants, and javelin-chuckers, generally. Not *useless*, by any means! And my apologies if it sounded like I was getting after *you* in particular for whatever theory, I've just been fighting with some Hansonists recently, and my buttons got pushed...

Matthew
 

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
6,676
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
I'll have to find that old Osprey book again, just to clarify what it really says. I did note while poking around looking for online sources that Xenophon mentions that the Spartans slept with their spears for the express purpose of keeping them away from the Helots on campaign.
 
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