Sparta – XIV

sparta


My brethren in war! I love you from the very heart. I am, and was ever, your counterpart. And I am also your best enemy. So let me tell you the truth!

I know the hatred and envy of your hearts. Ye are not great enough not to know of hatred and envy. Then be great enough not to be ashamed of them!

“What is good?” ye ask. To be brave is good. Let the little girls say: “To be good is what is pretty, and at the same time touching.”

They call you heartless: but your heart is true, and I love the bashfulness of your goodwill. Ye are ashamed of your flow, and others are ashamed of their ebb.

Your highest thought, however, ye shall have it commanded unto you by me—and it is this: man is something that is to be surpassed.

So live your life of obedience and of war! What matter about long life! What warrior wisheth to be spared!

I spare you not, I love you from my very heart, my brethren in war!—

—Nietzsche


War

War for the Spartans was a real party as, during wars, they relaxed the cruder aspects of the controls and solid discipline. They permitted that the soldiers beautified their weapons, armor, clothes and hair. They softened the harshness of the exercises and allowed a less severe disciplinary regime in general, plus larger and complete meals. Consequently, for them “the war was a break from the preparing for war,” as Plutarch wrote, and this made them subconsciously prefer war to peace.

Each Spartan was a hoplite (a word that comes from hoplon, shield), a formidable war machine, a weapon of mass destruction, an elite soldier infantry: well trained, armed and equipped with the best of his time—a weight of approximately seventy pounds.

The Spartan soldier wore:

• A two-meter spear (which also had a tip at its lower end in order to finish off the fallen).

• A shield (hoplon or aspis) of ninety centimeters in diameter, weighing nine kilos and lined with bronze. In the center of the shield a bee of natural size was painted (remember that the bee was an attribute of the goddess Artemis). They were always told that the optimum distance for the attack was that where the bee could be clearly distinguished.

• A dagger.

• An armor made of metal plates that allowed some mobility.

• A helmet designed to cover the entire head and the face with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. It probably evolved from a more primitive model, as used by the Germans, which usually consisted of a cap that protected the face and skull; a bump down the brow to protect the nose, and two bumps on the sides covering the ears or cheeks, whose purpose was to protect the winged attacks to the head.

• Greaves that protected the shins and knees.

• A sword called xyphos which hung on the left thigh, and was particularly short to be controlled from compact rows where the hindrance of a long sword was not welcome. The Athenians made fun of the short length of the Spartan swords and the Spartans answered, “He who is not afraid to approach the enemy does not require long swords.”

The Spartan Hoplite also wore a coat. It was red to disguise the color of blood. The visible colors were, then: the red coat, the golden bronze, and the white and black crest, in some places of checkerboard design, like a dualistic sign. (The custom of wearing red textile with the specific goal of disguising the blood also occurred with the Roman legionaries and the imperial British military, the “Redcoats.”)

The Spartan hoplites were barefoot during battle because their feet were so tanned that their skin was tougher than any footwear. With them they could climb rocks and stomp on rough snow or spines without even noticing. Their shield—a most important tool and a symbol of camaraderie whose loss was a disgrace (as for the Germans, according to Tacitus)—showed off the Greek letter lambda (Λ / λ), the equivalent to the Rune Laf, representing the sound “L” as initial of Laconia, Lacedaemonia and Lycurgus; although the rune Ur (sometimes represented exactly like the lambda and symbolizing virility) may be a more appropriate “translation.” The phrase associated with this rune was: “Know yourself and know everything.” At the oracle of Delphi it was written, “Know thyself” on a temple, so that the rune Ur again fits perfectly in the Spartan context.

Let us now turn our attention to the Spartan warriors. How were the clashes? The captains harangued their men with a traditional formula, “Go ahead, armed sons of Sparta, come into the dance of Ares.” In battle they marched in tightly-closed ranks; with calm, discipline and gravity, relying on the immeasurable strength of all their instruction, to the sound of a flute and singing the solemn song of marches known as the Paean, a hymn to Apollo. It was a type of flute traversière which sound is closely associated with the infantry, especially in the eighteenth century. The sound conveyed trust, safety, lightness and a serene joy.

hopliteIllustration of a Spartan hoplite. The arms show that the Spartan is terribly muscularly and roasted by the sun and air, since he has been permanently exposed throughout his life. The illustration has some flaws, however. The sword, which should be holstered on the left side of the hip, is absent or not visible. The bronze helmet, shield and greaves on the legs should be shiny as gold, not worn off as the Spartans beautified and polished their weapons and armor, which were clean at the time of combat. There are also extra sandals in the illustration as the Spartans were always barefoot. And the hair color is too dark.

This close formation was called the phalanx, of which the Spartans were the greatest teachers of leading tactics that other Greek strategists considered extremely complicated. Shields formed an impenetrable wall from which soldiers, in serried ranks, side by side, shoulder to shoulder and shield to shield, stabbed and cut with spears and swords. The Macedonians and the Romans (even, in their way, the Spanish troops and the armies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) inherited this form of combat that put emphasis on the close order. John Keegan, in his History of Warfare, explains it well:

Crossing a no man’s land perhaps 150 yards wide at a clumsy run, under a weight of armor and weapons of seventy pounds, the ranks drove straight into each other. Each individual would have chosen another as his target at the moment of contact, thrusting his spear point at some gap between shield and shield, and seeking to hit a patch of flesh not covered by armor—throat, armpit or groin. The chance was fleeting. As the second and subsequent ranks were brought up short by the stop in front, the phalanx concertinaed, throwing the weight of seven men on to the back of the warriors engaged with the enemy. Under this impact some men inevitably went down at once, dead, wounded, or overborne from the rear.

That might create a breach in the shield wall. Those in the second or third ranks strove to open it wider with their spears, thrusting and jabbing from their relatively protected position at whoever they could reach. If it widened, there followed the othismos, ‘push with shield’, to widen it further and to win room in which swords, the hoplite’s secondary weapon, might be drawn and used to slash at an enemy’s legs. The othismos was the most certain method, however: it could lead to the pararrexis or ‘breaking’, when the most heavily beset by the enemy’s pressure began to feel the impulse to flight, and either broke from the rear ranks or, more shamefully, struggled backward from the point of killing to infect their comrades with panic also.

As we see, it was a kind of war requiring very good preparation; a methodical fighting type that contrasted with the previous “barbarian” combat: more open, freer, individualistic and furious. The evolution of war marked the evolution of the people. They had discovered that they were stronger together and well coordinated, as if they were a single entity, a god.

All the changes of direction or attack were communicated by the music of the fifes. Today, in the military close order, orders can be given with a bugle, each melody is a determined order. The closed order of modern armies is simply a legacy of the spirit of the Spartan phalanx: socialist institutions to the core. In spite of the fact that close order is no longer the key to success in combat, it is undeniable that it reinforces collective coordination, camaraderie, pride, the esprit de corps and ceremonial rituals that so matter in our day, and the difference that converting a set of men into a unit can make.

The battles were bloody and cruel. Obviously, the fighting was hand to hand and the attacks made by cutting or piercing through the body with sharp edges or tips of extremely sharp metal blades, which caused terrible injuries and mutilations. As a result, many suffered war wounds or were maimed. What did these crippled do in a state like Sparta? They just turned up in the battle with the greatest fanaticism to accelerate their own destruction and the arrival of glory. It was normal to see mutilated veterans (remember Miguel de Cervantes), blind, lame or maimed in the ranks of Spartan combatants. A stranger asked a blind hoplite why he would fight in such a state. The blind man said that “at least I’ll chip the sword of the enemy.”

The Spartans marching into battle always received the shield from their mothers, who delivered them with the severe words, “With it or on it”: back with the shield or on the shield, victory or death; because if someone fell in battle the comrades carried the body, and then his ashes, on the shield. (The Spartans, like all Indo-Europeans from Scandinavia to India, practiced cremation burial ritual.) The shield was thus a lunar symbol equivalent to the cup, which collects the solar essence of fallen hero and, as a cup, related to the archetype of the woman. In fact, a woman delivering the shield is a fairly common archetypal motif in European art of all eras. The shield had, as a talisman, the power to protect not only ourselves but the comrades in arms, so it should be considered almost magical.

The doctrine of loyalty, war, and resurrection of the hero allowed the Spartans to march to the fiercest fighting with a calm serenity and joy that nowadays few would understand and many repudiate. Knowing that they would be unable to do such a thing what is left is vilifying the one who, for self-worth and inner will, was capable of doing it. Before the fighting, tranquility was obvious among them: some combed, cleaned or carefully tended their hair. Others brightened their breastplates and helmets; cleaned and sharpened their weapons, made athletic exercises or measured each other in boxing or wrestling. Even before the legendary battle of Thermopylae, the Persians observers reported an astonished Xerxes that the Spartans were fighting among themselves and combing the hair.

Camaraderie, forged in difficult situations, even in the face of death, was an important part of Spartan society, as it reinforced the union and mutual confidence. The cult of strength, competition and manhood made the comrades in arms to exceed and protect each other. Often an adult men took under his wing a young person or child, although in this case the relationship was like that of the master and pupil, as was the relationship between Achilles (the young, temerarious and vigorous hero) and Patroclus (his prudent and wise mentor, older than him): a relationship that without any justification has been classified simply as homosexual by certain media groups. Something similar to the defaming process of the Achilles-Patroclus relationship has occurred regarding lesbianism. The way that our current society averts healthy people from the Greek ideal, the Indo-European ideal, is to ridicule it and claim that homosexuality was absolutely normal in Greece by means of pulling out from the sleeve sodomite and lesbian relationships from any reference of fellowship, mastership, devotion and friendship. And this is where modern historiography, clearly serving the interests of social engineering, has gotten his big nose.

The pace of life that the Spartan male bore was of an intensity to kill a herd of rhinos, and not even the women of Sparta would have been able to stand it. Thus the world of the Spartan military was a universe in itself—a universe of men. On the other hand, the intense emotional relationship, the cult of virility and the camaraderie that existed between teacher and student, in phalanx combat and throughout society, has served to fuel these days the myth of homosexuality. On this, Xenophon wrote:

The customs instituted by Lycurgus were opposed to all of these [what other Greek states did, nominally Athens and Corinth]. If someone, being himself an honest man, admired a boy’s soul and tried to make of him an ideal friend without reproach and to associate with him, he approved, and believed in the excellence of this kind of training. But if it was clear that the attraction lay in the boy’s outward beauty, he banned the connexion as an abomination; and thus he caused lovers to abstain from boys no less than parents abstain from sexual intercourse with their children and brothers and sisters with each other. [Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 2].

The relationship between man and teenager in Sparta was that of teacher-student, based on respect and admiration: a workout, a way of learning, instruction in their own way. The sacredness of the teacher-student or instructor-aspirant institution has been challenged by our society for a while, just as the männerbund. Yet, both types of relationships are the foundation of the unity of the armies. Today, children grow up in the shadow of the feminine influence of the female teachers, even through adolescence. It is difficult to know to what extent the lack of male influence limits their wills and ambitions, making them gentle beings, malleable and controllable: what is good for the globalist system.

Others spoke about the Spartan institution of love between master and disciple, but always made it clear that this love was “chaste.” The Roman Aelian said that if two Spartan men “succumbed to temptation and indulged in carnal relations, they would have to redeem the affront to the honor of Sparta by either going into exile or taking their own lives” (at the time exile was considered worse than death).

It is noteworthy that if homosexuality was indeed so natural to the original Hellenes as it was for the Greeks of decadent states, Hellenic mythology would be infested with explicit references to such relationships, which is not, as homosexuality was a plague outside the Hellenic spirit that appeared when Greece was already declining. By the time of Plato, for example, homosexuality was beginning to be tolerated in Athens itself. However, ancient and even some modern authors make it clear that Sparta did not fall in this filth. The fallacy that homosexuality was “traditional” and well regarded in Greece is refuted in detail in the article “El mito derrumbado.”

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I disagree that non-Spartan Greeks were not adolescent lovers. See a brief exchange here:

    http://chechar.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/homosexuality-in-ancient-greece/#comments


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