Spartan Army Dress


Spartan Army Dress

Spartans wore heavy armor even if under the sun in the summer when marching or fighting. It was harder than most of the sports and physical training. They usually had crimson, tunic and cloak and special shoes.

Crimson ClothingLakedaimonians wore a crimson robe and a bronze shield because the robe was most warlike and resembled women’s clothing and the shield could be tarnished slowly and polished easily. The crimson later became sanctioned for formal legislation. If the gods granted victory, Xenophon would wear his best clothes for the battle to mark the occasion. Also if he would die, it was fitting to meet one’s fate well attired. In the 4th century crimson seems appropriate to talk of uniform military dress, which may sometimes have been issued by a commander.

The TunicIn the archaic period tunics were made of wool and thick. But in classical period linen took place of wool and they became lighter. The wives and mothers of the Spartan warriors had produced highly decorated tunics of finest quality for their men or son who were about to risk their life in battle. The exomis tunics were not functional since right hand sleeve could be let down to leave the right shoulder and arm free to handle weapons when in combat. Therefore, over time the crimson took place of the tunic by imitating the Lakedaimonian military practices in general. 

The CloakThe cloak had two types but both of them were in shape of rectangular. One was longer and was wrapped around the body. It was suitable for activities which required greater freedom of movement. The shorter one was worn over a tunic but longer one was worn without. The cloak was not normally worn during battle, only in off duty and peace time.

ShoesThe normal Greek soldiers used to work barefoot in the farms, which was a physical exercise before they are called upon to perform military service. Boys were not allowed to wear shoes lest their feet became soft. Boots were worn in the winter to protect the feet from cold and for hunting. The standard type of boot was made of leather. Lakonian shoe was the open toed sandal with a tongue on the top which was colored red.

HairstylesThe man who had long hair was believed to be seen taller, more dignified and more terrifying. On the other hand it is believed long hair made handsome men more beautiful and ugly men more terrible. In archaic times long hair was the mark of an aristocrat. Also the beard was generally worn longer but the upper lip was shaved.

SpearSpear was the main offensive weapon of the Spartan hoplite. On campaign the Lakedaimonian hoplite was ordered to carry the spear all the time. It had been made of iron and leaf shaped. The wood for their spear shafts was ash which was long, straight grain, allowed the seasoned trunk of a felled tree to be split into longer and straighter sections than most other woods.

ShieldThe shield was most important item after the spear. It was a big honor to claim the shield otherwise they were severely punished. It was made of small segments of wood glued together and faced with layers of leather which was held by two handles. There was a bronze arm hole in the middle of the shield. It must have been hard to identify to whom belonged to the shield unless they were marked their names on the shields or decorate it with the owner’s special shield device.

CuirassCuirass is distinguished by an offset flange at the waist, giving it a shape resembling the flaring mouth of a bell, in use throughout the archaic period. It was closely modeled to musculature of the body. In the 5th century Lakedaimonian army decided to get rid of their cuirasses to be rapid marching on campaign. Greek armies followed them and this change may be associated with new battlefield tactics.

HelmetAfter the shield, the helmet was the most significant piece of hoplite armor which was the most popular type in Sparta. Even though the helmet completely enclosed the head and protect that, vision and hearing were restricted. Lakedaimonians had used the type of open faced. In the 5th century with the development of the Lakedaimonian battlefield tactics, good vision and hearing became more important. A new type of helmet (pilos) was adopted. It was in a shape of hat and sometimes wan worn under the helmet for comfort, giving rise to helmets of this shape. 

SwordA Spartan sword was shorter than usual swords. The shape looked like a dagger and it was shortened to make it handier in the crush which ensued when the two phalanx mix lines met. The sword was shortened in order to encourage the warrior to use more effective thrusting attacks at the trunk and groin of his opponent.

CavalryIn response to Athenians raiding bases which were established in 42, Lakedaimonians decided to raise a force of 400 cavalry and some archers. Lakedaimonians cavalry was extremely poor since the horses belonged to the richest men in the state. When the army was mobilized the cavalrymen were given only horses and weapons. This new formation grew stranger with the manpower of citizens who were least physically suited for service in the ranks of the infantry. 

The original force of 400 cavalry expanded to 600 cavalry men. During the battle of Long Walls at Corinth, a few Lakedaimonian cavalrymen took the shields from the Sikyonians infantrymen and fought as infantry to try and stop the rout in the line. But they wouldn’t be equipped in a noticeably different manner from either Lakonian or Sikyonian infantry.

ArchersArchery was not assimilated by the Lakedaimonians. Their way was to fight as heavy infantrymen at close quarters; any other form of warfare was cowardly. A company of 300 Cretan archers accompanied the Lakedaimonian army at the battle of the Nemea (394) and they had proved themselves to Lakedaimonians. In the early 390s, the archers of the Spartan commanders raised in Asia Minor, were probably mercenaries.

SkiritaiSkiritis was in Arcadia bordering to Lakonia, was a mountainous area. Skiritai was an allied community and most of the skiritai were hoplites. They were ordered to persuade the Skiritai exchange their hoplite equipment. As their number was 600, they were attached to the cavalry on a one to one basis. They were only fought Skiritai was the main body with the cavalry scouts on the march and to patrol outside the camp lines at night. They were never spared neither in hardship nor in danger.

PeltastsPeltasts were mercenaries, were deployed in front of the army. They operated the units of cavalry at the expedition to Boeotia of Agesilaos. Originally they were only the members of Thracian tribes, but later on the word peltast was given to a special form of infantry.