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Indeed, they were supposed to be soldiers and nothing else, being forbidden to learn and exercise any other trade.
The Spartiate population was subdivided into age groups. The youngest at 20 were counted as weaker due to lack of experience, and the oldest, up to 60 or in a crisis 65, were only called up in an emergency, to defend the baggage train.
The principal source for the organization of the Spartan Army is Xenophon , who admired the Spartans and whose Constitution of Sparta offers a detailed overview of the Spartan state and society at the beginning of the 4th century BC.
Other authors, notably Thucydides , also provide information, but it is not always as reliable as Xenophon's first-hand accounts. Little is known of the earlier organisation, and much is left open to speculation.
The earliest form of social and military organization during the 7th century BC seems to have been the three tribes phylai : the Pamphyloi , Hylleis and Dymanes , who appear in the Second Messenian War — BC.
A further subdivision was the "fraternity" phratra , of which 27, or nine per tribe, are recorded. Four lochoi formed a mora of men under a polemarchos , the largest single tactical unit of the Spartan army.
The full army was normally led in battle by the two kings ; initially, both went on campaign, but after the 6th century BC only one, with the other remaining at home.
Despite their title, they were infantry hoplites like all Spartiatai. Indeed, the Spartans did not utilize a cavalry of their own until late into the Peloponnesian War , when small units of 60 cavalrymen were attached to each mora.
They were selected every year by specially commissioned officials, the hippagretai , from among experienced men who had sons, so that their line would continue.
At first, in the archaic period of — BC, education for both sexes was, as in most Greek states , centred on the arts, with the male citizen population later receiving military education.
However, from the 6th century onwards, the military character of the state became more pronounced, and education was totally subordinated to the needs of the military.
Both boys and girls were brought up by the city women until the age of seven, when boys paidia were taken from their mothers and grouped together in "packs" agelai and were sent to what is almost equivalent to present-day military boot camp.
This military camp was known as the Agoge. They became inured to hardship, being provided with scant food and clothing; this also encouraged them to steal, and if they were caught, they were punished — not for stealing, but for being caught.
In addition, they were taught to read and write and learned the songs of Tyrtaios , that celebrated Spartan exploits in the Second Messenian War.
They learned to read and write not for cultural reasons, but so they could be able to read military maps.
His physical education was intensified, discipline became much harsher, and the boys were loaded with extra tasks.
The youths had to go barefoot, and were dressed only in a tunic both in summer and in winter. Adulthood was reached at the age of 18, and the young adult eiren initially served as a trainer for the boys.
At the same time, the most promising youths were included in the Krypteia. If they survived the two years in the countryside they would become full blown soldiers.
At 20, Spartans became eligible for military service and joined one of the messes syssitia , which included 15 men of various ages.
However, even after that, and even during marriage and until about the age of 30, they would spend most of their day in the barracks with their unit.
Military duty lasted until the 60th year, but there are recorded cases of older people participating in campaigns in times of crisis.
Throughout their adult lives, the Spartiates continued to be subject to a training regime so strict that, as Plutarch says, " Like the armies of the other Greek states, the Spartan army was an infantry-based army that fought using the phalanx formation.
The Spartans themselves did not introduce any significant changes or tactical innovations in hoplite warfare, but their constant drill and superb discipline made their phalanx much more cohesive and effective.
The Spartans employed the phalanx in the classical style in a single line, uniformly deep in files of 8 to 12 men.
When fighting alongside their allies, the Spartans would normally occupy the honorary right flank. If, as usually happened, the Spartans achieved victory on their side, they would then wheel left and roll up the enemy formation.
During the Peloponnesian War, engagements became more fluid, light troops became increasingly used and tactics evolved to meet them, but in direct confrontations between two opposing phalanxes, stamina and "pushing ability" were what counted.
According to Xenophon , the army was mobilized by the ephors , and after a series of religious ceremonies and sacrifices, the army assembled and set out.
To the Spartans, long hair retained its older Archaic meaning as the symbol of a free man; to the other Greeks, by the 5th century, its peculiar association with the Spartans had come to signify pro-Spartan sympathies.
The technical evolution and design of Spartan shields evolved from bashing and shield wall tactics, and were of such great importance in the Spartan army that while losing a sword and a spear was an exception, to lose a shield was a sign of disgrace.
Not only does it protect the user, but it also protects the whole phalanx formation. To come home without the shield was the mark of a deserter; rhipsaspia or "dropping the shield", was a synonym for desertion in the field.
Spartan hoplites were often depicted bearing a transverse horsehair crest on their helmet, which was possibly used to identify officers. During the later 5th century BC, when warfare had become more flexible and full-scale phalanx confrontations became rarer, the Greeks abandoned most forms of body armor.
The Spartan's main weapon was the dory spear. For long range, they carried a javelin. The Spartiates were always armed with a xiphos as a secondary weapon.
Among most Greek warriors, this weapon had an iron blade of about 60 centimeters; however, the Spartan version was typically only 30—45 centimetres.
The Spartans' shorter weapon proved deadly in the crush caused by colliding phalanxes formations — it was capable of being thrust through gaps in the enemy's shield wall and armor, where there was no room for longer weapons.
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