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The Spartan Hoplites' Uniform

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Column: Armor, by Nikolaos Markoulakis published in Weblog Articles, first submitted in Jul 15, 2012 | CiteULike | Google Scholar Entry | Related Entry | Items Citing this Article | Articles by Nikolaos Markoulakis | Bookmark and Share


One of the unique characteristics of the Spartan hoplites was, with no doubt, their uniformity at the battle. That was achieved mainly by their red χῐτών (chiton), which was probably of linen, and was a signal of the Spartan hoplite interrelated with his long hair appearance.

The term χῐτών, can been met in both the Ionian and the Dorian language. In Dorian the term derives from the term κῐτών.

The Dorian χιτών was also worn by the Spartan women, with the difference that the female chiton had been opened at the side ̔σχιστός, and was fastened with a περόναι, they also worn over this χιτών an ἱμάτιον (see Middle Liddell).

However, as said, the difference was that was dyed red, φοινικίς, phoinikis,(see J.AJ4.4.6. & LSJ). Aristophanes makes clear that Spartan males were so well visible because of their ‘red military cloak’, the phoinikis (Ar. Lys. 1140 and Xen. Lac. 11.3). Cartledge, suggests that was probably because of a) the colour was considered to have magical properties and b) because of the ability to disguised the bloodstains, though, he believes that was mainly because of the existence of red dye (see foo[1]).

This is a good point to stay and further examine the colour red. I would like to take bring Goheen point and place it against Cartledge: “[t]her red robes bear also a sign of civic good will” and differentiates the ‘black blood’ — melamporphyros (dark porphyry) — with the ‘red blood’ — phoinikis — which have a different meaning in the Greek tragedy and religious ideology. The ‘dark porphyry’ meant the internal civic strife — the absence of the Eumenides —, which of course was the worse nightmare of the Spartan state (see foo[2]).

It is more logical to me to suppose that the φοινικίς was made to further picture the will of the Spartan hoplite to keep his state’s constitution unchanged.

1 See Cartledge, ‘Hoplites and Heroes: Sparta’s Contribution to the Technique of Ancient Warfare’, in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 97., 1977, pp. 11-27.

2 See Goheen, ‘Aspects of Dramatic Symbolism: Three Studies in the Oresteia’, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 76 (2), 1955, pp. 113-137.


This is a free full article of the Weblog Articles.

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