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The Tegean Army

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Tegea was one of the eminent city-states at the South-west region of Peloponnesus (approximately 12 km South of Tripolis). It was mentioned as early as the Homeric epics — part of the Achaian expedition against Troy (Il. ii.607). It was during the Archaic period where the nine demes (Paus. 8.45.1) — of the four tribes: Clareotis, Hippothoetis, Apolloniatis, and Athaneatis (Paus. 8.53.1) — became a uniformed city-state, entitled Tegeatis, which is situated on the East borders of Kynuria and of Argolis, on the South with Laconia, on the West with Mainalia and on the North with Mantineia.

In 560 B.C. the Tegeans fought against Sparta, which concluded with its conquer by the Spartan (Hdt. 1.66-68) but from the c. 550 B.C. the city-state was incorporated in the Peloponnesian League. Tegea was, thereafter, considered and remained in alliance with Sparta, and eventually developed the second in strength Peloponnesian army during the Persian War (Hdt. 9.28). Between the 470 B.C. and 465 B.C. Arkadians and the Spartans were at war and the Tegeans were defeated:

οἱ δὲ πέντε ἀγῶνες οἵδε ἐγένοντο, εἷς μὲν καὶ πρῶτος οὗτος ὁ ἐν Πλαταιῇσι, ἐπὶ δὲ ὁ ἐν Τεγέῃ πρὸς Τεγεήτας τε καὶ Ἀργείους γενόμενος, μετὰ δὲ ὁ ἐν Διπαιεῦσι πρὸς Ἀρκάδας πάντας πλὴν Μαντινέων, ἐπὶ δὲ ὁ Μεσσηνίων ὁ πρὸς Ἰθώμῃ, ὕστατος δὲ ὁ ἐν Τανάγρῃ πρὸς Ἀθηναίους τε καὶ Ἀργείους γενόμενος: οὗτος δὲ ὕστατος κατεργάσθη τῶν πέντε ἀγώνων.(Hdt. 9.35)

With the later conquer by the Spartans, at Tegea was established a strong laconizing party which brought Tegea under the Spartan rule. Consequently the city-state naturally became enemy of the Mantineia (see the article of the Mantinean army ). During the Peloponnesian War, Tegea fought as a loyal member of the Spartan alliance (see foo[1]). However, in c 430-420 Tegea started a self production of coins. These coins, the relief of Exemus available in the Archaeological Museum of Tegea and the funeral relief of Lisas from Decelea are the only evidences, at the time being, for the uniform of Tegean hoplites.

We can suggest, therefore, that according to each current ally the Tegean army altered its uniform. However, its structure seems to be related with its nine demes. At the battle of Plataea the Tegeans had 1,500 hoplites and an equal number of psiloi. If we consider that their army was deployed in full numbers, still, we cannot assume that the numbers were divided equally according to their tribes and demes — such suggestion cannot be falsified. However, we know that during Tegean’s alliance with Sparta, its hoplites were fully integrated with the Spartan army’s organization and the Spartan uniform. However, as the evidences shows, the Tegean shield blazons were different and uniformed in the ranks of the Spartan phalanx.

Nicholas Sekunda will suggest that the most appropriate uniform would be the pilos-helmet, the crimson chiton and the shield with a painted tauT — as its device. I will agree with Sekunda on the use of pilos and of the chitoniskos (read about the crimson chiton here). It seems that all the Arkadians wear crimson chitons and in general tried to looked alike with their neighbouring Lakonian hoplites when they were under their service. The Lisias funeral relief is a very good example of a Spartan uniform.

Lisas is in movement forward with his left leg to be steadily moved upfront and his right stretched back, his body lean slightly forward and with his left had slightly rises his shield till it covers his face and his right hand has been brought at the level of his chest — seems to hold a spear. The shield is semi oval and the propax should have been fully visible and maded by an added bronze piece — the same for the spear and sword. Lisas wears a chiton which covers only his left shoulder and a pilos helmet. He is bare-footed (see foo[2]). That is indeed a Pelopennesian War’s scenery — Lisas fought at Decelea — and the uniform is a Spartan one. It is therefore the proof of the Tagean alliance and full integration within the Spartan phalanx. In addition in early representations — from coins c. 350-330 (see pic. I) — we have a nude warrior with corinthian helmet and also a funeral relief from Tegea with a similar representation — the Exemus relief c. 349 (see pic. II). It seems for me, for the last examples, that the figure is an actual representation of the hero Tylepho.

I would be cautious when discussing the Tagean shield device — actually I believe there were more than one in use during the fifth and fourth century. As mentioned, it was suggested that the Greek letter tau — in coins of c. 423-400 — has be used, although, taking in granted the same evidences which used for the tau device, we could afford to suggest three other blazons at the same period: the gorgoneion — depicted in coins c. 423-400 with the three-epsilon —, the three-epsilon — a truly beautiful design from coins with gorgoneia which I believe neatly represent the word ΤΕΓΕ (pic. 3 two first coins) — and the awl — the religious symbol of Athena Alea. Can be positive of the Tegean shields (read about the Spartan shield blazon and the theory of the shield devices )?

1 See A. Andrewes, ‘Sparta and Arcadia in the Early Fifth Century’ in Phoenix, Vol. 6, (1), 1952, pp. 1-5.

2 See BCH vol. 4, (1880), p. 408, pl. VII.


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The article The Tegean Army by Nikolaos Markoulakis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at Sparta: Journal of Ancient Spartan and Greek History.
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