All minifigs shown here were created using custom decals that I designed myself. Don't forget to check out my Decal Shop! Weapons, helmets, and shields by BrickForge.
A row of 6 Spartan hoplites. Male Spartan citizens were known as Spartiates, or "peers," meaning that they had equal status in Spartan society - above the status of the helots, Sparta's slave class. Trained from childhood, Spartan soldiers made up the most disciplined army in ancient Greece.
The word hoplite comes from hoplon, meaning the shield that the hoplites carried. They were heavy infantry spearmen who fought in a formation known as a phalanx.
A shot of the back decals.
A shot of LEGO's Spartan minifig from the first series of collectible minifig blind-bag packs, as compared with mine.
As disciplined as the Spartan hoplites were, they had nothing on the discipline of the Roman legions at the height of Rome's power. The Romans practically invented the art of the drill, pounding discipline into their soldiers every day until each legionary feared the whip of his centurion (commander of approximately 100 troops) even more than his enemy.
Rome took great pride in its military and in the genius of its great generals, men like Scipio Africanus and Julius Caesar. Victorious generals returned home in a great parade known as a Triumph, often accompanied by the dedication of a great triumphal arch, covered in depictions of the battle and the general's glorious victory.
A Roman legionary was armed with a javelin called a pilum, which was designed to bend and possibly break after striking its target, so that it could not be retrieved and used by the enemy. After throwing these spears, the legion would advance, their tower shields locked together, and march over the enemy, cutting them apart with their relatively short swords like a meat grinder. It was a brutal but efficient style of warfare that helped make the Roman Empire one of the largest in history.
Okay, you kids sat through that whole history lesson, so here's some silly pop culture for you:
On the left we have Maximus Decimus Meridius, Russell Crowe's character from the 2000 film Gladiator. A disgraced Roman general fighting to avenge the deaths of his family, Maximus kills the Emperor Commodus in single combat in the arena. This makes for a good movie, but the reality was a little different. While Commodus really was a hated Emperor who fought in the arena many times, he did not die there. Rather, a group of senators conspired against him and sent his wrestling partner to strangle him in his bath. This was in AD 192.
On the right, of course, is one of the Spartans from Frank Miller's graphic novel and subsequent film 300, depicting a fantastical version of the famous Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans (with some often-forgotten help) defended the small pass known as Thermopylae (the hot gates) from an immense army of invading Persians under Xerxes the Great. The comic and film are intentionally exagerrated. Although Spartans did often train in the nude, they wore heavy armor in battle, which was one reason they were able to stand against so many light-armored Persians.
Obligatory "THIS IS SPARTA!" image. Hope you're happy now!
With the exception of the above scene, most of the cool lines in 300 are not the work of Frank Miller; they're taken straight from historical accounts. The Spartans were famous for their dry wit, called "Laconic" after an old name for Sparta. Some examples include:
- Spartan mothers or wives gave a departing warrior his shield with the words: "With this or on it!", implying that he should return (victoriously) with his shield, or (his dead body) upon it, but by no means after saving himself by throwing away his heavy shield and fleeing.
- When the Battle of Thermopylae was about to begin, Xerxes offered to spare the Spartans if they gave up their arms. Leonidas replied "Molon labe" (Greek: Μολών λαβέ), which translates to "Come and take them". Today this is the motto of the Greek 1st Army Corps.
- According to Herodotus, Spartan warrior Dienekes was told that the Persian archers were so numerous that when they fired their volleys, their arrows would blot out the sun. He responded with “So much the better, we'll fight in the shade”. Today Dienekes's phrase is the motto of the Greek 20th Armored Division.
- According to Plutarch, on the morning of the third and final day of the battle, Leonidas, knowing they were being surrounded, said to his men, "Eat well, for tonight we dine in Hades."
- Also according to Plutarch, when asked by a woman from Attica, "Why are you Spartan women the only ones who can rule men?", King Leonidas's wife Gorgo replied, "Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men."
- According to two different historical accounts, when Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great were conquering Greece, they sent a message to Sparta saying something along the lines of, "If I win this war, you will be slaves forever. If I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." To which the Spartans sent a one-word reply: "If."
There can really be no doubt: Spartans were badass.
All minifigs shown here were created using custom decals that I designed myself. Don't forget to check out my Decal Shop!
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