Posted by Guest Blogger: R. A. Denny on October 30, 2014
You have built an ancient Lego MOC. But your ancient minifigs have been challenged and are in danger! Now, what do you do? Of course, you will need to make a hoplite! To do so, take one of your Lego minifigures, put a Corinthian helmet (BW custom Lego Spartan helmet) on his head, a muscled cuirass on his body, and some greaves on his legs. Next equip him with a long thrusting spear, and a short double edged sword (BW Xiphos) or a kopis (BW Spartan sword). Most importantly your hoplite will need a large round concave shield (BW custom Lego Spartan Shield). Now you have a hoplite ready to do battle! Well, not exactly.
Unlike the age of heroes where every man ran out onto the melee on the battlefield and fought for himself, hoplites were effective because they fought together, as one. Hoplites fought in a square formation called a phalanx, which was usually about eight men deep. They stood in rows in which the shield covered part of the body of the next man standing to the left. This means your hoplite is going to need a lot of other hoplites to form an effective phalanx. You will need to equip a group of minifigs, then line them up in a square and march them out to face the challenging army. But, hold on, not so fast!
When they march out to meet the other army, make sure each minifigure holds his shield so it partially overlaps the shield of the man to the left. Those in the front rows should have their spears facing forward, while those in the back should point theirs upward to block incoming arrows. As your minifig phalanx approaches, it will seem to the opposing army like a wall of bronze punctuated with spear points.
Time for your new hoplite to march out to meet the enemy! As the two forces meet, it is fortunate that your hoplite’s shield is concave, so he can still breathe behind it, even in the thick of battle. As those in the back push ever forward, all your hoplite minifig can feel is the crush of the bodies all around him, and all he can hear is screams and dying. Oh no!Your terrified new hoplite breaks ranks! He throws his shield and runs!Now all the minifigs in your phalanx are going to die!
Where did you go wrong? Unfortunately, you forgot to train them! Men do not rise to the occasion, they sink to their level of training. Each Lego minifig hoplite needs to be tough, so tough that he is willing to die rather than ever break rank. He must be trained to be willing to come back with his shield, or dead on top of it.
But how do you train perfect hoplites? Bring them up as Spartans, of course! Once you do, you won’t even need walls for your Spartan city (the men are their walls). The Spartans had a council of old guys. When a baby was born, the old men bathed it in wine and inspected it for strength.If it was weak, it would be left out to die, but if it were deemed strong it would be allowed to stay and grow. At age 7, all the boys went to live in a military school (agoge) where they were given rigorous military and athletic training. They were not given enough food, so they would have to slip out into the woods to hunt for it, or steal it.If they got caught, they were beaten for being caught, not for stealing.They were taught to fight each other, and encouraged to humiliate anyone who fell behind. Spartan boys were not allowed to wear shoes (most minifigs don’t wear shoes anyway). They were given a single cloak (otherwise they went naked) and once a year they were allowed to gather reeds to put on the floor for a bed. All this made them tough!
Since the Spartan men and boys spent almost all their time in athletics and military training, they needed Helots to do all the farming. Each Helot gave his Spartan half of what was produced.The Helots rebelled from time to time, so just in case, the Spartans declared war on them every year. That way the Spartans could kill the Helots if they wanted to.In fact, just before a boy was old enough to join the men, he was given a final task. He was sent out to spy on the Helots. Then he was sent out alone, to travel across the mountains, with no weapon, find a Helot who had been identified as strong, or a rebel, and kill him. Once the boy had completed this task, he could become a true Spartan citizen and join one of the men’s clubs.
A Spartan warrior never got drunk “so that others may not make their decisions for him, but he may make decisions for others.” In fact, Helots were forced to get drunk in front of the Spartan boys to teach the boys how ridiculous people act when they are drunk. Spartan men did not marry until after they were 30 and even after they were married, they lived in barracks with the same 15 men who would fight beside them in battle. They were permitted to live with their wives after age 35, but few chose to do so. Your Spartan minifig will wear his hair long, then just before battle the men will comb and oil each other’s hair, then tie it up so it could not be grabbed by the enemy.
After all this training, now you can send your hoplite Lego minifigure into battle with complete confidence! He has been raised as a Spartan, so he will fight to the death beside his countrymen, even against incredible odds, even if you send him as one of 300 Spartans to face the Persians at Thermopylae.
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