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634884.  Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:18 pm Reply with quote

A wonderful WONDERFUL thing: the 300 badass Spartans who fought at Thermopylae as the King's bodyguard knights were known as...hippeis.

Robin Lane Fox, The Classical World
Penguin Books, 2005, pp 75

Sadurian Mike
634885.  Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:29 pm Reply with quote

Hi Hapenny. Welcome to the forum.

It is not only true, but given that the Spartans embraced male homosexuality, they were gay hippeis. Cartman would be so proud.

Hippeis, by the way, was a term somewhat resembling our "knight", in that it originally referred to a man rich enough to afford his own horse and equipment, and later meant a man of the upper social strata. For the militaristic Spartans it meant an élite warrior who was part of the small royal bodyguard.

At the time of Thermopylae Sparta had not begun raising mounted troops, so the term referred to their élite infantry instead.

634892.  Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:19 pm Reply with quote

Slightly misleading though, hippeis were usually, ie in other Greek states, cavalry (y'know, a horse thing, like hippocampus and hippopotamus) but the Spartans didn't use cavalry until later and even then only at a level of about 1 man in 30. I suppose as an elite royal bodyguard Leonidas's 300 probably were the wealthier element of the young men of Spartan society and were certainly called hippeis though.

Hoplites were generally from the zeugitai, the third tier identified in Solon's social structure and were required to buy their own armour (as of course were hippeis, whether that required a horse or not). Just for the sake of completeness in ascending order of status and wealth the four tiers were thetes, zeugítai, hippeis, and pentacosiomedimnoi.

Sadurian Mike
634900.  Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:09 pm Reply with quote

In Sparta (who were always slightly different thanks to their isolationist nature and geographical position) the social rankings were a little different from those of the other City States.

For them, the ranks were;

The last group, the Neodamodeis, were not generally happy bunnies and tended to side against their countrymen and with the helots (slaves) in times of trouble. There is some evidence from legal documents that the Neodamodeis may have fallen into a strange category between being freemen and slaves themselves, and they may have occupied a similar position to European serfs.


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