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At 9.85 Herodotus states that after the Battle of Plataia, the Lakedaimonians buried their dead in three separate graves: one for the ἱρέες, one for the rest of the Spartiates, and one for helots. Taken together with 9.71, this passage suggests that all of the Spartiates decorated for bravery at Plataia were priests, which seems prima facie improbable. The interpretive challenges presented by 9.85 have been the subject of lively scholarly debate since the eighteenth century because this passage potentially provides important evidence for Spartiates’ funerary, religious, and educational customs. With an eye to facilitating future research, this article offers a detailed conspectus of the extensive collection of relevant scholarship and, in part by drawing upon evidence from the archaeological excavations of the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians in the Kerameikos, identifies one reading, which involves athetizing part of 9.85, as the preferred interpretive approach.
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By Paul Christesen
Summary: At 9.85 Herodotus states that after the Battle of Plataia, the Lakedaimonians
buried their dead in three separate graves: one for the ἱρέες, one for the rest of the Spar-
tiates, and one for helots. Taken together with 9.71, this passage suggests that all of the
Spartiates decorated for bravery at Plataia were priests, which seems prima facie improb-
able. The interpretive challenges presented by 9.85 have been the subject of lively schol-
arly debate since the eighteenth century because this passage potentially provides im-
portant evidence for Spartiates’ funerary, religious, and educational customs. With an
eye to facilitating future research, this article offers a detailed conspectus of the exten-
sive collection of relevant scholarship and, in part by drawing upon evidence from the
archaeological excavations of the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians in the Kerameikos, iden-
tifies one reading, which involves athetizing part of 9.85, as the preferred interpretive
‘The passage has evoked much comment’.
This terse observation from
R.F. Willetts’ 1980 article ‘Herodotus IX 85, 1-2’ is an aptly laconic de-
scription of what might justifiably be called an impressively large body
Willetts 1980. I am grateful to Paul Cartledge, who read and commented upon an
earlier version of this article; to participants in the Celtic Conference in Classics held
in Montreal in July, 2017, where I presented a talk based on this article; and to the
editors of and reviewers for Classica et Mediaevalia. The helpful comments from all of
those sources provided invaluable assistance in improving the argumentation that
follows. Responsibility for errors and oversights is entirely my own.
Paul Christesen Herodotus 9.85 and Spartiate Burial Customs C&M 69 (2021) 1-72.
of scholarship on a brief passage in the Histories in which Herodotus de-
scribes the tombs of the Lakedaimonians at Plataia:
Οἱ δὲ Ἕλληνες, ς ἐν Πλαταιῇσι τὴν ληίην διείλοντο, ἔθαπτον τοὺς
ἑωυτῶν χωρὶς ἕκαστοι. Λακεδαιμόνιοι μὲν τριξὰς ἐποιήσαντο
θήκας· ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος καὶ
Ἀμομφάρετος ἦσαν καὶ Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης· ἐν μὲν δὴ ἑνὶ
τῶν τάφων ἦσαν οἱ ἱρέες, ἐν δὲ τῷ ἑτέρῳ οἱ ἄλλοι Σπαρτιῆται, ἐν δὲ
τῷ τρίτῳ οἱ εἵλωτες.
The Greeks at Plataia, when they had divided up the spoils, buried
their own dead, each people separately. The Lakedaimonians made
three separate burial places. In one they buried the ἱρέες, and among
them Poseidonios and Amompharetos and Philokyon and Kallikrates.
So the ἱρέες were in one grave, and in another the rest of the Sparti-
ates, and in a third the helots. (9.85, trans. D. Grene, modified)
The ancient terminology pertaining to the city of Sparta and the geographical region
and political unit that encompassed the city of Sparta was complex and evolved over
the course of time. It is common practice in the present day to use Sparta in a broad
sense and hence, for example, to write about the ‘Spartan state’ or ‘Spartan warri-
ors’. This usage is in many ways convenient, but it is also vague and potentially mis-
leading, not least because it implicitly equates the entire state with the city of Sparta
and the relatively small group of full citizens, Spartiates, that for the most part lived
in the city of Sparta. In the interests of clarity, Sparta is here given a more restricted
meaning as the designation of an urban center, rather than a state or ethnicity; the
geographical region in which Sparta was located is here called Lakonia; the political
unit in which Sparta was located (a political unit that encompassed the regions of
Lakonia and of Messenia) is here called Lakedaimon. This system of nomenclature is
relatively straightforward, but it does not do justice to the full complexity of the
ancient terminology, on which see Cartledge 2002: 4-5; Shipley 2004: 570-71. The pre-
cise nature of the Lakedaimonian state (whether, for instance, it can be properly
classified as a polis) continues to be a subject of debate. The relevant issues are well
treated in Ducat 2008. (See Ducat 2010 for an abridged version of the same article in
English translation.) Greek words and names have here been transliterated in such
a way as to be as faithful as possible to original spellings while taking into account
established usages for well-known individuals and places. BCE/CE are specified only
in instances where the epoch in question is not immediately evident from context.
The Greek text of the passages from Herodotus here and below is taken from Flower
& Marincola 2002.
The most obvious (but, as will become apparent, by no means the only
possible) translation of ἱρέες is ‘priests’, the specific form being under-
stood as an Ionic dialectal variant of ἱερεύς.
The text of Herodotus 9.85 as transmitted presents two serious diffi-
First, Herodotus mentions the names of four occupants of the
grave of the ἱρέες (Poseidonios, Amompharetos, Philokyon, and Kal-
likrates), and three of those men are characterized by Herodotus as the
Spartiates who most distinguished themselves in the fighting:
κα ἄριστος ἐγένετο μακρῷ Ἀριστόδημος κατὰ γνώμας τὰς ἡμετέρας,
ς ἐκ Θερμοπυλέων μοῦνος τῶν τριηκοσίων σωθεὶς εἶχε ὄνειδος καὶ
ἀτιμίην· μετὰ δὲ τοῦτον ἠρίστευσαν Ποσειδώνιός τε κα Φιλοκύων καὶ
Ἀμομφάρετος Σπαρτιῆται. καίτοι, γενομένης λέσχης ὃς γένοιτο αὐτῶν
ἄριστος, ἔγνωσαν οἱ παραγενόμενοι Σπαρτιητέων Ἀριστόδημον μὲν
βουλόμενον φανερῶς ἀποθανεῖν ἐκ τῆς παρεούσης οἱ αἰτίης,
λυσσῶντά τε κα ἐκλείποντα τὴν τάξιν ἔργα ἀποδέξασθαι μεγάλα,
Ποσειδώνιον δὲ οὐ βουλόμενον ἀποθνῄσκειν ἄνδρα γενέσθαι ἀγαθόν·
τοσούτῳ τοῦτον εἶναι ἀμείνω. ἀλλ ταῦτα μὲν καὶ φθόνῳ ἂν εἴποιεν·
οὗτοι δὲ τοὺς κατέλεξα πάντες, πλὴν Ἀριστοδήμου, τῶν ἀποθανόντων
ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ μάχῃ τίμιοι ἐγένοντο, Ἀριστόδημος δὲ βουλόμενος
ἀποθανεῖν διὰ τὴν προειρημένην αἰτίην οὐκ ἐτιμήθη.
Far the best of the Lakedaimonians was Aristodemos, in my judgment,
who, because he alone of the Three Hundred survived [Thermopylai],
had been shamed and dishonored. After him the bravest were the
Spartiates Poseidonios and Philokyon and Amompharetos. When
there was some dispute about who was actually the bravest, those
Spartiates who were present gave as their judgment that Aristodemos
was but that he had openly wanted to die to redress the dishonor that
lay on him, and that the great deeds he did that day were those of a
man crazy and leaving his rank, but that Poseidonios was not seeking
death in his bravery and so he was much the better man of the two.
They may have urged this out of mere jealousy. All those I mentioned
Flower & Marincola 2002: 255.
were killed in the fight, and were decorated for honor, except Aris-
todemos. But Aristodemos, because he wanted to die, for the reason
just stated, was not honored. (9.71, trans. D. Grene, modified)
The information provided by He-
rodotus, with ἱρέες translated as
‘priests’, can be graphically repre-
sented in the form of a Venn dia-
gram as seen in Figure 1.
Very little is known about
priesthoods in Sparta prior to Ro-
man times, during which period the
rich epigraphic record attests to
the existence of 28 hereditary
priesthoods (some held by women)
and a much smaller number of non-
hereditary priesthoods.
There is
no obvious reason to think that the
number of priesthoods in Classical
Sparta was significantly higher or
that there were large numbers of
Spartiate priests at Plataia.
There were also Spartiate manteis (Xen. Lac.
13.7; Plut. Lyc. 9.3), a hereditary caste of mageiroi (Hdt. 6.60) who played
Spawforth 1992: 230-33. For more detail, see Hupfloher 2000: 31-211.
Parker 1989: 143-44 and Richer 2012: 27-28 point out that there are only two priest-
hoods known in Classical Sparta, both of which were hereditary positions held by
the kings. Rahe has argued that ‘Classical Sparta had a wealthy, landed aristocracy,
and that aristocracy appears to have been constituted as a caste of priests’ (Rahe
1980: 386). The only evidence Rahe cites to defend that statement is Herodotus 9.85
and den Boer’s reading of that passage (on which see below). If Spartiate elites were
indeed a ‘priestly caste’, it is possible that significant numbers of Spartiates held a
religious office of one kind or another, but if so, that practice has left surprisingly
little trace in the literary and epigraphic evidence. Antony Spawforth has also pos-
ited the existence of a priestly aristocracy in Classical Sparta (Cartledge & Spawforth
2002: 152), but only in the sense that certain priesthoods were, as in Athens, heredi-
tary within families. Kennell 1995: 14 specifically rejects the existence of a priestly
aristocracy of any kind in Sparta.
Figure 1: Venn diagram of the infor-
mation supplied by Herodotus about the
occupants of the tomb of the ἱρέες and
about the Spartiates decorated for brav-
a role at public sacrifices, and four Pythioi (Hdt. 6.57) who helped main-
tain Lakedaimon’s close relationship with Delphi.
The individuals filling
these positions may have come under the heading of ἱρέες for the pur-
poses of battlefield burial.
Given the evidence at our disposal, it seems unlikely that there were
more than fifty priesthoods in Sparta at the time of Plataia or that there
were more than fifty Spartiates present at Plataia who were priests or
who could be counted under that heading when it came time to bury the
It would, therefore, be a nearly unbelievable coincidence that all
three of the men decorated for bravery (Poseidonios, Philokyon, Amom-
pharetos) happened to be priests (as would naturally follow from the fact
that they were buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες, with ἱρέες translated as
The improbability of such an overlap is perhaps more obvious
when represented graphically; in Figure 2 the size of each circle
For more detail, see Richer 2012: 253-66.
Lupi 2006: 193 has argued that ‘had Herodotus simply wished to say that the soldiers
buried in the first tomb were not really priests, but more generically “holy” men
he would have used the term ἱροί, as he does elsewhere in his Histories’. However, it
is entirely possible that Herodotus did in fact mean to say that the men buried in the
first tomb were priests. Moreover, Herodotus seems in some instances to use the
terms ἱρεύς and ἱρός (as a substantive) interchangeably. See, for example, 2.54.1 and
Some of those fifty priesthoods will have been held by women and so, by definition,
not everyone holding a priesthood in Sparta could conceivably have been present in
the Spartiate ranks at Plataia. Moreover, Herodotus’ Demaratos states that there
were 8,000 Spartiates in his time (7.234.2), and Herodotus puts Spartiate strength at
Plataia at 5,000, and hence at a little less than two-thirds of their total number. We
might assume, therefore, there was a maximum of fifty Spartiates at Plataia who
could have been construed as ἱρέες even if that group included religious officials
other than priests.
The problem is neatly stated in Parker 1989: 163 n. 4.
represents each of the groups in proportion to their actual numbers.
How, one might wonder, could it be that a group representing (at most)
1% of the total number of the Spartiates at Plataia produced 100% of the
Spartiates decorated for brav-
A second difficulty is the ab-
sence of any mention of a
grave for the perioikoi. The
basic sociopolitical groupings
within Lakedaimonian society
were Spartiates, perioikoi, and
helots. Herodotus (9.10-11, 28)
states that there were 10,000
Lakedaimonian hoplites at Pla-
taia, 5,000 Spartiates and 5,000
perioikoi, and that each Sparti-
ate brought with him seven
helots, who served as light-
armed auxiliaries. The Lakedai-
monian forces engaged in a des-
perate battle with a numerically
superior enemy and suffered casualties, though Herodotus supplies spe-
cific numbers only for the Spartiates. (He states that 91 Spartiates were
) One would, therefore, expect that if the Lakedaimonians made
three graves, then the Spartiates, perioikoi, and helots would each have
had a grave of their own.
But, according to Herodotus, two graves were
9.70, reading Λακεδαιμονίων δὲ τῶν ἐκ Σπάρτης as Spartiates. Richer (1994: 66; 2012:
171-72) suggests an alternative reading of this phrase, namely that it anticipates 9.85
and describes Spartiates and perioikoi as a group that was buried in a single tomb.
That is, however, difficult to reconcile with ἐκ Σπάρτης. On the Lakedaimonian cas-
ualties at Plataia, see Flower & Marincola 2002: 230-31. The figure of 10,000 Greek
casualties given in Diodorus 11.33.1 is part and parcel of the wildly inflated numbers
that Diodorus assigns to all aspects of the battle (e.g. 400,000 men from the Persian
forces fleeing with Artabazos, 11.33.1).
See, for instance, Richer 1994: 64-6; 2012: 170-71. Herodotus himself was certainly
aware of the perioikoi and their status. See, for example, 6.58, 7.234.
Figure 2: The pattern of decoration for bravery
among Spartiates at Plataia according to Herod-
otus 9.85 (with ἱρέες translated as ‘priests’).
dedicated to Spartiates and one to helots, leaving the perioikoi unac-
counted for.
An important piece of information to keep in mind is that the manu-
scripts of Herodotus’ work fall into two families, both of which begin
with manuscripts from the tenth century CE.
The variation among the
two families is not great, and all of the manuscripts provide a text of 9.85
that differs only in minute details from one exemplar to the next.
difficulties with 9.85 cannot, as a result, be resolved by adopting a read-
ing provided by one manuscript but not another.
Some sort of scholarly exegesis is therefore required in order to make
sense of 9.85, and, as Willetts observed, scholars have written prolifically
about this passage, starting in the middle of the eighteenth century and
continuing through the present day.
The proposed interpretations in-
clude, but are not limited to, assigning to ἱρέες the meaning of ‘men who
fought heroically’ and emending ἱρέες to either ἰρένες (an age-class of
young men in the Spartiate educational system) or ἱππέες (members of
an elite Spartiate infantry unit). For obvious reasons, the varied ap-
proaches to interpreting 9.85 result in very different readings of the pas-
sage and equally divergent understandings of its significance.
This is a good moment to reconsider 9.85 on a holistic basis because it
is now possible to bring into the discussion much more fully than before
archaeological evidence for Spartiate burial practice. Numerous sources
show that, starting in the mid-sixth century at the latest, Lakedaimonian
For brief overviews of the manuscripts, see Flower & Marincola 2002: 48-49; Wilson
2015b: vol. 1, ix-x. For more detailed discussion, see McNeal 1983; Rosén 1987-97: vol.
1, xxiv-lxvii. Although a certain number of relevant papyrus fragments have been
published, none has as yet appeared for Book 9 (though some are expected to be
published soon) (Flower & Marincola 2002: 48; Wilson 2015b: vol. 1, ix; cf. the cau-
tionary note at West 2011: 71). None of the few published scholia for Book 9 (which
can be found in Asheri, Vannicelli, Corcella & Fraschetti 2006: 165-67) pertain to 9.85.
The most complete apparatus criticus can be found in Rosén’s Teubner from 1987-
The relevant secondary literature cited here ranges from Wesseling’s 1763 edition of
Herodotus to a book of textual studies published by Wilson in 2015. 9.85 was certainly
commented upon prior to 1763, but I have not made an effort to trace the earlier
scholarship because it has left no discernible traces in subsequent interpretations of
9.85, whereas Wesseling’s edition suggests an emendation of 9.85 that is found in
Rosén’s Teubner edition from 1997.
soldiers who had been killed in battle were buried in polyandria either on
the battlefield itself or in the territory of a nearby friendly community.
Other than 9.85, however, none of those sources has anything to say
about the nature of those polyandria. The only known and excavated
Lakedaimonian polyandrion the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians in the
Athenian Kerameikos was built for Lakedaimonian soldiers who were
killed while on duty in Athens in 403. That tomb was first excavated in
1915 and then again in the 1930s.
However, due to World War I and II,
many of the relevant records and finds were lost, and the results of the
excavations were incompletely published. With that in mind, a team
from the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut at Athens carefully re-ex-
amined the tomb starting in 2002, and a preliminary report of the results
appeared in 2006. That report substantially revises earlier understand-
ings of the tomb, and we are now much better equipped than before to
bring 9.85 and this tomb into a productive dialog with each other.
The precise meaning of 9.85 has also taken on new importance due to
the major strides that have recently been made in our understanding of
burial practice in the city of Sparta. Up through the year 1995 there were
less than a dozen known graves from the city of Sparta for the entire span
of time starting in the Protogeometric period and going down through
the end of the Classical period, and not a single organized cemetery from
that time span had been found in Sparta. As a result, our knowledge of
burial practice in Sparta came almost entirely from a few, brief passages
in the literary sources.
All that changed with a series of rescue excavations undertaken in
Sparta since 1995, which turned up not only numerous graves, but also
the first known organized cemetery that was in use in the post-Myce-
naean / pre-Hellenistic period. It is now clear that during the Archaic
and Classical periods the inhabitants of Sparta buried their dead both in
organized cemeteries located on the periphery of the city and in small
plots located in the densely inhabited portion of the urban core. The
practice of burying individuals, many of whom seem to have been adults,
both in liminal cemeteries and in the heart of the city of Sparta raises the
See Section 2 for further discussion.
See Section 2 for further details and citation of the relevant sources.
question of who was being buried in different parts of the city. The ar-
chaeological and epigraphic evidence from Sparta, at least at present,
provide no immediate answer to that question. That, in turn, makes us
reliant on literary sources.
One possible interpretation of 9.85 is that Spartiate priests who died
in combat were buried separately from other Spartiate casualties so that
the Lakedaimonians killed in any given battle were placed in at least two
distinct battlefield graves. That possibility is perhaps reinforced by a pas-
sage from Plutarch’s Lycurgus (27.1-2), which sketches the restrictions
placed on burials in Sparta and which includes the claim that only men
who died in war and ἱεραί had the right to an inscribed grave marker.
The meaning of ἱεραί has been the subject of much discussion; recent
scholarship has interpreted ἱεραί to be female religious officials of some
As a result, one possible interpretation of Herodotus 9.85, taken to-
gether with Lycurgus 27.1-2, may indicate that the male and female Spar-
tiate religious officials received special forms of burial. That in turn sug-
gests that it was members of that group who were buried within the set-
tled area of the city of Sparta. This would represent a major and previ-
ously unknown divergence between burial practice in Sparta and the rest
of the Greek world and would provide important new information about
Spartiate society. On the other hand, if the Spartiates buried in a separate
grave at Plataia were men who had fought heroically, young men, or
members of an elite Spartiate infantry unit (all interpretations that have
been proposed and that are discussed below), then a different range of
possibilities must be considered with respect to the identity of the indi-
viduals buried in the heart of Sparta’s urban fabric. The interpretation of
9.85 thus has potentially significant ramifications for our understanding
of Spartiate burial practices, both on battlefields and in Sparta itself.
Herodotus 9.85 is also a locus classicus for treatments of the Spartiate
educational system. A proposed emendation from ἱρέες to ἰρένες would
On the literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence for Spartiate burial prac-
tices, see Hodkinson 2000: 237-70; Cartledge 2012. Neither of those sources discuss
the results from the new excavations in Sparta, which are treated in Tsouli 2013;
2016; and Christesen 2019.
See Section 3.1 for further discussion.
make 9.85 the earliest reference to age-classes in the Spartiate educa-
tional system. That emendation has been widely accepted (see Section
3.3), and, as a result, 9.85 and the question of whether the emendation
in question should be accepted have been important components of
scholarly work on Spartiate education. Those issues are, for example, ex-
plored in detail in Kennell and Ducat’s recent monographs.
Other bodies of scholarship have also made regular use of 9.85. For
instance, if the ἱρέες were indeed priests, then 9.85 becomes one of the
very few pieces of evidence for the number and status of Spartiate priests
in the Classical period. It has, therefore, been regularly cited in discus-
sions of Spartiate religion.
In a very different vein, 9.85 is featured in an
article published by Cotter in 1992 that attempts to supply an etymology
for εἴρων.
9.85 thus stands at the intersection of several heavily-traveled schol-
arly pathways. Despite the efforts invested in interpreting it, this part of
the Histories has resisted definitive exegesis, and over the course of dec-
ades and centuries, a thoroughly confusing thicket of scholarly literature
has grown up around it. To extend the metaphor, the trees have multi-
plied to the point of obscuring the forest.
It has, as a result, become challenging for anyone interested in 9.85 to
make sense of the relevant scholarship without investing a great deal of
time and effort. Most of that scholarship presents a particular reading of
the passage oriented toward a specific subject (e.g., Spartiate age-clas-
ses), and to the extent that overviews exist, they are distinctly incom-
plete in their coverage.
For someone encountering the interpretive
challenges of 9.85 for the first time, the corpus of secondary literature is
daunting and can, because it is replete with mutually exclusive hypoth-
eses, produce more disorientation than enlightenment.
The primary purpose of this article is, so to speak, to offer a map of
the forest. More specifically, the aim is to provide a wide-ranging review
of the various readings of 9.85 that have been suggested and of the
strengths and weaknesses of each of those readings. Though the text that
Kennell 1995: 14-16; Ducat 2006: 94-95.
See, for instance, Parker 1989: 163 n. 4; Toher 1999: 118-26.
Cotter 1992.
Willetts 1980 is the most relevant example, but see also Gilula 2003 and Makres 2009.
follows grew out of my own research on Spartiate burial practices, it is
non-denominational in the sense that it is not oriented toward any spe-
cific subject.
It is important to emphasize that I make no claim to offering a new
reading of 9.85 or to identifying any particular pre-existing reading as
definitively preferable. Rather, the goal of this article is to streamline as
much as possible the task of comprehending what has been said to date
about 9.85 and, in the process, to facilitate the work of scholars inter-
ested in this part of the Histories. A more aspirational goal is to catalyze
new research that finally cuts what has so far proved to be an interpre-
tive Gordian knot. That said, I do, at the end of the article, highlight what
I consider to be the most likely solutions to the two primary difficulties
with 9.85: (1) the overlap between Herodotus’ list of the bravest Sparti-
ates and his list of the occupants of the tomb of the ἱρέες, and (2) the
absence of any mention of a grave for the perioikoi. I suggest that the
phrase ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν κα Ποσειδώνιος καὶ
Ἀμομφάρετος ἦσαν κα Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης should be
athetized and that the perioikoi were placed in the same tomb that held
the Spartiate casualties who were not ἱρέες.
Exegesis of 9.85 is hindered by the near-total absence of other sources of
information about precisely how the Lakedaimonians buried their dead
on battlefields. As mentioned above, there are a sufficient number of ref-
erences to show that it was habitual Lakedaimonian practice, starting in
the middle of the sixth century at the latest, to bury casualties on the
battlefields where they had been killed, or in the territory of a nearby
friendly community.
(This stood in obvious contrast to the Athenian
practice, starting in the early years of the fifth century, of bringing home
soldiers’ remains for burial in the Demosion Sema.
) However, literary
Pritchett 1974-91: vol. 4, 241-46.
For the dating of the beginning of burials in the Demosion Sema and the related fu-
nerary practices, see Arrington 2010.
sources other than Herodotus have little to say about the details of
Lakedaimonian battlefield burials. Pausanias, for example, describes the
tombs at Plataia as follows:
Just at the entrance into Plataia are the graves of the men who fought
against the Medes. There are separate graves for the Lacedaemonians
and Athenians who fell, and elegies of Simonides are carved upon
them. The rest of the Greeks are buried in a common tomb.
trans. J. Frazer)
The relevant archaeological evidence consists solely of the Tomb of the
Lakedaimonians in Athens (discussed in detail below). None of the tombs
Herodotus mentions at Plataia have been found,
and none of the other
known polyandria for Lakedaimonian soldiers killed in battle have been
excavated. The result is that we cannot rapidly resolve the two afore-
mentioned problems (the overlap between those decorated for bravery
and the occupants of the tomb of the ἱρέες, the absence of a tomb for the
perioikoi) by reading 9.85 against a collection of other textual or archae-
ological evidence that would provide immediate insight into how
Lakedaimonians were buried on battlefields.
One immediate possibility is that the two aforementioned problems
with 9.85 are related in the sense that Herodotus may have simply been
misinformed about the nature of the Lakedaimonian graves at Plataia
and that all the Spartiates were buried in a single grave, the perioikoi in a
second grave, the helots in a third. Within the bounds of that scenario,
the listing of Poseidonios, Philokyon, Amompharetos, and Kallikrates as
the occupants of the grave of the ἱρέες is easily understood. These four
Spartiates are discussed in some detail in 9.71-72, indicating that Herod-
otus had a special interest in them. In listing the occupants of the grave
On the other ancient references to the tombs at Plataia (none of which is informative
for the issues under consideration here), see Pritchett 1974-91: vol. 4, 174-75; Asheri,
Vannicelli, Corcella & Fraschetti 2006: 290. For a full conspectus of the ancient liter-
ary sources for the Plataia campaign as a whole, see Wright 1904: 119-43. The major
addition to the list of sources provided by Wright is the New Simonides, on which
see Section 3.5.
Asheri, Vannicelli, Corcella & Fraschetti 2006: 291.
of the ἱρέες, which was (in this scenario) really a common grave for all
Spartiates, he simply repeated the names of four Spartiates who had died
in the battle and in whom he had a special interest. As for assigning one
of the three graves solely to Spartiate ἱρέες, it is entirely possible that
one or more of the 91 Spartiate casualties were priests. Herodotus’ two
Spartiate graves would thus be a thoroughly confused description of a
single grave for all Spartiate casualties that included, but was not limited
to, one or more Spartiate ἱρέες.
The question then becomes whether there is reason to believe that
Herodotus’ account of the Lakedaimonian graves at Plataia is, at least in
general terms, reliable. It would in fact be rather surprising if Herodotus
went awry on this point. The entire narrative trajectory of the Histories
finds its culmination in the Greek victory at Plataia, and the Lakedaimon-
ians play a central role in Herodotus’ description of the battle. Herodotus
had every reason, therefore, to take considerable care with the details of
everything pertaining to Plataia in general and the Lakedaimonians at
Plataia in particular. The continuing importance of the graves of the
Greek soldiers who died and were buried at Plataia is apparent in the
speech Thucydides gives to the Plataians pleading for mercy from the
Lakedaimonians in 427. In that speech the Plataians emphasize the regu-
lar offerings they made at the Lakedaimonian tombs (3.58.4). Moreover,
Herodotus was researching and writing at a time when many of the
Greek soldiers who fought at Plataia were still alive, and it seems prima
facie unlikely that an erroneous description of the Lakedaimonian graves
there could have gone unnoticed and uncorrected.
There are, nonetheless, several discrepancies between the infor-
mation provided by Herodotus about the graves at Plataia and that found
in other, later sources. Herodotus (9.85) lists eight distinct graves (three
for the Lakedaimonians; one each for the Tegeans, Athenians, Megarians,
and Phliasians; and a later cenotaph for the Aeginetans) and says that
there were other cenotaphs. Thucydides (2.34.5) states that Athenian
casualties were always buried in Athens except in the case of Marathon.
I have not seen this argument laid out in the way it is articulated here, but Macan
(1908: vol 1.2, 770) reaches a roughly similar conclusion with slightly different rea-
Pausanias (9.2.5) mentions only three graves (Lakedaimonians, Atheni-
ans, the rest of the Greeks). Plutarch in his biography of Aristides (10-21)
gives an account of Plataia that differs from that of Herodotus in a num-
ber of respects, and in his On the Malice of Herodotus (Mor. 871e-873d)
rectly contradicts Herodotus’ claim about cenotaphs at Plataia.
These discrepancies do not, either individually or collectively, pre-
sent compelling reason to doubt the accuracy of Herodotus’ description
of the graves of the Lakedaimonians at Plataia. Thucydides’ statement
occurs in a passage that introduces Pericles’ epitaphios, and, in the course
of doing so, he cites Marathon as the exception to the rule that Athenians
buried their war dead in the Kerameikos. Modern commentators have
consistently, and reasonably, presumed that Thucydides cites the most
obvious exception but makes no pretense of supplying a complete list of
Pausanias visited Plataia six centuries after the battle was
fought, and, as Michael Flower and John Marincola point out,
‘Paus[anias]’s statements cannot be used to correct H[erodotus], and
whatever Paus[anias] saw, it was not likely the same thing that stood
there 600 years before’.
Marincola has argued persuasively that the divergences between the
account of Plataia and its aftermath supplied by Herodotus on one hand
and by Plutarch on the other can be attributed in large part to Plutarch’s
On the Malice of Herodotus is currently, contrary to past practice, taken to be a genuine
work of Plutarch. See Bowen 1992: 2-3; Marincola 2016: 103 and n. 9. For a text and
English translation, see Bowen 1992.
Plutarch argues that what Herodotus called cenotaphs were actual graves for casu-
alties suffered by the forces of various cities that Herodotus disliked and hence
sought to denigrate by effacing their role in the victory at Plataia. The most likely
explanation of the situation is that some Greek communities buried their dead at
Plataia, whereas others repatriated the remains of the casualties for burial at home.
As Plataia developed into something of a national shrine, the absence of a grave
there became a problem for communities that had sent forces to Plataia and that had
repatriated their dead. The solution to that problem was to erect a cenotaph at the
site; Aegina, for example, built a cenotaph for its Plataia dead ten years after the
battle. See further the discussion in Bowen 1992: 146.
Hornblower 1991-2008: vol. 1, 294.
Flower & Marincola 2002: 254.
desire to make Plataia into a triumph of a culturally harmonious Panhel-
lenic army over a non-Greek invader.
Herodotus’ description of the
graves at Plataia was a problem for Plutarch in that they were overt signs
that the victory was due to the efforts of just a handful of Greek commu-
nities with different burial customs.
It is also important to note that Herodotus’ description of the Lakedai-
monian graves at Plataia is consonant with what we now know about the
tomb in the Athenian Kerameikos for the men killed during King Pausa-
nias’ expedition to Athens in 403. Xenophon describes the casualties
from Pausanias’ expedition as follows:
And there died Chairon and Thibrachos, both polemarchs [high-rank-
ing officers], and Lakrates the Olympic victor and other Lakedaimon-
ians who lie buried in front of the city gates in the Kerameikos. (Hell.
2.4.33, trans. S. Hodkinson)
The tomb described by Xenophon has been identified with a high degree
of certainty. It is located in the Kerameikos, about 100 meters north of
the Dipylon Gate, alongside the western edge of the road leading from
the Dipylon Gate to the Academy.
The finds from the excavations of the
tomb include a number of red-figure vases produced in Lakonia (such
vases are very rarely found outside of Lakedaimon
). In addition, a 2.2
meter-long block (see Figure 3) with the following inscription, written
retrograde and in the Lakonian alphabet,
was found 4.5 m to the east of
the tomb, built into a Roman foundation wall:
Marincola 2016.
For the location of the tomb, see the useful plans of the area provided in Arrington
2010: 512, figures 2-4. The tomb is not mentioned by Pausanias in his description of
the area (1.29), but it is referenced by Lysias (2.63).
McPhee 1986: 158 n. 37; Stroszeck 2014b: 138-40, 141 n. 17.
On the reasons why the inscription is retrograde, see van Hook 1932. The block with
the inscription is Hymettian marble (Peek 1941: 40).
litteris singulis inter nomina scriptis
col. I.1 Θίβρακος
col. II.1 Χαρον
col. III.1
The large lambda and alpha are plausibly restored as the beginning of
Λακεδαιμόνιοι, and there can be no doubt about the names Chairon and
There has been continuing discussion as to whether a letter
that begins the next casualty name is visible on the left margin of the
stone and whether that letter is a lambda or mu.
This was the first of
several blocks (the inscription in its original form would have been c. 12
m long) that ran to the left of the sole extant piece of the inscription.
The tomb was discovered in 1914 and excavated in 1915 and the 1930s.
Publication of the results of those excavations remained incomplete due
The letters are in the Lakonian rather than Ionic alphabet, hence there is what might
seem to be a psi at the beginning of Chairon’s name. Xenophon spells Thibrachos
with a chi, whereas the inscription uses a kappa. An alternate restoration of Λάκωνες
(instead of Λακεδαιμόνιοι) was originally suggested and has recently been raised
again in Kienlin 2003: 121.
On this inscription, see Peek 1941: 40-41; Matthaiou 2006; Ruggeri, Siewert &
Steffelbauer 2007: 182-84. On the question of the letter on the left margin of the
stone, see van Hook 1932: 291; Peek 1941: 41; Willemsen 1977: 136 (all of whom argue
for a mu) as well as Pritchett 1974-91: vol. 4, 134 n. 123 (who seems inclined to read
a lambda). Kienlin (2003: 116-18, 121) argues that the inscription belonged to some
other monument because it was too long to fit on the tomb in question. Stroszeck,
however, explicitly connects the inscription with the tomb in question (‘An der
korrekten Zuweisung der Inschrift zu diesem Grabbau kann kein ernsthafter Zweifel
bestehen’, Stroszeck 2006: 102), and the reasoning behind Kienlin’s suggestion is re-
futed in Arrington’s recent study of the Demosion Sema (Arrington 2010: 512 n. 85).
Figure 3: Drawing of inscribed block from the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians in the Athe-
nian Kerameikos (IG II2 11678).
to the loss of materials (both records and finds) during World Wars I and
II. The tomb was re-examined in 1961 to record the extant remains,
which had been damaged since the last round of excavations and for
which detailed plans were not available; the results were published in
brief reports in the years that followed.
In 2002 a team, led by Jutta
Stroszeck from the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut at Athens, began
a new series of excavations, and preliminary reports of the results began
appearing in print in 2006. A final, full report has not yet been pub-
The Tomb of the Lakedaimonians forms part of a series of tombs that
are distinct from each other, but still physically proximate or actually
physically connected. There has been, therefore, some discussion as to
where the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians begins and ends. This task has
been complicated by the facts that the tomb was built in multiple phases
and that the area saw a great deal of later activity.
Stroszeck argues persuasively that the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians
is the structure that, in its finished form, held the skeletons numbered 1-
17 and 19-24 in Figure 4.
She disassociates Skeletons 18 and 25 from the
Tomb of the Lakedaimonians on the grounds that those burials are situ-
ated at a higher level and show significant differences in the disposition
of remains (most obviously, the skeletons are aligned parallel to the
That conclusion is reinforced by disparities in construction.
Ohly 1961-62; 1965: 314-22.
The discussion provided here is based primarily on Stroszeck 2006; Stroszeck &
Pitsios 2008; and Stroszeck 2014a: 254-65, though see also Kienlin 2003; Pitt 2010: 6-
7; and Marchiandi 2014. See Marchiandi 2014: 1331 for a listing of earlier bibliog-
Kienlin 2003 decisively refutes the mooted connection between the Tomb of the
Lakedaimonians and the monumental tomb, labeled by the German excavators as
Staatsgrab am dritten Horos, just to the north. In some sections of the Tomb of the
Lakedaimonians, multiple corpses were interred in a single pit (e.g. Skeletons 1-6)
and hence it is more precise, in discussing certain sections of the tomb, to talk about
particular skeletons rather than particular burials.
Skeleton 18 seems to be a later intrusion. The structures labeled a-c in Figure 4 all
seem to have been used as spaces for making offerings for the dead. Structure c was
built around a pre-existing sarcophagus burial (Willemsen 1977: 137; Stroszeck
2014a: 261-62).
The structure around Skeletons 1-24 is built from poros
ashlar blocks, whereas the structures labeled a-c in Fig-
ure 4 are built from mud brick.
It is now evident, as a result of the new excavations,
that the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians was built in multi-
ple construction phases, all of which seem to have been
carried out within a relatively short space of time. In the
first phase, two burial pits were made, one for Skeletons
1-6 and another for Skeletons 7-9; a mud-brick funerary
structure was erected over Skeletons 1-6 and a low tu-
mulus was raised over Skeletons 7-9. In a second phase,
the mud-brick funerary structure and the low tumulus
were removed, and two separate tombs were built, one
for Skeletons 1-9 (the Kernbau) and one for Skeleton 15
(the Turmbau). The Kernbau was then extended to the
south and the north, in order to accommodate Skeletons
10-14 and 16. (As a result, the originally separate Kern-
bau and Turmbau were connected.) Finally, the Turmbau
was extended to the north for Skeletons 17 and 19-24.
The aforementioned inscription was positioned either
over the Kernbau, or over both the Kernbau and the sec-
tion of the tomb holding Skeletons 10-14.
In the third
quarter of the fourth century, a boundary stone for the
Kienlin 2003: 113-14.
The reason why the burials were made episodically but over a short period of time
remains unclear. Stroszeck suggests that some men died from their wounds or that
further skirmishes were fought in which the Lakedaimonian detachment suffered
casualties. It is noteworthy that Skeleton 14 is situated at a higher level than Skele-
tons 10-13, likely because the individual that became Skeleton 14 died while the
Figure 4: Arrangement of burials in the Tomb of the Lakedai-
monians in the Athenian Kerameikos the edges of the Tomb
of the Lakedaimonians are indicated by dotted lines (based on
Stroszeck 2006: 102 figure 1).
Kerameikos was erected in the middle of the tomb’s façade.
The tomb originally consisted of five courses of limestone ashlar
blocks (many of which had been used in an earlier, unknown structure).
The topmost course of masonry was slightly set back, giving the tomb a
stepped façade. The Turmbau had additional courses of masonry so that
it was slightly higher than the rest of the structure (see Figure 5). The
interior of the tomb was filled with earth; there is no evidence that it had
a built covering of any kind. In its finished form the tomb measured 3.77
m wide, c. 24 m long, and c. 2.5 m high.
All of the 23 individuals interred in the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians
are male, and all of the burials are inhumations; the bodies were placed
in an extended supine position with their heads facing roughly east. The
tomb surrounding Skeletons 10-13 was under construction (Pitt 2010: 6-7). This sug-
gests a compressed timeframe in which the Lakedaimonians continued to suffer cas-
The area in which the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians stood had previously been occu-
pied by the northern wing of a bathhouse and part of a pottery workshop. Those
structures were destroyed shortly before the tomb was built, presumably in the
course of events during the Peloponnesian War.
bodies seem to have been wrapped tightly in cloth at the time of burial,
which is in accord with later literary sources stating that Spartiate sol-
diers were buried in their phoinikides.
The only grave good is an alabas-
ter alabastron found alongside Skeleton 15. (A considerable amount of
pottery, the remnants of sacrifices carried out during the burial process,
was found in the upper levels of the tomb, but was not associated with
any particular skeleton(s).)
In the present context it is particularly salient that the burials in the
Tomb of the Lakedaimonians display a considerable degree of differenti-
ation. In the initial phase, two separate burial pits were dug, and each
burial pit received its own, distinct marker. In the second phase, two sep-
arate structures were built (the Kernbau and the Turmbau), one of which
(the Turmbau) held a single individual who was provided with the only
grave good found in the tomb as a whole and who, unlike all of the other
interred individuals, was buried in a sarcophagus. Furthermore, the
Kernbau was subdivided into two sections (one holding Skeletons 1-6 and
the other for Skeletons 7-9) by an interior cross wall. Skeletons 7-9 were
further distinguished by the fact that two stones were placed under the
head of each corpse, whereas Skeletons 1-6 received just one stone
In addition, a large stone was placed on the north side of Skeleton
8 so that Skeletons 8-9 were separated from Skeleton 7. In the same vein,
Skeletons 17 and 19-24 were interred at the same time, but Skeletons 17
and 24 were given spatially distinct graves, whereas Skeletons 19-23
shared a single section of the tomb.
The design of the inscription, with names of individuals interspersed
among the letters spelling Λακεδαιμόνιοι, would naturally accommodate
the listing of up to 15 casualties (presuming that one casualty name was
listed on each side of each letter in Λακεδαιμόνιοι) and could, therefore,
have included the names of all the individuals buried in the southern
part of the tomb, over which the inscription was positioned, as well as
Ael. VH 6.6; Plut. Lyc. 27.1-2, Mor. 238d; though see also the cautionary comments at
van Wees 2018: 221. A number of the skeletons include remains of the weapons that
were the cause of death. On those weapons, see Baitinger 1999. On the phoinikis, see
Xen. Lac. 11.3.
The stones in question probably originally supported a pillow made from perishable
the name of the individual buried in the Turmbau. Even so, it is notewor-
thy that the names supplied at the beginning of the inscription are those
of the two commanders, whose rank is clearly specified. Stroszeck sug-
gests that Skeletons 8 and 9 (the remains of individuals who were ap-
proximately 33 years old and 50 years old, respectively, at their time of
death) are the bodies of the polemarchs Chairon and Thibrakos and that
Skeleton 7 (approximately 20 years old at time of death) is the body of
the Olympic victor Lakrates.
Some caution is in order when using this tomb to help interpret 9.85.
Insofar as it was built in an urban center and in an area of that urban
center previously used for burials, it was sited differently from most
other polyandria for Lakedaimonian casualties. In addition, it was built in
an openly hostile community that may have imposed restrictions of var-
ious kinds on the Lakedaimonians. Finally, this tomb was constructed
nearly 80 years after those in Plataia, and it is entirely possible that there
was a significant element of diachronic change with respect to how
Lakedaimonians buried their casualties, change of which we are unaware
due to the lack of detail in the relevant sources.
On the other hand, many features of the tomb are emphatically
Lakedaimonian. This is most immediately evident in the use of the
Lakonian alphabet in the inscription, and the presence in the tomb of
ceramics that were made in Lakonia and rarely exported.
In addition,
the inscription on the tomb, which stretched for more than 10 meters
and faced a road leading out from a busy city gate, boldly proclaimed
Λακεδαιμόνιοι in large letters. There is, therefore, good reason to believe
that the tomb reflects Lakedaimonian preferences and practices.
Spartiate Olympic victors enjoyed considerable prestige and were given the privi-
lege of being stationed alongside the king in the Lakedaimonian phalanx (Christesen
2010; 2012: 228). Willemsen 1977 argued that Lakrates was neither a Spartiate nor
buried in this tomb but rather an Athenian cavalryman who fought on the side of
the Lakedaimonians. This suggestion was rejected by Moretti in the context of his
magisterial research on Olympic victors (Moretti 1987: 119; cf. Moretti 1957: 109) and
more recently in Kienlin 2003.
The vases in question came to Athens either as the personal property of the soldiers
in the Lakedaimonian army unit stationed in Athens or were specially commissioned
from Lakonian potters for the burial. See the discussion in Stroszeck 2006: 108-15.
A potentially relevant factor with respect to diachronic change is that
the Lakedaimonian army seems to have undergone some sort of struc-
tural reform in the latter part of the fifth century (and hence between
the time of Plataia and the construction of the Tomb of the Lakedaimon-
ians in the Kerameikos). The relevant sources offer piecemeal and con-
tradictory information that remains difficult to assemble into an entirely
satisfactory whole. In general terms, however, it would appear that an
important part of the army reform was the closer integration of perioikoi
and Spartiates within Lakedaimonian military units.
That reform is ger-
mane to the issues under discussion here because it is possible that the
shift in the organization of army units was accompanied by changes in
burial practices. More specifically, the greater integration of perioikoi and
Spartiates could have brought with it a convergence in how members of
those two groups who had been killed in battle were buried. One might,
for example, speculate that whereas Herodotus makes no explicit men-
tion of burial arrangements for the perioikoi at Plataia, the Tomb of the
Lakedaimonians in Athens may have held both perioikoi and Spartiates.
It is, however, important to bear in mind that the Lakedaimonian sol-
diers buried in Athens were separated into multiple tombs with certain
individuals being buried with special care, evidently on the basis of mil-
itary rank (the polemarchs) or social status (the Olympic victor). For pre-
sent purposes, whether the tomb in Athens held only Spartiates or both
Spartiates and perioikoi is not a primary consideration. Rather, the key
point is that the Lakedaimonians, when burying their casualties, initially
built distinct tombs for different groups of individuals and treated the
corpses buried in those tombs differently.
Hence the design and internal arrangements of the only excavated
Lakedaimonian polyandrion resonate strongly with Herodotus’ descrip-
tion of the Lakedaimonian tombs at Plataia. In both cases we encounter
multiple, distinct graves for Lakedaimonian casualties from a single mil-
itary engagement. That lends considerable credibility to Herodotus’
claim that there were two graves for Spartiates at Plataia, one of which
held a group that he (probably) designates as ἱρέες.
See the discussions in Anderson 1970: 225-51; Cartledge 2002: 217-20; and Lipka 2002:
255-64. Cf. Lazenby 1985: 13-20, who argues that the perioikoi were always only mar-
ginally important in the Lakedaimonian army.
There is, therefore, good reason to believe that Herodotus’ account of
the Lakedaimonian tombs at Plataia is, at least in general terms, reliable.
That in turn means that the difficulties with 9.85 cannot be dismissed as
the result of Herodotus being badly informed. A different explanation is
Most of the scholarly discussion of 9.85 has focused on one of the two
problems with the passage: the striking overlap between Herodotus’ list
of Lakedaimonians decorated for bravery and his list of the occupants of
the grave of the ἱρέες. This can, as a convenient shorthand, be called the
overlap problem.
Six basic solutions, or minor variants thereon, have been proposed for
the overlap problem.
(1) Herodotus’ list of the men decorated for bravery is incomplete.
(2) Herodotus’ list of the occupants of the tomb of the ἱρέες is incom-
(3) ἱρέες should be emended to ἰρένες.
(4) ἱρέες should be emended to ἱππέες.
(5) ἱρέες should be translated as ‘men who fought heroically’ rather
than as ‘priests’.
(6) the phrase ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος καὶ
Ἀμομφάρετος ἦσαν καὶ Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης should be
The importance of Herodotus’ work and the regularity with which it has been read
and commented upon have resulted in a massive volume of scholarship. It is, as a
result, impossible in the present context to provide exhaustive bibliography on
every point. I have made a particular effort to cite the earliest source I could discover
for any given interpretation as well as scholarship from the past two decades.
Other solutions have been proposed but were so problematic as to receive little at-
tention or support. For example, Willetts 1980: 276-77 suggested an emendation to
σφαιρέας/σφαιρέες, but that term is known only from much later sources and would
be out of place in Herodotus’ text.
As we will see, solutions (1), (2), and (3) are almost certainly untenable.
The remaining three solutions are all tenable; the one that appears last
in the list given above has some claim to being the most probable.
The solutions listed above resolve the overlap problem by expanding one
of the two groups mentioned in 9.85 (the men decorated for bravery or
the men buried in the grave of the ἱρέες), by making the two groups iden-
tical, or removing the link between the two groups. The first solution we
will consider takes the approach of expanding the group of men deco-
rated for bravery.
In the 1950s Willem den Boer argued that Herodotus’ list of soldiers
who distinguished themselves at Plataia is incomplete and that the
Lakedaimonian army decorated many more men for bravery than the
three listed by Herodotus.
This resolves the overlap problem because,
if significantly more than three men were decorated for bravery, then
the fact that three of those decorated for bravery were ἱρέες becomes
less problematic.
In support of this argument Den Boer pointed to Plutarch Lycurgus
27.1-2, which reads as follows:
Κα μὴν καὶ τὰ περὶ τὰς ταφὰς ἄριστα διεκόσμησεν αὐτοῖς. πρῶτον μὲν
γὰρ ἀνελὼν δεισιδαιμονίαν ἅπασαν ἐν τῇ πόλει θάπτειν τοὺς νεκρούς,
κα πλησίον ἔχειν τὰ μνήματα τῶν ερῶν οὐκ ἐκώλυσε, συντρόφους
ποιῶν ταῖς τοιαύταις ὄψεσι καὶ συνήθεις τοὺς νέους, στε μὴ
ταράττεσθαι μηδ’ ὀρρωδεῖν τὸν θάνατον ὡς μιαίνοντα τοὺς
ἁψαμένους νεκροῦ σώματος δι τάφων διελθόντας. ἔπειτα συν-
θάπτειν οὐδὲν εἴασεν, ἀλλ ἐν φοινικίδι καὶ φύλλοις ἐλαίας θέντες τὸ
σῶμα περιέστελλον. ἐπιγράψαι δὲ τοὔνομα θάψαντας οὐκ ἐξῆν τοῦ
νεκροῦ, πλὴν ἀνδρὸς ἐν πολέμῳ κα γυναικὸς τῶν ερν
Den Boer 1954: 293-98.
ἀποθανόντων. χρόνον δὲ πένθους ὀλίγον προσώρισεν, ἡμέρας ἕνδεκα·
τῇ δὲ δωδεκάτῃ θύσαντας ἔδει Δήμητρι λύειν τὸ πάθος.
Furthermore, Lycurgus made excellent arrangements for their buri-
als. First, removing all superstition, he did not prevent them from
burying the dead within the polis and having the mnemata near the
sacred places, thus making the youth familiar with such sights and
accustomed to them, so that they were not disturbed by them and had
no horror of deaths as polluting those who touched a corpse or walked
among graves. Next, he allowed them to bury nothing with the body;
instead they enfolded it in a phoinikis and olive leaves when the laid it
away. When they buried it, it was not permitted to inscribe the name
of the deceased, except for a man who died in war and γυναικὸς τῶν
ερν ἀποθανόντων. He fixed a short period of mourning, eleven
days; on the twelfth day they had to sacrifice to Demeter and end their
grieving. (trans. S. Hodkinson, slightly modified)
Precisely what Plutarch meant by γυναικὸς τῶν ερν ἀποθανόντων is
unclear, and various readings and emendations have been proposed.
Den Boer made the case that Plutarch was saying that only hieroi
(whom den Boer took to be priests) who died in battle and hierai (whom
den Boer took to be priestesses) had the right to an inscribed epitaph.
(This requires reading Plutarch’s πλὴν ἀνδρὸς ἐν πολέμῳ κα γυναικὸς
τῶν ερν ἀποθανόντων in such a way that both ἀνδρὸς and γυναικὸς
depend upon ερῶν.) If one accepts that only priests who died in battle
received an epitaph, then only one of the three Lakedaimonian graves at
Plataia, the one for the ἱρέες, would have had a monument listing the
names of the individuals interred therein. Den Boer is vague as to
whether he thinks the grave of the ἱρέες held just the four named occu-
pants or whether there were others whose names Herodotus does not
In either case, the overlap between those named for distin-
guishing themselves in battle and those named as being buried in the
See the discussions in Hodkinson 2000: 243-46, 260-62; Brulé & Piolot 2004; Dillon
Kelly 1981: 33 takes den Boer to be saying the grave had just four occupants, but den
Boer never explicitly makes that claim. It is conceivable that the grave of the ἱρέες
grave of the ἱρέες becomes more readily understandable: Herodotus read
the names of the ἱρέες on the grave marker at Plataia and hence remem-
bered them and put those names into his account of the battle, while
omitting any mention of the names of the many other Spartiates who
were decorated for bravery (including possibly Spartiates who were not
killed in the fighting) but who were not ἱρέες and thus whose names were
not listed on the grave marker at Plataia. That would explain why Herod-
otus mentions Kallikrates, who was not decorated for bravery but who
was, according to den Boer, a priest and hence had his name on a grave
marker at Plataia.
Den Boer thus concludes that ‘there is, therefore, no question of an
improbable coincidence that the four men mentioned were also
To return to one of our starting points, one of the two major
problems with Herodotus’ account of Plataia is that it implies that a
group representing (at most) 1% of the total number of Spartiates pro-
duced 100% of the Spartiates decorated for bravery. This can be repre-
sented graphically as seen in Figures 1 and 2. Den Boer’s solution – which
resolves the problem by significantly expanding the number of Sparti-
ates decorated for bravery can be represented graphically as seen in
Figures 6a-b.
held more than four individuals, all of whose names were listed on a marker over
that grave, but that Herodotus chose to mention only Poseidonios, Philokyon,
Amompharetos, and Kallikrates, because they were remarkable in some fashion,
having distinguished themselves in battle (Poseidonios, Philokyon, Amompharetos)
or standing out because of their physical beauty and untimely death (Kallikrates).
Den Boer 1954: 297.
Figure 6a: Venn diagram of den Boer’s description of the dead and decorated at Pla-
In Figure 6a, B4-30 stand for Spartiates decorated for bravery but not
named by Herodotus. The assumption that there were twenty-seven
such men is made purely for the sake of illustration.
If thirty Spartiates
were decorated for bravery, then it would not be inherently improbable
The relative size of the circles in this diagram are notional (i.e. not directly propor-
tional to specific number of individuals in each group) because den Boer maintains
simply that many more Spartiates were decorated for bravery than the three indi-
viduals named by Herodotus. He specifies neither the number of Spartiates he be-
lieves was decorated for bravery nor the number of occupants of the tomb of the
Den Boer’s argument requires that the group of men decorated for bravery be large
enough to explain how it included three priests, and it seems highly improbable that
dozens of Spartiates were decorated for bravery, so the number of thirty is roughly
in the range that works with den Boer’s views on 9.85.
that three of those men, representing 10% of the total number decorated
for bravery, were priests. According to den Boer, only Poseidonios,
Philokyon, and Amompharetos, because they were priests, had inscribed
epitaphs at Plataia, whereas the other twenty-seven men decorated for
bravery (who were not priests) had no such epitaph, and, as a result, He-
rodotus mentions only Poseidonios, Philokyon, and Amompharetos. This
solves the overlap problem because only a relatively small percentage of
the men decorated for bravery are priests (see Figure 6b).
Herodotus discusses Poseidonios, Philokyon, and Amompharetos at 9.71 and Kal-
likrates at 9.72 but nowhere mentions that any of them were priests. Den Boer says
that ‘This is not surprising because nowhere in Greece, including Sparta, was the
priesthood of central importance…’ (den Boer 1954: 297). This would appear to be at
odds with the idea that holding a priesthood in and of itself made individuals suffi-
ciently important to receive special burial at Plataia, and it is perhaps better to argue
that Herodotus’ focus at 9.71 is the bravery with which the individuals in question
fought and hence other biographical information was excluded.
Figure 6b: The pattern of decoration for bravery among Spartiates at Plataia accord-
ing to den Boer.
However, den Boer’s reading of the Plutarch passage has not found
wide acceptance.
One immediate problem is that there have to date
been found in Lakedaimon 25 inscribed epitaphs for soldiers who died in
The circles representing the 5,000 Spartiates at Plataia, the number of priests, and
the number of men decorated for bravery are proportional to the number of indi-
viduals involved. The circles representing the number of priests and the number of
men decorated for bravery are based on the assumption that there were fifty and
thirty such individuals, respectively.
Though see Burn 1984: 541 n. 78.
war, ranging in date from the fifth century BCE through the Roman pe-
None of those inscriptions (the only certain Lakedaimonian in-
scriptions for men who died in battle) identifies the deceased as a
Another difficulty has to do with the changes Plutarch made in his
source material. Lycurgus 27.1-2 closely echoes a passage in the Moralia:
Τῶν δὲ ταφῶν νεῖλε τὴν δεισιδαιμονίαν ἅπασαν ὁ Λυκοῦργος, ἐν τῇ
πόλει θάπτειν τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ πλησίον ἔχειν τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν ερν
συγχωρήσας. περιεῖλε δὲ κα τοὺς μιασμούς, συνθάπτειν δ’ οὐδὲν
ἐπέτρεψεν, ἀλλ’ ἐν φοινικίδι καὶ φύλλοις ἐλαίας θέντας τὸ
σῶμα περιστέλλειν κατ’ ἴσον ἅπαντας. νεῖλε καὶ τὰς ἐπιγραφὰς τὰς
ἐπὶ τῶν μνημείων, πλὴν τῶν ἐν πολέμῳ τελευτησάντων, καὶ τὰ πένθη
κα τος ὀδυρμούς.
Lycurgus removed all superstition concerning burials, granting the
right to bury the dead in the polis and to have the mnemeia near the
sacred places. He also abolished pollutions. He permitted them to
bury nothing with the body; but, all treating it alike, to enfold it in a
phoinikis and olive leaves. He did away with inscriptions on mnemeia,
except for those who had died in war, and also with mourning and
lamentations. (238d, trans. S. Hodkinson)
This passage comes from the Instituta Laconica, an episodic description of
certain Lakedaimonian institutions and practices, which is now widely
understood to consist of working notes that Plutarch used in writing bi-
ographies such as that of Lycurgus. Those notes drew heavily on a Hel-
lenistic compilation of material on Lakedaimon, a compilation that was
in turn based upon an earlier, unknown treatise on the Lakedaimonian
A nearly complete list can be found in Tsouli 2013: 152 and n. 10. The function of
these epitaphs (and more particularly, whether they marked graves or served as
commemorative monuments) has been much debated. See Hodkinson 2000: 250-56.
It is interesting to note, in light of what is known about the Olympic victor Lakrates
and his possibly special treatment in the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians in Athens,
that one of those inscriptions, IG V.1.708, dating to the third century BCE, identifies
the individual being commemorated as an Olympic victor.
The similarity between the two passages leaves little doubt that
Plutarch reworked the passage from the Instituta while writing his life of
Lycurgus. In so doing he introduced several changes.
The passage from the Moralia, on which the passage from the Lycurgus
is based, mentions only men who died in war. The phrase καὶ γυναικὸς
τῶν ερν ἀποθανόντων was added by Plutarch himself and presumably
applies only to γυναικός.
Plutarch thus is saying that all soldiers who
died in battle had the right to an epitaph, not just priests, which vitiates
den Boer’s entire argument. Also, in Lycurgus 27.1-2 Plutarch seems to be
discussing burial practices for individuals in Sparta itself, and there is no
immediate warrant for extending Plutarch’s comments to battlefield pol-
yandria. There is, therefore, no compelling reason to accept that Sparti-
ate priests who died in battle were buried in a special grave that included
an epitaph with their names.
A final problem is that den Boer’s solution requires that the Spartiates
decorated quite a large number of men for bravery.
This is not impos-
sible, but the standard practice for Greek armies seems to have been to
award special recognition for valor to a handful of individuals at most.
The difficulties with den Boer’s solution are, both separately and col-
lectively, sufficiently large as to indicate that it is untenable.
A different solution to the overlap problem is to expand not the number
of men decorated for bravery but rather the size of the other group the
men buried in the grave of the ἱρέες. This solution involves arguing that
Herodotus’ list of the occupants of the tomb of the ἱρέες is incomplete.
The argumentation here is relatively straightforward in the sense that
Hodkinson 2000: 37-43, 249-55.
Pritchett 1974-91: vol. 4, 244 n. 430.
Further reasons for rejecting den Boer’s interpretation can be found in Willetts 1980:
For a good overview of the relevant evidence, including a full list of relevant pas-
sages in Herodotus, see Pritchett 1974-91: vol. 2: 276-90.
τῶν in the phrase ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος καὶ
Ἀμομφάρετος ἦσαν καὶ Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης can easily be un-
derstood as beginning a partitive genitive. This solution has not, to my
knowledge, been argued in detail but it is implicit in many translations
of Herodotus. Hence, simply exempli gratia, Tom Holland and Paul Cart-
ledge render Herodotus’ Greek as ‘The Lacedaemonians raised three
tombs. In one they buried the priests, including Poseidonius, Amompha-
retus, Philocyon, and Callicrates’.
This solution can be represented
graphically as seen in Figures 7a-b.
In Figure 7a, P5-30 stand for priests buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες but
not named by Herodotus. The assumption that there were twenty-six
such men is made purely for the sake of illustration.
If thirty Spartiate
priests were killed in battle, then it would not be inherently improbable
that three of those men, representing 10% of the total number of priests
killed in battle, were decorated for bravery. This approach is, in some
sense, the opposite of den Boer’s: whereas den Boer resolved the overlap
problem by expanding the number of men decorated for bravery, this
Holland & Cartledge 2013: 624.
For the argument in question to work, the group of priests killed in battle needs to
be sizeable, but it cannot exceed the total possible number of priests (c. fifty), so a
total hypothetical figure of thirty priests is the appropriate range.
approach resolves the overlap by expanding the number of the occu-
pants of the grave of the ἱρέες.
Figure 7a: Venn diagram of Holland and Cartledge’s (implicit) description of the dead
and decorated at Plataia.
However, this solution to the overlap problem has two fatal flaws.
First, it creates the need to explain why priests would have suffered cas-
ualties at a staggeringly higher rate than the rest of the Spartiates at Pla-
taia. More specifically, the assumption that there were approximately
thirty priests buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες means that priests, repre-
senting at most 1% of the total number of Spartiates, suffered 33% of the
total Spartiate casualties (which Herodotus puts at 91).
The size of the circle representing each of the groups is in proportion to their actual
numbers, based upon the presumption that there were thirty occupants of the tomb
of the ἱρέες. (Holland and Cartledge maintain simply there were more occupants of
the tomb of the ἱρέες than the four individuals named by Herodotus and do not spec-
ify the number of Spartiates they believe was in the tomb.)
This problem could be ameliorated by reducing the hypothetical number of priests
buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες, but every such reduction correspondingly brings us
Figure 7b: The pattern of decoration for bravery among Spartiates according to Hol-
land and Cartledge.
Second, unlike den Boer’s approach, in this scenario, all of the men
decorated for bravery are priests, and hence this reading of Herodotus’
Greek does not resolve the question of how priests, a group representing
(at most) 1% of the total number of Spartiates, could have produced 100%
of the Spartiates decorated for bravery.
back to the original problem of the overlap between Herodotus’ list of Lakedaimon-
ians decorated for bravery and his list of the occupants of the grave of the ἱρέες. One
could, of course, argue that Herodotus’ casualty figures are not trustworthy, but to
reject one detail of Herodotus’ account in order to resolve a problem with another
detail surely falls under the heading of special pleading.
The size of the circle representing each of the groups is in proportion to their actual
Burn 1984: 541 attempted to resolve both of these problems by arguing that Spartiate
priests at Plataia performed sacrifices under a rain of Persian arrows, suffered very
high casualties, and were, as a result, decorated in some numbers for bravery. This
suggestion is not inherently impossible, but Herodotus characterizes Aristodemos,
Poseidonios, and Philokyon as distinguishing themselves in the fighting (note the
In the absence of satisfactory resolutions to these problems, resolu-
tions which have not been forthcoming, it is difficult to accept this solu-
tion to the overlap problem as tenable.
Yet another solution, like the solution discussed in Section 3.2, involves
expanding the group of men buried in what the text of 9.85 as transmit-
ted labels the tomb of the ἱρέες. This solution expands that group not by
translation, but rather by emendation. In the mid-eighteenth century
Lodewijk Caspar Valckenaer suggested emending ἱρέας and ἱρέες in 9.85
to read ἰρένας and ἰρένες, respectively.
The emended words are taken
to be Ionic forms of εἰρήν, a term for an age group in the Spartiate edu-
cational system that encompassed males in their late teens or some or all
of their twenties.
It can be represented graphically as seen in Figures
Valckenaer’s proposal to emend ἱρέας and ἱρέες to ἰρένας and ἰρένες
met with wide acceptance for a long period of time.
The emendation is
contrast with Kallikrates articulated in 9.72), and hence it is improbable at best that
they died while conducting sacrifices.
Valckenaer was motivated to emend 9.85 because he was troubled by the absence of
explicit mentions, in any extant literary source other than 9.85, of Spartiate priests
serving in the Lakedaimonian army. That objection carries less weight in the present
day due to the discovery of inscriptions (see, for example, SEG 29.361, a casualty list
from Argos dating to c. 400) that document the presence of priests and seers among
the casualties from battles fought during the Classical period. Valckenaer’s emenda-
tion and the reasoning behind it are reported in Wesseling’s edition of Herodotus
Book IX (Wesseling & Valckenaer 1763; see den Boer 1954: 289-90 and Makres 2009:
187 n. 5).
There are variant opinions on the years covered by the εἰρήν age-grade; see below
for further discussion.
See, for instance, Abicht 1869-73: vol. 2, 175; Stein 1901: vol. 5, 196; Macan 1908: vol.
1.2, 770; How & Wells 1912: vol. 2, 327; Shuckburgh 1916: 53, 141; Hude 1927: vol. 2,
ad loc.; Masaracchia 1978: 102. The emendation to ἰρένες is maintained in Rosén’s
Teubner edition from 1997 (which edition has not been met with universal warmth;
see, for instance, the review in Renehan 1990). See also Cotter 1992; Lupi 2000: 47-49;
2006: 190-95.
palaeographically defensible, and Valckenaer found apparent confirma-
tion for the emendation in the fact that a Byzantine glossary of unusual
words in Herodotus includes an entry for εἰρήν, which does not appear
anywhere in the text of the Histories.
He argued that the passage in
question is the most logical place in the Histories where eiren would have
The logic behind Valckenaer’s solution to the overlap problem is suf-
ficiently complicated as to merit careful mapping. The starting place is
the straightforward observation that, if what Herodotus calls the tomb
of the ἱρέες was actually devoted to individuals belonging to a group with
a substantial number of members, the claim that three members of that
group were decorated for bravery becomes less problematic. Hence a
first criterion for this approach to resolving the problems with 9.85 is
identifying a group with a substantial number of members.
However, the group in question has to meet further criteria beyond
having sufficient numbers. A second criterion is that the group needs to
be sufficiently coherent and well-established that the Lakedaimonians
could be expected to have buried its members as a special collectivity. A
third and final criterion is that, because all three of the men identified
by Herodotus as having been decorated for bravery came from that
group, there must be some reason to believe that the members of the
group were in a special position to distinguish themselves in the fighting
at Plataia.
For the text of the entire lexicon, see, Stein 1869-71: vol. 2: 441-82, reprinted as Stein
1965. The Greek text of just the entry for εἰρήν can be found in den Boer 1954: 249;
Gilula 2003: 83 supplies an English translation. On this lexicon, see Rosén 1962: 221-
31; Asheri, Vannicelli, Corcella & Fraschetti 2006: 169-70. Stein (1869-71: vol. 2, 475)
suggested that the entry in question derived from the work of Aristophanes of By-
zantium and hence dated to the third or second century.
Figure 8a: Venn diagram of Valckenaer’s description of the dead and decorated at
The major advantages of Valckenaer’s emendation include the fact
that it is not only palaeographically defensible and (ostensibly at least)
supported by the ancient glossary entry for εἰρήν, but also that the
eirenes meet all three of the criteria specified above. They were poten-
tially numerous enough that it would not be inherently improbable that
three of them were decorated for bravery,
and, insofar as all Spartiates
participated in the highly developed educational system of which the
eirenes formed part, it is not implausible that eirenes might have been bur-
ied as a group.
The relative sizes of the circles in this diagram are notional (i.e. not directly propor-
tional to specific number of individuals in each group) because Valckenaer’s solution
for the overlap problem is agnostic about the number of the individuals buried in
what he would label the tomb of the eirenes.
One might note in this regard that at Herodotus 9.12, an Argive messenger to Mar-
donios announces that the Lakedaimonian army is on the march by stating that ‘ἐκ
Λακεδαίμονος ἐξελήλυθε ἡ νεότης’.
Figure 8b: The pattern of decoration for bravery among Spartiates according to
With respect to the third criterion (being in a particularly good posi-
tion to distinguish themselves on the battlefield), Ulrich Kahrstedt ar-
gued that Spartiate eirenes were stationed in the front ranks of Lakedai-
monian armies because they were the fastest runners and could make
rapid sallies.
That would, in turn, mean that the eirenes would have had
special opportunities to distinguish themselves at Plataia.
It would,
The relative sizes of the circles in this diagram are proportional to the number of
individuals in each group, but only roughly so in that it is impossible to know the
precise number of eirenes that could conceivably have seen service at Plataia. If in
fact all male Spartiates between the ages of 20 and 29 were eirenes, one might assume
that they comprised approximately one-third of the Spartiates at Plataia, and the
diagram above reflects that assumption. Greater precision than that is impossible
because the age-range of the Spartiates designated as eirenes is unclear (see below
for further discussion), because the age-range of the Spartiates called into service
for Plataia is unknown, and because eirenes may have been either over-represented
among the Spartiates at Plataia (because they were the youngest and most energetic
soldiers) or under-represented (due to concerns about ensuring that each Spartiate
produced at least one male heir; see, for example, Hdt. 7.205).
Kahrstedt 1922: 307-8.
Makres 2009: 191-92.
therefore, not be entirely surprising that all three Spartiates decorated
for conspicuous bravery at Plataia were eirenes.
Despite its numerous charms, the emendation to ἱρένας/ἱρένες has
been largely rejected in more recent scholarship.
There are five sub-
stantive objections to this emendation. First, one might expect that if
Herodotus used a technical term from the Spartiate educational system,
he would have provided some sort of definition for his readers. This is
Herodotus’ practice elsewhere in his work. For instance, at 1.67 he dis-
cusses the actions of the Spartiate Lichas, whom he identifies as one of
the Spartiate agathoergoi. He then immediately explains the meaning of
the specialized term agathoergoi.
Second, unless a young Spartiate was an eiren for an extended period
of time, the group of eirenes would not have been large enough to fulfill
the first criterion listed above. Many scholars have in the past claimed
that the Spartiates were eirenes for ten years, which would make the
eirenes into quite a large group.
Both of the recent major studies of the
Spartiate educational system have, however, rejected that claim. Ducat
has argued that in Herodotus’ time Spartiates were eirenes for a single
year. Kennell has made the case that there was no such age group within
the Spartiate educational system in the Archaic or Classical periods.
Other evidence has been cited in support of Valckenaer’s emendation. For example,
Lupi 2006: 194 argues that the legends on fourth-century Samnite coins that seem to
refer to the Spartan village of Pitane and to Samnite border guards, who were typi-
cally young men, indicate that the unit commanded by Amompharetos, the Pitanate
lochos, was made up of young men.
See, for example, Richer 1994: 66; Kennell 1995: 14-16; Toher 1999: 118-26; Hodkinson
2000: 258; Flower & Marincola 2002: 255; Gilula 2003: 82-6; Asheri, Vannicelli, Corcella
& Fraschetti 2006: 291-93; Ducat 2006: 94-95; Dillon 2007: 158-59; Richer 2012: 172 as
well as the discussion in Brulé & Piolot 2004: 156-57 with the accompanying notes.
Oliver 2017: 40-86 has argued that Herodotus’ account of the Battle of Plataia is based
directly on an oral version Herodotus presented in Athens. If this is true, it strength-
ens the expectation that Herodotus would have offered a definition of ἱρένας/ἱρένες.
See, for example, Tazelaar 1967: 141-43.
Ducat 2006: 100; Kennell 1995: 14-17.
Third, the glossary of Herodotean words, to which Valckenaer
pointed for confirmation of the emendation, includes words found in au-
thors such as Sophocles that are not found in Herodotus,
and a gloss
from the fourteenth or fifteenth century found in a manuscript of Strabo
contains comments on the word εἰρήν that closely echo the entry for
εἰρήν in the Herodotean glossary.
This suggests that the entry for εἰρήν
in the Herodotean glossary was a later insertion that had no necessary
connection with Herodotus.
Fourth, Herodotus’ account of the Battle of Plataia portrays
Amompheratos, one of the four men buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες, as a
senior commander in a position to argue vehemently and at length with
Stein 1869-71: vol. 2, 471-75. There are also issues of potential importance having to
do with the fact that the lexicon in question consists of two word lists, one arranged
by order of appearance in the text of the Histories and one arranged alphabetically.
(Stein called these lists Recensio A and B, respectively.) The lists occur separately in
two distinct sets of manuscripts (i.e., no manuscript contains both lists). Stein (1869-
71: vol. 2, 443) argued that both lists were at some point separately copied from a
lexicon that included both lists and that the extant manuscripts (four for Recensio
A, nine for Recensio B) descend from those two separate, original copies. The key
issue here is that the entry for εἰρήν appears only in the alphabetical list, which,
unlike the order-of-appearance list, contains some extraneous entries in the sense
that they pertain to words that appear not in Herodotus but in other authors. As
Gilula 2003: 84 has pointed out, because the entry for εἰρήν does not form part of the
order-of-appearance list, it is impossible to connect that entry securely to Book 9.
Rosén 1962: 221-31 went a step farther and excluded the entry for εἰρήν from a cat-
alog of what he considered to be genuine entries from the original version of the
lexicon because it is not included in the order-of-appearance list. Nafissi, however,
points out that the manuscripts with the order-of-appearance lists are incomplete
in the sense that they are missing any entries for Book 9. (Presumably the original
source of Recensio A was copied from a manuscript that was damaged and missing
the end of the order-of-appearance list.) It is, therefore, possible that the entry for
εἰρήν was originally included in the order-of-appearance list, which in turn means
that the entry for εἰρήν cannot be excluded from a catalog of genuine entries from
the original version of the lexicon on the grounds that it is not included in the order-
of-appearance list (Nafissi 1991: 302 n. 108, followed by Lupi 2000: 48 n. 2).
Diller 1941.
Gilula 2003: 84.
Pausanias the Regent (9.53-4). It is, therefore, unlikely that Amomphera-
tos could have been of an age to be classified as an εἰρήν.
Finally, Kahrstedt’s claim that Spartiate eirenes formed a distinct
group that regularly occupied the front ranks of the Lakedaimonian
phalanx is manifestly problematic. Some passages from authors such as
Thucydides and Xenophon show that, in certain circumstances, men
from younger age classes were positioned in the front ranks of the
Lakedaimonian phalanx so that they could make sallies from the phal-
anx, but the men in question are not described as eirenes. Xenophon, who
was well acquainted with the technical vocabulary of the Spartiate edu-
cational system and army, describes these men as τὰ δέκα ἀφ᾽ ἥβης (‘the
first ten year-classes’; Hell. 2.4.33, 3.4.23; Ages. 1.31), which is compatible
with the view that the eirenes were Spartiates from age 20-29. But
Xenophon also writes that, in a battle fought during the Corinthian War,
the commander of a Lakedaimonian unit first ordered a charge by τὰ
δέκα ἀφ᾽ ἥβης and then, when that was not effective, ordered a charge
by τὰ πεντεκαίδεκα ἀφ᾽ ἥβης.
Not only is the word eirenes conspicuous
by its absence, but it is impossible that the τὰ πεντεκαίδεκα ἀφ᾽ ἥβης
could be the same as the eirenes and that, in turn, suggests that τὰ δέκα
ἀφ᾽ ἥβης and τὰ πεντεκαίδεκα ἀφ᾽ ἥβης were ad hoc formations based on
the number of years of service and hence age (since all Spartiates entered
the army at the same age) rather than a pre-existing group.
Moreover, the claim that the Spartiate eirenes regularly occupied the
front ranks of the Lakedaimonian phalanx is not compatible with the
claim that they formed a distinct unit within the Lakedaimonian army
(and hence were likely to be buried as a group in a separate tomb). Thu-
cydides (5.68.2-3) states that at the Battle of Mantinea in 418 each of the
smallest units (enomotiai) in the Lakedaimonian army was, with some ex-
ceptions, arrayed in four files with eight men in each file. (Hence each
Den Boer 1954: 292; Toher 1999: 119-20; Dillon 2007: 159 (among others) pace Chrimes
1949: 318; MacDowell 1986: 165-66; Makres 2009: 191. Den Boer raises the further ob-
jection that Kallikrates is described as an ἀνὴρ κάλλιστος and that Xen. Lac. 2.11
shows andres to be ‘rigorously distinct’ from eirenes. That may place too much em-
phasis on Herodotus’ choice of words. Lazenby 1985: 49 raises and rightly dismisses
the possibility that there were two different Lakedaimonian soldiers with the name
Amompheratos (‘surely too much of a coincidence’).
Hell. 4.5.14, 16. On these passages, see Billheimer 1946.
unit had four men in the front ranks of the phalanx.) If the eirenes formed
a large, distinct unit within the Lakedaimonian army, then they would
have been divided into smaller units, each of which consisted entirely of
eirenes and each of which provided four complete files that stretched
from the front of the phalanx to the back. The logical consequence is that
if the eirenes served in a distinct unit and were tasked with sallying forth
as a group, their departure would have suddenly and markedly reduced
the width of the Lakedaimonian phalanx. That would have rendered the
entire army vulnerable, and hence it is far more likely that younger Spar-
tiates did not serve as a distinct group but rather were distributed
roughly evenly among the individual enomotiai.
It is conceivable that the eirenes within each of the smaller units in the
Lakedaimonian army were frequently stationed in the front ranks of the
units to which they belonged and that, because this was the case at Pla-
taia, they distinguished themselves in battle. If one assumes that the
eirenes existed as a distinct age-class in fifth-century Sparta (as one must
in this scenario), then they could well have been buried as a distinct
group that included most if not all of the Spartiates who had been deco-
rated for bravery. However, Xenophon specifically states that the front
ranks of the Lakedaimonian phalanx consisted entirely of officers (Lac.
11.5; cf. Thuc. 5.66.4; Asclepiodotus, Tactica 2.2-3; Ael., Tactica 5.1-5; Arr.
Tact. 5.4-6.6; Wheeler 1991: 147). This arrangement reflected the fact that
the soldiers stationed in the front rows of the phalanx played a key role
in the outcome of a hoplite battle, and it would have been exceedingly
Lupi 2006: 190-93 takes up an argument found in earlier scholarship (listed by Lupi
in n. 19 on pg. 209) that Amompharetos commanded a rearguard. Lupi also argues
that the rearguard in question, the Pitanate lochos, was in fact the 100 hippeis who
served as bodyguards for the king and that they were, therefore, all young men who
were in a position to distinguish themselves in battle. However, the argumentation
that Lupi deploys to equate the Pitanate lochos with the king’s bodyguard is implau-
sible. For example, Lupi sees Herodotus’ information about the existence of a Pitan-
ate lochos as a reflection of a general understanding of the Lakedaimonian army and
hence not particularly reliable. That, in turn, implies that Thucydides’ flat denial
(1.20.3) of the existence of a Pitanate lochos should be taken seriously, but Lupi goes
on to argue that there was a de facto Pitanate lochos, in the form of the 100 hippeis
who served as the king’s bodyguard. In Lupi’s view, all of those men came from the
tribe of Hylleis, which was localized in Pitane.
odd if the commanders of the Lakedaimonian army at Plataia, faced with
the existential threat posed by the Persian army, would have chosen to
put the youngest and most inexperienced Spartiates (particularly if
eirenes, as most scholars now agree, included just those Spartiates who
were 20 years old) in the front rank of their phalanx.
That said, it is not impossible that (a) eirenes were Spartiates between
the ages of 20-29, (b) at Plataia soldiers in the first ten age-classes (and
hence all eirenes) were called upon to carry out some especially danger-
ous duty, and (c) the eirenes suffered disproportionately large casualties
and made up most of the Spartiates decorated for bravery. Even if that
were true, there remains the difficulty of explaining why the Spartiates
would have provided a special battlefield tomb for the eirenes while
lumping together all of the other Spartiates. As J.F. Lazenby pointed out,
there is no evidence that the eirenes ever represented a distinct unit
within the Lakedaimomian army.
The absence of such evidence is note-
worthy because, if eirenes represented all male Spartiates aged 20-29 and
did serve as a unit in the Lakedaimonian army, they would have repre-
sented more than a quarter of the total number of Spartiates and hence
might well be expected to make some appearance in the many references
to the Lakedaimonian army in action.
Insofar as the eirenes do not seem
to have habitually occupied the front ranks of the Lakedaimonian phal-
anx or to have represented a distinct unit with the Lakedaimonian army,
it is not obvious why they would get a special tomb. Even if they did dis-
tinguish themselves at Plataia, it is difficult to believe that the Spartiates
would have altered their normal burial practices in response to the ad
hoc dispositions made at a specific battle and given only the eirenes their
own special grave while burying all of the other Spartiate casualties in a
separate grave.
Each of the difficulties with Valckenaer’s emendation to ρένες can
perhaps be explained with some special pleading. So, for example, it is
possible that Amompharetos was not an eiren but rather a senior com-
mander in charge of a unit made up entirely of eirenes and hence was
Lazenby 1985: 50.
This presumes that Spartiates were liable for military service between ages 20-60
and takes into account the fact that some Spartiates would have died between the
ages of 30-60.
buried with them.
That, however, requires two assumptions: (1) Sparti-
ates were eirenes for 10 years (otherwise they would not have been nu-
merous enough to explain their postulated role at Plataia) and (2) the
eirenes were a stable, distinct unit within the Lakedaimonian army (oth-
erwise it is not clear why they would have been buried together at Pla-
taia). Those assumptions are not impossible, but, as we have seen, the
most recent scholarship on the Spartiate educational system runs di-
rectly counter to the idea that Spartiates were eirenes for 10 years in He-
rodotus’ time, and there is no evidence that there ever was a distinct unit
of eirenes in the Lakedaimonian army.
The remaining difficulties with Valckenaer’s emendation could be re-
solved with similarly complicated argumentation, but at a certain point
the accumulated weight of the requisite special pleading becomes simply
unmanageable. And of course one must bear in mind that the text being
defended by means of elaborate mental gymnastics is not the text as
transmitted but an emendation. If a proposed emendation can be justi-
fied only with great difficulty and other, less problematic readings are
available (as will become clear below), the rational course of action is
surely to abandon that emendation. It seems reasonable, therefore, to
conclude that the emendation to ἰρένες should be put to the side as un-
As argued in Kelly 1981 and Nafissi 1991: 301-3. Makres 2009 has recently defended
the emendation to ἰρένες by re-iterating pre-existing arguments of why the text as
transmitted is not tenable and by adding one new reason to the collection of pre-
existing arguments in favor of the emendation. Makres makes the case that the story
of Amompharetos arguing vehemently with Pausanias is an exaggerated tale and
hence Amompharetos could well have been a young man. The claim that Herodotus’
story about Amompharetos is an exaggerated tale is possible but requires revisiting
one of the most basic features of Herodotus’ account of the Battle of Plataia, namely
that the Lakedaimonians fought the Persians largely on their own because they
failed to take part in a planned retreat during the night before the battle. Herodotus
explains the Lakedaimonians’ behavior by attributing it to Amompharetos’ refusal
to move his unit from its position. If Amompharetos was, as Makres suggests, a young
man of no great influence, then some other explanation for the somewhat odd ac-
tions of the Lakedaimonian army must be supplied. (Makres also supplies some
other, largely speculative reasons to believe that Amompheratos was a young man.)
We now turn our attention to the three tenable solutions to the overlap
problem in 9.85. The first of those solutions, like that discussed in Section
3.3, involves expanding, by means of emendation, the group of men bur-
ied in what the text of 9.85, as transmitted, labels the tomb of the ἱρέες.
Valckenaer proposed more than one emendation to 9.85. He also sug-
gested that ἱρέας / ἱρέες could be emended to ἱππέας / ἱππέες. This solu-
tion can be graphically represented as seen in Figures 9a-b. Ironically,
Figure 9a: Venn diagram of Valckenaer’s alternative description of the dead and dec-
orated at Plataia.
this emendation was never widely adopted, but is in fact much more
promising than Valckenaer’s other proposed emendation.
The relative sizes of the circles in this diagram are notional (i.e. not directly pro-
portional to the specific number of individuals in each group) because
Valckenaer’s (alternative) solution for the overlap problem is agnostic about the
number of the individuals buried in what he would label the tomb of the hippeis.
Valckenaer’s emendation to ἱππέας is discussed in Willetts 1980: 274. This emenda-
tion has not been widely accepted, though it is adopted by Jeanmaire 1939: 546 and
Lazenby 1985: 181 n. 16. Kelly 1981 and Nafissi 1991: 301-3 accept the emendation
In assessing this emendation, it is helpful to bear in mind the criteria
specified in Section 3.3. In order for the proposed emendation to be fea-
sible, the individuals buried in what the extant manuscripts call the tomb
of the ἱρέες would need to come from a relatively large, well-defined
group, the members of which had special opportunities to distinguish
themselves in the fighting at Plataia. The hippeis neatly fulfill all of those
criteria. They were a distinct and elite unit of three hundred Spartiates
within the Lakedaimonian army and were thus numerous enough that it
would not be inherently improbable that three of them were decorated
for bravery.
They can also be plausibly identified as a group that was
sufficiently coherent and well-established that the Lakedaimonians
could be expected to have buried its members as a special collectivity.
And, as an elite unit, the hippeis might well have been assigned hazardous
duty at Plataia. The hippeis were divided into three groups of 100 men,
each with its own commanding officer, and at least one such group
served as the bodyguard of the king or force commander during Lakedai-
monian military expeditions (Hdt. 6.5.6). Given the strong expectation
that Greek commanders would be personally involved in combat, it is
probable that the Spartiate hippeis at Plataia were in the thick of the
fighting, as we know them to have been at other battles (Thuc. 5.72.4).
It would, as a result, not be entirely surprising if the three men Herodo-
tus mentions as being decorated for bravery were all hippeis.
to ἰρένες and argue that Herodotus used this term to refer to the hippeis, the mem-
bers of which were young adult males (Xen. Lac. 4.1-4). Kelly and Nafissi take
Amompharetos to be the most senior of the three officers (hippagretai) in charge of
the hippeis and hence an older man and an influential commander in a position to
argue with Pausanias. They concede that Amompharetos was thus not, technically
speaking, one of the ἰρένες, but make the case that Herodotus could have described
the hippeis, including their commander, collectively as ἰρένες. This is a bit difficult
to accept, however, since Herodotus himself (1.67.5, 8.124.3) uses the term ἱππέες
to refer to the hippeis.
On the hippeis, see Figueira 2006. The evidence pertaining to the hippeis, particu-
larly with respect to the role as the kings’ bodyguards, is at least prima facie not
free from contradictions. For a reading of that evidence that differs from that given
by Figueira, see Anderson 1970: 245-49.
One might note in this regard that, according to Diodorus 11.33.1, the Greek army
awarded the prize for valor to the Lakedaimonians collectively and to Pausanias
Figure 9b: The pattern of decoration for bravery among Spartiates according to
Emending ἱρένας / ἱρένες to ππέας / ἱππέες is among the more ele-
gant suggested approaches to reading 9.85. One difficulty is that a change
from ἱρέας / ἱρέες to ππέας / ἱππέες is perhaps less palaeographically
probable than a change to ἱρένας / ἱρένες. In addition, there is the im-
portant methodological principle that emendations not needed to make
a passage grammatically sound should not be adopted unless there is no
plausible way to make sense of the text as transmitted. Neither of those
objections is inherently fatal.
Another tenable solution involves a different approach than any of the
four discussed to this point. Rather than expanding either the group of
men decorated for bravery or the group of men buried in what the extant
The relative sizes of the circles in this diagram are proportional to the number of
individuals in each group.
manuscripts call the tomb of the ἱρέες, this solution proposes a meaning
for ἱρέες that makes the two groups identical. More specifically, this so-
lution involves identifying ρέες as individuals who had been singled out
for fighting heroically on the battlefield. This solution has its roots in the
views of Hermann Diels from the early part of the twentieth century, but
it has been further developed by Nicolas Richer.
The logic here is
straightforward: the overlap between Herodotus’ list of the bravest Spar-
tiates and his list of the occupants of the tomb of the ἱρέες exists because
the ἱρέες were not priests but individuals who had been recognized for
fighting heroically. The tomb of the ἱρέες thus inevitably held the bodies
of the three Spartiates decorated for bravery, all three of whom, Herod-
otus notes, were killed in the fighting (9.71). (The fourth Spartiate whose
bravery Herodotus highlights, Aristodemοs, might have been excluded
because he, in a suicidal frenzy, left his position in the phalanx and was
not, in the event, decorated for bravery.) This resolves the overlap prob-
lem because, from this perspective, the group of individuals buried in the
tomb of the ἱρέες was, by definition, coterminous with the group of indi-
viduals decorated for bravery. This is apparent in the graphic represen-
tation found in Figures 10a-b.
In articulating this solution, Richer lays out evidence to support the
idea that some Spartiate soldiers received special funerary treatment.
One relevant source is the following excerpt from a passage from Aelian’s
Varia Historia that provides a list of Spartiate customs:
οἱ δὲ καλῶς ἀγωνισάμενοι καὶ ἀποθανόντες θαλλοῖς ἀνεδοῦντο καὶ
κλάδοις ἑτέροις, καὶ δι’ ἐπαίνων ἤγοντο· ο δὲ τελέως ἀριστεύσαντες
κα φοινικίδος αὐτος ἐπιβληθείσης ἐνδόξως ἐθάπτοντο.
Those fighting nobly and dying are crowned [or, bound] with olive
and other branches and carried [off] with praises; those who were su-
premely brave were wrapped in their phoinikis and buried with special
honors. (6.6, trans. S. Hodkinson)
Richer 1994: 63-70; 2012: 165-78, followed by Hodkinson 2000: 258. Diels articulated
his views in a letter to Martin Nilsson and that letter was published with an ex-
planatory note by Nilsson in Klio (Nilsson 1913). It was subsequently republished in
Nilsson’s collected works (Nilsson 1951-60: vol. 2, 369-71).
The 25 inscribed epitaphs for Spartiate soldiers who died in war as well
as Plutarch Moralia 238d and Lycurgus 27.1-2 (see Section 3.1) are also rel-
evant insofar as they show that Spartiate soldiers who died in battle were
accorded a special privilege in the form of the right to erect a commem-
orative monument in Sparta.
Richer suggests that the ἱρέες were identified in an assembly held in
the aftermath of each battle. The key piece of evidence in the present
context is Herodotus’ account of what happened after the fighting at Pla-
taia had ended: When there was some dispute about who was actually
the bravest, those Spartiates who were present gave as their judgment …’
(γενομένης λέσχης ὃς γένοιτο αὐτῶν ἄριστος, ἔγνωσαν οἱ παραγενόμενοι
Σπαρτιητέων, 9.71). This is in accord with other passages indicating that
it was customary for Greek armies to identify formally and honor those
who had particularly distinguished themselves.
Figure 10a: Venn diagram of Richer’s description of the dead and decorated at Pla-
Richer also points to the Spartiates who fought at Thermopylai. The vast majority
of the Spartiates who fought at Thermopylai were killed, and they were under-
stood as having fought heroically. They received a special honor in the form of a
collective epitaph that was erected either at Thermopylai or in Sparta. Insofar as
all of those who died at Thermopylai were seen as having shown surpassing brav-
ery, they were given a privilege that set them apart.
See, for instance, Hdt. 8.123. On this process, see Pritchett 1974-91: vol. 2, 276-90.
This solution is not, however, without its difficulties. To begin with,
this interpretation requires some sort of explanation for the inclusion of
the fourth named occupant of the tomb of the ἱρέες, Kallikrates, who was
killed by an arrow before the Lakedaimonian army attacked the Persians
(9.72) and hence not, unlike the other three named occupants of the
tomb, decorated for bravery. Richer argues that Kallikrates, who is de-
scribed by Herodotus as the most beautiful of the Greeks at Plataia, had
distinguished himself in an earlier battle and hence merited inclusion
among the ἱρέες.
This is certainly possible, particularly since Herodo-
tus, after describing the exploits of Poseidonios, Philokyon, Amompha-
retos, and Aristodemos, states that:
these were the men who at Plataia were the most renowned. Kal-
likrates might be another but that he died outside the battle itself
He took his death very ill and said that he did not mind dying
what he minded was that he had done no actual fighting (9.72, trans.
D. Greene)
This might be taken to mean that, based on past experience, there was
reason to expect great things from Kallikrates and that he thus merited
inclusion in the tomb of the ἱρέες.
A further difficulty is that Aelian is not necessarily the most reliable
source for Spartiate burial customs.
Indeed, the remains from the
Tomb of the Lakedaimonians in the Kerameikos (see Section 2) suggest
that all of the corpses were wrapped in phoinikides. This is in accord with
the description of Spartiate funerary practice given in Lycurgus 27.1-2
and directly contradicts Aelian’s claim that only those fighting with su-
preme bravery received that privilege.
Moreover, Aelian simply states that Spartiates who had died fighting
with unusual bravery received special honors, not that they were buried
in a separate, special tomb. The 25 inscribed epitaphs from Lakedaimon
and Moralia 238d and Lycurgus 27.1-2 pertain to burial practices in Sparta
itself, not on the battlefield, and also do not provide any evidence that
Richer 1994: 67; 2012: 173-74.
Hodkinson 2000: 247-48, 254.
those who had died in battle and had been decorated for bravery were
buried on the battlefield in a separate tomb.
Figure 10b: The pattern of decoration for bravery among Spartiates according to
It is also not immediately evident that the Tomb of the Lakedaimoni-
ans in the Kerameikos supports Richer’s interpretation. As noted above,
the inscription on that tomb begins with the names of the two pole-
marchs, Chairon and Thibrachos, and the next name was possibly that of
Lakrates, the Olympic victor. If those are indeed the three individuals
who received more careful burials in a separate tomb chamber, the most
likely interpretation is that such treatment was granted on the basis of
The relative sizes of the circles in this diagram are proportional to the number of
individuals in each group.
pre-existing military rank (the polemarchs) or social standing (the Olym-
pic victor),
not on the basis of performance on the battlefield.
Finally and most importantly, translating ἱρέες as ‘men who fought
heroically on the battlefield’ requires assigning to ἱρέες a meaning that
is not entirely obvious. In his examination of the meaning of ἱρέες, Richer
writes, ‘Il faudrait peut-être comprendre quil s’agit de “héros”’.
does not bring forward any evidence to justify this translation, but he
does cite the work of Diels, who first proposed translating Herodotus’
ἱρέες as ‘heroes’. Diels read ἱρέες as ἡρέες, interpreted ἥρης/ἡρεύς as a
Lakonian form of ἥρως, and argued that the occupants of the tomb of the
ἱρέες were individuals who received Heroenehren. They were, therefore,
literally (posthumous) heroes in the sense of being objects of worship,
and it comes as no surprise that Diels says that the ἱρέες were the kings
and other high-ranking Spartiates. Similarly, Arnold Toynbee, who sug-
gested emending ἱρέες to ἥρωες (and arrived at the same point as Diels
without any intermediate steps), translated the emendation as ‘canon-
ized dead mortals’.
Richer diverges from Diels and Toynbee in that he takes the ἱρέες to
be Spartiates who had accomplished some sort of feat that elevated their
social standing above that of their peers without in any way becoming
Spartiate Olympic victors seem to have had what Figueira, drawing on Plut. Lyc.
22.4 and Mor. 639e, describes as a ‘presumptive claim’ to join the hippeis (Figueira
2006: 64; see also Hodkinson 1999: 169-70). If Lakrates did indeed receive special
burial, it is conceivable that his status derived from his service among the hippeis
and hence among the men serving as King Pausanias’ bodyguard rather than his
Olympic victory. However, Xenophon describes Lakrates solely as an Olympic vic-
tor, so it seems probable that his athletic achievements were his primary claim to
In his 2012 book, which appeared after the publication of the preliminary report
on the new excavations, Richer concedes that the tomb seems to show that the
polemarchs and Lakrates received special burial because of their pre-existing sta-
tus rather than their performance on the battlefield. He goes on to suggest that, ‘si
ces trois hommes n’étaient pas nécessairement des ἱρέες, ils étaient considérés
d’une façon qui les rapprochait d’hommes d’une telle qualité’ (Richer 2012: 175).
This is perhaps not an entirely satisfactory resolution to the difficulties for his in-
terpretation of 9.85 raised by the details of the tomb.
Richer 1994: 66.
Toynbee 1969: 319 n. 4.
recipients of cultic honors. This is apparent from the facts that Richer
sees Kallikrates as having become one of the ἱρέες before Plataia and that
he puts the three individuals who received special treatment in the Tomb
of the Lakedaimonians in the Kerameikos among the same group. It
would stretch the boundaries of the imagination to believe that Kal-
likrates was worshipped as a hero while still alive, and there is no evi-
dence that any of the Lakedaimonian dead in the Kerameikos were the
objects of cult (nor does Richer claim that they were).
Richer’s interpretation of 9.85 thus requires two separate assump-
tions: that ἱερεύς = ἥρης and that ἥρης as used in 9.85 can be assigned a
metaphorical rather than literal meaning. Both assumptions are not in-
herently impossible but are open to question. The equivalency Diels
made between ἱερεύς and ἥρης is entirely conjectural.
Furthermore, it
is not immediately apparent that ἥρης, in the time that Herodotus was
writing, was likely to have been used to describe an individual who had
fought bravely. The term ἥρως appears repeatedly in the Homeric poems
as a sort of honorary title without any necessary religious valence, but,
by the late sixth century, ἥρως was used to designate divine entities that
were closely linked with but also differentiated from Olympian deities.
It is theoretically possible that the term ἱρέες was indeed the Lakonian
equivalent of ἥρης and that it retained its Homeric meaning among Spar-
tiates, but that is entirely a matter of speculation. On other hand, it is
surely noteworthy that throughout the Classical period the men who
died in the Persian Wars, though held up as models of virtue, are never
described using the word ἥρως. Indeed, fifth- and fourth-century au-
thors seem to have made an effort to avoid using that word to describe
the casualties from the Persian War.
Brugmann 1916.
Bremmer 2006: 17-19.
Welwei 1991: 61-62; Boehringer 1996: 50; Flashar 1996: 73. One suspects that the
slippage from hero in its literal sense of an object of worship to the much more
metaphorical sense found in Richer’s work is facilitated by the ambiguity of the
relevant terms in English and French. On that ambiguity, see Loraux 1986: 364 n.
It would, therefore, seem unlikely that Herodotus’ ἱρέες can, as Richer
would have it, be taken to mean ‘men who fought heroically’. The prob-
lems involved in Richer’s approach are not new ones. When Karl Brug-
mann in 1916 proposed very much the same thing as Richer in arguing
that ‘ἱρεύς sei der lakonische Ausdruck für ἀριστεύς’, his conjecture met
with considerable skepticism from Johann Sitzler.
Two possible variants upon Richer’s line of argumentation merit fur-
ther consideration. The first variant is that the ἱρέες need not be linked
to ἥρης at all and that it simply meant what Richer takes it to mean.
While that is not out of the question, there is not a single clear instance
of such a usage anywhere in the corpus of extant Greek texts. Moreover,
ἱρέες is derived from ἱερός, and, as Pierre Chantraine notes in the entry
for ἱερός in his etymological dictionary, ‘le sens general est “sacré”’.
thus requires a great deal of stretching and bending to get ἱρέες to mean
‘men who fought heroically’ without the initial transformation sug-
gested by Diels.
A second possibility is that Diels and Toynbee were correct in thinking
that some Spartiates were literally heroized after Plataia and that those
individuals, called ἱρέες, were buried in a special tomb. That approach
has the advantage of avoiding the complications that come with taking
the ἱρέες to be metaphorically heroic. It also meshes well with the argu-
ment put forth by Deborah Boedeker and others that all of the casualties
at Plataia became the object of cult almost immediately after the fighting
Boedeker’s work was stimulated by the publication in 1992 of
lengthy fragments from an elegiac poem written by Simonides about Pla-
taia, in which poem the soldiers who fought at Plataia are directly con-
nected with the figures, described as hemitheoi, who fought at Troy.
Boedeker took that connection to be a sign that the casualties at Plataia
were also treated as hemitheoi, and, in support of that position, pointed
to evidence that the tombs at Plataia were carefully tended and received
annual offerings from the Plataians and that the Eleutheria, a festival
Brugmann 1916: 21; Sitzler 1923: 10.
Chantraine 1968: 457. Beekes 2010: vol. 1, 580-81 supplies a similar definition.
Boedeker 2001; see also Boehringer 1996: 50. For scholarship prior to 1992 that
adopted a position similar to that of Boedeker, see the listing in Welwei 1991: 67 n.
held in honor of the casualties at Plataia, might already have been in ex-
istence in the first half of the fifth century.
One might also mention that certain individuals and groups killed in
the Persian Wars received special honors in Sparta. In his tour of Sparta,
Pausanias (3.12.9, 14.1) saw the tombs of Leonidas and (the regent) Pau-
sanias as well as a shrine to Maron and Alpheios (brothers who had died
at Thermopylai and whom Pausanias describes as ‘next to Leonidas him-
self are thought to have fought best of all the Lakedaimonians who
marched to Thermopylai’) and a stele listing the names of all three hun-
dred men who were killed at Thermopylai. Leonidas was also honored
with a festival bearing his name.
All of this could be taken as support
for the idea that a limited number of Spartiates were singled out for their
bravery at Plataia, labeled ἱρέες and venerated as (literal) heroes, and
buried in a special tomb (bearing in mind that it is unclear when the
tomb, shrine, stele, and festival in question came into being).
Boedeker’s arguments have, however, been rejected in much of the
more recent scholarship.
The emergent consensus follows Robert Par-
ker, who takes the position that Greek cities in the Classical period buried
their war dead in a fashion that resonated with the treatment accorded
to heroes, ‘since no sharp divide separated funerary from heroic cult’,
without making the war dead an object of cult. With the passage of cen-
turies and the emergence of new religious practices and beliefs, those
war dead eventually came, in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, to be
There is an immediate difficulty in that Boedeker is making the case that all of the
Greeks buried at Plataia were honored as heroes, whereas reading Herodotus’ ἱρέες
as designating men who received heroic honors would mean that the Lakedaimon-
ians identified only a small subset of their number as worthy of such treatment. It
is possible that two separate decision-making processes took place, one in the im-
mediate aftermath of the battle in which the Lakedaimonians decided how to treat
their own casualties, and a second one not long thereafter in which the Plataians
or perhaps the members of the anti-Persian alliance as a whole decided how to
honor all of the casualties.
The relevant evidence is reviewed in detail in Pavlides 2011: 104-16.
For a particularly full discussion, see Bremmer 2006, which echoes earlier scholar-
ship including, but not limited to, Welwei 1991 and Flashar 1996: 73.
treated literally as heroes.
From that perspective, the evidence Pausa-
nias supplies for the special treatment of figures such as Maron and Al-
pheios cannot be read back into the Classical period and the connection
that Simonides makes between the hemitheoi of the Trojan War and the
casualties at Plataia is intended solely to glorify the latter by associating
them with the former.
All of this goes to say that there are non-trivial difficulties in translat-
ing Herodotus’ ἱρέες either as ‘men who fought heroically’ or as ‘men
who were accorded heroic honors’. That is a crucial issue because the
approaches to reading 9.85 outlined by Richer on one hand and Diels and
Toynbee on the other are not tenable unless one or the other translation
is valid. There is, however, a sufficient degree of uncertainty in every-
thing pertaining to the translation of ἱρέες and to the treatment of the
casualties at Plataia that the ideas of Richer, Diels, and Toynbee remain
The last of the three tenable solutions to the overlap problem does not
involve expanding either the group of men decorated for bravery (Sec-
tion 3.1) or the group of men buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες (Sections
3.2-4), nor does it involve making the group of Spartiates decorated for
bravery coterminous with the group of those buried in the tomb of the
ἱρέες (Section 3.5). Instead this solution, by means of athetization, re-
moves the link between the two groups. More specifically, Joseph
Blakesley, in his edition of Herodotus from 1854, proposed athetizing the
phrase ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος καὶ
Parker 1996: 136-37.
The exception in this regard is likely to be Spartiate kings, who in all periods en-
joyed a special standing and who seem to have been routinely heroized after their
death. See Cartledge 1987: 331-43; 1988. For a different reading of the relevant ev-
idence, see Parker 1988; 1989: 152-54, 169-70 nn. 51-57.
Ἀμομφάρετος ἦσαν καὶ Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης.
This solution
can be graphically represented as seen in Figures 11a-b.
The structure of the passage as transmitted is undeniably odd. Herod-
otus states that there were three graves, identifies the category of indi-
viduals buried in the first grave and names four occupants of that grave,
and then goes on to list the categories of individuals buried in each of the
three graves:
Οἱ δὲ Ἕλληνες, ς ἐν Πλαταιῇσι τὴν ληίην διείλοντο, ἔθαπτον τοὺς
ἑωυτῶν χωρὶς ἕκαστοι. Λακεδαιμόνιοι μὲν τριξὰς ἐποιήσαντο
θήκας· [ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος καὶ
Ἀμομφάρετος ἦσαν καὶ Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης·] ἐν μὲν δὴ ἑνὶ
τῶν τάφων ἦσαν οἱ ἱρέες, ἐν δὲ τῷ ἑτέρῳ οἱ ἄλλοι Σπαρτιῆται, ἐν δὲ
τῷ τρίτῳ οἱ εἵλωτες. (9.85.2)
The third sentence, which begins with an awkwardly placed νθα, seems
out of place if it belongs in the passage at all, it seems like it should
follow the sentence ending with ἐν δὲ τῷ τρίτῳ οἱ εἵλωτες, since it is only
at that point that the reader is made aware that there was a grave spe-
cifically for the ἱρέες.
As Nigel Wilson (the editor of the latest Oxford Classical Text edition
of the Histories) observes in his recent series of studies on the text of He-
The sentence beginning νθα is one of the most difficult in the whole
work; it is awkwardly placed between what precedes and what fol-
lows, and there is much uncertainty about the category of persons re-
ferred to in the first clause. Sitzler … found the difficulty so great that
Blakesley 1852-54: vol. 4, 474: ‘I should almost be inclined to suspect that the whole
clause, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος … ἦσαν οἱ ἱρένες, is an addition of later times, when
perhaps the additional feature of being in the bloom of youth had been added to
the personal qualities of the Spartan hero’.
he wished to delete the whole sentence, and Legrand followed him.
In support of this view it may be argued that an interpolator could
have gathered the four names from chs. 71-2 and copied from the next
sentence the word indicating the category of citizens in question. And
if the sentence is genuine, ἔνθα needs explanation.
One might, therefore, suspect that the third sentence in this part of 9.85
should be athetized as a later and confused scholiast’s note that was in-
terpolated into the text. That would result in the following text:
Οἱ δὲ Ἕλληνες, ς ἐν Πλαταιῇσι τὴν ληίην διείλοντο, ἔθαπτον τοὺς
ἑωυτῶν χωρὶς ἕκαστοι. Λακεδαιμόνιοι μὲν τριξὰς ἐποιήσαντο
θήκας· ἐν μὲν δὴ ἑνὶ τῶν τάφων ἦσαν οἱ ἱρέες, ἐν δὲ τῷ ἑτέρῳ οἱ ἄλλοι
Σπαρτιῆται, ἐν δὲ τῷ τρίτῳ οἱ εἵλωτες.
The Greeks at Plataia, when they had divided up the spoils, buried
their own dead, each people separately. The Lakedaimonians made
three separate burial places. The hirees were in one grave, and in an-
other the rest of the Spartiates, and in a third the helots.
Sitzler 1923: 10. Legrand edited the edition of Herodotus for the Budé series; the
volume containing Book 9 was published in 1954. More specifically, Legrand brack-
eted the text in question but did include it in the French translation.
Wilson 2015a: 186-87. Wilson then goes on to argue that ‘The more serious problem
here arises from the MSS reading ἱρέας ... ἱρέες. That is unlikely to be right. There
is no mention of priests in the narrative, and no hint that the four men named
were priests. In any case it was seers, not priests, who accompanied armies’. He
rejects the emendations to either ἰρένες or ἱππέες, the latter because the hippeis
were ‘an elite force of Spartan cavalry’ and because ‘the narrative suggests that at
least Callicrates and Amompharetos did not belong to the cavalry’ (187). The idea
that seers, not priests, accompanied armies is refuted decisively by SEG 29.361 (an
Argive casualty of list from c. 400 that includes a μάντις and an ἰαρεύς), and it is
likely that some Lakedaimonians who fought at Plataia were present as part of
their military duties but were also priests. The hippeis were indeed an elite force,
but they were, at least in the period under consideration here, almost certainly
infantrymen, not cavalrymen. On that point (which has also been the subject of
much discussion), see Figueira 2006: 67-74 and the sources cited therein.
Insofar as there is no longer a list of the occupants of the grave of the
ἱρέες, there is no longer an overlap between the list of the bravest Spar-
tiates and the list occupants of the grave of the ἱρέες. The overlap prob-
lem is thus neatly resolved, as is apparent in Figures 11a-b.
Figure 11a: Venn diagram of Blakesley’s (implicit) description of the dead and deco-
rated at Plataia.
If one maintains the translation of ἱρέες as ‘priests’, this solution re-
quires assuming that one or more priests were among the Spartiate cas-
ualties at Plataia. For reasons that do not require further discussion (see
Section 1), it is unlikely that there were a significant number of priests
among the 91 Spartiate casualties, and it might seem surprising that the
Spartiates would construct a special tomb to hold perhaps no more than
one or two individuals. However, the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians at
Athens shows that Lakedaimonians divided their dead into numerous
groups, some of which were quite small (see Section 2). The first phase
of the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians at Athens held ten individuals, one
of whom was buried in a separate tomb and the other nine of whom were
The size of the circles representing each group is notional because Blakesley’s
reading is agonistic as to the number of individuals buried in the tomb of the hirees.
Blakesley’s reading does not rule out the possibility that one or more individuals
decorated for bravery (other than Poseidonios, Philokyon, and Amompharetos)
were buried in the tomb of the ἱρέες.
separated into two distinct groups. It is, therefore, entirely plausible that
one of the three Lakedaimonian tombs at Plataia held a small number of
Figure 11b: The pattern of decoration for bravery among Spartiates according to
This solution also requires another, perhaps more problematic as-
sumption, namely that a somewhat clumsy gloss was interpolated into
the text at a sufficiently early date and was sufficiently widely adopted
as to appear in all of the extant manuscripts. However, there are numer-
ous passages in the text of the Histories as known to us that have been
identified as interpolations coming from hands other than that of Herod-
For example, David Asheri, Alan Lloyd, and Aldo Corcella, in their
commentary on Book 1 of the Histories, identify a sentence (on Gyges
being mentioned in the iambic trimeter verses of Archilochus) as virtu-
ally certainly an interpolation, ‘a gloss by a reader,’ in part because the
terminology used (ν ἰάμβ τριμέτρῳ) ‘is a technical expression of a
The size of the circles representing each group in this diagram is notional because
Blakesley’s reading is agonistic as to the number of individuals buried in the tomb
of the hirees.
There is good reason to believe that Herodotus himself made insertions into what
were largely finished sections of text and hence that there are what have been
called interpolations that came from Herodotus’ hand. See, for example,
Hornblower & Pelling 2017: 267.
period later than Herodotus’.
In a similar vein, Wilson, who is in gen-
eral quite cautious about athetizing passages from our text of the Histo-
ries, follows J.E. Powell in identifying the second and third sentences in
8.113.3 as interpolations based on a scholiast’s note.
There is, moreover, reason to believe that already by the second cen-
tury CE at least two distinct texts of the Histories were in circulation and
that the version that has come down to us represents the less accurate
of the two.
The presence of an interpolated scholion in the manuscript
tradition available to us would not, therefore, be entirely surprising. The
end result is that here again we have a tenable but not irrefutable solu-
As mentioned in the introduction to this essay, there are two difficulties
with 9.85: (1) the overlap problem and (2) the absence of any mention of
a grave for the Lakedaimonian perioikoi. The former has been treated in
detail in the preceding discussion, the latter remains to be explored.
Potentially relevant here is the reform of the Lakedaimonian army
discussed in Section 2. The presumably looser integration of Spartiates
and perioikoi in the Lakedaimonian army at Plataia, as opposed to the bet-
ter documented versions of that army known from later sources such as
Xenophon, could conceivably have affected both the number of casual-
ties suffered by the perioikoi at Plataia and how those casualties were
We can proceed quickly here because just four, relatively straightfor-
ward solutions have been proposed.
First, the perioikoi may not have
Asheri, Lloyd & Corcella 2007: 84.
Wilson 2015a: 169.
Mirończuk 2011. Stephanie West has argued, on the basis of finds of portions of the
Histories on papyri from Oxyrhynchus, that ‘our texts had already suffered signifi-
cant corruption before the Hellenistic period …’ (West 2011: 70).
It is theoretically possible that the perioikoi were buried with the helots, but no
scholar has, to my knowledge, made that case. Indeed, it would be difficult to be-
lieve that the perioikoi, free men who served as hoplites in the Lakedaimonian
army, would have countenanced their dead comrades being buried with the helots.
suffered any casualties and hence had no need for a tomb. Flower and
Marincola point out that Herodotus makes no mention of the perioikoi in
his detailed account of the battle and conclude that ‘It must remain an
open question … whether perioeci participated in the battle, and, if so,
whether a sufficient number died to warrant burial with the
One might in this vein argue that in the Lakedaimon-
ian army as it existed at Plataia the perioikoi were not tightly integrated
with the Spartiates and that they were, as a result, positioned in the rear
ranks of the Lakedaimonian phalanx or in an entirely separate formation
well in back of a purely Spartiate phalanx.
This, however, presumes
that fully half of the Lakedaimonian hoplites present at a pitched battle
had virtually no contact with a very sizable enemy force. It is, therefore,
not surprising that Lazenby characterizes the idea that the perioikoi, be-
cause they were in the rear of the Lakedaimonian phalanx, suffered no
casualties as ‘far-fetched’.
Second, it is possible that Herodotus was wrong on the facts and that
there was in reality one grave each at Plataia for Spartiates, perioikoi, and
For further discussion, see Richer 2012: 171. One might, however, note, that Pau-
sanias 1.32.3 states that the graves at Marathon included one that held both the
Plataian allies of Athens and slaves. Pausanias 7.15.7 strongly implies that the dead
slaves in question had been freed before the battle, so the parallel is not exact. For
further discussion, see Branscome 2013: 163 n. 16 and the sources cited therein. In
addition, Hunt 1997 has argued that at Plataia the Spartiates formed only the first
rank of the phalanx, with the other seven ranks consisting entirely of helots. That
would give the helots a major role in the Greek victory and hence perhaps a pow-
erful claim to burial in the same grave as the perioikoi (both groups representing,
on this occasion, important but subordinate allies of the Spartiates).
Flower & Marincola 2002: 255, following Cawkwell 1983: 387. See also pg. 231,
where Flower and Marincola argue that Herodotus does not mention casualties
among the perioikoi because few if any of them were killed, due to the fact that they
were stationed in the rear of the Lakedaimonian phalanx.
Herodotus provides minimal details of the disposition of the Lakedaimonian sol-
diers at Plataia. He writes only that, ‘The right wing was held by ten thousand Lac-
edaemonians. Of these, five thousand were Spartiates, and they were guarded by
thirty-five thousand helots light-armed troops seven of them arranged in the
ranks for each Spartiate’ (9.28, trans. D. Grene). The later sources for the battle
offer no further relevant information.
Lazenby 1985: 181 n. 16. See also the doubts expressed in Richer 2012: 171 n. 204.
helots. Most scholars who have adopted this position have accepted
Valckenaer’s emendation to ἰρένες and argued that the majority of the
casualties were ἰρένες; hence Herodotus was somewhat misinformed or
was, somewhat clumsily, trying to say that the first grave contained all
of the Spartiate casualties, most of whom were ἰρένες.
Third, the perioikoi may have been buried in the same grave as the
Spartiates who were not ἱρέες.
This, however, runs counter to the
wording of the passage, in which the occupants of the second grave are
described as Σπαρτιῆται. Herodotus’ preferred term for all things
Lakedaimonian is in fact Λακεδαιμόνιοι; for instance, even kings such as
Kleomenes and Leonidas are characterized as Lakedaimonian rather
than Spartan (5.54, 8.65). Σπαρτιῆται is, therefore, quite specific, though
it may be significant that Herodotus begins the description of the
Lakedaimonian tombs at Plataia by writing ‘Λακεδαιμόνιοι μὲν τριξὰς
ἐποιήσαντο θήκας’.
Finally, Σπαρτιῆται may need to be emended to read Λακεδαιμόνιοι,
so that the occupants of the second tomb were ‘the rest of the Lakedai-
monians’, which would include the perioikoi.
That suggestion, however,
defies palaeographic probability.
The fact that 9.85 has been the subject of discussion for more than two
and a half centuries and that no scholarly consensus has emerged in that
time is a reflection of the interpretive difficulties this passage presents.
It would be exceedingly bold Herodotus might even say hubristic to
suggest a definitive resolution here. That said, it may be helpful to iden-
tify what seem to me to be the most likely solutions to both of the prob-
lems with 9.85.
See, for example, Stein 1901: vol. 5, 196; Macan 1908: vol. 1.2, 770; How & Wells
1912: vol. 2, 327.
See, for example, Legrand 1932-54: vol. 2, 68 n. 3; Richer 1994: 66; 2012: 171-72.
Van Groningen 1959: vol. 2, 196.
With respect to the overlap problem, I am inclined to athetize the
phrase ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας ἔθαψαν, τῶν καὶ Ποσειδώνιος καὶ μομ-
φάρετος ἦσαν καὶ Φιλοκύων τε καὶ Καλλικράτης. This is not a modest
intervention in the text, but the wording of the middle section of the
passage does seem to indicate the need for emendation of some kind.
With respect to the problem of where the fallen perioikoi were buried, I
am inclined to believe that they were placed in the same tomb as the
Spartiates who were not ἱρέες.
As has been the case throughout, only the former problem requires
extended discussion. Athetizing the phrase starting with ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς
ἱρέας has a claim to being the best solution to the overlap problem be-
cause it is the only solution in which the occupants of what Herodotus
calls the tomb of the ἱρέες are priests. The other two tenable solutions
make the occupants either hippeis or individuals who had been singled
out for bravery (and hence almost certainly not priests).
That is an important issue because the most obvious translation of
ἱρέες is ‘priests’, and there is independent literary and epigraphic evi-
dence for religious officials in Lakedaimon receiving special treatment
with respect to their burial. As we have seen (see Section 3.1), Plutarch
Lycurgus 27.1-2 indicates that female religious officials were one of just
two groups of Spartiates that had a right to an inscribed epitaph. In ad-
dition, there are five known inscriptions that are certain or likely to be
epitaphs, all from Lakedaimon ex Sparta, in which women are identified
as hiera or hiara (IG V.1.1127, 1129, 1221, 1283 and SEG 22.306); the earliest
of these inscriptions seems to date to the Hellenistic period.
Hieroi are
also known from six inscriptions that are certain or likely to be epitaphs,
all from Lakedaimon ex Sparta (IG V.1.1214, 1223, 1338, 1356, 1367 and SEG
11.951); the earliest of these inscriptions seems to date to the fifth cen-
One might add to that list IG V.1.711, an inscription on a small
Brulé & Piolot 2004: 168 n. 20, drawing on Le Roy 1961: 228-34.
Also relevant is IG V.1.1329, which appears to be an epitaph, from Leuktra in
Lakonia, for a hιαρεύς. This inscription, for which the IG does not supply a date,
has been placed in the sixth (Dillon 2007: 161 and n. 49) or fifth century (Wallace
1970: 99 n. 11). Parker 1989: 163 n. 4 expresses some doubt that it is an epitaph. See
also IG V.1.1511 (from Kalyvia tis Sochas) and SEG 11.923 (from Gytheion), both of
which are regulations concerning cult activity and both of which date to the Ro-
man period.
Doric epistyle block. This inscription, which reads [ δεῖνα] hιαρεύς, is
dated to the second century CE on letter forms but might be a copy of an
earlier text.
Some caution is needed in using this collection of evidence
for Spartiate burial practices because it comes from Lakedaimon ex
Sparta. However, given the striking paucity of inscribed epitaphs from
Lakedaimon as a whole,
the existence of nearly a dozen epitaphs for
Lakedaimonian religious officials seems to be significant.
There is, therefore, good evidence that Spartiate religious officials,
both male and female, received special treatment when they were in-
terred, which aligns neatly with the reading of 9.85 that results from
athetizing the phrase starting with ἔνθα μὲν τοὺς ἱρέας.
One might add
that the inscription on and internal arrangements of the tomb of the
Lakedaimonians in Athens indicate that the clear differentiation among
the burials in Lakedaimonian polyandria was based on pre-existing status.
And of course Spartiates were renowned for their piety (see, for example,
Hdt. 1.65-70; 5.42-46, 62-75, 90-3; 6.52-86, 105-7, 120). It would, therefore,
not be surprising if Spartiate priests received separate burial in battle-
field polyandria.
If the overlap problem is resolved by athetizing the phrase starting
with ἔνθα μὲν τος ἱρέας, some interesting conclusions follow. To begin
with, rejecting Valckenaer’s emendation to ἰρένες makes Xenophon’s
Lakedaimonian Politeia the earliest source for Spartiate age-classes.
might have important ramifications for our understanding of the history
Brulé & Piolot 2004: 155 with n. 20, 158-59. It is possible, but by no means certain,
that IG V.1.711 may have been brought to Mistra from Sparta as building material.
Christesen 2019: 348-52.
Kennell 1995: 14-16 makes the case that the creation of a special grave for ἱρέες,
understood as priests, is plausible because it reflects a situation in which the three
tombs at Plataia correspond to the Indo-European tripartite division into warriors,
priests, and farmers.
One might add, on a speculative note, that the name of one of the occupants of the
tomb of the ἱρέες, Poseidonios, could be taken to suggest that he had a special con-
nection of some kind with Poseidon, perhaps as a priest. On the worship of Posei-
don in Lakedaimon, see Richer 2012: 41-42, 268-69, 459-60, 630-31.
Kennell 1995: 14-16; Ducat 2006: 94-95. Lupi 2000 has argued (in more detail than
Kennell) that the occurrences of eirenes in the standard texts of the Lakedaimonion
Politeia should be expunged, which would eliminate any evidence for eirenes as an
age-class in pre-Hellenistic Sparta.
of the Spartiate educational system. Furthermore, Spartiate priests
emerge as a distinct and quite prestigious group within Spartiate society,
and one might well suspect that Flower and Marincola were correct in
speculating that, as was the case in Rome, Spartiates held elected or he-
reditary priesthoods concurrently with military commands.
the provision of a separate grave for priests at Plataia might suggest that
the individuals buried within the urban fabric of Sparta in the Archaic
and Classical periods were priests.
All of those conclusions must remain tentative in the absence of de-
finitive evidence for how to read 9.85. One might hope that the publica-
tion of papyri fragments of Book 9 will definitively resolve the issue, and,
as stated at the outset, the aspirational goal of this essay remains cata-
lyzing new research that cuts once and for all this particular interpretive
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Paul Christesen
Dartmouth College
Full-text available
Pode-se dizer que, desde ao menos a segunda metade do século XIX, a pólis foi a unidade básica de análise da história da Grécia antiga. Entretanto, em muitos casos é evidente que a tentativa de adequar as pólis gregas a cidades-Estado prototípicas do Estado moderno produziu ressonâncias longevas, que até hoje condicionam nossa compreensão das relações sociopolíticas entre vários grupos que compunham as pólis. Portanto, o objetivo desse artigo é demonstrar como as raízes dessa historiografia baseada na pólis condicionaram uma compreensão errônea da relação entre Esparta e as comunidades periecas da Lacônia e Messênia durante o Período Clássico. Isso será feito por meio da comparação dessa relação com aquela mantida por outras pólis com seus respectivos periecos – mais especificamente Élis e as pólis tessálias. Veremos que, ao invés de um Estado unificado e com funcionamentos análogos aos de sua versão moderna, a soma de Esparta e seus vizinhos compunha uma comunidade politicamente muito menos hierárquica e rígida do que se tende a pensar. Isso, por sua vez, nos permite aproximar Esparta de fenômenos análogos contemporâneos a ela, os mesmos que, apesar das respectivas especificidades, ainda apontam para a inexistência de uma pólis-Estado que englobasse cidadãos de uma cidade central e seus periecos.
This article makes use of recently published graves to offer the first synthetic analysis of the typology and topography of Spartan burials that is founded on archaeological evidence. Our knowledge of Spartan burial practices has long been based almost entirely on textual sources – excavations conducted in Sparta between 1906 and 1994 uncovered fewer than 20 pre-Roman graves. The absence of pre-Roman cemeteries led scholars to conclude that, as long as the Lycurgan customs were in effect, all burials in Sparta were intracommunal and that few tombs had been found because they had been destroyed by later building activity. Burial practices have, as a result, been seen as one of many ways in which Sparta was an outlier. The aforementioned recently published graves offer a different picture of Spartan burial practices. It is now clear that there was at least one extracommunal cemetery in the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods. What would normally be described as extramural burials did, therefore, take place, but intracommunal burials of adults continued to be made in Sparta throughout the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods. Those burials were concentrated along important roads and on the slopes of hills. The emergent understanding of Spartan burial practices takes on added significance when placed in a wider context. Burial practices in Sparta align closely with those found in Argos and Corinth. Indeed, burial practices in Sparta, rather than being exceptional, are notably similar to those of its most important Peloponnesian neighbours; a key issue is that in all three poleis intracommunal burials continued to take place through the Hellenistic period. The finding that adults were buried both extracommunally and intracommunally in Sparta, Argos and Corinth after the Geometric period calls into question the standard narrative of the development of Greek burial practices in the post-Mycenaean period.