Constitution of the Lacedaimonians


Xenophon, creator; Scripta minora; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, translator; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor, translator; Bowersock, G. W, (Glen Warren), 1936-, editor, translator

I will now explain the method of encampment approved by Lycurgus.

Seeing that the angles of a square are useless, he introduced the circular form of camp, except where there was a secure hill or wall, or a river afforded protection in the rear.

He caused sentries to be posted by day facing inwards along the place where the arms were kept, for the object of these is to keep an eye not on the enemy but on their friends. The enemy is watched by cavalry from positions that command the widest outlook.

To meet the case of a hostile approach at night, he assigned the duty of acting as sentries outside the lines to the Sciritae. In these days the duty is shared by foreigners, if any happen to be present in the camp.

The rule that patrols invariably carry their spears, has the same purpose, undoubtedly, as the exclusion of slaves from the place of arms. Nor is it surprising that sentries who withdraw for necessary purposes only go so far away from one another and from the arms as not to cause inconvenience. Safety is the first object of this rule also.

The camp is frequently shifted with the double object of annoying their enemies and of helping their friends.

Moreover the law requires all Lacedaemonians to practise gymnastics regularly throughout the campaign; and the result is that they take more pride in themselves and have a more dignified appearance than other men. Neither walk nor race-course may exceed in length the space covered by the regiment, so that no one may get far away from his own arms.

After the exercises the senior colonel gives the order by herald to sit down — this is their method of inspection — and next to take breakfast and to relieve the outposts quickly. After this there are amusements and recreations until the evening exercises.

These being finished, the herald gives the order to take the evening meal, and, as soon as they have sung to the praise of the gods to whom they have sacrificed with good omens, to rest by the arms.

Let not the length to which I run occasion surprise, for it is almost impossible to find any detail in military matters requiring attention that is overlooked by the Lacedaemonians.