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"Skirites" in the Laecedemonian (Spartan) army organization

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Lannes View Drop Down
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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: "Skirites" in the Laecedemonian (Spartan) army organization
    Posted: 15-Sep-2004 at 19:02

Hello,

Recently, I've been a bit confused by the Spartan-employed Skiritae infantry.  All I understand of the Skiritae is that they were Perioikoi(came from the a part of Arkadia called Skiris which is just north of Sparta itself) and that they were considered lite.

In general, I'm a bit confused by what the Skiritae were meant to do on the battlefield.  Were they acting as Light Infantry?  Did they form their own phalanx, or did they organize themsleves in another way? 

I have a few additional questions:

What was the recruiting process for the Skiritae unit?  In other ords, were these men chosen becuase they were considered the best fighters of Skiris, or by some other criteria?

How were these men armed and armored?

τρέφεται δέ, ὤ Σώκρατης, ψυχὴ τίνι;
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Yiannis View Drop Down
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  Quote Yiannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Sep-2004 at 03:42

We already discussed a bit on this via PM with Lannes, so here's the general outline:

"Skirites" were one of those people that were named "Perioikoi". Skiritis was a region at the North of Sparta.

My understanding is that they were farmers, living close to the border with Tegea, they contributed some 600 men to the Lacedemonian army, they fought (usually) at the extreme right of the army (it makes sense since that was the weak spot), usually moving forward to clear the way of the phalanx of enemy light troops that were hurling javelins and stones at them. So they acted same as the "ekdromoi" in other greek armies. Lightly armed troops armed only with shield (hoplon) and spear. They were able to run fast and intercept peltasts but the Hoplon allowed them to fight in phalanx formation if the need would arrise.

They were also used in a reconnaissance role and were assigned the watch task at the camp. http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/0472110640-01.pdf

Read here Xenophon's account: http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Cyropaedia/00000015.htm (search for Skirites)

Others indidate that they were used as "Hamippoi" light troops that supported cavalry.

My belief is that they were employed in all tasks of lightly armed troops. Sometimes as "Ekdromoi" sometimes as "Hamippoi" one time covering the left side of the phalanx another the right and on occasion doing reconnaissance...

Your views?

 

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Lannes View Drop Down
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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Oct-2004 at 12:35

Ah, I've found a source that describes them pretty well.

Until the last 15 or so years of the 5th Century BC, the Skiritae had fought as Hoplites.  However, prior to the battle of Mantinea(418) the Spartans witnessed the effectiveness of the Boeotian cavalry and their supporting hamippoi, and shortly after the success at Mantinea, the Spartans ordered or persuaded the Skiritae to take up the role of the hamippoi.  They then seem to have become attached with the identical number(600) of cavalry that were part of the 6 Lakedaimonian morai.  Xenophon describes their actions at Tanagra(377) as taking to the hill(with the cavalry) that the Boeotians had retired from upon falling for Agesilaus' feint, and attacking the Boeotians from the rear, but unfortunately they overpursued, and as a result, were forced to turn back.

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  Quote okamido Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Oct-2012 at 13:13
The Skiritai did not fight on the extreme right...that is where the King and the hippeis fought. The Skiritai, who were highly honored by the Lakedaemonians, fought on the extreme left, in order to keep the allies from buckling.
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