Why Spartan Men Had Long Hair

Robert Hundley
An Ancient Greek vase depicting warriors with lengthy, flowing locks. Credit: Community Domain

In ancient Greece, hair was an critical indicator of course and area of origin. Notably,  Spartan males ended up regarded for their extended, flowing hair, which turned linked to the historic warriors in antiquity.

Whilst a lot of would not associate prolonged, gorgeous hair with the famously austere warriors of ancient Greece, preserving their hair was quite vital to the Spartans.

Guys very likely wore their hair lengthy for hundreds of years in Greece, as Homer, who was creating all over the eighth century BC — and retelling stories that had been a lot more mature — typically explained guys as “longhaired” (κᾰρηκομόωντες).

In the sixth century BC, very long hair was frequent among most adult men throughout Greece, not just the Spartans. But by the fifth century, most non-Spartan adult males in historic Greece started to minimize their hair to a additional moderate length.

Men and gals in Athens frequently wore their hair in a knot, which was secured with a golden clasp that looked like a grasshopper, termed a “tettix.” The distinct hairstyle was identified as krobylos.

Following the conclusion of the Persian Wars, which lasted until eventually 449 BC, numerous guys throughout Greece commenced to crop their hair quick, which was observed both equally as a lot more masculine and as exclusive from the Persians, who experienced prolonged hair.

Earlier, extended hair on a guy experienced been connected with wealth and position in Athens, even though slaves experienced their hair closely cropped.

The Spartans, nonetheless, ongoing to continue to keep their hair prolonged, and non-Spartan gentlemen across Greece who had been sympathetic to the well-known ancient warriors wore their hair extended as effectively.

Hairstyle differed by area across historic Greece

In accordance to Oxford classicist R.R.R. Smith, historical Greek historian Herodotus‘ well-known “myth-history” entitled “The Battle of the Champions” which was likely an amalgam of mythic things and hazy information from the past, was written partly to clarify the Spartan tradition of retaining extended tresses.

In the tale, he facts a battle among the Argives and the Spartans in which both equally teams determined to provide up their ideal 300 adult males to struggle rather than owning their entire armies fight it out.

After vicious fighting, throughout which each sides claimed victory, the Spartans proved victorious and took the town of Thyrea from the Argives.

Herodotus notes that, right after losing Thyrea, the Argives had been so distraught that they resolved to normally maintain their hair quick from that time on, and to only grow it back when they took again Thyrea.

For their aspect, the Spartans, who presumably experienced generally had small hair right before, made the decision to rejoice their victory by maintaining their hair very long from then on.

In actuality, the fight took position close to 546 BC, a time when it was frequent for most adult males to have very long hair, regardless of where by they had been from. Herodotus, even so, was crafting at a time when extended hair was most linked with Spartans, and most other Greek gentlemen cropped their hair brief.

This mythic model of what was most likely a genuine struggle aided to demonstrate the unique cultural attitudes towards hair size among males across Greece.

Historical Greek historian, biographer, and thinker Plutarch serves as a abundant source about males’ hairstyles in ancient Greece.

In his famed work “Parallel Life,” which was written in the next century Advertisement, telling the daily life tales of famous Greeks and Romans, Plutarch helps make recurrent point out of cultural attitudes relating to hair.

In his chapter on Alcibiades, the Athenian aristocrat who famously defected to the Spartans, Persians, and then again all over again to the Athenians through the Peloponnesian War, Plutarch describes how the young man’s overall look and pleasures modified when he joined the Spartans.

He notes that, on pledging allegiance to the Spartans, Alcibiades stored his hair long, took baths in cold h2o, and ate foods of “black broth,” the famed Spartan food designed of meat and pig’s blood.

This description serves to emphasize the discrepancies involving Spartan and Athenian culture. Presumably, guys in Athens retained their hair short, bathed in warmer water, and did not eat “black broth.”

As boys, Spartans stored their hair quite shorter, and started to grow it very long when they reached puberty. Hair was very important for both of those Spartan adult men and gals, and quite a few students believe that adult males and gals wore related hairstyles in Sparta — a best knot on the crown of their heads.

In Athens, nonetheless, boys experienced extended hair as children, and only slash it short when they reached puberty. This haircut was observed as an vital action toward adulthood, and was treated as a sacred rite, with choices made to Herakles and other deities.

Spartan adult men combed their hair prior to struggle

Spartan guys were being recognized to care for their hair a wonderful deal, particularly right before struggle. In his telling of the Fight of Thermopylae, Herodotus describes a renowned scene in which a Persian spy ways the Spartan camps to obtain essential details to move onto his superiors.

Although spying, the Persian soldier will come on an unpredicted sight — although some gentlemen had been performing exercises, lots of ended up combing and tending to their lengthy hair.

When he relayed this info to the Persian king Xerxes, the chief discovered it pretty humorous, and considered that his troops would have minimal difficulty slaughtering these adult men.

However his advisor warned him that the Spartans were probable making ready to battle, as it was their personalized to comb their hair ahead of battle.

The scene is referenced in the previous stanza of English poet A.E. Housman’s moving perform “The Oracles,” which reads:

“The king with fifty percent the East at heel is marched from lands of morning
Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air.
And he that stands should die for nought, and dwelling there’s no returning.
The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.”

In his biographies of Spartan leaders Lycurgus and Charrillus, Plutarch mentions that extensive hair that has been nicely-cared for on a male was very vital. Lycurgus is said to have claimed that beautiful hair could make a wonderful guy even far more attractive — and an unpleasant one even much more horrible.

When requested why Spartan guys wore their hair extensive, Charrillus is reported to have responded that hair is the “the most economical of ornaments” (τῶν κόσμων ἀδαπανώτατος).

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