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Saturday, March 29, 2014

With lambdas gleaming

"All the Greeks know what is right to do, but only the Spartans do it."  Plutarch

When painting a Spartan army, the thorniest question you'll face is whether to paint them with lambda shields or without.  There was a time when every Spartan chose his shield design. This was superseded by a policy where all Spartan shields bore the Greek letter L (lambda) for Lacedaemon.  The Lexicon of Photius said Cleon was not the only Athenian terror struck when he saw the lambdas gleaming. From this, we conclude the Spartans were using lambda shields at the battle of Amphipolis in 422 BC.  It's possible the lambda came into earlier use as other Greek city-states were using common shield designs well before that date. Mantineians bore the trident of Poseidon by the mid 5th century.  Messenians bore the letter M, Thebans the club and so on.

Common shield designs may have started when states began providing the hoplite kit. If so, the lambda may have been first used by helots outfitted by the Spartans. From there, usage may have spread to the rest of the army. Common shield designs fit neatly into a narrative that shield bearers are not individual citizen but servants of the state.  And as Photius records, such was the Spartan reputation that enemies fled at the mere sight of their lambdas.  I greatly enjoy the freedom to paint in the broad space between what we know and our best guess. For my Classical Spartans, everyone gets the lambda.   

I got these in a blind trade and out of the box, I wasn't thrilled with the Old Glory poses.  Once I ranked them up, I saw they were sculpted to fit 4 figures per 15mm deep base.  I painted 32 bases with bronze shields, 8 in black shields and 8 in red. Once I saw how good black shields looked, I wished I'd painted more!
The mix of brass, black and red shields will help identify in game which units are Spartan citizens and which are the not quite as good perioikoi, free non-citizens who lived and served in the Spartan army.

I can't wait to finish and field the Spartans in our next Field of Glory campaign. My Galatian and Gallic armies are 0 wins and 2 losses in the current campaign.  A good craftsman doesn't blame his tools but I clearly need a bigger hammer.  Here's hoping the Spartans are it.   

50 comments:

  1. Marvelous! lovely colors! also I like the flocking of the bases which really makes the figures to "pop out" so to speak.... Great job Monty!

    cheers,

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    1. Thanks Phil! I owe this change to your powers of persuasion. For Mediterranean and Arab armies, light flocking works perfectly. I haven't figured out what to do for the rest. Light flocking anyway?

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  2. Wow! Very impressive Monty. The black shields in particular are very striking.

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    1. Thanks Jonas! Yea, it was a bit of a surprise to me because black is generally a challenge in 15mm.

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  3. You'll just have to put them on a table to frighten your ennemies, Monty...They are so impressive! Beautiful and impressive, a fabulous work!!

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    1. Thanks Phil! I'm always most excited in the thinking and painting. Then comes the playing and mastering of the new armies. Failing at that, there might come the selling. ;-)

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  4. Excellent work Monty! Your Spartans look menacing and if I was a mere Greek (in terms of beeing not Spartan, so no pun intended to our greek fellows) I'd prefer to run instead of facing them.

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    1. Thanks Moiterei! I've been enjoying a Great Lectures series on the Peloponnesian War. When the Athenians did stand in the field against the Spartan led forces, the Athenians generally performed well but their allies always let them down.

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  5. Impressive work Monty !!!

    ...good that you now only have 108 Spartans left to paint to get your 300 !!! ;)

    Keep up the good work ank I look forward to see the bigger Galatian and Gallic hammer of yours.

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Thanks Michael. That would be a trial, painting another 100! I can only do so much 15mm and then I have to get back to 28s.

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  6. Great painting and basing and I have to agree with you on the black shields, they look superb.

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    1. Thanks! I loved your post on trenches today. A friend and I are firing up CoC so I'll be back to your post for ideas and inspiration.

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  7. Great Spartans Monty, looking forward to seeing more in the future.

    Cheers, Ross

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  8. Really great work, spartans should be the hammer your after!

    Steve

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    1. Steve, your Impetus-based Greeks and Spartan army is tops. Great inspiration! And I stumbled on the TMP thread where some idiot made a "fantasy" comment and then ran away. You have to hate TMP sometimes. Ah well...

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    2. Haha, forgot about that.... TMP, love it and hate it in equal measure!

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  9. Splendid, Monty! I do agree about the black shields.

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    1. Thanks Simon and good luck on your Salute event. It will be awesome!

      I'm pulling for the Gauls, of course.

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  10. This is....spectacular! Great work on these Spartans. I hope they do well on the battlefield for you Monty

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    1. Thanks Tamsin!

      I can't help but think if I could fly over to the UK and get in weekly FoG games with you and your crew, I'd become a much better player.

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  11. Another great batch of ancients! All of the shield color combinations are terrific! I can't pick a favorite. The Old Glory figure look quite nice. Maybe I should some a try...no, I better not!

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    1. Thanks Jonathan! Maybe I was too harsh in my judgment on OG. I had thought they'd look more "shieldwall" ranked up but most are at a 45 degree angle off front.

      Is ancients the only era you don't have in your massive collection? ;-)

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    2. ...but I have Punic War ancients in two scales: 6mm and 28mm. No Spartans, however!

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  12. What a picture of beauties Monty!

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    1. Thanks Lee, I appreciate it! They do cut a good figure en masse.

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  13. Lovely looking Spartans Monty!! They sure do look very good indeed!

    Christopher

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  14. This is madness!
    Great job. I too have Greeks on my working bench, though not that mighty;)

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    1. This is hilarious!

      Yours are the lovely 28mm project if I remember correctly.

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    2. Ahhh true. But I also need to paint part of an army for an art de la Guerre tournament ;)

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  15. I suppose there must have been Spartan sergeants...

    "Alright men, I want to see those lambdas gleaming! GLEAMING!! Now get to work!"

    Very important, your lambdas; and you've certainly made them gleam, Monty, that's top work right there! Basing is great as well.

    Of course, you will have to favour us with an AAR at some stage - I'd like to see how they perform on the field of battle!

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    1. Thanks much, Evan! I think your observation is dead on. :-)

      I've got to get a few AARs going again one day. I take my camera down and the get lost in my close games.

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  16. Amazing mass of Spartans! I like all of the colors for the shields, the red with white lambda is very nice. Best, Dean

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    1. Thanks Dean!

      I just read about the DBA tournament you played in a museum and wow, what a brilliant idea!

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  17. Serious eye candy mate. You're dead right about the black shields as well!

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    1. Thanks Michael! Yes, that's a lesson learned.

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  18. Impressive looking unit... great work.

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    1. Thanks Hobby, and I just realized I wasn't following your blog. Fixed, and good luck on the Punic campaign.

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  19. Historically correct or not (and who can really tell!), this is one impressive unit!

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    1. Burkhard! I might be 10-20 years early but when measured against the look back period, that's not so much. ;-)

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  20. Impressive Spartan phalanxes Monty!

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    1. Thanks Cyrus! I hope your Gauls performed above expectations!

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  21. Thats a horde of Greek warriors.
    They look really good.
    cheers

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    1. Thanks! I am looking forward to the Spartan toughness in game!

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  22. Molon Labae ! Realy nice work, the black shields are nice but the bronze look really good as well. Just a shed load of helots needed now....

    Phil

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    1. Thanks Phil, I'm afraid the helots would run away or revolt. ;-)

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    1. Thanks Pru! I'm surprised the Spartans have made such a splash. In a good way, of course!

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